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Setting Up Your Amplifier -- In Any Room

Guitar Technique Sessions... Your Weekly Strength, Stamina and Dexterity Exercise

Week Number Fifty One    October 13, 2005

How come an amplifier can sound really good in one club and sound like a dog's arse in another? The volume is the same, so what's the scoop?

Well, we all know that every room -- even those of similar dimension -- 'sounds' different. Heck, the same room can sound different on any given gig due to an increase or decrease in the number of people. Even some holiday doodads and decorations can change the sound. What do you do?

The Amp and The Ear

You've worked hard in the rehearsal room to dial in your amp. Everyone in the band loves your tone and masterfully judicious use of the volume controls. Then you go to the gig... Now your band mates are howling for your blood--a bigger howl than your rig is making!

Back in 1974 I played in a band called The Mystic Messengers. Yeah, funky name, but it was the time and famed WNEW radio personality Alison Steele gave us the name. She also wished me a happy 17th birthday on the air, a high point of my life. We rehearsed at our singer's parent's home and couldn't really crank out as hard as we wanted. Ray Nieves, our bass player, found a rehearsal studio on 20th Street called Universal Rehearsal Studios. No relation, I'm sure.

We arrived on 20th Street one cold February evening and found ourselves facing a rather large (by our standards) PA system, a SUNN Coliseum guitar amp, a grand piano, a Fender Rhodes and some synths, a very big Acoustic bass amp and the drum kit. A nice set-up all the way around. I plugged my Telecaster into the SUNN and started fiddling with the tone knobs. If I recall correctly, it had the spread of Bass. Mid and Treble knobs -- it may have had more, but we're talking 31 years ago, so forgive my memory lapse. I spent a few minutes messing with these in the three pickup combinations the Tele packed. After a few minutes, the studio guy, who had been showing Maria (our singer) and Ray the PA system came over to me and said "Most guys are getting worse sound out of that thing with Les Pauls. You're the only person who has ever come in here and didn't just crank everything up to ten!" Didn't I feel special! Well, I've always had to be thoughtful about tone, having grown up with a Telecaster. Let's face it, the Tele requires TLC not to twangle its way into jangle delirium.

Since those days, I've played about a million gigs in ten thousand clubs -- some posh, some basement hovels. One things I can have a sense of accomplishment about is that the tone I produced was most often the tone I was going for. Keep in mind I've owned amps ranging from a Dual Showman (never should have let that one go) a Peavey Musician, a 50 watt Marshall. a JC120 (I liked it) a Sonax (never heard of them then, only saw another one once in the ensuing 30 years) A Gibson Duo Medalist (what a piece of crap!) a Teisco and two Fender Hot Rods, a DeLuxe and a DeVille. Except for the Teisco and the Gibson, I always got what I was looking for in any room I found myself in. How? Read on.

I am a firm believer that unless the amplifier was designed by Pee Wee Herman, the amp will operate within a certain frequency range. Some designs accentuate a portion of the frequency range and some amps sound like the speaker enclosure or a poor make/model of speaker. These foibles can be worked around for the most part. I have found that the room has a greater effect on the sound than the actual amp itself.

Okay, you've arrived at the Kitty Klub where your band is expected to play supporting a bevy of exotic dancers. You're going to have a wall of beauties in front of you, then a crowd of dreamy-eyed losers trying to stick dollars in g-strings. Nice thing though, the bar and stage is surrounded by mirrors, so some of the amp's sound will reflect away from all the baffles directly ahead. Turn each of the EQ controls on the amp to zero. That's right, we're starting with a clean slate. Choose the neck pickup of the guitar, guitar volume pot full on and tone control at ten. With the volume knob on the amp set at 5, begin turning the bass EQ knob up. You will hear the bass response increasing. At a certain unspecified point -- and this changes room-to-room -- the bass response will stop increasing as perceived by the ear. Leave the bass EQ knob at the point where it reached the optimum perceived output. This is ideal. Now switch to both pickups on (or the mid position on a Strat) and adjust the midrange EQ knob. Same deal, when the perceived output doesn't increase, leave the knob at that position. Now, switch to the bridge pickup and follow the same drill. Now adjust your overall volume. You may have to repeat the tone setup once the volume is set.

If you play in a number of clubs, you will note that the numerical settings will change room to room. BUT your tone/sound will remain the same. Room dynamics change over the course of a gig as people come and go. You may have to adjust a slight bit. Of course, if your band is loud, your ears will close up as the evening progresses. You will experience a loss of high frequency response IN YOUR EARS. Don't start twiddling with the treble knob unless you know it isn't your ears that are at fault.


This should help you get good tone under combat conditions. How's that for a slice of fried gold?







Be well, be back!



What's New? The Two New Albums!





Hey, the new albums are out! That's right, finally a follow-up to the reissue of my old album from the late 1980's and its sequel as well.

Reflecting Pools is a departure for me as it is totally keyboard. Well, the guitar did show up on one track... Reflecting Pools is an ethereal journey into the realm of relaxation. In That Zone is a more classically structured exploration of mood and personality.

