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Title: How do you keep your stage volume down?
Post by: soundsultan on April 16, 2004, 10:07:42 pm
Help. They just took the top off of my drum cage and moved it into the center of the stage. Now the shield is lower, has no back and has no lid. I am back to a loud stage due to the level being set by the drummer. Has anyone had any luck with getting the drum level and other instruments down to under house levels?
Thanks,
Title: Re: How do you keep your stage volume down?
Post by: david423 on April 17, 2004, 02:32:45 am
I am a drummer and a sound person. This is a very frequently asked question around my area with smaller churches and smaller stages. One answer, electronic drums. Yes, your drummer will probably hate even the very thought of it and you are going to spend about 4-5 grand (the church will have to spend it, your drummer is not going to) on getting a set that will sound close to acoustic. But these new Rolands are getting so advanced in their technology that you can customize them by layering two or more sounds to get the one you want to make them sound very close or almost the same as an acoustic set. I have done it.

Second answer, get the cage back

Third, tell him to play lighter and use smaller sticks (he will hate this too)or use some type of rod-type sticks with the dowels and you can get them in different sizes. They can sound good and aren't really that much different, just softer. He has to learn to rely more on the mics. You sometimes have to sacrifice yourself to get the best overall sound.

This is about all i can think of, good luck to you , i know that us drummers can be a pain.  Very Happy And on the sound side of things, i have run into many of them.

David T
Title: Re: How do you keep your stage volume down?
Post by: Karl P(eterson) on April 17, 2004, 02:47:37 am
Well, we have had this problem at my church and have slowly been working on it and are almost to a quite stage (before we turn the monitors on obviously, but we don't need to run them anywhere near as loud now...)

I assume by stage noise you are trying to convey.... Piano and/or electric guitar and/or bass and/or acoustic instruments and/or drums ambient stage noise...

All of these have different answers and trade offs....

Starting with drums, as thats what you have specifically mentioned, we have found a few options. The first was to get a good isolation system for them.... Clearsonic makes two good kits... http://www.clearsonic.com/isopac_s.html (kit A and B) which are semi expensive (2k range comes to mind) but work fairly well. All the parts of the system are important for the system to work...... this will achieve a 50~60% volume reduction over the set in open air.

The other option is digital drums.... The newest Roland V-Drums are very good (in our drummers opinions) good enough that we are getting a set soon to finish our quite stage quest. These are on the expensive side (5~5.5k plus some addnl hardware) and require that you have a decent FOH system, but sound very, very good (IMHO).

There are of course other dampening techniques and products, we have tried a fair amount, and of those that we have tried, none of them have worked all that well for us, or killed the tone to much for our tastes.

Now if it's a piano.... You can try using something like a Barcus Berry pickup (or one of the fancier soundboard pickups* and closing the lid. This will give least stage volume and best GBF. This solution does require a lot of very careful eq work to get it sounding right, but it can sound very, very good if you dial it in well.... Church Sound Check mailing list can give you help with installing and tweaking this item (and many other things).

The other option of course is to go digital.... Start with a good keyboard, and add a midi triggerable grand piano sound if the keyboard doesn't have a good grand sound... I personally think Clavia's Nord Electro 2 Rack sound unit loaded with the grand piano sounds, sounds the best of anything we have played with, but your tastes will vary. The key to making your pianist feel happy here would be a well weighted keyboard (to his or her taste).. We have settled on the Roland RD-700's, but this is an area where it is all up to the musicians taste.

On guitars and basses..... Normally speaking we try to keep amps off stage completely... Either they can be properly isolated and miced off stage, or we put them on PODS. This was a little bit of a longer decision, and we will bring an amp on stage is the guitarist needs it for something special... but we really try to keep that noise off the stage.... In any case, when on a POD or isolated amp, we give them a healthy amount of themselves in the foldback.


If its an orchestral type issue, the solution is purely in the person controlling there instrument more....
There is a certain amount of isolation thats possible.. but in the end, the solution for them is more physical, make sure you have them situated on stage in a way that they can be together, and preferably a little out of the way of everyone else....

Hope some of this may help you, there are things which I could be of course wrong on, I am not an acoustician, just citing things which I have learned by trial and error....

