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Why is Rock Music So Loud?


Dr. Ellwood

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I was thinking about this because of a comment Bill made about playing at reasonable levels and it's effect on not only the players but the audiences. Why did we progressively go to louder and louder SPL's? Did it start because the PA systems where not adequate to handle instrument reamplification? or was it because of the natural sound levels of drum kits? Was it because of the guitarists need to build longer sustain or dynamics? Anyway, just a thought.
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i think it just has to do with " emitted energy "

i mean, as far as im concerned louder means wilder, free'er anyways, u feel the " power " from the chords, but then again, that depends on the rock your referring to, i dont think it has to do whith re amplification

I Am But A Solution In Search Of A Problem.
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We battle this at our church all the time. We have a fair amount of concerts every year. If I run it I try to keep it to a reasonable level (the worship leader's wife is a good barameter). If someone else runs it - watch out. You can't hear yourself think. It's crazy. I've heard some bands state that "its gonna have to get a lot louder than that!" when it was way over my threshold already.
Raise your children and spoil your grandchildren. Spoil your children and raise your grandchildren.
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Originally posted by ellwood:

Why did we progressively go to louder and louder SPL's?

Well, if audiences at classical concerts yelled the way teenagers (from the 1950s to the present) yell, orchestras'd probably use a lot more amplification.

 

I think there's also a buzz associated with a playing at a certain volume. It just feels different.

 

Also, concert halls and performance spaces keep getting larger. I don't know that too many ppl played huge stadiums 50 years ago (although Madison SQ. Gardens has been a major venue since when? the 1930s)

 

Finally, don't forget that EVERYTHING is getting noisier. In ancient times, people used to be able to make speeches to large crowds and be heard hundreds of feet away. I'd like to see anyone try THAT in 2006. They'd be drowned out by traffic and machine noises of all sorts.

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Right, I guess I was going in the direction of the progressive history of it. Do you think originally it was the bass players, and guitar plyers attempt to get up to playing levels with the drum kit. I mean where did it start and why did it continue to increase? What would have happened to the industry overall if the SPL's would have went to a reasonable level and stayed there. Lets define reasonable SPL's: lets say at a live concert, anywhere in the venue you can have a conversation with another person, a little strained by still possiable without yelling.
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Originally posted by ellwood:

I mean where did it start and why did it continue to increase?

Well, in Woody Guthrie's autobiography, "Bound For Glory", he mentions playing in a California bar with a miked up stage. No individual amps.

 

I think he's referring to the very early 40s, but he doesn't marvel or wonder at the amplification, so it must have been commonplace even for bars back then.

 

 

...

 

Maybe it all had something to do with drummers. The trumpet and military band instruments that made up the early jass bands had no trouble keeping up with drummers but if guitarists were to do more than thump out chords, they needed some sort of amplification. In fact, the Gibson Charly Christian model already comes with a pickup.

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And what is 'loud'? It's all relative. Why do we have to know that some young dweeb's car is coming 5 blocks away 'cause his woofers are rattling our windows? Defiance? That's my guess; part of adolescence. Have you ever attended a marching band competition in a stadium? Now THAT'S loud. :eek: Personally, I don't mind a moderately loud band, as long as it's clean loud, the musicians are worthy of amplification, and it's not painful. :thu:

 

Paul

WUDAYAKNOW.. For the first time in my life, I'm wrong again!!
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The first amp were made for guitarist so they could play with the big band/orchestra.

 

After that, I agree with Krammer. It's was the screaming fans and huge venues that drove music louder.

 

That's the way they play, other band buy the equipment that the pros use, it loud stuff, but they use for whatever venue they are in--be it large or small.

 

Just so happens it comes out loud I guess.

 

That fine with me. Rock music should be loud for all the reasons stated above.

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Originally posted by paully:

And what is 'loud'? It's all relative. Why do we have to know that some young dweeb's car is coming 5 blocks away 'cause his woofers are rattling our windows? Defiance? That's my guess; part of adolescence. Have you ever attended a marching band competition in a stadium? Now THAT'S loud. :eek: Personally, I don't mind a moderately loud band, as long as it's clean loud, the musicians are worthy of amplification, and it's not painful. :thu:

 

Paul

Paully, I tried to define LOUD eg: "Lets define reasonable SPL's: lets say at a live concert, anywhere in the venue you can have a conversation with another person, a little strained by still possiable without yelling." just for use in this discussion.
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Originally posted by Pappadopalus:

It's was the screaming fans and huge venues that drove music louder.

