If you have a noise problem when live music is played at your venue you’re going to have to do something about how that live music is played, and this will involve a conversation with the musicians who play there.
The three things that we need to talk about when it comes to bands are:
2. Drum Kits
Before we get stuck in we need to make a little detour to understand why bass is such a problem.
Frequencies travel in waves – up, along and down again and again and again….till the diffuse into just air.
Low frequencies are more powerful because they transfer less energy to a medium as they travel through it. In addition to this every time sound hits something some of its energy is diminished – it’s absorbed a little by the ground it comes into contact with – so sounds that hit the ground more frequently (higher frequencies), travel less distance as there is more opportunity to chisel a little bit away with each contact.
When you consider how bass travels it helps to visualise the shape and size of the sound oscillation. This shape is governed by a simple equation; The frequency, divided by the speed of sound. The speed of sound is around 343 meters per second, (for the purposes of this example lets say 350). e.g 350/50Hz = 7m. So therefore a Low Frequency beat like 50Hz jumps 7m high and 7m along, so over houses, barns and forests!
Right you’ve got the basics down, now let’s talk about where those pesky bass frequencies come from and how to control them!
The bassist has a guitar, which they usually plug into their own amplifier that will have a specific character to it.
The range of amplifiers is vast but some of these will throw out the kind of problem frequencies that we described before – with the bassist’s amp in operation the frequencies that are produced when the band start playing will jump over obstructions and travel further than we want them to.
If you have an in-house PA, the simplest thing to do to address this is to ask the bassist to use a direct injection box – a relatively cheap piece of kit – these can often be plugged into a special output on the amp. This way the bassist can keep their amps sound without relying on it to produce the high and uncontrolled volume level.
Okay brilliant we’ve stopped the bass amp from being a problem but the bassist and the rest of the band still need to hear themselves play!
The traditional option is to use monitors, speakers on the floor that feed the instrument back to musician. We run into the exact same issue as the bass amp here though, it’s an uncontrolled sound source, so we need to use something else. That’s where in ear monitors become your best friend.
This is something the musicians will need to supply themselves (they go in the ear so you wouldn’t want to share them), and not everyone will have them, but those who’ve been trained in recent years are accustomed to using this method of monitoring.
What about those drums??
Drum kits are arguably the most difficult to control simply because they don’t have any kind of volume dial. The harder they are hit, the louder they are…. and drummers love to hit hard.
There are many “tricks of the trade” that can be utilised to help – pillows in kick drums, blankets on snares, these can be partly effective in dampening the sound depending on the noise sensitivity of your venue but often don’t work well enough.
A digital drum kit is the last link in the chain, they work the same way a keyboard works to a traditional piano. Drummers aren’t usually best pleased about having to use one but compromises have to be made to ensure you remain within your noise limit.
Is A “Silent Stage” Needed?
You probably only need to go this far if your venue is extremely noise sensitive. For example – if you’re in a marquee and the nearest noise sensitive location is less than two hundred and fifty meters away – then your venue would fall within this bracket, the same may be true of a building in a particularly quiet area.
You can read about how we identify acceptable noise levels and help you to develop a noise plan in our article How to deal with a noise complaint in the hottest summer since 1976 (or anytime really).
We have worked with a number of venues to implement a silent stage policy, either in full or partly, dependent on their requirements.
We’ve got a bit more information about these venues and how we helped them overcome their noise problems on our projects page if you’d like to have a bit more of a read.