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Volume Settings

November 3, 2011

A lot of things can affect live sound, room shape, what the walls are made of, things covering the walls or number of people in the room however none of these can be controlled by the band the only thing that a band can control is volume. While a lot of bands don’t realize it playing as loud as possible all the time is never the correct choice.

There are countless things that can affect how loud you sound, materials of the room, air pressure, humidity, layout and countless others. The unfortunate problem of playing too loud is that it muddies the sound and makes it near impossible to identify individual instruments and harmonies. Playing too quietly will hurt your stage presence but if your fans can’t tell what you are playing that will hurt you worse.

One of the worst problems with a volume that exceeds what is needed is that often vocals become all but a whisper and drum will overpower everything. Sometimes an artist will try and compensate being too quiet by playing louder but this only escalates the problem and will strain the muscles they use. What should happen is the rest of the band should decrease the volume to allow a crisper sound and an easier time for everyone.

Finding an appropriate volume can be difficult when each venue will have an entirely different one and can change throughout the night as people come and go. However this is no excuse as any band that has experience should be used to figuring an appropriate volume during their sound check. In the unfortunate chance that a band gets neither then listen to the other bands and compare to how loud they are playing.

Everyone wants to be playing a mega stadium with amps turned to 11 but unless you happen to be playing to fifty thousand people this is not necessary. Why bother practicing your music so it sounds good live if you drown out and destroy the details.


3 Comments leave one →
  1. November 3, 2011 9:34 AM

    so many little tricks you can employ in different gig situations, especially when you have to “roll your own” (be your own sound technician).

    – get a band member to listen from the audience’s perspective while the band is playing…. a singer, a guitarist who’s got a long cable or wireless system… when doing this, take into account if there are people around… if there is noone around yet then note that things will DEFINITELY sound drastically different with human bodies there to absorb sound. (i personally find that guitars change the most from empty room soundcheck to packed room)
    – AIMING YOUR AMPS — a physics thing… sound travels in waves…. think about that! if you really need to be hearing yourself make sure your speaker is actually pointing at your ears instead of, say, your ass… unless you’ve got ears in your ass then you’re one step ahead of a lot of other musicians. Also, think about if your guitar is being mic’ed at all… if not you probably want the audience to hear, so point your speaker(s) accordingly.
    – DRUMS: sometimes taking the front skin right off is the best idea.. the attack comes out more and the drum just projects more… this i find is good in non-mic’ed situations. Also, sometimes muting drums/cymbals with gels, felts, tape… OR adjusting how hard you are hitting (ie. the drummer volume knob) can help.

  2. November 3, 2011 11:53 AM

    It’s interesting that this is the latest topic, b/c when I saw Orchid’s Curse last week here in Wolfville, I discussed this multiple times. OC was still loud, but it didn’t sound like they were constantly competing with each other. They had volume, but there was still clear distinction between each instrument.

    The way I put it at the show to my buddy:

    “There’s ‘Rock and Roll’ loud (like Orchid’s Curse, loud but audible), then there’s obnoxious, unnecessary loud (like some other bands at that show,and countless others; just a wall of noise)”

  3. Sound guy permalink
    May 3, 2012 2:56 PM

    Thank you thank you thank you – small club sound guy

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