Capturing The Perfect Live Sound At Your Wedding
By Chris Czerw
Choosing your entertainment will be one of the most important decisions you will make as you plan your party. A fabulous live dance band will help to create an exciting and festive atmosphere for your special event, however a band that plays at an overly loud volume, is poorly mixed, or uses a substandard sound system can easily ruin your special day. Everyone wants the band's performance of great party music to lure the guests onto the dance floor, but your non-dancing guests need to be able to carry on conversation without yelling into each other's ears. Balancing these concerns is a challenge, but you can have your cake and eat it too - the key is finding a band that is able to perform at a volume that pleases you, and also has the proper sound equipment and qualified personnel to run it.
Evolution of Live Wedding Music
Live music at wedding receptions has undergone its own changes in recent times. For most of human history, live musicians have been part of every special occasion across almost every culture. Commercially available music recordings did not even exist until the 1890s. The concept of a mobile DJ providing party music was fairly new in the 1950s and didn't really take off until the disco era of the 1970s. Ever since, bands and DJs have had to compete with one another for gigs of all varieties - dances, parties, wedding receptions and so on.
While at one time, recordings attempted to emulate the energy and sound of a live performance, today we are finding also the opposite to be true: bands are striving to match up to the pristine production of modern recordings. Needing more musicians to cover all the musical elements, live wedding bands (and their sound systems) have grown in size over the years. In common use today are full-range speaker systems that can faithfully reproduce the low frequencies as well as effects units and reverbs that tailor the sound to modern recording aesthetics. Many bands also incorporate sequenced (pre-recorded) rhythm tracks, drum loops, and interesting sound effects into their live performance to capture the effects of today's dance records. Wedding music is becoming high-tech and a sound engineer is usually needed to manage and operate the complex equipment during the party.
Keeping the Music at a Reasonable Volume
It is the responsibility of the band and their sound engineer (if they have one) to ensure that the volume level during the wedding reception is both comfortable and enjoyable. Keep in mind that what guests are hearing is a combination of live stage sound made by the instruments/amplifiers on stage and the sound coming from the speaker system. In order to reduce a band's overly-loud volume while still maintaining a good musical balance requires the drummer to play softer, onstage amps to be turned down a bit, and perhaps the master volume of the PA system to be lowered. The danger of lowering the volume of the PA too much is in losing the presence of the vocalists and being unable to understand the words of the songs. An experienced group will be able to perform at an ideal volume level, but will also be willing to adjust appropriately if requested by the bridal party or guests.
Given that most banquet halls also serve as live music performance venues, it is surprising how many of them suffer from poor acoustical design. Room geometry and materials incorporated are the two main factors in determining a space's acoustic characteristics. Rooms with upholstered chairs, carpeting, drapes, and other absorptive materials will make for a dryer sound that is generally lower in volume and more easily controlled. Hard surfaces such as glass, mirrored walls, marble floors, and wood paneling reflect sound much like a mirror reflects light. Hard surfaces contribute to making a room sound echoey or muddy and can cause the volume of your guests conversations as well as the band to shoot up beyond comfortable levels. Rooms with poor geometry can make for poor intelligibility of sound and acoustic oddities such as being excessively "boomy when listening from certain spots while sounding "thin in others. These factors should all be considered with care when choosing a banquet facility for your wedding reception.
Ask questions and raise concerns to the bandleader before your event to ensure the music will flow with the party both in terms of styles and volume. A talented wedding band putting on a dynamic, heartfelt performance will be effective no matter what the space and its limitations may be, and in the end that is what is truly important to the success of your special event. Good luck, and don't forget to have fun!
About The Author
Chris Czerw is sound engineer for Ariel Entertainment, a New Jersey based entertainment company providing dance bands, djs, and small ensembles for weddings and other special events in the tri-state area. Visit their site: http://arielentertainment.com for more information and to listen.