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A friend asked me to come play with his band: two guitars, playing what he calls "jam blues". So we got together and played. Pretty mundane 12-bar blues, with a pretty decent version of the Allman's E. Reed. I surprised myself by playing well all night long. Twice, the singer turned to me to tell me I had nailed "the tone" (thank you Nord Electro). And it was painfully loud. I told my friend it was too loud, and I couldn't tolerate that volume. I told him I was willing to meet again for another go, but wasn't going to commit.

Now my friend is bombing my phone with texts asking me to agree to dates. They have five shows lined up already; more on the way. They are well-organized and practiced about getting gigs.

I really wanted this to work out. I like the musical vibe, and I know the BL will get lots of business. And now I have to turn them down because it is too loud. I've never down this before. And given that I'm older and not getting any younger, I may never see another opportunity like this. I'm disappointed.


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If it wasn't for bands with too-loud guitars, I wouldn't have no opportunities at all. Musicians' earplugs are what makes the volume tolerable (and safe) for me.


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When you got together and played, was it at a practice place or on a gig/stage? Have you considered musicians’ earplugs? Can you relocate your keys away from the primary sources of loudness ie guitar amps, drums?

Each gig can present a variety of problems but not necessarily without options. If you really want to take advantage of this opportunity, why not commit and try working them out.


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Do you use ear protection?


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It's a pretty simple fix if you want to do the gig. 3 options:

1/ get them to commit to turning down (least likely to work)
2/ use earplugs
3/ use in ears. I do this in one of the bands I play in for that same reason. I don't bring a stage amp and tell the band, "if you want to hear me, put me in your monitor".


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It's a type music that playing loud is pretty much the norm, so you need decide to walk away or get hearing protection. Hearing protection is getting to the norm these days.

Pro touring musicians understand playing at comfortable stage volume and let the PA fill the venue.

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I play in two bands that are excellent about volume at rehearsal and one that isn’t. On stage volume not an issue in any of them.

For that one band I just wear musicians’ earplugs as suggested above. Problem solved.

Pay is good (when we can gig - thanks COVID), rehearsals are minimal, music is fun and the musicians are great players and people. Happy to shove something in my ears to keep the gig under those circumstances.

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I'll echo mcgoo's suggestion above. You mentioned that you've committed to giving them one more try. Before you do, get a good set of musician's earplugs. You may want to wear them beforehand just to get accustomed to how they'll dampen/color the sound. If the volume is still intolerable, politely beg off. But if it's tolerable with the earplug, then you can decide whether to continue using them or explore getting IEMs.


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Originally Posted by mcgoo
It's a pretty simple fix if you want to do the gig. 3 options:

1/ get them to commit to turning down (least likely to work)
2/ use earplugs
3/ use in ears. I do this in one of the bands I play in for that same reason. I don't bring a stage amp and tell the band, "if you want to hear me, put me in your monitor".

2 and 3 are the options for my work.

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There are trends in music I hate (tracks) and trends I like--one of these is that bands aren't expected (or allowed in many cases) to play at a billion decibels.

As a patron, I have no interest in sitting at a table getting my ears blasted and be unable to have anything other than a simplistic shouted "conversation" with my tablemate.

As a player, no way am I going to subject myself to a loud stage volume, and most of us know how soul-sucking it is to be berated by the manager for being too loud, it throws off everything.

Even with a quiet-ish stage (no amps) we still have an acoustic drum kit and that's enough for me to go in-ears. I don't want ringing in my ears after shows.

You don't have to blow people's hearing out to have energy. I certainly wouldn't join a band like that, it would be one of the first questions I'd ask. Second would be "how many guitarists do you have" grin One is almost too many....

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It may be too loud in a constricted rehearsal space, but what kind of venues do they have lined up? Would you get a break with stages where you could spread out, or rooms large enough to handle it?

I dunno... just trying to put a positive spin on this. Like most of us who've been around the block, you know from the get-go if it's gonna work. I've done the earplug thing, but haven't had to in 20 years because the last couple of bands knew how to behave themselves. But earplugs or in-ears are definitely an option if you really want the gig.

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There are trends in music I hate (tracks) and trends I like--one of these is that bands aren't expected (or allowed in many cases) to play at a billion decibels.

As a patron, I have no interest in sitting at a table getting my ears blasted and be unable to have anything other than a simplistic shouted "conversation" with my tablemate.

As a player, no way am I going to subject myself to a loud stage volume, and most of us know how soul-sucking it is to be berated by the manager for being too loud, it throws off everything.

Even with a quiet-ish stage (no amps) we still have an acoustic drum kit and that's enough for me to go in-ears. I don't want ringing in my ears after shows.

You don't have to blow people's hearing out to have energy. I certainly wouldn't join a band like that, it would be one of the first questions I'd ask. Second would be "how many guitarists do you have" grin One is almost too many....

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My high school and college years (late 60s to early 70s) were pure turmoil in music and society. Virtually every slick-backed-haired country performer in 1966 had long(er) over the ears blow dried hair by 1973. Or they didn’t survive. Perpetual Change.

