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P.A. guys - bad room - any advice?


mstreck

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Tonight, we're playing a room that normally has acoustic acts. Amy and I paid the venue a visit on and now I know why. It's long and narrow and laid out in a repeating zig zag pattern, with sloped ceilings (each section of the zig zag slopes in a different direction), and we're six feet from the bar - pointed right at it - and so is the sloped ceiling. And there's glass - lots and lots of glass.

 

There was an acoustic act there (two acoustics, bass, light drums) using a single top and that was plenty. Amy and I could barely hold a conversation just from the dinner noise and the music made it pretty impossible.

 

They've already booked us for multiple dates and I don't want to lose them. Any advice for taming this room? Our first set is going to be acoustic (Amy, Dave, and sometimes Mike) so we don't disturb the dinner crowd. Then we're going full band for sets 2 and 3. The guitars and bass will be running direct - no amps.

 

I know this is a little last-minute, but I'm all ears...

 

Thanks!

 

Mike

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We need to set up quickly and quietly. There's really no time to tweak the PA, so I was thinking we could use one top and one sub just so we have it if we need it. Since we're going direct, our sound guy has control of the volume of everyone except our drummer, so he's the wild card.

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curious why you have separate eq's for tops and subs?

 

 

Really, I shouldn't have said that because I don't know if that is the configuration. I didn't set it up. It may not be like that, but we have two of them in the FOH rack.

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Really, I shouldn't have said that because I don't know if that is the configuration. I didn't set it up. It may not be like that, but we have two of them in the FOH rack.

 

 

might be using it for monitors unless you are running the PA in stereo. Is your soundman onstageor out front? Since your running direct it shouldn't be too big an issue as long as your drummer can play quiet.

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Haha! We'll find out soon enough!

 

 

good luck! The worst room I have played I had to sacrifice sound for articulation, and keep the volume way down. You probably wont get a chance to play with speaker placement, but that can help also.

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Gosh, I hate rooms where having music as an afterthought. But these days, it seems to be about half of them, around here anyway. As others have said, the key to those weird rooms filled with hard surfaces is volume control. Even mild snare drum hits are going to cause people to flinch in those rooms, so you might have to adapt. We did one room where the drummer wrapped his entire snare in a beach towel and he played with blastix and surprisingly it worked. Those kind of rooms seem to amplify sound the further out it goes, so take your time dialing it in if you can. If you can't, make sure you start out really low. It's always better to be asked to turn up than to turn down.

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Anytime I'm mixing in that type of space, I have a talk with the band before hand about the importance of everyone keeping levels down which always starts with the drummer. In your case, the drummer will be the only one to blame if things are too loud. As Pat said, he might need to come up with some new ways to keep levels down if he's not use to playing at dinner jazz levels. Towels on some drums may be necessary evils and a smallish piece of gaff tape under a cymbal can do wonders without too much effect on the sizzle.

 

Reflective hard surfaced restaurants are designed to be loud to make the customers think it's a happening place no matter if it's busy or not. Adding a loud band to the mix can make for a very difficult might. We still talk about an early gig in this type of room that kicked our butts. Another good thing is to keep as much of the PA sound off the walls as possible. Tilting the speakers down towards the tables some can help with that quite a bit. Any chance of putting a curtain up behind the drummer?

 

Good luck.

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Anytime I'm mixing in that type of space, I have a talk with the band before hand about the importance of everyone keeping levels down which always starts with the drummer. In your case, the drummer will be the only one to blame if things are too loud. As Pat said, he might need to come up with some new ways to keep levels down if he's not use to playing at dinner jazz levels. Towels on some drums may be necessary evils and a smallish piece of gaff tape under a cymbal can do wonders without too much effect on the sizzle.


Reflective hard surfaced restaurants are designed to be loud to make the customers think it's a happening place no matter if it's busy or not. Adding a loud band to the mix can make for a very difficult might. We still talk about an early gig in this type of room that kicked our butts. Another good thing is to keep as much of the PA sound off the walls as possible. Tilting the speakers down towards the tables some can help with that quite a bit.
Any chance of putting a curtain up behind the drummer?


Good luck.

 

Better yet, put it in front of the drummer.:idea: Not only will it help dampen the sound but the diners won't get ill watching him drool on his drumheads.:lol:

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Anytime I'm mixing in that type of space, I have a talk with the band before hand about the importance of everyone keeping levels down which always starts with the drummer.
In your case, the drummer will be the only one to blame if things are too loud
. As Pat said, he might need to come up with some new ways to keep levels down if he's not use to playing at dinner jazz levels. Towels on some drums may be necessary evils and a smallish piece of gaff tape under a cymbal can do wonders without too much effect on the sizzle.

 

 

 

Well, no.

 

The venue is to blame for booking bands that aren't appropriate for the space, and the band is to blame for booking in a space that's not appropriate for them to play in.

 

It's really easy for anybody besides a drummer to talk about playing more quietly, especially when they don't have to do anything to achieve lower volume; the equipment handles all of that for them.

There are certainly ways for an acoustic drummer to play at lower volumes, but one has to keep in mind theres only so much volume one can cut when playing an acoustic drum with sticks. Swapping to multi-rods or brushes, placing all manner of crap dampening material on drum heads and cymbals, etc.,...those are all compromises in sound as well, and if the sounds the drummers make matter that little to you...well maybe you don't really want a drummer in your band to begin with. Or maybe you don't want THAT particular drummer in your band.

