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What's up with major amplifiction in smaller venues?

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [BG]' started by Rob W, Jan 10, 2006.


  1. Another thread reminded me of this question...

    I'm primarily a classical double bass player (although I do still play electric bass quite regularly).

    Anyway, I was playing a "Messiah" (Handel, that is) gig last month at church in town. I walked into the church to set up and notice that there's basically a rock/gospel band setup on the altar. Some pretty serious amplifiers, and the kicker, the drums had a plexiglass sheild and were all miked up.

    So here I am walking into this same church about to play Handel's Messiah with just my bass, my bow and me (and my dozen or so colleages are about to do the same) playing completely acoustically in this pretty big space. Well, us little string players, and a few assorted winds plus a small choir made a pretty formidable, and inspiring racket all on our own purely acoustically.

    So I guess my question is, why on earth would these folks be needing to mike a DRUM SET, which also begs the question, how the heck loud is everything else? And WHY? This just wasn't all that big a place, and most churches I know have very good acoustics.
     
  2. Munjibunga

    Munjibunga Total Hyper-Elite Member Gold Supporting Member

    May 6, 2000
    San Diego (when not at Groom Lake)
    Independent Contractor to Bass San Diego
    It is God's will.
     
  3. ok pretty much drums are too loud, so they cover em. now there too quiet so by miking em we have a volume which can be adjusted and is spread all over the room. also drummer can go hard (definition my friend) and not drown out the stage
     
  4. Aaron Saunders

    Aaron Saunders

    Apr 27, 2002
    Ontario
    Rob, was there a Tenor in the show by the name of Tim Stiff?
     
  5. Trevorus

    Trevorus

    Oct 18, 2002
    Urbana, IL
    Controlling the drums is the reason for the screen and the mic'ing. And the big amps, headroom. At least for us bass players. I can shake the whole place I play in with my 410 and my 540 watts. But I don't. My guitarist uses a small 15 amp tube combo, and the other one a larger 410 60 watt tube combo, but it is mic'ed as is the other one. I am plugged in direct. It is mostly about proper control of the sound setup, and proper monitoring onstage.
     
  6. All right - point taken. It's just, where I come from, if you want to be quieter, you simply play quieter. I just sometimes feel that players that rely so heavily on gear and riding sound levels never really tap into their true potential dynamic range. It is possible to play an extremely astronomical dynamic range without using a single fader or volume pedal. I know - I'm required to do it every day. When you play acoustically 95% of the time like I do, I guess it's more natural to adjust my playing than to reach for a volume control.

    Still, I know drummers probably do like to play full out from time to time, so some reduction in sound might help them. I was just really surprised to see mics on the drums in such a small room.
     
  7. Trevorus

    Trevorus

    Oct 18, 2002
    Urbana, IL
    I understand the dynamics thing. I tend to play with my volume a little higher and use my hands to play the dynamics of the song, rather than adjusting volumes all the time.
     
  8. ras1983

    ras1983

    Dec 28, 2004
    Sydney, Australia
    you can't get the same dynamic range from an electric instrument that you can get from an accoustic indtrument. its actually quite difficult becayse the electronics don't allow for as much leighway as an accoustic instrument.

    its possible to get some range, but you will have much more with you double bass.
     
  9. Philbiker

    Philbiker Pat's the best!

    Dec 28, 2000
    Northern Virginia, USA
    +10!
     
  10. Philbiker

    Philbiker Pat's the best!

    Dec 28, 2000
    Northern Virginia, USA
    I disagree. You can get massively huge amounts of dynamic range from an electric instrument. Practice Practice Practice!
     
  11. Minger

    Minger

    Mar 15, 2004
    Rochester, NY
    At my church they use an electric set for the drums, which may be better for everyone on stage, but it very well may just annoy the drummer - who knows. One of the local churches around here is like that, except their P&W team is like 30+ people, with a variety of instruments, but man, thats a big church...
     
  12. ras1983

    ras1983

    Dec 28, 2004
    Sydney, Australia
    i agree, that's what i've been doing and it has been paying dividends. i get excited when i wonder how much more i will improve as time goes on. i actually feel guilty when i don't practice because i know that i am only cheating myself and delayingmy progress.
     
  13. Maybe you have since rethought your position a bit, but...

    Remember, I also play quite a bit of electric bass and electric guitar so I'm pretty familiar with the dynamic range of those instruments too. They really can have as big a contrast as a double bass.

