How loud to play in medium sized gigs.

Bo Eder

Platinum Member
I think this is a tough situation. I always try to listen to the room from my position and take cues from the band if they want me louder or softer. But what's more important is the type of drums you're bringing in. Not in brand or anything, but in how you tune them. If you're supposed to play softly, but you bring in a Stewart Copeland tuning where everything is high-pitched and cracking, then whatever you do is going to be too loud because you're not in a frequency range that naturally gets blocked by its' surroundings, you're just cutting right through regardless of how soft you play (like piccolos in a marching band that you can hear a mile away). I've done gigs where I've gone in with lower tunings and generally phatter and tubbier (think Don Henley with the Eagles), and I can play my normal volume or a bit more and not be too loud because I'm blending in with the music being played. I don't think audiences are specifically listening to the drums, they're listening for the entire band to be pulsing right along, and reasonable tunings make that happen. You don't need to have your snare cranked all the time. I would think in a cover band situation, you're gonna want phat more than crack anyway, since a majority of pop music is simple time-keeping.

Same thing with cymbals - everyone likes the heavy rides and the medium crashes, and definitely New Beat-type hi-hats, which are cool if you're playing stadiums, but in a small-ish club, those types of cymbals are generally more painful than musical. I've been playing thin crashes and light rides for a while now and the blend and wash is just right. My hi-hats are now 17" thin crashes paired up, and the frequency is so low it doesn't cut straight into your brain, and the cool thing about big hats: you can ride on them! The slosh is musically satisfying.

So I think if the drums are tuned downward, and the cymbals aren't of the slicing variety, you can play your normal volume and everyone will be happy. I remember being younger and only having heavy cymbals and tiny hi-hats, along with higher-pitched drums (I was very much a Copeland disciple then) and when I saw a video, all the wrong sounds were accentuated. It was embarrassing. I still have regular ol' 14" New Beats, and the occasional medium crash, but I hardly use them. Bands like me because I blend in better sonically. This is probably why I like thicker coated Emperors and coated PowerStroke 3's on the bass drum - it all accentuates the low-end, and sounds better when I tune down. Try it.
 

larryace

"Uncle Larry"
I'd say I base my volume on how well people can talk. I want them to be able to talk. I want the bartenders to be able to hear the drink orders without too much difficulty. Luckily, so do the other guys. Most of the people I play for are 40 and up so they appreciate good volume control. I also have to adjust my volume in certain rooms according to how many people are there. The more people there in front of the stage, the more I can hit normally. The less people, because it's hard surfaces everywhere, I have to really reign it in. Volume control is a whole subject in and of itself.
 

KEEF

Senior Member
I don't (seem) to ever have a problem...most of the venues we play are all 'medium sized' and all similar. My drums are mic'd every gig and I play with the same consistent intensity every night - I kinda pride myself on it.
Occasionally we have to 'turn me up' as the guitar and bass are overpowering the drums, I'd much rather we turned the guitar and bass down, but we're often told we're 'nowhere near as loud as other bands we have in here' by the locals so I guess we've got the balance about right..........
 

mikyok

Platinum Member
Great topic from the OP and it's an issue that sorts good bands from poor ones, the ability to play the room and not engage in a volume war with each other. I see so many bands that do deafening as their set level and their ego won't allow them to turn down

I always find that no room is ever the same and you can play everything from a small dead room where you have to be a little louder to a huge lively room where you have to hold back. Moongels really do work wonders when you need a quick fix and I'm a open sound player as standard. I also have a few different weights of stick.

We tend to judge it so it's louder on the dance floor for the folks having a boogie but past that people can still talk. A happy client = no hassle
 

TMe

Senior Member
I figure I have no control over what the volume is like on the other side of the room. I'm not running the board. Also, I figure my job is just to support the rest of the band, so I just worry about stage volume. Is that a mistake?
 

EricT43

Senior Member
Somewhat related question - do any of you mic your drums to fill out the sound, even if you don't strictly need it volume-wise? It's nice when you don't have to play so loud that microphones aren't necessary, but I always feel disappointed in the sound when everyone is mic'd except for the drums. I feel that micing the drums and running them even at a very low level through the PA will help the overall sound. Maybe that's why they use plexiglass shields in some places?
 

BruceW

Senior Member
Somewhat related question - do any of you mic your drums to fill out the sound, even if you don't strictly need it volume-wise? It's nice when you don't have to play so loud that microphones aren't necessary, but I always feel disappointed in the sound when everyone is mic'd except for the drums. I feel that micing the drums and running them even at a very low level through the PA will help the overall sound. Maybe that's why they use plexiglass shields in some places?
Yes...we have taken to mic'ing the whole kit most of the time now, even when we are in a scenario where just kick and snare would be enough. All the toms, and an overhead. Gives our sound guy more options, and it does make the sound fuller. And when it happens that we need extra punch, it's right there.
 

GruntersDad

Administrator - Mayor
Staff member
Superglue the Amp volume knobs on 8, and they play along with them. Like you, if they want to be louder, they will have to strum louder, or use metal picks.
 
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