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Kramerguy

My "too loud" complaint

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So...  Just something that's been gnawing on my mind the last few months. 

 

I'm from the 80's, cut my teeth on everything from Led Zep to Metallica and from Duran Duran to Stevie Ray, good times :)

As an electric guitarist in these mostly rock-based cover bands throughout my life, I learned early on that 1) if there's another guitarist in the band, there's a 99% chance he's going to always be louder than me, and 2) If I try to turn up to get anywhere near his volume, he will just turn up more (not all, but most). For some reason many guitarists from that era are super competitive and feel the need to blast out any other guitarists.

For that reason, I had always taken a back seat to them, avoiding the competition, and just dialed myself into the mix initially and left myself there, even after everyone else continued to ratchet up their volumes song after song in an endless competition to see who can permanently damage their hearing first.  Of course I was buried in the mix at that point, but when things get to a certain level, it all sounds like garbage anyways, especially in smaller venues and practice spaces.

Fast forward to today...  I've been recently trying to put together a side project, specifically post-rock, and more specifically the no-vocals types of dream-pop and shoegaze post-rock.  The guitar work in this type of music is very intricate, and requires a tone that can cut through the mix and retain it's dynamic nature.  Shimmering cleans, and jangly echoes, reverb out the wazoo, some fuzz or dirt here or there, generally- a wall of sound, sometimes subtle, other times it builds into a tsunami.  All of the guitar work I do in it is carefully crafted to be very dynamic, and yet it's completely lost to crankers. 

I recently worked with 2 local groups, and in both cases, the bass and drums were so obnoxiously loud that words cannot properly define the absurdity of it.  With the first band, I just caved to the mix.  All that great tone I've spend half a lifetime creating and perfecting, just lost in the mix.  I did try to match them and turn up as needed, but some point I did a solo and left my boost on, and was still being drowned out, gave up and just stopped trying to overcome it.

With the second band, I tried a new approach.  I turned up, several times to match both of them.  They actually told me I was too loud, several times that night.  I explained to them that the style of music is completely focused on the guitar (and keyboard) being the "lead" parts and that the rhythm section shouldn't be burying them in the mix.  The one guy looked at me like I was an idiot and the other just stopped acknowledging me.  I used a zoom recorder to record it, and even with me "too loud", I was being drowned out by bass (with too many fx on it too) and what may be the loudest effin drummer I've ever played with.  The guy rode the crash symbols so hard that I was still hearing them 2 hours after I left.

So while in both cases, all of the guys had good chops, timing, and musicianship.  Yet at the same time, none seemed to understand dynamic.  It's just jack that crap to 11 and hold onto something...  How can people my own age still be stuck in this cycle?  Why does it seem like the majority of them rather than a minority, just don't get it- which is what I would think that over time these guys should have learned?  I'm just beside myself today, thinking about it, listening back to the recordings and face palming it.

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you have my empathy, as I have been dealing with this on and off for decades. If you are the band leader, it is incumbent on you to set theh groundrules, including on stage volume.  llowing the rhythm section to become overbearing is not acceptable. Nip this crap in the bud, or it will not stop on its own.

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Jamming on guitar at open mics, I learned I had learned to play so I could distinctly hear what notes I played. This is vital to noobs (me) and crappy blues guys as well. Reason is, if you can't hear the note, you hands don't know up or down or what. A local sax veteran is like that. he starts nearly every solo or entry with a test note. lol. I can't speak for rock giggers but opinion wise I suspect this to be the case with volume outbreaks.

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Since you are the one putting together the project, you're the boss thus you set the rules

however

a creative process being open to ideas/options could also be favorable....

As a "wind player" I have experienced way-too-many guitarists that over play (volume wise)....usually these guitar players are into Rock/Blues (which is not nearly as technical to play as  jazz/classical).

It's tough the shake the Rock out of a Rock guitarist IMO.

Maybe you should be looking for a jazz/classical guitarist with a little more musicianship/finess?

 

 

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Even with bands who try to control volume it can get out of hand.  Ear fatigue is a thing and volume will creep up as the sets go on.

I have learned to play only with those who get dynamics and how to play well with others.  There are plenty  technically proficient players around who somehow don't get how to leave space and play in a group.

IMO it's more than just volume.  Overplaying is my pet peeve.

