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Controlling the low-end on your stage

Keep The Feeling, Lose the Volume
Controlling the low-end on your stage without loosing the feeling

Bass players often turn their cabinets up way too loud. Drummers can always use more thump. The congregation would like the bass turned down and the sound person is loosing their hair over the whole matter. Wouldn't it be great to have total control over the bass volume on your stage without the bass player loosing what they need the most - the feeling? I'd like to explain how you can and I'll sweeten the pot by telling you a story about chocolate.

First the Ground Work
One of the best things about working at CCI Solutions is the fact that we get to work with so many great people- like you, for instance. Over the last four months I have had the opportunity to meet many of you face-to-face through Integrity Music's Seminars4Worship. CCI Solutions is one of the sponsors of these awesome events and the chances are pretty good that if you went to one of these seminars you and I probably spoke (I was the loud, bald guy with a goatee at the CCI Solutions booth). Through our conversations I kept hearing several common topics pop up which leads me to what this article is really about.

Over the next several issues of Worship Tools I would like to share with you what those common topics are. There's only a few of them so this shouldn't be too tedious. Are you ready for the first one? Good, let's begin.

Buttkicker Drum ThroneRecently, I was in Pennsylvania and visited Hershey town (the place where they make the chocolate). While I was there I had a chance to watch the Hershey's Really Big 3D Show. The movie was neat but what I really liked was that about ten minutes into it there was an explosion scene. Not only were the subs booming with low end but my seat was rumbling and moving as well. Immediately upon feeling all of this shaking going on, I looked down at the floor and realized the entire theatre, which seats about 250 people, was equipped with Buttkickers. Now if you're not sure what the Buttkicker is, please let me explain. The Buttkicker is a device that allows you to feel lots of bass without excessive low end volume. It vibrates the low end into your body, fooling you into thinking that you are hearing something when you are actually only feeling it. You feel the low end by either standing on a platform with a Buttkicker attached to it or by sitting on a seat with a Buttkicker mounted to it. By the way, this theater runs their subs at a very low volume. They use the Buttkicker to achieve most of their low end.

Right about now I can hear you thinking, "That's swell but what does the Buttkicker have to do with my worship service?" Good question. I'm glad you asked. If you are like most churches, you're probably trying to figure out how to make your stage quieter or maybe you have already started the process of quietification (making things quieter) by moving to a Hearback or Aviom system but aren't entirely happy with the results. I have found that a good portion of the time, there is an immediate backlash from some musicians (particularly bass players and drummers) complaining that all of the "big feel" went away when they had to give up their on-stage speakers and put on the headphones or in-ear phones. Here's how the Buttkicker can help.

Is the Bass Cabinet Your Sound Man's Arch Enemy?
Here's the scenario: the bass player is standing right next to his or her cabinet. They turn it up as much as possible and still say they can't hear it. Meanwhile, the congregation and the sound technician are being overwhelmed by the bass. So the sound person goes up to the bass player and says (in love), "What are you, deaf? Everyone in this room can hear you 'LOUD' and clear. Why can't you hear yourself?"

Buttkicker Standing Platform Here's why bass players can't hear themselves. Picture in your mind a surfer trying to catch a wave. They don't go to where the wave first begins. That could be miles out into the ocean. The surfer paddle's out to where the waves form into large swells. This is where they catch the wave, at the place where it is about to peak. Now take this analogy and apply it to your bass player. Bass waves (the sound that comes from a bass) take time to develop into a sound that is clearly audible. For instance, the tone of a low E on a bass guitar isn't fully developed until the wave is 27 feet from the sound source, i.e. bass cabinet. The sound source is the beginning of the wave and 27 feet later is the peak. So let's see, I'm playing bass, standing right next to my cabinet and why can't I hear my low E string? Because I'm too close to the beginning of the wave.

So how do you eliminate excessive bass player volume?
  1. You can move the cabinet away from the bass player so that he or she is standing where the waves are formed instead of right next to it. Unfortunately, bass players love to feel the bass so they won't like this option. Plus, your stage may not be big enough to do this.
  2. You can eliminate the cabinet and plug the bass straight into your system via a direct box. If you do plug directly into the sound system, you will need to put the bass through your monitors, which means you will most likely have volume issues and the bass player still won't be able to feel the low end.
  3. Plug the bass player directly into your system, put them on headphones or earbuds and give them a Buttkicker platform to stand on. This option should make everyone happy. The stage and house sound will benefit because the bass volume is now controllable and the bass player will be in heaven (metaphorically speaking) because he or she will be able to hear themselves perfectly and get all the feeling that they want from the Buttkicker.
The Buttkicker isn't just for bass players. I can speak from personal experience as a drummer who plays electronic drums. The Buttkicker, which is attached to my drum throne, gives me the low end thump that my kick deserves without adding any noise to my stage - and as the primary sound guy at my church I really appreciate anything that helps make my stage quieter. Not only do I get more foot pounding action from my kick, I can also feel what the bass player is doing through the Buttkicker. Likewise, the bass player can feel my kick so both of us play better. Some people will mount several Buttkicker's to their stage so that the whole worship team can feel the music. Anyone on the worship team who likes to feel the music will enjoy the benefits of the Buttkicker.

The Proof is in the Pudding
Every time someone would come up to the CCI Solutions booth at a Seminars4Worship event I would ask them to stand on the Buttkicker platform; but before I let them get on the platform I would have them listen to music in headphones for about ten seconds. Once they were into the music I would direct them onto the platform. Within five seconds of standing on the platform their eyes pop wide open and their jaws would drop. Then they would say something like, "This is really great." This happened every time with every person who stood on the platform.

I know it sounds kind of silly that a product called the Buttkicker would make your eyes pop open and your jaw drop. You may even be somewhat skeptical about what I have written thus far, which is ok. I won't take it personally but I will dare you. In fact, I double-dog dare you to test me and my claims about the Buttkicker. Call us and let us send you a Try-B-4-U Buy Buttkicker system to try out in your church and see if your eyes don't pop open with excitement as your mouth proclaims, "This thing is awesome!"