 

I can adjust dynamics, and carry muffling rings for my entire kit to cut down on some liveliness of the drums if we need to bring things down a little tamer, but I certainly know that if a band mate ever suggested I would go so far as to put gaff tape on ANY gear I own, that's a gig I would decline, and likely a band I'd be leaving quite soon.

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Well, no.


The venue is to blame for booking bands that aren't appropriate for the space, and the band is to blame for booking in a space that's not appropriate for them to play in.


It's really easy for anybody besides a drummer to talk about playing more quietly, especially when they don't have to do anything to achieve lower volume; the equipment handles all of that for them.

There are certainly ways for an acoustic drummer to play at lower volumes, but one has to keep in mind theres only so much volume one can cut when playing an acoustic drum with sticks. Swapping to multi-rods or brushes, placing all manner of crap dampening material on drum heads and cymbals, etc.,...those are all compromises in sound as well, and if the sounds the drummers make matter that little to you...well maybe you don't really want a drummer in your band to begin with. Or maybe you don't want THAT particular drummer in your band.


I can adjust dynamics, and carry muffling rings for my entire kit to cut down on some liveliness of the drums if we need to bring things down a little tamer, but I certainly know that if a band mate ever suggested I would go so far as to put gaff tape on ANY gear I own, that's a gig I would decline, and likely a band I'd be leaving quite soon.

 

 

Gaffer's tape and such are only necessary because so many drummers don't know how to play quietly and, like a lot of guitar players I've met, are too full of themselves to even try it. (And for what it's worth, gaffer's tape is often used in lots of recording studios on drums as well) I have played with a few drummers who do know how to play quietly, and it's a treat. I just hired a new drummer who was a studio drummer in LA and will do whatever the gig calls for. Why? Because he can't get gigs without bands, and an increasing number of gigs are in venues like the OP described. Me playing through a 15 watt amp set on two or three isn't my idea of optimal sound either, but I've learned to make it work. Maybe you live where there are enough gigs that you don't have to take what gets offered, but here it's adapt or stay home and somebody else will do it.

 

Having said all that, yes I agree, there are way too many venues that shouldn't even have bands and would do better with an acoustic act. And I don't fault any drummer for recognizing that quiet gigs aren't for them. I just hate it when they take the gig knowing what it requires and then play too loud, get told to turn down, and piss and moan about having to do it.

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It went off well - and we kept the volume down. Amy, Dave, and I filled the first hour with toned-down acoustic. We were told specifically "no hard rock" by the booker so we filled the first full-band set with classic rock and 80s and kicked it up just a notch for the last set. "You Oughta Know" was about as hard as we got and we did that at the end of the night. It must have gone well because people were shouting for more at the end and we asked if we could play another one. The response from the bar was "yes, but if you do - kick it out!" So we turned it up and did exactly that with "Enter Sandman" :thu:

 

Now that we've been through it once, things won't be as hairy when we play there again (we have at least three more dates there). As a bonus, we booked a private party (the people even moved their date to accommodate our schedule) and also booked a gig at another venue whose owners came to see us. :D

 

It was a learning experience and turned out to be a win, but I still prefer being able to plug in and rock it out from the get-go. :rawk:

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We're really lucky. We have a drummer who "get's it" in terms of volume. We've done gigs in little rooms where he plays those multi-rod thingies. We'll sometimes just mic the bass drum, put guitar, keys and bass direct and then vocals. Two tops, one sub. Once we did it with no monitors. Had one main sort of behind us due to a weird shaped shape.

 

I feel there's almost no room we can't play. But it all starts with a drummer that can adapt.

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We're really lucky. We have a drummer who "get's it" in terms of volume. We've done gigs in little rooms where he plays those multi-rod thingies. We'll sometimes just mic the bass drum, put guitar, keys and bass direct and then vocals. Two tops, one sub. Once we did it with no monitors. Had one main sort of behind us due to a weird shaped shape.


I feel there's almost no room we can't play. But it all starts with a drummer that can adapt.

 

 

Our drummer is pretty good with that. All of his drums except the snare have internal mics so it's there if we need it. The only thing that could be better for us in those rooms is a V-drum kit.

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It went off well - and we kept the volume down. Amy, Dave, and I filled the first hour with toned-down acoustic. We were told specifically "no hard rock" by the booker so we filled the first full-band set with classic rock and 80s and kicked it up just a notch for the last set. "You Oughta Know" was about as hard as we got and we did that at the end of the night. It must have gone well because people were shouting for more at the end and we asked if we could play another one. The response from the bar was "yes, but if you do - kick it out!" So we turned it up and did exactly that with "Enter Sandman"
:thu:

Now that we've been through it once, things won't be as hairy when we play there again (we have at least three more dates there). As a bonus, we booked a private party (the people even moved their date to accommodate our schedule) and also booked a gig at another venue whose owners came to see us.
:D

It was a learning experience and turned out to be a win, but I still prefer being able to plug in and rock it out from the get-go.
:rawk:

 

The cool thing is you are becoming a more well rounded musician. Adaptability is one of the traits of a pro.

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