Enhance Your Live Acoustic Show
After playing in bands for many years, I’ve found myself recently playing a lot of duo gigs with my wife. It’s fun having a stripped down set, load in is easy, and pay is generally better; however, I miss the instrumentation of playing with a full band. So, we’ve experimented with adding things to fill out the sound. Here are a few things to try:
Shake it Up
One of the first things we did was buy a tambourine, shakers, etc. These are great for helping the movement of a song, and picking up the momentum in a chorus or a solo. There are all kinds of ways to use these. They even make foot tambourines. Jessica Skinner from Prettier Than Matt uses this in their live show all the time.
Add a Kick
One major void when you lose a drummer is the kick. The kick drum is the backbone of the groove. Some acts like The Avett Brothers and Butch Walker use an actual kick drum as they are playing guitar. There are also other options like the Log Jam and the Porch Board. Both units plug into a sound system with a 1/4 in. cable and create a kick drum sound that adds a great punch to your sound. Make sure you practice before going out and attempting it, as it can be very tricky to get used to. Also, the sounds can vary greatly depending on the room you are in.
Give it Some Bottom End
Another major component missing from our live show was the bass guitar. So, recently, I bought a Boss Super Octave OC-3 pedal after watching my good friend, Spencer Rush, using it during one of his shows. It’s an amazing pedal! Not only can you make your guitar strings sound an octave lower, but also it’s polyphonic. So, you can dial in at which point the octave will start. That way, your bottom strings sound an octave lower and the higher strings still sound like a regular guitar. So, you sound like a bass player and guitarist at the same time. You have to be a pretty good player to make this happen. It’s very easy to accidentally hit two bass notes at the same time or miss a muted note.
Of course, another tool to add to the arsenal is the loop pedal. There are many out there, but my favorite is the Boss Loop Station. You can loop for a very long time, overdub parts, and even undo parts…which comes in handy if you make a mistake. I generally use it for looping rhythm guitar, bass parts with the octave pedal, and drum sounds from beating my guitar (probably not the best for it). The Boss Loop Station also allows one to record vocals, as it has an XLR input. This use is fun to create live vocal backing tracks. Using a looper is awesome if done right , but can be boring or cheesy if done wrong. Check out my blog on 5 Do’s and 3 Don’t of Loop Pedals if you want to learn more about that. Check out Ed Sheeran’s Live Room Sessions for some great loop pedal work.
iPads are fun gadgets and there are many apps that allow you to spice up your live sound. You can add effects to your guitar, create beats, or play keys through an iPad. This is new territory for us, and we’ve barely scraped the surface, but the possibilities are endless.
So, if you are looking to enhance your live acoustic show, add some beats, low end, and use some modern gadgets to have fun. Though nothing will replace a live band, you can absolutely create a full sound with a smaller setup.