Balancing Clean and Overdriven Levels

By Andy Bassford

I’ve always found it a challenge to balance preset clean and overdriven lead sounds, especially in a festival or multi-act setting where setup time is limited. What seems to work for me is to play clean six string chords at roughly the volume I’m going to play and get a tone I like. Then I switch to my lead sound and turn up (or down) to where playing one string is just a little louder than a full clean chord. I test by playing single note licks across the neck in the center, between the fifth and twelfth frets. I also tweak my lead EQ at the same time to get a pleasing balance between the low and the high strings. I switch back and forth rapidly between clean and distorted until I’m happy with the balance. I usually have to tweak it when the whole band kicks in, but at least I’m in the ball park.

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