Four days ago marks eleven years since I first laid eyes on the original Bose L1® Classic. That was a Tuesday. Two days later I heard the original L1 band “The Linemen” and I met Cliff Henricksen the band leader, keyboard/vocalist and the inventor of the L1. I had been in lots of bands and I had never experienced anything like I heard that night. I bought my first L1 the next day and played my first gig with it that night. The following day I joined the Bose Message Board. That was eleven years ago today.
It’s an odd thing to look back especially since I’m still in a state of ongoing conversation with many of the great people I met in those early days on the forum. These conversations are just as vibrant and exciting as they were back then.
- I just had my ears checked and I’m in good shape and basically unchanged from eleven years ago. I am quite certain that I wouldn’t be saying that if I had not found the L1 and the joy of playing at a reasonable stage volume.
- I love being able to hear myself and other players on the stage in a live mix without stage monitors masking the sound of the audience. For more about that see: The L1® Approach. And to get a really good sense of how playing with the L1 can really allow your inner musician to shine you have to see: Playing Better with the L1® Approach.
- I am absolutely certain that I would not still be doing live gigs if not for the L1. Lighter, faster to set up and tear down, easier to load in and out, small footprint, predictable (no lengthy sound checks required), reliable, the Bose gear looks and sounds great. I just did sound for an outdoor concert for about 800 people. I brought all the gear for that in one trip in my car. Setup took less than an hour.
- Every time I fire up my gear I smile at the first note. I expect to be doing that for years to come.
- So here’s a shout out to everyone I’ve talked to over the last eleven years. It’s been great.
- If you want to talk about music, sound, performing, or anything related to the Bose L1 or F1, drop me a line on the Bose Message Board.
- 11 years, is 4,017 days and in that time I’ve accumulated 40,244 posts on the Bose Message Board.
- I wrote The Sketcher, a tool to help people create visual stage layouts online. It has been used to create more than 7,500 sketches.
- I created the Bose Professional Portable System Encyclopedia FAQ & Wiki. Until recently that was known as the Bose L1® Encyclopedia FAQ and Wiki, but I renamed it because it now includes information about the Bose F1. That site has nearly 700 pages of information and has had 6,117,190 page views since its inception in August 2006.
I had lunch the other day with a very good friend, a career musician, performer, teacher, adjudicator, and otherwise multi-faceted and brilliant thinker.
She was telling me about her plan to add 40 new pieces to her repertoire this year. I asked how she intended to learn to play, and memorize a new piece every 9 days. I added, that it typically takes me 40 hours to learn to a 3-4 minute song with lyrics. For me, the music comes fairly quickly. It is the lyrics that take the greatest part of that time.
She reminded me that when preparing to perform a song I memorize the lyrics word-for-word. This is in sharp contrast to coming up with my own interpretation of the guitar part with a great deal left to be improvised in the moment while performing.
She is a wonderful pianist, and a gifted sight-reader. When I considered how differently we approach performing, I wondered if learning 40 pieces included memorizing them or preparing to perform them well while having the musical score in front of her.
Is Memory a Defining Skill?
We discussed:"Is having a great memory a core skill, a required attribute of a professional musician”. As wildly different as our musical worlds are, it seems that the opinions on this are as firmly held in her circles as in mine. And Oh! There’s a lot of pride, guilt, and shame associated with this question.
Here are some of the ideas that came up during our conversation. I will use the term “the music” to refer to sheet music or lead sheets or lyrics in physical or electronic form
Performing with the Music
(On the piano, or for me on my computer on a stand on the stage)
- I am much more likely to play the song the way it was written:
Instead of making-things-up on the fly when I can’t remember. You could think of this as being faithful to the song-writer, and living up to the expectations of the audience.
- I can focus on the performance and the song instead of the effort of trying to remember.
I have on occasion thrown in an extra guitar solo or sung an extra chorus to give me time to remember the next verse.
- I can have a much larger, more varied repertoire because it takes less time to prepare if I’m not trying to memorize material.
40 hours preparation for a 4 minute song is 600:1 preparation:performance ratio. That doesn’t include the time it takes to maintain that song in the repertoire (rehearse it to keep the song fresh in memory).
