Any tips,ideas,suggestions etc... on playing in small venues

JohnnyThrash

Junior Member
I need some help, i play in a acoustic group and we are starting to get gigs, however, they are small gigs at small venues like Jazz places, art galleries, coffe lounges and houses, etc...

You know small places, I currently just play stuff like the djembe,bongos,cajon,hand drum,darbuka,shakers and cabasas, you know small stuff for small places. When we practice we have tried playing some of our songs and even made a few with a full drum kit and they sound good also we wanna play stuff like train and jack johnson for example the song flake.

My drum kit however is pretty loud or at least when i play it. I use a Tama Starclassic and my cymbals are A New Beat hi hats 14'', A Sweet Ride 21'', and a 18'' A custom medium crash. My toms arent that big either, 22'' kick, 12'' tom and 14'' floor tom. The snare is a 14'' dw copper collector series.

So how could I play it quieter? Just ease up on how hard i hit? Use different heads? different tuning? Different sticks? Any tips would be helpful.

THANKS!
 

ocdrums

Senior Member
I leave the toms at home, I use a wood snare instead of metal, I use my regular sticks and play lightly. No toms forces me to make other musical decisions, wood snare tones things down a bit and practice allows me to control volume. Might not work for you, but it works for me.
 

inneedofgrace

Platinum Member
I play a lot at church, where loudness does not usually fit the bill, so I have learned to adapt to that environment. I've also played in numerous small venues like restaurants. If you do it right, you can play so that the volume is not that bad. We've even played during the dinner crowd, and people have been able to talk at their tables and still hear each other. Here are some suggestions:

Try lighter sticks and even brushes.

Start out with lighter songs up front in the first set, in which you play just a shaker or tamborine. Then work up the volume and incorporate all the drums as the night goes on. I personally would not give up the drum kit just because it was a small venue. I take a minimum of a 5-piece to all gigs. Make the rest of the band give up some of their space so you can fit your drums.

If your snare is too loud or piercing, try using the cross-stick click instead of a full swing at the snare. Or use a light wood or plastic block to keep the beat instead of the snare. Keep your hi-hat closed tighly so as to avoid any loud ringing affect. Experiment with nylon tips vs. regular wood tips.

For the crescendo affect during song endings, you can use mallets instead of sticks so you get a softer sound.

Leave the double bass pedal at home! :) Use a lighter or smaller bass pedal beater. Dampen the bass drum as much as possible.
 

caddywumpus

Platinum Member
I have to disagree with the previous post. The OP can make his own decision, based on what resonates with him, and hopefully will ultimately make his final decision based on his experience. Here's my take on it, based on my experience:

If your snare is too loud or piercing, try using the cross-stick click instead of a full swing at the snare.
Or, just play the snare quieter. Starting your stroke an inch above the head (or the appropriate height for the venue) should give you a quiet enough volume while retaining the actual sound of the snare drum.

Or use a light wood or plastic block to keep the beat instead of the snare.
Or, just play the snare quieter. Using a wood block as a substitute for a snare drum, unless you're purposefully using for the timbre, seems like a bad idea. Also, woodblocks/plastic blocks can be quite loud and piercing, even when played quietly. You'd have an easier time controlling the volume of your snare.

Keep your hi-hat closed tighly so as to avoid any loud ringing affect.
Or, just play the hats quieter. You can sizzle and slosh the hats at a quiet volume, but the hats have to be closer together than when playing at a loud dynamic. Closing the hats tightly gives you a specific sound on the hats--only use that sound when you want that particular color for the music you're playing. Otherwise, just play the hats quieter.

Experiment with nylon tips vs. regular wood tips.
...but only for timbre-changing reasons. Nylon tips give you more of a "ticky" sound, while wood tips give you more of a "clicky" sound. Nylon tips give a tad more articulation, while wood tips open up the sound of the cymbal more efficiently.

