Live sound woes

Discussion in 'Location Recording' started by Rimshot, Aug 4, 2006.

  1. Rimshot

    Rimshot Guest

    I'm really getting sick of inconsistent sound on stage. Our soundman is supposed to be good but we always run into the same problems.

    For example at the last gig;
    - the bass player had a hard time hearing himself a lot of the time
    - I could hear the guitar bass and vocals OK but the guitar and bass sounded like they were out of phase.. like they each had a slightly idea of where the meter was - just slighly off from each other. As the drummer it makes it difficult to lock these guys together - I even tried pounding the bass drum to see if would lock them in, but it seemed like they must be in different worlds.

    I suspect it has to do with the balance between the amps. monitors and FOH speakers... or maybe the volume is just too loud. So what's the formula for getting the stage mix right?
    - here's one method (correct me if I'm wrong - PLEASE! :) )
    1. soundcheck with a basic stage mix that sounds good; amps only, nothing in the monitors except for vocals, no FOH
    2. for each musician tailor their monitor for what they were lacking above, keeping the monitor mix to the bare minimum.
    3. If the stage mix is good and sounds like it does in a small practice room.. then bring up the FOH speakers.
    4. Adjust for echo, feedback etc.

    I usually don't have problems, but my bass player seems to always have difficulties hearing himself on stage, and the guitar player sometimes as well. This is driving me nuts!! I'm open to any suggestions - thanks!
     
  2. moonbaby

    moonbaby Mmmmmm Well-Known Member

    Hi, Rimshot:
    Welcome to the world of "I can't hear myself!" !!
    People make fun of you poor drummers, but it's really bass players who are the bain of a soundman's existence...
    First off, let's address the bass player who can't hear himself. How close is he standing to his rig? The closer he is the LESS he will hear. Why? Because low frequencies make up such a large waveform, a low 'E' note won't fully develop for something like 20 feet (!) from the amp. When a bass player bitches he can't hear, I get the stage manager to move the bass rig BACK so that there is more airspace between the player and the speaker cab. No $*^t, it can really help that issue. And if it is a small stage, maybe you'll get lucky and the whole bass rig will fall off the stage and maybe take him with it! Seriously, try that first. BTW, this is why people in the first rows complain to the band that they can't hear the low end, while the poor soundman is getting pulverized with bass he can't control.
    Then there is the overall stage volume that needs to be addressed. I suspect that the band is playing too darned loud, especially in the practice room. Not to sound like the old fart that I am rumored to be, but try turning the amps down a bit. If you are used to practicing in a tight room, and then go to a gig where there is actually SPACE around you, your bandmates need to adjust for this. In a tight room, you tend to be "squeezed" by the sound pressure levels, it really can hit you physically.Then, when you do a "real" gig, all of a sudden the sound just dissipates into thin air, so to speak. The "feel" is totally different. Then everyone starts to turn up onstage to compensate for this. The result is mush. As an example, I used to mix an 80s band, .38 Special. They USED to use their stage rig in the rehearsal room. Big mistake. Marshall Super Lead 100 amps, even running at half power were brutally loud. They'd get on the "big stage" and that sound pressure just disappeared. Totally disorienting to BOTH the drummers. I got them to run smaller amps (Peavey Classics-hey, they were free!) in rehearsal, and then the big guns
    when they were on the road. The result was that it was much easier to adjust to the stage.
    As far as the soundcheck is concerned, you are on the right track. As long as the FOH and monitor systems aren't fighting each other. I don't know how many monitor mixes that you have available in rehearsal vs. on a gig. Sometimes on a small stage more is not always better. If you have, say, 2 mixes available in rehearsal, try to stick with that on the gig. Designate (1) mix as frontline for vocals, and the other as a backline for the players. You have to learn to compromise on this one, but that's a normal situation for a band anyway. Unless you have IEMs, which I will leave alone today. There's also the ploy that I refer to as "psychosound":
    A player says to me he/she is having a problem hearing themself. I make direct eye-contact with that person, reach over the board PRETENDING to adjust a knob, and ask through the talkback mic, "Is this better?" You would be amazed at how often their reply is "Yeah, perfect!"!!!!!
    What a world we live in!!
     
  3. MadMax

    MadMax Well-Known Member

    Everything moonbaby said!

    We do a LOT of one-outs... well actually, that's about all we do... that and festivals.

    About the best thing I can tell you guys to do is to TURN THE SHITE DOWN on-stage! Start by turning the amps down. Then bring the volume back up with your wedges.

    I see a LOT of bands who think they have to fill the hall from the stage... NOT SO! That's what you got FOH for.

    When I'm on Mon Beach Watch, I start with roughing in gain before feedback in the vox wedgies. Then I line check the kit and put kick where-ever anyone needs it. I've found that drummers, bass and KB players usually need a bit, or at least benefit from hearing a little kick.

    Then I go right up the console... bass, gat's, keys, and finally vox.

    One trick I've found is to put some bass (a healthy amount, but not to an extreme) in the bass players' wedge along with kick and vox. That often helps the bass actually hear what's blowing by him from the amp... especially outdoors.

    By reducing the outward stage volume and putting some of that energy back into the monitors, you can usually hear better (lower overall stage volume) and the audience hears better as well... more ability to control what comes out of the mains.

    As a side note about your soundman. If he's running FOH AND monitors, he may not really be a monitor dude... it CAN take a special breed... especially to do both at the same time. You have to have a feel for the gear and the room to get a good groove going on stage. If he's bustin' ass out at FOH, he's likely to not EVER really going to "get" what's going on up there, where you are.

