Not enough loud or too loud?

I had a big band gig this week and realized I don't play as intensely and broadly as I want. Certain spectators gave me this note and I was surprised. I naturally play softer, I moderate my sound, I'm not a heavy hitter compared to some others, but I wouldn't say I play timidly or faintly as much as they say. I would say that I'm made for smaller ensembles, as combos, according to my light touch and precise nuances. In fact, they are right, because the drummer have to mark its presence and guide the whole band through the music (especially if it was a dance gig).

How should I solve this problem? Should I play louder enough or should I do nothing, because I hate to play too loud and mess up or ruin all rhythm and wind sections?
If I want to play louder, show my presence, how shall I do? Will I have to balance and make great efforts to put more power, more strength to my playing? I definitely have minor troubles to play louder, according to some previous experiences, and think it'll take some time to get used to it.

Somehow, I almost answered my own question...
Please help me!
 

scrowder

Member
I've been in those big band situations too. The drums are loudest to you, because you're closest to them. By the time the sound gets past the horns into the audience, what sounds balanced from the drum seat is often going to be too quiet from an audience perspective.
 

larryace

"Uncle Larry"
Broken record strikes again...record yourself, listen back, then decide what, if anything, needs changing.
 

brentcn

Platinum Member
Broken record strikes again...record yourself, listen back, then decide what, if anything, needs changing.
Absolutely.

But adjectives like timid or faint (especially from non-drummers) can be associated with being behind the beat, or even on-center, if the music demands an "on-top" approach from the drums. Some might describe an ahead-of-the-beat feel as "intense", even though the volume is down.

Maybe you're adjusting your time, in some moments, in order to complement another element of the band? Perhaps you should just plow through, and blame everyone else for slacking off! ;)

And if it really is just a volume thing, then grab a pair of 5Bs and make some noise!
 
Thanks for your kind help.
It is exactly the fact that drums is loudest from my seat than from the audience. I'll surely try to play with a little more strength, especially in latin styles, in which people have criticized me.

To be more precise, the meaning of their comments was clear and exclusively associated to volume. They compared mine to the rest of the band and found I played much lower than them.

I don't think I'll record myself when drumming. First, I'm not equiped in mics and recording stuffs, and second, I wouldn't trust the results, which will probably be bad or wrong.
 

K.Howden

Senior Member
Thanks for your kind help.
It is exactly the fact that drums is loudest from my seat than from the audience. I'll surely try to play with a little more strength, especially in latin styles, in which people have criticized me.

To be more precise, the meaning of their comments was clear and exclusively associated to volume. They compared mine to the rest of the band and found I played much lower than them.

I don't think I'll record myself when drumming. First, I'm not equiped in mics and recording stuffs, and second, I wouldn't trust the results, which will probably be bad or wrong.
Bad results are exactly what you're looking for when recording yourself to improve. The tape doesn't lie and it's better to agknowledge areas of your playing that need improving on and corrected them rather than judging it by your own measure when you're sat behind the kit.

If you meant bad results as in horrendous sound quality then ignore the above!

best of luck mate,

Kev
 

Pollyanna

Platinum Member
Yes, getting an idea of where you are in the mix with a small recorder is hard enough in a small group let alone in a big band.

What does the band leader and the other musicians in the band have to say about it?

What are the tastes of those who said you laid back too much? They might be big Tony Williams fans. Have others in the audience commented to the contrary?
 

donv

Silver Member
I've read more then once about the old timers playing big band back in the day. They all put time into discussing how hard it was to come to terms with the dynamics of playing with a big band. At times, when the band was "cookin" they seem to have had to play as hard as any typical rock drummer today, but they also had to know how to lay back when the music was laid back.

I'm not offering advice here, just acknowledging the difficulties of playing with a big band, and learning how to play the hall, club, crowd nosie or whatever as much as learning to play the music. Now days you just trun up or down the sliders on the channels the drums go through to balance the drums with the rest of the band. Your post reminds me of the days when a Shure Vocalmaster PA was high end for playing high school dances, and keeping the volume down so the singing could be heard. The good old days. ;)
 
You remind me that it is very complex at once to apply real and fine dynamics when drumming in a big band, especially in a high school one. Personally, I would say that I'm the most experienced and aware in musical situation in this band. Let me explain this:

First, I wish to make of my future a musician and this requires to continue my studies in music, what others don't intend to. I give this choice great importance and significance so I never stop to learn and improve myself. I take music very seriously, far more than others.

To link this to the band leader and the musicians comments, I haven't get any remark or constructive criticism from them. They are indifferent and unconcerned to me, because they know I learn and know my charts and have no trouble to get them easily; they only care about their own part and don't want to know anything about this or don't want to interfere with others playing. This is a terribly bad group attitude!

Those in the audience who suggest me to play a little louder aren't musicians, but I know they are right in some way; I know I play a little softer than the rest of the band.
 

bobdadruma

Platinum Member
The comments about my playing that I have always paid the most attention to have always been those that have been made by non-musicians. They never lie, and they never get fooled by their personal musicians beliefs in music.

It isn't hard to get a bit louder. The next time that you play, play a bit harder and ask the same people if you were loud enough. You will find that you won't have to hit to much harder to increase the volume considerably.
 

K.Howden

Senior Member
I've been thinking about this over the weekend and I've had instances where I'm playing at a volume level that is proper for the band and that whole "bubble"/ immediate area, but because of the way sound works on physical level only a certain amount of the volume is projected out to the audience, so I might be putting out "x decibels" in real terms but only "y decibels" is actually projecting out to the audience.

This happens because different instruments cover different frequency ranges and project very differently, just as different instruments of the drum kit itself will project differently...a ride cymbal will project a lot more than say a bass drum.

Therefore the solution of this is to play a little louder than you think you need within the band unit and that immediate area ("bubble" or whatever you want to call it) so even though you might think you're playing too loud, what reaches the audience is actually balanced.

It's a hard one to get right and it's great you're paying attention to it, because like you said there's a lot of players who don't.

Kev
 
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I'll pay attention to my loudness and my intensity next time for sure! This is my "task of the week"!
To answer your posts: yes, you are right; playing louder is relatively easy, but getting the habit of raising the volume and breaking the old habit of controlling it to let hear the others in the band is much difficult. The goal is only to play some decibels louder, but not too much. I know this exercise will take time but I'll work on it. And yes, non-musicians never lie: they are the ones who listen and enjoy the show; not the ones who necessarily understand it, so their comments are generally important and useful, especially for next gigs.
 

fixxxer

Senior Member
I just played a Valentines Day banquet last night. We played some older stuff like Patsy Cline, Linda Ronstadt, James Brown, etc. I was concerned that I would be too loud so I used hotrods and really laid back. I video taped (using just a regular video camera picking up what the audience hears) the gig.
Even though everyone that I talked to in the audience said that the volume was fine, after watching the video, I feel I could have picked it up a knotch. I could have used sticks rather than the rods the whole time. I also learned that I could improve my overall stage presence as well! Recording yourself is a good thing- accepting it is sometimes the difficult part.
I'll know next time what to do better!
 
I use Vic Firth 5As and American Jazz 1 or 2. It depends on what I play. I also have a bunch of other sticks but I generally use these ones.
 
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