Ditch the PA system and play better

Added on Tuesday 23 Mar 2010

On Sunday night I played at the Wee Folk Club in Edinburgh - and it was one of my most enjoyable gigs. A significant reason for this was that I played without a PA system; it was a small and intimate venue and there was no need for any amplification.

I loved it; I heard my guitar and my voice exactly as I hear it when I play at home; I didn't have to adjust to hearing everything coming through a set of speakers; which always throws me when playing 'live'.

I think that playing through a PA system can have the effect of knocking the subtlety off my playing; nuances are lost in the overly sharp noise that PA systems tend to produce - I think I probably subconsciously adjust my playing to be slightly more bombastic and direct; that's what it feels like anyway. It also makes playing feel more like hard work; ironically being amplified makes me hit the strings harder as it seems more difficult to hear exactly what is coming out of my guitar.

Without the amplification system, communication with the audience was direct; there was no microphone stand or stage to separate the performer from the audience; I felt a lot more comfortable with this setup and consequently I was more relaxed in my playing and my chat.

Now of course playing without a PA system isn't a revolutionary new way of playing music; most folk sessions are played exactly like this as are most relaxed get-togethers. However playing like this at a 'gig' does feel like an improvement over the usual plugged in affair.

All the best,
Jim

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