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norfolk martin 29th July 2019 09:07 PM

modern stage levels for guitar
 
A question for those of you who play out more than I do. I have pretty much retried after playing and running sound at the local level for some 35 years, but I still do some recording and mixing for local bands. Some of the stories they tell me about the newest crop of sound engineers they are encountering at live gigs are very confusing to me.

For example, several local guys have recently been quite hostile to a young friend of mine for bringing a model 2204 50W Marshall head and a 4X12 to a gig. The amp is a MV model so he doesn’t need to distort the power tubes, and I know from experience that he runs it a lot quieter than I would have been considered normal even 20 years ago. One sound guy told him that “no-one uses amps in this place that don’t have a direct out.”’ Another told him that he’d have to face the cabinet towards the wall, because “you can’t have the guitar amp interfering with the sound from the PA.”

I have noticed at many local gigs that I attend that the backline appears to be almost inaudible. I am not a volume freak. As a sound guy in the 80s, I was heartily disliked by a few players in town because I was not keen on people running guitars so loud that it hurt to be within 20 feet of the stage. Now, at the one sound gig I still do, I spend a lot of time asking people to turn backline UP, because I’m struggling to keep the drums out of the bass and guitar mics. I’ve met bassists who seem confused by the idea of putting a mic on their cabinet, and guitarists playing at (to me) at extremely moderate volumes who thank me for “letting them turn it up for once.”

Equally, most young musician now seem used to hearing all the instruments, including their own through the monitors rather than from the amps. Last month, faced with a request for bass guitar in all four monitor channels on a 20 X 15 stage, I suggested that they just turn the bass amp until they could hear it on stage. The idea seemed quite novel to them.

Anyone else seeing stuff like this?

samuraisoundman 29th July 2019 09:27 PM

You might try the Live Sound section, you will probably get more succinct answers...

untitled73 29th July 2019 10:15 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by norfolk martin (Post 14122079)
A question for those of you who play out more than I do. I have pretty much retried after playing and running sound at the local level for some 35 years, but I still do some recording and mixing for local bands. Some of the stories they tell me about the newest crop of sound engineers they are encountering at live gigs are very confusing to me.

For example, several local guys have recently been quite hostile to a young friend of mine for bringing a model 2204 50W Marshall head and a 4X12 to a gig. The amp is a MV model so he doesn’t need to distort the power tubes, and I know from experience that he runs it a lot quieter than I would have been considered normal even 20 years ago. One sound guy told him that “no-one uses amps in this place that don’t have a direct out.”’ Another told him that he’d have to face the cabinet towards the wall, because “you can’t have the guitar amp interfering with the sound from the PA.”

I have noticed at many local gigs that I attend that the backline appears to be almost inaudible. I am not a volume freak. As a sound guy in the 80s, I was heartily disliked by a few players in town because I was not keen on people running guitars so loud that it hurt to be within 20 feet of the stage. Now, at the one sound gig I still do, I spend a lot of time asking people to turn backline UP, because I’m struggling to keep the drums out of the bass and guitar mics. I’ve met bassists who seem confused by the idea of putting a mic on their cabinet, and guitarists playing at (to me) at extremely moderate volumes who thank me for “letting them turn it up for once.”

Equally, most young musician now seem used to hearing all the instruments, including their own through the monitors rather than from the amps. Last month, faced with a request for bass guitar in all four monitor channels on a 20 X 15 stage, I suggested that they just turn the bass amp until they could hear it on stage. The idea seemed quite novel to them.

Anyone else seeing stuff like this?

Yeah. Especially that line out bit. That's sorta where the line gets drawn and I'll start an argument about how I'd rather a monkey engineer us. Also, gotta love the "interfering with the sound from the PA" reasoning. What genius. At smaller places we forgo PA altogether if allowed. Just never worth the extra complicating factors.

