So I played my first-ever concert with AFS last September, and it was such an amazing experience! We opened the concert for California-based edge rock band Eyeshine, which if you haven’t heard their latest album “Sidewalk Dreams and Chalk Dust” go check that out. It’s a great piece of work.
Also cool to note that the band is fronted by Johnny Yong Bosch the well-known voice actor of the anime and vidja game world, and, if somehow you don’t know, the mutha fuckin’ mighty morphin’ black ranger!
So yeah, cool tidbit there.
The concert was hosted by the wonderful people behind the leading Arkansas nerd convention, aptly dubbed Konsplosion, and without them, we wouldn’t have had that wonderful opportunity. Thank y’all so much.
But let me move on to the focus: dynamics. Specifically, volume dynamics on your kit when at bigger venues.
You see, before our Konsplosion show, which was held in this HUGE warehouse-size room, we had only played in our practice space, which, uh, might be the size of a bedroom. Never played at a venue. Never did any sound mixing on our own. Plus, we didn’t even have sound insulation or hearing protection! Horrible, I know.
To get to the gist, a lot of our practicing was spent rehearsing pretty softly.
So, you can probably imagine what it was like for us hearing our instruments during sound check. I mean, my kick drum was mic’d…my. kick drum. was mic’d…it was fucking glorious. Just hearing that booooom! Ah man!
Ergo the problem: hearing myself, I thought I was rockin’ pretty loud enough…not quite.
A week after the concert we finally uploaded the vids on a decent speaker laptop and heard ourselves…I did some cringing. Besides the problems that I was well aware of during the concert (some accidental tempo fluctuations and a bad count-off, stage fright, and a very big mishap that I’ll discuss in a separate post), my volume dynamics on the set was off. The snare strokes were too soft. The hi-hat strokes were sometimes blaring loud in comparison. And I could hardly hear my ride cymbal.
(No seriously, practice that; be your own EQ between your pieces)
Also, there were plenty moments (full sections, really) where I was playing like a church mouse. Like, not even a gospel church mouse. More like one from the Grande Chartreuse (if you’ve never heard of the place, this poem’ll explain in a way).
Basically, I was playing like I was in that tiny practice room.
I mean, from behind the drums, everything sounded alright. Added with the fact that I could hear my mates from the monitor speakers, I was thinking, “well good, this must be the right amount of volume I should be at, right?”
Listening to the video, that realization hit like a dropping in the toilet: of course you thought it was loud enough; you was right by the damn drums. But among the con goers itchin’ for a good show, all they could hear at times were some measly-sounding 16th note rolls on the hi hat or some extremely soft ride patterns. Long story short: everything sounded soft at the wrong times; ‘cept for the kick drum of course (still had dat boooooooom).
But yeah, the most important lessons I learned from this show is understanding how you’re hitting each part of your kit—balancing them, and catering it to the type of music you’re playing—and knowing how your drums sound to the crowd, not yourself.
Whether it’s how hard you’re banging or how you tune your heads (more on that in a later post), you have to keep in mind how this will sound out in the crowd. If you can, during sound check, get a bandmate to go out there yonder and see how your drums sound.
And that concludes this segment of What I learned…the hard way.
Let me know what you think, even if its critical!
Have you ever been in this kinda situation before?
Even if you’re not a drummer, share your thoughts!