Tech: Accoustic or Plugged To Thread - Forum Home

The Mudcat Café TM
26 messages

Tech: Accoustic or Plugged

16 Aug 04 - 01:11 AM (#1248425)
Subject: Tech: Accoustic or Plugged
From: fi_in_nz

Just came accross this on the Band equipment, who buys? thread:

   Subject: RE: Band's Sound Equip't-- Who Buys?
   From: Leadfingers - PM
   Date: 14 Aug 04 - 07:21 AM

   I keep saying I am going to get lots of stickers printed   
   saying 'Musicians Union says Keep Music Live AND Acoustic'.

Down here in NZ we have a number of events at festivals which require the quick set up of one band after another and I for one am fed up with waiting 20 minutes between acts for the act to get everything perfect before they will deem to perform. Is this something that happens elsewhere too?

Often this is at small festivals where there is really no need for a pa at all. In some venues there is no getting away from the need for a pa, but where it's of marginal value, I believe we as performers should learn to project and/or modify our performance in other ways to make an accoustic performance viable. What do others think?

16 Aug 04 - 02:01 AM (#1248439)
Subject: RE: Tech: Accoustic or Plugged
From: Alaska Mike

There have certainly been some venues I've played (house concerts, coffee houses, etc) where I have not needed to use sound reinforcement. But just as certainly, I have played at festivals and concert halls where the paying audience would not have been able to hear and enjoy the music without a good sound system and a competent sound engineer to make sure every act can be heard throughout the venue.

Concert and Festival promoters must provide adequate sound reinforcement for their event. Maybe a folk purist would like to have a totally acoustic community, but the "bottom line" is that if they can't hear it well, the audience will not attend.

16 Aug 04 - 04:20 AM (#1248499)
Subject: RE: Tech: Accoustic or Plugged
From: s&r

We use PA not for audibility so much as balance - free reed instruments played with enthusiasm can drown everything else...

16 Aug 04 - 06:12 AM (#1248538)
Subject: RE: Tech: Accoustic or Plugged
From: GUEST,Hootenanny

I've been inclined to have T shirts printed that say "Pull The Plug"

Much of the time Amplification is not necessary and as for electronic bastardisation of music it SHOULD be banned including electric pianos.

As for enthusiastic reed instruments use a bit of common sense and discipline and bring the "showboaters" into line.

16 Aug 04 - 06:41 AM (#1248545)
Subject: RE: Tech: Accoustic or Plugged
From: Pied Piper

Playing without PA is great but needs must when the devil vomits in your kettle.
I play in an electric blues band yesterday afternoon we played in a largish Pub.
We have a full kit Drum, back line for 2 Guitars and Bass and a small (700W) mixer/amp for the Vocals and me (Flute, Bombard, GHB,).
We try to play at a volume that doesn't cause peoples ears to bleed.
I've seen Bands playing with a similar line up using 2KW rigs turned right up in Pubs far smaller.

16 Aug 04 - 04:59 PM (#1248863)
Subject: RE: Tech: Accoustic or Plugged
From: fi_in_nz

Have to say, I agree with Hootenanny here, it should be possible to get balance into a group without having knobs to twiddle. After all, a good full orchestra manages it. I'm not arguing that in a busy pub where you are the only band on all night and you're an electric blues band that you shouldn't be plugged, but there seems to be an obsession (particularly amongst the men) for plugging events up even in small venues and even when everyone is doing only two numbers and it's pretty much pure folk.

16 Aug 04 - 05:06 PM (#1248873)
Subject: RE: Tech: Accoustic or Plugged
From: Leadfingers

Try Singing in a noisy environment over seven or eight enthusiastic musicians WITHOUT a mic , and see how long your voice lasts . I must admit my 'Keep Music Acoustic' was a little tongue in cheek ! But by the same token I cant stand 'Live' music that is so loud you cant have a conversation without shouting !!

16 Aug 04 - 05:14 PM (#1248880)
Subject: RE: Tech: Accoustic or Plugged
From: Clinton Hammond

LF... that's what I like about my local... a converted house... lots of smallish rooms... I have my sound system in one room, and I WILL crank it to be heard over 'shouters'... but only after I invite them to find a seat in a quiter part of the pub, so we don't HAVE to fight each other...

The best is a sound system, mixed and set up so that no one knows it's there... Rare as they are...   But I'd rather have one than not... It's easy enough to turn it downwhen/if it is too loud... without a sound system, one can only bang ones instrument and holler for so long...

More options is always better than less....

16 Aug 04 - 05:23 PM (#1248891)
Subject: RE: Tech: Accoustic or Plugged
From: fi_in_nz

Arrrgggg - I'm not talking about doing a concert or a whole night in a pub, I'm talking about the scenario where there are musicians swopping in the whole time. Maybe this is just being answered by the tech happy men who seem to be the problem here...... ;-)

Now, do I dare hit the submit button.....

