Top Bands Just Sound Better, I'm Not Exactly Sure Why

Discussion in 'Music to Your Ears' started by sax4blues, Mar 11, 2015.

  1. sax4blues

    sax4blues Friend of Leo's

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    Pat Travers band played a small club last Friday. I've seen him before and I am classic guitar driven rock junkie. There were three regional bands before PT, two original music, one cover. All of them were top notch. But there was just something different when PT played. I can't figure out if it's something tangible which the other three bands could improve/add, or is this just the nature of some have it and some don't.

    A few observations from this night are:

    1) Tightness, PT band was just tighter even though other bands were good.

    2) EQ, warm up acts all had too much bass in guitar eq. PT and Kirk McKim have crunch which cuts through without the bottom end overlapping the bass guitar. And the bass guitar was tighter, not so booming. This may have contributed to the perceived tightness of playing.

    3) PT band stage presence was confident, relaxed, like they'd been there before. This could seem obvious, except the other three bands have been around for years and played big & small stages. PT band had all the rock star moves, but they seemed to be having fun, not so serious.

    I wonder how many bands are just a few minor tweaks away from making a higher level and just can't figure it out.
     
  2. cleanman

    cleanman Tele-Holic

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    I saw Chick Corea Electric Band at a local venue. The warm up band was a local sax player who was really very good, but when CC hit the stage the quality of sound was highly improved. I think the board was tweaked for CC and they let the warm up band fend for themselves. The sound was awesome.
     
  3. Dismalhead

    Dismalhead Poster Extraordinaire

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    Comments from the peanut gallery:

    Sound gets nerfed on bands either because someone at the board doesn't give a damn or (I've heard) some headliners want them to sound like crap so they can come out and blow everyone away. Not sure it was deliberate, but both times I saw Van Halen the sound coming from the two different opening acts was indistinguishable mud, like a bunch of people were playing basses and drums with their feet at the same time. The concerts took place 25 years apart too. I've always suspected that Alex and Eddie sabotage the openers to make themselves look better.

    One time my band played a battle of the bands. Our leader bought the sound guy a pizza for dinner and we got decent sound. The next band came on and the sound was incredible. We found out they had slipped the sound guy $100. So, FYI, cash trumps pizza. Who'da figured?

    One thing I noticed too, probably starting in the early '90s, was that sound quality at concerts in general seemed to get better. Especially outdoor concerts. If you went to an outdoor concert in the '70s the sound always sucked big time unless you were right in front of the stage. Not any longer. Most places sound great no matter where you're sitting (or standing). Doesn't mean the mix is good, but the speaker systems are definitely better than they used to be.

    As far as tightness, it's maturity and experience. I've noticed that most of the bands that I see lately, hard partying bands that I was into 40 years ago, are much tighter and professional now. They start on time (concerts never used to start on time), they don't make any mistakes, there are no pointless delays between songs, and the sound is awesome.
     
  4. ripgtr

    ripgtr Tele-Holic

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    Part of the warm up act being there is to help clean up the mix from soundcheck, with an empty room, to a room full of people.
     
  5. ripgtr

    ripgtr Tele-Holic

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    The touring act has done that just, probably just last night. And the night before. And the one before that. The local band - not very likely.

    The touring band, since they can pay, is going to hire the better players. All positions would be really strong. Not a great bass player and good guitar player and the best drummer they could get. All should be at least very good, generally.
     
  6. GuitOp81

    GuitOp81 Tele-Holic

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    In my experience, the sound guy thing is intentional: they feel that they are paid to work for the main act and they don't break a sweat for anybody else. If something sounds like crap they'll tell you anything and just do nothing. In many big events they don't even turn on all the PA before the main act.

    The other great factor is that on average somebody playing as top act of the evening usually has learned how to hit those instruments. Every note is played with confidence, conviction, decisively. It is more of a mental attitude than the technical gesture in itself but it makes a ton of difference.

    At least, that's what I always noticed.
     
  7. JazzboxBlues

    JazzboxBlues Tele-Afflicted

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    Rarely do I see opening bands mixed as well. Many times I see the main act's sound dialed in during their first or second song.
     
  8. Fearnot

    Fearnot Friend of Leo's

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    All that soundguy stuff is SOP for pro bands... they get paid to make the headliners sound good and just keep the PA from driving people out of the room beforehand. The openers are just there as guinea pigs, at best.

    That said, Pat Travers has been touring since the 70's. I would certainly hope he's gotten his sound sorted and his act together by now. :D
     
  9. GoldieLocks

    GoldieLocks Tele-Afflicted

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    Opening sound.

