What's the largest crowd you can play to if the PA is for vocals only?

Discussion in 'Live Sound [BG]' started by matante, Apr 30, 2019.

  1. matante


    Nov 3, 2003
    Let's assume a typical pop/rock band: Drums, Guitar, Keyboard, Bass, and Vocals. The PA is for vocals only. Your mix is going to be based on the acoustic sound of the drums, so it's not a simple matter of turning your amps as loud as they'll go. Assuming it's an indoor gig, how big a crowd can you play to this way?
  2. JRA

    JRA my words = opinion Gold Supporting Member

    depends on the room, but:
    one band = 50-100 people, maybe.
    the other band = 200-300 people, maybe.

    i'd be concerned about the kick in both of my estimates, but i'm pretty confident about the rest of the kit(s). one cat uses the world's loudest snare. i'm not kidding: it's the loudest acoustic snare drum on earth. as we know it. :laugh:
  3. Wasnex


    Dec 25, 2011
    You're going to get a wide range of opinions on this. Ultimately only you can decide, and the answer depends largely upon how you think a band should sound and how loud your drummer is. IMHO the bass drum is the biggest limiting factor on the drum kit.

    I normally reserve vocal only PA for low volume intimate gigs, but I have seen bands play huge fest tents full of people with only vocals in the PA. The drummer on that gig was definitely a heavy hitter. I suggested putting the bass drum in the PA, and IMHO it made a huge difference. Everything else was fairly well balanced. The vocalist were using SM58s so they were picking up quite a bit of bleed from the cymbals. It should be noted that the band was up on about 5" riser. Getting the band up above the water bags (people) will help the sound carry farther.
    matante likes this.
  4. Paulabass


    Sep 18, 2017
    Depends a lot on the size of the room. 25 people in an arena has different needs than 100 people in a small bar.
    In a bar that seats 60, but has like 30 people, a game on etc. You should be able to do vocals only. Fill that same bar to capacity, you'll want some kick drum.
  5. AGCurry

    AGCurry Supporting Member

    Jun 29, 2005
    St. Louis
    A lot of it depends on what the audience is doing. Are they shmoozing? Drinking? Is the band there for background music, listening, or dancing?

    The room - or lack thereof - also is a factor.

    The genre of music is another factor. Country & western audiences tend to like things softer than rock audiences. Same with older audiences of any genre.

    When I was playing in the 1970s, we would seldom mic any instruments. I would say we didn't have problems until the audience numbered > 300... subject to the factors mentioned above.
    Last edited: May 1, 2019
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  6. walterw

    walterw Supportive Fender Commercial User

    Feb 20, 2009

    75 people at an afternoon wine tasting and you're fine, you'll probably still get told to turn down.

    75 rowdy people in a rock club on a saturday night looking to dance and it'll be an embarrassing fail.
  7. I have mixed a rowdy rock band back to just vocals plenty of times. Didn't stop anyone dancing.

    Crowd @ 300, drums were a little thin without the kick so kick + tiddly amps remained in the PA with the vocals.

    With a properly tuned gnarly loud kick drum you could get along fine just vocals and a bit of highpass beater for a bar @ 200. At that level the bar tenders can almost hear the orders from patrons standing fully upright on the other side of the bar.

    Dunno about "rock clubs", that sounds like bringing your own PA to a pay to play event.
  8. Zbysek


    Mar 23, 2017
    Czech Republic
    It depends on the repertoir. You can do tens well. You can also do several hundreds but the resuls wil not be that great...
  9. Steve


    Aug 10, 2001
    If the venue is drinking / dancing volume:*

    less than 200 seats...
    smaller than 60' x 60' room...

    That's with a couple JBL 115's on stick's
    Last edited: May 2, 2019
  10. BwanaDust

    BwanaDust Inactive Commercial User

    Apr 11, 2019
    Pittsburgh, PA
    Lincoln Learning Solutions - Lincoln Park Performing Arts Center
    I agree with you on the bass drum. I'm really lucky to have a drummer with a seriously solid right foot and an excellent custom built set. His kick drum is ridiculous. We can easily cover a 150 - 200 seat venue with nothing but vocals and maybe a little guitar in the mains.
    Wasnex likes this.
  11. ga_edwards


    Sep 8, 2000
    UK, Essex
    We often play like this. At a function (wedding, corporate for example) you only need to cover the dance floor, so you can get away with being fairly restrained. Pubs, depends on the room. But we'll comfortably play to up to 250 people without FOH support for guitars and bass.

    RE bass drums. Even if you're not running anything else but vocals through the FOH, mic up the bass drum. It really helps balance the kit out and give the mix a little punch.

    Also, have you drummer look into these. Totally transforms the bass drum into a punchier, louder and focused tone.
    KickPort International
    matante likes this.
  12. You left out "properly tuned". So many overstuffed kicks out there looking for thump from the microphone instead of WHOMP.
    BwanaDust likes this.
  13. delta7fred


    Jul 3, 2007
    It depends upon the type of gig.

    If the band is the primary focus then it is probably quite a small room/crowd.

    If the band is incidental and some people want to talk then you don't want to swamp the whole room in sound so it can be a much larger room/crowd. The dancers will come to the front and those that want to talk will go where it is quieter so they don't have to shout. This way everyone is happy.
    ga_edwards and Wasnex like this.
  14. BwanaDust

    BwanaDust Inactive Commercial User

    Apr 11, 2019
    Pittsburgh, PA
    Lincoln Learning Solutions - Lincoln Park Performing Arts Center
    Well... Just as I would never work with a guitarist who didn't know how to tune or maintain their instrument, I would never work with a drummer couldn't tune their drums.
  15. 154

    really... If it works, it works. Gotta do what ya gotta do.
  16. I think mostly they do tune them, just not properly! Dru.mers, 'nuff said.