Let’s face it- a certain degree of loudness is par for the course at a rock and roll show. But louder is not always better. While nothing compares to standing in front of a cranked half stack and letting it rip, the fact of the matter is that most of the time, a band that is too loud onstage often sounds worse than one that makes a conscientious effort to monitor their stage volume! It sounds counterintuitive, but bringing your stage volume down can improve your live show for a variety of reasons.
Why Bands Play Too Loud
Let’s say you’re playing guitar and can’t hear yourself onstage. Your natural reaction would be to turn your amp up, and understandably so! However, that also sets off a chain reaction. Your bassist will have to turn up as well to match your louder volume, your drummer will have to hit harder, and your singer will have to really belt it out. This is what we call a volume war. All the band members are competing to be loud and present in the mix and hear themselves clearly.
To play in tune and in time, and to feel the music, musicians need to be able to hear themselves. If they can’t, despite a dialed-in amp and fully functioning stage monitors, it can seem like a hopeless situation that can only be solved by turning up stage volume, when doing so actually just exacerbates the situation.
In end you may be taken out of the PA in order to keep show levels inside of the venues maximum volume or the PA’s maximum volume. When competing stage and house volumes start happening neither one gets a good mix.
To keep your stage volume down, here are some things you can try:
- Elevate your amp or tilt it up. Your amp is no good when all the sound is blowing past your legs (and at the poor audience members in the front row). If your amp is too low, raising it closer to ear level can work wonders and will reduce the overall volume you need to hear yourself. Your amp is your personal onstage monitor!
Practice getting your tone at a lower volume. Many guitarists love the sound of a tube amp cranked wide open, which doesn’t always vibe well in a small venue. Instead of forcing it and playing too loud, try to experiment with ways to get your tone, just at a lower level, such as using a preamp pedal like the Carvin Audio VLD1 or a lower wattage amp. A guitar amplifier with switchable wattage also comes in very handy.
Practice stage volume at rehearsal. It goes without saying, but if your band practices loudly, you’re probably going to play loudly live as well. Try to rehearse at a lower volume so when the gig night comes around, you’re acclimated to the band sounding a little quieter.
Stand as close to the monitors as possible. Each band member will not always have his or her own monitor at every venue ( in which case raising your amp is even more important!) But as a rule of thumb, you want to stand in a position where you can hear the monitor mix, even if it brings you uncomfortably close to your bandmates (hey, you’re all friends, right?)
Be on the same axis as the monitor. Simply standing near the monitors is not enough. Speakers disperse sound to an area directly in front of them, so if you’re standing to the side, you won’t hear everything optimally. Stand directly in front of a monitor if possible, and avoid obstructing monitors with amps and other equipment.
Don’t be afraid to ask the sound guy for more. If you’re following the above tips and still are struggling to hear yourself or your bandmates in the stage mix, tell the sound guy that you need a little more in your monitor. They’ll certainly like it more than just turning your amp up on stage!
Invest in in-ear monitors. In-ears are a wonderful solution to any monitoring woes, as each musician does not have to be near a monitor, and can hear their desired mix in their own personal ear monitor. While pricey, the investment is worth it and the result is often a reduced need to turn up onstage, since each band member can hear the mix clearly.
Carvin Audio EM900 Wireless In-Ear Personal Monitor System
Turning down onstage will let the PA do the work and make it easier for the sound guy to do his job, since there will not be excessive volume bleeding from the stage into the house mix. Try it out at your next gig and let us know how it works out!
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