Guitar Player Syndrome

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Guitar Player Syndrome

First recorded mention of Guitar Player Syndrome:

GPS (Guitar Player Syndrome). Everyone here knows this guy, I'm sure. Les Paul... Marshall half-stack... MUST play through the 2x10 because "that's his sound", etc, and so on, ad infinitum. December 4, 2003[1]

Tony-at-Bose

Reply by Tony-at-Bose

I'm the guitar player you described. I also love a les paul through a Marshall half-stack, but it must be 4-12" greenbacks in a straight cabinet. I have been working on the Bose project for over a year, among other things, working on getting the guitar sound into the system. I went through speaker emulators, modeling amps, tube preamps, attenuators, direct boxes out of the speaker output, and fully enclosed speaker cabinets with a mounted mic, and I'm back to a tube amp with a mic on it.

The other guitarist in our band, Cliff Goodwin, is using a standard POD through the Bose system and he truly loves it. Cliff was with Joe Cocker for 12 years where he used 2 Marshall full stacks, and three Vox AC-30's, so he loves tube amps, but he's getting great sounds with the POD (and he says almost as loud as his Cocker rig!).

The main issue with a guitarist using a big loud rig with the system, is it's so "beamy". In other words, the sound a guitarist hears off axis is great, but when the sound gets to the audience it is really harsh and painful. I shudder to think of how many gigs I've lost over the years because I didn't know this about guitar amps. This guitar amp beaminess goes a long way toward ruining the sound of the whole band and some of the great benefits of the Bose system.

The key to using guitar amps with the Bose system is to let the system do the work. Get the guitar amp sounding good at as low a volume as you can, kind of like what a recording engineer asks of us in the studio. The benefits for the whole band will be huge, you will get more gigs and keep more gigs.


I find that master volume controls don't get you the "fully cranked" sound on most amps (except my Naylor Super Club 38 and my future Two-Rock Opal). Some people are using the system with a Dr.Z airbrake attenuator with good results, but I think the best solution is to install a Weber "Beam Blocker". The Weber is installed between the speaker and the grill cloth and it keeps the "Beaminess" under control. The guitarist should still let the Bose system do the work, but this $15 item helps a lot. Right now I'm using a very small Emery 2 watt class-A amp with Jensen 10" alnico speaker, and I can play it full blast and only hear the Bose system, but with anything any more powerful I would use the Beam Blocker. For your guitarists 2-10" amp cabinet he would need a beam blocker for each speaker. You can send your guitarist to my site tonysarno.com if you need to verify my "guitar cred". Good luck.

Tony Sarno[2]

Steve-at-Bose

Reply by Steve-at-Bose This is a great post, here's my two cents. As a guitar player with a long history of GPS and I’ve got a secret to share … I’m in a 6 step GPS program. J (Hi, my name is Steve and I play electric guitar ...)

First off, Les Paul with a Marshall 1/2-stack is certainly a sweet spot. What tone! Wouldn't it be great if everyone in the audience could hear that sound not just the guitar player? Here’s the remarkable thing, with the new system, and my six-step program everyone can.

Step 1, you need to prove, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that there are many versions of "my sound" coming off the guitar amp. Do this experiment; have the guitar player set up his/her gear. Put the cabinet and head up on a stand or table (at ear level is ideal but close to ear level will work). Now have him/her play a chord progression again and again while you spin the 2X12 cabinet slowly. I can assure you everyone listening to your experiment will go "WHOA". Guitar amps are very directional and where you stand in the “beam of sound” makes a difference in what you hear. Now you can have a lively discussion about “Don’t you want everyone to hear what you think is your tone?” The point being that it really depends on where in the “beam” you are listening. Hopefully (usually) the guitar player says “heck yeah, I want MY sound going out to the audience, not all that other crap.” Once you’ve achieved that agreement you can move on to step two.

Step 2 , so, if there is agreement that tone depends on your “location in the room” with a conventional amp we can then ask, what can we do about it? The Personalized Amplification System™ product will deliver fantastic tone to everyone in the room due to the Cylindrical Radiator™ loudspeaker’s design and resulting wave pattern. This is the reason the system is the ultimate guitarist tool in my humble opinion. Try this, play the L1 with a guitar signal and move around the system (or rotate the system) with the goal of find the “sweet spot”. You guessed it, you won’t find a sweet spot because the music coming out of the Cylindrical Radiator™ loudspeaker will not sound different as you walk around it, front to back and side to side. And be sure to go almost 180 degrees around the system; it’s really a fun thing to do and counterintuitive to what we are accustomed to hearing. Once everyone agrees that the Cylindrical Radiator™ loudspeaker has the ability to deliver great tone everywhere in the room we can move on to step 3.

