Saturday, July 6, 2013

Audio Note

The Kenwood Players have already had one outdoor performance this summer, and are looking to have three more. Unless we're on a porch and the crowd is small, I always use some amplification for these events. If nothing else, at least a set of very small speakers used as monitors for my guitar, so everyone in the group can hear me even though I'm in front and facing the audience.

One thing that I find remarkable is that whenever I mention using a little amplification, it's not unusual for the person arranging for the music to get what I can only call righteously angry about past events where a band used so much amplification people were unable to talk to one another. When I talk to friends about this, almost everyone has a horror story of an event being ruined by a too loud band - and years ago I walked out of a Judy Collins concert because the sound was so loud it hurt.

During a period when live music is on the wane, sonically assaulting the audience seems a weird thing to do, but it seems to happen with great frequency. I think one problem (besides the members of loud bands having lost hearing over time and not realizing what they're doing) is the way the main speakers are pointed at the audience, with monitor speakers facing the band. With things set up this way, it's easy for the band to not realize just how loud they are to the audience.

Over time the way I set up has evolved into not distinguishing between speakers for the audience and monitors for the band. I put the speakers a bit behind and to the side of the band and turned at something like a 45 degree angle inward so they work as both monitors for us while also sending some sound out front. That creates the danger of feedback, but I've found that turning the treble down on everything lowers the threshold for that by a lot. And, of course, the precursor to feedback is that nice reverb feeling where you can feel the sound as well as hear it. As long as I keep the sound levels in that range, things work really well.

As to who/what gets a microphone - I have one for vocals and the clarinet gets one so she can play with good tone low in her range and be heard. My acoustic guitar with the onboard pickup gets plugged in, and if it's a large event I put a mic up for the tubas so we can have a nice solid bass line without them having to work for volume. 

Also, I've started using a small dynamic mic on my music stand to pick up the banjo at large events. It's hard to believe, but the one comment I get on the sound system over and over is people coming up afterwards and saying that couldn't hear the banjo. I think the issue is that it's so very directional in its sound - if the drum head is facing you, you hear it, but if it's angled away, you don't.

No comments:

Post a Comment