Yeah, bobby soxers used to scream at Sinatra as far back as the early 40s.

 

And thinking about it... my olds, and people like my olds, used to complain about the volume of rock music. Maybe cranking up bigger and bigger amps had some sort of rebellion factor back in the day too.

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Why did we progressively go to louder and louder SPL's?
I guess there are many reasons...

 

1)Because we can. (dumb reason)

2)Because it's macho!! (dumb reason)

3)Because rock drummers hit harder than most others. (Drummers...try smaller sticks. ;) ) (dumb drummer)

4)Audiences are loud and sometimes number in the thousands...if not tens of thousands. (dumb loud drunk audience with no respect for the others around them)

5)A certain volume is requiered for electric guitar if you want all that sustain at clean to moderate dirt levels. And rock music has to be a bit on the loud side) (only good reason)

 

6)Back in the old days stage volumes were off the chart often because the PA was so small. Often only the vocals went through it. So the band had no choice but to throw it all off the stage. With modern systems there's is no good reason for stage volume to be that high. I keep my (100 watt)amp at 2 and do just fine. I'd like to turn it up to 3-4 so I can get a better sustain and be able to do all those cool feedback tricks but then the whole show would just get out of control. I need a smaller amp but when I bought it (12 years ago) I was younger and dumber than I am now!

 

Now I'm no old fuddy duddy but I won't listen to ANY (club/bar)band that pumels me with 100 watt amps set at 10. If you want to ruin your ears that's your business but I won't stand around for it. Now a rock band has to be able to pump some volume to get it to sound right but if I'm in the back of the club and the level is still in the 103dB range. Bye-bye.

 

At stadium and arena shows there are so many people who are just screaming I think many sound guys feel compeled to jack up the volume so people that are actually listening to the music can get a decent signal to noise ratio. I think there are also the big time rock show sound guys who are just too much in love with their BIG PA SYSTEM and want to treat it like a 16 year old boy would treat a new Corvette. Or the band has stading orders to "make us as loud as you can or I'll fire your ass!" I ALWAYS bring ear plugs to these kind of shows.

 

"Rush" usually does a very good job of keeping the levels in check and the crowds are usually on the quiet side for a heavy rock show crowd. I guess we are ALL getting older.

 

The best example of a big show being near to perfect was Pink Floyd's Division Bell show. The sound was loud and full and pristine. But the volume was not over the top. I'm guessing 94dB average in the back where I was. The crowd was quiet, as a result you could hear everything.

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Without master volume controls the amps had to be driven hard to get them to distort. I think the volume levels went up a great deal in the mid 60s and even more in the 70s (stadium bands).

 

The need/desire for distortion on amps that had to be cranked to provide that distortion, along with the need to be heard over the drummer in large venues probably all contributed to it.

 

I've noticed nowadays, though, that even movie theaters play movies at ear splitting levels. I think that's because kids today think everything has to be loud. I don't know why unless they just want to drown out the world with it. For most, I think it's the only way they get noticed.

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Originally posted by Kramer Ferrington III.:

And thinking about it... my olds, and people like my olds, used to complain about the volume of rock music. Maybe cranking up bigger and bigger amps had some sort of rebellion factor back in the day too.

Exactly! Rock is loud because it pisses off older people.
"You never can vouch for your own consciousness." - Norman Mailer
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well, i listen to most of my music loud cuz it helps me enjoy it better, lets me forget about whatever is around me and just go into some kind of " trance " let it be rock or let be metal or let it be classical... gotta love a good sonata or Segovia ....
I Am But A Solution In Search Of A Problem.
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If you look back to the days when music first started to really get loud (60-70's) it was because artists like Jimi needed to turn it up to get the desired overdriven distortion....

 

Nowadays i reckon we are all deaf as a post as a result of those days so we NEED to play it louder... Its just gonna get worse over time and in about 2 decades our kids will probably start being born a bit deaf just to compensate for the fact everything needs to be so loud.. because everybodies half deaf.

 

Its a vicious circle people.. vicious i tell ya

 

;)

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I'd guess it was originally about getting a vocalist/acoustic musician's level up to a point where it could compete with band, crowd noise, be heard in a large venue, so and so forth. Then, it became about getting a better balance of levels between musicians using amplified instruments. And, we all know, of coourse, that a guitar amp doesn't really begin to really speak until you're pushing at least a little. And, drums just don't sound good if you muffle them down. And of course, bass guitars need high power levels to push that low end out, etc and so on. But, it was really about getting vocalists and acoustic instruments heard in large noisy venues, so the blame it on the folkies.