- I am not limited to playing what I can remember.
Performing from Memory
- I am able to perform without having to set up tools (sheet music, tablet, computer, music stand).
I have spent a lot of time and money over the years to make this activity and the tools as unobtrusive as possible. This includes hardware, software, local backups, synchronizing multiple machines, access in the cloud. There was also packing, setup and teardown.
- I am able to move around on the stage without being tethered by my line of sight to the music.
- I am committed to the music that I am performing, at least to the extent that I was willing to invest heavily in learning it.
- I have a clearer line of sight from me to my audience and I am not shifting my focus from the music to my instrument, to the audience, to wherever I go with head and heart while performing.
It’s not about Music Stands
This discussion could have gone down the black-hole of debating whether or not using music stands (or sheet music on the piano) lacked professionalism. But we didn’t need to go there.
It was an interesting talk in other ways.
In my case, I’m usually fine if I have the lyrics with me. It was good to have my friend point out: I don’t really learn the guitar parts. I learn the structure of the song and pull the guitar parts out of the air making stuff up as I go along. It’s harder to get away with faking the lyrics to a well-known song. Well you can do it, but you risk disappointing the audience. And over time I have shied away from doing covers with iconic signature hooks for the same reason.
Sometime over the last few years I stopped bringing the music on stage with me. I let all of the paraphernalia go. When people noticed and commented or asked about it, if I was being candid, I might admit “I just got tired of the effort”. How sad for me, that I gave up just before it became relatively easy with the latest generations of tablet computers.
Somehow I had started to tell myself and others, “I decided it was time I learned the music”. That sounds good, and that fit well with my change in direction; playing more originals. Was I was becoming a better musician? I think that it’s just as likely that I had greater liberty to make-stuff-up if no one knew what the songs were supposed to sound like anyway. And who cares if I mangle the lyrics if they were my lyrics to mangle.
Some of that has come around full-circle to bite me. It’s interesting and embarrassing to have someone request an original, and have her comment that “it was so different this time” as she thanked me. It is a beautiful thing to have people want to sing along to an original that they have grown to love. It’s sad to disappoint them when I start making things up because I can’t remember with them.
I’m beginning to reconsider the business of bringing the music (sheet music, music stand, or a tablet computer) on stage with me. I’m noticing that my repertoire is dwindling with my ability to remember, and my musical choices are limited by what I can. The world is getting smaller and maybe, in this instance, that’s not an improvement.
Please tell me what you think. Join the discussion here: Is Your Repertoire Defined by Your Memory?
There has been some concern expressed on the Bose message board about the effect of applying the Model II Power Stand Firmware version 1.4 and System EQ version 1.04 (the updates). Both of these are required to make the Model II Power Stand respond
to the B2 Bass Level Switch. That concern was centered on the question of whether or not applying the updates had an effect on the performance of the B1 Bass Module.
I wanted to give you a way to hear the effect of the updates on the performance of the Model II Power Stand with a B1.
A/B tests are difficult to do, and if you have only on Model II Power Stand, even the time it takes to do the update (time between listening events) can make comparisons a challenge. You cannot switch back and forth between the before/after versions because the update is not reversible so you are relying on memory to do the comparisons. If you have run your system with a B2 your perception of the B1 is probably going to be altered by that experience.
Since you can not revert back to a previous version of the Firmware and System EQ, I used two Model II Power Stands; one with the older version of the Firmware and System EQ, and one that had been updated.
I wanted to hear if applying the updates to the Model II Power Stand affects the performance of a B1. There are two recordings. The only difference is that one is played through
- Model II Power Stand running Firmware version 1.3 and System EQ version 1.0 and the other
- Model II Power Stand running Firmware version 1.4 and System EQ version 1.04
Here is a link to the full article where you can download the sample clips and read about the testing environment.
Please comment in the forum (link above) and tell me what you hear.
The Loudness War is Over
"Making loud CDs will become just a bad memory."
I have long thought that we as live musicians are in competition with recorded music. Furthermore, recorded music has changed over the years and with those changes, so too have the expectations of our live audiences.
