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Getting decent sound in a big space

Discussion in 'Live Sound [BG]' started by tothemax, Jan 7, 2014.

  1. I'm copying this over from another post because this is probably where it should be.

    I've taken the lead in organizing a band for community center events. We use the center for our practice space, my sound talents are limited to knowing what the controls on the PA do and my ear is pretty good... but the overall sound quality was mush last night.

    Next question: Sound quality

    The center is a big open room and empty (approx. 35'x70' rectangle) with hard walls on the ends, storefront glass on a kneewall at the sides, cement floor and high sloped ceiling (10' and 20'). The ceiling is soft which really helps cut the echos (fabric covered insulation).

    The Drums are really loud (thinking of making a baffle in front or around them). It's looking like the biggest challenge will be to find a decent working volume. I'm sure this has been addressed before. I have a Yamaha EMx style PA with 2 floor monitors which should be more than enough for practice.

    I'd like to find a volume level that will work for practice as well as indoor center gigs. Our audience will be a real mix so ear shattering volume isn't going to cut it. We are normally a 5 piece (drums, bass, guitars, harmonica - with 1-4 vocal mics) and play classic rock, R&B, and some country. At some point we may have a 2nd drummer of conga player.

    Would love to get some ideas for setup and finding a working level. This is my first time playing BL... will appreciate any feedback.
  2. Shoot the drummer. If he is hitting too hard, you have no hope.
  3. use electronic drums and turn his volume down
  4. Might not be cheaper than my suggestion, but probably a better idea. Contact with lead can be toxic, and I'd hate for you to get sick from loading a gun.
  5. do you have any budget........any option to use rugs, or sound absorption materials on walls, etc?

    I did a 50x55x18 room this year with all hardwood floor - LOTS of windows and sheetrock walls/ceilings.

    it is now a REALLY nice room to play, and go see shows.



    We used moving blankets before we installed the sound panels - they were a HUGE help!!


    the rug was a HUGE help also -
    its 15x17 3" shag



    We used moving blankets before we installed the sound panels - they were a HUGE help!!


    the rug was a HUGE help also -
    its 15x17 3" shag
  6. D.A.R.K.

    D.A.R.K. Supporting Member

    Aug 20, 2003
    Treat the room first. The sloping ceiling is a very good thing.
    See if you can get proper materials (will pass fire safety codes).
    I'd start with heavy curtain (theater curtain) on the wall behind the stage, then the side walls closest to the the stage and work your way out. Build your own rock wool traps and position those accordingly. It's not gonna be cheap...
  7. I don't think most community centers would appreciate having things covering their walls and floors that they didn't put there.
  8. we found moving blankets 6'x6.5' for $10 ea at harbor freight. easy to hang/drape and take down. a really good easy cheap way to get some sound dampening - about 39 sf per they worked for us - we still use them on windows and behind the band area found 2x4 1" fiberglass panels and installed a bunch t/o the room - 42 of them I think

    until we installed them - we used the blankets - just draped or hanging as we could - cheap - easy - and quick
  9. Frank is right. No amount of quieting the drummer is ever going to make that room sound good.

    The walls can be covered with drapes on poles and the floor can get throws, so the building owners don't have to care. The hard part is that it's a really big room, so that would take a LOT of fabric and rug. The walls, being parallel, are the biggest problem, but even just doing them would take a LOT of drape.

    If you can come up with something to put up, no matter what the absorbing material is, you get more benefit having the material away from the wall than right up against it. At least 6" or so, with a little more being better.
  10. Zooberwerx

    Zooberwerx Gold Supporting Member

    Dec 21, 2002
    Virginia Beach, VA
    No....use conventional drums, mic 'em, then turn it down at the board. BAHAHAHA!

    I swear to God I read that in a post somewhere. Good luck with the project and the unforgiving acoustics to follow.

  11. make the drummer use smaller drums and skinny sticks, that should help with volume a bit.
  12. We don't really have free reign to modify the room or hang stuff so we'll need to isolate and correct things as we can. Currently the drums are pretty loaud so that will be the first target.

    I really don't think the drummer is the issue, he's not playing any louder than most other drummers I've played with - it's just the hard and open surfaces around him. Ilike the idea of the moving pads. I'm thinking we build a light frame around him and hang the pads (about shoulder level to him) and get him set up on a carpet - I'm sure we can find a remnant for cheap.

    Come nice weather we'll be able to set up outside for parties, but we need to have a plan for inside as well.

    Thanks for the comments...
  13. My advise comes from experience, not just from reading post on the internet. :smug:

    Caging him in can help - but hanging pads around him would look like hell, so use the clear plastic panels instead. For example ~ http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_n...eywords=drum+booth&rh=n:11091801,k:drum+booth PS: and always keep in mind that amplifying the drums in any way whatsoever (monitors, etc) is not the answer when trying to keep the volume down, as it will only add to the overall SPL room volume.