16 Aug 04 - 05:26 PM (#1248895)
Subject: RE: Tech: Accoustic or Plugged
From: Clinton Hammond

I'm hard pressed to think of a 'stage' situation that wouldn't be better off with a sound system...   Set-up and tear-down time is the nature of the beast...

16 Aug 04 - 07:12 PM (#1248970)
Subject: RE: Tech: Accoustic or Plugged
From: jimmyt

my group sounds its very very best in my kitchen gathered around a table with a bottle of wine. Three guitars, acoustic bass and 4 or 5 voices blending and listening . Having said that, we rarely encounter an ideal situation where we can be our best without a bit of amplification. As above, we use the system for blending purposes more than punching out a big sound, but none the less, as much as I dislike the annoyance of a sound system, it is part of OUR sound. Maybe not for everyone, but there is no question that in most venues the system makes us sound better

16 Aug 04 - 07:23 PM (#1248975)
Subject: RE: Tech: Accoustic or Plugged
From: s6k

richard thompson used an electric guitar a lot

16 Aug 04 - 09:53 PM (#1249051)
Subject: RE: Tech: Accoustic or Plugged
From: Gypsy

really like it for leveling out sound.   even played gently, my hammered dulcimer will cover up the mandolin, even if it is played aggressively. We don't jack it up.........or use it in small venues. But out doors, or large room, really like it.

17 Aug 04 - 04:32 AM (#1249194)
Subject: RE: Tech: Accoustic or Plugged
From: GUEST,Paranoid Android

This thred should be entitled CRAP (Campaign for Real Acoustic Performance).

17 Aug 04 - 04:33 AM (#1249196)
Subject: RE: Tech: Accoustic or Plugged
From: GUEST,Hootenanny

Re Leadfingers point about singing with seven or eight musicians. I and my voice have just survived two nights as I do most week-ends.

Last night was 4 guitars, one dobro, one five string banjo, three mandolins and a double bass and two fiddles. The secret(?) is to play with people who are sensitive and aware of what is going on and lay back or drop out when the singer is on and when another is taking a solo. Have you folks never heard of dynamics ?
If you have musicians in your circle who are too loud and have no sensitivity then politely tell them to "shut the ++++ up". Electricity is not the answer, it just gets louder and louder.

So Richard Thompson used electric guitar a lot ??? What does this mean or prove ??


17 Aug 04 - 10:27 AM (#1249368)
Subject: RE: Tech: Accoustic or Plugged
From: Grab

A thought: Get them to turn up early, run through a soundcheck for each beforehand, and record the settings. That way, it'll just take a couple of minutes to reset the desk.


17 Aug 04 - 10:38 AM (#1249375)
Subject: RE: Tech: Accoustic or Plugged
From: Clinton Hammond

Nice idea... and it'll give you sorta a rough idea...

But there's not much point in ever sound-checking an empty room...

17 Aug 04 - 10:58 AM (#1249385)
Subject: Churches for Performing Experience
From: wysiwyg

There is a folk society not far from us that hosts a variety of events at several venues. One venue is ACOUSTIC ONLY, and anyone booked there (monthly events) is expected to perform totally acoustic. Period, no exceptions. And it's run as a listening room.

I recommend that if playing either acoustic or amped is a new approach for anyone, because you've usually done it the other way, try it out in a setting where you can play around with things and learn how to make it work for you. Don't wait till the Big Gig to make the change.

Our band's core members play weekly for a church service, and sometimes I also play/songlead alone or with one partner at other churches. It's amazing how much one can learn about performing by playing for church services. For one thing, the show really must go on, and the weekly commitment leaves no room for "But I'm sick and have no voice today" and so forth. At our church, we also have to set up ALL the sound equipment we may use, each and every time, and break it down again afterwards. So sometimes we do it all unplugged, and sometimes we amplify.

Basically, we CAN do either, but the choice of material may vary, as will the way in which each of us plays or sings or part to reach the back and sound clear, and to balance one another. One thing I always keep in mind, and have since we started as a jam/songleading group, is that if I am the sole vocalist putting the song across, the people will need to hear the vocal very clearly over the instruments, and some of us play quite loudly. So there are times I mic up for the vocal and let the rest go unplugged. Now I have a new co-leader so there are weeks I can toss the vocal job to him, if I'm off, but I would say in the last year that I did about 46 weeks out of the 52.

I remember one nightmare event we went out to play for-- another church's large picnic singalong-- with no sound equipment whatever. With one look at the site I knew we were in trouble, especially me. But we were over an hour from home base. The people sat in a huge spread-out circle after supper for a good sing-- and refused to move their lawn chairs up to sit closer (burpppp). So not only could I not easily reach THEM, they could not even hear each other sing! Despite this and despite the mistake of putting the singing AFTER supper instead of BEFORE, we put across a good solid hour, and I learned a lot about singing in those conditions.