    Sometimes it's just rude what happens to the sound of opening acts. I'm sure much of it is money related. Some of it may be equipment related.

    I saw Bonnie Raitt open for Eric Clapton over a decade ago. I assumed they would share a P.A. and mutual respect ---- Bonnie sounded like rumbling, barely decipherable, crap.

    I also watched the Black Crowes open for Robert Plant --- I couldn't tell one song from another. Just 45 minutes of BLACK noise... Robert Plant then came on and sounded like a C.D..

    Thankfully most concerts I go to nowadays don't even bother to have opening acts.
     
  10. spauldingrules

    spauldingrules Tele-Holic

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    Besides the sound man, it's generally because the drummer and bassist are better. If they are locked it, MAN things sound better.
     
  11. getbent

    getbent Telefied Silver Supporter

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    while the beef about the sound guy stuff is legit...

    in the case of a small club... It is just as much that the headliner plays 250 dates a year and the other guys play maybe 50.

    major league vs. semi pro...
     
  12. NStone

    NStone Tele-Meister

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    I have seen acts add a bit of verb on the house music to make the band sound crisper.
     
  13. Blue Bill

    Blue Bill Poster Extraordinaire

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    We had a open mike blues jam in Northhampton MA every week back in the '80s. One night Art and Cyril Neville showed up and asked if they could sit in. Same mikes, same amps, same keyboard, same drums and bass that sounded crappy a minute ago suddenly sounded fantastic. Same sound guy, me. It was a dramatic lesson on how much of the sound is the musicians, and not just the gear. Two local guitar hotshots, Jared Quinn and John Caban played guitars. What a great night.
     
  14. mlove3

    mlove3 Tele-Afflicted

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    "Same mikes, same amps, same keyboard, same drums and bass that sounded crappy a minute ago suddenly sounded fantastic."

    Hmm...So you say that the guys that sing and play for a living, touring and recording all the time, sounded great.

    How do you get good at something?
    Do it all the time.
     
  15. brookdalebill

    brookdalebill Tele Axpert Ad Free Member

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    Being a cynical old guy, I can attest to the fact that opening acts are frequently "victims" of sound men.
    The opening acts get to be guinea pigs for EQ and effects settings.
    Sound men do not (usually) sabotage the mix for the openers, but they know they are not being paid by them.
    Openers get the roars, squeals, and murky monitor mixes.
    Sound men also know the audience is at the venue to see the featured acts.
    I've witnessed this, and been, uh, victimized by it dozens of times.
    The music business is a chicken or feathers proposition.
    You may be spitting feathers forever.
     
  16. Colo Springs E

    Colo Springs E Doctor of Teleocity Ad Free Member

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    That's my opinion too.

    Has anyone here played sports of any kind recreationally with a pro/former pro?

    When I was in junior high, a guy on our church softball team had made it to triple-A baseball, and was there a couple years. Pat played SS on our softball team, I think he was outfield as a pro.

    Try as he might to dial it back a bit, his throws came in to you at first base with a level of authority none of us had ever experienced. It was scary, even to the grown men, some who had played college sports. I never sensed he was showing off, but even if he was, the result was the same.

    And he was a triple-A'er who could make it more than a couple years.

    That may be a silly analogy but there are just different levels of talent and most of us aren't close to that upper tier.
     
  17. Blazer

    Blazer Doctor of Teleocity Ad Free Member

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    I saw the Presidents of the USA playing a few months ago and it is telling that "guitbassist" Chris Ballew who plays Epiphone SG's fitted with two bass strings...
    [​IMG]

    ...had a far better bass sound than the bass player of the opening band who played a fender P-bass.
     
  18. Ted M

    Ted M Tele-Afflicted

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    I opened for BB King in 1990 - I thought we did a great set, but BB and his band sounded better from their first note!
     
  19. soulman969

    soulman969 Telefied Ad Free Member

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    I also believe it's pretty much the pros vs semi-pro thing. The level of talent is just that much better and the band has rehearsed and played themselves to a level of cohesiveness few if any local acts could match. Been there, done that. As good as you can be they're gonna be that much better. You're expected to be tight but they're expected to be WOW!

    I could buy into the sound tech not caring as much but part of it may also be that he's gotten some very specific instructions about the headliners mix and possibly even met with them to go over it. Chances are pretty good he didn't do the same with any of the other acts. Some headliners may even have their own guys running the board because they already know what to do.

    If the local guys can afford it I'd suggest they do the same. We actually did that in one band I played in and our sound improved a lot over a very short period of time.
     
  20. Post Toastie

    Post Toastie Poster Extraordinaire

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    +1 on a room full of people helping out the mix.
     
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