Thursday, January 08, 2015

Play that Funky Music, White Boy ...

Photo by Chuck Gilman

So, I have mentioned that I go to the local pub, The Lehrer, for an acoustic jam. This is great fun, the group varies from a handful, to as many as eighteen, and there are some talented instrumentalists and singers who show up. 

Most recent session, there were two harmonica players, two percussionists, a flutist, an acoustic bass, eight or nine guitars, and one ukulele. None of us amped save the bass player, and we asked her to do that because we couldn't hear her.

I used to go to the blues jam, but everybody there is amped, and I wanted to retain what little hearing I have left.

On that subject, here's something I learned: At the blues jam, the volume starts out fine but quickly ratchets up. Every time one of the guitarists does a solo, the knob gets cranked, because with eight or ten other guitars playing rhythm, you can't hear the lead. And heaven forbid that any of the guitarists should, you know, turn it down so that could happen.

By the end of the session, the volume on the amps is at eleven, and how loud that is? My amp, which is a small, but decent thirty watts, turned up full, isn't able to deliver sound I can hear, with it by my feet and pointed right at me.

Contrast that with the acoustic folks, who, when somebody takes a solo, somebody else says, "Bring it down!" and everybody plays quieter, so you can actually hear the one guitar across from you doing the lead. And I can, the whole session, hear my unamplified uke just fine. Doesn't matter if anybody else can, but it helps me if I can ...

Sometimes Chuck brings a little amp and a vox and instrument mike so the song leader doesn't have to work too hard, but even that isn't necessary. 

Reminds me of a bunch of folks sitting on a porch somewhere, drinking beer and playing and singing, with a fine time being had by all. And when it is over, nobody is wandering around saying, "HUH? WHAT? SAY AGAIN ... ?"


Mike Byers said...

That seems to be a problem everywhere. Can't tell you the number of concerts I've been to where the amplification is cranked way too high, and for no reason at all. One band in particular has some brilliant players, particularly on lead guitar and on keyboards. And half the time you can't hear them, not to mention hearing the lyrics to the songs. I wonder if this is caused by people who have wrecked their hearing with 120db (or higher) levels, and can no longer hear anything unless it's amped to the3 max?

Steve Perry said...

I suspect the deafness is a big part of it; I have been wearing hearing aids for years, and if I turn them off, they make so-so ear plugs, which helps, but some of these guys will have a hundred or two hundred watt amp and cranked up to paint-peeling levels. If you have nine guitarist's playing rhythm? Even if they are all at 3, it's too much ...

heina said...

So what you're saying is... you need a bigger amp.

As to Mike's point, it's often the fault of the soundboard guys. It's a rarity that I go to a small venue and the sound is balanced properly.

I NEVER go to a concert without earplugs now, and I always bring extra for the people I'm with. Never have a problem hearing anything with them in either. Hmmm.