Do I need a sound system for my event?

Clients often ask me if they need a sound system for their wedding or event. Or more frequently, they don’t even think to ask about it since it just isn’t something they’ve thought about. Go 4 Baroque is committed to providing the best service possible for your event, and with over 20 years of experience playing at all types and sizes of weddings, parties, corporate events, and outdoor concerts, we have developed some expertise that I’d like to share.

First of all, let me clear up one source of confusion. A sound system is often referred to as a “PA” – public address system. Musicians use the term PA all the time and we sometimes forget that not everyone knows what that means. It’s basically speakers and microphones and a few other components that will amplify and project sound. I try to remember to call it a sound system when I’m dealing with clients, but for our purposes, PA and sound system are interchangeable terms.

Another thing to point out is that most string ensembles don’t offer a PA, so you may not even think to ask about it. But, after attending the wedding of a friend that had a string trio playing at their cocktail hour and doing a little reconnaissance, I realized that with everyone talking, I couldn’t hear the music at all if I got more than about 15 feet away. I have played at receptions myself where I have literally had to shout the title of the next song we are playing to the other musicians, so I know it’s gotten so loud that very few people are hearing us.

I have some friends who play in other string ensembles and I asked them what those groups do about a sound system for reception events and they said that the other groups don’t offer a sound system and basically they just get a lot of comments that no one could hear them.

I decided that this was unacceptable and unnecessary, since there was a solution. I play in several bands, and have the necessary sound equipment to offer to my Go 4 Baroque clients, so I started doing so. I have since purchased some equipment that is more specifically suited to a string ensemble, but my basic knowledge comes from being in bands.

We make sure to keep our prices reasonable, and offer this service because in certain situations, it’s the difference between feeling like you’ve wasted your money on musicians, and everyone enjoying the music. I much prefer to have satisfied clients! It’s also nice to have guests come up and compliment us on the music, and that won’t happen if they can’t hear us. And, just so you know, I have never had anyone come up and tell us to turn it down. But, we are occasionally asked to turn it up!

All that said, you may still be wondering if YOU need it. If you are hiring us only for your wedding ceremony, probably not. People are seated and relatively quiet at a ceremony, so amplification of the music is usually not necessary. But, if you have hired us for a cocktail hour, dinner, corporate event, or any portion of an event where people will be talking, laughing, eating, and drinking, then unless it’s a pretty small guest list, you will be happier if you have elected to have the sound system.

People often wonder if we can “tap in” to the DJ’s, band’s, or the venue’s equipment, and while we are willing to do so, it rarely works out. Usually the venue’s system is set up for a podium microphone only and won’t work well for music. Plus, it requires someone at the venue to set up their system and by the time you pay for that, we can usually do it cheaper. (There are a few venues that are exceptions to this.) The DJ or band option will sometimes work, but we usually still have to bring our own microphones and stands, because the ones we use are specialized to our situation. They don’t always work with the system a DJ or band might bring. Again, there are exceptions to this, and I am willing to discuss options with your DJ or band, but it’s best not to count on that working.

What about amplification of the officiant during the ceremony? That is one case where you may want to think about a PA for your ceremony. I’ve played at a number of ceremonies where it’s very difficult to hear the officiant all the way in the back. It’s very disappointing for your guests who are eager to see AND hear your ceremony to be able to catch very little of what’s going on up front. We do offer a PA for that, as well. It uses different equipment than the system we use for the musicians, but it works in situations where no outlet is available.

Realize that every event and venue are unique, and there are no concrete rules regarding whether a PA is beneficial. But, I am happy to discuss your situation with you to help ensure that you and your guests have the best listening experience.

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