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Controlling volume in small venues? DB Meter? Advice?


Bob L

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My band plays some pretty small venues and we sometimes get complaints about volume. I view this as subjective, and also think earlier in the night before a place fills up with people it seems even worse. We play one small venue monthly (with no sound man) and there are often relatives of band members offering advice on volume, etc. It is getting to be a distraction and irritant at gigs and I would prefer we focus on playing music.

 

Our drummer is very experienced and able to adjust his volume down when we need to. The issue is knowing when we are too loud (or if we are). Ideally (I think) we want to be at a volume where most people in the club can talk without screaming at each other, but the volume is high enough to bring out the best in our respective instruments (we play rock and funk, not cocktail music).

 

How do some of you that play small venues with no sound man handle this? Do any of you use a DB Meter?

 

If you use a DB Meter:

 

Which one? They seem to be $25-$80. I am concerned if battery powered the batteries will wear out quickly unless you use it just a few times a set to keep on top of volume. Also, where do you place a DB meter so band members can even see it, and if it is close by, then how does it represent the sound from an audience member's perspective. Is there different or better technology to throw at this?

 

If there is a prior post that covers this topic well, my apologies in advance. I appreciate all the great advice I get on this forum.

 

 

 

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One of the bands I'm in plays at several venues that are very iron-clad on their volume ceiling (due to their neighbors). They'd have staff walking around with handheld dB meters from time to time.

 

We decided to be proactive. I downloaded a free dB meter on my iPhone and use that at sound check. It seems to be reasonably accurate, or at least consistent.

 

So we get an idea at sound check what the ceiling feels like - granted, without people in the room, etc. It's far from perfect, but at least gives us a feel for who we are in the room.

 

Once we get well into the first set, we have one of our friends take a measurement and let us know where we're at.

 

Haven't done the "live display to the band" thing yet, as we just haven't run afoul of any venue owners about volume since we started doing what I described above.

 

Hope that helps some.

 

Tim

 

 

..
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Heh.

 

We used to play several Holiday Inn Lounges (remember those?) regularly, and got hassled a lot in one specific one.

 

They had a Radio Shack dB meter, and my wife (who ran sound) used to borrow it and keep it at the board.

 

She also kept a small screwdriver which fit the calibration hole of that particular meter, and would adjust the sensitivity more to our liking for the duration of our stay. ;)

Moe

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If everybody cut their volume in half the complaints would go away. I've never been told that the band (as a whole) isn't loud enough. NEVER. It's the band that aways thinks they can't be heard. Try it one time and report back the results.

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I downloaded a free dB meter on my iPhone and use that at sound check. It seems to be reasonably accurate, or at least consistent.

 

They're available for Android phones too. I downloaded two for my Galaxy Mega just to see if they read any differently. Nope - pretty much the same... right down to the annoying little strip ads on the bottom :facepalm:

 

DB meters on phones are useful for all kinds of things. I'm currently shopping for a new car, and I'm taking dB readings in each of them as part of my test drive. I'm not sure how accurate they are over the entire frequency spectrum, but they're pretty good where it counts the most - the vocal range. In both cars and clubs, people have to be able to easily carry on a conversation.

 

The most important part of the night is early on, when people's ears are still sensitive and alcohol hasn't kicked in yet. It's often when a club is making a shift change too, and the staff absolutely has to be able to do that easily.

 

Alcohol releases inhibitions to control levels. You might try a rule prohibiting drinking during the first half of the night, but fat chance of that flying in most groups :D

 

 

 

 

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I've known dB a long time. He's always that volume.
:laugh:

 

Remember that the reading on these things is *highly* dependent upon direction and surroundings. If you're holding it and standing a certain way, you can affect the reading.

 

That said, you can get a good ballpark, which is probably all you need.

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By the books , it should be 90-95 DB max , and in your situation - much less. That's why I NEVER want to play with a BAND in those sort of venues (and won't). And if they're waving DB meters around , well what a joke that is , management should be able to keep it under control with little effort.

I like to play with the band where people are coming along for the music and a drink or 2.

 

Have a look at this loudness chart , we better quit music now :) > http://www.gcaudio.com/resources/howtos/loudness.html

 

Brett

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Has anyone had a go at this hearing test here yet? >

 

I can't hear a thing above about 13,300 Hz - supposed to be normal for my age. My low level tinnitis is ringing at about 9500Hz.

They reckon if you can hear your fingers rubbing together at arms length , you're fine.