It kills me when people say, "If you want to play quieter, use rods or brushes or lighter sticks." The sound of the drums is SO different when you use a different implement, it's amazing. You can play rods and brushes just as loudly as sticks, and you can play sticks just as quietly as brushes and rods. You can't, however, play a very articulate-sounding ppp passage on the snare with rods, however, as it's harder to play "off" of the drum. Use the tool you want for the SOUND you want, and let your control set the volume and balance of your kit.

For the crescendo affect during song endings, you can use mallets instead of sticks so you get a softer sound.
You can do a roll with sticks on the cymbals as well. Use mallets if you want the "stick on cymbal" sound to be minimized. Mallets also work great on toms for jungle-type beats (at all dynamics).

Dampen the bass drum as much as possible.
Don't dampen the bass drum, but rather treat the heads to the appropriate venue. If you are rocking a 26" bass drum and you're playing a casual gig at an art gallery with 20 foot tall cement walls and ceilings, it would probably be in your best interest to put some felt strips on your heads to minimize the all-encompassing resonance factor, or at least stuff a teddy bear between your bass drum pedal and batter head. Also, tuning is your friend for these venues. Drums tuned really low might sound good with your band when you wail on them, but in a quieter situation, the tone is lost when you play quieter. Tune them up a bit to get a good tone at all dynamic levels.
 

fixxxer

Senior Member
Hotrods work well for me in those situations. I set my drums up just as I always do (no additional muffling) and use the rods while being mindful of volume.
 

inneedofgrace

Platinum Member
I have to disagree with the previous post. The OP can make his own decision, based on what resonates with him, and hopefully will ultimately make his final decision based on his experience. Here's my take on it, based on my experience:

.
Ummm....yeah, playing quieter goes without saying. My suggestions were things I have done in addition to that. Again, they were only suggestions (based on my experience), just as yours are. Of course he has to make his own decision on what works. These threads are for throwing out ideas to help people out, and we aren't necessarily going to agree, because every situation and drummer is different.
 

caddywumpus

Platinum Member
Ummm....yeah, playing quieter goes without saying. My suggestions were things I have done in addition to that. Again, they were only suggestions (based on my experience), just as yours are. Of course he has to make his own decision on what works. These threads are for throwing out ideas to help people out, and we aren't necessarily going to agree, because every situation and drummer is different.
Uh huh.

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larryace

"Uncle Larry"
Why oh why don't they make sticks with tips that somehow take the edge off riding the cymbals. A hard rubber would probably work great. Wouldn't do much for drum dymanics though, you would still have to tap to keep them under control. I can't stand the tone of hot rods. You should be able to tap really quietly with even a 2B. It's worth mentioning that the stick should be allowed to bounce off the head as opposed to stopping the stick at the head or playing into the head when trying to play quiet. It's amazing how softly drums can be played.

One trick to being able to play harder while keeping the volume down is to choke up on your sticks. You sacrifice reach, but oh well.

Some rooms are so unforgiving volume wise. Just a little too hard of a tap and the volume seems like it doubles. At some point you just want to hit normally, but you can't. It's easier to not have to worry so much about the stick heights and/or velocities. But yeah you gotta learn how to burn while tapping. I wish that either me or the drums had a volume knob, so I could hit normally, and adjust the knob. Choking up on a really light stick works well though. You could hold your sticks 3" from the tip and no matter how hard you swing, you'll barely make a sound. Of course that's extreme, but you get the point.
 
W

wy yung

Guest
Dynamics should be practiced as a core part of a routine. I would recommend practicing pianissimo. Buy a copy of Portraits in Rhythm by Cirone. There is loads of space devoted to dynamic control. Apply the solo techniques to both hands and feet.

Good luck.
 

JoeLackey

Senior Member
Use smaller sticks, play quieter, and don't bring more drums than you need. I've done gigs with hats, snare, kick, and ride. That's all a drummer should need if you're just keeping the beat. That's probably the biggest tip. Just don't bring too many drums.
 
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