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Volume Control in Band Settings


Secant Ogive

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Hi Folks.

 

This is my second post. I posted an earlier question about programming an Ensoniq TS12, and I explained that I have played acoustic piano pretty much solo my entire life, and have recently joined and cofounded a band, so I am new to the world of electronic instruments and stage sound. The other folks in the band have a lot of knowledge and experience, however none of them have ever played with a piano/keyboard before.

 

One problem that keeps coming up at rehearsals is volume control for the piano/keyboard. It seems that my instrument is very susceptable to being drowned out when the dymamics become louder or more intense.

 

All of our band folks are very sensitive and considerate about playing too loudly or being disruptive to others. :thu:

 

How do you all (who do not have professional sound people in the audience) control the individual volume of your instrument as the dymamics of a tune changes? Do you use pedals or the hand slider? Do set the volume levels as presets and select them as needed?

 

:confused:

 

Thanks for your help.

 

S.O.

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Depends on the sound I am playing. B3 sounds I use an expression pedal to add or remove volume.

 

Piano I play louder.

 

However, I do have a slider devoted to volume for extra boosts or when the band gets over excited.

I'm just saying', everyone that confuses correlation with causation eventually ends up dead.
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Check out this thread about volumes and hearing loss.

 

http://www.musicplayer.com/ubb/ultimatebb.php?/ubb/get_topic/f/18/t/019764.html

 

There are those that argue that at rehearsal you should all be playing at reasonable volumes. I've been wanting to try this with my band, but we're on a break and getting together for the first time in a while this Saturday.

 

Of course, playing out live is a different matter. Never having done that myself, I should probably shut up now. ;)

"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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Originally posted by DirtyRubberDuck:

I usually set my volume at about 20% during sound check, and gradually increase it as the night goes on . . . . .

 

DRD

Man isn't that the truth! Bands always start lower and end up higher, unless of course they started out high to begin with (read that any way you want).

 

In most bands I've been in, the guitarist is the one who is usually to blame for being too loud. I tell ours all the time that he's too loud and needs to turn down. I've had to be very proactive on this point because a couple places we play (especially in the first set before the bar is hopping) continually tell us in the first set that we're too loud. I don't want to lose these gigs. I don't think he's trying to be too loud. I just think he doesn't realize for some reason how loud he gets when he steps on that pedal for his solos. man, sometimes it's a killer!

 

Bottom line is that if during a guitar solo you can only hear the guitar, then he's too loud.

 

My sounds are all at different volume levels, so I have to adjust the volume on the keyboard for almsot every song.

Steve (Stevie Ray)

"Do the chickens have large talons?"

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Originally posted by garrafon:

You should ALWAYS be playing at reasonable levels, during rehearsal and at gigs. Bringing down volume guarantees improved dynamics. If you are having volume issues, ask everyone else to turn down. It is easy for the keys to get drowned out.

+1 :thu:

 

It takes time to get used to this depending on the style of music, musicians, etc.

 

However, once a band masters their volume/dynamics beginning at rehearsals, they will perform better on stage.

 

Also, a PA/sound person LOVES a band with strong group dynamics i.e. not too loud. It allows him/her to do their job in providing a decent monitor and FOH mix.

PD

 

"The greatest thing you'll ever learn, is just to love and be loved in return."--E. Ahbez "Nature Boy"

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Biggest problem is when every instrument is going through the PA system.

 

Without everyone getting a monitor mix of what it's sounding like through the FOH system, they will undoubtedly play too loud (or too quietly).

 

In this scenario, you really need someone to run the mixing board constantly.

 

I think many bands put everything through their PA system unnecessarily anyway (in small to medium size clubs, etc).

"Oh yeah, I've got two hands here." (Viv Savage)

"Mr. Blu... Mr. Blutarsky: Zero POINT zero." (Dean Vernon Wormer)

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Drowned out ? Sounds like you need more power.

 

I used to have an amp/rig called the guitar slayer. It was used for club situations where we didn't have a PA - the instruments had to "blend" themselves.

 

It was a mixer into a DC300a bridged mono into a TOA 380se speaker (think JBL caberet cab - 15" + horn).

 

With that rig, I could play low dynamics to VERY high dynamics.

 

Once in a while, I would let someone sit in on my rig, and in a band setting, it sounded REALLY wonderful...

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Originally posted by Secant Ogive:

How do you all (who do not have professional sound people in the audience) control the individual volume of your instrument as the dymamics of a tune changes? Do you use pedals or the hand slider? Do set the volume levels as presets and select them as needed?

I use pedals and sliders. And I play harder.