You indicated you felt you were playing well. Let that be your guidepost. Stick those musicians earplugs in tight and stay in the saddle.

Getting back in the saddle is a whole ‘nuther thing.

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Earplugs. Always. Also, if they are not used to playing with a keyboardist, a little stage-amp hygiene might be in order too. Guitar amps need to face forward or backward, not angled across the stage at you, which they guaranteed to be at first by some kind of magic Murphy's Law wizardry. You set up across the stage from them, by the bass player. Point your monitor right at yourself, and if they want to hear you, they can have you in a monitor. Don't engage in volume wars, just carve out a bit of real estate that works for you, physically and sonically.

I play in, believe it or not, at least FOUR two+ -guitar bands, two of which are actually three-guitar bands. Happily I can usually count on musicianship to control things, but when I can't, I just carve out my little corner of the stage and control my own real estate to every extent possible.

I'd also like to point out that there is a market out there for keyboard-specific earplugs, if anyone wants to invent some. I find the flat-cut across all frequencies to put me at a disadvantage when I play with guitarists. They are way more present in the mids than keys are, so a flat cut pulls me out even farther compared to them. I want some frequency-specific earplugs that let me draw out overtones specific to keys and dampen those less-complex guitar waves. Get on it, Corner!


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This reminds me of myself in my early 20s. Two-guitar band, American rock, frontman has great personality, top sax player and drummer, but just too loud. After a few years of trying to persuade them to turn down, I surrendered the volume war and got in-ears. (I had tried earplugs but I found it difficult to balance myself vs the band with them).

It sounds like the OP really wants to make this work. Worth trying earplug and IEMs - I always tell my muso friends keen to try IEMs "you should expect to have to meet them halfway". You'll need to adjust, and it's not perfect, but there's nothing quite like walking offstage after playing a set without the tension of ringing ears.

Cheers, Mike.


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The last band I played with (pre pandemic) was one guitar, perfect material for me, and we liked each other a lot. But they were so loud that the drummer was miking his kit at the jams (we played at the bassist's house and he called them jams, not rehearsals) so his kick and snare could be heard. I've measured over 100 dB at these jams. I tried my normal custom molded earplugs but they didn't do enough (15 dB filters? Ha!) so I ended up using foam earplugs with ~ 30 dB reduction, and had to make sure they were properly inserted otherwise I was getting a lot of leakage. Inserted properly, I finally could feel comfortable and not blasted away.

I bring this up to say that if you want to pursue this BbAlt, you might have to experiment with ear protection that works for you with this band. Hopefully you can work something out.

P.S. The guitar player's amp was pointed at him, not the rest of us. It was so loud it didn't matter.


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I'd take a hard pass and move on. Find people you LOVE to play with without reservations. Or start your own thing, maybe just you and a vocalist that plays a bit of percussion.

And, I'm a guitar player that used to be LOUD. I know how long it can take to come to your senses.
Currently I use a Boss Katana 50 MkII 1-12 combo but I use the power selector switch set to 1/2 (0.5) watt.
I can get that "amp turned up" tone at a volume that is still a bit loud but it is aiming at my head so it never gets too loud.

Our drummer gets happy and starts hitting his drums. I've got foam -30db earplugs in. At a certain point he will say that he cannot hear me and I say "I am not surprised." I don't turn up, he can play quieter if he wants to hear the band. Our bassist doesn't like loud either.

It's still not all milk and honey, the bandleader-lead singer-acoustic guitarist likes his monitor mix for vocals and acoustic guitar loud. So I don't have a monitor on my side of the stage.
It is certainly better than my Mesa half stack days.


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Oh, and you are not turning down an opportunity, they are not turning down and will miss getting a keyboard player that they would like to play with. It's on them, not you.


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I usually keep my keys pretty low, and when they mention it I tell them to turn down so they can hear me… no need to rehearse at 11.

I have a set of in-ears, with a good set of Ultimate Ears molded monitors. If possible, I use my monitor system so that I have control over the volume I hear. If I’m not using the monitor system, I still keep the ears in and can put them deeper or less deep as necessary to help moderate the incoming volume.

I always try to encourage the band members to keep the volume down every chance I get, but the ears help when I am less than successful.

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Ironically I played for the first time last night with a two guitar band that was overloud but really good material and nice folks. I plan to go back to try again with my own gear and some conversation about volume, which they acknowledge is over the top.

The kicker for me was they admitted they had NEVER played in a band with a keyboard player, whether it was this band or any of their respective previous bands. They seem open to accommodate me given, as they said, "it's impossible to find keyboard players". And they have a fair amount of keyboards on their recorded output.

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This is a textbook case of risk management. Weighing the benefits of taking the gig against the risk of damage to your hearing. Additional factors to consider are the likely decreasing opportunities of future gigs, the physical impact of lugging gear around, sacrificing the benefits of groupies....

Take the gig.


