Last night, my daughter Lexie and I had a truly “all-acoustic” gig, in which there was completely no sound reinforcement at all; no mics, no P.A., no amplifiers, nothing, and it still ending up sounding so nice that you could hear a whisper, and the most subtle of notes from my guitar. I guess this is what they try to achieve in those great concert halls from a sound perspective. I can recall playing at the Tyrone Guthrie theater in Minnesota with Eric Andersen in the ‘70s, and it was reputed to have this same kind of “you can hear a pin drop” kind of natural sound there, and in fact, we have even played there completely devoid of any amplification back then!
I suddenly realized last night that everything I was “projecting” was all due to having a great set of fingernails at the moment, and also using my flat pick judiciously. At one point I turned to Lexie and said “man, I am really having to play hard!”, but then realized later that the sound where we were projecting, under this kind of gazebo-like structure, was also allowed to be heard when we were whisper-quiet too! I was literally able to play some of the most subtle things possible on an acoustic guitar, and have them heard perfectly. Yes, we were aided by the fact that many of the listeners were very focused and quite, but we still did have a few crazily screaming children in the background as well. (Nothing you can do about that one!)
Still all in all, it sure made me thankful for those strong nails of mine, and for a good use of the old standby, the good old flat pick! I even found that the sound was so clear and nice that I was able sometimes to fall back on using just my nails like a flat pick, which is how I played for many years as a finger-style player, long before I allowed myself to hold that little foreign object in my hand!
So I suppose the moral of this story is that even though I was scared stiff about not having any amplification for an “acoustic” gig, it turned out that the sound was totally perfect (a rarity!) and whether they know it or not, the porch at the Harbor View Hotel has literally perfect acoustics! Amazing how these things can sometimes just work out perfectly! I even remember pointing out how the gazebo/rotunda over our heads was literally shaped just like a speaker cone! I guess that’s why it worked so well…would be a great place to record, too! Good luck on your acoustic journey!