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!
We just got this great review from Julie W who bought “Gurl’s Guide at the first book signing last weekend. Thank you, Julie!!! Here’s what she wrote:
“I read the new “Gurl’s Guide to Amplification” today and was just blown away! I felt like you were speaking to directly to me as I read each page! It’s just the level I need but I know my techie husband will thoroughly enjoy it too.
Actually, before reading your book I had pretty much planned on my husband taking charge of the amplification and effects for Jessica’s new harp and Jessica just ‘helping’. After reading your book I’ve now decided that Jessica really can and should do her own research and take the lead in this. Her dad can always help when needed and now, thanks to your book, I even feel confident enough to help troubleshoot.
I hadn’t planned to read the entire book in one sitting but it was just too funny to put down! Jessica and I were reading it together on the flights home today and literally burst out laughing aloud. I wonder what the other passengers would have thought if they knew we were slapping our thighs while reading a book on harp amplification! The illustrations were just priceless!
There is so much information in this book, I know this will be a valuable reference for years to come. As with every experience I’ve had with anything you’ve done, you put so much more into it that I ever expected or even imagined possible. I particularly enjoyed your “lists” and sample “tech rider.” I never thought about the level of details that professionals need to go to prepare for their performances. You shared so much of yourself in those details.”
Brilliant – I’m looking forward to downloading and reading this. I’ll try and do a review on my blog too. I’ve been struggling for years to find different solutions to the problem of amplifying my harp, particularly when playing in massive nightclubs up against electronics and drums. I think I’ve hit on the right one for me now. The biggest lesson was that I should have sucked it up and shelled out good money to start with – I’ve wasted twice as much or more along the way by buying cheap pickups and preamps that I thought would be good enough, but just ended up rusting in a drawer.
Sadly, I can’t afford a Camac electric at the moment – that would be the dream!