Minimum Bar Band Loudness

Discussion in 'Band Wagon' started by Nick Blue, Jan 20, 2016.

  1. greggorypeccary

    greggorypeccary Friend of Leo's

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    Totally the truth. A couple months ago I met friends out for a beer and there was an acoustic guy playing. He was good enough, and was playing a pricy Turner acoustic. It was the worst, harshest, tone you could imagine. It made it difficult for me to enjoy conversation with my friends. Not because I was a guitarist analyzing the 'tone' but because it simply sounded really bad. I was amazed at how one could make such a nice, expensive instrument sound so horrible.

    If it sounded anything at all like an acoustic guitar it probably would have been OK. In this room one could get away with a mic on the acoustic.
     
  2. DonnyDorsal

    DonnyDorsal TDPRI Member

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    R !
     
  3. Wrong-Note Rod

    Wrong-Note Rod Poster Extraordinaire

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    If he wants a band that can play that quietly, acoustic drums are not the answer.

    I'd suggest electronic drums, and the guitars go amp-less, thru modelers; everything runs thru the PA.

    It can be done, I've seen it multiple times.
     
  4. k.l.k

    k.l.k Tele-Holic

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    well, a year ago my reply to this thread would've echoed most of the other responses-- the drums limit your volume choices, you need to find one of the few venues that still rock, etc.

    but i've been persuaded to change my mind. a smaller kit and a lighter touch or lighter sticks is just an entirely different world. i was in alberta for a week last year for work, went to the local dive bar, and heard two different gigs that totally changed my take on bar room gigs. half a century of experience, gigging and listening, out the window. almost literally.

    the room was atrocious, acoustically speaking-- long, thin, horizontal, bar in the middle, stage at one end facing (from maybe 15') the plate glass windows onto the street. but two different bands did the two best mixed gigs i may ever have heard in a local bar, no sound man for either of them.

    the difference was the kit/drummer. each one used a floor tom in place of the bass kick. quite snare, smaller cymbals. the one drummer used rutes or something similar, but the guy in the other band just had regular (but lighter) sticks. smaller guitar amps-- the power trio had a tele straight into a princeton set loud enough to make it hairy. the other band was a five piece with three guitars up front-- flattop, electric archie, and a gretsch jet, and amazing three-part harmonies.

    each band (both country-rock kind of stuff, think CCR to sturgill simpson) sounded phenomenal. far better dynamics than i've heard before in a local dive bar gig. nothing miked but the vocals. and yet livable volumes throughout the bar. seriously, i was at the bar, directly in front of one of the 2 house PA speakers and was getting ready to bail when the first set started because i was expecting the usual experience.

    it really made me rethink most of a lifetime in bars. first time i've posted about it because ive still been absorbing it, especially a gigs back here at home. and i've not had a chance to try it myself with a capable drummer.

    the downside-- everyone actually hears what you play. can't hide the clams in the natural compression of 105 decibels in a small room. and a mini-kit and pa princeton don't have the same optics as a mondo kit and a 412. not going to take over US rock clubs anytime soon.

    and i also think it's a cultural thing. most of us US musicians are part of the good, ole, "bigger-is-better" ethos woven into the national fabric. stuff may suck, but at least there's a lot of it.

    still thinking about it myself.
     
  5. MilwMark

    MilwMark Doctor of Teleocity Ad Free Member

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    ^^That's all fair. But in my experience, even a Princeton Reverb, alone, set to have some hair is too loud to maintain a normal conversation without raising voices. Let alone one in context of restrained drums, bass, etc. On the other hand, that level of volume would not require shouting to be heard or ear discomfort, either.

    So can I ask: with these bands working, could you talk without raising your voices? Or was it "comfortably loud" - too loud to talk at a normal level, but only loud enough to be heard without causing annoyance.

    That I think was what caused so many responses - that the bass player is said to have required that the volume be kept so low that people could talk without raising their voices. (Putting aside that even with no music, in a crowded bar you have to shout a bit to be heard . . .).

