Church sound, looking for EQ starting points only

Discussion in 'Location Recording' started by took-the-red-pill, May 23, 2011.

  1. took-the-red-pill

    took-the-red-pill Active Member


    Sorry, this is a long one. Lots of detail.

    I'm joining the sound team at a 350 person church, trying to learn the drill. More info on the room, gear at end of post.

    Under the current crop of sound guys, the mix sounds like a train wreck. No one there uses the EQ to drop out frequencies in one instrument to provide room for another. It's unintelligible and messy.

    I understand the *concept* of using EQ on one instrument to make room for another, but I'm looking for a few starting points. Just something general from which I can experiment and figure out what works. Basic worship band: a kit with 6 mics, bass, electric git, piano, male lead vocal, female BG vocal all into a mono mix.

    I have a few ideas so let me know if they're heading in the wrong direction. And I understand I'd be expected to ride the faders a bit to bring things up and down as the service flows.

    1-Lead vocal-Male-I would kill everything below about 175 to get rid of the mud of an SM58, especially when he's swallowing the mic, and then add a bit of 4K to hopefully add intelligibility. Might that be a decent starting point?

    2-Electric guitar-through waaaaaay too many "The Edge" effects, then a little tube amp with a 58 in front of it-What to kill here so room for vocals above, and bass below?

    3-Kit-I would add some 80-100Hz on the kick and subtract 3-500, add some 200 to the snare, kill a bit of 2000Hz on it to get rid of the cardboardy sound, and take out all but the high frequencies for the hat and overhead. I'd then start reducing the 3-600 range on the toms. Am I in the ballpark at least?

    4-Bass-I would reduce everything below about 100HZ so it's not competing with the kick. Might it be good to reduce information above 250 or so to leave room for electric guitar?

    5-BG vocals, female- She would sing a 3rd, 5th above usually. Ideas here?

    6-And with all that EQ-ing, where should the piano hang out in this band?

    7-What if we substitute an acoustic guitar for the electric? I'd guess a little spike at 4-6K, above the vocal, but below the frequencies of the hats? And I'd kill all below 125. Might that be a starter?

    Here's hoping y'all can give me a few pointers. I know, every situation is different, but there must be at least some general starting points.

    Other information:

    Dimensions maybe 120' long, 50' wide, 30-40' high ceilings with a balcony. Designed in the 90's. Lots of non parallel surfaces for diffusion but NO absorbtion whatsoever. Very lively room, maybe too lively. Sound booth is in the balcony, so maybe not optimal-I know I've heard weird stuff on the floor than can't be heard from the balcony. Board is an Allen and Heath GL4000 I believe.

    Thanks for your expertise, all.

  2. bouldersound

    bouldersound Real guitars are for old people. Well-Known Member

    Much of what you said seems like it could work, but a lot of it would be dependent on the sources. Definitely consider cutting lows and low-mids from the vocals to compensate for proximity effect. You might cut some instruments in the 2kHz-4kHz range where the vocal definition sits. I would probably reverse your kick/bass LF arrangement, but that's personal preference. My mid cut on the kick is usually lower than yours. Snare is so variable I can't suggest anything specific except to experiment with mic placement. Have you tried a mic on the bottom of the snare? Or just move the top mic out past the rim an inch or so. Always try to improve at the source before hacking away with eq.
  3. took-the-red-pill

    took-the-red-pill Active Member

    Thanks Boulder

    This gives me some places to start. Yes, I understand miking can affect this, mostly on the kit. Apparently the kit has been miked after many years of experimentation. Anyone caught moving a mic on it would probably never be found...

    From what I've seen/read, the kit *appears* to be properly miked, but I'm not a pro on that regard.

    In future I will make sure the mics on the amps are toward the outside of the speaker to create a darker sound. That should help the vocals come through, no?

    Would you treat the piano the same as the guitars, and cut the same range, or work on a different range so it can still be heard without competing with the vocals?

    And what about thoughts on those pesky acoustic guitars?

    Thanks again.

  4. bouldersound

    bouldersound Real guitars are for old people. Well-Known Member

    Is the kit properly tuned? That's the first thing to check. With a good kit and a good player I don't need much more than kick/snare/overheads or even just kick/overhead.

    Piano depends a lot on the style of music. For high energy rock I often reduce the lows since there's already bass and kick down there. For sparser, mellower songs I leave the lows in. Rather than cut too much to keep it from interfering with the vocals I'd suggest having the player back off the volume a little or stay out of the range that steps on vocals. That's true for everything, use arrangement whenever possible as the first step to cleaning up a mix.
  5. took-the-red-pill

    took-the-red-pill Active Member

    understood.. I'll take those things into consideration.

    I would say it's mostly medium to high energy stuff.

    Unfortunately I have no control over arrangements...yet, and I don't have the authority or expertise to check the drums for tuning. I'll ask about that though and make sure it's being addressed

    Does a female BG vocal usually require much massaging, or is she in her own 'zone' already?

