Author Topic: Diplomatic advice needed!  (Read 749 times)

jazzyvee

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Diplomatic advice needed!
« on: February 17, 2018, 12:51:13 AM »
I play in the house band of a weekly open mic event at a pub. The music is 50's 60's 70's rock n roll, blues, pop ( southern rock hahaha) etc anything from Elvis to Baker Street. Nothing soulful or funky outside Wilson Picket type of stuff.


Anyway the problem is the guitarists are is far too loud for the size of venue and the type of audience. I'm constantly on the verge of leaving because of the volume. I have ear plugs but it's still too loud. My custom plugs (17db) are too strong and don't allow me enough information to confidently play along with ad hoc songs I don't know. So I have to wear the soft foam ones which are not as discerning with the sound.


It came to a head a few weeks back when the keyboard player decided he was going to leave because of the volume. We both have regularly been talking to the bandleader about the volume and although he sometimes turns down when we do a sound check he then turns up for his solo's and keeps that volume going. His reasoning is that the cannot get "His sound" at low volumes. Personally I set my volume at sound check and refuse all requests to turn up because I know If I do, then so will the guitarists.


The band leader wants to set the bands volume so that the people who are sitting at the back can hear it I think he should set so the volume is correct for those at the front and maybe half way up the room. My experience of that venue is that the people who want to hear the music sit near the front and those who come to socialise, chat and hear themselves above the music sit at the back. This is bourne out when I talk to people there.


The problem is that the staff and the punters are complaining to me, because I'm approachable, about this and I need to do something about it for my own sanity and before the discomfort of the punters and staff gets to the ears of the manager who may well call a halt to the night.


As you know I'm also a guitarist and, for my sins, I've never been a loud player who wants to stamp his sound over the band. To that end I've learnt over time how to get my sound from whatever volume I need at a gig.


So I'm really seeking some diplomatic solutions that I can give to the guitarist so that I can get them both to turn the volume down before I decide to walk..
The sound of Alembic is medicine for the soul!

edwardofhuncote

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Re: Diplomatic advice needed!
« Reply #1 on: February 17, 2018, 04:31:38 AM »
I've never been good at those situations either, Jazzy... I think most of us bass guys by by nature non-confrontational.

You always seem very polite and nuanced here on these pages though. Maybe just apply some of that charm to the counseling of said guitarist?  It sounds unavoidable.

*also sounds like a very fun gig worth hanging onto.  ;)

** "punters" = "patrons" I'm guessing? (I like learning new English words... in case I ever get back over there for a visit.)

glocke

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Re: Diplomatic advice needed!
« Reply #2 on: February 17, 2018, 05:37:28 AM »

His reasoning is that the cannot get "His sound" at low volumes.

By ear plugs for the bar staff  ;)

I've heard other guitar players say the same thing...Im not sure what the answer is...lower wattage amp so he can get his sound at a lower volume?


keith_h

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Re: Diplomatic advice needed!
« Reply #3 on: February 17, 2018, 06:18:04 AM »
I'm in agreement about the different listening levels in the venue. It's no fun trying to hold a conversation where a shout seems to be a whisper. I also reached the point long ago that I didn't like going home to ringing in my ears for a few days.   

What type of amps are the guitar layers using?

I've run into the too loud guitar when they use combos aimed at their knee caps. After convincing them to put the amps on stands the volume comes down quite a bit. Another thought is they are just playing through too large of an amp. I assume their "sound" is related to tube saturation so getting them to downsize should help in this area. Other than the metal bands a lot of the bar band guitarists around here have gone down to smaller combo amps in the 15-30 watt range. The idea is if they are too small for the venue they will be mic'ed anyway so they also help keep the stage volume down. I played with one guy for a while that used a Fender Princeton and it kept up fine with great tone. I always envied him at load out time. One other thing to try is where the backline is placed. I think the jam band style of putting the amps in front of the drummer tends to keep volumes down as they aren't having to drive past the loudness of the drums to be heard.  Other than that I don't see how you could do much more than you have. Maybe when people complain to you about being too loud point them to the band leader so he/she gets direct feedback. I'd go so far as to walk them over and introduce them. Good luck.