Doing all this for years means that I've had lots of chances to make do with whatever is available or not available. Wherever we are asked to play, whoever I have snagged to join the line-up, or whatever sub-type of material we choose to suit the event's needs-- I have accumulated a reliable gut-sense of what can and cannot be done, and that we CAN give the people a good time in almost any circumstances. As our main singer this gives me enough confidence to relax my throat and sing well, and as our band's leader it gives me the experience to direct the band and reassure the nervous members credibly.

Churches are not the only place to gain low-risk performance experience, but they are grateful for people to come by when they can and play an offertory. Belief is generally not required. Last week a visiting flute/pennywhistle player gave us a great offertory with an O'Carolan piece AND helped me teach the band members how to play it, who had no experience with that sort of playing at all!


17 Aug 04 - 11:52 AM (#1249430)
Subject: RE: Tech: Accoustic or Plugged
From: jimmyt

Mr Hootenanny, So, you think performance entirely acoustic is really really important, and in your opinion is the benchmark of quality. Good for you. I think it is one factor. A have been very impressed with totally acoustic folks, but also with folks using systems to amplify their voices or instruments. Based on your premise, the louder a person is, the better they are as a musician. The fact that some people can sing loud, play guitars or even as in my place, upright bass loud seems pretty unidimensional in the overall musical quality. Again, just my opinion, but what is important to me, what impresses me, what seems to denote quality to me (and my audience) may be other things entirely.

17 Aug 04 - 11:58 AM (#1249441)
Subject: RE: Tech: Accoustic or Plugged
From: GUEST,Hootenanny

17 Aug 04 - 12:02 PM (#1249445)
Subject: RE: Tech: Accoustic or Plugged
From: GUEST,Hootenanny

Jimmy T
I think you should look, read and inwardly digest.

Did I say loud was good ? Nor did I say acoustic is the be all and

end all ??

17 Aug 04 - 12:13 PM (#1249456)
Subject: RE: Tech: Accoustic or Plugged
From: jimmyt

yes. in so many words

17 Aug 04 - 12:14 PM (#1249459)
Subject: RE: Tech: Accoustic or Plugged
From: Clinton Hammond

"electronic bastardisation of music"

How myopic, closed-minded and dull

17 Aug 04 - 12:22 PM (#1249471)
Subject: RE: Tech: Accoustic or Plugged
From: jimmyt

LIke I said, I agree that the BEST sound for my group is totally acoustic, in a circle where we can hear what we are singing and playing. Having said that, unfortunately we are forced to play larger venues where it is impractical to perform acoustically. So we go to the best compromise, a PA system that amplifies our voices and instruments in as sensitive a manner as possible, trying to maintain the qualities we strive for when we are totally acoustic. I do lots of live theater, so I am aware of projecting to be understood in the back row. Unfortunately I recently did a play where we were forced to use body mikes. Is it as good? is it as intimate? probably not, but there were 1300 people in the theater of whom 1000 of them would have been pretty miffed having bought a ticket to not hear.

I agree with you in theory, but I think you are oversimplifying with your premise that all you need to do is project, listen and blend. ALthough these are all factors, you also need to be heard, and in most cases, with the proper sound quality.

17 Aug 04 - 05:21 PM (#1249719)
Subject: RE: Tech: Accoustic or Plugged
From: GUEST,Hootenanny

Oh Dear Jimmy T

You certainly have got the wrong end of the stick with regard to my remarks.

Clinton Hammond:
My reference to electric bastardisation of music did not mean amplification, it's just that I work in what is laughingly known as the "Music Industry" and have to listen to a lot of noise created by computers and made up of electronic bleeps and distortion and then hyped and sold to the public. I read the PR material which is put out and despair. I listen to the comments of the people that I work with and despair at what they call music. Many of them never hear music which isn't "enhanced" one way or another by electronics and I believe they miss so much.

I didn't enter this thread looking for an argument and shouldn't have to point out that this my personal opinion.

Enjoy the music folks, that's the important thing.

18 Aug 04 - 07:44 AM (#1250218)
Subject: RE: Tech: Accoustic or Plugged
From: Grab

Fair point, Clinton. Room acoustics don't change between acts though, so if you know that you need X dB extra for the first band, chances are that you can just add that bit on for each band following? As you say, it's a rough idea, and the tech can then fine-tune as they go.

(Note "fine-tune" though - last year at a local folk club in a medium-size pub, we had a guy running the desk who was, literally, deaf. He'd be twiddling knobs throughout to an incredible degree, producing feedback and generally screwing it up. But it was his gear we were using, so no-one wanted to tell him he was crap. Thank god, the organiser eventually decided to make the club acoustic-only.)