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Balancing Modeling Amp Presets

Q: I have a modeling combo guitar amp. I love the flexibility and that I can store presets for each song, plus it sounds great! Here’s my problem: I can’t seem to get the volume of the presets balanced. When I listen at home, it sounds like the volume stays the same when I switch from a clean sound to a distortion sound. But when I play with my band, the clean sound is way louder. How can I balance the volumes. Should I run the amp into a mixer or something with a VU meter?

A: Checking the output levels through something with a VU meter may or may not help.

There are several things at work; it’s likely that you don’t want all your presets at the same matched volume levels. There are a number of reasons for this, but here are two that are big factors:

1. Perception — our ears perceive the volume level of clean sounds differently than dirty sounds because of the extra harmonic content in the dirty sounds.

2. Context — Playing by yourself, at home, there is no context for the required volume level. One preset may be used in a song where the rest of the instruments are playing sparse parts or are using tones that allow you to cut through. On another song, the band may be playing dense, thick parts, and your tone doesn’t pop through.

What it comes down to is that you really need to set your presets — probably both EQ and volume — while listening to your amp in the context of the band. You should be able to get close at home, then make your final tweaks during rehearsal.

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