Amplifier Help
May 6, 2008 1:22 PM   Subscribe

I'm over 50 and recently began singing jazz. Right now, I'm just jamming with friends. I'm using a Shure mic through a Fender Frontman guitar amp, and I'm not sure what all the dials are for. What's the relationship between "Volume" and "Gain"? And what is "Drive Volume"? Bonus Question: Will I need to spring for a real PA if we start performing?
posted by gteffertz to Media & Arts (5 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Channel selector - switches between various pre-set channels or between clean or distorted channels

Volume/post-amp - these generally do the same thing, make the sound louder without distorting it

Gain/drive - these raise the volume causing the sound to distort

Tone/Levels (Bass-Mid-Trebel) - These control the output of the various ranges of sound. basically they manipulate the sound and tone, often greatly influencing the feel, play around with them to get to know them.

Some amps have some digital effects controls:

Delay - records the sound and makes it echo

Reverb - mimics playing in a big room, and generally gives the sound a bigger feel without raising the volume.

Chorusing - This makes your guitar sound like a twelve string, or like there are two guitars playing at once

Flanger - Hard to explain... just try it out

Phaser/Pashe Shifter - also hard to explain...

Tremolo - quickly mutes and unmutes the sound of your guitar causing a vibrating effect.

As for the PA system... It depends on where you perform. Most clubs/bars have a PA system already in place if they host live acts/DJs. Good to ask before you show up for your gig though.
posted by ISeemToBeAVerb at 1:40 PM on May 6, 2008

A guitar amp is designed to color the sound coming out of it, while a PA will amplify sound more transparently. Some guitar amps will color the sound more (e.g. a Marshall tube amp will distort more than say a Roland Jazz Chorus. A Fender tends more on the clean amplification), but generally, guitar amplifiers are not a good choice for amplifying vocals, unless you want the sound of a voice run through a guitar amp. It's a valid choice, but may not be a wise choice if you seek the cleanest amplification of your voice.
posted by andrewraff at 1:50 PM on May 6, 2008

Best answer: Your amp has 2 settings: "normal" and "drive", a small button labeled "Drive Select" chooses between which channel you are using. Normal should give you a cleaner sound, while drive will add distortion. For vocals you probably want "normal"

Gain controls how hard you drive the "pre-amp". This colors the sound and turning this up will cause distortion. Great for guitar, probably not so much for vocals. Looking at your amp online, its not clear to me if this controls the gain for both channels or just the "drive" channel. If you choose the normal channel and turn up the gain, do you hear a difference? If you do, you probably won't like it - the lower the gain is, the less distortion you will get.

Volume controls how hard you drive the "power-amp" - this determines how loud you are, and may add slight distortion, but not much, especially for a solid state amp. Set this to control how loud you want to be. The gain control will also change affect your volume, but you should then compensate with the Volume knob.

Seconding that a guitar amp is probably a poor choice for vocals, and you will likely want a PA. Ultimately, play around with the controls however you want - there is no right or wrong - if you get a sound you like then great!
posted by jpdoane at 2:23 PM on May 6, 2008

my simple explanation:

volume is the level of the signal the heading OUT of the amp

gain is the level of the signal the amp heading IN to the amp.
posted by gnutron at 2:27 PM on May 6, 2008

Best answer: This was basically the same question, there might be some useful info there for you.
posted by davey_darling at 2:34 PM on May 6, 2008

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