Leveling Presets

pipelineaudio

Shredder
Messages
1,288
I've been using YouLean and SPAN to level match my presets, but the treblier stuff seems to usually read much higher than my percieved loudness, have you got any better tricks?
 
I use backing tracks. If the levels sound right in the mix, they usually translate pretty well when gigging. Clean tones are usually the tough ones for me, but I usually end up using a tone of compression for gigs just to even out the dynamics.
 
For some reason clean tones always will sound louder --- whether level matched or not. Followed
by edge of breakup and medium gain tones. I find with higher gain tones I have to increase by a
dB or two to compensate. Must have something to do with the compression that clipping introduces.

:idk
 
Note: all below is related to live playing (I find preset leveling to be sort of irrelevant when recording - just get into the ballpark and call it a day, for finetunings I can always grab any volume knob/fader to adjust before hitting record).

I learned that you can't trust any meters. And you can't exactly trust recorded patches, either (which actually sucks as it'd make life a lot easier).
And to make matters really worse: I can't even seem to be able to trust patches I used on several gigs already (unless those are extremely "controlled condition" gigs such as theatre musicals).
Depending on the setup I'm using, I either save my last "rig status" (fwiw, I always only use one patch for any given gig - which is actually related to this very topic) and/or take a picture of my pedalboard. Allows me to dial in things exactly as they were on the last gig. As I'm exclusively playing through fullrange systems (wedges or IEM) only, there's way less variables as with real amps and especially cabs.
It pretty much never works out. Yay.

Even with a DI setup, even with rather little base sounds (in my case: clean/clean-ish channel, dirt channel /w variations from different drive pedals, plus lead level variations for each of the two), there's still so much variables coming into play. Yes, in my case that's largely related to the kind of gigs I'm playing (mostly at least sort of functional stuff with different line ups and usually no rehearsals), but it's also still related to a lot of other things. Some random things:

- Feel a bit nervous (or just not as calm as usual)? This will have an effect on your picking strength (I started trying to observe that when I noticed it sort of accidentally), you might pick stronger or softer. Or not as evenly. In any case, on clean sounds this will be good for several dBs of volume difference (very easily in the realm of 2-5dB), on lightly hairy sounds it will change both the level (less than on cleans of course) and possibly the timbre (lightly hairy sounds are pretty sensible regarding that), whereas on more overdriven tones it likely won't be noticeable much as the brutal compression introduced by distortion sort of eliminates lots of picking dynamics.

- What's the room like? Reflective walls will have a totally different effect on percussive cleans than on thick overdriven tones. The former might run into annoying slapback delays while the latter will perhaps even sound nicely fattened up.

- Do you have to fight cymbals? Horror.

- Are you close to the drums?

- Is there a Hammond running through a screaming Leslie? These are munching overdriven tones for breakfast, seriously!

- Is the bass nice and low or rather penetrating guitar territory? In that case, your guitars may either become muddy or sound thin (as much as that sounds contradicting, but in comparison to high bass energy covering lower guitar registers, it might as well be both muddy and thin).
Etc.

- Do you have to fight a keyboarder thinking he/she should cover the entire frequency range with their superthick and lush pads?

And then something else: No matter the gig, no matter how well you leveled your patches beforehand, chances are things won't come out as great on the gig.

Ok, enough with that drivel (I could possibly write all day long about possible mishappenings regarding all my oh-so-well prepared sounds...).
So how do I level presets? The answer is: I don't.
I pre-adjust things so I will likely be in the ballpark and that's about it. The rest is done at soundcheck, possibly with some minor corrections following during the gig.
For this to work, I need more or less direct control over these:
- Channel volume (clean and dirt channel).
- Channel EQ. Obvious as these are amp channels with a tonestack.
- All drive pedal settings (even if these can be pre-set rather easily, the settings of the channels they're running into are more important IMO).
- Lead EQ and overall lead level.
- Master EQ for my monitoring path (the sound guy can do whatever he thinks is right for my FOH signal).

