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The horror of "rock clubs"

Discussion in 'Amps, Mics & Pickups [DB]' started by Thumpie, May 28, 2012.

  1. Here's my situation (and I'm sure many of you understand exactly where I'm coming from): I play Spiros through an A.I. and try to use the full dynamic range of my bass--I've invested much to develop my own unique sound, unplugged as well as amplified. In any given set I will play loud and aggressive, but also softly, and when I hold a long tone I want to hear the note blossom and develop, and I want to control the volume of the instrument with my right hand. I also play a fair amount of arco which opens another can of worms. And, maybe most importantly, I need to hear myself much more than a bass guitar player in order to play in tune--as you all know.

    I play a lot of different types of music and venues (I'm actually drawn towards music that confounds any strict genre identification), but I often find myself in "rock clubs" and dealing with the sound-guy can be challenging. I think a lot of these guys aren't used to dealing with a double bass that doesn't have weed-wackers on it. I know I'm in trouble when they ask me if I want to run through another band's bass guitar rig. And I know I'm in big trouble when the idea of having the bass in the monitor seems novel.

    These "rawk" guys just don't get it. Example: I recently played a gig where we opened with a couple of rockers, and my moderately percussive playing was something the guy could understand. But when we went for one that started as a soft, delicate ballet, everything fell apart as the sound guy tried to mix the band for maximum volume. (Are these guys mandated to try to always achieve a deafening roar? Do the club owners believe it will somehow sell more drinks?)

    This is more a "people skills" question than a technical question. How do you approach these situations? I don't want to seem asinine to them (which I understand is completely counter-productive), but what is the best way to communicate with a sound guy who you suspect doesn't often deal with anything but bass guitars and rockabilly basses (or, more broadly, isn't used to dealing with music that fully uses dynamics)? Maybe request a dry signal? Maybe say "I've got my own compressor"? Maybe ask them to think of this particular bass as a "cello"? Maybe say "please don't ride my fader"? How do you tell them that you want to option to play at low volume without seeming like a jerk?

    How do you guys deal with this? Is there another thread where this is discussed?
  2. (And please don't tell me to "stop playing crappy gigs;" this is wrong for so many reasons.)
  3. MostlyBass

    MostlyBass Supporting Member

    Mar 3, 2002
    Oak Park, IL
    My band leader started giving the soundguy our set list with notes on each song to give him a heads-up as to what will be coming from the band...
  4. That's a good idea, but with one band I play with a lot, we never use a set list.
  5. Curmei


    Dec 29, 2008
    I don't play double bass, but do have a project that has a number of 'guest' players throughout the set. We'll have second/third guitars, viola, keys, multiple singers, etc., who pop up for different songs during a single set. I always give the sound person notes that describe what will be happening during the set, so he/she knows what to expect. Set list doesn't help, as it is all originals, but a basic overview of instrumentation and song dynamics is useful.

    I also learned, twenty years ago, to tip the sound person early in the evening. That always seems to make them happier to work with me - especially at rock clubs where tipping isn't so common.

    Good luck.
  6. DC Bass

    DC Bass Supporting Member

    Mar 28, 2010
    Washington DC
    Bring your own sound man. It's a pretty important role to leave to who ever shows up- some bands that I have played in held the post in such high esteem that we considered the sound man to be an actual full fledged member of the band in every regard- including pay.

    If you can't afford to hire someone you may be able to convince one of your trustworthy fans to take up the task. You may have to train them, but it will be well worth the time and effort.

    As for dealing with existing sound men- especially in the types of venues you are talking about- there's prolly not much hope for improvement. They are usually knuckleheads that taught themselves "on the job" and are not interested in any kind of critisism- even constructive. I hate to sound so mean, but if they knew what they were doing you wouldn't be having problems...and a real pro will listen to the input of a musician who plays an instrument they aren't used to providing support for.

    Good luck.

  7. Right on everything here.

    Often, for various reasons, there isn't even time for a proper sound-check, let alone time to actually talk with the sound guy about the esoteric things I'm doing with what in his mind is just a "fret-less" bass guitar that sucks because it's prone to feedback.

    I'm looking for some polite stock phrases that can quickly change their approach. Maybe I'm asking for the impossible. I'm thinking that "please don't use a compressor because I have my own" might be a good place to start.
  8. I always go out of my way to thank a sound-guy who does good work. I think that's something we should all remember to do.

    As far as tipping the sound-guy--here in the American south there's a strange cultural and economic dynamic in the relationship between performers and the clubs. I've never heard of sound-guy tipping in these dive-bars. (Honestly, sometimes performers are paid so poorly that the sound-guy should be tipping us.) I'm going to do some research on the matter. Something along the lines of tipping might help. I think my various bandleaders are already thinking about something like this.

