At our "contemporary" service we have the typical band set-up and we get the typical complaints about volume. In the seats the sound is between 85-90 dB so it's not "loud." But it is a struggle to keep the volume low with live instruments. Obviously, there are things that can be done to help, like caging the drums, isolating amps, etc. But that wouldn't help us because guitars and drums are not the problem.
I inherited a horn section from the previous worship leader. I don't mind them being there because they are very good. They follow direction well and when I ask for special parts, they can write impressive accompaniment. But they are, without a doubt, the loudest thing on stage. We have a dB and have measured it. I can't put them up front because they blow people out the back door. I can't turn them to face in because everyone has to turn up their monitors to compensate, making us much louder than 95 dB.
Does anyone know what can be done with a baritone, tenor, and alto saxes, and a trumpet?
I'm looking for more technical help than, "Ask them to play softer."
I feel like I'm in a alternate universe. There I am with my electric guitar and amp, a bass player, and acoustic drums...and the horns over power us in the mix!
Thanks in advance for the answer to all of my woes!
Wow, I'm going to watch this and see what people say!
We've got one fellow who plays saxes and flutes, and it's not a problem - in fact, he blends in really well (he's also very accomplished). But it's only one guy; a whole horn section is something else again. My only suggestion at this point is build a bigger room, but I guess that's not in the budget...:)
Try putting them in the back, or right by the drums. That's what's done with drums/saxes in a concert band.
They can play a little softer, and trumpets and brass can use straight or a cup mute. Some bands put them on a small platform or riser, like the drums.
Do they tend to get louder when the whole band gets louder? In that case perhaps turn down their monitors, if possible, let them know you are doing it so they will back off a bit on the very loudest parts. If they are too loud on the ballads you *might* have to trim their parts to only play when there are no vocals...
We've tried putting them in the back, but then they play into the back of everyone's head. I'm going to talk with them this week about trying to use mutes. Even if it means the church buying mutes for them to use!
You might have to learn to live with their sound into the back of your heads onstage - perhaps put your singers more to the front? I don't know the size of your stage. Only the brass instruments (like trumpets, trombones) use mutes. The sax players will just have to try to tone it down....
This will sound like I'm being a wiseguy ... but I'm not ... Play softer! Look, those instruments are generally found in concert and jazz band set-ups. In other words, if you were to ask these musicians where they learned to play, the one answer you wouldn't get was "I learned on my own playing in my bedroom" as if they were some teen who was taking up the guitar in their spare time.
I've been a musician for over 40 years. I started out as a horn player for the first 15 of those years. If you were to ask your horn section what was the difference between pp and ff, they can tell you. In the more conventional secular settings, I can assure you of this, a conductor would have no problem controling their volume because the dynamic markings on a piece of sheet music reqiuire it.
Volume control on a wind instrument is as simple as controling the amount of air you're putting through the instrument and how quickly you're moving the air. I believe in honesty in music. A critique is nothing more than an honest analysis of what you hear. If they cannot handle an honest, "informed" musical opinion, I don't know if they should be on anyones platform.
Talk to them about dynamic levels, in private, as a section. Tell them they are a great horn section but need to be more sensative to the dynamic levels of a given song. It's like I tell my people on slow worship stuff: "if we rush it ... we lose the feel ... we lose the effectiveness ... we killed it. " Talk with them about the difference between pianisimo and fortisimo. Ask them honestly: "what good is it to be accomplished at an instrument if if our lack of precision in the area of volume dynamics is distracting people who are trying to worship?"
If you ask any of your horn players if their sole motivation is to quench the spirit they would say of course not! Then they simply need to ramp up their musicianship. Keyboard, guitar and bass have knobs for volume control ... wind instruments don't.
After the issue is addressed ... rehearse it out. How do you get to Carnagie Hall? Practice, practice, practice!
A great, honest, upfront answer, David. Thanks! I'm not a horn player so I don't know the difficulties of playing soft, but I'm glad to hear it can be done!
Sometimes when things start to get out of control on our stage, I'll remind the band members to "listen to the each other" and then add their part where needed. It's amazing how just listening can make such a difference, as opposed to just playing or singing in your own little world.
I have observed that one of the greatest problems with platform musicians is getting emotionally wrapped up in the music and the moment. We loose our focus which should be first and foremost on the music we're playing. When our emotions take over musicianship and volume suffers!
The leaders of the horn section are a husband and wife team. He played in the Army Band in Germany, and she was a barroom polka player. I think these are good starting points to talk with them. The rest of the section are teens from our church.
They do have instrument mics. Do you have any experience in setting up a pit for wind instruments?