Stage volume affecting FOH mix

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    Profile photo of gilly

    Last Sunday at church there was a stand-off between what the worship leader wanted and what I as the sound person wanted in terms of overall stage volume.
    I thought the volume coming from the stage (mainly from the WL’s electric guitar amp which I had no control over) was already way too loud as I had the FOH speakers turned completely down and I could loudly hear everything from stage and I tried adjusting the FOH volume and it wasn’t having much effect on the overall sound at all (unless I had it up very loud) as there was already another source (i.e. stage monitors)equally as loud (if not louder).

    The problem on Sunday was that the worship leader had his electric amp very loud and the drummer at the back was using a JBL stage monitor and he couldn’t hear the worship leaders vocals from his monitor as it was being drowned out by the volume coming from guitar amp. And so the WL asked me to turn up the JBL monitor level and I said no as the stage volume was already too loud as it was without getting louder. And at that point there was a stand-off as WL again asked me to turn it up and I said no as I have no (or very little) control over the overall sound mix.
    I know this battle about stage volume is a very common occurrence in churches worldwide, which is one of the reasons in-ears are being used more and more. But I know these have their own problems in taking a lot of time setting up, a more tinny sound and feeling isolated sonically from the congregation etc…. And we just recently made the decision to buy stage monitors instead of getting our in-ear system fixed. We had in-ears for years and the worship guys didn’t really like them, which is why we decided for the stage monitors. When the WL asked me to turn up the drummers JBL monitor I suggested rather to turn down the electric guitar amp. This principle applies in general in that if some musician/singer cannot hear themselves in their monitor it can often be not because the volume isn’t loud enough on its own, but rather it’s being overpowered with a louder sound coming from another monitor. And rather than turning up that persons monitor (which can in turn affect someone else’s hearing of themselves in their monitor…etc etc…) if other monitors were slightly turned down it may very well solve the problem with the initial musician who couldn’t hear themselves.
    Any suggestions.I even have the monitors on chairs and pushed up close to the musicians so they can hear themselves more loud/clear but some people just never seem to be happy with their volume and want it cranked up. I had to draw the line somewhere, hence the stand-off.

    Profile photo of [XAP]Bob

    You turn off the guitar amp – and mute the drums.

    I presume it is micced up rather than DI’d
    Can you turn it round – put it in front of the guitarist, firing up at their chest/face?

    That will increase what they hear, and you might be able to get to the decorating committee to put some heavy curtains/banners behind the stage to soak the volume…

    But really you need to sit down with the WL, or preferably whoever leads the WL’s first – and get them to understand that you are on the same team.

    The purpose isn’t to provide a rock concert, nor is it to flatter the musicians, it’s to lead people to God. You won’t do that if all that can be heard is a mush of reflected stage noise.

    We have converted to electric drums, and now DI the Bass as well. Guitar amps get put off to the side, pointed sideways, and they are micced and appropriate foldback is provided (we now have 5 foldback mixes available)

    But none of that is possible without the tech team being an integral part of the worship team – you should be at the worship meetings, be guided by the leadership in that area. Of course you (or the tech lead) should also be strongly influential to that leadership.

    You need to be part of a team, that requires relationship building, and trust. Maybe give the WLs an opportunity to stand by you and talk about what you are doing when doing a rehearsal for another band – then they can see what you are trying to accomplish. We’ve done that at a worship team meeting…

    Profile photo of [XAP]Bob

    BTW – if you’ve already had a standoff then the relationship is broken. Someone (you) needs to start to fix it. Apologise (yes I know it’s not a request you could have accommodated).

    Start the team building, it’s not your job – it’s the Worship team leader/deacon/whatever title they have. But you have the opportunity to start it – I’d get the team lead onside first though if I were you. If they are the team lead then get the Pastor onside first. If they are the Pastor then the Eldership?

    Profile photo of gilly

    Thanks Bob
    But yes on most accounts, I do put the monitors on chairs tilted bakwards towards musicians chest/head. That WL also puts his guitar amp on chair tilted back. We don’t mic the drums as loud enough as is (yes we can put behind screen and mic…considering that..).
    It is a very historic church building and they like the old plasterwork walls so curtains probably not an option at mo.
    I am the sound team leader and i have already discussed this with the main WL and he sent around email to the others WL’s and they opted for new stage monitors rather than get our in-ears fixed (there is cross channel fault in it).
    I have already requested a meeting between myself, the main WL and the WL in question. Oh and we already talked before the service after the stand-off and we’re good (well sort of, at least we both said sorry and shook hands)

    Profile photo of gilly

    ah the joys of being a sound tech 🙂

    Profile photo of [XAP]Bob

    OK – at least relationships are still hanging on in there 😉

    You might be able to sell the idea of “banners” maybe with the various names of God or something else appropriate on them. If you go and talk to the ‘decor team’ (for want of a specific description) and explain why you are looking for some soft backing to the stage – but that the design is all theirs.