    But I often find that my problem isn't that the sound-guy is apathetic or malevolent, it's that he has a big ego and does too much and is trying to get a good "hard-rock" bass guitar sound.
  9. "I also learned, twenty years ago, to tip the sound person early in the evening. That always seems to make them happier to work with me - especially at rock clubs where tipping isn't so common."

    Now, why didn't I think of that? So how much do you tip a sound guy?

  10. I recently realized that oftentimes the soundguy & bass player are the least-appreciated participants in the circus- unnoticed until something goes wrong, their fault or not. Approach it from a commiserating(sp?)perspective maybe? I try to always talk to the SG first, shake hands, THANK him/her and ask what I can do to make everyone happy. Over this much I usually have a little bit of control. :)
  11. xander8280


    Dec 29, 2011
    Get a good sound check and tell him to leave it alone unless you say to turn something up. My band has a sound guy, he's a friend and a fan. Things are crazy times better with him there he has a good ear and listens and knows what sound we want
  12. throughthefire


    Oct 1, 2010
    Apart from the obvious trick of being nice to the Sound Guy (buy him a drink), here's our process when we do sound checks with people we've never used before (rare, because we have two awesome sound guys with us)

    We move through each instrument and vocalist in turn. The instrument is played at performance level, and every other musician puts their hand in the air. The SG handles the stage monitors to give each musician the right level for the instrument/voice being checked. Once a musician is happy with that instrument, they put their hand down; all hands down, the stage mix is correct for that instrument. Repeat for the others. Takes less than 10 minutes.

    The difference where an instrument has a large dynamic range is that during sound check, the musician plays the quietest passage on the set list, and the loudest, and the SG can then balance the stage mix for both (usually taking an average). After that, all the sound guy has to do is set EQ and the mains for the building (in the buildings we play in, it's done with a remote laptop into the mixing board and a decibel meter). Job done - SG can now go home (or imbibe the drink you bought for him). No reason to ride the faders for anyone during the show...

  13. Sometimes I suspect that these guys are getting paid in beer, so buying them a drink wouldn't have any effect. Ha!
  14. What you described is beautiful. I love it when I play a classy joint where such an approach is possible!
  15. DC Bass

    DC Bass Supporting Member

    Mar 28, 2010
    Washington DC
    I hate to sound so negative about it- but it's been my experience that the majority of the "self trained" take great offense at any manner of suggestion- they seem to take it personally- like, "What the 'F' do YOU know?"- and "Look (expletive deleted), I done been running sound for FORTY (expletive deleted)YEARS, GOT IT?" or what ever. :D

    For them, if the PA isn't constantly howling with deafening feedback they're doing "okay" in their book!

    They likely don't even know what a compressor IS anyway! :smug:

    Sorry I can't be helpful- I guess I'm just venting!

    Best of luck with the "sound men"- and hope that you find yourself in better venues soon!

  16. DC Bass

    DC Bass Supporting Member

    Mar 28, 2010
    Washington DC
    "Ride the faders?"

    That's a GOOD ONE!!! lol!!! :help:

    In my experience, anyone who cares enough to even be behind the board after the first song is competent or better. The knuckleheads are "set it and forget it"- and they usually set it about ten years ago! :D

    Okay- I'll stop my crying now! :)

  17. I'd actually love it if they'd set it and forget it. I run my d.i. post eq, and I can adjust anything I need on stage except the monitors (ideally my amp serves as my main monitor for myself).

    A few nights ago I kept backing off my volume as the sound guy kept turning it up. (He didn't seem to understand what a ballad was.) It finally got to the point to where I couldn't play softly enough to where I wasn't on the verge of feedback! I think these guys believe their only job is to at all times produce as much volume as possible with feed-backing!
  18. That's ok. I think a big reason why I posted here was the need to vent!
  19. Joe Nerve

    Joe Nerve Supporting Member

    Oct 7, 2000
    New York City
    Endorsing artist: Musicman basses
    Here's an idea, how about just staying out of "rawk" clubs, as you and your attitude don't belong there anyway. You're clearly out of any rocker's league as you have developed your own type of music that defies category. And with such a unique technique as yours, that's super dependent on dynamics and on notes blossoming and swelling, well... yeah, stay out of rock clubs and you'll be much happier.

    PS. If I took one of bands into a Jazz club there'd be problems. That's a no brainer. So I don't do it.
  20. fdeck

    fdeck Supporting Member Commercial User

    Mar 20, 2004
    Madison WI
    HPF Technology LLC
    I don't think there's any real problem with rock clubs per se. The issue is more related to dealing with sound technicians who aren't experienced at dealing with acoustical instruments. For upright bassists, it's a source of train wrecks and amusing gig stories.

    Rock folks have "guitarist too loud" stories, and jazz folks have "sound guy never saw an upright bass before" stories.

    There are skilled sound techs out there who can handle both rock and jazz.

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