R/E/P Community

Please login or register.

Login with username, password and session length
Advanced search  

Pages: 1 [2] 3 4 5   Go Down

Author Topic: Critic at Large, Vol. VIII: Hearing Loss and Musical Judgement  (Read 14543 times)

klaus

  • Moderator
  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Offline Offline
  • Posts: 1919
Re: Critic at Large, Vol. VIII: Hearing Loss and Musical Judgement
« Reply #15 on: December 13, 2014, 01:00:21 pm »

... then at show time the guitar player starts sterilizing the first 6 rows of the audience

Priceless! I'll remember that term.
Logged
Klaus Heyne
German Masterworks®
www.GermanMasterworks.com

soapfoot

  • Full Member
  • ***
  • Offline Offline
  • Posts: 234
  • brad allen williams
Re: Critic at Large, Vol. VIII: Hearing Loss and Musical Judgement
« Reply #16 on: December 13, 2014, 01:40:26 pm »


One of their favorite techniques is to 'sandbag' during soundcheck, then turn back up at show time.

This happens to me in over half of the pop/rock shows I do.


From the other side--

This happens, but among real professionals it's not "sandbagging" on purpose. It's the fact that the hall-- the way the room responds, the way it feels, etc.-- changes radically when 500-1000 bodies (or more) get in the hall.

A 500 cap room that's full and we're talking about an extra 2500 sabins of absorption in a medium-sized hall-- this is appreciable, and a stage blend that might have worked fine in an empty hall suddenly no longer feels  in-balance or appropriate.

That terminology in and of itself-- and the (frankly) dismissive attitude toward the musicianship that it implies-- is part of why there is a sometimes contentious relationship between the musicians (who the audience is there to see) and the FOH personnel (who is ostensibly there to serve the musicians' and audience's interest).

If I'm a performer, I'm doing what I can to make the show great. I assume the FOH personnel is doing the same. If there's a disconnect between our respective needs to accomplish that mutual goal, it's not exactly comforting to feel that the person who is supposed to be on my side is assuming I'm doing things like "sandbagging" or behaving otherwise selfishly. There is undoubtedly some "talent" that does this. But I think the most professional course is to assume that there is a cause for the discrepancy, and to seek to resolve that cause.

With guitarists and bassists, it's very often something that can be addressed: proximity or orientation to one's own amplifier has a huge impact; a flawed monitor mix (usually the musician is to blame, but they could be professionally guided through that process to encourage a helpful, as opposed to deleterious, foldback strategy), an inordinate amount of sound from too-loud mains messing with the stage sound (and this changes radically with bodies in the hall), etc etc etc.

Rather than saying "the guitarist sandbagged me during the soundcheck and then cranked it up", perhaps a healthier approach would be "wow, something must have changed radically between soundcheck and show onstage to make him feel he had to do that-- I wonder what we can figure out next time to make the soundcheck experience less incongruous with the show experience", etc etc etc.

Easy to point fingers, more productive to work together.

Real professional musicians play/react to the current realities of the room, and hall. The more sensitive (and the better) the musician, the more prone they are to change things with their level, blend, and timbre once the hall is full of bodies. Because they're in the moment, listening, and reacting like a good musician should.
Logged

klaus

  • Moderator
  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Offline Offline
  • Posts: 1919
Re: Critic at Large, Vol. VIII: Hearing Loss and Musical Judgement
« Reply #17 on: December 13, 2014, 02:50:25 pm »

Quote
Rather than saying "the guitarist sandbagged me during the soundcheck and then cranked it up", perhaps a healthier approach would be "wow, something must have changed radically between soundcheck and show onstage to make him feel he had to do that-- I wonder what we can figure out next time to make the soundcheck experience less incongruous with the show experience", etc etc etc.

Quote
If a guitarist is too loud, the appropriate way to bring this up is "I'm getting the sense out front that stage right guitar might have difficulty hearing herself. Would you be opposed to changing the position of your amplifier so we can find a balance that works a little better out front?"