 

Brett

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I'm not above asking the crowd after my first song or two how the level and mix is. They'll be honest with you.

 

I deal with this a lot in the one-man situation I play every Saturday now. And I'm leaning there's a delicate balance between what I feel is adequately loud and what the club owner does.

 

A couple of weeks ago, I got a napkin note from the manager saying I was too loud. Actually it was the CROWD, because they were hollering and singing along with me and they were louder than me. How the hell am I supposed to control that?

 

Anyway, what I've learned in that situation is that I have to be MUCH lower that I'd like. I'm really just there for ambience while folks eat and drink. So, at times, I find the crowd is actually overshadowing me. But the bottom line is that the boss is happy and the waitresses don't have to shout or lean in to take their orders.

 

Not ideal, but for what they pay me I'm not in a position to fight them on it.

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+1 Philip.

 

I was just wondering how folks ears were fairing around here:).

My hearing is better than I thought on the hearing test.

 

Brett

 

Mine kicks in around 15,750. I'm 45 yo and I've been playing in bands since I was probably 11 or 12. I don't use earplugs.

Soul, R&B, Pop from Los Angeles

http://philipclark.com

 

King Super 20 Alto, Yamaha MX61, Roland VR-09, MicroKorg XL, Maschine Mikro, M-Audio ProKeys88sx, Roland MKS-50

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The phone and pad apps might not be calibrated (I don't know if they are), and for sure, the low frequency (and possible the highest frequencies) response is absent with some, so it's not a good reading for full range (maybe Ipads are better, but I seriously doubt the response is full range and all even).

 

Also, sampling matters: if the sound source is digital, depending on the type of amping and speakers, there's going to be sampling residuals, which might be just annoying, but they affect what the listeners perceive, contribute power in an unnatural way, and are very offsetting normal perception, as well as that people hear things change when they move (like dance).

 

And then there is the "digital" meter, which can make mistakes because it is digital, and, you guessed it, digital measuring digital hides and emphasizes certain sound aspects.

 

I recall being in very loud noise from big speakers with goood records, where shouting to the next person was necessary from at most 30 cm away, where however there were no dangerous mid-frequency components, or dangerous repetitive drones (besides fun enough well produced disco rhythms for instance), and even though the sound sucked bad, it was fun.

 

I mean it's exciting for the audience to hear a good sound, feel bass etc etc, but those ear-height speakers with 100s of real watts a piece at short distance can absolutely be dangerous, and should be well under control, preferably also by using good sources and mixing, but even basic knowledge about this appears to be often absent, unfortunately.

 

Says the man with over 500 Watt continuous RMS power in his little "studio" space ... :) Sure, but that system also works (quite the same) at extremely soft and household TV levels. And I am aware of the dimensions, waveshapes, wave-trains and all kinds of reflective effects that can take place, and try to reject and correct all types of sound I think are wrong (and even ugly).

 

I'm very aware of how easy it is to mess with all kinds of dB measurements, like it has been mentioned above changing direction and place of the dB meter can have a lot of effect. So, given a certain type of and use of PA system, and well distributed and well interpreted measurements, it should be quite possible in this time to get a good idea of the loudness.

 

Taking a phone as meter at best can give you some comparative measurement to talk about, probably not a whole lot more.

 

T.

 

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I do a solo act, also have a four piece band....pretty much the same song list for both...classic rock, blues, oldies. The band and myself play mostly the same type of venues such as country clubs and private parties and some casinos. Volume is a big deal for the folks I (we) play for....baby boomers who still like to rock but don't want it too loud. I have a roadie who does our sound checks and he knows just where we need to be volume wise for the size of the room and crowd. There have been times when we rocked it pretty good and the manager would let us know to turn it down a bit..which we always do. But that seldom happens as we are all seasoned musicians. If you think you are playing too loud you probably are..if the manager says you are too loud, no matter what you think, turn it down. And as another forumite posted earlier "I have never had anyone, anywhere, anytime, tell us to turn it up". That says it all.
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Our solution was to modify a Radio Shack dB meter by removing the microphone from the unit and soldering and gluing an XLR male cable plug to the chassis where the microphone was. Then we mounted the microphone into a female XLR cable plug. This allowed us to use the dB meter normally, or to patch in as long a microphone cable as we wished. We would often use a 150' mic. cable, place the microphone directly above where the waitresses called the drinks to the bartender, while placing the meter on the trap-set of the drummer.

 

This allowed the drummer to monitor how loud things were at the most critical communication point (from management's perspective). Our target: 96 dB SPL at the main cach register, back where profits were generated. Bottom-line: If the bar manager's not happy, no one's happy, and future booking's are in jeapardy.

