About Dancing née GeoCities/DanceFest
Sabotaged by Sound — How Sweet the Sound

Excellent! Insightful! Informative! Fantastic!
The pages at this site are best viewed with a Mozilla-based browser such as FireFox.

      Selections from the Table of Contents that might interest you.
 How to DRESS for Dancing | Top Hits of the Fifties | Followers | How to PLAY for Dancing | Vignettes 

Ears About PainSabotaged by Sound! — How Sweet the Sound!

“. . . let the people in charge know that it's *not* OK . . .” — Robert Swindler

“. . . they took your complaint seriously” — Dance Promoter


eNote, SLIGHTLY EDITED, to a dance and music venue:

 I sent you an eNote that, in the form reproduced below, is slightly altered.
Following that note are comments from six others that I implore you to read.

We did return to your place. That hearing-impaired sound person was there and the volume was intolerably great. At least two people complained directly to the hearing-impaired sound person. At least six people were wearing ear plugs to protect their hearing. Several people left early saying that it was too loud to stay. Many others left early (quite unusual) for reasons I wasn't told.
………I was told that the band leader might have been responsible for the great volume. The band leader told me that he had absolutely no control over the general sound level, that he bore no responsibility for how loud it was. My basic attitude toward your place is veering quite close to: Go to Hell! I ain't goin'!
………Politicians, newspaper editors, and others who take the pulse of the public, will tell you that for each person who says something, there are a great many others who agree but say nothing. Your hearing-impaired sound person acknowledges that complaints were received from two people. It's probably safe to presume that twenty others agreed with them. I know of several, my girlfriend and I among them, who said nothing.
………I implore you, for the sake of your continued success in business and the health and safety of your employees and patrons, to get a sound person who can present to you documentation of no hearing loss after being tested at an established and trusted institution such as the Permanente Medical Group. The current hearing-impaired sound person has apparently suffered so much hearing loss as to be incapable of adjusting the sound for those of us with normal hearing.

ORIGINAL NOTE, slightly altered:

Newsgroups: ba.dance, rec.arts.dance

The following is an edited mEssage to a local dance venue:

Since our last visit to your place, my girlfriend has been suffering from tinnitus that she is certain was caused by your new hearing-impaired sound person. That night I told that person that the sound level was too great to engage in normal conversation. I was told that I was not the only one to have told the sound person that the sound level was too great. Observing my own difficulty, an employee handed me ear plugs without my even asking. My girlfriend had already inserted plugs into her ears. Ten days later, I overheard a world-reknown band leader complain to that same hearing-impaired sound person that the volume was too great.
………I've been a regular at your place for many years. I cannot say that the former owner was a friend of mine but I can say that we were highly acquainted. There was never a problem with the sound level during the former owner's reign. There should never be a problem, anywhere, at any time with sound levels as it's immoral, and probably illegal, to cause harm to others such as the bar person, door people, ticket vendors/takers, and other employees as well as patrons.
………The health of the patrons should be considered with greater gravity than any other for if they are injured or damaged when there, they'll not return. The hearing of music patrons must be preserved to ensure their continued patronage of music performers and venues. It is stupid to turn up the volume forcing those of us who are not deaf to take measures to remain that way. It makes sense to keep the volume at a level that allows not just proper hearing of the performers but also allows patrons to converse without shouting and, of course, negates the need for individuals to protect themselves with ear plugs.
………I'm telling you this: If that same hearing-impaired sound person is there the next time we visit, and the volume is not adjusted to a safe, sane, and painless level, we will never again risk our hearing by going to your place and will advise others that, for their health and safety, they should not go. If that sound person is NOT there and the volume is uncomfortably great, we shall conclude that it's your policy to restrict conversation among your patrons and that you don't give a damn whether your customers' hearing is damaged; we shall not return.

It's not a matter of preference or taste or opinion:
Hearing, once lost, is gone forever!
Sustained loudness damages hearing.
Stop it!

