Playing LOUD - question for those who gig

Every now and again when I have the house to myself I turn things up to what I consider loud - say 90-100db in a reasonably large room.

Every time I do this I am reminded that the amp I bought has this setting I can’t seem to turn off which only amplifies the mistakes.

Genuine question to those of you who gig at decent volume regularly … do you find it harder to play at loud volume levels than gentle bedroom ones, or is this something you just get used to.


Yes. Volume brings out mistakes too… The approach I’m familiar with is - play more gentle when plugged in. I’m citing Joe Robinson here.

If you play an acoustic guitar, electronics could also amplify all kinds of noises you don’t hear usually at low volumes, like friction of the instrument against your body or strings squeaking… There’s no magical remedy, you just practice and fix whatever you can. Recording yourself is also very helpful usually.


Thanks Alexey - I’m primarily talking electric guitar here, I platy plenty of acoustic but rarely amplified. However, I’m guessing your advice applies to electric too.

I’m less experienced with the electric guitar. Maybe you could use some pedal? Like a noise gate ?

While I don’t gig, I do play at higher volume levels pretty regularly (when you live with a drummer, playing loud is kind of a requirement :laughing:) I also only play electric.

I will occasionally play my hollowbody unplugged while learning something, but I try to plug in as early as possible in the process for this reason. Things like string noise and mistakes are a lot more noticeable amplified. It has really forced me to work on my muting technique, which is a good thing. I’m not perfect at it, but the more you can play amplified, the more you can catch it and work on it. I also agree Alexey’s suggestion to record yourself.

One last thing I’ll note- when I practice with our full band, one person making a mistake is a lot less noticeable when everyone keeps the rhythm and just continues playing :+1:


Thanks Alexey - I think a noise gate will cut the sound completely when is goes below a certain level, the problem I have is when I am trying to make sound, just better sound LOL :slight_smile:

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Cheers Jen - that’s good context. Muting is something I am actively working on, but man, loud amplified guitar is not forgiving!

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I will add that I play with a noise gate and it’s AWESOME. If you have issues with buzz/hum from your amp or effects you are using, a noise gate makes a huge difference. When I have mine on, it sounds like the guitar is off when I’m not playing and then you get a nice overdriven sound when you are playing. I pretty much use it all the time, but it is particularly useful for songs where you need clean pauses between the chords or in a riff, like Brain Stew by Green Day.


Little side question … do you use ear plugs / protection?

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@mathsjunky Yes, we play either with headphones or with decibel reducing ear plugs.

Since we haven’t played a live gig other than the community OMs, this works for us, but we will probably need to look into in ear monitors if we ever do venture into gigging outside the house.

My parents were in a rock band when I was a teenager and didn’t use hearing protection as diligently as they should have. It has definitely affected their hearing as they have gotten older, so I’m always wearing some kind of hearing protection.


Thanks Jen - that’s interesting. I used to use ear plugs all the time when I rode motorbikes, but I’ve never considered it playing guitar loud. At the moment, my exposure to really loud guitar is pretty limited, but I do worry about my hearing sometimes - too many Iron Maiden and The Who concerts when I was a kid :slight_smile:

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As Jen says work on muting/string dampening but don’t forget that is both hands, when playing solo notes. High gain and volume are unforgiving but you’ll get there with practice.



I’d say it’s “yes” to both: it’s more challenging to play at louder volumes, and it’s also something you get used to. In fact, it’s something you can get addicted to.

I find that playing a loud amplifier is a different experience from playing a quiet amp, or playing through headphones, or playing through studio monitors. The music feels “all around you.” You’ve got air moving, and the guitar seems more alive and sensitive to every little nuance of your playing. That makes mistakes stand out. Suddenly you become very aware of your technique, and of things like string muting or finger position or pressure while sliding or a host of other little details. But I think the increased difficulty is balanced by that sense of being inside the music, and how alive it feels. And it’s probably a good thing to have weak spots in your playing brought to your attention, in any case.

Note that playing loud when you’re the only instrument is even more challenging than playing loud with a band, simply because the band can kind of mask those little mistakes.

Seems like there was a “That Pedal Show” video that talked about the difference; I’ll see if I can dig it up.

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thanks Toby - it’s a difficult thing to practice for me as it’s not that often I can really crank it up, but I guess that doesn’t stop me working on the muted etc. There is something about the high volume levels in itself that just seems to make things feel different!

This was it. The title mentions “for recording” but I remember them talking about the differences between playing a loud vs. quiet amp and going “yes, exactly!”


Cheers Jason - yes, it certainly feels different, its hard to explain how, but you do a pretty good job in that post!

Awesome - I’ll give that a watch!

I have tinnitus as a result of noise exposure when younger (DIY power tools, and before that lots of LOUD gigs) so nowadays I always take a set of decibel reducing earplugs to gigs, but I rarely find I need to use them, as I think gigs are quieter now thanks to Health & safety rules that either didn’t exist or were ignored in the 70s. I don’t use them for playing guitar, I just have the volume at a comfortable level as I just play at home and don’t have a live-in drummer.


Its literally amplifying your errors and something I am still working hard to overcome when learning solos and improvising. Slow steady and methodical is the answer, your hands need to learn where to go, so it becomes automatic. Right hand pretty much sorted these days but its has taken a good few years. Left hand is work in progress. :sunglasses:


Don’t!!! You don’t need to play LOUD.

I’ve seen artists ruin it for themselves by playing too loud. One of them asked me at his gig how the volume was, I said politely it’s a bit loud and he responded with - “well, I’ve got to be heard”, I watched people look in the door at the restaurant and they quickly left. I suspect it was because he was too loud.

Obviously this advice depends on the venue. Pay attention to your crowd. Had one band that played at our music club that was so loud that the front row quickly cleared out and soon so did the second row. Why the band didn’t notice that and crank the volume down is beyond me.

You don’t need to break people’s eardrums to be remembered or heard.