Stage volume, sound techs, and you

VonBonfire

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Thankfully in Texas most sound men and sound women are able to deal just fine with a loud guitar. Last saturday I had the Twin on 10, my favorite setting. I almost never have an issue with the techs in the Austin area unless it's right downtown where there are cop enforced noise ordinances. It's pretty great actually. They are there to do the best they can with what I give them. Last I checked they aren't the bandleader. Generally I am ready and willing to pull rank on them if that is gonna be made into some big problem.

In the past I have had one or two name club soundmen try and tell me "watch your stage volume" before even mic'ing me then when they realized I ain't some amateur hour guy they didn't have a problem with being pretty loud. Only a bum on the faders who doesn't know what they are doing is troubled by this.
 

srblue5

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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.
Some young sound techs have looked at my non-digital gear like I just pulled out some strange kitschy artifact from the '50s. One such tech at a wedding gig last year insisted on bypassing my amp and plugging my gear in DI and kept saying it sounded better and was the way of the future.
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.
Great suggestion. Thanks! I hadn't thought of that but that makes sense.
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.

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.
In a roundabout way, this reminds me of a band I briefly played in a few years ago that had their own sound tech (i.e. the dad of the bandleader). He would absolutely refuse to mic my amp, bypassing it (along with my onboard overdrive, reverb, trem, etc.) through a DI and insisting that my amp should only be an onstage monitor that the audience doesn't hear.

He was also quite disrespectful of my gear, both in terms of making snide remarks about it and handling it very roughly and dismissively. The first time I played with that band, I put my amp on the stage after loading in and went to park my car -- when I came back, he was holding the tubes from my amp and asking, "Bro, where's your line out? And what are these?" The last time I played with that band, he blew a gasket about the 60-cycle hum coming from my pickups (wasn't an issue in other venues but the wiring of that particular venue seemed to be the culprit) and asked me why I didn't spend some money and buy a Fender guitar. I pointed to the headstock, which said "Fender", and asked him why he didn't use his money to get better glasses.
 

srblue5

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Thanks everyone for the advice! It helps to know that I'm not necessarily being unreasonable. I like to run my amp at a decent volume that I can hear and that sounds good without drowning anyone else out, making the sound techs' job more difficult, or providing an uncomfortable listening experience for the audience. Still, it is frustrating when you spend all that time rehearsing and tweaking your gear to sound good, only to have the sound tech seemingly ignore all of that and create a muddy sound onstage that makes it very difficult to do our job as musicians.
 

Jakedog

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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
This has happened to me several times. After the second time a sound tech with an attitude tells me amp is too loud, I just turn it off. If he complains after that, well, it gets embarrassing for him.

I hate guitar in the monitor. I’ve never once had it sound decent, even on very large stages. I’ll sidewash, whatever I need to do, but I need my amp as my guitar monitor, and I’m not compromising on that. I’m very accommodating to a point, but things have to be approached reasonably by both parties. I have been known to tell people that if they need a perfect mix at living room TV volumes, perhaps live music is not for their venue.
 

Fluddman

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Just like with members of the band, you need to build a relationship with the sound person. This is difficult for one-off gigs, but its usually possible to have a brief conversation with the sound person to discuss your needs and expectations.

I do sound consistently for a small number of bands and this works a treat. It is possible for the band, the audience and the venue to all have a positive experience - but it takes a bit of effort.
 

David Barnett

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

And no volume control on the room. A lot of venues are loud before you even turn the stuff on. Lots of masonry, concrete, metal and glass surfaces, not much wood, carpet and soft things. Sometimes the only absorptive surfaces in the room are the customers. Live music venues are seldom built for that purpose, they're bars that are converted storefronts or warehouses. Bar owners won't spend the money to deal with acoustics.
 

VonBonfire

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I have been known to tell people that if they need a perfect mix at living room TV volumes, perhaps live music is not for their venue.
I was playing a place eight or nine years ago and they kept asking me to turn down to the point I could hear their juke box over the band. Yeah, a flippin' juke box. Playing. During a band performance. Never again. It was my breaking point. This is why I get an attitude about it when it's unreasonable for a given venue. I will take my football and go home and their patrons can enjoy my favorite simon and garfunkel song, the "sounds of silence".

I've found venues cheapest with drink/food discounts, poorest treatment of the band, the most complaining about volume, and the worst tippers are always venues with the lowest pay scale. It's like every version of a bad gig in a single venue.
 

sax4blues

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Still, it is frustrating when you spend all that time rehearsing and tweaking your gear to sound good, only to have the sound tech seemingly ignore all of that and create a muddy sound onstage that makes it very difficult to do our job as musicians.
Unless your rehearsal space is similar to the event venue there will always be a change in settings for different spaces.
 

Papanate

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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

Is this happening anywhere else or is this just my luck? Or am I missing something from the sound techs' perspective?
We use IEMs - we have our own monitor mixer - and usually our own FOH - generally I don't have problems - occasionally I've had a 'Come To Jesus' moment when I had a rookie or new to our band sound guy - we don't tolerate mistakes - and the guy either gets it right or we walk him off.
 

T Prior

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Well I've been doing this for 5 decades, a few times we've had REALLY good sound crews. And you can tell a GOOD sound crew from sound crew wanna be's in a NY minute. I've played in clubs all across the region and in many cases the sound guys drank more beer than the patrons, then went on to tell US, ME, how to set my stage volume . LOL

I don't think so LOL
 

bottlenecker

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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?

There are two things happening.
1. The push for lower stage volumes.
2. Incompetence.