I fingerpick quiet and relatively clean through a 100W. Really only gets as loud as an overdriven 20W, honestly. But as I've mentioned before around these parts, guys have given me trouble just for taking it out and putting it on the stage without even understanding how I play. So all of this is very believable.

norfolk martin 29th July 2019 10:24 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by untitled73 (Post 14122220)

I fingerpick quiet and relatively clean through a 100W. Really only gets as loud as an overdriven 20W, honestly. But as I've mentioned before around these parts, guys have given me trouble just for taking it out and putting it on the stage without even understanding how I play. So all of this is very believable.

That was another story I hear, Telling the guitarist that "that amp is too loud" before it's even plugged in.

norfolk martin 29th July 2019 10:25 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by samuraisoundman (Post 14122125)
You might try the Live Sound section, you will probably get more succinct answers...

Yea, i did consider that, but I wanted to ask what the musicians were seeing nowadays.

enorbet2 30th July 2019 12:00 AM

I don't get out as much as I used to but recently had an eye-opening experience. It turned out a band I had helped grow into a national band that then later became international was booked at a small club near me. I hadn't seen the boys in over a decade so I resolved to go, rather excited at seeing old friends and hearing "a real band". get my adrenaline pumping. .

To my extreme dismay It wasn't just the low backline you describe, it was the entire mix that was weak! I could hear people conversing 2-3 tables away while the band was playing! The club was around 150-180 feet from stage to entrance and I stepped outside the glass doors and wall for a smoke and I could not even hear the Bass! I stayed to the break after the 2nd set and bolted, totally sad and disgusted... embarrassed for my ol' buddies..

Rock is dead!... at least in most clubs.


Moonwhistle 30th July 2019 12:14 AM

I don't play out that often but when I do it's with a combo because taking a head & 4x12 is more trouble than it's worth. Put a combo as a side fill and you can pretty much get away with whatever volume you want. It's a joke.

kennybro 30th July 2019 03:58 AM

Stage sound for small gigs has gotten very weird in the past decade... for me anyway. Used to be that you'd just have a PA for vocal, and the instruments would run through their own amps. This made sense. It offered a feel of live band on a stage, for both the artists and the audience.

Past ten years, smaller local bands have gone to GC and purchased comparatively massive systems from QSC, EV, JBL, etc... complete with stage monitors big enough to have served as the main FOH. So they are in a room that holds 100 people, and using double 18" subs on each side, flying array type cabs from overhead framework, 16,000 watts total, two out of five band members trying to use IEM, on and on. Two hour load in/set up, half-hour trouble shoot, bla bla.

Total overkill, every time I go out to see a band in a small venue these days. Smeared mids and highs. Bass always way too loud, just to show off the subs. Some half-ass guy running around the small room with a bluetooth linked iPad mixer. Every band member complaining about their personal monitor mix, too much guitar in mine, more kick drum in his, sax player can't hear himself. And nobody on stage has a clue what the audience is hearing, which is usually crap because the drummer's brother who's a DJ "does sound."

Unless we are outside, my bands do just fine in small to medium rooms with a backline of a small punchy bass amp, guitars going though amps like Deluxe no mics, keys with a decent on-stage amp pushed slightly through the PA, drums only kick mic (drummers sing, so kit comes through vocal mic), and PA of something like a pair of QSC KW 152's. All mixed from the stage by me. I gave up on floor monitors years ago, putting the mains slightly behind us. Careful placement and tight cardioid mics eliminate feedback, and the band and crowd hear exactly the same mix. 45 minute load in/set up, never problems to solve, minimal cabling, and we can run our stage amps at decent volume without overpowering the FOH or interfering with floor monitor mixes. And the band automatically mixes itself.

Bigger venues, big outdoor gigs, different situation. A pro sound person running FOH and monitor, and I've been moving to guitar direct or small amp isolated. Minimal stage volume with small floor monitors... or IEM, which I don't like because they disconnect me from the band.

nd33 30th July 2019 04:06 PM

If only every small gig had the problem of the amps being too quiet haha...Don’t hear that too often. Main small venue prob for me though, is usually drummer too loud. Play the gawdam room :cop:

norfolk martin 30th July 2019 04:12 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by kennybro (Post 14122729)

Total overkill, every time I go out to see a band in a small venue these days. Smeared mids and highs. Bass always way too loud, just to show off the subs. Some half-ass guy running around the small room with a bluetooth linked iPad mixer.

