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sax.co.uk

Playing In Extremely High Volume Situations

Veggie Dave

Bisaxual
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2,125
Location
Hutton, Essex
#1
I think it's safe to say that there's playing loudly and then there's playing LOUDLY!

Last night I played my first ever rock gig on sax (details of the gig and short audio clip here: My First Rock/Floyd Gig) and while it went okay, I'm wondering how people like @Taz and the other rock players deal with the incredibly high levels of sound.

Last night I found myself literally screaming into the sax to get enough volume to hear what I was playing. And I even had monitors but they just couldn't go loud enough to enable me to hear myself over everything else. In the sound clip on the other thread, I think the feedback was caused by the engineer running my monitor as loud as he could to help me out.

I'm finding that it's becoming easier to deal with not really hearing what I'm playing, but it's most definitely far from ideal. Is this, generally speaking at least, a fairly normal situation for rock players to find themselves in and have you found ways around it or do you just get on with the job because it simply is the way it is?
 

Stephen Howard

Well-Known Member
Messages
1,114
#2
Three words: In ear monitoring.

It *is* possible to achieve audible foldback with traditional methods, but it relies a great deal on where you're standing in relation to the other foldback monitors, and how versatile your monitor mix is.
You'll need a dedicated monitor, with nothing in it but horn - and it'll be at sufficient volume to make it unnecessary to include the horn in anyone else's monitor.
And you'll need a decent mic...and a sound engineer who's on the ball.

It's a lot of things that have to add up...and a lot of things that can go wrong.
IEM does away with all that - you can have just the horn in the mix, or you can wet it with whoever you like (vocals, keys etc.).
It ain't cheap, though...especially if you want to go wireless (though it's been a few years since I lasted checked the prices).

I carry a cheapo homemade setup around with me - for those cases where the monitor setup fails. It's just a cheap lavalier mic that plugs into a battery powered amp and then passes it to a mono headphone. The sound is dreadful, but at least it means I can hear the basics (pitch, key etc.).
 

Veggie Dave

Bisaxual
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2,125
Location
Hutton, Essex
#3
A friend has just said the same thing, IEM - except I had no idea what IEM meant.

A quick Google suggests they start at cheap and rise to ouch. It does seem to be the only real solution if I'm going to be doing this with any sort of regularity.
 
Messages
302
Location
Hampshire
#4
The clips sound great, Dave. Nice and edgy when you needed it. Band sounded good too.

I only have experience as a singer at loud gigs. I can tell you when the volumes are pumped up it's just as difficult to sing without straining and blowing your vocal chords - not a good situation.

I think the reality is that good sound control is an art form. Most of my gigs are played without a sound guy, so we set ourselves up to a respectable level and we're pretty much stuck with that. Having said that, the gigs that we have played with a dedicated sound man haven't necessarily been any better on stage!

I've no experience of in ear monitoring, just a wedge at the front of the stage. I would imagine that getting a decent in ear mix is just as difficult as getting a decent on stage monitor mix. Mucking about with a mix during a gig is a no go. I don't know about your setup, but we don't put everything through our mixer when we play, just vocals, keyboards, a bit of bass drum and perhaps a bit of guitar to spread the sound out. You don't need much more in a pub!

Decent IEM's are very expensive, so kind of out of my league. It's also interesting how often you see live performers taking out one of their ear pieces during a gig and listening to the on stage fold back. I imagine they miss some of the live vibe. Kind of defeats the objective of using in ears if you still need a stage monitor, especially at the amateur end of the live spectrum.
 

Pete Thomas

Chief of Stuff
Cafe Moderator
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10,233
Location
Sunny Southampton
#5
Whatever you do look out for hearing damage. If you using on stage monitoring then get some hearing protection.

The ones on this page are all designed for musicians and sound engineers so will be OK at reducing the most harmful frequencies while allowing much of the music into your shell-likes.

Ear Plugs - Headphones & Speakers - Studiospares

Even the cheaper £15 will help a lot, but the custom made ones would be better if you are exposed to lots of loudness over long periods of time.

I don't know much about IEM, but I assume they have a safety threshold via some kind of limiter. If not then beware.
 

Veggie Dave

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2,125
Location
Hutton, Essex
#6
I only have experience as a singer at loud gigs.
I would say the situations are pretty similar, although I would think the singer has an even harder time if they can't hear.