    One project I work with is an early Genesis tribute band where I play not only electric bass, but 12 string electric guitar and 12 string acoustic (albeit with a pickup). If you're not familiar with old Genesis material, they were easily the rock band with THE biggest dynamic range. We play a song called 'The Musical Box' which on my electric 12 string I have to go from pppp to fff pretty much instantly. I don't even touch my volume pedal or control at all during that song.

    The real trick is to learn how to play excessively quietly and still have good control and tone. It does take a lot of practice but if you keep using a volume pedal or fader as a crutch, you'll never really learn to play all that well quietly.

    Most of the double bass students that come to me generally play from about mp to mf (medium soft to medium loud) and I think this pretty true about a lot of players in general. Very few people ever really learn to play at a complete whisper. A few more have had some sucess on the loud end, but even then, I can usually get a lot more sound out of them than they think they had in them.

    Anyway, the apparent power will come more from the CHANGE in volume than the actual volume. This is a bit of an aside, but when I hear some metal bands who play loud 100% of the time, I actually find them less powerfull sounding after a while in comparision to some of the bands like Maiden, Priest and Scorpions whose louds sound loud because they also have so many quiter sections to contrast with.
     
  14. godoze

    godoze

    Oct 21, 2002
    The church i play in has 10 Crown 1000w power amps ! But we do not use any amps on stage...everything goes direct.
     
  15. Pearly Gator

    Pearly Gator

    Dec 10, 2005
    SoCal
    We have a plexiglass shield and mic our drums, too. According to my drummer, the skins need to be hit with a reasonable amount of force to get the right "bounce back" response from the drum heads. (I never really understood instruments that you have to strike, but I digress.)

    At our church, the snare and cymbals really cut and the bass drum does not. (~600 seat room) The bass drum mic is actually run through two JBL 2X18 subs, along with the bass guitar to balance everything out.

    Gator
     
  16. There's a certain amount of energy you get from playing a little more loudly. I know for a fact that I play much better when I don't feel like I'm stepping on musical egg-shells.

    Our church used to plexiglass the drummer as well, but found that it really did nothing but change the direction of the sound, not the overall volume. We ended up with a set of electronic drums which did a WAY better job of reducing stage noise then plexiglass. You would have to have some kind of sound deadening material for that to work.

    I happen to use a 400-watt 4X10 on stage, not because I ever have it cranked. Its usually around 2 or 3. The reason I have this gear is for outside gigs or for jamming. Its like having your average car which can do well over 65MPH. What the HECK do you need 65MPH for if the speed limit is only 30?? The answer is this: You're not always driving in town.

    As for the MICs on the drums, this gives the soundman some flexibility in how the Mains sound. For instance, it allows him to bring out the kick, add compression etc. Even though you believe the drums are too loud already, that's probably only the snare/toms. There are other parts of the set that you cannot hear at the same levels, so the Mics give the soundman the ability to give a balanced sound around the whole audience.

    I have done a lot of sound over the years and I have always found that the weakest part of an acoustic kit is the Kick and HH, depending on the drummer of course. An acoustic Kick just doesn't sound the same as it does on a CD, so I always like to treat it a little. Same with cymbals, adding a little more sizzle and a little less clang.

    - Andrew
     
  17. But basically what you are describing is 'pilot error' in a sense. A really well trained drummer (or any other musician) ought to be able to better balance their own relative levels. If their bass drum, or whatever, sounds weak, maybe the player could do something about it directly by playing differently.

    No offense, but in a lot of cases, I find sound reinforcement and sound balancing is a substitute for poor technique on the part of the individual player. Hey, why adjust your technique when the sound engineer can just fix it? In the old days we just practiced our instrument more carefully.

    When I record, I almost always insist an engineer use NO compression whatsoever. If there are balance or level problems, that's my fault, and it's mine to fix.

    And your point about "An acoustic Kick just doesn't sound the same as it does on a CD" I contend it's the other way around. Most recorded bass drum sounds sound nothing whatsoever like the original acoustic bass drum that was recorded. So what do you expect? At that point, people may as well use an electronic bass drum if they are not going to even attempt to go for a 'natural' sounding acoustic bass drum sound . And if you did that, it would be super easy to set the basic volume as low or high as needed.
     
