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A couple of questions for the musicians

Discussion in 'The Okie Corral' started by Annoyedgrunt, Mar 5, 2010.

  1. Annoyedgrunt

    Annoyedgrunt Dry Heat my ASS

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    !. How is a song actually created? Let's say a rock and roll song, for example. Do you start out with the actual music- guitars, drums and such first and add the lyrics to them? Or do you write the lyrics first, and then tailor the actual music around them?

    2. How loud is it on stage? Louder than in the audience? I have been to several rock shows before, and they can get damn near deafening- can only imagine how loud it is up there on stage. I've heard that earplugs can help to cut out the distortion and let you hear the music better.

    3. Are you able to hear yourselves play ok? You see some singers, and sometimes drummers with earphones on, and my understanding was that that is how they hear themselves- their singing is played through the earphone set and they can tell if they are off-key or off-beat or not. But then you see some that don't use them at all. :dunno:



    Hope these make sense. Thanks!
     
  2. Gallium

    Gallium CLM

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    1. Song creation depends on the songwriter(s). Some folks create the melody, the hook or the bridge 1st, and build around that. Other folks have a story to tell, so they flesh the lyrics out, and build the music to suit. Some folks also approach songwriting from the perspective of their primary instrument. I've seen guys/gals bang out songs on a guitar (most popular I've seen), on sax, on a piano, and even on drums (the beat is made and the lyrics are built around it.

    2. Venue SPL (sound pressure levels) depend on a slew of things. Where you are in the room/space, time of day, how drunk you are :), genre of music...etc. Depending on the type of noise reduction device you use, yes, you can make the overall SPL lower, and more comfortable. Once distortion is created at the transducer (speaker), there is virtually nothing YOU can do to eliminate it. Stage SPLs can be louder than the audience level (think wall of sound), but it will make the sound guy's job a bit harder to get any clarity and definition into the audience mix.

    3. It's a constant struggle to hear one self properly on stage. Proper room/space acoustic designs, speaker array placement, sound treatments, and careful selection of microphones, onstage amplifiers (most musicians specify what they want) and monitor wedges help to minimize and mitigate the heartburn of that constant battle.

    I am not a musician, I don't know how to play any instruments (well). I have been involved in sound reinforcement, production management and tour management since 1985.


    'Drew
     

  3. Annoyedgrunt

    Annoyedgrunt Dry Heat my ASS

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    Thanks, Drew.

    I often wonder though-with the stage sound pressure levels being louder than what the audience hears- if bands wear earplugs of any kind so they don't end up with permanent hearing damage. One show is enough for most people's ears for a while, but to be up on stage where it's loudest, and doing it day after day (on tour)... that must really take its toll on the hearing.
     
  4. Davegrave

    Davegrave Dapper Dan

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    Stop knowing so much about so much! Jesus. You're givin me a complex. :upeyes:


    :supergrin:
     
  5. jtmac

    jtmac Señor Member

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    Drew, as usual, has excellent answers (DARN YOU, DREW). Normally in such a case, I have nothing left to offer but snark, but perhaps I can offer a little more information here. Not that Drew doesn't know what I'd say, but he's very much a professional and therefore less subject to the amateur rage I am. I am not a musician (yet), but I have been doing a small amount of sound production for several years.

    1. (Not an amateur rage answer) Most start with whichever part of the process they are most intimately familiar with, but there are actually some people that hear songs full-form in their head right from the beginning. That has zero to do with actual skill in music or songwriting (I can't say if it has anything to do with raw talent or not, though), and skill is still needed to take it from head to paper/audio.

    2. It is REALLY LOUD on stage. Very frequently louder than the audience. Anyone on stage needs earplugs. You know what, though? It isn't that the musicians are simply required to have this sound level to play. No, THEY ASK FOR IT. It is pretty important to be able to hear yourself and the people you are playing with, and much better if you can hear just those things without other sounds interfering. But there is a trend to turn it up way too loud. Why? I don't know where it starts. Maybe it's ego. Maybe most musicians end up starting with a tech that can't mix for crap. But it ends up being a self-perpetuating problem, because they go deaf and then need it even louder. I'm not kidding about that.

    Not that many of them have any idea what they're even hearing. "Can you turn me up in my monitor?" "If I turn it up any louder, it's going to distort." "Let's try."

    And as Drew mentioned, if you get it loud enough, it affects the audience. It bounces off the walls or leaks out the front and REALLY screws up the house mix--you get the double-whammy of the effects of it bouncing off of whatever (usually bare wall because they "didn't like the way the baffling looked") on top of the time delay. The audience gets to hear a screwed up version of the music playing a split-second after the clean version you worked so hard to get.

