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Venues with weird acoustics?

Discussion in 'Live Sound [BG]' started by paulears, Jul 7, 2016.

  1. Anyone else discovered venues with really odd acoustics? We're all used to the reverberant ones, the totally dead ones and that kind of thing, but we recently found a really strange one. A modern theatre, holding about 800 or so, and the support for us was a Stevie Wonder tribute. Him, a synth and a track. The rear was a vertical concrete surface, that the upper boxes of the line array were firing straight into, and the slap back was loud and did very strange things. His track sounded like it was playing backwards! That old fashioned sound you got when turning a record turntable backwards - sort of whap, whap, whap - totally strange, and very offputting.

    I think it might just have been a tempo thing where the time delay on the track was beating with the delay of the slap back echo. It didn't cause us any problems at all - just messed his track up so badly he had difficulty hearing it!
  2. Everywhere we play has bad acoustics. I'm immune to poor acoustics.
    It isn't until we play a gig, and everyone in the band is saying how great we sounded, that someone
    points out the obvious; This venue has really good acoustics.....oh, yeah, of course. Doh.

    Last gig we played, and I ain't naming names because we want to play there again, was like playing in a cave.
    Dive bar, low ceilings, former retail store with concrete walls, stage was the old display platform in the front window, yes our back drop was glass.
    Having never played there, we were told they had a backline and PA. Just show up with your instruments.
    Now I certainly don't want to bad rap Fender or Peavey as I own amps of both makes but, as any discriminating girl will tell you, size matters.
    Upon arrival, we see (1) 30watt Peavey guitar amp, (1) Fender Rumble 100, a no name drum kit and an unknown PA system. PA consisted of a board, amp and a few wooden speaker cabinets percariously hung from the ceiling that looked like the were scavenged from an old stereo system. The PA mixer board was on a stool between me and the drummer.
    Every 5 minutes the club manager would walk on stage and make minor adjustments to the board which required me to move aside and into the guitarists personal space.
    Needless to say, the sound that night was a strained, muddled mess. Great crowd though.
    And yes, I wanna play there again. I'm immunized and up to date with all my shots. Rumble2. Rumble1. Rumble.
    s0c9 likes this.
  3. I run sound for a venue which still doesn't have the best acoustics, but has really improved over the past three years. It used to sound almost as good as a racketball court - but now has progressed to at least MUCH better. That said - it really isn't bad when you consider that its got wooden floors, lots of windows, and a big flat wall, along with an 18 foot ceiling, mezzanine, and overhand - where the mezz is in a horseshoe over the room.

    When I first played there, people would hold their ears and leave in a few minutes, and no matter what we did - were told it was way too loud, and at one point, we among many didn't get hired back. I sat out front while a friend sat in and just said....wow this is loud and painful. Downsized my rig, asked guitars to do the same for this venue, and they kind of did but were still pretty loud as was I. Drummer unplugged was painful.

    cut ahead - I was able to solicit donations and bout some low end acoustic panels, which were cheaper/similar cost to making some, and looked better (finished). Installed them, with permission from venue, and use moving blankets on windows for the shows, and take down after. Also attained a very heavy 15x18 2" thick rug that we use for "stage" as there isn't really one. it weighs about 300#. bought flat dollies to load it on an move after shows.

    Sound like a PITA? It is...... but its the only way I knew to address the issues in a room that needed it. The painful part is that after the shows, sometimes it all has to come down, cannot install lights, or speakers, since it is a banquet room at a golf course, and needs to be set back up as such. On a more positive note, 3.5 going on 4 years, weekly blues jams, and shows, and creation/growth of a new blues society, and presentation of multiple international touring acts coming to our place, and working with us to put blues in an area/place where it just wasn't before.

    So - I say all that to say all this.....

    If there is anything you can do in a room with issues, do what you can do. Sometimes, it might only be cutting volume and lows. THAT is as important as anything, and your ability to make an effort is as important as the material you play, and they manner in which you play it. even in an acoustically hostile room. the more bags of blood in the room, the better also. Try not to chase them out, and do the best you can with what you have.

    I know some people will assassinate what I am saying, but that is my experience, and have used it to my advantage in MANY settings. It doesn't always help - but I don't think it EVER hurts.