I had to smile because you just listed most of my pet peeves in one sentence!

I've nothing against the I-pad guys if they know how to work the system they're using , but it often seems to take them forever to perform the simplest task like "can we get a bit more top end on the vocals."

I ran into one who either didn't know the difference between pre-fader and post fader monitors, or didn't know how to change the setting from his tablet.

Of course, this was the same guy who accused one guitarist's amp of "humming too much" when it wasn't turned on, so......


Quote:

Originally Posted by kennybro (Post 14122729)

Past ten years, smaller local bands have gone to GC and purchased comparatively massive systems from QSC, EV, JBL, etc... complete with stage monitors big enough to have served as the main FOH. .


Ha! Memories of a very young band who were first on the bill, and announced to me 20 minutes before they were due to go on that they'd "discussed things and would rather use their own monitor system." When I asked what was wrong with the existing system they looked pained and expand that they were "used to rehearsing with an 8 speaker 5,000W monitor system."

This was their first gig, and they drew an audience of five.

kslight 30th July 2019 04:23 PM

My advice is any band that is serious about their sound should have their own competent sound person, that knows the rig and the aesthetic of the band. Otherwise by default most venues seem to believe kick drum is the priority.

There are definitely right and wrong stage levels and that will influence how good you sound to the audience and yourself, but it all kind of depends on...well just about everything. Showing up with a huge rig is often overkill in many venues, are your guitars/bass/drums more important than vocals? Look at touring rigs, I almost never see the kind of big gear on the road that some local level bands carry. Most bands that I see manage with some kind of combo or direct/direct capable box with a monitor. I would never tell a band they “can’t” do this or bring that, however if they can’t balance themselves, or hear themselves, or can’t get vocals over the stage level, there’s only so much I can do to fix them if they overpower the PA.

loujudson 30th July 2019 04:26 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by norfolk martin (Post 14122242)
That was another story I hear, Telling the guitarist that "that amp is too loud" before it's even plugged in.

If it was a Twin Reverb, it might be true!

Once had a very famous singer/songwriter playing acoustic with her husband playing electric. He was NOT open to turning it down. A whole section of the audience that was within 20 feet of his amp complained. All I could say was, move away or YOU ask him to turn down!

I am the FOH guy, not the player.

deedeeyeah 30th July 2019 04:43 PM

in my experience, things have not changed much, except that i get to mix more folks using emulating devices (with their own sets of issues). other than this, there are still guitar players which seem to hear much better with their backs and knees and those which don't get their amps/stacks/combos to sound right...

what i don't get why still the huge majority of guitar cabs comes so heavily overamplified: 5 tube watts or anything that goes as loud as a drum kit imo would be enough! haven't seen anyone using power soakes in years.

and then there is jeff beck, with 4 stacks and tons of guitars in the sidefills...

enorbet2 30th July 2019 05:36 PM

I agree with most of what you wrote above deedeeyeah, but just FTR, "5 tube watts" will not compete with 90% of drum kit players without even the slightest regard for any clean headroom. It takes about 6 times that since the most amazing speaker systems ever built are substantially less than 10% efficient by literally an order of magnitude, roughly 1% is common.

deedeeyeah 30th July 2019 05:57 PM

imo a 30watt tube amp blows away even the most hard hitting metal drummer! - i still remember loosing a bet that i could get two clair wedges, driven by a lab plm10k, as loud as a vox ac-30: i got not even remotely close (and i'm talking about clean sound here, at least as clean as a vox goes when driven hard)...

anyway, i can hardly remember having issues with drummers, while with guitar players, it mostly takes some adjusting, in venues up to size of ca. 2500 - in larger places, enough room/air seems to level out things more easily.




p.s. speaking of guitar players: i got a gig with larry carlton coming up - looking forward to that!

untitled73 30th July 2019 07:31 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by deedeeyeah (Post 14123751)
imo a 30watt tube amp blows away even the most hard hitting metal drummer! - i still remember loosing a bet that i could get two clair wedges, driven by a lab plm10k, as loud as a vox ac-30: i got not even remotely close (and i'm talking about clean sound here, at least as clean as a vox goes when driven hard)...

anyway, i can hardly remember having issues with drummers, while with guitar players, it mostly takes some adjusting, in venues up to size of ca. 2500 - in larger places, enough room/air seems to level out things more easily.




p.s. speaking of guitar players: i got a gig with larry carlton coming up - looking forward to that!