    And one day you're going to go to your board and find that your careful settings have been screwed with because some one wasn't satisfied with the job you did of making them loud enough to rupture an eardrum and AUGH NOW I WANT TO PUNCH A GUITARIST IN THE MOUTH.

    GEEZ. $@Q#$#@%@Q#

    3. It's often very hard to hear yourself play because of the other $%#@^%$@ musicians on stage that have idiotic ideas about how loud their monitors should be. The solution is headphones or in-ear monitors. There are even systems these days that give each musician control over their own in-ear mix. They can hear what they want at the volume level they want in their own earpiece. But, of course, there are others that "just don't like it" and want their traditional monitor back, which sends the house mix back to crap and means that even musicians that value their hearing have to turn their headphones up to deafening levels to compensate.

    When some one talks to me about wanting to learn to play an instrument with the intention of playing on stage, I always recommend that they learn to MIX first. Maybe that way they won't perpetuate this retardation.

    I'm about to go to town, and after writing this I swear if I see any one carrying an instrument I will throttle him.
     
    Last edited: Mar 5, 2010
  6. THEPOPE

    THEPOPE Nibb

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    Drew and jtmac have given great examples of what it is like, on stage, I've been there, with smallish bands in small and medium sized venues, to large rooms, and large rooms are definately more dificult to get a real feel for what the audience hears....

    That is why you NEED to have a good sound-man you trust on the controls, he makes or breaks the band....a forgotten and under-appreciated member of the total sound team.

    Musicians almost NEVER can hear how they sound from the stage, for they cannot be in two places at the same time, however, I've used wire-less devices to go out into the crowd, to get an idea how we sounded as a group, and still it is hard to be objective.

    Bass players seem to be the worst offenders of loud issues, they push a great deal of sound and air, and some don't realize how loud they really are.

    ( I played the bass a couple times, on simple songs, and got taken away by the sheer POWER of sending those waves of pure , low, devastating pressure waves out into the world...)

    As for song writing, many ways that folks do it, one example is that Freddy Mercury of Queen came into the studio with ALL of the parts of " Bohemian Rhapsody" neatly in his head, and recorded and wrote it down in very short order.
    Others build around an idea, or feeling, and write as they go....I always thought, and wrongfully so, that IF I could learn to play the guitar, I could write a song...NOPE...I can write snippets, and work out licks, but have never written a real song....

    I am Out .....la-la-laaaaaaaa........doe ray me-me-meeeee........:cool:
     
  7. kestrou

    kestrou Pin Member #4

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    Drew's comment about writing around your primary instrument is spot on.

    I used to primarily play bass and keyboards and I would write melodies, now I play mostly drums and the songs I put together are much more rhythmic.

    Sometimes sound level is deafening on stage - but usually not. Playing bass & keyboards means that the majority of my sound would come out the PA - no need to have them LOUD on stage. As a drummer the volume isn't "quiet" but it's *too* bad. I own two acoustic kits and an electronic kit - of course the stage volume of the electric kit is low on my monitor.

    Yeah - it was fun to be surrounded by sound when I was a teenager, but loud stage volume really isn't required (except for possibly guitarists who are driving their amps into overdrive) - and a good mix in the monitors is heaven.

    P.S. - I've always been an amateur musician (never touring) - largest crowds I've played before is about 2,500 at outdoor festivals.

    kestrou
     
  8. Gallium

    Gallium CLM

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    Ok. Now yer gonna get the "engineering nerd" Drew. :supergrin:

    1. You actually build up a tolerance to loud sounds throughout the course of a rehearsal, jam session, concert, skeet shooting - you name it!

    You could start at 9pm in that 24x28ft room and the SPL is 110dB, nobody bats an eye, and two hours later you're wailing away at 128dB and nobody still bats an eye...but I could have left that room at 9:10pm, accustomed to 110dB, go fight with the band manager for 2 hrs, walk back into the room (or venue or side stage) and get my head totally blown off by that gosh-awful loud wall of sound...

    2. SPL...in short, is force per unit area. Think of birdshot. A modified choke on a shotgun will pattern much more tightly at 10 yards, versus at 50 yards (not much of a "pattern" there!). As so with sound, the pressure level (not intensity!) is inversely proportionate to distance.

