Tips to stop "The drums are too loud" complaints?

So the venue at one of my regular gigs have been complaining about the drums being too loud and I'm sort of at my wits end about it. I've always thought of myself as a pretty dynamic drummer, and I've never really had deal with noise complaints quite like this (literally every single night), so I could use some help with this.

Personally, I'm fairly certain the reason they're having issues with the drums is because the room can hold around 150-200 people and is incredibly reflective (there's a metal wall with a giant metal fan behind me, a concrete pillar 2 inches away from my Cymbals on the right, a brick wall on my left and mirrors at the back of the venue, in front of the stage). They're not willing to compromise on the aesthetics of the place for better acoustics, so apart from the obvious, I've been forced to try all sorts of things.

So far, I've tried a few snare drums (got a lot of complaints about the snare being too loud), and tuned them really low. I've tried switching to the lightest sticks I could find, I've switched to maple sticks. I've switched to thinner, darker cymbals, I've tried muffling the kit, and so on. The sound guy has been telling me that the drums sound great, but the owner(s) of the venue hovers around with an SPL meter (well, it's an iPhone app) and telling me to tone it down because I'm too loud. I've even lightly tapped the drums once and got complaints for "looking too bored."

This week I'm going to try hot-rods, which is a bit strange as they've hired us to play heavy, rock music, but at this point, I'm not really sure what else to do. Thought maybe you guys had some cool tricks that I haven't thought of?
 

GruntersDad

Administrator - Mayor
Staff member
150 - 200 people should be dampening enough. What was the number on his decible app? Other than just learning to play quieter I'm not sure what to tell you. Lighter sticks, playing softer shouldn't wipe the smile off of your face, but if you are playing large arena dynamics in a small venue, then the sound starts with you. I'm not sure what you mean when you say you are quite a dynamic player, buy if that means very animated and very loud, then the answer lies within.
 

WallyY

Platinum Member
You could try mesh batter heads with fabric or plastic bag material stretched under the heads.
 

Mongrel

Silver Member
Sacrilege perhaps, but judging by where you are at with the owners...simple enough...

EDRUMS...

Trying to play "hard rock" can be done with rods but you will lose the tone of the drums and cymbals that is "hard rock".

If it were me I would bring my Roland TD8 (ancient but it works...) and let the sound guys worry about volume.
 
150 - 200 people should be dampening enough. What was the number on his decible app? Other than just learning to play quieter I'm not sure what to tell you. Lighter sticks, playing softer shouldn't wipe the smile off of your face, but if you are playing large arena dynamics in a small venue, then the sound starts with you. I'm not sure what you mean when you say you are quite a dynamic player, buy if that means very animated and very loud, then the answer lies within.
150-200 is the max capacity of the venue, it's usually never that packed. I'm really enjoying the lighter sticks, actually, but having to play as quietly as I possibly can without actually tapping the drums has made it a little bit difficult to "look" like the Rock drummer they expect me to play like. It is also becoming an especially difficult gig to enjoy when the owner is constantly pacing around the venue with his iPhone in the air and having the sound guy ask me to tone it down multiple times throughout the night. He won't divulge the number, but has assured us that I am too loud.

I've played big arena shows and quiet church gigs, so dynamically, I've never had any issues adjusting my playing accordingly - except for this gig, it seems...
 
Sacrilege perhaps, but judging by where you are at with the owners...simple enough...

EDRUMS...

Trying to play "hard rock" can be done with rods but you will lose the tone of the drums and cymbals that is "hard rock".

If it were me I would bring my Roland TD8 (ancient but it works...) and let the sound guys worry about volume.
I've suggested this, but they want a real drum kit on there.
 

GruntersDad

Administrator - Mayor
Staff member
150-200 is the max capacity of the venue, it's usually never that packed. I'm really enjoying the lighter sticks, actually, but having to play as quietly as I possibly can without actually tapping the drums has made it a little bit difficult to "look" like the Rock drummer they expect me to play like. It is also becoming an especially difficult gig to enjoy when the owner is constantly pacing around the venue with his iPhone in the air and having the sound guy ask me to tone it down multiple times throughout the night. He won't divulge the number, but has assured us that I am too loud.

I've played big arena shows and quiet church gigs, so dynamically, I've never had any issues adjusting my playing accordingly - except for this gig, it seems...
I'm not sure who "they" are that want you to look like a "rock" drummer but if this doesn't fit then this gig or venue is not for you. I thinking sounding like a drummer is a lot more important than looking like a rock drummer , but that is not my call. but if playing loudly just to look like a rock drummer then this gig is for another band.