 

This worked quite well, as the drummer tended to set the volume level.

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I've often been curious about something. OSHA has regulations regarding SPL's and time....i.e, you can sustain X dB for up to y minutes without hearing protection.

 

But in particular with music, there is not a steady SPL. How does duty cycle and frequency range affect that. So say you have a dance floor kick drum bass spiking 132dB, 4 on the floor, but it's spikes with low levels in between. Is that better or worse than a constant sustained 1kHz at 105 dB?

Dan

 

Acoustic/Electric stringed instruments ranging from 4 to 230 strings, hammered, picked, fingered, slapped, and plucked. Analog and Digital Electronic instruments, reeds, and throat/mouth.

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They reckon if you can hear your fingers rubbing together at arms length , you're fine.

 

Brett

damn :rolleyes:

"Music expresses that which cannot be put into words and that which cannot remain silent." - Victor Hugo
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I've often been curious about something. OSHA has regulations regarding SPL's and time....i.e, you can sustain X dB for up to y minutes without hearing protection.

 

But in particular with music, there is not a steady SPL. How does duty cycle and frequency range affect that. So say you have a dance floor kick drum bass spiking 132dB, 4 on the floor, but it's spikes with low levels in between. Is that better or worse than a constant sustained 1kHz at 105 dB?

My presumption of those regulations is that it's all area under the curve. What you're getting at is that it's easy to calculate if the dB level is steady. It gets more complicated in real world situations. Do some integrals and figure it out. ;)

 

And no, I have no idea where frequency fits in, but I can only assume that it does.

"I'm so crazy, I don't know this is impossible! Hoo hoo!" - Daffy Duck

 

"The good news is that once you start piano you never have to worry about getting laid again. More time to practice!" - MOI

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If everybody cut their volume in half the complaints would go away. I've never been told that the band (as a whole) isn't loud enough. NEVER. It's the band that aways thinks they can't be heard. Try it one time and report back the results.

 

How do those Marshall toting guitar players you play with feel about that? :)

 

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Well, there are smaller Marshalls that still crank out an incredible noise when pushed, but only at 30W for instance, instead of 100W. Problem is that those things start to sound as many guitarists intend only when overloaded etc., and the smaller ones don't sound as full and warm.

 

So in a way I think I'm right to search for neutrality and simulations: it's possible to take good recordings/imitation effects from the large guitar amps, and play them back at a full range, well directed system, and achieve satisfaction at lower volumes, and less whirl waves.

 

Problems enough: neutrality and full range are hard at guitar (and keyboard) performance levels, as well as spreading the sound according to plan (the guitar and combo amps do their thing well when the player is used to them). Digital gives delay. Digital gives distortion that ***easily*** shows up next to a developed Marshal, even when there's power to spare.

 

I have the impression most sensible guitar players are for being able to control volume, and have a satisfying sound and sound balance at lower volumes: if it works right enough.

 

Finally: it's a bad idea to compete in loudness with the guitar player (and to a lesser extend with the bass player) by trying to sound superior loud in a similar way and in similar frequency ranges, and generally shows you're not so pro and a bad sport. It's better to have another type of sound, with sufficient power to shift air in a pleasant way, make sure your solos are worth listening to, and make a good deal, seriously.

 

T.

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We decided to be proactive. I downloaded a free dB meter on my iPhone and use that at sound check. It seems to be reasonably accurate, or at least consistent.
I have one for my RAZR-M, and it's great, but of course it's uncalibrated (it has a calibration feature), and according to the maker, the most it can measure accurately is around 100dB for my phone (which was the best on the list; many phones didn't go over 80dB).

 

The app I have measures only SPL(A), which is reasonable, since you don't really need C until you get to 100dB or so. And it makes sense, as Theo says, since those mics roll off the bass.

 

A phone SPL meter is very nifty, but might not be up to the task -- especially if it isn't accurate over 80dB. Regardless, you can try it, and if it does read out over 100dB, then even if it's not accurate, you can have a clue that it's TOO FRIGGING LOUD if you're over 100 dB at the bar!

 

If everybody cut their volume in half the complaints would go away. I've never been told that the band (as a whole) isn't loud enough. NEVER. It's the band that aways thinks they can't be heard. Try it one time and report back the results.
Wise words of wisdom!

 

What DB reading is "reasonable"? What is a range that is loud enough to enjoy live music but not so loud that people have to yell at each other? Just curious.....
I agree with those who say to keep it to 95dB SPL(A) at the bar.