    Since you can't treat the room - about all you can really do (besides using a more dynamic thoughtful drummer) is either use e-drums or cage the drummer in, keep the volume down and just learn to live with the large untreated reverberating room (oh and bodies absorb sound too, so pack the community center with people).
  14. Zooberwerx

    Zooberwerx Gold Supporting Member

    Dec 21, 2002
    Virginia Beach, VA
    No, no...it went something like this:

    Venue owner: "Your drummer is too loud!"

    Sound guy: "We don't even have his mics cabled or hooked to the PA yet."

    Venue owner: "Well, when you do, would you turn him down, please?"

    Our drummer, Roger, has a kit that has multiple triggers and a sub-mixer which really helps. So a big thumbs up to electronic drums.

  15. 1958Bassman


    Oct 20, 2007
    Have the drummer play at high/medium/low volume without the rest of the band- if it sounds bad (never-ending echo, lots of reverberation and sounds like crap), the room's acoustics need attention and if it sounds OK at medium/low levels, you'll need to work on it anyway because, once the rest of the band starts playing, they'll exceed the level where it sounds OK.

    That room has several problems and it can be treated without changing the ability to use it in all of the same ways as it was intended. Treatment of school gym/versatile use rooms usually happens above head level and it really makes a difference. One material used is called Tectum- it's thin, coily strips of wood that are mixed with glue and pressed into a form, to allow flat sheets to be made and cut to modular dimensions.


    Armstrong has a product called 'Whisper Wall, which looks like a regular wall, but has an acoustically absorptive material with porous covering. This can't be painted, though.

    If this room is just painted drywall, it's not going to be easy and if the owners don't want to do anything, you won't be able to get a good sound at anywhere near high SPL.
  16. Ewo

    Ewo a/k/a Steve Cooper Supporting Member

    Apr 2, 2008
    Huntington WV
    I figure there are two ways you can go, in a big, reverberant room. Apart from acoustically treating the surfaces, I mean.

    You can turn the volume up to where it overpowers the room's ambience. This is pretty much what I've seen sound contractors do in arenas.

    Or you can keep the overall volume down, roll off some bottom end on the bass amp and PA, and accept the room's ambience for what it is. Basically, this is a matter of keeping the amplification "small" and letting the natural room reverb make the sound "bigger."

    I figure the second option is best, most often.

    We just played a weekend in a room like the one you described, OP--a large box with a high ceiling, all surfaces of which were acoustically reflective. We debated for a while about how much PA to bring (the drummer wanted to use subs, the whole shebang), but in the end went with a small system. We got compliments from the management and patrons about sounding clear and not being uncomfortably loud.
  17. Thanks for the comments... the center is close to the water and since flooding is always a concern in the event of an Atlantic tropical storm the walls are actually durock covered with a stucco type material. So I'm not sure if it is more or less reflective than sheetrock since it is pourous. Eventually I'm sure that we would be able to install some sound dampening panels - but just not in our budget at the moment.

    Using the moving pads would be a short term inexpensive practice solution - we may try first with a PVC "frame" and blankets since we can basically do that for free to see if it makes a difference. The drummer does have an electronic set for a plan B - personally I prefer a real drum kit.

    Will update after next practice... and yes we are hoping to be packing the place :D
  18. In all sincerity - where the budget is slim - I agree with EWO to play to the room - drummer may need to fall back to hot rods/bundles, dampening rings etc. lower bass and guitar volumes - tilt amps back on floor - put in front of you pointed back at you if needed to reduce what goes "out to the room". maintaining vocal clarity will be difficult at best - but can be done if you work at it and experiment with placement if you can.

    It took a long while and a lot of work on my end, along with cooperation of the venue at the place I have been working with and it has paid off in spades! I used binder clips to hang the blankets at first - it doesn't have to be fancy. maybe hit goodwill for cool old quilts, blankets, etc. contact folks about donating them - I couldn't get any, but we eventually bit the bullet and bought the panels.

    Before I started working with the guy here, he was told to use 2" blue board Styrofoam boards - MAN, talk about Bounce!

    You don't have to cover all the wall - or walls......just trying to capture some of that bounce/reflection. area rugs on the floors help - if they have any for walk ways, etc?
  19. ggunn


    Aug 30, 2006
    Austin, TX
    No kidding. That's close to the worst thing he could have done. It might absorb some in the upper midrange (maybe) but it would bounce the highs right back at you.
  20. lol. Oh okay, humor - my bad. :)