Well, metal drummers don't tend to hit the hardest, they usually just play the fastest. Usually either the dudes who worship bonham or the guys who are in love with arena rock are the ones who ****ing destroy every one of their heads and crack every cymbal on a monthly basis.

But yeah, idk man, some of the guys i've played with a 30W amp could be nowhere NEAR clean if it's actually going to be heard. A long time ago I played with a drummer that would drown out my 50W when it was closing in on 'gritty' (preamp tubes clipping on hot notes, master around noon).

deedeeyeah 30th July 2019 07:52 PM

don't get me started on drummers going though cymbals: i was paiste's artist relation manager for years... (and fired some drummers for this reason!)

i have to admit that i'm not tech savy enough that i could design guitar cabinets so i cannot really tell about suitable power for a cab but having recorded/mixed close to 5000 shows, i consider myself being a pretty experienced engineer - and in my experience, if there is one instrument which regularly is too loud, it's the electric guitar (unless we're talking about horn sections of salsa bands or bag pipes...)

bmanzer 30th July 2019 09:01 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by deedeeyeah (Post 14123631)
mix more folks using emulating devices (with their own sets of issues)

I would like to hear more on this as I don't read many opinions on it. Still kinda sorta on topic.

deedeeyeah 30th July 2019 11:09 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by bmanzer (Post 14124071)
I would like to hear more on this as I don't read many opinions on it. Still kinda sorta on topic.

mostly kemper - i'm sure there are various threads on the topic/this manufacturer.

imo trouble is that the guitar player's carefully crafted emulations may work nice within their studios but not necessarily live: things often sound overproduced (think steve lukather vs rory gallagher) and do not integrate well into a less refine soundfield of a live band.

if getting plugged directly into the stagebox without being amplified though a guitar cabinet and not getting picked up by a mic, this mostly means more work for the sound engineer as s/he'll need to recreate a balance between direct, reflected and room sound (by using efx devices) and not all of them are very good at doing so.

same for the pa: not all pa systems are capable of reproducing electric guitars very well: imo there's something about 10" and especially 12" speakers (also in pa systems!) that's just hard to beat...

finally, in smaller venues, when all guitar sound is coming from above/the sides (pa) and not from the stage (combo) and a specific position, this creates a mismatch of optical and acoustic cues which i find to be very annoying!

and from an engineer's point of view: while it's nice to have reasonable stage levels, the guitar now needs to be fed into everyone's wedge or inear system so one may end up with even higher stage levels and it takes more time to establish aux mixes...

kennybro 30th July 2019 11:16 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by deedeeyeah (Post 14123941)
don't get me started on drummers going though cymbals: i was paiste's artist relation manager for years... (and fired some drummers for this reason!)

Haha!
"Cymbal Minded" drummers make me crazy. You gotta love the sound of a truck knocking over 50 empty garbage cans in an alley.

untitled73 31st July 2019 12:42 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by deedeeyeah (Post 14123941)
don't get me started on drummers going though cymbals: i was paiste's artist relation manager for years... (and fired some drummers for this reason!)

i have to admit that i'm not tech savy enough that i could design guitar cabinets so i cannot really tell about suitable power for a cab but having recorded/mixed close to 5000 shows, i consider myself being a pretty experienced engineer - and in my experience, if there is one instrument which regularly is too loud, it's the electric guitar (unless we're talking about horn sections of salsa bands or bag pipes...)

