Booking a Venue with a Sound Limiter
One of the things we have to be particularly aware of when playing at a venue is noise level and noise limitations.
It’s becoming noticeably more common for certain venues to have either self-imposed or council imposed noise restrictions. Most often these are not in place for health and safety purposes, but to avoid noise pollution being a nuisance to people in the neighbouring area. In these situations what is considered to be 'noisy' becomes a matter of opinion, something that can cause confusion, and also something that can impact upon your event massively if it is misunderstood.
What is a Sound Limiter?
Sound limiters use a special microphone fitted inside a performance venue or function room to measure the decibel (dB) level (noise level).
If the music exceeds a predefined dB level for more than a predefined time (usually around 5-10 seconds), the limiter circuitry cuts the electricity supply to the power sockets powering the musical equipment. Often, if the limiter is activated more than 2-3 times in any 1 hour period, the electricity supply will be cut off for anywhere between 15-60 minutes.
Usually some sort of traffic light system is visible to help the artists or DJ to see when the music is approaching the limiters’ maximum permitted volume.
Why are Sound Limiters a Potential Problem?
The problem commonly faced by musicians is the variation between how limiters are set up in different venues: It could be possible to perform in one part of a room and not set the limiter off, but regularly trip the limiter if playing in a different location in the same room.
From venue to venue, depending on where in the room the microphone is located, where the band are positioned and the acoustics of the room, the same band playing at the same level might not be able to play with a limiter set at the same level as they could in the previous venue - despite using the same equipment.
So Why Can’t the Band Just Turn The Volume Down?
The unamplified sound of the drum kit is what the rest of the band will set their equipment to. The unamplified drum kit can’t be turned down, and tapping the drums softly to get a quieter sound does not allow a rock and pop band to give a lively, energetic performance.
It’s important to understand that the ability of the band to ‘turn down’ or play quietly is very much determined by the room acoustics and how the sound bounces off or is absorbed by the various surfaces. If the room has stone walls, the sound will reflect strongly and make the perceived noise level even greater and if the room is ‘dead’ sounding with lots of curtains and thick carpet, the same drummer will sound considerably quieter as much of the sound will be absorbed.
It is always worth asking a venue what their policy on noise is before you book it for your event. In our experience many venues have a definitive sound level that they work to, but the event organisers do not always understand what that means.
Often venues lack a basic understanding of noise limits, sometimes they have been given an app on a mobile phone, or a cheap noise level meter and a number to work to. The microphone that picks up your voice on your phone isn’t the most accurate of audio metering equipment.
Occasionally venues are, however, keen to get your business and will tell you that they have no problem with a band playing and that they have a noise limit of 85 decibels. If you want a party where everyone is dancing it’s worth remembering that 85 decibels is about the level of a food blender, a vacuum cleaner, background traffic or a room of people applauding and cheering.
If you’re struggling to make sense of what the venue are telling you we are more than happy to speak to them ourselves on your behalf and report back to you. By gauging the rooms acoustics and venue size, we will be able to determine if we are able to perform with an acoustic drum kit.
How Can You Perform at a Lower Noise Level but with the Same Energy?
If we are unable to perform with a full acoustic drum kit, we have a solution which enables us to perform with the same kit, the same energy and the same performance at a controllable level.
Whilst some bands would use electronic drum kits, these are not our preference as they are not aesthetically ideal, with a cheap plastic look and a robotic and unnatural sound. Therefore we choose to use mesh drum heads and triggers, meaning we are able to use the same acoustic drum kit, triggering audio samples of the highest quality from an on-stage computer. Our dedicated sound engineer is always on hand throughout the event to monitor levels, which in turn allows us to concentrate on giving the same lively and energetic performance on stage.