Stage volume - why do sound guys hate it?

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sjo89sjo89 Frets: 35
So this is a slightly facetious question, but I don't fully understand why this trend of little to no stage volume has become a thing and why we guitarists bear the brunt of it?

I can understand from a balance and mixing point of view, having completely control of volume levels is optimum for the sound guy, but I'd be more onboard with this if EVERY instrument was silent, and we all the know the loudest thing by far is drums, and yet i dont see drummers being asked to play quieter or lug midi drums on stage?

Also, in most gigs, even in smaller clubs and low cap venues, everything is miced through PA that's run crazy loud. Usually the volume of band through PA is equal to or greater than the total volume of the band "acoustically" and so if the minimum volume of the PA is going to be equal to the band, why are we asked to turn down? serious question

Also, im not sure i fully buy the argument that silent stages, everything DI, kemper this etc. makes for a better live sound - especially if you're stood need the front and theres no crowd foldback monitors. And we all know its a way better experience having some on stage sound whilst you're playing. 

In my mind, a (good) band should sound equal and balanced unmiced, which means that in order for guitars to be heard against drums, those amps need to be VERY loud most of the time.

Perhaps someone can enlighten me?

thanks 
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  • 'Cos we're sneaky and we roll our volume knobs back 33 percent and claim they're dimed ;)
    The power of valves compels me
    The thought of iem's repel me.

    I make my living with bolt-on necks, please don't ask to borrow them.
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  • stickyfiddlestickyfiddle Frets: 17262
    Quieter stages reduce mic feedback. That’s part of the soundguy’s job, so making that easier will always make him happier. 

    The other aspect is balance of the mix for people in the room listening. What you ideally want is a good mix at a non-deafening volume, and that is much easier to achieve when the stuff on stage is quieter. It guarantees that the drum kit (and typically snare and loudest cymbal) is the loudest thing, so you have not need to bring the other volumes up to balance with that, rather than bringing everything up even further to balance an over-loud guitar amp (not to mention trying to avoid volume battles between guitarists wanting to turn up….)

    The reason drums don’t get shit is because you can’t make them quieter without also changing their tone. Guitar amps have a volume control that goes down as well as up. 

    The best mixes I ever had were always where we had everything micced with a decent sound guy and I had extra “me” in my monitor. Once you’re used to it you’ll always prefer that over a maxed-out amp but a mix no one enjoys.
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  • sjo89sjo89 Frets: 35
    Quieter stages reduce mic feedback. That’s part of the soundguy’s job, so making that easier will always make him happier. 

    The other aspect is balance of the mix for people in the room listening. What you ideally want is a good mix at a non-deafening volume, and that is much easier to achieve when the stuff on stage is quieter. It guarantees that the drum kit (and typically snare and loudest cymbal) is the loudest thing, so you have not need to bring the other volumes up to balance with that, rather than bringing everything up even further to balance an over-loud guitar amp (not to mention trying to avoid volume battles between guitarists wanting to turn up….)

    The reason drums don’t get shit is because you can’t make them quieter without also changing their tone. Guitar amps have a volume control that goes down as well as up. 

    The best mixes I ever had were always where we had everything micced with a decent sound guy and I had extra “me” in my monitor. Once you’re used to it you’ll always prefer that over a maxed-out amp but a mix no one enjoys.
    Interesting.

    Issue I've always had is I can never get enough me in my monitor as I do backup vocals too and that creates feedback issues through my mic - so actually when I use my own amp as a monitor as well as foldback, I can have less through the monitor and less feedback issues.
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  • Winny_PoohWinny_Pooh Frets: 5514
    Bleed into the vocal mic and audiemce members getting killed up front are issues.

    Better to have amps firing across the stage instead pf straight out front but no one seems to do much of that? 

