I got this question regarding playing trombone through a PA. This is relevant not only for trombone players but for all horn section players – anyone blowing into their instrument using a mic on stage or at band rehearsals.
“I am a trombone player and recently joined a rock band, and I love the challenge. As the only acoustic instrument in the band, I’m using a clip-on mic through the PA. However, the sound seems a bit off – kind of weak or constrained. I’m wondering if it’s just me, or if it’s an issue with the mic or amp. My playing doesn’t usually sound like this.
Could this be similar to how we often don’t like hearing our own recorded voice, or is it a common problem for horn players? I’m considering a pre-amp to enhance the sound. Any thoughts or suggestions would be greatly appreciated!
A Fellow Trombonist”
Thanks for reaching out, fellow trombone player. Here’s my reply, hope you find it useful and feel free to drop a comment below.
There could be several factors that make your amplified trombone sound bad. The most likely is that the PA system might not be top-notch, combined with a decent but probably not high-end clip-on mic.
Here’s a checklist you could work your way through:
- Check the Mic: Is it working properly? There could be a bad cable or connection, resulting in a weak sound. Have the singer try it side by side with his vocal mic and hear if the difference is too big.
- Switch Mic: Does it still sound bad? You could try using a Shure SM57 or SM58 as a reference. Those are cheap but effective mics that deliver an honest and very usable sound. If that still sounds bad, it is most likely the PA.
- EQ Settings: Make sure the EQ is set flat, then see if you can improve sound quality by utilizing it.
- Using a Better Preamp: That will improve the sound somewhat, but since the bottleneck is probably the PA and/or the mic itself, a good preamp would be overkill, especially when using it live. For recording, it’s a different story.
- Better Mic: You could try a more high-end clip-on mic, or go for one of my favorites, a Beyerdynamic M160. That’s one of the very few ribbon mics suited for live use (due to its cardioid characteristic) with the typical butter-smooth ribbon sound.
- Getting Used to the Sound: Often, playing amplified is a matter of getting used to it. It will never sound as good or comfortable as playing acoustically. I have many times started a gig with bad sound, and during the night gotten used to it so that I can play comfortably, although it still doesn’t sound very good.
- Use Earplugs: Besides the obvious safety aspect of them, they will give you some built-in monitoring that could help you play with the amplified trombone sound as a complement.
- Don’t Overblow: Make sure you keep a good sound also when playing amplified – it is very easy to overblow your horn, making it sound strained and harsh.
- Do like me – and make sure you always have your personal trombone volume knob with you 😀
I hope this Q&A is helpful for all you trombonists and horn section players out there. Navigating the world of amplified horn sound can be tricky, but with a bit of troubleshooting and the right equipment, you can make your instrument sing, also through a PA system. Remember, it’s all about finding what works best for you and your unique sound. Don’t be afraid to experiment with different mics, speakers, and settings.
If you have any more questions or need further advice, feel free to reach out. I’m always here to help fellow musicians make the most of their playing experience. And who knows, your question might just be the topic of my next article!
Keep on playing, keep on experimenting, and most importantly, keep enjoying the music you create. Until next time, happy tromboning!
Anders, founder of digitaltrombone.com