Available through

...And containing nine tracks that are relaxing, inspirational -- sounds like a snooze. Not really, this is great stuff to listen to on a rainy afternoon, while with your significant other (nudge, nudge, know what I mean?) Please visit the Reflecting Pools page on this site or


LOW END What's new with the book that came out over a year ago? After being on back-order at for what seemed like a century, it is my understanding that copies are once again shipping. Barnes and Noble's website stocks new coipies of LOW END in an on again/off again mode.

DEEP END, the exciting sequel, is being shopped by my literary agent even as we speak.

The Guitar Sessions: Weekly tech tips and exercises to help the guitarist improve. This feature has really taken off. Each week a new page is posted with either an exercises to get the left and right hands moving more efficiently and effectively or an interesting piece from the standard repertoire , demonstrating a necessary technical ability. Judging by the hits these pages receive, you guitar players love this feature!

The page is updated every Thursday. Visit the 2004 Archive as well!




My Mission, My Policy

In my opinion, the murder mystery genre reached its zenith in the 1930's and 1940's. The novels penned in those decades were taut, no nonsense stories of people in life and death crises, people who did not flinch when confronted with overwhelming odds or overwhelming emotion. Some of these tales could be hard-edged and hard-boiled, but the heroes invariably had a soft side as well.

I believe that over the years, in an attempt to mimic real life, the writers of murder mysteries--and most other literature, for that matter--have lowered the standards of excellence set by such authors as the gritty Raymond Chandler and the sophisticated Dorothy Sayers. Many authors misinterpret smut for romance and brutality for strength.

My novels aspire to the standards set by the 1940's mystery writers. My tales are as real and grimy as the mean streets that spawned them. Even so, and though they deal with modern issues, you will not find gratuitous sex in my characters' relationships. Sex may be alluded to, but it is never allowed out from behind closed doors. You will find that my books are entertaining to a broad audience--I have had positive comments from teens to grandmothers. One reader was surprised when I told him that there were no obscenities in the book he'd just finished. He hadn't missed them! A good story doesn't need such unnecessary 'embellishment.'

I have conducted book signings at churches, country clubs, libraries and even a street corner (don't ask!) and I've never been called to task for, or ashamed of, my work. Pick up a copy of my latest novel and see if it isn't a good read!

Harry Pellegrin


As a native New Yorker and an American, I am still angered by the cowardly attacks of 9/11. Unless we restore New York City's skyline to its condition prior to September 11th, 2001, the miserable scum who attacked us will have won! Visit and rebuild America!



About My Site:

This site is a way for me to commemorate and celebrate a life and lifestyle that is now extinct. Why extinct? Is it that Thomas Wolfe " You-can't-go-home-again " thing? Is it because life is so much different now that what we experienced in the Bronx in the 60's and 70's is no longer relevant? Yes. No. Yes and no? Definitely maybe ! Why do I always start these little essays with questions?

At first, the main thrust of this site was to promote my book. It is a worthy goal; the book tells a good tale and everyone who has read it finds it entertaining and thought-provoking. With that sole goal, I went live with this site back in August of 2003. What happened next is what makes this site truly valuable.

There are people I grew up with, attended school and with whom I played in bands -- neighbors, friends, good family -- who I hadn't seen since I moved from the Bronx in 1986. Divorce had forced me into exile, time and distance conspired to seemingly turn this into a life sentence. Thank the muses for the internet! This site wasn't live for more than two months before I was reunited with Paul Silvestro , a childhood friend whom I hadn't seen in seventeen years. His brother Larry , the guy who had turned me on to playing guitar and taught me the things about music that matter the most, now with him I had no contact since 1983. Twenty years! Too long. I felt as if a part of my soul had been restored -- a part that had been missing for ages and had long ago been written off. But more was to come.

Anthony Pernice, Art Clement , Mike Moretti -- all reunited to me.

The 1960's weren't good to a number of us -- many of us had our personal demons to exorcise, be it substance abuse or the insidious hedonism of the times. but through it all, we were instilled with a vibe, cast in an artistic mold--call it what you will--but unless these same environmental stimuli are exactly reproduced, there will never be another crop of people quite the same.

This page delves into what we experienced and how we incorporated these experiences into art, music, literature and life . I've paid tribute to my neighborhood, the Wakefield section of the Bronx. The Discords -- Larry Silvestro and Artie Clemente's first band in the early mid-sixties-- they're here with their matching outfits, Fender, Hagstrom and Gretsch guitars plus those impeccably precise five part harmonies.

Of course, there is an homage to Leo Fender and his magnificent designs, the Telecaster © and the Stratocaster ©. I officially declare C.L. Fender an honorary Bronxite. These instruments have literally changed my life and the way we all hear music. Check out this page on my site.

Rory Gallagher, whom I saw play in 1973 and who has influenced me ever since--he has a page here as well. He has gone on now, but the impact he made is still rippling outwards, changing how we interpret the blues.

Untermyer Park in Yonkers and Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx are included on this site. We were kids interested in a good ghost story and both these places were terrific for providing a few innocent and fun goosebumps. Of course this was during the same period of time that Son of Sam was using Untermyer and Pine Street in Yonkers for his own uses... And we didn't know!!!

...and of course, my book!

Please enjoy this site. Nose around. Anyone can find something here to read and get a chuckle.





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