 

However the most powerful control of dynamics is in note choice and the ability to stop playing. If I have a guitarist in the band, I am playing very few notes during a typical pop verse. Or I may lay out. I may be playing chord clusters and octave runs with both hands in the chorus however. Also the voicings matter, lower down in the keyboard when you wish to provide support, higher up when you want to stick out. Forgive me if these are basic principles to you.

 

I forget where I read this, but I recall Rick Wakeman saying that the key to keyboard orchestration is to be able to abstain from playing at times, so that when you do come in, it changes the timbre of the band.

 

Hope this helps,

 

Jerry

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Dynamics - wow... that takes a complete chapter in the book.

 

When playing with a group, I like to listen first and bring my volume up from nothing so that it blends without being too loud or too soft.

 

If you're playing on a large stage, having a good monitor setup is essential.

 

But if you're playing in someone's living room, it's best to play softly at first and listen to be sure the mix is balanced. If you take a solo, then crank it up a little - but be sure to turn your volume back down afterwards.

 

I have a pedal that I always use for organ programs. An organ is simply not authentic without your foot on the pedal.

 

For piano programs, I just reach over and grab the volume slider so that the volume doesn't waver as it would if I had my foot on the pedal.

 

I think one of the primary differences between a good band and a great band is their understanding and use of dynamics. This may be less important in rock than it is in jazz. But if everyone in the band is cognizant of their volume and is trying to keep their mix balanced, they'll stay happier longer.

 

Besides, there is always a point where you just can't hear the cowbell anymore. And that's no good. :freak:

"Music expresses that which cannot be put into words and that which cannot remain silent." - Victor Hugo
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1. Go through your drummer's sticks and confiscate anything heavier than 5A. If he complains about it, kick him out of the band!

 

2. Take the guitar player's amp, set it right next to him, and point it straight at his ear. If he complains about it, kick him out of the band!

 

 

3.

Originally posted by DirtyRubberDuck:

I usually set my volume at about 20% during sound check, and gradually increase it as the night goes on . . . . .

 

DRD

Do all these things and you'll be fine! :D
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When playing hammond sounds, my foot is always on the expression pedal, because the volume changes too much in different sections of the keyboard.

 

When playing piano, my piano sound has an excellent range, so I mostly use that: playing softly most of the time and digging in for the louder parts. And pushing the master volume slider up during a solo. Plus I have the expression pedal there to adjust to the right range at the beginning of the song. I generally don't touch the volume pedal during a song when playing piano after that first adjustment. (Unless I goofed, of course.)

 

For other sounds, it's between the two extemes above. That is, I use the volume pedal more for sounds that are less velocity responsive than piano, which is pretty much all of them, but rarely have the volume pedal moving constantly as I often do when playing a Hammond clone.

 

I also have a master volume control on my powered mixer. As mentioned above, I start out the evening at a lower setting, and push it up as needed -- between songs.

 

Guitarists are the main offenders, usually, but drummers can be just as bad. Especially less seasoned drummers: it's easier to play hard than soft.

 

I'm a big fan of small guitar amps that sound nice and hot at lower volumes. However, for some stuff to work, you need more than just good tone from the amp, you need acoustic feedback. I'm not talking about howlaround either -- the annoying or sometimes artistic but obvious feedback. I'm talking about a relatively subtle but nonetheless important change to the way the guitar behaves due to self-sympathetic vibration (to coin a phrase). You get more sustain and the guitar just feels different.

 

But every now and then at the blues jams I get a set where for whatever reason the guitarists are turned down way low and the drummer is playing accordingly (we're blessed with some good drummers), and it really is a joy. Not just to the performers but the audience and the staff as well.

 

I like practicing (and jamming at home) at levels where a PA isn't necessary for vocals. On keyboards, though, it's easier than for guitars and drums. Our gear sounds and feels pretty much the same at any volume level.

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Originally posted by stepay:

In most bands I've been in, the guitarist is the one who is usually to blame for being too loud. I tell ours all the time that he's too loud and needs to turn down. I've had to be very proactive on this point because a couple places we play (especially in the first set before the bar is hopping) continually tell us in the first set that we're too loud. I don't want to lose these gigs. I don't think he's trying to be too loud. I just think he doesn't realize for some reason how loud he gets when he steps on that pedal for his solos. man, sometimes it's a killer!