Karl "The noise is our job" P
Title: Re: How do you keep your stage volume down?
Post by: Merlin on April 17, 2004, 03:07:07 am
the band I'm in, the drummer uses a Roland V-drums kit - it's just fine. Great to be able to switch kik and snr sounds between songs, and normally on stage there's a couple of Carvin 18s and a pair of Eons for drumfill [there's no volume problem there].

But the other day we played at an outside venue with close neighbors and had very little setup time. We took a small gtr amp [Peavey bandit 112] but everything else went directly into the PA, which was behind the players on stage. [DriverackPA AFS worked well:)] When the inevitable "turn it down" call came from next door, I just pulled the main fader down a bit - I was amazed how little trouble it was, I hardly had to touch anything else.

If I could convince the gtr player to go without an amp it would be complete - anyone got any suggestions for some kind of DI box with speaker/amp simulator built in, or similar idea?
Title: Re: How do you keep your stage volume down?
Post by: Karl P(eterson) on April 17, 2004, 09:41:06 am
If your church is serious, sit down with your guitar player(s)  and explain the issue and that you are working towards a lower stage level for the benefit of not only people on stage, but _everyone_ in the congregation... After that you could go out with him/her/them to guitar center (or the like) and sample the various digital pedals... The ones that have really seemed to work the best for us are the line6 PODXT and PODPro..... The optional pedal board that plugs into the POD really makes the whole setup very usable and far more tolerable for the musicians....... It is an expense, but they work well, and seem to have been received well where I have seen them...

Karl "No Guitar Amps Is Bliss" P
Title: Re: How do you keep your stage volume down?
Post by: David G Åhman on April 19, 2004, 02:59:00 am
Merlin wrote on Sat, 17 April 2004 09:07



If I could convince the gtr player to go without an amp it would be complete - anyone got any suggestions for some kind of DI box with speaker/amp simulator built in, or similar idea?


I have heard that "Hughes&Kettner Red Box Pro" is a very nice box. It is a DI with speaker simulator. I know some real guitarists/sound persons who prefer using a red box on the amps output rather than using microphones!
Title: Re: How do you keep your stage volume down?
Post by: Rich Bruchal on April 19, 2004, 10:14:57 am
Merlin wrote on Sat, 17 April 2004 03:07

If I could convince the gtr player to go without an amp it would be complete - anyone got any suggestions for some kind of DI box with speaker/amp simulator built in, or similar idea?


One option is to simply turn down the amp.  If you suggest this, the guitar player will likely complain about losing tone.  One way around this is to use a power break type attenuator.  This will allow the amp to be driven harder, but be quieter. Make sure you follow the usual rules about pointing the amp at the players head (and not his knees). I've had some pretty good results by just doing this.

Another option is to buy or build an isolation cab, such as the one made by Demeter Amps:
http://www.demeteramps.com/proaudio/ssc1.html

Good luck,

- Rich
Title: Re: How do you keep your stage volume down?
Post by: Merlin on April 19, 2004, 05:23:50 pm
thanks for the replies, David and Rich.
One of my main motivations in this case is to not have to carry/load in/load out the amp. Twice a month, it seems likely now, we have to do this gig outside from our normal venue - the whole band and equipment [V-drum kit, two keyboards, mic stands and cables, aside from the guitar amp...] get loaded into a minivan, and when we get there we have 15 minutes to get plugged in and soundchecked before start time...

I'll talk to him about the POD/RED BOX idea.
Title: Re: How do you keep your stage volume down?
Post by: Rich Bruchal on April 20, 2004, 08:46:44 am
Merlin wrote on Mon, 19 April 2004 17:23

I'll talk to him about the POD/RED BOX idea.

FWIW, I've used the red box before with good results.  Had it  paired up with a real-tube overdrive and it sounded pretty decent.
Title: Re: How do you keep your stage volume down?
Post by: Beefcake on April 23, 2004, 06:44:27 pm
The thing that i just started doing this month is putting the monitors on amp stands. This helps becuase it puts the monitors (ussually feet height) to over-waiste height.

After that, i turn down the monitors as much as i can without the musicians complaining.

Those two things help a ton. oh yea, the electric guitarists amp level helps also.

