Live music volume and mixing: my rant...

bbunks

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Best live sound I've ever experienced was a Genesis show in 1980. I could hear every crash cymbal and it was like being in the middle of a great home sound system.

I've found I now get fatigued by excessive volume at shows, or if I'm in a club or restaurant with just too many people and the background music is way in the foreground, resulting in people having to speak louder. Wears me out, makes me anxious and I'm ready to leave after an hour.

When I was playing in a 10-piece horn band, I always wanted our sound guy to just put a mic on my bass and an overheard for presence. I got picked up by 3 vocal mics and 3 horn mics, I didn't need to have my snare and toms miked and then an overhead for cymbals. Occasionally we'd play outdoor gigs and it made sense then, but often we were in smaller clubs/bars, and we always had a difficult time getting our volume under control.
 

gsw

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I haven't been seeing any recently, for sure, but there was another post here which reminded me of a peve of mine. One of the last shows before the pandemic that I saw was Reverend Horton Heat, which sounded really, poor (and was too damn loud) and that experience, despite being more than a year ago, is still fresh in my mind...
Yeah... RHH has been LOUD since I started seeing them in 94. I think it's just their preference. It surprises me since his guitar tone is much more natural now and the current drummer/s are not bashers. Slim Jim from the Stray Cats will be playing with them for a bit soon. Worst one I caught was likely the fault of the club, that had the bass drum sounding like a droning car stereo sub during the first song, which is just perfect for a speed polka beat.
 

5 Style

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Yeah... RHH has been LOUD since I started seeing them in 94. I think it's just their preference. It surprises me since his guitar tone is much more natural now and the current drummer/s are not bashers. Slim Jim from the Stray Cats will be playing with them for a bit soon. Worst one I caught was likely the fault of the club, that had the bass drum sounding like a droning car stereo sub during the first song, which is just perfect for a speed polka beat.
I saw the band a few times in the 90s and though they might have been on the loud side, I don't remember that they sounded nearly as loud or as muddy as they did this more recent time (I haven't seen the band since the 90s until this last show). I think that I would have remembered if it sound that awful. At this last show, the bass just sounded like a low hum, where I couldn't really pick out individual notes and would have had no idea, unless I was looking at the stage that I was hearing an upright type bass. More than just loud though, everything was muddy, I could barely make out the lyrics (which are a big part of the fun in this music) and even when the band stopped, the banter between the songs was difficult to make out.
 
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Northamusi

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My two cents:

 

5 Style

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My two cents:

I notice that too, that bass drums are often mixed way too loud and with eq, reverb, compression, etc made to sound way too "big" as well. It can go both ways though as I played some drums recently on a songwriter friend's recording and judging from the initial mixes that I've heard, he doesn't seem to like bass drum at all! If the music were countrified shuffle kinds of songs, with the bass playing mostly just on the quarter notes, in a more feathered kind of fashion, the low bass drum would make sense. The thing is that most of the music is more rock kinds of things where the bass drum is more syncopated and there's a real back and fourth kind of thing between the bass and the snare drum. It sounds really funny to me to have the snare drum so crisp in the mix, without clearly hearing the bass drum moving around it, but I think that my friend's final mix might have it that way. It is his record though and nothing like a band recording, so in the end, I'm fine with him mixing it whatever way that he wants.

Even though I've never run any recording gear, but I feel like I can hear things that maybe even some folks that do this kind of work (not professionals though probably) don't hear. I have an instinct for when a low cut should be used to clear up a muddy low end; when a mid bass boost would make the bass cut more, when to roll off the highs of the overhead mics (so that the cymbals are't so harsh), when more compression might help give more punch to the sound or when it's set too strong and sucks too much of the dynamics out, etc... Maybe I need to be a consultant for some of these rock clubs in town so I can school them on what good sound is like!
 
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