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Earplugs. One of the bands I play with is led by a very talented guitarist who for whatever reason will not get the amp off the ground and aimed at his ears. So it's aimed at his knees. But he plays festivals up and down the east coast (Australia). So I set up with him and his amp one side of me, plug the ear on that side, and put my powered speaker on the other side. Yes I'd rather he set his amp up properly so he could hear it without the volume where it is. But it is what it is. I've become accustomed to it and enjoy the gigs. YMMV.


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Originally Posted by KuruPrionz
Oh, and you are not turning down an opportunity, they are not turning down and will miss getting a keyboard player that they would like to play with.
No reflection on the post, but I think this sort of sentence is why non-native English speakers find the language so difficult to learn and master. Idiomatic much?


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With the variety and availability of affordable IEM solutions (sealed and ambient), you can protect yourself from excessive stage volume, hear yourself clearly and be comfortable the whole night.

Then, if the rest of the band cares about how they sound to the audience and/or protecting their hearing (hopefully they care about both), they will eventually follow suit. In my experience, the conversion of my band to IEMs (over a 3-year period) was nothing short of transformative. After our first gig (which was painfully loud) I switched to IEMs from powered monitors and never looked back. One-by-one, everyone else switched on their own when they were ready. The guitarist even switched to a Kemper floorboard, so he no longer brings an amp or cabinets. We now have a stage box with a splitter snake to FOH and our own XR18 mixer to have a consistent IEM mix no matter who is providing and running FOH sound.


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It's funny...


Of the 2 bands I'm in... the country band does wireless IEMs (except for me: I use a spot monitor), no guitar or bass amps (they go direct via modeling pedal set-ups). Complex digital mixer, and tons of audio processing gear (compressor, EQ, exciter, etc.) at the mixing desk. And as a result, soundchecks take up to an hour, with bandmembers endlessly saying "turn this up, turn this down", ad infinitum. Frustrating.

However, the classic rock covers band... very simple set-up: 2 guitarists/lead-singers with their own Fender Twin amps (not miked) and placed in front of the drummer but behind the guitarists/singers; bass player with his own amp (also not miked). Only vocals, keys, and (sometimes) kick-drum are sent to the PA. Only the drummer and I have spot-monitors. No floor wedges. No audio processing gear, just a simple analog mixer. Result: less than 10 minutes for sound-check, and sonically it all works out. I can hear the guitars through the back of the amps, and can hear the bass. Vocals and keys through my spot-monitor. Acoustic drums take care of themselves. Somehow, it all works out better than country band's super-expensive set-up. But better for small venues, parks, and small outdoor events. Not enough sound reinforcement for large venues.


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The IEMs aren't likely the cause of the soundcheck delays with the country band. The issue is the reliance on the sound company for monitor feeds and setting monitor levels.

We each use our phones to set our personal monitor mixes on the XR-18 on our side of the splitter snake and the sound company takes care of FOH from their side. There is minimal level tweaking for monitors, since we have a consistent setup from gig-to-gig, and we will run through a song and a half at sound check so FOH can get all the instruments and vocals dialed in. Everything goes through FOH regardless of venue. Super easy and eliminates lots of variables.


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When it comes to sound check delays my experience is it’s rarely gear dependent but often personality dependent.

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Originally Posted by synthizen2
It's funny...

Of the 2 bands I'm in... the country band does wireless IEMs (except for me: I use a spot monitor), no guitar or bass amps (they go direct via modeling pedal set-ups). Complex digital mixer, and tons of audio processing gear (compressor, EQ, exciter, etc.) at the mixing desk. And as a result, soundchecks take up to an hour, with bandmembers endlessly saying "turn this up, turn this down", ad infinitum. Frustrating.

What kind of digital mixer are you using? Is it controllable via WiFi? If so, maybe you could get everyone set up to control their own monitor mixes. My band uses a Soundcraft Ui24R digital mixer to run our IEMs (we connect everything to a splitter snake with one side going to our monitor mixer and the other to FOH). Then we each control our own monitor mix using our iPads, smartphones, etc. It totally did away with the soundcheck hassles. Don't like your monitor mix? Fix it yourself.

Since we use the same mics and instruments everywhere we play, I have barely tweaked my mix other than the overall level in months. Our bass player, on the other hand, seems to adjust something nearly every other song. (He was also the guy that, before we got the IEM system, spent 30 minutes repeating, "Oh, one more thing" during soundchecks.)


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Band volume is a must have conversation because it requires cooperation and maturity among the musicians.

If musician(s) insist on playing too loud and/or subscribe to the point of view "turn down for what?!", it's time to find a better situation. cool


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IEM's are the best way to combat the problem, and hear the guitars, etc at a volume that best suits you. My band has been full stereo IEM and no amps on stage for several years now. It's glorious. I don't ever want to go back to a situation where lugging my keyboard rig, a keyboard amp, and a half stack (I also play guitar) is required. I use a Kemper stage for my guitar and the other guitarist uses a Line6 Helix.

Our monitor board is a racked Allen & Heath with enough sends for stereo mixes for the band. We use the Qu-You app to control our mixes via iPad or phone. It's a game changer. FOH taps into our snake or simply takes a L/R out of our mixer if they so choose. Bottom line is, we get the same mix in our ears every time with minimal adjustments needed between venues.


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