OK I'll get semi-serious this time. If the guitar player's too loud, the best way I've been able to deal with it is to "crowd" him with his amp. If it's a combo amp, I'll move it in and angle it up to his head. That way he can really hear himself. Sometimes they don't like it... claim it adversely affects their tone, but since I'm usually the leader I'll insist on it, especially if it means keeping the room. When I put it in those terms, they usually relent. If they have their own monitor mix, run them heavy through that too. Give it a try. :)
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Rule of thumb #1 : Never let a guitarist, a drummer or one of their friends touch a mixer.

 

Rule of thumb #2 : If you have any doubt about the guy at the console, count how many musicians there are except you and multiply this by 10%. Then turn down your volume by this result at soundcheck.

 

Rule of thumb #3 : If someone else know about the #2 trick above, be wiser than him and create a special soundcheck user patch with MIDI #7 set at 64 and show him your volume knob is at max. :)

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I would think the ideal solution would be to place a mic at the other end of the room and listen to the group through headphones using that source.

 

You then have an excellent idea how everything sounds. Has anyone here ever done that?

No guitarists were harmed during the making of this message.

 

In general, harmonic complexity is inversely proportional to the ratio between chording and non-chording instruments.

 

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Originally posted by Tusker:

However the most powerful control of dynamics is in note choice and the ability to stop playing.

Guitarists usually out-volume everyone because of the distortion they use and the frequency masking associated with it. Note choice may bring you into the clear (typically at frequencies higher than whatever Mr. Guitar is playing), but in general it's a losing battle (for everyone in the band, not just keys).

 

Whether or not distortion is an issue, there's also "sonic space" to consider. For example, you typically wouldn't play LH in the same range as the bass player. You'd be competing for the same frequencies or "sonic space". Or if you do play the same frequencies, you do so at times when the bassist isn't playing.

 

A lot of MoTown recordings are great to listen to because (a) the guitars aren't heavily distorted (if at all), and (b) the musicians had a good concept of leaving sonic space for each other.

 

For an acoustic instrument there is no volume knob. How in the world do acoustic ensembles manage solos if the soloist can't crank up the volume?

 

The secret, of course, is that everybody else backs off instead.

 

Typically in heavily amplified bands, vocals are the weakest link. Whenever the singer sings, everyone else lays back a little bit so the audience can hear the singer. The same should be true when an instrumentalist takes a solo.

 

The reality is that most popular music only has two dynamic levels: loud and louder. :rolleyes:

 

For dynamics-sensitive patches, obviously it's up to you to provide ppp-fff dynamics (or ff-fff as the case may be).

 

I must admit, I sit behind the organist at church and watch him use the volume pedal all the time but have never given it much thought. It makes sense that this should be the way to control non-dynamics-sensitve patches.

 

Of course, then there are patches that are just problematic, as discussed above, and may require more finesse.

 

One more thing ... be sure to leave yourself some head room with your volume. That is, if you're already pounding away on the ff sections, how in the world are you going to accomplish fff? You may want to turn your volume up and play more mf, so the loud stuff isn't a stretch. Just be sure you're not the one overpowering everyone and starting the volume war.

 

BTW, if your amp doesn't get so loud the drummer asks you to turn down, you need a bigger amp. :D

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Originally posted by Phred:

However, I do have a slider devoted to volume for extra boosts or when the band gets over excited.

.....chick in short skirt walks by.

"We don't stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing."

- George Bernard Shaw

 

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I played keys in bands in the 80's and know about the volume issue. It also depends on how hard the drummer plays. In the overall mix, every player should be heard in the same way that you would want the mix to be heard when listening to a CD. With the exception of the drummer, have everyone use a long cord and step away from the cluster and see how it mixes. If one player is too loud, then he needs to turn down. It shouldn't be an ego thing; the band overall sounds best when all the parts mesh.

 

For you, this means setting your keyboard volume sliders at midstream and adjusting your master volume to mesh with the other players. Then you can bump up for solos, and pull back for quieter parts.

 

If turning down the overall sound is not possible (because the volume is necessary to mesh the instruments with the drums), and you are still getting drowned out, then get a more powerful amp and wear earplugs. I have hearing loss in one of my ears from standing in fron of my speaker for years with it blasting.

BobR
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This is always a problem; in fact, it is the single most distressing issue I deal with when playing out.

 

My significant other, or a friend, or one of my sons often accompany me to gigs (blues band in clubs). I ask them to discretely signal me if my sound is too low. The band will tell me if I am too high. That usually solves that.

 

If no one I can rely on is there, I will ask people on the first break if they can hear the piano.

 

Our guitar player is unusual in that he enjoys playing at a moderate volume, so rarely is he too loud, unlike the majority of guitar players I have played with in the past.

 

Alsol, I have a Boss volume pedal that is adjusted so that when backed off, it is about one-half to 2/3 full volume. I use that in the backed-off position for comping, and hit it for solos so my hands are free.

