What happens when small scale, needs to upscale?

What happens when your small functions band, gets the opportunity to play on a wider, professionally engineered stage?  And what can you do to help everything go smoothly?

That’s the subject of the latest edition of Livesoundblog’s Tips section.

:CLICK HERE: to read the article.


What is “Too Loud”

I’ve added a page about SPL levels in small venues.  It’s triggered by a gig I went to a couple of weeks ago, where the band had their sound system so loud, that my ears were compressing the sound, and were physically hurting – it literally made me start to lose my balance.

I got my SPL meter out on my phone, and the system was delivering an average reading of 112dBA from my listening position, 4 metres back.  It was an uncomfortable experience, and got me thinking about what “too loud” means.

The article is here:  CLICK

Unsuitable equipment!

Sometimes, when you’re throwing a band together, you have to improvise.

But it’s fair to say I’ve had my fair share of shockers.  This is an amusing look back at “bad sound” situations that I’ve found myself in over the years!! (in the days before Black Market I hasten to add!)

The gig I did without a PA system.
Asked to sling a band together for a party, a group of friends got together and thought we could pull it all off.  We learnt some songs – and we played together pretty well!  Unfortunately, when it came to the gig, we were let down on the PA system – the system which arrived, was both awful, and didn’t work.

So with a re-jig, we, for some reason, concluded that the only way we were going to get a vocal out, was with a Marshall Valvemaster amp.  Well as you can imagine, cranking the gain up on a Lo-Z mic, meant that the vocal was hugely distorted – no compression, no nothing – we would almost have been better off if I’d tried to sing without any re-inforcement.

Coupled with having swine flu on the day, and managing to find the only drummer in the world who froze and couldn’t play on the day – the whole thing was an unmitigating disaster – apart from the crowd, who for some reason, thought it was great!?!


Can you see anything missing??


The one where the PA system sat on the floor, outside. 

Strangely enough, with the same group of guys, we slung something together for a little pub gig – it was a summer fete, and predictably it was raining.

The singer (I took to the drums for this one) had provided a 200W Yamaha PA system – vastly underpowered for what we needed, and coupled with a distinct lack of stands – the PA system sat on the floor.

Driven to within an inch of its life, and unable to actually produce anything like a full range system – we even tried to add a kick drum into the mix!

The gig was fine – nobody turned up anyway – but it was at that point that I took a genuine interest in using proper, decent quality PA kit.

The one where we blew up the subs:

Again, an underspecced system, run to within an inch of its life – the cone on the subwoofer, outdoors, never really stood a chance.  This was after some half decent kit had been invested in – but using it outdoors, was always going to end in disaster.  £100 to replace the driver in the end, and a sound which was, at the least, disappointing.


Can you blag it?? Of course there are some things which you can get through without – but there’s really no substitute for a full PA system, properly set up!


Options for lowering stage noise

Stage noise.  The ultimate enemy in small venues.

What can you do about it?  Little, and everything – as always, it depends on your budget, and the amount of effort you want to put in.

I’m not any kind of expert in this area, but I can direct to several key resources which I have found useful for understanding how to reduce stage noise over the years.

Option 1: Get USED to playing quietly.

It might sound stupid – but one of the key things that any band can do, is to learn to play less loudly!  This starts in the rehearsal room.  Set yourself up quietly, and gently bring up your levels, until all the instruments are balanced – give your drummer a bench mark – you’ll be amazed how quickly the style of a drummer changes when the rest of the band is playing quietly!

Option 2:  In-Ear Monitors

I’ve long been an advocate of using in-ear monitors.  They have several advantages – not least the opportunity for each musician to be able to hear exactly what they want to hear, regardless of the sound balance that they can hear from the stage.

There are a number of resources available explaining the merits of systems like this, a lot better than I can.

When looking at resources for things like this, I always find the worship sites useful, as they tend to operate in constrained spaces, which are highly awkward sound wise – much like the common pub and functions band.

This page gives some great explanations of the various merits, uses and proper use of IEM systems.

Option 3:  Get used to upsetting audience and playing bad gigs!

That’s the reality of it.  If you fail to control your levels on stage, you will force the front of house to be pushed, will damage peoples hearing, and will ultimately get a bad reputation for blowing peoples ears out!  Controlling everything from guitar amp levels, to monitor levels, is absolutely crucial to achieving the best live sound possible!