I can usually as well adjust some more things quite quickly (such as some delay/reverb levels), but in general, those mentioned above are just fine.

Fwiw: All this is why my next all-in-one modeler will feature global blocks (too bad that so far only two of the whole bunch do). Otherwise call me out. And it's precisely why I went back to a hybrid system, which so far seems to work better than anything I ever used before. So I may not even need an all-in-one modeler.
 
Last edited:
And then something else: No matter the gig, no matter how well you leveled your patches beforehand, chances are things won't come out as great on the gig.

Every time. Even when I don't touch anything after dialing in to the band at rehearsals. I try to make mental notes as a set goes along and make adjustments between sets, or if someone has a technical issue, I will tweak if there's time. It's almost always volume related whether too loud or too soft. Even the same venue back to back after saving settings the first night.

I have had only a handful of gigs where everything was perfect from the first note.
 
For some reason clean tones always will sound louder --- whether level matched or not. Followed
by edge of breakup and medium gain tones. I find with higher gain tones I have to increase by a
dB or two to compensate. Must have something to do with the compression that clipping introduces.

:idk

Yep, 100% about compression. The dynamic range of a tone will decrease as gain is increased. As such, leveling can be very tricky here as the spike of the pick attack on a clean tone will give the appearance of loud tone on a meter, but the level near immediately falls back. If you judge purely based on the pick attack to level things, the clean tone will be much quieter than a mid to high gain tone [edit: and if you meter by average and level, the clean tone will always be louder]. The "fix" here is adding some compression to clean tones, just enough to tame the attack and level things out a bit without really hearing any squish, makes things much easier and the clean tone will sit better in a mix.
 
Last edited:
I used to use Orban Loudness Meter in my gigging days. Got me very close and I only needed modest level/EQ tweaks at gig volume to get everything sounding even.
 
Last edited:
I have had only a handful of gigs where everything was perfect from the first note.

Same here. But that's been gigs where everything was rehearsed pretty much ad nauseum under live conditions (mainly theatre musicals but also a big cover show project I was involved in for several years). Anything else is hit or miss.

Fwiw, IMO that's one of the reasons why guitarists using modelers often don't sound that great live. It's not because they're sounding bad or anything, it's simply because with most all-in-one units adjusting sounds to suit the gig's and/or venue's conditions is incredibly difficult, especially once you're using multiple patches.
With my hybrid setup, it's every bit as in the old days. Clean sound not loud enough? Adjust one single knob, done. In case I turned it up too much, it's a matter of a second to take some bits back.
Now, with a modeler using a clean sound across various patches, it becomes a super tedious thing. Load patch 1, adjust, save. Load patch 2, adjust (ideally by the same amount), save. Patch 3, 4, 5, etc. Depending on the number of patches, this might be doable during soundcheck. But what if you need a song or two to notice you've overdone things? No way to ever get back because that can't be done during the gig (whereas dialing back a single analog knob is a pretty trivial and unobtrusive thing).
 
Same here. But that's been gigs where everything was rehearsed pretty much ad nauseum under live conditions (mainly theatre musicals but also a big cover show project I was involved in for several years). Anything else is hit or miss.

Fwiw, IMO that's one of the reasons why guitarists using modelers often don't sound that great live. It's not because they're sounding bad or anything, it's simply because with most all-in-one units adjusting sounds to suit the gig's and/or venue's conditions is incredibly difficult, especially once you're using multiple patches.
With my hybrid setup, it's every bit as in the old days. Clean sound not loud enough? Adjust one single knob, done. In case I turned it up too much, it's a matter of a second to take some bits back.
Now, with a modeler using a clean sound across various patches, it becomes a super tedious thing. Load patch 1, adjust, save. Load patch 2, adjust (ideally by the same amount), save. Patch 3, 4, 5, etc. Depending on the number of patches, this might be doable during soundcheck. But what if you need a song or two to notice you've overdone things? No way to ever get back because that can't be done during the gig (whereas dialing back a single analog knob is a pretty trivial and unobtrusive thing).