I would imagine that getting a decent in ear mix is just as difficult as getting a decent on stage monitor mix.
To be honest, I just need to hear me in the monitor/ear. As long as I can hear the drums and a.n. other instrument on stage I'm good.

I don't know about your setup, but we don't put everything through our mixer when we play
There are so many instruments on stage that even the monitor mix is complicated, and the sax is right at the bottom of the priorities list. Even On The Run is played live.
 

Stephen Howard

Well-Known Member
Messages
1,114
#8
I would say the situations are pretty similar, although I would think the singer has an even harder time if they can't hear.
I think a lot of the problems are that - at least for me - my ears 'close up' when I'm blowing hard.
I always gig with two mics - one for sax, one for vocals - and the sax mic always has to be set way louder than the vocal mic.
 

rhysonsax

Well-Known Member
Messages
2,991
Location
Farnham, Surrey
#9
Acoustic foldback (a flat sheet of clear acrylic / plexiglass) fixed to a mic or its stand can help you hear yourself, but it means that you have to stay in one spot. I use a SoundBack reflector that really helps with pitching and reduces the need for overblowing, but that is for Soul and pop stuff rather than the loudest levels of some rock bands.

Rhys
 

spike

Well-Known Member
Messages
1,382
Location
Half way up a hill
#10
Had this problem many moons ago, I simply went out and got me my own P.A. system with 2 x 15" JBL Eons, a power amp, a 4 channel rack mixer, Lexicon MPX 100, plus a D.I. box with an xlr output to the main mix. I used the boxes as monitors either on the floor in front or on stands behind me.
Problem solved.
I just don't like in ear systems at all.
Thankfully these days I play with bands and an older generation of rock musos who appreciate that volume is not the only way to animate, impress and move an audience.
I don't use my P.A. anymore these days but my DG MBII does help ;-) when it gets a little rowdy.
 

Pete Thomas

Chief of Stuff
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10,233
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Sunny Southampton
#11
I assumed they would act as ear plugs as well as monitors. I'll have to try and find a supplier who'll let me try some.
Yes they should cut out as much on stage sound as possible or else there isn't much point. I would seriously go for the high quality ones though, take it from someone who now suffers from tinnitus. Mostly due to studying close to hi hats and crash cymbals.
 

Taz

Busking Oracle
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3,567
Location
Rugby UK
#12
Playing with Dark Side of the Wall is a real treat nowadays. We always use pro sound engineers and the on stage levels are great although the out front rig is any where between 10 and 40k depending on the venue.
On stage levels are kept low, even the lead guitar is on a tight reign! We each have our own monitor and separate mix too. This means that I only need myself, keys, vocal and bass in mine as I stand next to the lead guitarist and I can hear him from his amp.
I don't like IEM becaus that means you have to trust someone else not to fill your head with feedback!
I have tried using earplugs and I bought some from Alpine. They have a filter system that helps to regulate how much noise filters through. The upside of them is that if you block out most of the other noise, you will hear your sax from inside your head as it resonates through your skull. The down side is judging your own volume.
I will have to listen to your soundclip later as I'm on holiday and forgot my headphones :doh:
 

tenorviol

Full of frets in North Shropshire
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Whitchurch, North Shropshire
#13
Be very careful with high sound levels. Bar staff for exmaple are limited to 85db exposure (I think). A friend of mine is a sound engineer and he says that a common issue is amp wars usually with the lead guitar. Higher pitched sounds are very directional. So lead guitars need to have some sound coming to them at ear level to be heard. Often it's not, which leads to amp being turned ever higher... There is also a machismo issue with people thinking the SPL needs to blow the back wall out, or it's no good unless the walls are vibrating....
I play in a large wind band with a big percussion section, plus drum kit plus 9 trombones, 8 trumpets... I have musician's ear plugs for use in some situations - they essential. Even in orchestra, sometimes in concerts I am rather too close to the trumpets, which is why I originally bought them.
I'd try to find out if the issue with volume is others not being set-up correctly so that they're not hearing themselves, in which case that is easily fixed by adjusting how monitors are placed. You can buy a reflector which attaches to the bell, which may help. And IEM is the other option, which I've never tried.
 

sdt99

Member
Subscriber
Messages
180
#14
I would initially just go for earplugs -foam ones in a pinch, and the musician ones (like Etymotics) if you can easily find them (music shops should have them. Not only do they cut out noise but they also make it easy to hear what you're playing.

The plexiglass sound back should help also.