Stage volume, sound techs, and you

srblue5

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Please note that this is not meant to bag on sound techs. I've had the pleasure of working with some amazing sound techs and also done sound myself over the years -- it's a tiring and thankless job.

However, I've noticed a trend (at least locally) with my last three gigs in the past year where the sound guys insist on a low stage volume. All good, I understand why. However, they keep my amp volume very low to a point where I can't hear it onstage and either don't give me any at all in my monitor (so I can't even hear if I'm even in tune, let alone what I'm actually playing) or blast me with it through the monitor to a point where it's louder than I usually set my amp and drowning out everything else in my monitor. Keep in mind, I usually gig a PRRI (with a Dr. Z Air Brake attenuator set at 3 if I'm lucky -- it's usually at 4 or the Bedroom settings, where the speaker sounds really fizzy), a Peavey Bandit 65 (with a pedal for gain), or, lately, a Vox Mini-Superbeetle.

The first time it happened, the sound guy kept insisting it sounded good and loud in the audience. When I explained that I couldn't hear what I was playing onstage, it seemed to fall on deaf ears (no pun intended). He was a musician too -- his band played later that night -- so I'm not sure where the cognitive disconnect was.

The second time, the sound guy obliged by turning down my amp in the monitor and turning up the vocals and other instruments I needed accordingly, but only after a few songs where I basically yelled backup vocals over the din. It was still a very muddy mix in the end.

This past weekend, I played a gig where the sound techs did the same thing. However, they put my guitar amp through my monitor so loud that I had to stand on the other side of the stage just to hear anyone else in the band. My amp itself was set very low. Through the monitor, it was overpowering our lead and backup vocals, drums, and other guitarist. I kept gesturing to the sound techs to adjust it but they didn't (or at least not appreciably so). Maybe I'm missing something but doesn't it make more sense to have the guitar amp set at a reasonable but audible level (so that is basically your guitar monitor) and have the other bits coming through the monitor, so that it's not all competing through the same speaker? Like spreading it out over a stereo spectrum instead of mono?

Is this happening anywhere else or is this just my luck? Or am I missing something from the sound techs' perspective?
 

String Tree

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Please note that this is not meant to bag on sound techs. I've had the pleasure of working with some amazing sound techs and also done sound myself over the years -- it's a tiring and thankless job.

However, I've noticed a trend (at least locally) with my last three gigs in the past year where the sound guys insist on a low stage volume. All good, I understand why. However, they keep my amp volume very low to a point where I can't hear it onstage and either don't give me any at all in my monitor (so I can't even hear if I'm even in tune, let alone what I'm actually playing) or blast me with it through the monitor to a point where it's louder than I usually set my amp and drowning out everything else in my monitor. Keep in mind, I usually gig a PRRI (with a Dr. Z Air Brake attenuator set at 3 if I'm lucky -- it's usually at 4 or the Bedroom settings, where the speaker sounds really fizzy), a Peavey Bandit 65 (with a pedal for gain), or, lately, a Vox Mini-Superbeetle.

The first time it happened, the sound guy kept insisting it sounded good and loud in the audience. When I explained that I couldn't hear what I was playing onstage, it seemed to fall on deaf ears (no pun intended). He was a musician too -- his band played later that night -- so I'm not sure where the cognitive disconnect was.

The second time, the sound guy obliged by turning down my amp in the monitor and turning up the vocals and other instruments I needed accordingly, but only after a few songs where I basically yelled backup vocals over the din. It was still a very muddy mix in the end.

This past weekend, I played a gig where the sound techs did the same thing. However, they put my guitar amp through my monitor so loud that I had to stand on the other side of the stage just to hear anyone else in the band. My amp itself was set very low. Through the monitor, it was overpowering our lead and backup vocals, drums, and other guitarist. I kept gesturing to the sound techs to adjust it but they didn't (or at least not appreciably so). Maybe I'm missing something but doesn't it make more sense to have the guitar amp set at a reasonable but audible level (so that is basically your guitar monitor) and have the other bits coming through the monitor, so that it's not all competing through the same speaker? Like spreading it out over a stereo spectrum instead of mono?

Is this happening anywhere else or is this just my luck? Or am I missing something from the sound techs' perspective?
It is Sound Guy version of being a Gear-Tarist.
They make the sound of their PA more important than what the Band is doing.
 

Killing Floor

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Sadly this is a disturbing trend everywhere. Young people today have grown up thinking their phone speakers and ear pods are high fidelity. Some people just don't want to rock. It's not because the sound tech doesn't get it, it's because the audience doesn't know what they don't know.
My advice is bring 8 12s to your next gig and tell the sound guy to "mix up" to your rig. That will rock. And your tech will thank you.
 