While I agree presets being difficult to adjust live thing, your example has never happened to me live (though it's been more than a few years since I last played live outside jams). As long as one's relative volume and EQ balance of clean to dirty are good, which should be ironed out in rehearsal, small adjustments to global EQ is all I've ever needed. Though I wish I had the FM3's global reverb mix back in the day, that would've been incredible helpful.
 
As long as one's relative volume and EQ balance of clean to dirty are good, which should be ironed out in rehearsal,

Most of my gigs take place without rehearsals.

And apart from that, I can't remember a single gig outside of those mentioned above (well rehearsed musical shows) where I would not adjust a little thing here or there. Or where I just wanted to have a somewhat different sound all together (which is absolutely as valid - and I can usually afford deciding on my own).
 
What @Sascha Franck said ;-)

my personal workarounds/things to deal with it:

a global volume pedal post gain controlling a 70% to 100% volume range.
a global switch boosting for solos…about 6 db
an expression pedal controlling wet/dry
per sound/preset both an “add gain“ switch…as well as a “reduce gain” Switch
global eq on my feed to poweramp

and..I play my analog(ish) board more often to avoid hving to store stuff for quick fixes….and have knobs in sight to dial
 
just stay on your gain tone all night. problem solved hahaha.


i just use the ch vol on the amp block for each snapshot. seems to work pretty well and is easy. then i use the big vol knob on the front panel to control overall volume if i need to turn up or down that way i dont have to adjust each snapshot.
 
What @Sascha Franck said ;-)

my personal workarounds/things to deal with it:

a global volume pedal post gain controlling a 70% to 100% volume range.
a global switch boosting for solos…about 6 db
an expression pedal controlling wet/dry
per sound/preset both an “add gain“ switch…as well as a “reduce gain” Switch
global eq on my feed to poweramp

and..I play my analog(ish) board more often to avoid hving to store stuff for quick fixes….and have knobs in sight to dial

Not sure which modeler you use, but a lot of this stuff has global controls on the FM3:
 
i just use the ch vol on the amp block for each snapshot.

Fortunately, I don't need to save any levels. It's all just there (the EQ of a single Stomp patch or output control serve as lead levels, depending on the kinda gig...).

Bibaboard.jpg
 
Different amp channels don't.

Sure. In my gigging lifetime, soundchecks never offered enough time to really build sounds from scratch. When I had pedalboards, I essentially created presets by marking settings because knobs would invariably get moved in transit and I had to do a quick once over during soundcheck to make sure things were where they needed to be. But everyone has their own system, not saying yours is wrong, what works works.
 
In my gigging lifetime, soundchecks never offered enough time to really build sounds from scratch.

Who says I'm doing that? Look at my pedalboard above. Usually all parameters stay in similar positions anyway, but before I'm packing for a gig I check everything and do pre-adjustments. As easy as that.

But everyone has their own system, not saying yours is wrong, what works works.

It's not even a "system". It's what people have been doing for decades. It's just that all-in-one modelers fail to replicate that more or less completely (minus the two offering global blocks, namely the Axe FX and the GT-1000 - but it's still requiring some menu diving or tinkering with external MIDI knob controllers).
 
Who says I'm doing that? Look at my pedalboard above. Usually all parameters stay in similar positions anyway, but before I'm packing for a gig I check everything and do pre-adjustments. As easy as that.



It's not even a "system". It's what people have been doing for decades. It's just that all-in-one modelers fail to replicate that more or less completely (minus the two offering global blocks, namely the Axe FX and the GT-1000 - but it's still requiring some menu diving or tinkering with external MIDI knob controllers).

The Rock Eye Roll GIF by WWE
 
Not sure which modeler you use, but a lot of this stuff has global controls on the FM3:
That particular list is probably possible with a lot of modelers. My kemper can do it, my GT core can do it (if paired with a midicontroller…and my analog board also is setup with it. Many ways to Rome these days ;-)
 
Back
Top