    Some venues don't care, know, or get it - and probably won't. As performers, we HAVE to get it, and try to adjust from there.
  4. jthisdell

    jthisdell Supporting Member

    Jun 12, 2014
    Roanoke, VA
    There is a new performance hall near me that sits maybe 600 or so. Before they opened it they really tuned the room and installed a wonderful sound system. So a room with wonderful acoustics, now that is weird.
    Frankjohnson likes this.
  5. I liked dtripoli's comment on caves - we have actually played in one, underground - and we were really surprised that the acoustics were really good - amazing really. Cornwall. Get in down a path, through the entrance then down, and down and down. Stage at the end - seats on the slope heading down to the stage. Loads of room. Acoustics beautiful - and not at all what we expected. The downside was water. Everywhere. The guy told us to set up wherever there wasn't a stain on the floor. Stalactites in the making, in a few thousand years. Was a good gig, but really odd when there is a click, and all the power goes off. Including emergency lights. It's amazing how dark absolutely no light is. Nobody panicked, being down a cave system in total darkness. Our sound guy knew where the sound breaker was, and reset it - but had no idea where the lights were powered from. So we asked the audience if they wanted us to play on - in the dark, and they said yes. It's bizarre playing in the dark! We'd say yes without question if they did it again. After the show, they took us on a tour and showed us a large underground lake that has silent drips! In the middle of the water, a constant drip plops into the crystal clear water, but the acoustics of the chamber cancel out the noise. You see the drip hit the water, and the ripples expanding out - but it makes no noise whatsoever!

    Hows that for OT!
  6. Slapback is horrible to play along to. Playing on the town green with the buildings right across the way kind of ruins the treat of playing outside.
  7. Spent


    May 15, 2011
    Upstate NY
    My band used to play a club that was a former indoor rock climbing business. The ceiling was very irregular, it had a number of concave curves, hard to explain. Oh, and an old pterodactyl hanging from it. The sound was pretty good for a small venue. Not sure if the pterodactyl had anything to do with it.
  8. I was stationed in Korea in the mid 80s and there was a club that had a setup like that - WITH The Dact! funny - I forgot all about that until you mentioned this....

    sorry for the hijack -
    Spent likes this.
  9. Spent


    May 15, 2011
    Upstate NY
    How were the acoustics? We could be on to something here.
  10. I didn't play then - all I remember is flourescent paint and blacklights, and some alcohol being served......and then making out with my shoe, and being in a cab and then getting woken up to go run 5 miles uphill the the entire way while being yelled at and having my stomach contents try to visit the pavement
  11. Crater


    Oct 12, 2011
    Dallas, TX area
    I played a club in Dallas' 'Deep Ellum' area, the venue built a very sketchy "loft/stage" over the bar - this place probably had a 12 or 14 foot high ceiling. But right over the stage where the drum kit would go was a big skylight. So there's a square boxed in area about 6' x 6' x 8 feet tall from the ceiling to the roof. It created a weird resonance & flutter echo. And the stage joists were undersized, to the floor would flex and bounce if you jumped around.

    Another time a friend of mine set up a blues jam at a local university. They played outside, but in the middle of a semi-circular courtyard formed by a building. The building's two stories tall and sheathed in glass. Result, intense slapback echo. Round rooms and domed rooms are the worst at reflecting sounds.
    pglaser01 likes this.
  12. 4Mal

    4Mal Supporting Member

    Jun 2, 2002
    Columbia River Gorge
    In weird rooms, It often toe speakers in and tip them down. Just lokein a tent. Keep sound off the ceiling and walls hope that there will be a crowd and that they move in...
  13. Yes we play a few weird rooms as well, I normally record my settings from rooms I play in regularly, but there are two that haven't played fair, I have at least 5 different settings that I need to try for each in order to get a workable tone with the room's acoustics. One place not only sucks the tone out of the bass, but it does the same to the drummers cymbals, other is brick wall with a indented area (fireplace) where the drummer set up it also has a cement floor both of these places are in our club rotation both I hit once a month.
  14. Biggbass


    Dec 14, 2011
    Planet Earth
    most of them have bad acoustics. I think the reason being that most venues originate as a business to sell food & bev and the addition of music is sometimes an afterthought. And if not, then the staging area is whatever space they can turn into a band stand on Saturday night and still convert back to tables for the Sunday brunch.
  15. seanm

    seanm I'd kill for a Nobel Peace Prize! Supporting Member

    Feb 19, 2004
    Ottawa, Canada
    We played one venue where the bass was really boomy. So I cut back the bass and everything was fine.

    A month later, same venue, same location for amp, I needed a bit of a bass boost since the bass was a bit lacking.

    Seemed to be about the same crowd both times. Have no idea why the bass was at different ends of the spectrum :atoz:
  16. Grumry


    Jul 6, 2016
    Did a festival last month inside a tent that held a few thousand people. During sound check we had about a half second slap back that was pretty unbearable in our IEMs.

    5 hours later and a few thousand heads to absorb the reflections helped. Everything went better than expected.

    I also suspect the foh guy had his talk back on during sound check but we all have our theories.
  17. morgansterne

    morgansterne Geek U.S.A.

    Oct 25, 2011
    Cleveland Ohio
    We played a nice little bar restaurant a couple years ago. We were running our own sound back then, no drum mics needed. The drums had to be set up in a little alcove with tall windows around it. The kick drum had a bizarre ring to it. Long and kinda high pitched. This is even with all mics off, though it really sounded like mic feedback. Same drummer and drum set we always had.
    After the first set we draped a couple winter jackets over the kick drum and put a mic in there. This solved the problem pretty well. We never did want to go back there though.

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