In the early days of live recording, the playback was but a pale imitation of the live music. Then, with the advent of radios in cars (and the attendant high noise floor), people became accustomed to playing the music loud, and the music being squeezed into the narrow band of audibility between the noise floor and the limits of what was tolerable. I think that recorded music – especially that music that was intended for this audience was compressed and mastered to the point that dynamics were sacrificed on the altar of "turn it up to 11".
The cruel joke was finding that we as live musicians have to be more compelling than the recordings that have become the soundtracks of peoples’ lives. We have to be louder.
I think that is has become commonplace to turn up the volume instead of turning down the noise.
The linked article The Loudness War is Over gives me cause for some optimism that people, our audiences, will begin to look to us to provide music with dynamics and nuance instead of a mind-numbing barrage of sound.
When that day comes, we will be well prepared to provide what people want.
Originally posted on page 49 of Applying the Benefits of Unamplified Acoustic Music to Performances with Amplification The Bose L1® White Paper:
The results obtained were an extraordinarily strong validation of the concept. Musicians spoke of a quantum improvement in their performance because they could hear themselves and each other. They were thrilled at being in complete control of their music, and spoke at length about the reduction in the amount and complexity of equipment. Many noticed immediately the fact that they were playing with greater dynamics (from very soft to very loud passages). The urge to turn up their volume was gone and thus the overall stage volume remained comfortable. They described the experience as being completely natural – more natural than anything they had experienced with conventional amplification equipment.
Originally posted by Ken-at-Bose :
I don’t think I’ve ever heard a better system for dynamic range and "venue dynamic range". The fact that the speakers change level so little with distance means you can play softly on stage and know that your audience is still hearing you. You can play really loud and know that it’s not too loud in the audience (something that happens all the time with PA speakers that musicians can’t even hear to know if they’re too loud.)
Originally posted by Ken-at-Bose :
… in concert and large club environments, I believe that there is the same squashing as for radio. In fact, years ago, as part of our research, we took data in a few of these situations. We did calibrated recordings at the mix position and then post-processed the recordings in order to derive the sound level statistics for the show.
The shows were utterly typical. For example, one as Little Feat playing at the Lowell Auditorium, a space that holds about 5,000 I’m guessing. They were using the Showco Prism concert sound system, the best in the business at the time.
The results were shocking, although totally in line with what my ears were telling me.
Are you ready?
For the Little Feat show (the only one I can actually remember the numbers), 95% of the datapoints (we sampled thousands of points from the recordings)were within 3 dB of 113 dB-SPL.
In other words, for all practical purposes (95% of the time) the music in the audience was a whopping 6 dB of dynamic range. This is appalling.
I’m sure the band was playing with a lot more dynamic range, but it was getting totally squashed by the FOH system.
We repeated this measurement for the five songs we played at the press introduction for the Personalized Amplification System(tm) approach, and we measured 40 dB of dynamic range in the audience.
This is another twist on the "there’s only one sound field" aspect of our new approach. Said another way, the sound that’s produced on stage is what is projected to the audience.
I’d like to emphasize one more point. If a band WANTS to play with little or no dynamic range, then that’s the way it’ll be in the audience too. Certain forms of rock (say punk) are like this. This is an artistic choice and a different subject altogether.
Oh, god, if we could just get out of people’s faces with these over-the-top "entertainment" sound systems and get back to playing SONGS, the world, I think, would be such a more lovely place. This is a big thrust in our work and a direct effect of our new approach. There are a heck of a lot more people playing this way but a long, long way yet to go.
With great admiration and affection for you musicians,
What do you think?
This was one of the most popular series of posts in my blog, and the individual addresses got lost when I switched over to wordpress (blogging system).
Here are the links
Last night I dropped in at a Almost-Christmas party held by a local singer-songwriter. I didn’t notice in the invitation that this was to be a house concert.
When I arrived the singer-songwriter-hostess asked if I had my guitar. I did but only because I had two other events on my agenda tonight. She asked me to open for her. I agreed and mentally went over the inventory of gear I had in the car. I had my L1® Compact and T1® and various other bits and pieces. Sure, I could make this work.
When she led me to the stage area I was delighted to find a Compact and a packed room. I plugged in my guitar and she introduced me. The rowdy room fell silent. The next 45 minutes were perfect.