They are especially annoying when combined. They are both happening everywhere, although only number 1 is a somewhat recent development.
I am a sound engineer, and the only thing you're missing is that they were badly trained to do something stupid.

It shouldn't be as bad as you've described. I don't know anything about the venues you're playing, but that should be an unacceptable result anywhere.

Regarding stage volume in general;
You have a 12w amplifier. You should be able to turn it up to wherever it sounds good, as long as it works for the other people on stage. You should not need an attenuator. The amp should be at a level that makes it at least audible when the drummer is playing. Ideally, the stage sound should be a nice representation that's listenable without earplugs, with only the vocals and any quiet acoustic instruments needing monitoring.
 

Skyhook

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One key problem is that there's no volume control on a drummer.
Sure there is!
16154816_800.jpg


If the pianist can play on this ...
p125b-600x600.jpg

... instead of this ...
Kawai-RX-6-Grand-Piano.jpg

... without a lot of butthurt ego, then you can play on that kit! 😠
 

bottlenecker

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Sure there is!
16154816_800.jpg


If the pianist can play on this ...
p125b-600x600.jpg

... instead of this ...
Kawai-RX-6-Grand-Piano.jpg

... without a lot of butthurt ego, then you can play on that kit! 😠

As a listener, I don't want to hear a pianist play a fake piano. It is sad.
I don't want to hear fake drums.
If there is an e kit and a keyboard on stage, I hope I'm going to hear some synthy electronic sounding stuff, that can play to strengths of electronic instruments.
I'd rather hear a rhodes or wurli play one beautiful sound all night than a box of samples doing flat impressions.
I would love to never hear another piano singer play a digital keyboard through a pa for solo accompaniment.
For drums I'd rather hear a cajon, or some improvised percussion, or a stomp box and a blanketed snare, than an e kit trying to sound like real drums.

I guess if a musician is resigned to be a background prop for social outings instead of really moving people, they had better get over their ego.
I'd rather go hear musicians with some ego left. A shred of dignity, at least.
 

TunedupFlat

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The places I play know that I will ensure to get the people thirsty from dancing. They will make money. But it will be loud..

I don't do shows to be the focal point, I do it to make the crowd get up and dance. But I sure as heck ain't going to play with in-ears and play direct.

Whether it's western swing, big band, pop music, reggae, blues, rock, or even a polka night, the people will feel the music, not just hear it.

Otherwise I will get the booze and permit and the venue and just do it myself.
 

THX1123

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Some young sound techs have looked at my non-digital gear like I just pulled out some strange kitschy artifact from the '50s. One such tech at a wedding gig last year insisted on bypassing my amp and plugging my gear in DI and kept saying it sounded better and was the way of the future.

Great suggestion. Thanks! I hadn't thought of that but that makes sense.

In a roundabout way, this reminds me of a band I briefly played in a few years ago that had their own sound tech (i.e. the dad of the bandleader). He would absolutely refuse to mic my amp, bypassing it (along with my onboard overdrive, reverb, trem, etc.) through a DI and insisting that my amp should only be an onstage monitor that the audience doesn't hear.

He was also quite disrespectful of my gear, both in terms of making snide remarks about it and handling it very roughly and dismissively. The first time I played with that band, I put my amp on the stage after loading in and went to park my car -- when I came back, he was holding the tubes from my amp and asking, "Bro, where's your line out? And what are these?" The last time I played with that band, he blew a gasket about the 60-cycle hum coming from my pickups (wasn't an issue in other venues but the wiring of that particular venue seemed to be the culprit) and asked me why I didn't spend some money and buy a Fender guitar. I pointed to the headstock, which said "Fender", and asked him why he didn't use his money to get better glasses.
Yeah, no on the bog-standard direct line out.

The Tech 21's XLR out is essentially created to do what I wanted him to do and sounds nearly identical to the amp through the PA. Most sound guys appreciate not having another mic to deal with. Both myself and the other guitarist in that band had one for a while. The drummer even bought one.
 

Peegoo

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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.

This takes discipline--which is a skill many musicians/bands these days do not have.
 

dannyh

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I played a place years ago (an outdoor gig, mind you) that had rigged up a light system to a db meter somehow. They informed the band to keep an eye on the lights; if green, volume is acceptable. If red you’re too loud. Being young (and more agreeable to putting up with nonsense than I am today), I kept my eye on the lights and tried to accommodate as best I could through the first set. As soon as we took a break and the jukebox came on, the light pinged bright red throughout the break. Fools lesson learned.
 

David Barnett

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I played a place years ago (an outdoor gig, mind you) that had rigged up a light system to a db meter somehow. They informed the band to keep an eye on the lights; if green, volume is acceptable. If red you’re too loud. Being young (and more agreeable to putting up with nonsense than I am today), I kept my eye on the lights and tried to accommodate as best I could through the first set. As soon as we took a break and the jukebox came on, the light pinged bright red throughout the break. Fools lesson learned.

It's the same thing if the club has a DJ that plays between band sets. People will complain all the way through your set that it's too loud, then as soon as the DJ starts it's twice as loud as the band, and no one minds. Go figure.
 

johnnylaw

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What loudboy said above.
Plus, I reckon it’s up to them wizened old honky tonkers to mentor the guys. We simply tell them up front that once we have OUR soundcheck for the stage, the FOH guy can get his house mix right. After that, we set stage monitor mix by dictating to the guy exactly what we need. Do it all nice and friendly. Don’t let them get in the driver’s seat.
 




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