    Monitors often never sound good enough IMO
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  • RolandRoland Frets: 5606
    There are numerous reasons for reducing stage volume. My hearing is top of the list. Everyone else’s hearing is a close second. After that we have the ability to get a reasonable sound to the audience. I’ve had situations where we couldn’t turn the PA up far enough to be heard over the rhythm guitarist! Then there’s that problem of not being able to hear yourself, or the rest of the band. 

    The stage is never going to be entirely quiet, but using IEMs instead of monitors means that I block the painful high frequencies from the cymbals.
    Known here as Old Misery Guts or the Big Bad Classified's Sheriff. Also guitarist with  https://www.undercoversband.com/.
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  • Danny1969Danny1969 Frets: 6865
    Ideally the guitar and bass shouldn't be too loud on stage because as an engineer you can reinforce what's onstage with more volume but you can't take it away. Basically if the guitar / bass is too loud you lose the ability to mix it properly. 

    However if the guitar is too quiet onstage and you mic it up you will also run into problems. Because the guitar cab mic also picks up everything else onstage, especially the drums. If the amp is too quiet and near the drums then there will be as much drums in the cab mic as guitar and attempting to turn up the guitar from the mixing desk will just raise the volume of the drums as well. 
    Obviously if the guitar amp has some kind of direct emulated output or the guitarist gives you a feed from his Helix or similar then it's not a problem. 

    You also have to consider the venue and where people stand. If the backline is too low on volume and the PA speakers are doing all the work that might sound fine further back in the beam of the FOH speakers but people near the front of the stage will have a very drum heavy mix unless you use some in-fills and who wants to get into that for an average pub / club gig . 

    Generally in my experience for pub / club / wedding gigs  it's best to set the backline volume so it's just a bit shy leaving room for the PA to reinforce it. Then just a bit of guitar in the FOH and it will sound OK pretty much where you stand. 

    Next week we start our weekend mini tour of venues in Leeds, Cirencester, Liverpool, Bristol and London and we have no amps onstage at all. I use a Pod Go, bass player uses a DI pedal and we have 3 keyboards which are DI'ed directly. There are no monitors onstage, it's all IEM's. Only noise onstage is the kit :)
    www.2020studios.co.uk 
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  • sjo89sjo89 Frets: 35
    Danny1969 said:
    Ideally the guitar and bass shouldn't be too loud on stage because as an engineer you can reinforce what's onstage with more volume but you can't take it away. Basically if the guitar / bass is too loud you lose the ability to mix it properly. 

    However if the guitar is too quiet onstage and you mic it up you will also run into problems. Because the guitar cab mic also picks up everything else onstage, especially the drums. If the amp is too quiet and near the drums then there will be as much drums in the cab mic as guitar and attempting to turn up the guitar from the mixing desk will just raise the volume of the drums as well. 
    Obviously if the guitar amp has some kind of direct emulated output or the guitarist gives you a feed from his Helix or similar then it's not a problem. 

    You also have to consider the venue and where people stand. If the backline is too low on volume and the PA speakers are doing all the work that might sound fine further back in the beam of the FOH speakers but people near the front of the stage will have a very drum heavy mix unless you use some in-fills and who wants to get into that for an average pub / club gig . 

    Generally in my experience for pub / club / wedding gigs  it's best to set the backline volume so it's just a bit shy leaving room for the PA to reinforce it. Then just a bit of guitar in the FOH and it will sound OK pretty much where you stand. 

    Next week we start our weekend mini tour of venues in Leeds, Cirencester, Liverpool, Bristol and London and we have no amps onstage at all. I use a Pod Go, bass player uses a DI pedal and we have 3 keyboards which are DI'ed directly. There are no monitors onstage, it's all IEM's. Only noise onstage is the kit :)
    DI ONLY!?! Rock is on its arse!?! 

    Ha, joking. But doesn't that create issues for people at the front? Surely its just all drums? Also, does it not 'feel' naff having just IEM's? No bass freqs shaking your legs.

    For my band personally, right now we're only playing small 100-300 cap venues, with average PA and disinterested sound guys and in my experience, drums just overwhelm in that situation, especially as they too are usually miced. 