  18. I agree, most drummers I play with have been playing a long time and can generally get a well balanced sound out of their kit, however, the BD and HH are invariable they ones that don't cut through like I feel they should. The problem is that the drummers don't know there's a problem. They're not in the audience when they're playing so they can't possibly know if they're hitting the BD hard enough. In addition, to get the best sound out to the audience you need to A) get it through the system and B) sculpt the sound. You need to give each instrument their own chunk of the frequency pie.

    You probably have noted this since you've already recorded, but if you were to solo a recorded track the way its going to be mixed, it will sound NOTHING like the actual instrument. The guitar will have its bottom chopped off, the BD will be loud and present in the mix with much of the attack frequencies boosted etc. This is the sound that the audience has come to expect, they want recorded style music and will think something is off when they hear something that differs from what they hear on CD. That being said, we also have to consider that many drummers are playing with inexpensive kits with poor sounding pieces. I know its like polishing a turd sometimes, but at least its a shiny turd :)

    I've done a lot of mixing and a lot of recording (not a professional in either case) and read quite a lot so I've had much to mull over. I've finally come to the conclusion that I have to put aside my principals and do what's right for the music. If that means pulling the flute player out of the mix and risk offending the husband, that slider is hitting the ground! If that means shaving the top and bottom from the guitar so the bass and flute can be heard clearly, hey, I'm there. If I have to notch a spot for the vocals to sit over top of the piano, its already done. If that means fiddling with the BD until it doesn't sound like the acoustic BD, that's already done too. Its done all the time live and in recordings.

    I like to use compression for various other effects, not just levelling, but if there's a problem I'm going to correct it. The drummer will hear about it, but I'm not going to make the audience suffer for my principals.

    - Andrew

     
  19. And don't you think that is completely backwards? ;)

    It's really getting to the point where people don't know what purely acoustic instruments are supposed to sound like anymore.

    Last year my orchestra did a Broadway style review at the smaller theatre in town, where the house sound man wasn't used to working with orchestra. It was the same sort of thing - we walked in and the dude was trying to amplify EVERYTHING. Now, we're used to playing in a 2000 seat concert hall purely acoustically so we felt we really didn't need the mics in this hall that was less than half the size.

    I was the only bass on this gig, and as I walked in the sound man says to me, "where's your pickup? I thought you were going direct". I just looked at him at basically told him that I never use a pickup on my bass, and told him I basically thought he was going a bit overkill in this size of hall.

    To make a long story short, at the break during the first rehearsal he came up to me raving that he's never heard a bass sound so good and had no idea how much sound a double bass could make. He was absolutely astounded I could fill the hall without a pickup or mic. I wasn't - that's what I've been trained to do.

    The guy had likely never heard what a good acoustic double bass actually sounds like since he always mikes or amplifies them. We must not forget what the instruments are supposed to sound like all on their own.

    Also, I can't tell you how many times an orchestra I've played in has received a standing ovation, which isn't really particularly deserved especially, from audiences not normally accustomed to hearing live acoustic instruments played with reasonable competance. They are clapping so much because they can't believe how impressive it sounds. As I said, it's not that I feel we even played especially wonderfully, people have just forgotten how good instruments can sound all on their own.

    People are hardly ever hearing live music anymore, now we're starting to lose sight of what individual instruments actually DO sound like since they are are almost always miked or amplified in most live situations that still exist. It just seems a little twisted to me. :meh:
     
  20. Greg Clinkingbeard

    Greg Clinkingbeard

    Apr 4, 2005
    Kansas City area
    Setup and repair/KRUTZ Strings
    Rob,
    I 'used' to be an audiophile. The endless attitude that Stereophile and the other rags had regarding the superiority of acoustic instruments really burned me on the whole thing. I think that each has it's place.
    My family and I attend Symphony and Chamber concerts several times a year and my son is a good cellist, so I have trememdous admiration for acoustic instruments. I studied DB with the principal Bassist with the local symphony for a few years myself.

    Right now, I play Bass in my church's worship band and we mike the drums and mix all instruments into the PA to allow the soundguy full control of the overall sound. It works for us.

    If you or anyone else can make a drum kit move enough air to hit 1000 people in the gut without miking it, and compete with bass, two guitars and keys, I'm open to suggestions.

    Like you, I enjoy acoustic music in churches, but it isn't the only way people get closer to God. Churches should exist to do just that. Most people listen to electric music and I believe that a church's mission should be to reach people where they are rather than expect them to adapt to what some think may be superior, but not as applicable to their daily lives.

    Fortunately, people can find the church that is right for them. :) :)