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How to Effectively Boost Your Volume for Solos

A “young” guitarist recently asked me:

I want to increase the volume of my guitar during guitar solos and maybe add or change effects for the solo. What is the best way to do this?  Are there different ways to do this?  I am looking at the Boss ME20.  What is the best unit for this purpose?

Any multi-effects units could do what you want and most will probably give you more than one way to do it.  I have the same need for boost and effect changes for solos.   Typically for solos I want a little more delay, maybe a little compression, and definitely more volume!  You can’t always rely on the sound tech to know when you are going to play a solo. It is often necessary to take matters into your own hands in these situations.  I accomplish this using a very old BOSS GT3.  This is certainly NOT the greatest pedal ever, and I am not a BOSS endorser.  I just happened to have this unit, and therefore it’s what I use.

Like I said there is usually more than one way to do this with an effect unit. First of all the set up is very important to get the desired result of a volume boost and effect change for a solo.  You will want to connect your unit to your amplifiers effects loop.  Connect the input of your device the amplifier’s “Send” jack and the output of the device to the jack marked “Return”.  This provides a more efficient “clean boost” than simply connecting to the front of the amplifier.  This will boost the volume after the distortion or overdrive, yielding a true increase in the sound level. If the unit is connected before the distortion in the signal chain you will just increase the amount of distortion and not the volume.   If your amp does not have an effects loop connect the unit after your distortion pedal.  You will have to be careful when boosting not to overdrive your amp.  This will increase distortion with little or no effect on the volume level. This is not what we want!

Once you have the unit properly connected your amplifier’s loop you will want to program it to do the task of boosting and “effecting” your sound.  First of all program the foot pedal to increase the volume 30 to 50 percent.  This means that even when the pedal is in its lowest position (heel toward the floor) you will still hear your guitar clearly. You will program this position between 50 and 70 or 5 and 7 depending on how your unit measures volume increments.  When you press the pedal to the maximum position (toe to the floor) the volume should go from 5 or 7 up to 10.  You will find this set up to be very convenient for quickly boosting your volume for solos without adding any additional effects or distortion.

To have effect changes happen when you boost you will need to program your unit a little differently.  You will need to create a patch or program with the effects that you like for solos. If your unit does not provide a separate overall volume control for each patch or program you can program an increase in volume using the unit’s pre-amp settings, eq , amp modeling, compressor, or even distortion.  If you use an amp modeler or distortion for boosting be careful to set the distortion settings as low as possible or you may end up with unwanted distortion.  When you want to play a solo press the button on your unit that you have assigned to be your boost patch and you should hear a definite volume increase along with the effect changes that you programmed.  You may have to go back and make adjustments to the eq and volume settings to get the amount of boost that you need.  It is also helpful to name your patches; “Normal” for rhythm work and “Lead” or “Boost” for your solo work.

On a final note be aware that what works when you’re programming your unit in your basement or garage may not work when your playing with your band.  Use your full gigging set up for rehearsals until your have any all bugs worked out. Practice pressing the buttons for the patch changes for your solos while you’re playing.  Mastering your effects at rehearsal could save you a lot of embarrassment at the gig.

Happy Jammin’!

Lou Lombardi



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