    Having a DI signal for FOH and using in ears is something we're interested in but TBH we're clueless about the tech required on our part. Whats your setup? What gear do you need for the band to have IEM's? Do some sound guys get sniffy about it?

    We supported a band two weeks ago and in the soundcheck the keys were having DI issues and the whole band couldnt get their IEM's to work, so they abandoned them and went on stage monitors. Then during the gig, the guitarist (also DI) started making a shitty, distorted clipping noise, like too much signal was being sent to desk. 

    I'd be really nervous going DI as you lose so much control over your sound no? With amp on stage at least I can control that. 
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  • Danny1969Danny1969 Frets: 6865
    @sjo89 ;
    The mini tour Is all theatres so PA and engineer provided. 
    Our IEMs are totally in our control though. I built a splitter rack so everything is mic’ed or DI’ed and goes to the splits. Then one spiit goes to the digital mixer that runs our ears and the other split goes to the venue FOH desk. 
    This means our ears don’t depend on the venue engineer at all making sound checks quick and easy . 
    Personally I would rather have an amp. I don’t like modellers but it’s a space constraint due to the van size. In the other bands I play in I still use IEMS but use Marshall or fender amps 
    www.2020studios.co.uk 
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  • sjo89sjo89 Frets: 35
    Danny1969 said:
    @sjo89 ;
    The mini tour Is all theatres so PA and engineer provided. 
    Our IEMs are totally in our control though. I built a splitter rack so everything is mic’ed or DI’ed and goes to the splits. Then one spiit goes to the digital mixer that runs our ears and the other split goes to the venue FOH desk. 
    This means our ears don’t depend on the venue engineer at all making sound checks quick and easy . 
    Personally I would rather have an amp. I don’t like modellers but it’s a space constraint due to the van size. In the other bands I play in I still use IEMS but use Marshall or fender amps 
    On the note of amps on stage, we used small combos on amp tilt stands pointed straight at our heads. So they don't need to be screaming loud and we can hear them no issues and obviously crowd not being in direct firing line they seem much quieter to crowd.

    Also surely an easy fix for big amps on stage is face them backwards? 
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  • shufflebeatshufflebeat Frets: 21
    edited September 9
    This is quite complex because there are a few different issues which interact.

    In no particular order:

    Drums mic'd, everything else DI'd - I have a minimum of 6 mics on a kit without overheads. If I can get a decent balance and powerful, focussed sound on the kit then much of the band sound is established. If the kit has a bass amp within a few feet then anything I do with the kit mics, usually hihat in our case as I like it mellow, is compromised by unintended outcomes.

    Ideally I want as few sources mangling the drum sound as possible, sometimes a few metres helps.

    Bass amp vs DI - we've recently gone from bass amp + regular DI to DI with speaker emulator only (bass in wedge). The first thing I noticed was the fact that the bass was fuller, "bloom" more than "pounding", worked better with the kick drum (kick triggers brief compression on all the bass, not just the PA half) and that the bass player was fine with all of it (unexpected). He hears a great sound in his face rather than a great sound in the back of his knees.

    The second thing I noticed was the space it opened up for everything else. Melody instruments (fiddle, flute, banjo) were better defined without a *hash of noise to contend with and rhythm instruments (guitars, kit) blended better.

    Vocals cut better because the vocal group triggers a brief compressor on the rhythm section group (see kick/bass above).

    *Bass is coming from one less source so there is a more focussed sound with less comb filtering smearing the image. 

    Bass (actually lo-mid) onstage is focussed on the bass player's face, not washing around everywhere for everyone else to compete with in monitors. This is particularly important for the bass in the drummer's monitor. He can follow what's happening rather than making an educated guess based on what's washing round the stage.

    Everything true for the bass is also true for guitar but in a slightly different way and with distortion.
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  • KeefyKeefy Frets: 1153
    Bleed into the vocal mic and audiemce members getting killed up front are issues.

    Better to have amps firing across the stage instead pf straight out front but no one seems to do much of that? 