    The aim is to reduce the volume, and improve the clarity of sound in the congregation – I know I’m making a sweeping generalisation, but the decor team will probably support you…

    Without the drums being controllable you end up mixing to the drummers level all the time, which can be massively inappropriate (in either direction)… And of course you are getting drums bleeding into every other live channel (except a keyboard maybe)

    Profile photo of Andreas

    I guess anyone at FOH can tell stories about guitar amps, not only from church…
    If the guitar player persist to hear his amp directly, it should face towards the guitar players head, as Bob said. This normally does not work well if the player stands in front of the amp. Placing the amp in front of the player does not work either with most amps, since they’re open on the back so the audience gets full volume as well. Catching up with FOH gets difficult…
    I’d try to place the amp at one side of the stage and turn the volume down, then feed the miked amp into the player’s monitor.
    This may require some extra energy to convince the player for this solution, but if he’s also singing he soon will realize how nice it is to hear guitar and vocals from the same location.
    …if drums are still too loud, think about placing some drum shields.

    Profile photo of strat

    I have a similar situation .. I work for an oldies band, My wedges are dual 12’s bi-amped .. I was in a room with 1200 people, The monitors were so loud that I could of turned off F.O.H. and just did the show on monitor volume .. Some people just do not have a clue what is involved to put on a good show, I told the band that they had to come down in the monitors because if I increased volume at F.O.H. to overcome the monitor volume, most people(their audience age group is 60-85) would have left the room. No matter how much I tell them, it still happens at every show ..Good luck Gilly.

    Profile photo of lesouvage

    I recognise the challenge and my way of coping with it is to promise the band a multi track recording. I have some reference material that gives me room to explain that it will only result in good recordings if the band plays according to the (my) rules. All instruments micced, amps at the side and not to loud, amps micced, adjusting to the sound are made through the mixing table and not by turning on the volume of the guitar and/or amp of the guitar. I don’t always make it a succes but most of the time this approach, although not completely honest, will at least helps me to get the role I need to do the sound properly. The questions “do you want good sound in the venue (for you the church)” sometimes does miracles. I did the sound for a heavy metal band lately and I was very pleased that my gear survived 🙂 (although the sound was terrible and far above 100 dB) Loud back lines and drum kits are killing the overall sound in a not that big venue.

    Profile photo of gilly

    Andreas the guitar amp was facing towards him on a chair tilting back. It was simply just too loud. He loves it like that. Yes Bob i think these guys think they’re performing at a rock concert, bless them.

    Profile photo of [XAP]Bob

    When we went to the e drums initially we had some discontent drummers.

    We lost one drummer (not the biggest loss in the world) but the others all said something akin to one (who I work with in a covers band as well):

    At church I’m playing to lead others, not for my own edification. I’ll play whatever the church wants/needs me to play. For [covers band] I’m never going electric, that’s my fun playing…

    Profile photo of gilly

    Can we swap worship teams Bob….

    Profile photo of dcongdon

    You might try moving the amp into a back closet or building an Iso box… or mount a speaker & mic inside an Iso cab and bypass his amplifier’s speaker (something like this: If the WL is concerned with tone, these options are the best way to maintain power tube saturation without blowing away the congregation. You will need to bring the guitar up in the wedges, but at least you have control.

    If the WL is simply unwilling to reduce his stage volume, buy a fully enclosed drum shield to contain him. It may be a hard sell, but your drummers will love you for it.

    Profile photo of [XAP]Bob

    That particular drummer is both exceptionally talented and humble.
    But the effect of that comment is profound. The mindset it demonstrates, and encourages in others..

    Feel free to quote him 😉

    I have one WL with whom I have serious volume issues, and one guitar player with whom I have intermittent issues (but we’re changing what is on the stage to reduce the options for excess volume making). Also one or two vocalists who tend to get “lost in the mix” for the benefit of the congregation.

    It’s not all sunshine and roses, but the quote that needed sharing is the one from the good side of our worship team (which far outweighs the difficult side). Of course in a team of about eight techs (I’m not the team lead, although I am heavily involved in the technical decision making) as part of a worship team of around 60 (including the techs) I don’t get to face either extreme very often.

    In terms of foldback there was a good point raised on a course I went on a few month back. If a “perfect” foldback mix is 100% then a musician probably needs a 75% mix to play well.
    If you get them 75% off the bat (or close too it) then they’ll be happy with that.
    If you start off with a 50% mix then they’ll start focussing on it, and won’t be happy, even as that mix passes 90% quality because they are focussing on that mix and not on playing(/leading).

    I get positive feedback from musicians when they arrive (I’m usually already there) – they trust me to do my job in a way that they don’t with some of the other techs. That trust only comes with time and communication (remembering that we have two ears and only one tongue), it comes from going on stage and listening to what they can/can’t hear, from making “smart” adjustments depending on what is said. “I want more of me” is almost never what they want, less of everyone else does exactly the same job to them, and doesn’t kill everyone else’s mix at the same time.

    Profile photo of Hawk

    This is a common problem, volume war on stage. The ultimate solution is in-ear monitor with ambient mic. Everyone adjust their own mix using Qu-you app or ME-1.

    In this case, even if you mute the FOH, they should still be performing like nothing happened 🙂

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