Stan Graves said:
If your ears ring, after any amount of time in the ballroom (e.g. one song, or 24 straight hours), then the music was too loud. Having your ears ring is the auditory equivalent of having you knee swell up, or twisting your ankle. There is not a single person who would accept as "normal" a floor surface that left people unable to walk after a few hours of dancing. The standard for a sound systems and volume levels should be no different.
   I wear high fidelity ear plugs whenever I am in a loud music environment. These have the advantage of providing more of a "flat response" that allows the full range of music to be clearly heard, but at a much lower volume level. http://www.etymotic.com/hp/er20.html I wear both earplugs and earmuffs whenever I am in a loud industrial noise environment (e.g. using a table saw, or router/shaper table).
   During social dancing, the volume should be low enough to allow for conversation in a nor­mal (or slightly elevated) voice for people who are in the chairs. The music on the dance floor should be clearly audible, with enough volume to be able to hear the beat clearly. To put numbers to that, my goal is for the sound to be between 90-93dB on the front edge of the dance floor.
   During competition, I typically raise the volume level by 6-10dB to allow competitors to clearly hear the music over (most) crowd noise. For reference a 10dB change is generally perceived as a "factor of two" change in the volume level - or "twice as loud."
   Obtaining that level of volume control is *very* difficult. I use (and recommend) hard limiters in every sound system. I also recommend having a dedicated sound engineer who will be in the booth to "help" the DJ control the sound level.
   As humans are exposed to loud sounds, our ears will become LESS sensitive to that sound...that is a biological defense mechanism to help protect our hearing. It is very common to find that the level of social music increases after a competition set compared to before that same competition set. It is *essential* that the DJ watch and use the meters to help ensure that the volume levels remain constant from song to song, and from the beginning to the end of their set. I have found that the hardest thing a DJ will ever do is to turn the volume DOWN.
   As others have pointed out, the overall sound level varies from song to song...but it also varies from DJ to DJ. Laptop sound cards vary widely in their signal level. There can be as much as 20dBu difference between the smallest and largest signal level coming from different laptops. Most DJs have NO clue about this particular topic, and that makes the job of the sound engineer that much harder. Setting up a PA system to accommodate a 20dBu difference in source material, and have enough headroom to provide a decent dynamic range, and preventing any one DJ from playing too loud is (almost) an impossible task.
   Proper design and placement of the sound system is *very* helpful in providing an even sound field in a room. In most cases, proper placement is NOT intuitive. Over the years, I would estimate that 90% of PA system placements I have seen on the dance circuit are wrong. And by that I mean wrong in a way that makes the sound in the room noticeably worse than it would be with a simple re-arrangement of the sound system. The overwhelming majority of DJs I have spoken with do NOT know anything about placing, or tuning a sound system. This is not all that surprising, but it does make the job of the sound engineer that much harder.

Comment on a new restaurant found on a local food group.
Two of us ducked our head in there hoping for . . . dinner. The noise was deafening. The carpet has not reduced the decibel level one bit. Since the noise level was what kept us away from [another restaurant], which had a much more subdued clientèle . . , we weren't about to risk our hearing and a headache with the much more lively crowd.

Disclaimer: This page is not intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.


> : Icono Clast wrote:
> : > Since our last visit to your place, my girlfriend has been suffering from tinnitus
> : > Are you sure that one evening is enough for that?
> > Yes, although it may be temporary. Temporary partial hearing loss
> > and tinnitus is not uncommon after exposure to high sound levels.

I've certainly had the experience of walking out of a club and realizing that even though it's now quiet I still can't hear anything. I don't go to places like that any more, for all the reasons Icono Clast mentioned.

Well, you Californians have a law against smoking...why don't you get a law against loud music. Then you could work on burping, farting and BO :-)

From: Anonymous
Actually, I think there are laws on the books regarding decibel levels. And studies showing at what decibel level does damage to the human auditory system begin to occur. Burping and farting would definitely need to fall well within acceptable decibel levels or by golly, someone in Berkeley is gonna protest! That includes snoring too.