    Monitors often never sound good enough IMO
    I have recently tried having my amp to one side, at a lower volume, and DI’d via a Palmer speaker simulator. It worked very well as I and the rest of the band could hear my guitar at a comfortable volume.
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  • sjo89sjo89 Frets: 35
    Keefy said:
    Bleed into the vocal mic and audiemce members getting killed up front are issues.

    Better to have amps firing across the stage instead pf straight out front but no one seems to do much of that? 

    Monitors often never sound good enough IMO
    I have recently tried having my amp to one side, at a lower volume, and DI’d via a Palmer speaker simulator. It worked very well as I and the rest of the band could hear my guitar at a comfortable volume.
    Sounds like a happy middle ground.

    Thing is I've heard bands with silent stages that sounded great - I've also heard bands with deafeningly loud on stage amps that also sounded great and I would argue that the latter was also a more energetic and visceral experience. I dunno if that volume feeds into the players' performances but it definitely feels a bit more 'real' and 'raw'.

    I know that when I'm feeling that wall of sound you only get on stage at a gig I play with more intensity and give a better performance.    
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  • 'Visceral'

    The argument for a noisy backline defined in one word.
    The power of valves compels me
    The thought of iem's repel me.

    I make my living with bolt-on necks, please don't ask to borrow them.
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  • EricTheWearyEricTheWeary Frets: 12277
    edited September 10
    .
    Inhale away Jackson Jeffrey Jackson. 
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  • The main thing from my position back of the room is getting the vocals heard above the din of the band. A 1000 watt pa isn’t 10 times as loud as a 100 watt guitar amp. So with everything at full chat the vocals have to be pushed harder than any other instrument to be heard without screaming feedback. Add in the monitors which again have to be louder than what’s being shoved at them so the band can hear and you have the perfect storm. That’s it In a nutshell
    www.maltingsaudio.co.uk
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  • Danny1969 said:
    @sjo89 ;
    The mini tour Is all theatres so PA and engineer provided. 
    Our IEMs are totally in our control though. I built a splitter rack so everything is mic’ed or DI’ed and goes to the splits. Then one spiit goes to the digital mixer that runs our ears and the other split goes to the venue FOH desk. 
    This means our ears don’t depend on the venue engineer at all making sound checks quick and easy . 
    Personally I would rather have an amp. I don’t like modellers but it’s a space constraint due to the van size. In the other bands I play in I still use IEMS but use Marshall or fender amps 
    @Danny1969 Is this your KB-thing? I watched a bunch of clips a while back and was well impressed!

    I would imagine that setup is a bit more complex than knocking out 'SoF' down the boozer ;)
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  • Danny1969Danny1969 Frets: 6865
    Danny1969 said:
    @sjo89 ;
    The mini tour Is all theatres so PA and engineer provided. 
    Our IEMs are totally in our control though. I built a splitter rack so everything is mic’ed or DI’ed and goes to the splits. Then one spiit goes to the digital mixer that runs our ears and the other split goes to the venue FOH desk. 
    This means our ears don’t depend on the venue engineer at all making sound checks quick and easy . 
    Personally I would rather have an amp. I don’t like modellers but it’s a space constraint due to the van size. In the other bands I play in I still use IEMS but use Marshall or fender amps 
    @Danny1969 Is this your KB-thing? I watched a bunch of clips a while back and was well impressed!

    I would imagine that setup is a bit more complex than knocking out 'SoF' down the boozer ;)
    Yes it's the Kate Bush thing. We have changed the lineup over covid times and now have an amazing new keyboardist  player and bass player ... best muso's I have played with. Music wise it is quite complex, lot of key changes and time shifts. 

    I'm still getting to grips with the direct to PA and ears guitar sound. I like the fact you can change patches instantly and the effects available like intelligent harmoniser but it doesn't sound as warm and organic as a good old amp and analog pedal setup. 