    So...it is quite possible for a musician on stage to experience SPL levels higher than even the closest person in the audience does from the audience provided speakers. How can this happen? A guitarist may have his amp right up against his back, or his monitor wedge on the floor, 5ft from his ear, while the audience speakers may be on scaffolding, or physically on the stage, or (most popular today) flown from rigging points 35-125ft above ground, depending on venue layout, # of loudspeakers used, desired SPL, etc

    In my experiences, sustained stage levels are never as loud for the musician as they are for the audience member. I am forever and long past that point in work where I feel the need to blast people (musicians on stage or audience members) with a shock wave of sound (physically impossible to do with speakers, btw...a shock wave in ambient temps at sea level is...really ****ing loud 194dB).

    ...I have some band members that wear in ear monitors (IEMs), which have 1, 2 or three tiny speakers. These do a decent job of

    • requiring less electrical power to generate an equivalent SPL (since the transducer is right in the ear canal),
    • with proper design, isolating & preventing unwanted sounds from reaching the ear
    • help to "clean up" the stage sight-lines (less wedges on stage), as well as reduce the payload/footprint of crap we need in the trucks.
    ...and I have some band members who actually wear foam, or specially molded ear plugs on stage to reduce the SPL to their ears. A lot of guys wear these during soundcheck, when mouth breathers as I (;)) might still be trying to learn to count to four (check one, two, three) , and blast the entire stage with massive amounts of feedback.

    Others have said more eloquently than I, mixing is part science, part art. Most musicians I've worked with over the years are pathological liars anyways...so I never take much of what they say to heart - most say I am a superb mixer/sound guy...but like I said, they are some of the biggest liars on the planet. :supergrin:


    'Drew
     
  9. Reagan40

    Reagan40

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    A musician's best friend, or worst enemy... (depending on what the musician ate earlier in the day, how smooth the driver drove the bus the night before, or how the musician thinks his jeans fit that day) is the monitor engineer.(Poor Sucker!) He is the guy operating the mixing console on the side of the stage. His job is to make sure the musicians on stage hear exactly what they think they need to hear. If the musicians are nice and enjoyable to work with, this can be a very fun job. If they are the typical artsy jerks who ask you to defy the laws of physics, and expect it to be done, you better not think it is going to be a long term job.:upeyes: Typically, in the professional world, each musician on stage will have their own mix. In other words, the monitor engineer is providing a custom mix for each person on stage.
    I have mixed monitors for Rap, Rock, Country, Gospel, Adult Contemporary, etc. It seems like they all want it much louder than is comfortable for my ears. Many of them have abused their ears, and really need a lot of harshness (2,000 to 3,000 hz) in their mix. To me, it feels like someone is driving a nail into my forehead. Musicians are some of the deafest people I have ever met. The in ear monitor idea was supposed to help this. Instead, most musicians I work with just turn their in ear packs up to an unhealthy level. So if the band is all on in ears, it may not be that loud on stage, but it is still crazy loud in their ears. The beauty of in ears is that I don't have to deal with heavy stage monitors or feedback. Also, with a good monitor engineer, the musician can get a very clean mix with things panned to just the right places, eq just right, just the right amount of reverb on a vocal, etc.


    Drew covered this pretty well.
     
    Last edited: Mar 6, 2010
  10. Swerved

    Swerved Not panicking

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    1) Depends on who writes the song; each songwriter has his/her own way of doing it. To my experience, sometimes they start as pieces of songs and I end up putting them together. When I was playing professionally, sometimes my singer would write lyrics and we'd write around them. Sometimes the guitar player would write something and we'd build off it. It varies from musician to musician. Also a factor is if it's one person writing a song, or more than one person writing it.

    2) Loudness on stage depends on the gig. I've played small places where we had to play at a lower level not to blast the crowd out of the club so it was pretty tolerable. One of the larger gigs I've played was at Club LaVela in Panama City, and we had to have a loud stage volume so we could hear over the PA. I never played an arena, but I did work at one for a while here and we brought our gear in and set up before. It took our whole PA used as monitors just so we could hear over the house system. Some places seemed louder on stage than others did too.

    3) Most bands if playing through a PA will have a monitor system that lets them hear others or themselves so they know what they're sounding like to the crowd. I used to like vocals and guitar in my monitor because I could hear the bass and drummer just fine anyway. Our singer liked to hear everyone but himself in the monitor. Some play completely without. Each band/band member has their preferences, but generally when we played we didn't have any issues not hearing ourselves.


    It's been stated, but it never hurts to say again.. Having a decent sound-guy does a lot of good.


    And as stated above, if you don't take care of your ears you'll run the risk of hearing loss and/or tinnitus (constant ringing of the ears).. That's probably one thing I'd do differently if I had it to do over again.
     
    Last edited: Mar 6, 2010