Turn It Down

 

Strat stops for a sip.

Strat stops for a sip.

I mixed a lot of live shows while I struggled to survive as a musician in Chicago. And one thing I observed time after time was a lack of trust from bands when it came to stage sound and balance.

I understood of course.

I encountered plenty of “house guys” too baked or worn out to offer credible advice or provide competent service. But, I believed most sound operators approached their craft with the same professionalism as the band. I certainly did.

I mixed at an assortment of legendary venues in Chicago. Lounge Ax, Avalon, Orphans and Misfits, a few of the clubs that championed original music only to close after making their mark, were some of the clubs for which I manned the front-of-house and stage monitor boards.

The one thing that always solved problems and made a band sound better every night I mixed — turning down stage loudness helped the front-of-house mix establish dominance and provide a lush and more robust audience experience.

Guitarists usually take most of the heat but I don’t think they deserve all of the blame. Drummers can provide quite the masking affect and not hearing your instrument properly will ruin a performance. Cymbals really do eat guitars. [Love that band name!] And what about that bass player with 2 – 8×10 cabinets pointing straight ahead? When the wave actually becomes fully formed, the sound drives the sound operator far more than the stage. This usually results in less PA-driven bass. And, a muddier sounding room mix overall as well.

I’d have to say EVERYONE needs to turn it down. For example, a punk band on 10 usually sounds like tinny crap out front. It’s fun to wail and feel the power when you’re making the sound. To witness it is another matter altogether. Consider your audience and consider the sound op. If you really need that hit to the head, turn or tilt your amp. Turn it backwards. Do something to to stop the directed beam from hitting anyone out front specifically, especially the FOH mixer. Unless your sound is meant to sound like tinny crap? If so, please disregard.

When the stage sound is proportional to the size of the room and the mixer’s distance and placement, your band will sound like your band should sound. Notice I didn’t even mention the benefit to your hearing in your civilian life. :¬)

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