Cosmic Cowboy

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They can insist all they want. I get so tired of it....and the damn YouTube sound professors who tell em to start with vocals and mix everything around that sound without hearing the arrangements. They are dummies.

We are going to mix and soundcheck on stage...get the sound right...then you can figure out the monitor mix and foh. All I want through my monitor is vocals and maybe some kick.

That's how it's going to be Mr/Ms Sound person.
 

joe_cpwe

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Are you setting your amp up side throw, or facing the crowd? Best way to get the sound tech to leave your amp volume alone is to setup as side throw and have it hitting one of your ears, from the side. You'll hear the rest of the band with the other ear and mostly not need to have your guitar in your stage monitor.
FWIW I also bring my own SM57 & mic stand then position my mic myself. I only ask the for the cable.
That small thing let's them know your serious about your sound, also let's them know you are helping them a little. It's a win-win.
 
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teletail

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At the end of each song, stop, get their attention, and tell them what you need; repeat until it's right. I'm glad to oblige the sound person with one caveat - if I can't hear myself, I'm turning up, I don't care what they say. I don't need to be loud, but I don't play if I can't hear. Any sound person worth a damn should be able to turn me up in my monitor so I can hear myself, that's just a fact.
 

Old Deaf Roadie

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IEM’s. Ditch the wedges, spend the money, do your own monitors, let the house guy mix the house. People will stick around longer at any gig that exhibits a comfortable listening volume, which comes as a happy coincidence. To the talent buyer, it comes across as more professional, and there will be literally hundreds of pounds of gear you don’t have to move anymore. Get a system that plays with a WAVES or other common network card as that is the key to compatibility with various manufacturers. I am partial to the Listen Tech systems.
 

FaithNicole

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reminds me of current band I'm in before I hired in. They had a 'sound guy' fancy digital board, played with it all the time, mix sounded like crap on stage, mix sounded like crap out front, volume so loud everyone complained - band and audience. I had tried to tell him several times, in a conversational way, what it sounded like I was regaled with his years long history as an expert sound guy. They eventually fired him. I started giving the band basic tweak comments to the point where I became the defacto sound person, they refused to listen to anyone else. We went from full sound equipment through a board (monitor and mains) that had individual tweaking for everyone (multi-channel monitor) back to a simple PA for vocals and live amps. Sound and audience satisfaction was multitudes better. Monitors (for vocal) are simple 8" heads at each person's ear - twist the knob yourselves :p

Now? Well, now I have a wireless setup for my bass and I still walk out to do the sound checks before and during the gigs. Granted, these are small to mid size venues. I know there are places where a sound person and board setup is required.
 

sax4blues

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Are you setting your amp up side throw, or facing the crowd? Best way to get the sound tech to leave your amp volume alone is to setup as side throw and have it hitting one of your ears, from the side.
Step one: DO NOT POINT AMP AT SOUNDGUY

Work on your amp placement; tilt back, raised, angled away from soundguy.

Also unless you have gone out front during playing with a wireless it's difficult to understand the stage sound is generally nothing like the audience sound.

A couple weeks ago we came across a band playing an outdoor park bandstand in the afternoon. Close to the stage the sound was reasonably balanced, the single guitar had what appeared to be a 20-40W 1x12, not mic'd. As we walked further away the only part that stayed clear was the guitar. At three blocks away I could still hear the guitar, and only the guitar. I'm not sure electric guitarist have much idea of how directional and cutting guitar frequencies are.
 

loudboy

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As someone who's spent 45+ years on both ends of the snake, mainly in clubs, a few thoughts:

The band needs to be able to balance their stage sound/volume, so that everyone can hear each other, solos come up, etc. with nothing other than vocals in monitors. This is sort of a lost art, but I've never had a problem getting a good mix on a band that did this.

The drummer sets the volume baseline, all else follows.

I do NOT want my guitar in the monitor. That's what my amp is for, and I'll set it so I can hear myself. Side wash is fine, whatever works.

The "silent stage" trend is sort of a spillover from big acts and mega-churches, where they have a team of people to ensure that everything sounds nice, at a volume that's easily controllable. In many cases, this does NOT scale down, especially when that team of pros is replaced by a guy who doesn't really know what he's doing. What you wind up with is frustration for everyone. I've been called in to help sort out 100-seat churches, where they're running 4 separate wedge mixes and several sets of IEMs, they have a "volunteer" sound guy, and they wonder why it doesn't sound like Willow Creek.