    In addition to watching the bar staff and taking cues from them and the bumper music level, we kind of aim for - audience could wear ear plugs if they want, but shouldn't need to.

    Thanks.
     
  6. Nick Blue

    Nick Blue TDPRI Member

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    As the OP, I thought the thread was dead 3 pages ago! Some mistook my intent that I was intent on blasting away, damn the bassist and the patron's ears. Naw, I'm more frustrated at trying to get a good mix/sound and wanted input on reasonable sound levels and advice. I want to be heard, but I'm really embarrassed if I ever get told to turn down by the management (It's happened a couple of times:oops:).

    Part of the big problem I feel is that we don't know what the sound is for the audience. To play with a good sound man is great and I would be a happy camper, but it's usually not a luxury we have. Usually the problem is when we are playing to a light crowd in a reflective room.

    From what I read here and elsewhere, I think we can improve by working on the mix. Some ideas I'm going to try:

    - Hang a rug over the open back of my cab, so maybe the drummer will ease up. My amp is usually in front of him and he mainly wants to hear himself and the bass.

    - Get my amp up off the floor. My knees will miss the sweet sounds!

    - Working on EQ. I'll try to get the bass and kick to trim the low lows. I'll cut bass on my amp.

    Now what to do about our drummers 15" subs that he insists are necessary for his kick?
     
  7. k.l.k

    k.l.k Tele-Holic

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    where i was sitting, maybe 4 feet from the front of stage left, i could touch the pa speaker with my left hand. through most of each set i could speak to the bartender without much effort, and for large parts of each set could speak really easily to someone next to me-- easily enough that it felt kind of rude to the band. at the far end of the room (again, weird, shallow rectangle with bar in the middle), over by the pool table, folks were having "normal" conversation as in normal for a 2/3 full country bar that holds maybe 60-80.

    i can't swear that the one guitarist's princeton was stock. i talked with the drummers in each band because it was just so different from what i'm used to seeing (and used to do). the one guy told me that when they did a bigger room he used real sticks and miked the kick. and it also struck me that this was their regular gear-- both bands were on a loop tour to the coast. just part of their regular drill.

    and nick, i have no idea if my posts speak to your situ or not. didn't mean to jack your thread, but it helped a lot to think aloud about the set-ups i saw. i'd seen jazz guys use mini-kits for lounge deals, but hadn't seen it for the kind of music that i would usually play. if any of my comments seemed snarky, that's directed firmly at myself.

    i've been meaning to do a thread to see if we have alberta locals here who can tell me if that's just a regular part of the gig culture. tiny mountain town dive bar, shoulder season, super-talented live bands on weeknights with mini-kits doing paid gigs in front of locals.
     
  8. jonrpick

    jonrpick Friend of Leo's

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    I'll chime in again...

    Until recently, I've been the drummer in two bands (one ended suddenly 2wks ago). One is loud 80's metal, the other was softer, singer/songwriter stuff.

    In the rock/metal group, I use a large setup: 14" rack tom, 16" & 18" floor toms, 32" bass drum (yes, really) and a 12" snare.

    In the quieter group, I used a much smaller setup: shallow 6"x12" rack tom, 12"x15" floor tom and 12"x20" bass drum, same snare.

    I use what are AFAIK the lightest and smallest sticks on the market: Vic Firth SD4's, which are maple, rather than hickory.

    I routinely did rock/metal practice on the smaller set and light sticks and keep up with a Marshall JCM800, very loud bass, and miked vocals.

    The difference between the two setups is TONE and aesthetics more than volume. But it's important to note that tone changes with volume on drums, just like any other instrument. It's flat-out impossible to get the same tone at all volume levels. No different than a tube amp. A 100W stack on '1' won't sound the same as it would when set to '5'.

    Whether you can live with the difference...
     
