You are in a BAND.
An Editorial and Rant. A
rather scathing one.
(A Rantatorial? An Editorirant?)
Even if it is your name that is on the marquee,
you are in a band. This means adjusting to the venue so
that the soundperson can get the best result. Better sound = more
fun for the listeners = more and better-paying gigs for the band = more
money in your pocket.
Drummers and Percussionists: Get
your emotional high from creating the groove of the music, not from the
physio-psychological pleasure of pounding on things. If
you are too loud, it will be impossible to get a proper mix at a
suitable volume level. You will be screwing the
band. I've been told "I can't play differently just
because we're in a bad/small/cavernous room." If I
can learn to choose a pool cue of correct (lighter) weight and to use it
properly (instead of pounding the crap out of the cue ball), you can learn
to choose lighter sticks and to use them properly.
You'll discover that you have more dexterity and feeling, and the band
will sound a lot better. Even
beyond that, skilled professionals adapt to the situation. When
the situation demanded it, I've seen drummers put towels on the drums,
use much smaller sticks, use brushes, and even play with their hands.
Instrumentalists: The volume
control on your amplifier has settings between those of 0 and 11.
Please use them. Your fun should come from the feeling the vibe of
the song and the crowd, not from feeling your speakers vibrate your
body. If you are too loud, it will be impossible to get a proper
mix at a suitable volume level. You will be screwing
Guitarist: "But I can't get my sound!".
You may be hearing a fat, punchy guitar sound from your speakers that
are pointing at your knees, but what the audience* gets is loud and
tinny as hell. Point the speakers (you only need one anyway - why
are you still lugging that heavy-ass thing around?) at your head
(preferably from in front of you) and adjust your rig to get what you
want. (*Some of them. Guitar cabinets, especially the
traditional 4x half stack, have very narrow dispersion. The folks
it's aimed at get a ton of highs. Everyone else gets mud.
The PA disperses all over, so use it, not your cabinet.) (And oh
yea - please get your levels together! The distorted lead is
supposed to be the loud sound, and the clean rhythm the quiet one.)
* A case in point: The guitarist's 4x12 was pointed right at me, at the center of the back wall.
It was too loud and a little bright, even though I was about 70' away - and this was after I had him turn it down.
Over at the side of the room however, all I could hear from it was the bottom end.
Onstage, the guitarist said he could not hear it. I walked up to the (18" high) stage, and the guitar was
way too loud on the dance floor.
I had him come down on the dance floor, and he affirmed that he could hear it fine (even though he was now six to eight feet farther away from the cabinet).
We put the 4x12 on a chair. With it now elevated and tilting back slightly, it was pointing at his head -
where his ears are - instead of at the crowd. He could hear it fine, after a little
tweaking he liked the tone better, and it was now sufficiently quiet in the crowd that it could be mic'd so everyone could hear it, and at the right volume in the mix.
Bassist: Your sound on stage may be much
thinner than you like, but out in the room there is way too much upper
bass (anywhere from 80Hz to 200Hz. Try this: Use your EQ to take
below 300Hz, so the soundperson can put you in the PA nice
and loud. Then put back in only what the soundperson says is not
screwing up the sound out front. With your rig no longer overloading the room with
upper bass, and running hot in the subs you'll have a better sound out
fromt than ever before, and may feel your bass like never before as well.
(Oh: when you "spank the plank", the highs either kill the
folks at whom your cabinet is aimed, or blast into the vocal mics.
Point your rig at your ears so you can hear what you are actually
putting out). The only live bass sounds I have heard
that I'd say were beyond the ordinary were
from only three bassists. One had a very small rig in a very big
room. One used only a single 12" speaker aimed at his head
from beside his vocal monitor. One used no rig - just the monitors
for definition and the spill off of the house for feeling. In all
three cases, the lack of the usual mud coming off the stage allowed the
bass to be hot in the PA, and without any squirrelly EQ to
compensate for the stage mud. Such deep, smooth, punchy, and
articulate bass I have never heard from anyone else. (The single
12" guy later went to in-ear monitors and abandoned his stage rig
altogether. No speaker, no monitor wedge: a new quality standard
for bass sound.)
Keyboardist: The above gripes and recommendations apply to you was
well. Also: It's a rare keyboardist that has his/her patches at
least close to the same volume level. This is a problem with many
keyboards as they come from the factory (and effects units too, so you
are not alone). Please fix this!
Vocalists: Stay as close
to the mic as possible, preferably at 0" but certainly no more than
2". And project, especially when speaking
(especially when in a noisy bar)! If you don't, your tone will be
very thin and/or you will not be heard, as the soundperson is likely
using all of the gain before feedback that there is to be had. In
the rare occurrence of you feeling that you are too loud, do not back
off of the mic, just ask the soundperson to turn you down in the
monitors. (This almost never happens - you will make the
soundperson's day.) (If you are too loud only when you are really
belting it out, ask the soundperson if he can put a little compression
on your vocal.)
At a suitable volume level:
With the best gear and the best soundperson, it may be possible to get
the vocal monitors loud enough that everyone in the band is happy even
if everything on stage is too loud. The problem is that there will
be so much vocal mud coming out front from the monitors that it may not
be possible to get the vocals hot enough in the PA to get a decent
sound. If it is possible, it'll be too loud. It's not loud
that makes the band sound powerful, it's articulation and
a deep, powerful bottom end*. The fewer sources a sound comes from, the more
articulate it will be. The quieter you are on stage,
the more you can be in the PA, and the better you will be heard
throughout the room. Better tone, better articulation, more balls, less
loud. More fun, more $. (*Low bass, not what a bass rig puts
out - most peak at about B above open A, with a secondary peak at about
F above open E - by the time you get down to your open B, harmonics and distortion
are all that come out. Regrettably, most subs are not tuned so as
to do much better, but thankfully some manage a little bit of real