Practicing and playing more quiet????

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [BG]' started by Bayou_Brawler, May 25, 2005.

  1. Bayou_Brawler

    Bayou_Brawler The most hurtful thing ever realized

    Oct 23, 2003
    Ann Arbor, MI
    OK so my band and i have been discussing practicing and playing less loud at shows. We hope to save our hearing a bit and increase sound quality at live preformances.

    first off we play kinda bluegrass, jam band, funk, rock, reggae :meh: so we're not a LOUD metal band or anything but we still tend to go off and get LOUD at times. fyi we have drums, bass, fiddle, guitar, and mandolin/guitar.

    during practice i don't see much of a problem. it may not be as fun at times but still cool.

    one problem that always seems to happen is during live shows no one can hear themsleves so they just keep creeping up and before you know it everyone is full tilt.

    one show we played with a sound guy who ended up having to kill th stage speakers and we ended up just on our amps :bassist:

    also i'm always thinking that being too quiet at live shows will be boring and people will leave but being too loud will drive em nuts and make em leave.

    now this isn't usually a problem when we have a sound guy...but we do our own sound at a lot of shows.

    anyway anyone have any advice on getting a smooth sound that's still liud enough to get people moving their butts?

  2. wulf


    Apr 11, 2002
    Oxford, UK
    Why can't you hear yourselves at live shows? Is it the audience cheering wildly or the fact the backline / monitors aren't set up well and so everybody keeps on turning up to get just a little bit more of them (which is ultimately self defeating!)?

    As far as rehearsing goes, how about trying things virtually acoustically? Get a song going with mandolin, guitar and fiddle and then bring in the drums and bass quietly enough that you don't drown them out. It might be hard work for the drummer but should be pretty easy from your point of view.

    Rather than trying to sit foward in the mix, try to step back into a supporting role. When it comes to someone's solo, rather than turning up that instrument, get everyone else to back off (playing quieter and leaving more space).

    You might not want to keep all of those elements in your live performances but it will certainly be a good way of learning to listen to each other!

  3. Folmeister

    Folmeister Knowledge is Good - Emile Faber Supporting Member

    May 7, 2003
    Tomball, Texas
    Playing quietly is, surprisingly, a challenge that my current group is confronting. We play acoustic/electric country/rock and want to avoid the "wall-of-sound" approach. The first thing we did was dump our existing sound engineer for another that had an ear for tone and not just volume. Then, we downgraded to the smallest PA possible. The two biggest problems during performances are:

    1. A lead guitarist that uses very hot Demeter amps and likes to go "epic"

    2. A drummer that loses dynamic feel with each shot of booze

    We have found that emulating the intimate environment of rehearsals at shows helps. We tend to huddle our amps together right behind the drummer and maintain close physical proximity to the drum kit.
  4. P. Aaron

    P. Aaron Supporting Member

    We have been playing quieter live in most instances. For one, the audience can HEAR YOU, and they can also talk over you. IF a "listening" audience gets blown out, they leave. An audience that's entertained, tends to stay longer, buy more drinks, and feel comfortable.

    If you're in a cover band, it ain't about getting signed as much as getting hired...again.
  5. Bayou_Brawler

    Bayou_Brawler The most hurtful thing ever realized

    Oct 23, 2003
    Ann Arbor, MI
    i don't know ha ha. does anyone else ever feel like they can hear eveyone else at not themselves.

    i play the best when i can really hear and feel myself. the problem is when i can really hear myself i'm usually waaaay to loud.
  6. wulf


    Apr 11, 2002
    Oxford, UK
    I just try to listen harder! ;)

    When it gets too loud, I stick my ear plugs in (gotta watch out for that hearing!) - although it's not as clear as hearing a quiet sound unhindered, it removes enough of the distracting noise that I can focus on what I'm doing (I suppose it's not dissimilar to practising unamplified on an electric bass at home - enough to know that I'm playing the line right without hearing all the nuances).

    However, I prefer a quieter stage volume - if anything, I'll turn down a bit, so the rest of the band have to turn down and concentrate more to hear the bassline! Also, as I alluded to before, I try to listen to the whole song rather than just the bassline - focusing on 'us' rather than just 'me'.

    It is a very different approach to that which most bands seem to take but it works well for where I'm at.

  7. jive1

    jive1 Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member Commercial User

    Jan 16, 2003
    Owner/Retailer: Jive Sound
    I find that dynamics all begin with the drummer. If the drummer backs off, the rest of the band will instinctively back off as well. If the guys in the band aren't self-centered wankers, they will want to hear the beat and adjust accordingly.
  8. Steve


    Aug 10, 2001
    There's no real trick here.

    You work at playing quiet with feeling and intesity. You get used to THAT sound. That becomes your comfort zone and all of a sudden playing loud will be uncomfortable and distracting.

    If you can't hear yourself, don't turn up. Ask somone else to turn down.
  9. BurningSkies

    BurningSkies CRAZY BALDHEAD

    Feb 20, 2005
    Seweracuse, NY
    I've been training myself to play quieter...It's been a long process, but I'm starting to get used to not feeling the wall of sound at my back. Its like reminding myself that I don't need to hit so hard when I'm not blasting, and getting used to hearing myself in the mix, not in front of the mix. I've also changed my eq, so I can hear myself better (more mids) and I'm not afraid to tell our guitarist or keyboard player that they're too loud.

    Part of the problem I've had, is based on the drummer. Our regular drummer of the past few years likes to hit hard and overplay. Simply put, he's LOUD. With a lot of drummers I've played with, he can't turn down the volume without losing tempo, time and groove. How am I getting around this? Well...mostly by working with other drummers who understand dynamics...and by making sure I keep him up to speed in those moments by pushing a bit harder than I should have to.

    I've stopped making excuses about loud bass since I'm in a reggae band, and I'm trying to give the soundman a bit more freedom to mix (sometimes good, sometimes bad).
  10. That's the problem. You're supposed to strive to hear everyone else.

    Everyone usually turns themselves up so they're the loudest so they can "hear themselves", until the next guy turns up to get back ahead of you.

    There's a few tricks I've found.

    1) Make sure everyone is in front of their own amps. Its like in Ghostbusters. Never cross the beams. You're loudest in front of your own amp. If someone else is standing in your loud spot, they'll have to turn up way too damn loud to hear themselves over you. And you, being in their loud spot, will hear only them.

    2) Get guitar players on opposite ends of the stage. Put them together, its hopeless.

    3) If you can't hear yourself, consider moving closer to your amp instead of turning up when possible.

    4) When you practice playing with a stereo or cd player, practice playing just loud enough to hear yourself, so you can hear everything else clearly. Don't get used to your volume being dominant, way in front of everything else. You'll want to replicate that on stage, as will everyone else, and the volume arms race begins.

    5) If you have to turn up, do it a little at a time so that nobody notices. Sudden increases in volume by one guy triggers a chain reaction with everyone else.

  11. The most successful trick I learnt and one which I do myself every time is turn my bass volume on full and then adjust my stage volume using my amp. Once that is set I leave it well alone and let the sound engineer do the rest. I usually try to get any band I am in to do the same. This stops the volume creeping up during a set.

    My way of dealing with a loud drummer who cannot play at different volumes and makes the band too loud is simple. Get him to change his technique. If he won't, or more likely can't either get a new drummer or leave yourself.

    I tried to get the drummer in my last band to play more quietly but when he would not I left the band. There is an awful lot of paid gigs in my area and I did not want to get a name for being in a very loud band and ruin my reputation for the future.