  9. sequencepro

    sequencepro Tele-Meister

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    Have you considered a drum shield? Then the drummer can hit as hard as he wants to! I've also noticed, when I play with bands that use a drum shield, the overall stage volume gets quieter naturally, without having to ask people to turn down.
    The same thing applies to the guitar. With a plexi shield on front of your amp, it doesn't make a hot spot in the room, and you can often have it louder, since you're not killing the people straight in front of it.
    But THE MOST IMPORTANT THING TO REMEMBER IS THIS:
    There's only ONE reason that bars hire bands... TO SELL MORE ALCOHOL!!!. So if you're so loud people can't order a drink... YOU'RE TOO LOUD!!!!!!!
     
  10. sequencepro

    sequencepro Tele-Meister

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    I've seen that work many times in Casinos, where they usually come around with a db meter and request that you keep it under 89 db.( If they have to ask you to turn down more than twice, you WON'T be booked back in there again)
    Not my favorite setup, but the $$ and the rooms/food are usually worth making the necessary adjustments to keep the gig.

    I've actually seen a casino where they made the drummer use a higher-end Roland electronic set, and wouldn't let him make ANY changes, not even switch kits for different songs.
    When doing bars with electronic drums, just remember it usually takes more/better PA to sound decent, as opposed to just running vocals through it.
     
  11. Tle4

    Tle4 Tele-Afflicted

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    People are saying a quiet band sells drinks.... I would have to disagree with that. Last time a few buddies and I went to see a local Dead Tribute band, we sat in the back and had to talk very loud to talk to each other. I got lit pretty quick drinking more listening to the band and getting into the music. I dont think I would have drank as much if the band was part of the background and we could sit and talk over the music.

    I agree that there gets to be a point where it is just too loud but no way should a live electric band be part of the background unless you are playing something like a restaurant where people expect to come and eat/talk. We have played some gigs at Restaraunt/Bars where people would be still be eating till about 10. We would usually do a mellow acoustic first set and switch to all electric when it was all bar crowd

    Edit:
    So I did a search... Do loud bands sell more drinks and came up with this

    http://flavourjournal.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/2044-7248-3-9
     
  12. Nick Blue

    Nick Blue TDPRI Member

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    I'm glad to see some db numbers. Looks like we should try to keep it under 90db. Last night I brought a db meter home from work and checked my amp. In a small bedroom at performance levels with a Les Paul it measured 95db peeks at 5 feet. Without ear plugs maximum comfortable level for me was about 85db.

    I did check the band during a practice months ago and we were a little over 100db. That's drums, bass, 2 guitars and small PA packed in a 10x10 bedroom. I wonder how that translates to playing in a medium size bar. I'll have to bring the meter to our next gig. Wont be until April 2nd since the bar got sold.

    No worries, we cool.
     
  13. Nick Blue

    Nick Blue TDPRI Member

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    Found this humorous chart at Etymotic.com. Not sure if we fall into Loud bar with band or Chicago blues bar. Not that we could get a gig at one of the big blues bars in town. And from the looks of it my ears must have gotten fried from a lot more than 4 seconds playing trumpet in the grade school marching band!

    iohp-weekexpo_07_opt.png
     
  14. fendrguitplayr

    fendrguitplayr Poster Extraordinaire

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    Agreed!
     
    sequencepro likes this.
  15. muudcat

    muudcat Tele-Holic Silver Supporter

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    dynamics is the key, volume based on a scale of 1-10 with only one or two 10's but mostly 6, 7, and 8's. Start big and end big but give it "air" and it won't sound so loud
     
  16. surfoverb

    surfoverb Doctor of Teleocity

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    lame.
    I would kick him out just for thinking that.

    You cant have dynamics without loudness.

    maybe he should play those half-filled glasses of water?
     
  17. 1300 E Valencia

    1300 E Valencia Friend of Leo's

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    "... never play so loud that the waitresses and bartenders can't hear the drink orders... "
    This is the correct answer.
    Wait... don't you mean "maximum" loudness?
     
    Last edited: Apr 24, 2016
  18. T Prior

    T Prior Poster Extraordinaire

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    glad to see this thread is still alive...I wonder what happened to the 60 year old Bass player who was in his first band at his young age of 60 complaining about the volume.

    by the way..I'm over 60... so this is not an age discrimination thing !

    I am wondering where he was the other 59 years ! well ok 45...
     
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