Today’s post comes from Paula Tolly of the folk duo 33 years. If you’ve got a decent number of live gigs under your belt, then there’s no doubt you have encountered that one angry customer or audience member who can’t wait to complain about the noise level. Paula shares her groups experience and gives some tips on how to handle it.

“Turn it down a few notches, please!”

My band recently did a gig where, just after the first song, a note was delivered onto the stage. Was it a song request? NO! A secret admirer? NO! On the back of an envelope was the phrase: “Turn it down a few notches, please.” Really? It’s Saturday night and this is only the FIRST song. (sigh) So I ask you, ‘what would you do?’

At first, this seems like a pretty easy question, right. But think – there you are in your first set and how do you really want to deal with this negative feedback?

Just for fun, I had my picture taken with this note – very later on in the evening with a particular (middle ) finger pointed up to the note and then proceeded to post it to a band site on facebook. I figured it would strike a chord with fellow musicians and BOY DID it! The responses were so good that I just had to share some with you so, here we go!


After all, Spinal Tap’s amps went up to 11 so why can’t we have that liberty? I guess there is a school of thought that we musicians deserve to play at a volume which projects our genius, no matter how loud and offensive this may be to others? Here are a few sample responses from you fellow musicians:

  • tell her to wear ear plugs!
  • TURN DOWN! WHY????
  • I’d tell her to take out her hearing aids and unravel her panties that were all in a twist
  • My guys would blow the roof off the place! Lol

Then, came the next group of popular responses which I will call:


Most folks felt that you need to respect the bar, the bartenders and the folks who are trying to make $ off your gig that night. If they ask you to turn it down, you SHOULD turn it down. period.

  • You have to be appropriate for the room. Madison Square Gardens isn’t Joe’s corner pub.
  • All depends on who is signing then check
  • No matter how awesome you are you are there to sell drinks and nothing more. If they can’t hear drink orders you will not be back. If people are b-tching about the volume and leaving, you will not be back. Learning to play a room is almost as import.

Finally, we shall discuss those who prefer to:


Yup – you probably get asked back to your gigs because you try to keep everyone happy. The management, the bartenders, the clients and your fellow musicians. You have a lot to juggle and the last thing you need to do is burn a bridge over anything.

  • if you’re a professional, you turn down. First thing I do after a set is ask management if volume was OK and then adjust accordingly.
  • Don’t make a fuss, simply drop it down a notch or two, especially if they pay well and you want to go back.
  • As you are on stage, it is not easy to assess how loud you are at the bar, but if they can’t hear their customers orders and drink sales go down, you ain’t going back!


We used a little humor to ask the collective group if we needed to turn it down and there was an overwhelming yell of ‘no’. Actually, we thought it was kind of funny that we got this note because we ALWAYS try to start soft, be more aware of the room we are playing, and always ask the management about the volume level.

So what is your band style? Are you loud and boisterous? Considerate and reserved or just a big old pushover. Whatever it is, I think we could all strive to be a partner of the establishment and work hand in hand to keep everyone happy.

33 Years is an Americana duo consisting of guitarists Paula & Kevin Tolly. The duo began as a continuation of their earlier collaborations – many years earlier.  Sometimes gritty, sometimes sweet – the duo blends foot stomping folk with Blues and Country to create a unique sound all their own.  We’re all about the story-telling and using the music as a scenario to bring those characters to life.  We absolutely LOVE what we do and we try to bring that genuine excitement and motivation to every show we perform.  Find them online via Facebook, or their twitter handle @thirty3years.