Brad, your diplomatic skills are laudable, and your gentle approach shows a skill whose value for the success of the evening is on par with the technical execution of a live mix.
Logged
Klaus Heyne
German Masterworks®
www.GermanMasterworks.com

soapfoot

  • Full Member
  • ***
  • Offline Offline
  • Posts: 234
  • brad allen williams
Re: Critic at Large, Vol. VIII: Hearing Loss and Musical Judgement
« Reply #18 on: December 13, 2014, 04:25:43 pm »

well, most of my experience comes from the other (performer) side, so perhaps the advocacy for a diplomatic approach is selfishly motivated in the end!

I just find that for every good, helpful FOH engineer (and there are so many competent, helpful ones out there!), there's one that behaves in an almost contemptuous manner toward the musicians-- even when it's extremely unwarranted (is it ever "warranted" to do so?). And it's a shame.

The ones I get on with best tend to be those with extensive performing experience themselves.
Logged

boz6906

  • Jr. Member
  • **
  • Offline Offline
  • Posts: 87
  • Real Full Name: Jeff Bosley
Re: Critic at Large, Vol. VIII: Hearing Loss and Musical Judgement
« Reply #19 on: December 14, 2014, 08:10:12 pm »

Yes, I'm sure our different perspectives lead to different opinions...

"A 500 cap room that's full and we're talking about an extra 2500 sabins of absorption in a medium-sized hall-- this is appreciable, and a stage blend that might have worked fine in an empty hall suddenly no longer feels in-balance or appropriate."

I haven't observed a guitarist who cound accurately mix the show while standing 3 feet from his Marshall stack and washed by 5 front-of-stage wedges full of keys, vocs, etc not to mention drum wedges and bass amp.

That;s why we have a FOH engineer in the house.

I've heard bands mix their sound from stage... it's not pretty.

"assuming I'm doing things like "sandbagging"

I'm not assuming you are doing anything, I'm speaking of observing guitar players doing soundcheck with their guitar volume pot at 50% of FS, then rolling it up at showtime.

In my experience, it's not the FOH who complains...

It's the other singers/musicians on stage who can't hear their wedges because they're 10 feet from that Marshall stack.

And/or it's the broadcast engineer who says "less stage volume!"

And/or it's the producer/promoter who's watching the first 6 rows flee the venue and comes to the FOH and says "turn down that guitar" (whereupon the FOH shows that the guitar is muted in the PA).
Logged

soapfoot

  • Full Member
  • ***
  • Offline Offline
  • Posts: 234
  • brad allen williams
Re: Critic at Large, Vol. VIII: Hearing Loss and Musical Judgement
« Reply #20 on: December 15, 2014, 10:34:20 am »

Yes, I'm sure our different perspectives lead to different opinions...

"A 500 cap room that's full and we're talking about an extra 2500 sabins of absorption in a medium-sized hall-- this is appreciable, and a stage blend that might have worked fine in an empty hall suddenly no longer feels in-balance or appropriate."

I haven't observed a guitarist who cound accurately mix the show while standing 3 feet from his Marshall stack and washed by 5 front-of-stage wedges full of keys, vocs, etc not to mention drum wedges and bass amp.

But when a professional musician is playing, she is mixing the show, of sorts-- at least for an audience of one (her) at the spot where she's standing, so that she may be in the most effortless, creative space to perform her best. This is an instinctual, and inevitable, aspect of musicianship.

The more musical (and the better listener) she is, the more she will be "mixing herself" all the time. She does this by way of balancing herself by ear relative to the loudest acoustic source (typically drum set) and her ability to hear the lead voice (typically a vocal, sometimes a lead instrument). Again, not just the level of her amp-- how hard she physically digs in, the timbre/tone she chooses, and even the accompaniment part she plays (assuming the music calls for improvised accompaniment).