    Or he may just be a dink... (Just kidding!!!)

    HTH a bit,

    X
     
  4. Terr-orForm

    Terr-orForm Guest

    Everything the afore mentioned.

    I like the to mix a little bit like I'm recording. I always start with the stage first then the FOH.

    I start with the drums and the bass. Being a bass player, I have learned the rules that madmax mentioned. I run an 18 and 4x10 so, you can imagine how hard that can be! I'll start with a kick and play in time with my Low B and E strings. Then to the floor tom and run my A string and continue down to the snare with the d and g strings and end my high c on really small tom or a bright snare. These two instruments have to be as close in volume as possible (drums and bass) and absolutely have to compliment each other. If I need to do a "bass solo" then I will midi a time change from the keyboard into the preamp and only bring the volume up about three db. After the solo, the volume goes back to where it was.

    From there, bring in your keys then your guitar - singer last and should be louder than the rest of the mix, though not a whole lot louder. Now, this is just me but, I usually have back up singing at about the same level as the keys or guitar.

    These should be grouped. Drums and bass on one group, keys and rythm guitar, back up singers on another, singer and lead guitar - you get the idea. Grouping is key but also disasterous if the mix isn't right to begin with.

    Then off to the FOH. I have very few adjustments with the FOH if the stage mix was done correctly and mixing board utilized correctly. My main adjustments in the FOH is reverb for the singer and any effects for the whole mix needs. Also speaker placement. I try not to hear the FOH on stage. I should be hearing the monitor mix as much as possible and the FOH should push the sound out to the audience. So, if the singer is in the very front of the stage and the mains are angled towards him - imagine how he must be hearing that!!

    When the speakers are placed for the audience and room acoustics, then it's time to turn up the volume of the FOH and adjust the effects (too much reverb makes it sound like the monitors are overpowering the FOH and the club is filling up with water. These minor adjustments are key to controlling the sound. If the reverb (for instance) is too high and the soundman thinks the monitor system is too loud, then he turns it down and you hear the muffled and confusing back of the main speakers!!If the monitors are too loud and they are turned up too much - the audience in the front gets the same confusing signals the singer in the front of the stage might experience.

    My advice is simpy - start simpy at low volumes with minimal settings on effects. Match the instruments and mix the sound - turn the sh*t up and apply effects as needed.
     
  5. Rimshot

    Rimshot Guest

    Thanks for the tips - this helps a lot.

    BTW I wasn't taking a swipe at our sound man - its more to do with the typical scenario of the sound man doing his thing but leaving the preferences for the stage mix up to the musicians.. and what I find is that a lot of musicians are clued out to the intracies of getting 'the right mix' (myself included!) - which is understandable as it is an art and a science to get it right. So my goal here is to take on the job and educate my fellow band mates..

    In fact at our last gig everyone said it sounded great in the audience.. but on stage it was a weird mix. Fortunately we know our material, so even if we can't hear properly we can still 'guess' what its supposed to sound like - but its no fun at all ! :roll:
     
  6. Rimshot

    Rimshot Guest

    Oh I forgot - yeah the bass player was standing about 4 feet in front of the bass amp - probably so he could hear himself. I seem to remember the sound check was fine, but when we started playing to the audience the bass sound practically disappeared. After the first song he complained he couldn't hear himself and the lead vocalist told him to turn his amp up which he did.. and then the weirdness started!
     
  7. Terr-orForm

    Terr-orForm Guest

    Here's a sobering idea:

    Have the bass player stand by the guitar amps and have the singer stand 1 foot in front of the bass speakers (do this at practice).

    When the singer complains his nuts are numb - your point will have been made. The bass player will hear himself and the singer won't be able to get it up for the night. You will have killed the idea that the singer should know what needs to be turned up. As a point of reference - try the ghost thing. Act like you turn up the bass on the mixer and send the singer out of the room to listen to the band outside the door. I can guarantee that he will say the bass is too loud!!

    Again, I'm a bass player and learned the hard way.

    Lastly, if you need to illustrate what bass does, hang some cray paper or aluminum party tassles on all over the bass speakers and have the bass player rip on the next song (again in practice). This will demonstrate the power of bass!! Just like it sounds - BASS is the BASE of the music. The drummer is the heartbeat - the rest of the band makes the character of the music!! Both the drummer and bass player should be as tight as possible - to the point of scary!!!

    For me, this can be somewhat difficult. We are an industrial band and my drummer is my programming mind ala the Korg Tritons. Imagine what will happen if I turn up! Tritons don't think, "sh*t!!! I have to play a little harder until the end of the song and let the sound man know I'm a bass rug..."

    If it sounds rough to you guys (and it's good that you pulled it off with the audience) then you have probably done something wrong. Of course, the sound man could have turned down the FOH and let you all believe the bass player turned up. Correct - he turned up but the soundman didn't change the FOH - instead, he turned down the FOH and left the monitors the same - FOOLED!!! If he did that, I would like to meet him as it sounds like he really cares about the band and the quality of your shows!!!!!!
     
  8. Rimshot

    Rimshot Guest

    Terr-orForm,
    LOL!
    :lol:
    Yup - you nailed it! That's exactly what happened.. our sound man said that it was too loud so he had to turn the FOH speakers down..
    - were a sorry bunch...
     

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