Go Forth & Amplify!
After months of editing, I finally finished the 2nd Edition of the “Gurl’s Guide to Amplification.”
If you’re wondering what a “Gurl” is, it’s is that part of your brain that sticks fingers in its ears and sings “La-la-la-la!” whenever things get too technical.
It’s the part of us – everyone, regardless of gender or age – that says: “OK, I see how you get from Point A to Point B. But … how do you get to Point A??“
The “Gurl’s Guide” is a travel guide to Point A.
So, why write this book? Yup, I asked myself that a lot in the last few months, torn between thinking “well, who really cares about this stuff, anyway” and “but there’s got to be a way to explain this so it makes sense” and “man I wish I’d known all this twenty years ago!”
So this is the book I wish I’d had when I first started experimenting with amplification a few decades ago. And even though I now play a state-of-the art electric instrument invented specifically for me, I still think about the basic principles in this book every time I play.
When I asked myself what makes me most qualified to write this book, I realized it’s that I’m NOT am amplification ‘expert.’ I’m a working musician, and maybe more importantly, I’m a performer. I’ve contended with my own ignorance and my lack of natural technical aptitude. So I’ve written this to try to give other performers enough knowledge to experiment, to know the general terms to ask questions and become more equal partners — rather than helpless ‘clients’ or ‘patients’ — of the sound engineers and salespeople they’ll collaborate with to build their own unique sound.
If your goal is to become an expert yourself, this book probably isn’t for you. But if you want to know how to use basic sound equipment well enough to amplify your instrument in various situations, and enjoy experimenting with effects like reverb, distortion, loopers and so on, then this book is a great tool. I’ve also tried to include some of the stories about my own experience with amplification and a lot of drawings because, as you know, they’re worth 1,000 words – though, actually, now with inflation, that’s down to about 984.
I personally grew up acoustic. I mean completely. Recorded music, tape recorders, radio – were all exotic foreign experiences that ‘other people’ had – but not me. In my family, everyone sang, and they all sang LOUD. Amplification was not only superfluous but might have been dangerous. I never touched a microphone before I began playing professionally in my early 20’s What’s so great about that? I remember my own ignorance very well – and that helped me write the book.
I went from stuffing a microphone into the soundhole of a harp, to learning how to retrofit acoustic harps from one of the geniuses of transducer technology, to having my own signature model solid-body, fully electric, strap-it-on-and-dance-around-the-stage signature model instrument. It’s been a long road but …
The ability to amplify my instrument has given me a whole new career: writing ensemble and orchestral music that features the harp – an amplified harp that can soar over an orchestral brass section, or hold its own with electric bass and percussion. I finally have the instrument I always dreamed of … but I’m still the same “Gurl” who feels dumb when the talk turns to tech. So this book is for everyone else who thinks like me: dimly.
This book is geared towards harp players, because I’m a harp player, but the basic principles are true for any acoustic instrument — and especially those made of wood and strings. You can read more and download pages of the book at www.gurlsguide.com.
So now, my friends … Go forth and amplify!