How loud is to loud for small venues?

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [BG]' started by Unemploid, May 28, 2018.

  1. Last show at a small bar their were bands with stacks that made standing a little more than kicking distance from the stage unbearable. I felt a very slight hearing lose or dizziness when we left. Is this normal for audiences?
  2. Meghans Dad

    Meghans Dad

    Oct 23, 2016
    I hope not. When I go to a venue I am not paying to have may hearing damaged, made ill or, odd coming from a bass player, a bass so loud it vibrates my chest and makes me nauseous. This kind of audience abuse is not only restricted to bars and such. Years ago I had seats at the front of one of the PA racks...stuck cigarette filters in my ears because of the pain.
  3. T_Bone_TL


    Jan 10, 2013
    SW VT
    It shouldn't be, but in some places it is. One reason I don't go to live amplified shows much, and if I do, I have a pocket full of 33 dB earplugs. Good venues have and use an SPL (sound pressure level) meter for the sound guy to to keep things in check. You can get one for ~$20 or load an app on your phone for less (possibly free, IDK)

    Edit to add: 87 to 90 dB are typical numbers that get tossed around for places that respect the hearing of the audience. OSHA thinks you should use hearing protection at 85 dB or above, so even that may be optimistic.
    Last edited: May 29, 2018
    MrLenny1 likes this.
  4. 85 Db is the acceptable level here a lot of town ordinance are throwing this number around. We have a club we play in that doesn't want you to play any louder than that. I have a pressure sound meter to make sure our level is not above 85 db which includes are drummer using rods.
  5. Pilgrim

    Pilgrim Supporting Member

    Some places play stupid loud. Over time, I have learned to bring my bass-playing earplugs with me in case I really, really want to stay.

    If not....I tell the manager, then I leave. And I'll tell the manager anyway if I can find them.
    Unemploid likes this.
  6. DirtDog


    Jun 7, 2002
    The Deep North
    I’m a bit of an SPL taskmaster with my band(s). 85 dB SPL is about the ambient level for a bar without amplified music. My personal threshold is 95 dB peak on the dance floor. I use a smartphone SPL app - good enough for government work.
  7. We've been told we're too loud. I wear earplugs on stage and at practice. We probably are. We play punk rock bars to tens of people. There's probably a reason for that. :lol:
    Unemploid likes this.
  8. StyleOverShow

    StyleOverShow Still Playing After All These Years Supporting Member

    May 3, 2008
    i think many bands equate loud with energy and power. the same groups may be prone to rushing to avoid the sensation of dragging. it aint so.

    both of my regular bands are making a push to reduce volumes to improve dynamics and crowd appeal. it ain't Rock and Roll.
    Fretless1! and JohnMCA72 like this.
  9. arbiterusa


    Sep 24, 2015
    If it's my band, people should be able to talk without yelling within a few feet of the stage. I'm a bit of a Nazi about it. There's just no need to be that loud.

    I find I need to bring earplugs to do the following:

    1. See some live acts
    2. See any movie. I don't know how theaters get away with hitting audiences with the kind of volume they do.
    Pilgrim likes this.
  10. HauntedDave


    Mar 7, 2016
    Houston, TX
    If you can hear the band at the back of the room, you're too loud. You want people close to the stage, not spread out and not paying attention to your work. Leave the back of the house for stragglers and people trying to hook up.
    samson3382 and Unemploid like this.
  11. J Posega

    J Posega Cat Dad and Dingwall Enthusiast Supporting Member

    Jul 16, 2005
    Los Angeles, CA
    Download a decimal meter to your phone. The point of diminishing returns for loudness is 90 dB SPL. You can safely listen to sound at that level for nearly 2 hours. For reference, stadium shows often hit 120 dB SPL... stadiums. I’d bet most small shows, metal shows especially, push that in venues that fit 100 people. Assuming nobody is wearing earplugs because they aren’t cool or they’ve only tried the garbage foam ones, everyone there is doing irreparable damage to their ears.

    Gig Volumes – Getting it right.
  12. socialleper

    socialleper Bringer of doom and top shelf beer Supporting Member

    May 31, 2009
    Canyon Country, CA
    For some genres that's a thing. My band has a little trouble judging our volume and it us something I wish we were more conscious of. Good luck telling a guitarist to turn down. Especially if you have two.
    I wear my Eargasim plugs all the time, no matter what. Playing or audience.
  13. Pilgrim

    Pilgrim Supporting Member

    I'm more concerned about this than I used to be. I went to the the Robert Randolph family band Robert Randolph in a theater in Denver, and it was STUPID loud. It was so loud that I couldn't hear any definition in the music. It was so loud that my wife said "if someone had a heart attack in here, all they'd need to do is stand them up and let the bass and drums hit would re-start them."

    For a band at that level to play with the stupid, destructive sound levels I heard was a terrible disappointment. I tend to blame the sound mix in the venue more than the band, but there is no excuse for any professional group to play at those levels.
    salcott likes this.
  14. Some small rooms tolerate it. Others don't. It's always best to have the MOD help you decide how loud you should be.

    I've had managers thank us at the end of the evening for not being insanely loud, and I've had managers ask us to keep it down so the staff can hear the patrons.
    lowplaces likes this.
  15. samson3382


    Apr 26, 2009
    Boise, Idaho
    I try to pay attention to people conversing and how much they may or may not be struggling to hear each other, adjust accordingly.
    HauntedDave and lowplaces like this.
  16. rendevouz


    Jan 8, 2013
    Hopefully the bar owner will let you know when you're too loud.
    jerry and Flashback Bass like this.
  17. ElectroVibe


    Mar 2, 2013
    Let me tell you about the best-sounding small venue performance I've ever heard. It was a high school talent show with several bands. But one band in particular really stood out in terms of the sound. Mainly, I think it was because they were the only band to not run their instruments through the PA, only the vocals in the PA. Everyone could hear the drums. And then it was just one singer/guitarist and one bass player doing some basic rock songs. So they were probably not as loud as some of the other bands but you could hear every note and they ROCKED.
    lowplaces likes this.
  18. rufus.K


    Oct 18, 2015
    quiet is better
    lowplaces likes this.
  19. My band plays small dive bars. We play fairly quiet. I watch the Bartenders taking drink orders. If the patron has to lean over the bar to order a beverage we would be too loud. My Wife is our "soundperson". She walks around to all parts of the bar to check the volume, (as well as the mix). She knows you should barely be able to hear the band at the back of the bar. We haven't had a bar owner ask us to turn down in a long time! Where we play it's not a concert, people want to be able to converse in a bar. We are a live, (better!) jukebox!
    lowplaces and T_Bone_TL like this.
  20. JohnMCA72


    Feb 4, 2009
    Excess volume can cover a lot of crap, just like excess tempo can cover a lack of energy. Playing quieter forces you to play better!