See I find that interesting. While I haven't worked at 5000 shows, I know for a fact my experience differs. I've seen many a guitarist go nearly entirely unheard, and seen many a drummer drown everyone else out. I believe this is more of a problem at smaller venues and bars. At some point the average guitar cab's lack of dispersion is a blessing compared to the ****-fest that a drummer can rain upon everyone in a tiny room.

enorbet2 31st July 2019 02:28 AM

Frankly drummers amaze me, especially singing drummers OMG! However though I've known and played with drummers who have studied rudiments and technique religiously, even practicing playing a continuous roll at the very same volume and tempo for all beats while they progressively increase the distance of their hands from the head(s) (not at all an easy feat IMHO, but then I can barely get out a fatback buh-dum-dum-psssh) but not very many have that level of expertise even though they might still do a great job as a foundation for a band.

I consider drummers one of the more important members of a band. In one 13 month period playing an average of 5 nights a week I went through 9 drummers and the difference in the entire feel of the band changed dramatically... BUT exactly because they are so powerful and influential they can also royally screw things up. And they are generally the Master Volume for the band exactly because so many cannot play outside of their comfort zone of stick response.

It seems many here think I am a volume freak because I think Rock needs to be played above 100db, preferably closer to 110, but for most of my professional playing life I played through a single 12 (every now and then, two) and less than 50 watts, most often a 30 Watt Class A amp which I set on the floor in front of me with Fender Tiltback legs so it is like a monitor aimed at my ears and regardless of venue size always just 6-7 feet away. So I don't agree at all that I am typical of overbearing guitar players. Most of what my mates hear is from their own monitor mix and in some venues I need just a tad in my monitor as well. It's loud but not crazy loud.

Regardless of venue size I have had to ask for more of my guitar in my monitor because of a crazy loud drummer. One guy with a set of Maple Slingerlands who loved Alex Van Halen was really good but also crazy loud, especially since we were playing a more Classic Roots Bluesy/Jazzy/Rock 'n Roll style. His kick would make your chest feel like it was gonna cave in. I was very grateful he was just a pickup drummer during that 13 month period. It was a good thing we had our own soundman or it would've been really intolerable. At least guitar players can fairly easily match amp wattage to a venue and have at least a couple volume controls in addition to our hands.

Whenever I see/hear what is thought of as an obnoxiously loud guitar player I discover it is almost always a guy who sets his controls by "knob numbers" regardless of how it sounds on that stage or in that room. Those controls are there for a reason. Learning to employ them to your advantage is never wasted effort. Drummers have to jump through much more difficult hoops.

elegentdrum 31st July 2019 02:50 AM

It takes a lot of gigs to gain volume control as a drummer. My gigs are only in the 100's. Good enough to know that I'm too loud, and only able to do something about it half the time.

haze015 31st July 2019 03:29 AM

This all started a while ago, as dedicated small venues got better PA's & monitoring, they've often employed 'faux'-engineers who seem to work to a tick sheet and don't actually engineer. Actually it is quite rare in such venues to come across any with actual engineering skills.

I was lucky enough to play my early gigs in venues that hadn't made that jump and on occasion with experienced bands who were used to doing it themselves - The PA was for vocals and little to zero monitoring. Placement was everything.
The first time I experienced the "amp is too loud", it wasn't to start with, it was a large venue with a large stage, my amp was placed in the corner angled across the stage rather than out into the crowd (I don't remember angling it up towards me for that particular gig for whatever reason, probably due to the size of the stage it wasn't as directional). Yet the engineer wanted my JMP set to <1 (not exaggerating at all!) and went on about how it'll go through the monitor, sounded quite impressive and he just know what he's doing, until he got me down to that level, I assumed he would do something so it wasn't the literally tinny mess of how it sounded. The monitor was more directional than the amp and the sound was just **** because of how quiet the amp was, as he did nothing (Same for the bass). During the opening song, our singer went out into the crowd and reported the sound was just as bad out there, so we just cracked it all up to what we'd set to originally. The engineer gave us a lot of verbal abuse (which sadly the crowd couldn't hear) - The thing was after our set, we had a lot of people we didn't know commenting on how bad the first song sounded and how it sounded great afterwards and we told all of them to go tell the engineer how they felt as it was't a technical issue as many presumed, its what he thought sounded good.