"Ability to trust my sense of ensemble blend" is right up there with "being able to know that my instrument is in tune". It's that important to performance. I'm not going to listen to a vocalist in her high register completely unsupported by the accompaniment and trust that it will be right in FOH (especially on a one-off or the first few shows of a tour!). I'm going to support her. I've got her back. Actually, my ability to support and frame a lead voice is probably why I have the gig in the first place. I've got to do my job and make it right.

It's a odd that this has become an unusual or even contentious concept. I suppose it reflects an era when there are fewer occasions that musicians play together without reinforcement. I grew up playing acoustic jazz in small spaces, and the ability to blend with the ensemble (in front-line ensemble passages as well as accompaniment, since I'm a guitarist) was one of the most basic tenets of musicianship, and indeed part of what made it enjoyable/expressive to play. The group dynamic. I carry this over to all of the work I do now inside and outside the jazz idiom.

Quote
That;s why we have a FOH engineer in the house.

I'd actually say that the FOH engineer is in the house because people paid for tickets to see the artiste. Otherwise NONE of us would be there-- sideman, FOH engineer, or anyone else!


Quote
I'm not assuming you are doing anything, I'm speaking of observing guitar players doing soundcheck with their guitar volume pot at 50% of FS, then rolling it up at showtime.

In my experience, it's not the FOH who complains...

It's the other singers/musicians on stage who can't hear their wedges because they're 10 feet from that Marshall stack.

And/or it's the broadcast engineer who says "less stage volume!"

And/or it's the producer/promoter who's watching the first 6 rows flee the venue and comes to the FOH and says "turn down that guitar" (whereupon the FOH shows that the guitar is muted in the PA).

We might be talking about a different type of musician.

It sounds like, for a start, that your hypothetical guitarist here might not have a very highly developed sense of ensemble blend. In that case, it's probably not going to sound right no matter what you say, or suggest. Condolences.  If the musicianship is lacking, then there's nothing you can do-- he's going to do what any player (good or bad) would do, and make it sound right to him where he's standing. If that's not a very high standard of "right," then you're hosed.

Or it's possible that, for the music, the stage volume is just supposed to be really loud. There's music that works best this way (I wouldn't want to see My Bloody Valentine neutered with a FOH-imposed stage volume limit, for instance).
Logged

boz6906

  • Jr. Member
  • **
  • Offline Offline
  • Posts: 87
  • Real Full Name: Jeff Bosley
Re: Critic at Large, Vol. VIII: Hearing Loss and Musical Judgement
« Reply #21 on: December 15, 2014, 03:38:18 pm »

I will say that the classical, traditional jazz and acoustic (bluegrass/old-time) musicians I work with often have an excellant sense of ensemble and blend, many of these groups sound great on just 1 or 2 mics. (eg Del McCoury)

As I posted, the problem seems to be mostly pop/rock groups, with multiple electric guitars.

When the broadcast engineer calls up on the God Box and says 'all my mics are now guitar mics" something has to change.

And I understand the need for tone, I've even stacked foam cushions from the Green Room couches around the Fender Twin that just has to be at 11 for that killer tone.

And I'm thankful for the rise in popularity of IEMs, it saves the musicians' hearing and cuts stage volume for a better overall mix for the audience.

In my experience, most FOH decisions about loudness/mix are made by the guy who hired the FOH engineer.
Logged

soapfoot

  • Full Member
  • ***
  • Offline Offline
  • Posts: 234
  • brad allen williams
Re: Critic at Large, Vol. VIII: Hearing Loss and Musical Judgement
« Reply #22 on: December 15, 2014, 07:47:20 pm »

Right. It's possible (and preferable) for rock and pop groups to blend just like acoustic groups. To me, an electric guitar + amplifier setup is an acoustic sound source, of sorts, in that it produces a sound onstage at the instrument that (ideally) blends with the rest of the group.

Sometimes that balanced blend is louder than others. AC/DC's stage blend would be louder than Bill Monroe's or Oscar Peterson's, but not necessarily less musical or balanced.