Dang, i wish i had a drumcage!!
Title: Re: How do you keep your stage volume down?
Post by: Rich Bruchal on April 26, 2004, 03:49:17 pm
Beefcake wrote on Fri, 23 April 2004 18:44

The thing that i just started doing this month is putting the monitors on amp stands. This helps becuase it puts the monitors (ussually feet height) to over-waiste height.

We've been doing that for a while - seems to work pretty well.  We're also trying out some Hot Spots.  Those can be chest to shoulder height and thus can be even lower volume.

Quote:

Dang, i wish i had a drumcage!!

Same here.
Title: Re: How do you keep your stage volume down?
Post by: John C. Austin on May 04, 2004, 11:36:01 pm
http://www.geocities.com/stripesace/drumshield.htm

Thats a full drum encloure in the middle of a stage. I'm not quite sure of your situation but this is what we use.ClearSonic wouldnt make us a room so we ordered our won henges and made one ourselves out of PVC , wood, and clear sonic panels... DOES WONDERS! we've acutally had to drill some holes on the bottom to relieve some of the pressure that the room has because our drummer.... well.... he's just loud. He overloaded a Mic, not a channel, but a tom mic....
Title: Re: How do you keep your stage volume down?
Post by: Les on May 05, 2004, 08:46:05 am
How do you keep the poor drummer from passing out from heat exhaustion ?
Title: Re: How do you keep your stage volume down?
Post by: Tim Padrick on May 05, 2004, 08:59:27 am
We are pleased that you have joined us to spread His word through the wonder of music.  If you will please read the following and take it to heart, you will surely bless everyone by making a more joyous noise unto the Lord.


Drummers and Percussionists: Please get your emotional high from creating the groove of the music, not from the physio-psychological pleasure of pounding on things.  If you are too loud, it will be impossible to make the vocals audible above you.  When this is the case you are not a vessel from which His word flows, you are the cork in the bottle.  (Have you ever seen what they do to bottle corks? Smile

Guitarists, bassists, and keyboardists: Please note that the volume control on your amplifier has settings between those of 0 and 11.  Please use them.  So you can hear yourself, please point your amp at your head - unless your ears are on the back of your knees.  As with the drums, if you are too loud, it will be impossible to make the vocals audible above you.  You will be doing everyone a grave disservice, and He will surely take note of this.  (You may still make it to heaven, but don't be surprised if your room is next to the one where they give the beginner banjo and accordion lessons.)

Vocalists:  Sing as loudly as you like, no problem!  (Please keep in mind that the more even you keep your volume level, the easier it is for the soundperson to keep you both audible and un-distorted.)  No matter how you sing however, in order for you to be heard you must sing straight into your microphone, as stage mics are designed to resist the pickup of sounds other that those that are coming from straight ahead.   You must also be very close the the microphone, preferably at 0" but certainly no more than 2" (especially when speaking).  If not, your tone will become very thin and it will likely become impossible to turn your volume up loud enough before feedback occurs.  If you feel you are too loud, do not back off of the microphone, just ask the soundperson to turn you down in the monitors.  (Few people ever ask to be turned down in the monitors.  Your doing so will make the soundperson very happy!)
Title: Re: How do you keep your stage volume down?
Post by: kb1473 on May 05, 2004, 05:53:10 pm
Yes, and while we're keeping everything nice and quiet, let's ask the preachers to please keep their voices to a whisper.  This is the vocal equivalent of running a tube amp at a level of 0-2, or lightly tapping on the drumheads.  

I fully understand the importance of managing the stage levels, but as both a worship leader, musician, and sound operator, I would rather play at a REASONABLE volume--not too loud, but loud enough for things to produce a quality sound.  In my experience, if the MIX is right--which is, unfortunately, an extremely rare occurence in churches--then the listeners will enjoy their worship experience, even at moderately high SPL (by church standards, not by touring rig standards).  A well-managed mix of instruments played at normal playing levels produces a much more pleasant tone than any mix can provide with the emaciated tone produced by underdriven guitar amps and drums not being hit hard enough to produce any snap.  Drum shields work wonders.  Aiming the guitar amps at the players, not the audience, helps.

Another aspect to consider is selecting the RIGHT guitar amp--nobody in a worship center needs a 100w Marshall.  In order to run the amp in its 'sweet spot' a 15-25w tube amp is more than adequate.  I use a blackface Fender Bassman set at the lower end of it's sweet spot (around 2-3) and it's not overpowering. Nice, thick guitar tone.