Actually studies show that 10% of the population has sensitive enough hearing that short exposure to 90dB will cause permanent hearing loss. That's really not that loud, especially at a bar where the noise floor (the volume of people just talking) is usually in the 70-80 dB range. We have several bars here in Denver that we won't go to simply because the volume level is too high.
………I've been running sound for bands and presentations on and off for about 12 years, and I get an amazing number of complements when the mix quality is high and the volume is loud enough you can hear it, but not so loud as to make one-on-one conversation difficult. People are always amazed that it's possible to have great sound that doesn't hurt. They just assume that it has to be loud, because that's how it usually is. I actually get grief from fellow soundmen because I keep a dB meter near my mixing console when I work, to make sure I'm keeping the sound level reasonable. I've found that there are very few places that I can go dancing if I have a sound job the following day. Usually only studio parties keep the volume low enough to not adversely affect my hearing for the next day or so.
………Icono Clast's e-mail is a great way to let the people in charge know that it's *not* OK...

Even a one time exposure can cause permanent tinnitus and/or hearing loss. I have severe tinnitus, hyperacusis, and hearing loss from a one time exposure to a close range fire alarm.
Icono Clast wrote:
> Hearing, once lost, is gone forever!
> Sustained loudness damages hearing.
> Stop it!

MessagE from a promoter at the venue:
I don't know how much help it will be for the sound problem but [the venue] just installed acoustic sound damping paneling . . . To my ears the sound was pretty mellow when [a band] played there [with] the same sound tech as before. I also know that the person in charge of the club . . . is supposed to check to be sure the sound doesn't get too loud. They've taken your complaint seriously but we'll see if the sound is now . . . better or if it is a work in progress. As I said they took your complaint seriously.

Please consider adding .

USA: —
  Tinnitus Association (New South Wales)
: British Tinnitus Association — , Tinnitus Association of
: Deutsche Tinnitus Liga — : Hadassah Medical Organization

Top of Page

Another gripe has to do with the extremely loud music the bands and DJs crank out.  The music sounds grossly distorted, and a hearing deficit may be a serious risk factor for dancers, as well as musicians.  Beside a major communication dilemma occurs on the dance floor when the music is pumped up so high.  Names and telephone numbers can not be accurately conveyed or exchanged.  Did he say Tom or John, or what?  Miss a digit and it is a wrong number, for sure!  Incurable romantics can forget about sensuous whispering in the ear.  With the music at the threshold of pain murmuring is archaic; screaming or shouting is the way to go.
………Finally there is a compelling need to re-examine the meaning off what really  makes a social dancer appealing.  Isn't it their warmth, openness, intelligence, creativity, kindness and zest for dancing?

Icono Clast said:
ES} the extremely loud music the bands and DJs crank out.
That phenomenon started here [during the Hippie era] and m'mem'ry of my first visit to such a place is vivid: I walked in, encountered pain, and walked out!
………A friend of mine who is now an attorney used to work as a bouncer at such a place. Management explained to him that the high volume of the sound was directly related to high volume at the bar. Don't ask me to explain further.
………I carry industrial ear plugs in the car. Deafness runs in my family and I want to keep what I have for as long as possible.


> I walked in, encountered pain, and walked out!
Smart move.  If you ever enter a place and find the music is so loud that it is painful, don't hesitate, walk out!

> Deafness . . . I want to keep what I have for as long as possible.
Deafness is not the only problem you can encounter from loud music.  I went to a loud night club a year ago and now have permanent ringing in both my ears. Every day I worry that it's going to get worse and eventually drive me insane. Use hearing protection whenever your in a loud environment, this is one problem you don't want.

Top of Page

MessagE to a band leader:
The sound for [the first set's quintette], although so loud my fingers were in my ears the whole set, was OK. At the break I managed to find one(!) ear plug in the car. Used a napkin for the other ear.
………The sound for [the full band] was so bad that I couldn't hear anything but the vibes, drum, and bass. Yes, I could hear an occasional trumpet note or sax note or bone note but the clarinets were almost silent. The vibes were so loud that they overpowered everything. Even Milt Jackson didn't do dat although Red Norvo might have liked to and, for Hamp, or Tito, it was unthinkable. Cal Tjader is another subject.
………I could understand not one word that you said because of distortion, and [the vocalist] was also completely unintelligible.
………After the gig, the sound man (who had impressed me with his professionalism during setup) said he agreed with me but blamed the room rather than the overall volume. I don't buy it! He has a volume control that he could have adjusted to a proper, painless, and hearable level.
………If you gig there again, I ain'ta goin'!

