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The most commonly asked question I get about my gear is, "What exactly are you doing to manage the sound of all your different instruments on stage?" So here it is, kids: the low-down on my set up. It's been the same for a number of years, but we're always tinkering with it to make it smaller, lighter, quicker to set up, etc. I'll cover the basic set-up here and then click on to "Wireless Units," "Mixer," "Effects," "DI," and "Pedals" to get the info on the individual units.
The first and most important steps are getting the instruments sounding exactly the way you want them to sound. Because this about Sound, not Gear. Stage sound, at its best, is about "reinforcement," not "amplification." So get your instruments sounding great, get pickups that let the instruments sound the way they naturally sound and...only then...start adding gear to make the person in the last row hear what you want them to.
1) I have been wireless for many years. I'm too clumsy to avoid stepping on guitar cables, etc. Plus, it allows me more movement on stage. I use a wireless unit with a beltpack, with the plugs fitted with a 90-degree angle so that I can use it with autoharps and fiddles and not have the plugs interfere with my playing.
NOTE: I also use a wireless, hand-held vocal mic. Because I have 3 distinct playing areas (hammer dulcimer, piano, and center position for guitar, etc.) I've found a vocal mic I like and move it to each of the performance areas. It means the sound person doesn't have to have 3 identical mics (and separate channels for each), plus it simplifies the sound check.
2) From the wireless instrument receiver I run into my stage mixer. This allows some pre-amplification, overall EQ control, and metering...so I can see if the mixer is receiving signal and how hot it is.
NOTE: My hammer dulcimer is not wireless. It is plugged into a 2nd channel of the mixer. This makes it part of everything that is to follow...
3) The mixer has inserts that allow me to send the signal to a multi-effects unit in order to create a customized tone control and effects (i.e. reverb, octaving, digital delay, etc.) for each instrument. Sometimes multiple ones for each instrument (I use this in "Pastures of Plenty" and "Leviathan" on the hammer dulcimer, for instance). The insert then sends the effected signal back into the same channel of the mixer.
4) I can switch to the desired pre-set for each instrument via a MIDI cable which runs from the back of the effects unit to a pedal on the floor at center stage (see photo under "Pedals" in the Gear section here).
5) From the "Out" of the mixer a cable runs to a volume pedal on the floor at center stage. This allows me to mute the signal when I'm plugging in, unplugging, and tuning.
6) I also have a tuner plugged into the volume pedal which allows me to tune on stage, even when the volume is off.
7) From the volume pedal a cable runs to a direct box (DI). The direct box is where the sound person connects all my sound to the house system.
All of the above is designed so that, when I do a soundcheck, we can generally tell the sound person to run my instrument channel "flat," and, 9 times out of 10, the guitar sounds great. Everything in my effects unit is EQ'ed relative to the guitar. So once we get the guitar sounding great the soundcheck on my instruments is, essentially, done. At festivals this is especially important, as there are usually no soundcheck times allotted.
The result of all this? I have control over how I sound, the audience gets to hear what I hope they hear, the sound person looks and sounds like a genius, and everybody's happy.
Hope this is helpful.