Friday, July 24, 2009

I just called... to say.... you're too loud

Here's a neat little techno-trick using text messaging for balance purposes.

I was playing bass for a church luncheon with the University of Dayton's Big Band. They use a conductor and student conductor. I left my small bass amp in the car as I was hoping that the church would have a better one. It turned out that the church had a very nice 16 channel PA system that they were using to drive one mic to run a short business meeting before the concert. The PA volume was set and no one assigned to run the sound.

I plugged my bass into their system and it sounded very nice. They had two large main speakers on tall stands. One was by the band and the other was 40 feet away near the back of the room. I decided to leave my amp in the car. Because of there being no sound engineer, I would have no idea if my bass would be balanced with the rest of the group.

Just before the concert, I unplugged the speaker near the audience so that the only sound source would be the speaker near the band.

During the first song in which the Faculty director was conducting, I noticed the student conductor standing near me. He was to direct two songs near the end of the concert.

I motioned him to come over as I had an idea.

I asked if he would walk over to the back of the hall and text me as to the balance of the bass with the rest of the horns. I set the phone on vibrate and placed it on the music rack so I could see the message when it arrived.

He sent me a message that the bass was 20% too loud. I adjusted the volume from the bass guitar knob down two numbers. He then texted back, "PERFECT!"

The rest of the concert went well. I felt better knowing that the bass was not overshadowing the band.

In the old days before cell phones, I would have someone in the back of the hall motion with their hands if I was too loud. This works well unless the hall is dark and there is a spotlight on me blinding me from seeing into the house.

Text messaging would elevate this problem.

Larry Marra

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Sunday, July 5, 2009


I was playing the piano with a big band for a local Independence Day festival. The band was under a large tent in the street, but the audience started clearing out as the rain increased.

we were literally, high and dry. and were getting paid, so we kept on playing.

In the middle of one of the tunes, the rain shorted out the power to the stage. The band kept blowing away with the acoustic drummer, but the bass player, vocalist, and I were toast!

Since this was a street fair, the band supplied it's own PA and there was no sound engineers on this one. I quickly jumped off the stage and went to the light pole that housed the only receptacle that the entire band was using.

I tried to find an area of ground that wasn't in a puddle (plus, I was wearing rubber gym shoes) and frantically looked for a red reset button in the middle of the outlet.

Sure enough, there it was.

I crossed my fingers hoping not to get knocked down by an electrical shock, and hit the button.

Immediately, I heard the bass and vocals spring back to life. I jumped back onstage and yelled to the bass player, "NUMBER???"

He said, "Letter D in five" (measures)

I came in at letter D and the band finished the song without missing a beat.

Expect the unexpected!!

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