A big part of the job is specifying the right gear for the room. This past year of touring I requested Princeton Reverbs because the drummer on the dates was quite reserved and controlled in his dynamic, and I knew I would like to be able to get the amp to respond dynamically to my touch a bit (which only occurs when the amp is opened up a bit).

Naturally, many promoters took it upon themselves to "upgrade" my request to a Twin Reverb. This meant I had to keep the volume down around "barely on" which is, of course, not where an amp sounds its best. As the player, I'm the one who would get the dirty looks from the FOH engineer if I had decided to prioritize sound/tone over blend (I didn't, because my priority is always the ensemble). Even though I had specified the correct amp and the mistake was with the promoter or rental house.

But things happen, and we work around them to get the job done, as professionals. But there can be unprofessional behavior on BOTH sides of the issue. My biggest pet peeve as a performer is to have a FOH engineer editorialize about level or dynamics before having heard a note of that evening's music. That is, to me, the height of unprofessional behavior-- it's basically telling the performer that you assume they're incompetent/unmusical right off the bat-- and that does not set a good tone for a productive working relationship. Doubly so if they did not bother to listen to the album before the show. Yet this happens SO often... if one of the world's most gifted, musical drummers setting up his kit and a FOH guy is telling him "uh yeah, so the ceiling is really low in here, and there's a noise ordinance, and, um, we're going to really have to keep it down" then that FOH guy is extremely out of line.







Logged

boz6906

  • Jr. Member
  • **
  • Offline Offline
  • Posts: 87
  • Real Full Name: Jeff Bosley
Re: Critic at Large, Vol. VIII: Hearing Loss and Musical Judgement
« Reply #23 on: December 16, 2014, 10:14:03 am »

I've done many shows where the first thing I hear from the producer/promoter is "Here's the sound meter, don't let it get past XXX"

The limit is often driven by club/venue owner or ordinance.

Here's part of New Oeleans ordinace adopted last year:

"Accepted decibel levels in the French Quarter should be returned to 1997 levels so that the maximum level in residential areas between 7 a.m. and 10 p.m. is 70 decibels, compared to the current level of 80 decibels. In commercial areas, the decibel level would be lowered to a maximum of 75 from 80."

"Under the decibel regulations contained in this ordinance, you could soon find any outdoor (and many indoor) concerts, street performance or any other activity that rises above the level of a normal conversation illegal and punishable," the Music and Culture Coalition of New Orleans said in a statement. "It would also make it much easier to shut down venues that offer any form of live entertainment."

http://www.nola.com/politics/index.ssf/2013/12/new_orleans_city_council_intro.html

Often it's not the FOH "editorializing", he's just trying to keep his job.
Logged

soapfoot

  • Full Member
  • ***
  • Offline Offline
  • Posts: 234
  • brad allen williams
Re: Critic at Large, Vol. VIII: Hearing Loss and Musical Judgement
« Reply #24 on: December 16, 2014, 10:36:03 am »

Even under those circumstances, I maintain that such behavior is still unprofessional.

If there's a noise ordinance (and a consequent maximum decibel level), we should assume those requirements have been specified to the promoter and management in advance, in the contract. This will have been agreed upon already. So for the FOH to discuss this before a note has been played is presumptuous and out-of-line. All of these terms are to have been agreed upon in advance.

Now stuff happens, and maybe the venue or promoter or manager didn't handle their end. But it's unprofessional to assume that before any music has been played.

If the ensemble begins checking a song and it becomes apparent that they will be way out of line where the level is concerned, the proper response would be: "was management apprised of the decibel level restriction we're working against?" The answer to that is either "yes" or "no," and a solution can be arrived at from there.

The ONLY professional course is to assume competence, full knowledge of the situation, and good intentions unless demonstrated otherwise. Anything less is condescending at best, downright insulting at worst. Not a way to get off on the right foot.
Logged

Jim Williams

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Offline Offline
  • Posts: 587
Re: Critic at Large, Vol. VIII: Hearing Loss and Musical Judgement
« Reply #25 on: December 16, 2014, 11:55:17 am »

Nice to know New Orleans cares so much about people's ears. Too bad they don't care enough to fix up that place.