    As far as stage volume goes in rock gigs  we always used mic';ed amps and  FOH guys, even in pubs ...  so I was never a loud guy onstage, I always turned down if they asked me. Normally the vocal monitors were the loudest things onstage. Most the guys I play with are on ears now but there's still a couple who need their wedges at insane volumes. 
    www.2020studios.co.uk 
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  • ICBMICBM Frets: 56922
    One of the major reasons is that guitar amps are so directional. Most guitar players put them facing straight out into the audience, and it’s remarkable how they will cut right through a far louder PA mix when you’re perfectly in line with one, even at what doesn’t seem like a ridiculous volume on stage. If the soundman also happens to be in the beam, you will be told you’re too loud even if you don’t think so...

    I really realised this when I played at a big festival gig with my 50W 1x12” Mesa - the band who were on right before us asked to borrow it too, so I set it up for their guitarist, and while they were playing I went out front to see what it sounded like so I would know whether I needed to set it differently. Even at the back next to the sound desk when I was perfectly in line with it I could hear it clearly over the top of tens of thousands of watts of PA, and it wasn’t even cranked up - but just a few feet to one side and I couldn’t. Luckily, I hadn’t pointed it right at the soundman, or I’m certain I would have been told to turn it down.

    After that I learnt never to point the amp straight out front if possible - always off to one side so no-one is directly in the firing line.

    I also always raise it up so I can hear it better - if it’s on the floor you can’t hear it very well so you tend to have it too loud and too bright - although I’m not a fan of tilting it back so it’s pointing right at my own ears, that tends to produce the reverse problem of setting it too quiet and too dark. About waist to height seems to be about right.

    "Take these three items, some WD-40, a vise grip, and a roll of duct tape. Any man worth his salt can fix almost any problem with this stuff alone." - Walt Kowalski

    "Just because I don't care, doesn't mean I don't understand." - Homer Simpson

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  • sjo89sjo89 Frets: 35
    ICBM said:
    One of the major reasons is that guitar amps are so directional. Most guitar players put them facing straight out into the audience, and it’s remarkable how they will cut right through a far louder PA mix when you’re perfectly in line with one, even at what doesn’t seem like a ridiculous volume on stage. If the soundman also happens to be in the beam, you will be told you’re too loud even if you don’t think so...

    I really realised this when I played at a big festival gig with my 50W 1x12” Mesa - the band who were on right before us asked to borrow it too, so I set it up for their guitarist, and while they were playing I went out front to see what it sounded like so I would know whether I needed to set it differently. Even at the back next to the sound desk when I was perfectly in line with it I could hear it clearly over the top of tens of thousands of watts of PA, and it wasn’t even cranked up - but just a few feet to one side and I couldn’t. Luckily, I hadn’t pointed it right at the soundman, or I’m certain I would have been told to turn it down.

    After that I learnt never to point the amp straight out front if possible - always off to one side so no-one is directly in the firing line.

    I also always raise it up so I can hear it better - if it’s on the floor you can’t hear it very well so you tend to have it too loud and too bright - although I’m not a fan of tilting it back so it’s pointing right at my own ears, that tends to produce the reverse problem of setting it too quiet and too dark. About waist to height seems to be about right.
    Preach. I also use my amp tilt stand. Never been asked to turn down since and can always hear myself clearly - sometimes too clearly! Also audience doesnt suffer. 

    Seems really the issue isn't amps on stage or their volume, but more were they are pointing. Who needs a Kemper ey?! ;)
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  • With stage volume, the mix is different near the gront than thd back.

    The lower the stage volume the better.  Less bleed into vocal mics, easier comminication.  Monitoring is easier as its not trying to get over stage noise (be that in ears or wedges).

    Electronic drums, or traditional kits with triggers are getting more and more common.  

    In ear monitiring is cheap these days, gives everyone what they want.  You need everything into the desk for that anyway.  Full pa capable of translating a full mix is also affordable these days. 

    It makes sense, and gives the audience the best experience, which is the most important thing by far.

     
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