Tip for Drums:  Most churches aren't blessed with truly gifted drummers...a little helpful suggestion you can pass on that can help them improve: to get a more punchy vibe, play more lightly on the hi-hats--use the stick tips instead of the edge--allowing the punch of the kick & snare to be more prominent.  If your drummer's any good, this will add some serious groove AND lower the overall level.  A massive wash of hi-hat can quickly kill any potential groove.

Finally, instead of constantly nagging everyone to 'turn it down', at each rehearsal--and before each service--gently remind them of how important their role is in the overall worship experience for the audience.  If everyone's in sync concerning the purpose of being there in the first place, then it's not so hard getting everyone to play accordingly.
Title: Re: How do you keep your stage volume down?
Post by: Mark T on May 07, 2004, 12:41:53 pm
Lot's of great suggestions for reducing stage volume.  One big help that I didn't see posted is to use in-ear monitors instead of wedges/amps.

We've got everyone on headphones or earbuds except vocalists.  As soon as we can afford wireless IEMs they're going too.

Our drums are acoustic and in a cage with the drummer on phones.  Another volume technique for drums is to adjust the drum volume in the drummers phones.  If you bring up drum level in the phones, the drummer tends to play a little softer and vice-versa.  

You can do the guitar amp-sim thing pretty cheap.  I play guitar and use a Behringer (yeah, I know) V-Amp Pro2.  It has balanced outs and does a decent job tonewise.  It's less than $200.

Now if I can build a cage for the grand piano and our horn section...

Title: Re: How do you keep your stage volume down?
Post by: Stirling Flynn on May 17, 2004, 09:53:28 am
I am the full time audio engineer but I occasionally play as the piano/keyboard player just to make sure that I don't lose that connection with the band.

For one, make sure that the band knows that you are there to serve with them. I forgot this for a while and I am still rebuilding those relationships. If, during a rehearsal, you are constantly nagging the whole band to turn down, you're just a nag. But if you're one of them and say "hey, guys, the stage volume's getting a little over the top," they seem to respond much better. If they can't trust you as the sound guy, you've already lost control of the room.

However, if you can approach the bass player and ask him to roll off the lows on his amp and let your house subs do more of the work, he will have to trust you because he's not going to benefit from your house mix. And if the drummer can hear the bass player's notes (without the low end mush that you just rolled out on stage), they'll still maintain the beat.

And if you can get the guitar players to face their amps away from you and the audience (be sure to cover the back, too), you will also be happier.

We've started to switch to In Ear Monitors but they've been slow in helping me reduce stage volume UNTIL we put the drummer on headphones. Yes, we used to use Vdrums and they hated it and we do use shields but no lid, and we've tried lighter sticks and so on.

But when we tried headphones and we return the drums to the drummer's mix, they hear themselves and suddenly they're playing under control.

Bass player is next on my IEM list...
Title: Re: How do you keep your stage volume down?
Post by: Mark T on May 17, 2004, 09:11:32 pm
Stirling Flynn wrote on Mon, 17 May 2004 14:53


But when we tried headphones and we return the drums to the drummer's mix, they hear themselves and suddenly they're playing under control.



We had the same experience.  It's almost like having a volume control for the drums!  You raise the monitor level, the drummer plays softer.  You lower the level and the drummer plays louder.  We're still trying to keep it a secret though, don't want the drummer feeling too manipulated. Wink
Title: Re: How do you keep your stage volume down?
Post by: Mark Allen on May 22, 2004, 03:39:27 pm
I've read all the replies, but I'd like to contribute one angle that I've rarely seen in Church Sound discussions - seasoned live sound TECHNIQUE!  When I talk to my FOH friends who've done non-church venues all their life, they're bemused by the fact that church sound personnel seem to require a silent, or very nearly silent stage volume in order for them to accomplish their task.  This is sound REINFORCEMENT folks, not a controlled studio environment.  

I agree that a certain amount of compromise on the part of the musicians is usually in order due to the typical live church environment.  However, it seems to me that compromise on the part of the musicians should be balanced by expertise on the part of the sound personnel.  Unfortunately, I've found that often musicians turn down, churches buy expensive 'frisbees' (V-Drums), and the end result is a ridiculously out of balance, vocal heavy mix.  Simply put, if you're going to be handed the "gift" of a silent stage, you'd better have the chops to produce a quality mix!