 

I also do sound checks with the piano volume slider on about 2/3, and increase it as necessary, because as most of you know, the room gets noisier, and can absorb more volume because people are present as the night wears on, so that gives me some volume insurance.

 

Also, the quality of your your sound will influence how loud people think you are. If you highs are piercing and brilliant, that will annoy folks and they will ask you to turn down even though your volume is not necessarily too high.

 

An equalizer will let you mellow the highs so you can be at the volume you need without the harshness. As other posters has mentioned, having enough power is part of the equation. A insufficient amp on 10 will sound lousy as the night wears on, and will also give you no room for increase. Get enough power, and run it at a lower setting for the same volume. It will sound better, and give you the room to increase.

A Boogie-Woogie Video:

 

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This is one of the main reasons that I've gotten burned out on playing rock. Distorted guitars sound fine -- I enjoy listening to hard rock. But they don't leave sonic space for other instruments, so as a keyboard player it's just not very fun to play.

 

When playing with other musicians, I look for guitarist with a very clean tone, and who seldom uses all six strings. Just a little of taste of distortion when the "lead channel" kicks in.

 

When I was playing in That Seventies Band, we played R&B, disco and rock from that era. The guitarist got all of his tone from one of those "combo" effects pedals. While it didn't give him the sort of tasty amp tone you'd want on a high-quality recording, it worked out great for live performances. He could keep his volume to a reasonable level (didn't need to drive the amp to get tone), and when he needed that fuzzy distortion tone, he could dial in a tone that seemed to EQ out some of the low-mid distortion that muddies everything up so badly. Of course, it didn't hurt that he's a tasty player who knows how to leave space.

 

It seems that so many guitarists see comping as "the thing they do between solos". I try to avoid playing with those guys these days.

 

--Dave

Make my funk the P-funk.

I wants to get funked up.

 

My Funk/Jam originals project: http://www.thefunkery.com/

 

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Step 1 - Program your patches for each keyboard so that the volume is consistent across the boards. (Get it? Boards?) :D

 

Step 2 - Use velocity and a pedal for dynamics. Don't start adjusting the volume slider on the keyboard or individual mixer channels.

 

Step 3 - As the overall level of the band changes, compensate by adjusting your keyboard mixer output, not you individual keyboards.

 

This will keep your sound balanced and your dynamics consistent. A loud drummer can kill a band. It is not just the mix you need to worry about. Years of standing between the drums and the bass amp have damaged my hearing. Now I wish I had done like other band members and used ear plugs on stage.

 

Robert

This post edited for speling.
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Thanks for the tips.

 

It looks like there are few absolute formulas. I think tonight I will try bring everybody's overall level down, and experiment with the different methods as described here, primarily with note dynamics, orchestration, and use of the slider. I do not think a volume pedal is for me, and I do not know if one is available for my instrument anyway.

 

Typically, my volumes run at three levels, low for backgrounds for verses etc, medium for accompaniments (ballads and such), and high for rock or blues solos. This is all relative to the overall mix, of course.

 

Is it possible to adjust the relative volume levels as effects presets and during a song simply punch them in at the right time? :rolleyes:

 

Thanks again,

 

S.O.

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Originally posted by Secant Ogive:

Is it possible to adjust the relative volume levels as effects presets and during a song simply punch them in at the right time? :rolleyes:

 

Thanks again,

 

S.O.

When you guys get comfortable with each other you'll be adjusting your volume levels all the time. Seriously. It's a practice and experience thing. Seasoned musicians don't focus on themselves and are listening to the group as a whole... ducking when it's someone else's turn, and bringing themselves up just enough when their part warrants it.

 

Personally, I'm getting too old to work with hot-doggers. I found a guitar player years ago with this attitude and build whatever sidemen are necessary around the two of us. But I'm getting a little sidetracked here. If volume's a problem, get everyone's amps positioned close to them so they can hear themselves well without going over the top and practice, practice, practice.

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Originally posted by Secant Ogive:

Is it possible to adjust the relative volume levels as effects presets and during a song simply punch them in at the right time? :rolleyes:

Absolutely. I sometimes have several piano sounds available in a multi patch combi/performance. I might have a low volume piano for the typical accompaniment, but sometimes the bass player and I enjoy doing unison riffs. This requires a loud, staccato piano with no reverb. So thats a separate patch or two in the performance. I confess, I've been known to have a couple of piano patches tuned an octave apart so I can play our unison octave runs easily with one hand while playing a different part with the other. Whatever works for you.

 

Jerry

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