 

Our solution was to modify a Radio Shack dB meter by removing the microphone from the unit and soldering and gluing an XLR male cable plug
Brilliant!

 

 

They reckon if you can hear your fingers rubbing together at arms length , you're fine.
That makes a sound? ??? :wink:
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I've often been curious about something. OSHA has regulations regarding SPL's and time....i.e, you can sustain X dB for up to y minutes without hearing protection.

 

But in particular with music, there is not a steady SPL. How does duty cycle and frequency range affect that. So say you have a dance floor kick drum bass spiking 132dB, 4 on the floor, but it's spikes with low levels in between. Is that better or worse than a constant sustained 1kHz at 105 dB?

My presumption of those regulations is that it's all area under the curve. What you're getting at is that it's easy to calculate if the dB level is steady. It gets more complicated in real world situations. Do some integrals and figure it out. ;)

 

And no, I have no idea where frequency fits in, but I can only assume that it does.

 

That's what I was initially thinking, but it think it would have to be more complex than that. For example, I'm sure there's a volume belie which you could listen indefinitely with no damage - over time the integral would grow to infinity. Likewise, I'm sure that there is a sound level over which even an infinitesimally small duration would cause damage (I,e., rupture an ear drum or something)

Dan

 

Acoustic/Electric stringed instruments ranging from 4 to 230 strings, hammered, picked, fingered, slapped, and plucked. Analog and Digital Electronic instruments, reeds, and throat/mouth.

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Our solution was to modify a Radio Shack dB meter by removing the microphone from the unit and soldering and gluing an XLR male cable plug to the chassis where the microphone was. Then we mounted the microphone into a female XLR cable plug. This allowed us to use the dB meter normally, or to patch in as long a microphone cable as we wished. We would often use a 150' mic. cable, place the microphone directly above where the waitresses called the drinks to the bartender, while placing the meter on the trap-set of the drummer.

 

This allowed the drummer to monitor how loud things were at the most critical communication point (from management's perspective). Our target: 96 dB SPL at the main cach register, back where profits were generated. Bottom-line: If the bar manager's not happy, no one's happy, and future booking's are in jeapardy.

 

This worked quite well, as the drummer tended to set the volume level.

 

96db at the bar is REALLY loud!

Live: Korg Kronos 2 88, Nord Electro 5d Nord Lead A1

Toys: Roland FA08, Novation Ultranova, Moog LP, Roland SP-404SX, Roland JX10,Emu MK6

www.bksband.com

www.echoesrocks.com

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Our solution was to modify a Radio Shack dB meter by removing the microphone from the unit and soldering and gluing an XLR male cable plug to the chassis where the microphone was. Then we mounted the microphone into a female XLR cable plug. This allowed us to use the dB meter normally, or to patch in as long a microphone cable as we wished. We would often use a 150' mic. cable, place the microphone directly above where the waitresses called the drinks to the bartender, while placing the meter on the trap-set of the drummer.

 

This allowed the drummer to monitor how loud things were at the most critical communication point (from management's perspective). Our target: 96 dB SPL at the main cach register, back where profits were generated. Bottom-line: If the bar manager's not happy, no one's happy, and future booking's are in jeapardy.

 

This worked quite well, as the drummer tended to set the volume level.

 

I doubt you're getting an accurate measurement. Different mic elements have different sensitivities. The SPL meter is calibrated to work with a specific capsule. Plugging a different mic into it will give a different result.

Dan

 

Acoustic/Electric stringed instruments ranging from 4 to 230 strings, hammered, picked, fingered, slapped, and plucked. Analog and Digital Electronic instruments, reeds, and throat/mouth.

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Our bass player uses wireless and walks into the audience to check periodically. We also ask the manager. A little communication always works in your favor.

Boards: Kurzweil SP-6, Roland FA-08, VR-09, DeepMind 12

Modules: Korg Radias, Roland D-05, Bk7-m & Sonic Cell

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I went to a FANTASTIC!!! Michael Buble concert last night , and the volume was perfect - nice and loud and clear with no distortion , and my ears aren't ringing from it today.

Apparently 125db is where ear pain begins , and at 140db they have a very high chance of popping their clogs.

Love music to be not too loud , and especially not too low in volume - that can destroy a whole show as well.

 

Went to see Jimmy Barns live about 3 years ago and we had to leave fast , sounded good about 1 klm up the round as we were driving away.

 

Brett

 

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