Zut8083

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Re: Diplomatic advice needed!
« Reply #4 on: February 17, 2018, 08:11:51 AM »
Dear Jazzyvee,

Please pardon me if I seem pushy, as I don't mean to, but I agree, that you might chat with the keyboardist and anyone else who has this problem with the sound, and setting up a band meeting outside the venue and your instruments, to present the assessment and opinions from the bartender (the hotline to the pub's manager and the owner) and the patrons, concerning the band's volume, sound distribution, and equalization issues, as I think you have indicated is your core concern.

Could the bandleader/guitarist invest in an attenuator, like the old Marshall Powerbrake, which may offer a way to try to maintain the driven guitar tone without providing scorched earth volumes?  Alternatively, would a compressor help the bandleader/guitarist get their desired lead tone?  Would it be prudent to suggest playing through a board and into a PA so that the sound check levels/sound and distribution can be manicured before, during, and after solos, excepting the drummer, and so the sound placed accurately (I totally get this may be a heck of a stretch as no PA may be conveniently available).  While I don't know what else you've suggested, I assume you have offered a veritable treatise of alternatives of the status quo to the "Monster(s) of Rock!".

I also agree with your point about the importance of pub's patrons having raised about the sound issue(s) with you, and they are a key determinant in playing in the venue as they are the venue's key determinant.  Might you recommend that making a change to the band's approach is necessary and founded, as the band will lose audience members or even venue access?  If people just leave the band as a result of not finding a good solution to this hitch, then the task of the bandleader to find competent replacement musicians may also suffer due to word of mouth (I'm not implying those words are yours, but that they may be observers, or another leaving band member, or other people in the scene) due to the bandleader's organizational ethic and the guitarists' priorities regarding their sound and not serving the song.

Obviously, I am just parroting the points that you raised and perhaps extending them a bit, as I am only suggesting that your most logical argumentation may reach "Bando Calrissian", whose name and reputation is associated with this act, as is their bottom line, is offered objectively through fact, as the guitarists' views are not shared by audience members or the management hierarchy.  And the only way to reach this individual or the other guitarist I truly believe is with a non-confrontational, but concrete and data-driven assessment of what factors are not working, while delivered by the rest of the band, not just you or you and the keyboardist (sussing out who feels as you do, but won't snitch, may be a concern).  Objectivity may prevent most tantrums in this meeting, as it is the data, not you and the band per se, that disagrees with the situation and the bandleader's actions. 

And if it fails, I agree with you: walk.  There have to be other more savory live music performance opportunities, and better bands to join, that are available to you.  Maybe start your own with the keyboardist.  I dunno.   Best of luck with it, and I am sorry you have to deal with this.  I hate local politics.  Cheers, and as always, please excuse any typos.

Best regards,
-Zut

gtrguy

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Re: Diplomatic advice needed!
« Reply #5 on: February 17, 2018, 11:04:54 AM »
I feel your angst, as I am in a band where the guitar player thinks the most important thing on the planet is the moment in every song he does a solo or two. He also constantly noodles during practice, and I mean constantly. We had a recording engineer at practice this week and the guitar player did not stop noodling the whole time the engineer was speaking to the band. Our guy also uses a compression pedal in order to "get that sound" that his tube amp should make when turned up more. It is a total tone sucker and makes his nice custom shop tele sound like painful crap.

My 2 cents worth:
I am pretty sure our guy has some hearing loss, probably in the upper registers. He can't hear when he is too loud and he can't tell what a grating ice-pick tone he gets.
His noodling is a BAD habit that he can't stop.
The band leader lets him noodle etc, as the two of them scratch each others backs. The rest of us get to play the sideman game.
Our player tells us he has to have his compression pedal on in order to get that tone his tube amp would make if it was turned up more. However, he showed up last month with a big Fender Twin that he now uses, twice as big as the previous amp. Now he has to turn the twin down even more.
The rest of the band has brought up these issues and nothing gets done.

In other words, denial, denial, denial, and control freak issues.

It is the band leaders job to create a team effort. If he/she won't do the job, they better be paying damn well in order to put up with it.
As time goes by, I end up focusing more on negative things in this band. That's human nature. For me, the phrase, "Adapt, Migrate, or Die Out" pretty much covers it.
The 3 other members (myself included) can unite and demand that things change, but we are bucking an addiction here, plus an incompetent manager, plus physical issues involving loss of hearing.