On the other hand, if you're dealing with acoustic drums, amps, etc. there are a lot of great suggestions listed here to help get those levels under control. After that, maybe we can talk about techniques that work with the resultant acoustic energy rather than just treated it as so much noise.  I fully realize this won't work in every situation - some rooms are just too reflective, some musicians just not cable of playing at less than "11", but I do think it is a profitable discussion for many church situations!

In short, I'd love to get a dialog going about improving the skill level of the church sound personnel. I DON'T feel it's profitable to develop a church sound 'culture' that feels a silent stage is the only way one can be expected to do their job.  Developing reasonable expectations that take into account the venue, the church's culture, and the resources available seems to me to be a positive approach.  
Title: Re: How do you keep your stage volume down?
Post by: Mark T on May 23, 2004, 11:47:03 am
Can you give some examples of the seasoned live sound technique you're referring to?

We continually strive to improve the level of understanding among our volunteers (no paid tech staff).  One other tech and I have a fair amount of prodcution experience and we constantly work to impart our knowledge (limited though it may be) to the newbies.  I'm always looking for new info.

I agree with you that sound techs need to mix well. But that applies in any situation, V-Drums or not, doesn't it?  I've found it to be much easier to teach someone to dial in a mix when they're not fighting stage volumes.

The hard part is trying to get them to be objective and take their personal taste out of the mix (so to speak).  One of our techs sings in the choir, he likes a vocal heavy mix.  I play guitar and I have force myself to pay attention to what I'm doing or I end up heavy there.  The only cure I've found for that is practice and constructive criticism (I would say feedback but that scares me).

Thoughts?
Title: Re: How do you keep your stage volume down?
Post by: Mark Allen on May 25, 2004, 09:07:57 am
Of course I agree that it's much easier to dial in a mix when one has the advantage of low stage volume.  However, I personally would MUCH rather deal with a stage volume that's a little 'intrusive' that uses a good set of acoustic drums (and by extension a happy drummer), than a 'virtual' stage with V-Drums.  The last large church situation I worked in was with a Calvary Chapel type of church in a large room that sat appr. 2500 people.  It had a stereo EAW system and a GREAT band!  The church's house drum kit was a nice DW 6pc. set.  Even in this large room, I often had to shape the mix around the acoustic energy the snare (and to a lesser extent the kick)drum was putting out! In that situation I just use the acoustic energy and then 'support' it with the system.  In other words, I add 'snap' and LF info to the kick but pull the mids back so that the acoustic combined with the amplified energy works together to get a nice sound.  With the snare, I add some e.q. based on the needs of the song (+ 3K to cut through up tempo material, + 400Hz to add 'beef' for soft songs) and blend it with the acoustic energy.  Just 'shaping' the sound around what's already there.
Title: Re: How do you keep your stage volume down?
Post by: Mark Allen on May 25, 2004, 10:43:37 am
There are other techniques that can be used. (Had to leave after posting the last reply. Sorry.)  For example, a dynamic technique that had to be taught applies to high energy songs.  When the band is pumping things up and the vocals start to suffer, it's natural to automatically reach for the faders to turn up the vocals.  Often this leads to ever escalating levels.  What actually works much better is to slightly reduce the band levels.  Interestingly, if you have enough control over the bass signal, bringing it down just a bit lets the vocals pop up over the top of the mix instantly!  Of course, at this point we're back to acoustic levels and, admittedly, you can only turn levels down to the acoustic noise floor.  

Another technique is to use compression.  Actually, I think compression is the church soundman's best friend.  Compressing the kick drum helps to tighten everything up.  Compressing a subgroup on the background vocals can help tighten them up and bring them out in the mix.

I'm a bass player and love gobs of low end, but since low frequencies modulate higher frequencies, they often mask vocals and really muddy up a mix.  So, working to tighten up low frequencies using e.q. and compression can help immensely.

Title: Re: How do you keep your stage volume down?
Post by: Mark T on May 25, 2004, 11:14:24 am
Thanks.  That makes sense and we do much the same regarding using SR to support acoustic energy from the instruments.  