Never experienced anything that bad since, but it was a lesson in not passing control of our sound to charlatans and later as an engineer myself, that the more control I have doesn't equal a better sound, working with what's in front of me does and to solve issues in a constructive way - Most guitarists aren't aware of how to place their amps on stage, so the too loud/trebly thing is so easy to do - 'Engineers' unaware of this should be on the dole queue. Instead of working out why its too loud, its "turn it down" :facepalm: when 99% of the time its not guitarists being all Spinal Tap, just simply a case of they don't know how to best place it on a small stage in a small venue to best hear it themselves.

Also today I find stage volumes excessive, I never found monitors made anything quieter, nearly always louder and engineer seem to whack them right up by default, then it all gets turned up further as fatigue sets in. Its a deeply unhealthy trend that's come about by far too many 'engineers' not understanding basics and not asking why of what musicians are doing and what they want.

mdme_sadie 31st July 2019 03:41 AM

This is a very easy fix. The solution to all your volume problems :

http://www.vintagesynth.com/sites/de..._angle2_lg.jpg

haze015 31st July 2019 03:52 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by deedeeyeah (Post 14123751)
imo a 30watt tube amp blows away even the most hard hitting metal drummer! - i still remember loosing a bet that i could get two clair wedges, driven by a lab plm10k, as loud as a vox ac-30: i got not even remotely close (and i'm talking about clean sound here, at least as clean as a vox goes when driven hard)...

anyway, i can hardly remember having issues with drummers, while with guitar players, it mostly takes some adjusting, in venues up to size of ca. 2500 - in larger places, enough room/air seems to level out things more easily.




p.s. speaking of guitar players: i got a gig with larry carlton coming up - looking forward to that!

Been in a couple of different bands where the drummer has been so loud that my old non-MV Marshall JMP would be easily 6-7 on both channels just to keep up. They're out there!
It did get me into wearing earplugs though as once you hit pain threshold - ****ing hell!

But generally, an AC30 will easily keep up with the vast majority of drummers.

audioforce 31st July 2019 04:51 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by mdme_sadie (Post 14124642)
This is a very easy fix. The solution to all your volume problems :

http://www.vintagesynth.com/sites/de..._angle2_lg.jpg

Where did you find it? I been looking for it for the longest time.


Best,

audioforce

nd33 31st July 2019 04:54 AM

The difference between how loud a drum kit CAN be played and how softly it CAN be played is MONUMENTAL. There is a world of in between to be considered on a gig by gig basis. Things like stick thickness, tuning and dampening all are things to consider IN ADDITION to the playing itself.

audioforce 31st July 2019 06:31 AM

I usually wear earplugs in bars.

Because I normally play real loud in case anyone is recording or listening (so I make sure they hear or record mostly me). ; : )

Best,

audioforce

deedeeyeah 31st July 2019 08:47 AM

...forgot to mention that as a live engineer, i find those bands the easiest to mix which have well balanced stage levels and sounds before feeding anything into wedges, meaning drums, bass, keys, horns, guitars etc. are at roughly equal levels and everyone can hear and feel just about everything (except vocals which need to be in the wedges before sound check starts); of course this cannot get achieved on every stage and in every venue but it males things so much easier and sound check faster - it's worth mentioning that this is NOT the guitar player's thing but it's in the entire band's responsibility!

it's also helpful when folks only take into their wedges what they cannot hear: if you cannot hear yourself, first talk to the band, re-ajust levels (mostly meaning to turn levels down) or maybe angle/re-arrange combos: only then talk to your monitor engineer to add 'more me' - it's simply wrong to believe that adding level inevitably leads to hearing things better...



[braggin' with toxic stage levels above 100dbA (or even lufs) from the guitar cabinet alone imo is stupid! you'll need 3-6dB on top for wedges and the same amount of level just to cover all the stage noise; then add some for dynamic playing... - not sure every speaker on a stick can deliver this but pretty sure hardly any audience does enjoy this; as a promotor or owner of a bar, i'd simply kick you out!]