Good luck to you!

cozmik_cowboy

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Re: Diplomatic advice needed!
« Reply #6 on: February 17, 2018, 11:35:46 AM »

His reasoning is that the cannot get "His sound" at low volumes.



I've heard other guitar players say the same thing...Im not sure what the answer is...lower wattage amp so he can get his sound at a lower volume?



This, 100 times over.  Iused to do sound for a guy who go into rooms you could about cover with an un-miced acoustic, set up his 100w Marshall half-stack, and dime it.  OK, yeah, he'd hang a 57 over the cab, then a packing blanket, then set head on top, but it was freakin' insane!


"Billy, could you turn down a little?  I can't mix to your volume in this place."
"I'm just tryin' to get a sound, man!"
"So buy a smaller amp."
"Huh??"


Peter (who shortly left him to find a soundman instead of a sound, man)
"Don't take life so serious; it ain't no ways permanent"

Pogo

pauldo

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Re: Diplomatic advice needed!
« Reply #7 on: February 17, 2018, 02:51:29 PM »
Jazzy, I think your position isn't too difficult and not very rare.  If I was in your shoes, my response to those that approach me about the sound would be;
"Thank you for the feedback (pun intended) the band members have discussed the volume concern several times but it continues. Keep in mind that I am 'only the bass player' and it would do well if you told our guitarist that you didNOT enjoy the show because your ears were bleeding."

With that said and having been in the same situation more times than I care to... plan on making a gracious exit from the group.  "Getting their sound", masking poor chops with decibels, lost in the moment, etc. shows a narrow mindset that most likely is difficult to change.

1984 Distillate Zebrawood

mario_farufyno

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Re: Diplomatic advice needed!
« Reply #8 on: February 17, 2018, 04:16:19 PM »
To me Keith hit the spot.

Loud guitarists usually aim their amps to the knees and, as highs are very directional, they end pushing up volume trying to compensate the apparent lack of top end. Sure they need gain to push amps to a certain level and get that beloved overdriven tone and that's why would be better if they've had lower power amps. That's why 30W tube amps are a must in recording studios, we all want the tone not necesseraly the volume.

Believing no one wants to spoil the gig, being just a matter of tone sake or self hearing, they could give a try on moving amps nearer to their head level or aim them to ears at least. It will probabably change their minds...
Not just a bass, this is an Alembic!

StephenR

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Re: Diplomatic advice needed!
« Reply #9 on: February 17, 2018, 05:06:07 PM »

With that said and having been in the same situation more times than I care to... plan on making a gracious exit from the group.  "Getting their sound", masking poor chops with decibels, lost in the moment, etc. shows a narrow mindset that most likely is difficult to change.

I totally agree with this comment. Unfortunately my experience with similar situations is that they don't end well. Nobody likes being told they need a different rig or told what to do no matter what instrument they play. Having management complain to the band leader is probably your best shot at resolution but I would be prepared to move on. If the band leader keeps losing musicians (or gigs) because of volume concerns eventually he will figure it out.

edwin

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Re: Diplomatic advice needed!
« Reply #10 on: February 17, 2018, 10:31:25 PM »
Having been there too many times, I have come to the conclusion that if the guitar player(s) doesn't listen after repeating the request or discussing the issue a couple times that I have better ways to spend the hearing I've got left. Life's too short and no amount of money is worth tinnitus. Trust me on that one. I'd give anything to have that gone.

jazzyvee

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Re: Diplomatic advice needed!
« Reply #11 on: February 18, 2018, 06:05:31 AM »
As usual you guys never fail to get to the crux of the issue and offer great advice. In response to Zut, we did have a long discussion after one rehearsal and that came up because of a guitarist who regularly comes up to play and brings his own combo which is murderously loud and he plays it with a lot of top end. One time he came up to play and I was sat out front and put my fingers in my ears because of his volume and he threw a fit and was calling me out from the stage to say I was being disrespectful to him and I should leave the venue etc etc. Eventually he stopped playing and walked off in a sulk. He stopped playing there for a couple of months after that and I heard through the grapevine that complained to all who would listen to him about how dreadful I was for doing that. Was I concerned..... NAH  I value my hearing.  So this led to me telling our guitarist that he was too loud. I suggested that he raise his guitar amp on a stand or on a chair so that he could hear it better and not need it so loud. To his credit he has started bringing a stand but it's still to loud. I doubt if he would use the PA because he understandably likes the sound from his amp which is an expensive boutique amp.