I prefer less regulation and let the market = people decide with their pocketbooks and feet.

We old farts survived the 60's without those limits. We survived Blue Cheer. A 10 cent solution is available, it's called ear plugs.
Logged

klaus

  • Moderator
  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Offline Offline
  • Posts: 1919
Re: Critic at Large, Vol. VIII: Hearing Loss and Musical Judgement
« Reply #26 on: December 16, 2014, 01:17:56 pm »

... but with plenty of hearing loss!

The N.O. ordinance decibel limits seem to refer to measurements not at the venue's interior, where hearing loss occurs, but at the street level. Not very helpful, especially if the building is sound proofed.
Logged
Klaus Heyne
German Masterworks®
www.GermanMasterworks.com

Piedpiper

  • Jr. Member
  • **
  • Offline Offline
  • Posts: 76
  • Real Full Name: Tim Britton
Re: Critic at Large, Vol. VIII: Hearing Loss and Musical Judgement
« Reply #27 on: December 18, 2014, 02:04:22 am »

As both a touring musician and FOH engineer in a small venue, I have seen a lot of incompetence on both sides of the mic. Holding up the musicians as preeminent is just as off base as the opposite, as far as I'm concerned. IME, most musicians are quite clueless about what it sounds like out front or how to facilitate that. They take care of themselves and hope for the best. Some attempt to insulate themselves from any larger perspective by demanding themselves at obliterating levels in their monitor. On the other side, as an audience member, I have given up hope in even mediocre sound quality, let alone non-deafening SPLs, at most concerts. I almost never bother to see someone outside my own venue anymore. Luckily, I'm mostly too busy playing and running sound. As a sound man, I am one of those guys who talks to the band ahead of time if I sense that there may be an issue to try to give them a sense of the somewhat unusual community and venue that I work in, that overwhelmingly prefers relatively quiet levels. Most people are happy to work together to an appropriate mutually agreeable end, and are very receptive to my observations and suggestions. I think it's usually pretty clear that I'm on their side, but occasionally that perspective is not shared. The result is that the venue has become a favorite for most of the performers who come through, as well as for the audience. Personally, I like to strike a well considered balance, but my sense of where that is and someone else's may obviously differ. Some bands require a louder volume to achieve their sound and I honor that, but always within context. Sometimes we will provide ear plugs at the door for the more sensitive. In the end, I know my room and my audience and the artist doesn't. IMO, the artist and the sound engineer have equal responsibility to the audience. One does not trump the other. They simply play very different roles to a common end that may well involve mutual flexibility.
Logged
row row row your boat...

Pied Piper Productions

soapfoot

  • Full Member
  • ***
  • Offline Offline
  • Posts: 234
  • brad allen williams
Re: Critic at Large, Vol. VIII: Hearing Loss and Musical Judgement
« Reply #28 on: December 18, 2014, 08:35:07 am »

As both a touring musician and FOH engineer in a small venue, I have seen a lot of incompetence on both sides of the mic. Holding up the musicians as preeminent is just as off base as the opposite, as far as I'm concerned. IME, most musicians are quite clueless about what it sounds like out front or how to facilitate that. They take care of themselves and hope for the best. Some attempt to insulate themselves from any larger perspective by demanding themselves at obliterating levels in their monitor. On the other side, as an audience member, I have given up hope in even mediocre sound quality, let alone non-deafening SPLs, at most concerts. I almost never bother to see someone outside my own venue anymore. Luckily, I'm mostly too busy playing and running sound.

I agree with all of this-- it's all consistent with my experience. There are some difficult players out there. I think it would be easier on everyone if players had experience mixing, and if FOH engineers had experience playing. Sometimes this is true, and those are always the people who "get it."