Response from band leader:
I appreciate your honest critique and can't really argue with you cause it sounded really weird where we were at as well. The gig was a strange one — one of our friends in the industry started booking [there] and wanted to get the orchestra in there. It was a crazy idea from the beginning. They wanna have us back but unless they can guarantee us a lot of money, better sound system and better advertising it's not gonna happen.

Top of Page

From the Boogie By the Bay 2003 's rec.arts.dance:
Boogie By the Bay
is 's convention held each Columbus Day week-end in or near San Francisco that attracts more than a thousand dancers. Click to learn of other dance conventions, cruises, and competitions around the world.
……The sound for the 2003 convention was done by Mike Pyle, dba, .

Mike Pyle wrote:
> Now that I have caught up on my sleep, I'd like to take
> time to thank Next Generation Swing Dance Club for the
> opportunity to DJ again this year at Boogie By The Bay, as
> well as entrusting me with providing the sound for the event.

Your sound system was terrific, particularly
for such a cavernous ballroom.  Congratulations!

Your music made me do it. Thanks again.

> entrusting me with providing the sound for the event.
The sound was excellent regardless of where one heard it. Further, the speakers were mounted on poles at a height greater than the tops of the heads of [our tallest dancers]. I did not, as I usually must, have to stick a finger in m'ear when passing the speakers. In fact, we could dance near them, too, without discomfort. A further advantage of the poles is they block almost nothing one would like to see. The overall sound level never imposed upon the ease of conversation.
………My sources have told me that Mike also worked out some sort of sound-delay formula so that all of the speakers' vibrations were simultaneously identical to the ear. If that doesn't make sense, it's because my sources don't really understand it and so do I. But Mike claims that he does.
Mike Pyle your audio system was spectacular and that same great audio track is also on our videotapes. Best sound I think we have ever had on our tapes :-)

> It was, as it was expected tobe, an excellent event in every respect.
My wife and I also had a great time.  The DJing was great.  Until others mentioned it here, I did not realize how good the sound system was.  From both on and off the floor, the music never seemed too loud or to soft.  For someone from the hinterlands of New Jersey, the level of dancing in California was impressive.
………I have only one minor complaint.  The bar closed around 1AM on Sunday, cutting off our supply of champaign.

I, too, did not realize how good the sound system was at BBB. Methinks one is more likely to notice only a bad sound system — when the ears need major plugging, the head is pounding, and the music is distorted.

I would like to add my kudos for a sound system well done. When I walked in the ballroom, it was between sessions and no sound was playing.  I looked at the towers of speakers with something akin to fear: there was no place to escape when the sound gets too loud.  But it never got too loud, yet there was plenty of sound to dance to.  I especially want to commend the sound guys for eliminating the “have to stick a finger in m'ear when passing the speakers” situation that was so annoying in the past.

The [2004 US Open Swing Dance Championships] sound [by AudioPyle] was consistent so that no matter where we were we could not only hear the music but, at the same time, we could talk to each other and be heard. How great is that!

Back to: How to Play for Dancing

Top of Page

Irrelevant-but-cute deletions from
How Sweet The Sound!


> He's probably using a BBE Sonic Maximizer.
Let me guess....is this some enlargement method that email spammers are trying to peddle to the sonically inadequate? :-)

> Well, it might have been cute to the DJ impaired from Houston,
> but it is a piece of equipment that many DJs use. And Mike, an
> enlargement it is! Do your homework . . . it's never too late to
> learn something new :-)
> ………All you have to do is take those little fingers and type in
> "sonic maximizer" on your keyboard and search.

Geez, I thought it was a new name for that product sold on the commercials on Court TV — that would be the one where Bob is now doin' GREAT and livin' large but of course all you Texans have no need for such enlargement products or devices right? :-)

> . . . it's never too late to learn something new :-)
I'm sorry Poopy.
………I'm from Texas so I don't know anything about "enlargements".
………Although I have heard "enlargements" (Whatever they may be) are very popular in California. :>)

> All you have to do is take those little fingers and type in
> "sonic maximizer" on your keyboard and search.

Uh-Oh! I seem to have struck a nerve among the under-endowed :-)

11 III 5 | 17 IX 9 | 4 XII 9 | 13 IV 10 | 22 VIII 10 | 4 II 11 10 VIII 11—10.3