Or, it could be all the fault of the French. If it wasn't their fault, it's only because they were retreating from or surrenderring to someone at the time...

Always remember that you�re unique. Just like everyone else.

 

 

 

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If your threshold of pain is 140dB SPL (at any weighting) I would suggest you have a good deal of hearing loss.

 

Though a search shows a wide disparity of SPL levels given as the threshold of pain (The very first ambiguously stating "115dB - 140dB") for many years every listing of sound levels I ever saw used 120dB SPL as the threshold of pain. (Usually related to levels near jet engines, etc.)

 

I would suggest this could indicate you're not the only one with hearing loss. Not a surprise considering other reports regarding hearing loss as it relates to young people both from listening to loud music and noise in open environments as well as recent news regarding headphones because of the ubiquity of mp3 players.

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The simple fact that most rock shows are way TOO loud keeps me from going to them. I value my hearing too much at this point in my life.

 

Rock concerts have ALWAYS been loud - at least since the late 70s when I started going to them. Anybody remember the Black and Blue tour back then? Blue Oyster Cult and Black Sabbath... I was in shock for days after that concert due to the volume!

 

More than a few years back I went to the G3 concert at the Beacon Theater in NYC. It was Vai, Satriani and EJ. What a great show... too bad it was so loud I only saw half of it! I spend the second half out in the lobby.

 

These days I make it point to try to see outdoor shows as much as possible. I saw the Pixies at Jones Beach (NY) last summer... Great show it was loud enough but at least the sound could disperse and didn't reverberate off all the walls!

 

Maybe I'm too sensitive but after several years of playing in band myself and seeing plenty of shows as a kid I'd like like to hang onto my hearing as much as possible.

 

BUT... Rock shows are loud and we know that. What does bother me are all these "events" that we attend - whether their family or corporate - where the DJ or band is playing so loud no one in the room can hear themselves think, let alone have a conversation. Virtually any large wedding that I have attended has had music so loud that most people have to move to the back of the hall or go out completely to get a break.

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Many years ago, when stationed in South Carolina, I went to a Motley Crue/Guns and Roses concert (when you're in the sticks of SC, you're desperate to see any national act).

 

Anyway, my jarhead friends and me had 2nd row tickets. I thought it would be a decent experience since they were good seats.

 

Wrong! On each end of the stage sat a giant stack of PA speakers (at least 12' high) and I was less than 10' from one of these stacks.

 

Guns and Roses opened (they were promoting their debut album). They were loud but bearable.

 

Once Motley Crue started, the noise level was such that I thought my head was going to explode. After two songs, I had to leave. My head was really throbbing.

 

I ended up in a bar next door to the concert, waiting for it to end, to meet up with my friends. I felt like such a puss for not being able to take the noise but it was literally "deafening".

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The Tokyo International Forum is a very cool place to see concerts-there are speakers permanently placed on the back wall so sound is dispersed evenly. Lee Flier was big on a new PA system from Bose that seems to provide a good instrumental balance without the deadly `volume war` syndrome. Actually I`ve always been a little hung up on this issue. Rock music has been abysmal at exploring dynamics, both with bands I`ve heard and been in. Some fusion-oriented guitarists seem to get it, but generally it`s blast blast blast finish.

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Excessive volume is not only found in the big stadiums, but in small clubs, too. In fact, I've seen three-piece bands in small, cinder-block bunkers that almost tore my face off. That's why I have easily acquired and inexpensive foam earplugs in every coat I own. Once your ears adjust to the plugs, you can hear the band just fine, but they cut the volume (particularly the really damaging high-end frequencies) enough so you don't leave the club feeling punch drunk with your ears ringing for days.
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Yes, volume levels are often excessive. I have no problem with loud as in "fill the room", especially if it's CLEAN and you can hear everything! But why does it have to be heard in the next COUNTY??

 

It seems odd to me that kids are the ones wholove it loud - I did, too! Does our hearing get BETTER over the years?? Or just more discerning?

 

To Picker: why are you such a Francophobe?

 

Of course, in some places they want you so soft you can barely hear yourself in the monitor - that's going too far in the other direction!

 

You also run into the fact that playing lead you need at least a little bit of punch to get any kind of TONE! Of course, then you can run it through the board and you don't have to crank it up to deafening levels.

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