Step 3. Can we agree that excessive guitar amp volume is bad for your hearing, mix, music clarity, audience, etc.? In summary it’s bad for the band. If the guitar amp is really loud, then the band cannot hear themselves so everyone will turn up until we basically run out of amp power. Now it is so dang loud that we put in earplugs. Now the tone of the guitar is dulled because my plugs are filtering what I hear. [So why turn up? Guitar TONE is why we turned it up, not volume. We’ll cover this more in step 4.] Since the Marshall on “11” is going to throw off our mix, instigate volume wars and project a ton of sound into the audience most of which is nasty -- see step 2-- we’ve got to get the guitar amp’s volume out of the mix. If we agree that excessive guitar amp volume is bad, we can move to step 4.

Step 4: A guitar player’s tone matters; let’s make sure it’s not lost! Let’s face it, that Marshall sounds best when the tubes are toasting and that means VOLUME! Or does it? What it really means is there is enough drive and draw on the circuits to distort the tubes. There are many volume attenuators our there (for example the Dr.Z Airbrake) that can help get great tube tone without mind-numbing volume levels. There are also low Watt tube amps out there (Fender, Carr, Emery, Tech 21, Crate, Epiphone, etc.) that you can run at “10” and not blow the doors down; I’m talking 5 to 15 Watts at full throttle. Many guitar players know that Jimmy Page (Brian May, Neil Young, the list goes on and on) used small amps for recording and live because you can turn them all the way up and mic them without a ton of problems (and of course they sound fantastic). And, if someone is looking for a “no stage volume” solution and has not tried a PODxt then they are ignoring an incredible amp … many of the models are remarkable! So, there are a ton of options in getting great tone without mind-numbing volumes but, and this is no small matter, there is something sexy and cool about having the white “Marshall” logo up on stage behind you in my opinion, so I’d suggest you start with an attenuator if your guitar player is blissfully attached to his/her gear and still wants to haul it. I’m not saying this is a “flip the switch and I’m done” process. It will take some work, but this is work on nailing his/her tone for EVERYONE, not just the few in the sweet spot (see step 2). So, if we can agree that the tone we guitar players want can be attained at low volume and fed to the Personalized Amplification System™ product we can move to step 5.

Step 5 is simple, you play in a band to make great music, not to make great guitar tone. Guitar tone can move people when it can be heard. Knowing that “what I’m hearing is what they are hearing” is an amazing concept for a guitar player (and the whole band, but hey, this is about GPS, right?). When you, the guitar player, take a lead or pull off some killer fill, you want to know if anyone heard it or if it was lost in the mix? This system and this new way of amplifying instruments pretty much assures you that if you heard it, so did the audience (unless they were focusing their attention on their date).

Step 6, listen to your fans/wives/husbands/audience. There is NO risk in trying it. Tryyyy it, you’llll like it. Take a system home, work on your tone at home and then do a rehearsal and a gig. If you buy from Bose.com you’ll have 90 days to work with the system, that’s plenty of time. To me a very interesting part of this new way to play is not just that players love it, we are gear nuts anyway, but that fans (in my case, the wives) are often the most impressed with the system. Our drummer’s Dad FLIPPED OUT after he heard us play through the system. To quote Scott, “He just won’t stop talking about how good we sounded.” The wives said, before we even asked, “You guys have never sounded better. Those things are awesome. I could actually hear the vocals.”

Getting Over Guitar Player Syndrome

Okay, let’s review how we might get over GPS:

  1. Guitar amps are directional and deliver different tone depending on where you are in the beam of sound
  2. The Cylindrical Radiator® loudspeaker will deliver your tone everywhere in the room at about the same volume
  3. Excessive guitar amp volume is bad
  4. Guitar amps need to make TONE not VOLUME so let’s focus on delivering great tone to the Personalized Amplification System™ product and let it deliver that tone to the audience
  5. If you play in a band you care about the mix, the Personalized Amplification System™ product allows you to control the mix and know that the mix you hear is pretty much the same everywhere in the room
  6. We’ll judge the system as players and ask our fans to judge the system as well

I hope that helps.

Read the whole discussion: Convincing the Band.

See also: Bass Player Syndrome


  1. Guitar Player Syndrome post - guru_of_groove Bose Musicians Community Message Board
  2. Guitar Player Syndrome post - Tony SarnoBose Musicians Community Message Board