Watching the evolution of live Jewish wedding music over the last few years has revealed a furthering of the gap between the two opposing points of view regarding appropriate volume levels throughout the event. It’s almost like the problem with the Jewish Holidays always being too late or too early but never “on time,” the volume level of wedding bands seems to always be too loud for some guests and participants while not loud enough for others. What to do? Here are some thoughts for consideration.
Our ears are very sensitive organs and as such need to be treated carefully and with forethought. It is also clear to me that during the entire time span of the many parts of a wedding, there should be ample opportunity to account for the varying tastes when it comes to volume control.
Therefore music that is too loud and imposing during a Smorgasbord/Cocktail Hour, Chupa, or Background Dinner music, reveals a lack of understanding of how music is best perceived, heard and appreciated. There is typically no presentation of music that would maintain the same volume levels over the course of 4-5 hours. Not a Mahler Symphony, not a Broadway Show, not a Phish concert, and probably not even a Metal Concert.
It would seem that a wise strategy would be to allocate the more present and physical volume levels for the parts of the event that need to have the most physical impact – namely the dancing segments. Even during those segments it’s helpful to vary the dynamic levels to achieve a satisfying and exhilarating sound experience.
Often, negative volume experiences are based on EQ (frequency equalization) problems that allow Strings to be EQ’d too harshly, or high Trumpet notes to be EQ’d too treble-based. Similarly, Vocals need to be EQ’d with the utmost sensitivity to the artist’s comfort level as well as the comfort level of the listening audience. With the advent of in-ear monitoring systems coming on board, there has been some progress with regard to horn players, rhythm section players and vocalists being able to hear themselves clearly without putting out too much output volume level into the speakers for the audience. This is a great step.
I’m sure there will be further technological aides to help this situation.
In the meantime, there should be an ongoing dialogue during the preparations of any event involving live music that would take into account the particular wants and desires of all those planning and experiencing a Simcha.
I will leave you with the following anecdote. Some years back during one of the music classes that I teach the seniors at DRS High School, the topic of attending a concert came up for discussion. The students proposed taking me to a concert rather than my suggesting a typical Lincoln Center-type of event. They suggested a live performance by the great guitarist Yngwei Malmsteen who was scheduled to appear on a weeknight in Merrick, Long Island. I agreed to go and as a result, I experienced a volume level of music never heard before nor since by my two forever-changed ears. What did you say?