And is this the same "they" that want a real drum set out there?
 

Hollywood Jim

Platinum Member
This is confusing to me. You can dampen the drums in various ways, all the way to where you can barely hear the drums.

But what really confuses me is; I assume you are playing rock music with a rock band. Is this a very quiet rock band? How well balanced are the other players in the band. How balanced is the sound of the band? How loud are the other instruments?

I'm thinking that as soon as you get your drums to where the club owner is happy he will then start complaining about the guitar being too loud. etc. etc.

.
 

Headbanger

Senior Member
He won't divulge the number, but has assured us that I am too loud.
Why all the secrecy? If he has a specific result in mind, he should tell you the number and let you use his app for the soundcheck. Sounds to me like he's sabotaging the gig so he can have some fun watching you squirm. There's nothing you can do in that situation except play the gig your way.
 

8Mile

Platinum Member
This might be too obvious, but I'm going to ask anyway: Is the sound guy miking up the drums?

I play a lot of smaller venues with loud acoustics and I'm still surprised how often people want to mic up my bass drum or snare when it's completely unnecessary.
 

purist

Junior Member
I played a venue where the owner would complain about my volume. I got to the point where I mimicked playing, and did not even hit the drums or cymbals. He didn't know I was faking it, but his response after that tune was: You're still too loud!

Sometimes you can't win.
 

KamaK

Platinum Member
Just so we're clear....

Are you certain the sound guy isn't turning you up the more you turn yourself down?
 

FreDrummer

Silver Member
I've suggested this, but they want a real drum kit on there.
Not simple, but an A-E converted kit is your friend. I used to use my electronic kit (but real cymbals) when the room/situation called for it. Quiet-side dynamics can only take you so far -- a lightly tapped drum simply does not sound like a heavily struck drum (not talking dB here, but rather the nature of the attack and decay). Also, as someone else mentioned, Hot Rods aren't going to cut it for hard rock, for the same reasons.

Below is my electronic kit at a gig...arena-sized sounds at comfortable listening levels.

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I'm not sure who "they" are that want you to look like a "rock" drummer but if this doesn't fit then this gig or venue is not for you. I thinking sounding like a drummer is a lot more important than looking like a rock drummer , but that is not my call. but if playing loudly just to look like a rock drummer then this gig is for another band.

And is this the same "they" that want a real drum set out there?
"They" are the owners. I totally agree with everything said here. It's just confusing to me how adamant the owners are about being a proper live music venue, yet they do very little to accommodate it. The sound guy's been trying to ages to get them to fix things here and there to help with the acoustics of the place and just the over-all sound, but from what he tells me, it sounds like they're more interested in the visual aspect of what they want over the bigger picture. If they didn't pay so well, I would've dropped this gig pretty quickly. I'm really struggling to enjoy it at this point.

HOLLYWOOD JIM said:
But what really confuses me is; I assume you are playing rock music with a rock band. Is this a very quiet rock band? How well balanced are the other players in the band. How balanced is the sound of the band? How loud are the other instruments?

I'm thinking that as soon as you get your drums to where the club owner is happy he will then start complaining about the guitar being too loud. etc. etc.

.
It is not a very quiet rock band at all. The guys in the band have complained to me that everything gets drowned out when I'm crashing, so they're forced to turn up a little. Maybe it's my cymbals? At the moment I'm using pretty thin, cymbals. Maybe I should try something a bit drier, just so it doesn't wash as much? I'm not really sure!

They've also complained about the guitars as well, but not as much as the drums.

8Mile said:
This might be too obvious, but I'm going to ask anyway: Is the sound guy miking up the drums?
Yes

KamaK said:
Just so we're clear....

Are you certain the sound guy isn't turning you up the more you turn yourself down?
Yes I'm certain. Both of us get chewed out for the sound, so he tries quite hard to make the owners happy. We talk about it after every show. As I mentioned to "GRUNTERSDAD", the sound guy's been trying his best to make these guys happy.

FreDrummer said:
Not simple, but an A-E converted kit is your friend. I used to use my electronic kit (but real cymbals) when the room/situation called for it. Quiet-side dynamics can only take you so far -- a lightly tapped drum simply does not sound like a heavily struck drum (not talking dB here, but rather the nature of the attack and decay). Also, as someone else mentioned, Hot Rods aren't going to cut it for hard rock, for the same reasons.
This is precisely what I suggested to them when I was initially met with hesitation. Not happening. I agree on the Hot Rod thing, but quite honestly, I'm a bit fed up with it in general and out of options :(.
 

newoldie

Silver Member
Have you made an audio recording of a gig to hear how all the instruments sound?

