Being a solo performer is a whole different ball game than being part of a traditional band. You have to be a self-sustained entertainment machine in both musical content and gear. In this article, we want to focus on the latter – taking a look at the equipment for today’s solo performers made to take their performances to the next level. While not all of the items on this list are absolutely necessary, they will definitely make your life on stage much easier and give you the tools to create an amazing one-man show.
Mobile PA System
Unlike bands, solo performers don’t always play on a traditional stage or venues that have their own sound system. And even if they do, it’s always a good idea to have your own solution in case their equipment is lacking. The good news is that there are a number of highly portable PA solutions that are ideal for solo performers.
There are many acoustic amplifiers that come with dual inputs, one for an instrument and the other for a mic, making them perfect for solo performers. There are many great dual input acoustic amps to choose from, such as the Loudbox series from Fishman. Aside from the dual inputs, Loudbox amps are tailor made for solo artists as they come with plenty of useful features and settings including foot switch compatibility for remote muting of either input channel or any of the built-in effects (such as Reverb, Chorus, Flanger, Delay, Echo, and Slap Echo), phantom power and feedback control.
If you want something with a bit more flexibility and don’t mind carrying around a dedicated PA, Fender’s Passport PA series or the JBL EON206P are excellent portable friendly choices that offer plenty of control options for tailoring your sound and provide more than enough power for most solo performers.
Acoustic DI Box
While not every solo performer will need a DI box, if you ever need to plug directly into a PA system in lieu of an amp, you definitely will. When plugging an acoustic instrument directly into a PA system, you absolutely need a DI (Direct In) box to bring your input to the right level. Today, several brands offer DI solutions that go above and beyond this basic utility, coloring and enhancing your tone the way a multi-effects modeler might for an electric guitarist.
LR Baggs and Fishman are the cream of the crop when it comes to acoustic amplification and feature a great catalog of excellent acoustic-minded DI boxes. Two of our own recommendations include the Platinum Pro EQ from Fishman or the Venue DI from LR Baggs. Both offer high-fidelity pre-amplification with granular EQ contour capabilities, although Fishman’s DI also comes with an onboard compressor and slightly higher price tag.
One of the most useful tools for any solo performer is the looper. These devices give players the ability to lay down one or more tracks, set them to repeat, and play over them. For example, you can record a chord progression, set it on repeat, and solo over it, all while playing live. There are certainly more advanced applications that many artists have conjured up using a looper.
Looper pedals were once seen as cumbersome machines with confusing settings that didn’t lend themselves well to inexperienced players. Over the last few years, things have changed dramatically. One of the best examples of a modern, no-nonsense looper is the TC Electronic Ditto Looper. Boasting everything an essential looper needs along with easy to use controls and an affordable price tag, the Ditto Looper is the perfect choice for looper veterans and newcomers alike. If you want something with more features, the Boss RC-30 is a classic choice, as are the rest of the Boss loopers.
While these aren’t essential, vocal processors are a great way of giving your vocals a nice dose of flair. Think of them like a DI box for your voice. A great musician always makes sure to tailor their sound to the venue and your vocals are an important part of that equation. A vocal processor will give you the ability to shape your voice, contouring it to your liking or even give it a nice boost for better presence. Aside from that, many vocal processors are also equipped with several neat features such as harmonizing, effects and even pitch correction.
TC Helicon has an amazing catalog of vocal processors, from single-effects units to fully featured multi-effects boxes. If you’re not sure which one of their units is best for you or are simply looking for a unit that can smooth out the edges, the Mic Mechanic is a good place to start as it offers signal contouring and pitch correction. If you’re looking for something with more features, the Boss VE-20 is a comprehensive vocal processor that comes with everything from pitch correction and harmonizing to distortion and looping.
While there is no substitute for showmanship and ambition, the tools above are tailor-made to help give your performance that extra boost. They might make the difference between a good show and a great one! If you have any questions regarding the purchase of these or any other piece of gear, make sure to contact one of our helpful PAL pros by using the dialogue box below!
Your Turn to Sound Off!
What other gear would be helpful for a solo performer?