As she performs in a Led Zeppelin tribute
band (Zepparella), an acoustic duo (Lapdance Armageddon with
GP L.A. editor Jude Gold), a two-guitars-and-drums instrumental
outfit (Sticks and Stones), and her own solo act (her latest release
is Hale Souls), it’s actually very strange to see Gretchen Menn off
stage. Her punishing gig schedule has certainly taught her a thing
or two about stage sound, and here Menn shares some knowledge
about wrangling those ever-present volume demons.
How do you set your stage volume?
Amps tend to sound better when they’re at a certain level, but
it’s not enjoyable to me if the volume is obtrusively loud. However,
as I play with really powerful drummers, I’m never the one
setting the overall volume of the band. My guitar volume is always
beneath the level of the drums.
Where do you position your speaker cabinets?
A lot of guitarists put their cabinets right on the floor, but that
typically requires you to route the guitar through the monitors if
you want to hear yourself adequately. I don’t like to count on monitors,
so I put my cabinet on top of my road case so the speakers
are hitting me at ear level. I angle the cabinet slightly towards me,
and I move around the stage to see where the good spots are for
feedback, where I can stand and not get feedback, where the guitar
is going to sound louder if I’m taking a solo, and where I’m not
going to be right in my own beam if I need to hear the rest of the
band a bit more.
Do you tend to increase your volume throughout a show as ear fatigue
Oh, no. I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve turned
up on stage. Hearing yourself too well is almost as bad as not hearing
yourself well enough. It messes with your attack, and you start
You’re very conservative with effects. Is that because they can blur
the stage sound and cause players to crank up the volume to compensate?
Yes. I like articulation. I like to be able to hear what I’m playing.
Running a lot of reverb, delay, and modulation can sound very
squishy—especially when you’re standing close to your amp and
It’s not smart to risk hearing damage, but a lot of guitarists avoid
wearing earplugs because they can diminish the clarity and impact of mid
and high frequencies.
I use them every rehearsal, every soundcheck, and every performance,
so I’m used to how everything sounds when I wear them.
It’s like my hearing internally calibrates to the earplugs. My preference
is for a warmer sound, anyway—probably because I’m often
standing close to the cymbals—and the stage volume is usually so
loud that it’s not like I would be hearing better without earplugs.