 

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On 1/7/2020 at 7:23 AM, Mike M said:

Since you are the one putting together the project, you're the boss thus you set the rules

however

a creative process being open to ideas/options could also be favorable....

As a "wind player" I have experienced way-too-many guitarists that over play (volume wise)....usually these guitar players are into Rock/Blues (which is not nearly as technical to play as  jazz/classical).

It's tough the shake the Rock out of a Rock guitarist IMO.

Maybe you should be looking for a jazz/classical guitarist with a little more musicianship/finess?

well, not to urinate in your breakfast cereal, but I have worked with plenty of 'wind' players who abuse the microphone, over play and are impossible to control...bassists, drummers, keyboardists, violinists, cellists, vocalists and pedal steel players as well. It is about being a team player, and understanding that the overall sound is as much affected by what you DON'T play as what you do...:wave:

I have always approached band situations as preferring to be asked to play louder rather than being told to turn down...:philthumb:

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I used to belong to a blues society. I would go to the jam sessions, play sax on the first set, and leave because the volume escalation of the guitarists simply got too loud even for my 25db musician's ear plugs.

There is more to musicianship than just playing well. In a band setting the musician must listen well too. That includes playing to complement each other and always to support whatever voice or instrument is singing or playing the lead at any particular time. The idea is for the band to blend with each other but not be as loud as the lead.

If any musician in the band can't do that, IMO all the chops and timing in the world won't make him/her a good musician.

Notes

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Notes is on to something: ' all the chops and timing in the world won't make him/her a good musician "

"Chops" is basically a player's technical facility on any given instrument.  Musicianship is the other 90% that makes a musician out of a player.

Do you want to make a player turn it down??  Put some sheet music in front of him...

A musician would not have to be told to turn it down.

 

 

 

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Sorry to hear it. Yours is the opposite of my experience playing in a praise band. Our former vocalist used to yell that "The guitars are too loud!" whenever my amp was loud enough that I could hear it while standing next to it. Some months ago the band was rehearsing before worship and the Choir Director actually came down front and turned my amp up! Lord but I felt vindicated.

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Every musician should own a sound pressure level meter. Anything over 85db set at A weighting and Slow response means you need ear protection. Anything over 85db when it reaches the audience is harming heir hearing and do you really want to harm the people who come to listen to your music?

Insights and incites by Notes

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that is a very good concept, Notes, but a drum kit can easily generate 125dB+, so unless you are offering earplugs to the entire audience, the 85dB limit goes out the window quickly. I realize you are playing to tracks and using wind synths, so you have total control, but in a live band situation, holding a drummer to a volume/SPL limit is not practical, unless the drummer is well trained and circumspect in his process, and even then, peaks will typically exceed 100dB.

For that matter, working with a live horn section can easily produce sounds in the 100-110dB range...Trumpets and Trombones are the two loudest 'miscreants'. Doing sound for bands with horn sections can be a nightmare, volume balance and mix-wise... I've worked with a number of horn sections, including Oingo Boingo [briefly] in the early 80s, and my own horn section within the recent past. And they always want to be mic'ed!

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since I have a dB meter I've never bothered to dl any of those free meter apps...are they actually accurate? So much would depend on the phone itself, so yes an iPhone or a Samsung might read accurately, but an LG or a Huawei?

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I think the iPhone sound meter app would be the most accurate since the iPhones are all made similar. But for Android, if you have an LG, Samsung, or whatever and which model it could vary widely - I wouldn't trust it. Besides you can get a decent meter for about $50.

BTW, drummers can play with smaller sticks, and not be so loud --horn players can play at appropriate volumes and without mics if needed.

The last 5 piece band I was in played at yacht and country clubs and during the dinner set, we were at 65db on the dance floor, and later during the dance sets we averaged at 85. (Guitar, bass, drums, e-piano, and sax). Being able to do this gave us a lot of very good paying gigs.

An entire symphony orchestra can play at ppp levels. A pro musician should be able to control his/her volume to what is necessary for the audience.

If they are playing louder than 85dba and you want to risk losing your hearing, it's your personal choice. But IMO you shouldn't be hurting your audience. On the other hand, if they want it louder, it's their choice.

That's just my opinion though.

Insights and incites by Notes

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