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How Loud You Sound To Yourself vs. House

Discussion in 'Live Sound [BG]' started by SteveFreides, Feb 8, 2014.

  1. SteveFreides

    SteveFreides Supporting Member

    Dec 11, 2007
    Ridgewood, NJ
    Hi. I'm usually on the double bass side of things here but I have an electric bass question. (FWIW, I've played electric bass since the 1970's; I just play upright more now.)

    The venue is a middle school auditorium that seats about 800. The show is an annual volunteer project with singers/dancers/actors on stage and the pit band on the floor at the foot of the stage. 7 pieces: drums, electric guitar, electric bass, keyboard, accordion, and two trumpets. The trumpets are unamplfied and that pretty much defines our overall volume. The onstage people are mic'ed into a PA. The band plays through its own amps: bass, guitar, keyboard, and accordion. We sit in front of our amps so no need for monitors.

    And here's my problem - the bass always sounds just fine in the pit, and it sounds louder than everything else when you're in the house. Why, and what do I do about it? I think the bass amp is a small Markbass that's up on a chair. NB: I'm the keyboard player for this, not the bass player.

    Advice appreciated, and thanks in advance.

  2. It's hard to credit a little combo filling 800 seat auditorium without being pushed very hard.

    I'm guessing you are actually playing more to the level of the accordion? Trumpeters with chops make a fair racket!

    It may be that the room has a good resonance down at the bottom of the bass mids, while the rest of the band struggles to get out of the pit?
  3. SteveFreides

    SteveFreides Supporting Member

    Dec 11, 2007
    Ridgewood, NJ
    The more I think about it, the more it seems like it must be an odd room. The bass player is using a 1x12 combo, 300 watts, I found out.

    Yeah, leader trumpeter has serious chops - very glad to have him.

  4. ggunn


    Aug 30, 2006
    Austin, TX
    This is not an unusual situation, especially in a cavernous reflective environment. The only thing for it is for someone to be in the house during a rehearsal to listen and report back to the bass player what his volume needs to be to balance with the rest of the sound. The listener needs to move around in the seating area to get the best average mix; it could be different for different listening points.
  5. Sponsored by:

  6. Agreed. But once the place is full of people, someone may need to check again.
  7. Jeff Elkins

    Jeff Elkins Gold Supporting Member

    Sep 13, 2007
    East Tennessee
    Is the auditorium carpeted? The last middle school auditorium I played in was, but I thought that was unusual...
    While it's true either way (to some degree), I ask because if it's not carpeted, he/she could be getting a huge reflected wave from the floor. Raising the amp up (how far, TB-ers? over 2'? There's a rule, but I don't know it) may:
    a) reduce the wave, tempering the room sound,
    b) make the "self-monitor" louder since it's closer to his/her head, thereby allowing it to be turned down (although you say it sounds fine in the pit, so decreasing volume in the pit may be a problem for everyone, not just the bassist, of course).
    I think, though, that downunderwonder may be closer to the answer, and that the bass mids are what's filling the room (without knowing the amp, instrument, etc).
  8. SteveFreides

    SteveFreides Supporting Member

    Dec 11, 2007
    Ridgewood, NJ
    Not carpeted. No appreciable difference with bodies in the seats or not. Seats are padded. You could hear the problem in rehearsal as well as in performance.

    Cavernous - yes.

    The bass player was sitting just a bit more than arm's length away from the amp last night, and another foot away from it before that, so we did make him a little closer.

    Amp is a Markbass 112, don't know exact model because I asked the bass player but it turns out to be the drummer's amp because the bass player realized he didn't need his big rig for this.

    We mostly solved the problem last night by, oddly, putting the amp on the floor. It had been on purpose-built stand, angled up, and the stand was up against the edge of the stage. We put it on the floor and moved it about a foot away from the stage, and like magic, most of the boominess went away.

    Also interesting to me was that the bass player runs with the amp opened up and his bass volume control at 1 or 2 - I found that interesting as I've always done pretty much the opposite because i like the way my bass sounds better with its onboard volume control all the way up.

    Definitely the "bass mids" were the issue. At one point, in response to my request for a brighter tone for a few numbers, the bass player changed the tone control on his bass, and that definitely made the problem worse in the house - we literally had people running up to us at that point during rehearsal.

    All this goes to prove something we'd all readily agree to - room acoustics, no matter how much science you apply, is always going to be black magic.

    Thanks for the help, folks. We had our last show last night and I'm done with this venue for another year - and everything was a big success.

  9. Room acoustics can play a big part, but its more likely because of the soundman - talk to the soundman.

    stage/pit volume - players only need to be loud enough to keep up with the drummer. anything after that is what sound reinforcement is for.

    Question - when you're in the pit, how do you really know what the house sounds like? ;)
  10. SteveFreides

    SteveFreides Supporting Member

    Dec 11, 2007
    Ridgewood, NJ
    There were issues - the soundman wasn't our choice and wasn't cooperative.

    That's what we were doing, and it was booming in the house. To make it sound right in the house, I had trouble hearing the bass in the pit, and the bass player's amp was perhaps 1 meter from me.

    That's why I asked here. Every other instrument in the band sounded basically the same in the house as it did in the pit - except the electric bass.

    See my other reply for how we solved the problem for last night's performance.

  11. I just read the whole thread ~ way cool.

  12. SteveFreides

    SteveFreides Supporting Member

    Dec 11, 2007
    Ridgewood, NJ
  13. TIP: You two need to work on making more space for each other (better EQ'ing, laying off the heavy left hand, etc).

    Anyway, I'm glad to read overall it went well.

  14. SteveFreides

    SteveFreides Supporting Member

    Dec 11, 2007
    Ridgewood, NJ
    The solution we're talking about for next year is a better sound guy in the house, and taking everyone direct to the board and letting the sound guy provide us with a monitor mix that meets everyone's needs.

    It's a bit of an organizational project because there are two or three non-profit musical events in town every year that use this middle school auditorium so we're going to see if we can come up with money to buy a board and a PA, donate it to the school, and then use someone in-house to run it. Given the quirky nature of the room, that seems like what would work best over all, or at least that's what seemed best to all of us in the band after we'd had a beer or two last night ...

  15. SteveFreides

    SteveFreides Supporting Member

    Dec 11, 2007
    Ridgewood, NJ
    Thought I'd post an update - we have an acoustical engineer in our town who has agreed to meet me in the room in a couple of days, and we're to try for a complete solution:

    1. Figure out the room's issues.

    2. Treat those issues acoustically as best we're able.

    3. Spec, purchase, and install a permanent sound system in the room.

    Exciting to see a plan come together, and good to know that my thought - fix the room before you try to spec a PA - found complete agreement from the acoustical engineer.

  16. stonewall


    Jun 14, 2010
    try lighert strings under a 100 on the E string.Had this problem at a church i did sound for no matter what we did with the bass player to loud and deep even with the bass only being through his monitor no amp.The bass player played i believe... it was a warwick fretless big boomy yucky sound big fat strings.There was a 2 week period the bass player couldnt play the fill in player played a Fender Jass he plugged in to the regular guy,s set up and wow perfect sound i actually was able to mix the bass into the FOH mix.So it was either the bass or the strings?The next time the main guy was back yep yuck crap sound again.

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