Our setting is much smaller (400 people) in a room that is about 50' deep and 85' wide with square corners and hard walls.  It even has a nice peak running down the middle that focuses stage sound in all the wrong places.  It's a poor acoustic space for high energy music and that's what drove our particular need for low stage volume.  We've done a few services with our praise band in large ballrooms, acoustic-friendly sanctuaries, as well as outside. Stage noise just isn't as big of an issue in those situations and as a result mixing FOH is often much easier.  I'm not trying to downplay what a pro does in a large venue (our technical setup is very simple in comparison) but a small venue has it's own unique challenges that would make life interesting for even a seasoned professional.

IN our case, the drummer is a great guy but he really dislikes V-Drums so we use his acoustic kit. As you said, it makes the drummer happier (though he was willing to do whatever it took tim improve things). Without a shield, you can hardly stand to be in our sanctuary when he's playing and into the groove of a rockin' tune.  Balancing the level of instruments with the drums resulted in painful audio levels and poor quaility as well. We had similar issues with the combined volume of stage wedges, three guitar amps, and a keyboard amp in our small space.  People complained... a lot.

We had no choice but to reduce stage volume. We couldn't afford to do what would be needed to fix the acoustics in the room. We used a combination of processors and DIs for guitars, shields for the drums, and IEMs.  We did not end up with a perfectly quiet stage but the overall SPL was much more manageable.

The shields affect different frequencies at different levels, we have found that much of the kick still can be heard even with the shields while much of the high frequency sound is blocked.  Like you, we found adding a little kick LF to mix helps create a crisp bottom end.  Likewise we found we had to add some overhead mics back into the mix to bring some of the high end sizzle of the cymbals back, but at a reasonable overall level.

The net result is that the congregation was much happier.  We didn't make a big deal about the changes, we just implemetned them one by one over a period of a few weeks.  The comlaints stopped altogether and we actually started receving compliments about how good everything sounded.

This may be a gross oversimplification, but it seems that the point is that mixing must be done with your ears.  We have lots of volunteers who start off thinking they should mix with headphones.  For the reasons you pointed out, that's a bad idea since the rest of the congregation doesn't have the luxury of listening to the headphone mix by itself.  You have to hear what the toal mix of acoustic energy and SR energy sounds like in order to blend the two well.

Knowing how to do that is the tricky part.  Having a toolkit of techniques including appropriate use of EQ, compression, and gating will help tremendously.  Being able to identify and correct speaker issues (like phasing and alignment) will also help. Knowing how to spot stage volume as an issue and knowing how to reduce it is handy too.


Title: Re: How do you keep your stage volume down?
Post by: Mark Allen on July 05, 2004, 11:38:12 am
Mark,

I haven't read the forum for a few weeks, so I just saw your reply.   I don't know if I mentioned this before, but we've been doing something with the kick drum that's very effective!  As a I mentioned, we have a shield like you do, but we are also using 4 x 8 foam rubber lining the bottom part of the shield as well.  (The drums sit behind a divider, so the foam isn't visually critical.) We mic the kick, but then push the front head against the foam!  The results are excellent!  The acoustic level of the kick is reduced a lot, but the drummer still gets sensory feedback and we have all the control we need of the sound;  in fact the kick sounds great!
Title: Re: How do you keep your stage volume down?
Post by: WylieE on September 13, 2004, 12:44:49 pm
TimmyP wrote on Wed, 05 May 2004 05:59




Drummers and Percussionists: Please get your emotional high from creating the groove of the music, not from the physio-psychological pleasure of pounding on things.  If you are too loud, it will be impossible to make the vocals audible above you.  When this is the case you are not a vessel from which His word flows, you are the cork in the bottle.  (Have you ever seen what they do to bottle corks? Smile

One of the main issues we face is our worship leader absolutely loves to have his monitors very, very loud.  He wants to feel the music.  Oftentimes, it is the same with our keyboard player.  There are days when there is so much coming from the stage monitors, that I don't/cannot run the instruments in the house.

Frankly, I lost that battle and have resigned from running the sound team.  I've had several meetings with the worship leader and he won't budge.  My conscience won't allow me to damage the hearing of the congregation, so it will be up to someone else to fight that battle.

-Eric.