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Making Musical Decisions When It Comes To Stage Volume

Being part of the progression of how the music reaches an audience and how it is made on stage.

By Brian Belcher February 11, 2013

Stage volume, stage volume, stage volume.

I think if I have said it once, I have said it a million times. But about four months ago, while in a rehearsal, I had been preaching in-ears, in-ears, in-ears, and then BANG it hit me.

Sometimes they do play better without the in-ears!

I want to be able to do the best possible mix, but sometimes, as audio engineers we can stifle the creativeness and enthusiasm on stage by the constraints that we try to push upon our artists. Luckily, this particular band is very cool and we have a great relationship.

It is very nice to be reminded that when you can get along with the band, they can get along with you.

We had played numerous shows since I finally came down off my audio high horse and realized that I was inhibiting the creativeness of the band.

After listening to board tapes from the in-ear days and the “post” in-ear days, I can hear a noticeable difference in the playing and the enthusiasm.

I mentioned it to the players and they think I am funny, because I think about such weird things.

However, I have gotten them to admit that in-ears aren’t their favorite thing.

Don’t get me wrong, I totally believe in hearing conservation, and think that in-ears have their place in live audio.

I by no means want anyone to think that I am saying that using ears is the wrong thing to do. I am, however, saying that as audio engineers, we sometimes get caught up in the “technical” and forget about the musical.

Just like the technical side of things, there are many things that go into making music.

To me one of the most important is your level of comfort with your surroundings, defined in this situation as your band mates and crew.

The road is a wonderful place, but the wrong atmosphere presented by any of our surroundings can ruin it. I think as techs we should be aware of the situations that we put our artists in.

Over the years I have found that the limited time that we have to make our artists feel comfortable with us as people and technicians is very important. We have a very short period to make it happen in the live audio field.

Sorry to burst the bubble, but I think as technicians we forget that it is our job to not only be a professional, but make sure that anything that might be going on throughout the day doesn’t affect our work. Yup, there it is, I finally said it!

I had finally figured it out, and my artists have never been happier. Getting mad, not listening and most of all, not allowing the artist to have any creative input is truly a suicide attempt.

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