The thing is that after a lot of thought I think the best thing is for me to seriously consider moving on, at least for a period of time and be out of the house band.
Maybe pop along now and then to have a play. It will focus issue of the volume situation for all the remaining musicians as when I started with them I did say that one of the primary reasons for me leaving if it came to it was the VOLUME which when I started just over a year ago was horrendous.

I love music and have learnt a lot about my own playing by adapting my own style to play different kinds of music which is really why I started playing in this venue as part of the house band when I was asked to.
 It has helped me  get more confident finding my way round lots of songs I'd never played or even heard of before. At least being out of it I won't be exposed to the high stage volume all night. Fortunately me leaving won't break any friendships we are all far too sensible for that to happen.

Thanks again for your own personal insights and suggestions. It's why I value this forum more so than other on-line forums. 
The sound of Alembic is medicine for the soul!

lbpesq

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Re: Diplomatic advice needed!
« Reply #12 on: February 18, 2018, 10:54:31 AM »
Sometimes, you just have to put your foot down.  I used to play with a guitarist (who happens to be British) who plays sitting down and insists on having his amp right next to him so that only the wooden side of the amp faced him.  He then would turn up very loud so he could hear himself balanced with the band.  Unfortunately, for his guitar to sound balanced to him, sitting directly to the side of the amp, he sounded far too loud to the rest of us who were in line with his speaker.  Add to that that his amp was incredibly noisy, emitting a loud hiss whenever he stopped playing.  I offered to lend him an amp, suggested he try setting up with his amp pointing toward him, or even offered to hook up an extension speaker so that could be pointed toward him.  He refused and insisted on doing it his way, no matter what.  Frustration with the situation had a lot to do with our no longer playing together (otherwise, he was an incredible lead guitarist, one of the best I've ever played with).

Cut to last September.  We throw an annual fundraiser party that has 2 or 3 bands followed by a jam session.  When I saw him approaching the stage with guitar in one hand, and his crappy amp in the other, I stopped him and told him firmly that he was welcome to play, but that he needed to choose an amp off of the back line (he had a '66 Fender Bandmaster, a Mesa Boogie Mark II C+, and my F-2B/Class D Carvin/dual JBL K-120 rig to choose from), just like everyone else as everything had already been miced and adjusted.  He chose not to play.  Some people just don't get it and never will! 

One last ditch effort in your situation might be to suggest he use an attenuator, like a THD Hotplate, which will allow him to obtain the same overdriven tone at lesser volumes.

Bill, tgo
« Last Edit: February 18, 2018, 07:34:56 PM by lbpesq »

Zut8083

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Re: Diplomatic advice needed!
« Reply #13 on: February 18, 2018, 06:47:30 PM »
Jazzyvee,

You gotta take care of your own interests to take care of others, onstage or off.  I don't mean to suggest that you isolate yourself, but it does you no good if these guitarslingers can't take some criticism, or decides to go full-blown Joan Crawford/wire-hangers and runaway to talk smack to the community.  We can all agree that is dirty pool, old man.  Dirty pool.   I think, perhaps albeit incorrectly, the consensus may be that the guitarists are now on Double Secret Probation and you have every right and and wish to put together your own tighter, happier enterprise elsewhere.  As John Vernon once said as Dean Wormer of Faber College in Animal House, "The time has come for someone to put his foot down...and that foot is ME!"  I am really sorry you are being sucked into this pointless drama, and I really hope the bandleader sees the light of day.  You can always call Keith Richards or Eric Clapton to come sit in, and sheepdog the guitarists into lower volumes, maybe?  Cheers.

-Zut

murray

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Re: Diplomatic advice needed!
« Reply #14 on: February 19, 2018, 03:26:23 AM »
There are lots of guitarists out there but we only have two ears to last our lifetime.  I think that should be the first priority.  One of the bands I play in gets a lovely blues overdriven sound from a modestly priced Line 6 amp and he doesn't blast us all out.  He also plays pedal steel and banjo. The difference here, I feel, is that my bloke is a musician and I fear that your guitarists aren't, however technically good they may be.  Look after yourself, you are a good player - I've heard you - you mustn't lose your hearing.  I liked the comment above of directing the justifiable complainer to the bandleader or even saying "I agree - would you tell the guitarist/s please"
Glynn