How Loud Should Your Amp Be on Stage?

Imagine you have a live performance with your band, you are eager to be there and give the best presentation of your life. 

You set your equipment, plug your guitar in but when having the soundcheck you notice that you can’t get the proper volume of your amp.

After some time dealing with that, you decide to try a song but you feel that something is wrong. 

Don’t worry! 

It could be that your amp is not properly set and you need a different volume level.

How loud your amp should be on stage depends mostly on if it’s mic’d up or not. Not mic’d up amps should be as loud as required to be heard properly by the audience. Mic’d up amps should rather be as quiet as possible to not disturb the sound guy’s venue mix, and to avoid unwanted feedback.

This may be an overwhelming task for those who aren’t experienced live players but let me give you some tips. 

I will try to help you and will provide the needed information and in the end, you will know everything about this topic.

How loud should a guitar amp be on stage if it’s not mic’d?

When you play live you do need to be aware of the loudness of your amp, otherwise, it may be not enough to be listened to and you will end up sounding small. 

Furthermore, you require to sound loud enough for the audience to hear you playing. 

A good way of measuring the power of your gear is the wattage and speaker size. 

The starting point for playing on stage is a 50-watt amplifier but this varies a bit from tube amps to solid-state ones.

Remember that when you gig you are supposed to have a soundcheck before performing and, at that point, the sound engineer will help you to set the amp’s volume. 

How loud should a guitar amp be on stage if it’s mic’d?

Mic’d up amps are not the same as not mic’d up, consequently, the setting should be quite different. 

That setting could depend on the presence of monitor speakers on stage. 

If you have monitors, it would be way simpler but if that’s not the case and you use your amp as a monitor you should keep your amp as quiet as possible because when is too loud it generates a lot of problems. 

In those cases, the sound engineer will have to push everything to the limits, mainly the vocals.

What is even worse, if your amplifier is too loud you will notice a lot of mess on the stage. 

That’s because you are using it as a monitor and it won’t be able to be heard and will bother the rest of your bandmates, so turn it down.

Common issues of having a loud amp on stage

As we mentioned before, having a loud amp on stage could be harmful to your sound. 

One of the most common problems occurs in the feedback, if your amp is too loud the signal will get into your instrument and will be amplified again and again producing ear-piercing.

In addition, you will have bad monitoring due to the mess produced by your equipment. 

This will also influence the communication with your bandmates, as you won’t be able to listen to them clearly, it will be tough to understand each other.

What is more, your loud amp will drown your bandmates’ sound. 

The rest of the instruments won’t be distinguished and instead of playing music, you will be making noise.

How to know when your amp is too loud on stage

You will know that your amp is louder than expected when you start noticing some of the problems previously discussed. 

If you are playing in a band, you and your bandmates are supposed to have a similar volume level just to be clearly listened to by the audience.

Furthermore, if you realize that one of the instruments has more volume or strength than the rest, it may be louder than needed. 

Of course, there are sections of songs that require more presence of a particular instrument but you shouldn’t overshadow the rest of your bandmates.

The modern alternative to a loud stage amp

Modern live concerts tend to be almost silent, except for drums because they are acoustic instruments. 

This is because instruments are amplified differently and they use in-ear monitors, being similar to earphones, instead of the amp itself.

Instruments are mostly amplified with digital processors that emulate amps and cabinets

Then, the signal goes through a PA system and is sent back to the in-ear monitors for the musicians.

In that way, musicians are really aware of how are they playing, they have perfect monitoring and there is less mess on stage.

A reminder about wattage and loudness

Some players may think that loudness is intrinsically related to wattage but is not the only aspect. 

Wattage is related to power which is not equal to the volume.

The number of watts determines the power of an amp but having twice as many watts won’t double the volume. 

Watts and volume are related exponentially rather than linearly so if you want to double your volume you will have to multiply the number of watts by ten.

Another remarkable feature is headroom which refers to the amount of power that your amp provides before sounding distorted. 

This is relevant because there are amps that provide more headroom consequently, they can produce crystal clear sound at high levels of volume. 

Knowing that you may assume that if your amp is too loud on stage and it doesn’t provide a high headroom level, you will sound bad maybe when you are meant to stay clean.

Pro tip: Turn the volume down

As we said before, the intention of a group of people playing altogether should be to sound harmonious, what I mean to say is that there must be an average volume in the instruments. 

However, some noisy bands find this task extremely hard.

In those cases, one of the best things you can do is turn the volume down. 

You may think that is complete nonsense but it really helps a lot.

When you turn the volume down you provide more clarity in the overall mix which is great for the sound engineer, the audience, or even for the musicians. 

In that way, you will be able to deal with the difficult issues we mentioned above.

Summary

To sum up, extreme volume levels are always harmful if they cannot be controlled. 

You do need to be aware of the loudness of your amp when playing on stage.

Although drummers are not fond of this option, turning the volume down will help you to struggle with volume issues. 

Remember that is extremely important because a loud amp affects many things such as monitoring, bandmates’ communication, and as a consequence, the performance itself.