Perspectives of a Writer and Musician

Issues related to writing, publishing and playing jazz music: One man's muse.
by Al Stevens

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Location: Florida, United States

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Sound Systems: Cheap and Light or Expensive and Heavy?

When it comes to audio, many ventriloquists sacrifice quality for lower cost and portability. They buy a small amplifier because they can carry it. They place a higher value on the ability to make only one trip to and from the car than they do on sounding good. They believe that since their act involves voice only, they do not need good quality sound. They don’t understand sound, acoustics and the audio requirements of live performances. They want lightweight battery-powered gear for outdoor venues where AC power is not available. First, outdoor venues rarely provide good acoustic chambers, so you need higher quality amplification rather than lower. Second, an occasional need for battery-operated gear does not justify using low-quality equipment for all your other gigs.

Ventriloquism is a vocal art. The audience must not only be able to understand your dialogue; hearing it must be a pleasant experience for them. Ventriloquism involves speech that you form by changing your voice and keeping your lips still. This practice alone can make spoken words less understandable. The last thing you need is a low-quality sound system that muffles and distorts your voice and provides inadequate amplification. You need to be heard and understood, and you need to sound as good as possible.

So, when a ventriloquist whines, “But that heavy stuff is too expensive,” I respond:

“Don't scrimp on the quality of your tools. They reflect on the quality of your work.”

And when he whimpers, “But that expensive stuff is too heavy,” I respond:

“Wheels! Haven't you ever heard of wheels?”

Some performers will tell you that their small, cheap, lightweight, low-powered portable system is all they ever need and that they entertain crowds of thousands in venues the size of the Grand Canyon with nothing more than a 10-watt piece of junk called a “portable amplifier.” Chances are they don't know how bad they sound. They don’t realize that the radio speaker in a 1953 Studebaker sounds better than they do. All they care about is that they can lift it and do it all with only one trip from and to the car.

When you intend to deliver quality performances as most everyone does, it doesn’t make sense to sacrifice quality for convenience. You devote a lot of time and effort becoming a skilled ventriloquist. Don't sell your product short by delivering poor quality sound.

2 Comments:

Blogger Mr. Pitts said...

Food for thought indeed. I persoanlly have a crappy little sound system, the very type of 10 watt junk you describe. It pops and sizzles, it cuts out. I paid too much for it and it's having problems after only a year. Unfortunately I'm stuck with it for now, I'll have to save and get a new one. This time I'm shopping more carefully. I do still want something fairly portable and under $600. Any suggestions? I've stopped using the one I have unless I really cannot be heard without it. It's fortunate that I have a loud voice and a little thatrical training so in most venues I can be heard.

1:20 PM  
Blogger ELVI said...

Yes, I´m agree with Mr Stevens. The ventriloquist has two importants structural things to carry with him: The dummies, and the sound equipment ...! The audience has to listen without any problems what the ventriloquist are saying , but the ventriloquist also has to listen him . So in my sound equipment I carry two autoamplified speakers (300 W each one), with my Sennheiser microphone, a CD and a mixer table and with this anothe speaker more small, wich allows to listen me. This is very important.

4:21 AM  

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