My larger point is that it's a "foul" to condescend to a professional player (or really ANY player). Sometimes I feel like I'm atoning for the sins of every unmusical, selfish hack guitar player that walked across that stage before me, and that's not fair or necessary. We've got work to do, so let's get down to business. Likely as anything else, I just stepped off a long flight, barely on time after a stressful morning as the airline screwed up. It's my 5th show in 5 days, I'm trying to set up and do my job-- I don't need to be lectured on how loud I can't be by a sound guy who doesn't know anything about my musicianship and hasn't even bothered to listen to the music in preparation for the show. I don't think that's an unreasonable expectation.

Quote
As a sound man, I am one of those guys who talks to the band ahead of time if I sense that there may be an issue to try to give them a sense of the somewhat unusual community and venue that I work in, that overwhelmingly prefers relatively quiet levels. Most people are happy to work together to an appropriate mutually agreeable end, and are very receptive to my observations and suggestions. I think it's usually pretty clear that I'm on their side, but occasionally that perspective is not shared. The result is that the venue has become a favorite for most of the performers who come through, as well as for the audience.

Well, good communication is important. There's a way to communicate almost anything that shows respect and assumes competence. A friendly, disarming greeting, followed by "so just to help me as I'm setting up-- what's this band's dynamic concept like? lots of louds and softs, pretty aggressive, pretty restrained?" That conveys an interest in doing the job well, and doing right by the music, and is unlikely to be interpreted as a hostile line of communication. If they reply "well, we're pretty aggressive-- the drummer is a hard-hitter, but the vocalist is a screamer who really gets over the top and needs that dynamic support" then you know you're up against a group that's loud, but loud for a reason.

This is NOT the same as-- world-renowned, award-winning drummer setting up the kit, tuning the drums, "tap, tap"... sound guy runs over in a panic, arms flailing-- "OK, so we're really going to have to keep stage volume down tonight... there's a noise ordinance, and the room is small, and, and...."  Guess which happens more?

Quote
Personally, I like to strike a well considered balance, but my sense of where that is and someone else's may obviously differ. Some bands require a louder volume to achieve their sound and I honor that, but always within context. Sometimes we will provide ear plugs at the door for the more sensitive. In the end, I know my room and my audience and the artist doesn't. IMO, the artist and the sound engineer have equal responsibility to the audience. One does not trump the other. They simply play very different roles to a common end that may well involve mutual flexibility.

Again, I agree with all of that. And I'd probably enjoy playing at your venue (who knows, maybe I have!)

The funny thing is on a tour when you're playing larger (500-1000 cap) rooms but not traveling with your own FOH. That was the past year for me, and it was eye-opening, the range of experiences. We had so many sound guys tell us "I didn't have to move a fader-- you guys mix yourselves! I just sat back and enjoyed the show!" including on the very first show of the tour. We also had one or two running around like a catastrophe was occurring. Did we suddenly forget how to do our jobs, or did the latter guy just never know how to do his? Of course when he talks to his sound guy buddies, he will blame the band.

Logged

boz6906

  • Jr. Member
  • **
  • Offline Offline
  • Posts: 87
  • Real Full Name: Jeff Bosley
Re: Critic at Large, Vol. VIII: Hearing Loss and Musical Judgement
« Reply #29 on: December 18, 2014, 10:30:30 am »

"Of course when he talks to his sound guy buddies, he will blame the band."

Now, now, that's just a mean-spirited assumption.

Some would even assert the players are there to serve the composition...

Advancing the gig is the best method to avoid conflicts, a current, REALISTIC tech rider and stage plot is key.

Do all artists provide such?

Bus guy:
"Oh, where'd you get that rider, that was last year's tour"

Me:
"I downloaded it from your website last week"

Bus Guy:
"Well, it's all different now and the lead singer picked up a fiddle player at the airport so we need another vocal with a fiddle mic and DI, he'll need his own wedge"

This has happened to me, and sometimes I'm all outta channel minutes much less monitor mixes...

At the most basic level we're all working as a team to serve the music in its journey to this audience and beyond.
Logged
Pages: 1 [2] 3 4 5   Go Up