  6. Davedog

    Davedog Distinguished Member

    High-pass everything. A church makes its own bass... you cannot avoid it. Dont believe anything you hear solo'd. I have found that drums need a barrier in rooms that are tall, wide and deep. Most sanctuaries that hold that many are....Drums must almost go the "Ringo TeaTowel" damping. Quiet drums make less energy at the point of projection. The less energy you have coming from the stage the less work you have to do to compensate for the poor acoustical environment you are dealing with.

    Anything the drummer says about needing the drums to be loud means he doesnt know what he's talking about. The FEEL is all a drummer really requires especially if he's being miced and has good in-ear monitoring for himself(herself).

    A high-energy group praising the Almighty in a loud echoey room is the Soundmans Purgatory.

    A judicious and technical use of delays can compensate, but you better get some time with the rig alone before applying things untested.
  7. took-the-red-pill

    took-the-red-pill Active Member

    Thanks Dave,

    I neglected to mention that the drums have one of those plexiglass surrounds on front and 2 sides. There are also heavy office dividers-padded both sides with MDF or similar in the middle-that go across the back of the kit.

    I don't think there's much of the kit coming through the mains. but there's no low end to the kick, so I was thinking of experimenting with adding some, while maybe even dropping the rest of it back a bit.

    Can you elaborate on what you mean by, "High-pass everything. A church makes its own bass... you cannot avoid it."

    I would have thought one would have a lot less bass issues in a very large room like this. Isn't bass an issue when we have very small rooms? At least that's what we're taught when researching studio construction.

    Just trying to clarify here.

  8. Davedog

    Davedog Distinguished Member

    Bass, in a large space, would seem to be easy. But its quite the opposite especially when you are trying to focus it. The energy needed to produce clear and even bass tones in a large space is considerable. To make matters worse, if there arent bass traps and diffusion happening, the bass tends to sum itself and just continue to grow when you start putting some power into it. You can test this by setting up a tone generator with the PA and simply sweeping the room with a bit of output. It will be very obvious where your cuts should start and end.

    Having the drums controlled and confined will certainly help when you start adding EQ points. The LAST thing you will want is to have the initial attack being summed by the first reflection out in the large open space. Time gets whacked about and then you get mud.
  9. took-the-red-pill

    took-the-red-pill Active Member

    Thanks, that clarifies things somewhat. I have Ethan's test tone CD(1Hz increments from 10-300Hz)so once I'm there, and have learned the drill, I'll start experimenting with the SPL meter they have there.

    The trick will be to get people to be willing to consider what the meter tells us, but that's another thread altogether.

    I will also suggest that maybe some acoustic testing would be in order, followed by some absorbers, especially in the corners. We'll see how that goes.

    Q:How many pastors does it take to change a light bulb?

    A: CHANGE?!?!?!?!?!?!

    And so it goes. Thanks for the input. I'll use these ideas to start with.

  10. Davedog

    Davedog Distinguished Member

    I visit with Lutherans on Sundays............CHANGE??!! Not this century...But at least the Good Germans like a decent mug of froth after throwing down with the Good Lord.
  11. took-the-red-pill

    took-the-red-pill Active Member

    I too attended a Lutheran flavoured church at one point. We were at the pub when this one went down.

    " guys are all from the Lutheran church down the way?"

    "Yeah, but don't sweat it. We're from the branch that swears and drinks."

    ...and so it goes.

    I was at the new church tonight for a practice, learning the drill, and the drums seemed a little hot in comparison to everything else. Just out of curiosity I asked the sound guy to mute the drum group for a few seconds. The level-at the sound booth which is in the balcony-didn't change, at all! So I guess other than maybe adding a bit of low end to the kick-which is fairly non existentn there-any EQ changes there are going to be for naught.

    Does anybody make some sort of attenuated drum heads? Something like a pre-fit set that goes over the heads and the hat/ride/cymbals, and attenuates maybe 6dB or something?

    If not, those inventors out there need to get busy. From what little I've seen this is the biggest problem in live sound. Everything else has to be brought up to an ear splitting SPL just to compete with the acoustic sound coming off the drums. And to tell a drummer, "here, you have to use these electronic drums here," or "we're going to drape towels over everything," is just looking to get beat up by a guy who's job it is to hit things.

  12. dvdhawk

    dvdhawk Well-Known Member

    Usually when I walk in and see they've got the drummer behind plexiglass, it isn't likely they need/want them miced up. The plexiglass just re-directs the sound. It can create a little buffer zone for the other band members in the line of fire, but the sound still has to go somewhere. In your case, in what you describe as a lively room with no absorbent surfaces.

    So it's easy to see why electronic drums, with all their deficiencies, are a reasonable option in church. Especially when you might have a different drummer every week, they'll give you some level of control and consistency.

    Unfortunately they DO make pads to lay on the drums to quiet them and drummers HAAAATE that sort of thing. They sound terrible and ruin the bounce and feel of hitting a nice tight drum head. I think their target demographic would be drumming apartment dwellers and the parents of young kids who are taking drum lessons. In which case the rubber pad is the only thing known to slightly reduce the chance of mom and dad snapping.
  13. Davedog

    Davedog Distinguished Member

    Thick 2ply oil heads. Less coffee @ pre-service for drummer ape.

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