The adversarial situation that is constantly complained about on forums is primarily found in smaller clubs, with semi-pro acts and sound crew. The farther up the food chain you go, the more everyone works together to make a good show. This is mainly due to the fact that most small venues, especially now, like the idea of live music more than the reality of it. Trying to force a full band into what is essentially an untenable situation is never going to work out, and should probably just be avoided.
 

KennyWTelejazz

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One time during a stage setup I had a sound-man at a well known Greenwich Village Club walk up to the stage , pull me aside and tell me my amp was too loud .
I stopped tuning my Telecaster and looked over at my Fender Rivera Super Champ . Then I looked at him and told him no problem , I will turn it down once I plug my amp into the electric wall socket .
True Story
Kenny
 

NoTeleBob

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snip

The drummer sets the volume baseline, all else follows.

I do NOT want my guitar in the monitor. That's what my amp is for, and I'll set it so I can hear myself. Side wash is fine, whatever works.

The "silent stage" trend is sort of a spillover from big acts and mega-churches, where they have a team of people to ensure that everything sounds nice, at a volume that's easily controllable. In many cases, this does NOT scale down, especially when that team of pros is replaced by a guy who doesn't really know what he's doing. What you wind up with is frustration for everyone. I've been called in to help sort out 100-seat churches, where they're running 4 separate wedge mixes and several sets of IEMs, they have a "volunteer" sound guy, and they wonder why it doesn't sound like Willow Creek.

The adversarial situation that is constantly complained about on forums is primarily found in smaller clubs, with semi-pro acts and sound crew. The farther up the food chain you go, the more everyone works together to make a good show. This is mainly due to the fact that most small venues, especially now, like the idea of live music more than the reality of it. Trying to force a full band into what is essentially an untenable situation is never going to work out, and should probably just be avoided.

One key problem is that there's no volume control on a drummer.
 

johnny k

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The thing is some amps you have to get a bit loud to get a cool sound. I noticed that not long ago, when i had to put my peavey bandit to 6 or 7 and the clean sound started crunching a bit, and it sounded better than at low volume, to me. The thing is most of the time i am on 3 or 4 on the dial, and it is squicky clean.
 

loudboy

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One key problem is that there's no volume control on a drummer.
The solution to that is to not play at venues where the drummer would be too loud. Other than that, someone's not going to be happy.

One thing we did used to do, was to put a piece of acoustic foam around the bottom of the snare, sort of wrapped around it from the bottom to the floor - it would cut the volume enough to the crowd that it was manageable.
 

THX1123

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Is this happening anywhere else or is this just my luck?

It has happened to me. I had a Tech 21 Trademark 60 running through a 2X12 closed back cabinet to a gig at a club we'd played dozens of times. I set up and angled the cab slightly up and across the stage, almost entirely towards the drummer and bass player. I had the amp at what I would consider a low gig volume. I told the new sound man the Tech 21 was a modelling amp and had an XLR out so he wouldn't need to mic it.

The guy just about lost his mind. He wanted me to take the cab offstage. I said no, it would not be loud or pointed at the audience. He refused to use the amp sim XLR out on the Tech 21, preferring another open mic onstage with a loud drummer. He wanted me to elevate the amp and point the combo at my head from the side and to mic the 1X12 in the combo amp. I explained to him that I wasn't using the 1X12 in the combo or going to put the amp up on some chairs and point it at my head. I thought he was going to pull his hair out.

The other guitarist in the band brought his Tele and Pro Junior to the gig. I would humbly suggest that if either amp was competing with the PA or harshing the audience it was that little puppy's barking upper mids.

The sound guy had no problem mixing us and had no issues with stage volume. He had no input on stage volume.

We had another gig at a groovy little social club in Florida with a different band that same year where they made us use their gear as a condition for the show. They had a electronic kit, put the bass through the PA, and one of those tiny Fender digital amps. This actually worked out fine as we hauled nothing and the whole band was freakily quiet. The sound guy knew his gear, the room, and the audience. It was fun and very unique experience, but there's no replacement for moving air. It was like playing through a stereo system.

Or am I missing something from the sound techs' perspective?

Not sure. I never ran into this before 2012 or so. Every sound guy I have had this issue with has been under 30. This is probably just coincidence and not generational or age-based. I imagine not every musician has a clue about what is acceptable volume, or what makes a gig sound best for the audience. If you have been gigging for 30+ years you get the hang of how to do it without making the sound guy and audience be in pain.

Sometimes sound guys would ask someone to turn down (or up) but rarely did they have a conniption fit based on my rig before I ever even plugged in or the band sound checked.
 




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