Corporate clients and parents of the bride ask me this question often! Here’s the deal:
Any effective and fun dance band will eventually get loud as the night heats up and the alcohol kicks in. However, the beginning of the night is a great time to ease into the party. The music should be full-sounding without being overpowering. The first song out of the box shouldn’t be something like “Turn Down For What” or “Shout”.
Without getting into the technical aspects of decibels, your guests should be able to converse when the band is playing. Later on in the evening, they may have to lean in a bit for better clarity, but that’s ok. If the old folks (the ones holding the credit card) are holding their ears and running for cover right after the first dance, then the band is too loud. WAY too loud!
Has your band performed at your venue before? Are they aware of the acoustic properties of the room? The first thing I do when going on a walk-through in a new room is clap my hands loudly once or twice. The room’s “ambient nature” (reverb) becomes apparent immediately! Does it sound like a library, your bathroom, or Grand Central Station? Any band worth their weight in gold understands that the sound of the room will partially dictate which songs to play, and when. Is the band’s sound system up-to-date? Modern audio consoles (mixing boards) are digital. This means that if your band has already performed there (and they’re smart enough to have saved the previous settings) they can start the evening sounding as good as they did after hours of sound-tweaking the last time they were there.
If you’ve been at weddings where you felt the band’s volume was offensively loud, you may want to just avoid that band when looking for the right music for your event. Most likely that is the volume they prefer, and no amount of polite suggestion will make them change.
Feel free to add any questions or comments below!