One band I play in at a particular small club would often get complaints from the bartender to turn the volume down and everyone in the band criticized each-other-- until it was honestly determined the "loud" factor came from the lead guitar and harmonica players. A recording helped to pinpoint the louder instruments.
 
Have you made an audio recording of a gig to hear how all the instruments sound?

One band I play in at a particular small club would often get complaints from the bartender to turn the volume down and everyone in the band criticized each-other-- until it was honestly determined the "loud" factor came from the lead guitar and harmonica players. A recording helped to pinpoint the louder instruments.
I haven't actually! Perhaps I should do this. It's hard to diagnose the issue when you're on stage!
 

larryace

"Uncle Larry"
Going against the tide here, I contend that rock drums at low volume work just fine and that drummers use the "you can't play rock drums at low volume" as an excuse to avoid learning to hit lightly. Or they actually believe what they are saying and have never been shown otherwise. Low volume rock drums works much better than people give credit for, really.

If anyone is interested in playing in a bar type band, volume is the #1 thing that the owners care about, and rightfully so. It's our job to play at the proper volume so that drink orders can be heard, guys can hit on the women, and people don't have to shout an inch from the other person's earlobe to communicate.

I'm getting a feeling that the guitars in your band are probably offenders too. A guitar's frequency....a lot of a guitars frequencies sit right where humans talk. A bass drum is usually not the offender because the freqs are low enough to not interfere with speech frequencies. Toms, same thing basically. Snares and cymbals are the offenders.

IDK I've learned to play as quiet as possible, out of necessity. Rock songs included. Sink or swim, I had to make this gig work volume-wise or lose it. My recordings....it's hard to tell I'm hitting light. When there is a hard surfaced room, my taps sound like a normal hit. My point is the recording isn't lacking anything because of my light playing.

Drummers simply need to learn how to play quiet. I tire of hearing how it doesn't work for rock. It does work for rock. All the volume proportions remain the same, the whole thing is just miniaturized. Scaled down.

Of course, the rest of the band has to scale down too. This is usually where the wheels fall off. A drummer can't do it by themselves. However, when the drummer comes in with a volume that is controlled really well, the others tend to respond positively to this. They don't feel like they are fighting for recognition. They relax more when the drummer knows how to play in a very controlled manner.

So my suggestion to every drummer is to do away with the volume excuses and just get on with learning how to play at 1/2, 1/3, 1/4th the volume. It's OK really, it works fine if you allow it.
 

mikel

Platinum Member
If the owner, and after all its his call, says its too loud, then it is.

If its too loud why are you mic'd up at all? 90% of the gigs I do we only have the vocals going through the PA, and we are not quiet. You should be able to play anything from a cocktail bar to a 250 seat venue using just your kits dynamics.
 

toddbishop

Platinum Member
Sounds like you need to have a tech meeting with the owners to establish an acceptable volume for the band-- like, you play for them, and make adjustments until they're happy.

I would suggest starting with the drums alone-- first playing as you normally do, then with absolute minimal amplification, then with no amplification, then playing your normal soft volume, then playing with multirods. Once they're happy with the drums, you can bring in the other instruments and set their levels-- they should really turn down their stage volume as much as they can, and let the sound man set the levels in the monitors and the house.

Probably stopping running the drums through the PA will fix it. Maybe you'll have to play a little softer. At least making them listen to the drums alone will educate them that the drums are not always the loudest thing on stage, and they'll get off your back a little bit. You could also try one of those plexiglass screens. Switching to "e" drums is a horrible solution, a last resort only if the owners are truly psychotic.

Oh, and I agree with everything Larry said.
 

Dr_Watso

Platinum Member
If the owner, and after all its his call, says its too loud, then it is.

If its too loud why are you mic'd up at all? 90% of the gigs I do we only have the vocals going through the PA, and we are not quiet. You should be able to play anything from a cocktail bar to a 250 seat venue using just your kits dynamics.
Then "the owner" should book light rock and jazz fusion gigs instead of heavy bands. It sounds to me like he's being pretty unreasonable.

And once and for all, despite what some like to tout, honestly, not all music can be played lightly on the drums and sound good. Certain styles really sound like crap when you're not putting some force behind the notes. Not to mention, it just looks weird energy wise.
 
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