much equipment, so little money. Sound like your
problem? Well, you're not alone. Many musicians face
the same problem everyday. You have the talent, you
have the desire, you have the look, but you don't
have the money to compete with those well-armed bands
at the clubs. You know the bands, big mixing board,
light show, amps taller than the musicians. How does
a young band compete with that? With careful
planning, budgeting, fund raising, and some creative
uses of cheap items, you can make your band gig
most important thing to remember is commitment to the
goal. In order to do a good show, you have to really
want to. If going off to the coast for a quick blast
with your mates is more important than that new amp
you need, you have a problem. The one thing that good
acts have in common is that they want it really bad.
If you can't compete with money, at least compete
with attitude. In the words of Jim Henson, "Life
is a movie, write your own ending." Work those
extra hours. Don't buy that extra drink. Save where
you can and spend your funds wisely. If you really
want it, you'll find a way.
first thing that any musician needs to think about is
his own personal equipment. If you play guitar or
bass, you'll need a serviceable guitar and an amp.
This is where most musicians make their first
mistake. Many guitar/bass players spend the majority
of their budget on the best guitar they can afford
and buy an amp with what's left. A Gibson Les Paul
played through a small 15 watt combo practice amp
still sounds bad. You're much better off to buy a
better amp and scrimp on the guitar if you have to. A
good amp will make even a bad guitar sound passable.
Another method of saving money for a better amp is to
buy a cheap guitar and put better pickups in it. Good
pickups mounted on a stick will sound fairly good
with a decent amp.
your amp carefully. Always buy more power
(watts/speaker inches) than you think you need.
Having to sell an amp in order to buy a bigger, more
powerful one two days before the gig can cost you a
lot of money. Not only will you lose money selling
the amp on such short notice, but buying your new amp
without time to shop around is also costly. Check out
as many amps as possible before you buy. Talk to
friends or even strangers that have played the type
of gigs you're looking to perform. If you think 25
watts will do it, try to afford 40 watts. Having just
enough power to play the gig will make your amp sound
poor. Pushing an amp to 10 (full volume) will cause
the amp of display its greatest amount of distortion.
Running an amp at 5 (half volume) will make it sound
consider what features your amp will need. If your
band doesn't have a PA system and can't afford to
rent one, you'll want an extra input on the amp for a
microphone. Don't laugh, it won't sound great, but it
works. Remember, the mic will draw power from the amp
and lower its volume. Also, if you can't afford
separate effects, you may want an amp with reverb or
overdrive built into it. Singing through your amp has
many built in pit falls. If you're a guitarist and
use a lot of overdrive, your vocals will be
distorted. If you're a bass player with only a
15" speaker, your vocals will be hard to
understand since they will lack clarity. Keyboard
amps generally make fairly good vocal amps.
the PA system. This is
normally the hardest part of band equipment to
afford, but one of the most important parts of the
sound. PA's are hard to afford because no one in the
band considers it to be part of his personal
equipment. Even singers usually only own one mic (and
usually not a good one at that). This is why planning
your PA purchase is the most important thing a band
can do. When you're on a budget, don't think flashy,
think serviceable for the lowest price you can get
away with. The most important part of the PA is the
power amp. PA systems take a lot of power. A
guitarist can use 50 watts and sound very loud. A 50
watt PA is way under powered for most applications.
Your singers' shouldn't have to shout. A power amp of
at least 300 to 400 watts is required in most cases.
Be careful when buying a PA amp, you can't just look
at the wattage in order to find out how loud or clean
it will perform. All power amps will have a power
rating (watts) that will change depending on the ohm
level. An ohm is a measurement of electrical
resistance. All speakers have an ohm rating. Some
power amp companies will rate their power amps at 2
ohms, meaning that the amp will perform to this level
if you have speakers with a 2 ohm rating plugged into
the amp. However, very few speakers are rated at 2
ohms. Most speakers are rated at 8 ohms. If this
doesn't sound important, note that a 600 watt power
amp may only perform at 125 watts when two 8 ohm
speakers are plugged into it. Also don't be fooled by
amp makers that list the "BRIDGED" rating.
What bridged means is that you take the two stereo
signals and join them together so that the power will
only support one speaker. You'll need two power amps
to support two stereo speakers if you bridge the
next important part of the PA system is the speakers.
Speakers are more important than a mixing board.
Remember, you can also plug two mics directly into
the back of the power amp and not have a mixing board
at all. A 12" speaker and a radial horn will
give you the best results on a budget. Look for
speakers that have lower ohm ratings. Remember, the
lower the ohms the more power/volume you'll get from
your power amp. Be careful to check the power wattage
of the speakers. If your speakers aren't rated at the
same or more wattage than your power amp, you can
blow them. Placing the PA speaker on a stand during a
performance will also make them sound louder. An
elevated speaker will sound louder because the floor
will not absorb the sound as much. Speaker stands can
be expensive however. You can eliminate the need for
speaker stands by putting the speakers on low cost
milk crates draped with black fabric.
buying mics on a budget, stay away from mics that
need a preamp or phantom power. Preamp or phantom
power systems cost money you can't afford to waste.
Phantom power mics usually sound better, but in a
live gig situation most audience members will never
be able to tell the difference. Make sure you buy a
mic that can take a beating. Cheap mics may sound all
right, but if they break quickly, they aren't that
cheap. A number of companies make mics with a steel
shell and ball to protect the mic from the abuse that
gigging will surely put on it. Also, be sure you buy
the right type of mic. If you need a drum mic, don't
use a vocal mic. Using a vocal mic on a snare drum is
the quickest way to destroy the mic.
you may want a mixing board. Mixing board technology
has come a long way in the past five years so try and
buy a newer mixer if you can. Many companies have
mixers that'll work in a large number of situations.
Here too, you should over-buy if you can. If you have
four mics, don't buy a mixer that only has four
inputs. You will at some time, get another mic and
then be stuck having to buy a new mixer.
your band's sounding pretty good, but there's more.
For many bands, the sound is only the beginning. A
good stage set up, lights, costumes, etc. can make a
band look much better and be more marketable to many
audiences. Here is where creativity and a little hard
work can really pay off. A little trick that can add
to the stage is to build a drum riser. By raising
your drummer even a foot or two off the floor you've
greatly improved the professional look of your band
and enhanced the sound.
may next want to think about costumes if your band
plans to wear them. Retro is in right now. This gives
your band a lot of cheap alternatives to expensive
clothes. Check out garage sales and look for older
garments that can be used in combination. Old hats,
gloves, scarves, etc., can be had for a song. You may
also want to check out local clothing resale shops
for used jackets, even suits. If you're looking for
fancy stuff, check out formal wear rental shops that
may be selling out of date clothes cheaply. In order
to get this type of stuff cheap, you need to be
important for the band to work as a team. Pool your
resources and plan together to make sure that one
members equipment will work well with everyone else's
stuff. Take a large portion of the money the band
makes and re-invest it into the band. By slowly
building up your equipment you may soon be one of
those armed to the teeth bands.