How to approach a violinist with poor setup during performance

July 30, 2017, 10:37 AM · Hello all.

I have a question:

Recently I have been in a folk music concert and the pickup of the violinist was very poorly installed (at the wrong angle IMO) So much that you couldn't hear the violin over the other instruments. Even during the solo parts.

In these cases, what is the protocol? Should someone from the public warn the musicians during one of the breaks?

Replies (9)

July 30, 2017, 10:44 AM · I would!

My grandson has a professional "folk" (roots) band with a violinist and I've let them know when the sound was off - when I was attending - they've toured all over west of the Mississippi - so I could not be everywhere they were. Usually they have had plenty of time for sound checks - but sometimes for outdoor venues with little time for setup, especially in the earlier years and smaller venues, they could use all the help they can get.

After 5 years they pretty well have it all sorted, but it can take a while.

July 30, 2017, 2:34 PM · If you can identify the group's manager or someone associated with the venue, I think it would be better to give that information to them and let them pass it along to the violinist, assuming the musicians are strangers to you.
Edited: July 30, 2017, 6:30 PM · I tend to agree with Mary - it's least likely to cause offence coming from a manager. Some musicians can be touchy, some more, some less, about their gear.

I think it really depends on the context of why you were there, too. You said you were in the folk music concert with them - if you're playing together an alternate solution might be to ask them why they've done it that way. That way you're just asking a question and not correcting/insulting/embarrassing/etc them - there might even be a reason why.

In Andrews case there was a personal connection, but without that I'd be pretty hesitant to say anything at all. That said I know absolutely nothing about etiquette at folk events.

July 31, 2017, 9:17 AM · I thought in folk music one played the fiddle, and a violinist was known as a fiddler. Is that not correct?

Cheers Carlo

Edited: July 31, 2017, 9:42 AM · Carlo, "violinist" is a broad term, not just for classical musicians! It encompasses people who play the violin in many different ways, including classical, folk, gyspy, klezmer, Indian, rock, the list goes on.

A fiddle and a violin are the same thing, and a fiddler is definitely also a violinist. One would probably less often call a classical violinist a "fiddler" because it implies a kind of music, but it does happen. Classical musicians regularly refer to their instrument as a "fiddle," and even violists and cellists are also known to refer to their instrument as their "fiddle"!

Edited: July 31, 2017, 12:23 PM · I've played a lot of jazz gigs on the piano. Whenever a listener says "need more bass" or whatever, during a break, I'm very grateful and I thank the listener profusely. It's very hard for us on stage to hear the balance, and it really depends on the venue. Of course that's mostly true if you are in a smaller venue and you don't have someone sitting in the back running your PA. The problem with talking to the band's manager is first you have to know who that is. Sometimes a server will help you find them, sometimes they don't know either. Must be especially hard to gauge your balance as a violinist.
Edited: July 31, 2017, 12:22 PM · What's the difference between a violin and a fiddle? About $5000. (I heard that from Amy Cann, a true standout fiddler and amazing fiddle/dance instructor. Not sure if it's original to her, but I thought it was funny.)
July 31, 2017, 12:44 PM · Reporting back to the performer can work in other ways. A couple of years ago I was spectating at an out-door country fair, one of the acts being a folk band. I thought their sound was quite good. During a break I spoke to the band's fiddler/violinist, whom I knew from folk sessions, and he was obviously worried about how he sounded, saying he could barely hear himself. I was able to reassure him that in fact he and the band were coming over very well on the PA and the balance was good. The fact that he couldn't hear himself properly wasn't unusual if, as on that day, the band wasn't using monitor speakers.
August 4, 2017, 6:25 PM · Ooooh, I wouldn't go there, personally. First of all, you don't really know that the problem was the pickup, even if it didn't look right to you. The problem could have been any number of things. Second, there's a difference between saying "we can't hear the fiddle" and "your pickup is on wrong." I *might* say the first (although likely not), but I would never take it upon myself to say the second.

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