Master level / fader level / spill

Discussion in 'Location Recording' started by cfaalm, Jan 23, 2006.

  1. cfaalm

    cfaalm Active Member

    I recently did a budget gig. I got all sort of complaints on the main mix. People said they could only "see" my guitarsolo's but not hear them and there was way too much drum and bass. We didn't have a pro sound engineer like we do on normal gigs, but a former pro (so I was told) who volunteered.

    I could think of a few reasons why we got complaints.
    Guitar goes in with speaker simulation (no speakers = no spill).
    Drums spill into the room because they're acoustic drums and it is not a real big place
    Bass guitar is, unlike the guitar, amplified on stage.
    Also, there was not enough time for a thourough soundcheck.
    Our soundgirl said the channel layout was inefficient. Everything but the drum overhead was on one layer + all tracks were marked.

    In between sets I talked to our soundgirl and asked her to raise the volume on the keyboards and guitar. She said they were already on 0dB.

    Then I looked at the board and noticed:

    The master fader was way down around - 30dB.
    The faders for guitar and keyboards were indeed on 0dB.
    The faders for bass and drums were around the same level as they were for the IEM mix.

    I don't have any certificates in sound engineering, but to me it looked like the faders on the drums and bass should be lowered and the master fader should have gone up towards -5 to 0 dB. That way the keyboards and guitar could be better balanced with the drums and bass. If the total level is too high there's still the attenuators on the power amps that can be cut down a notch.

    Could it have been this simple or am I missing something?
  2. moonbaby

    moonbaby Mmmmmm Well-Known Member

    If there is a band that DOESN'T have the drummer and bass player too loud on stage, show me and I'll eat a JBL wedge!
    If the bass and drums were all that the audience could hear, the soundperson's job is to get them to tone it down. That's why there's a volume control on the bass amp. Some bass players are so mad that they have less strings than the guitarist, that they turn up to compensate.
    Maybe the soundGIRL is the drummers girlfriend?
    Seriously, any sound "pro" should know that getting the stage volume right is foremost to controlling the FOH mix. Blaming fader positions is pointless. That's all relative to the gain settings at the frontend of the mixer. Maybe the soundperson didn't realize that there was a guitar solo going on, hence the absence of a channel fader being nudged up a bit for that. It used to tick me off to watch a band play and the soloist wasn't audible (still does). Maybe if he/she had a "cue list", they'd know to watch for that. Maybe that person needs to pay more attention to what's going on on the stage and less to what's happening on the dance floor...
  3. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Guest

    At 50, I'm no longer a "sound girl" but I bet she looks better than I do? Unlike the previous poster, the first place to start is proper gain staging. Output fader should be at the nominal gain position at 2/3 of the way up. Same with the mixing faders. Microphone gain is then trimmed.

    Now with all of the gains set properly, you can mix properly. Now when I mix PA (you have to beg me and pay me well, to do that) I mix for a recording sound and put it through the PA system. Everybody tells me my PA mixes sound like recording so I know I'm doing the right thing. I trust she does better with BJs? Hire a woman to do a girl's job.

    No high heels
    Ms. Remy Ann David
  4. moonbaby

    moonbaby Mmmmmm Well-Known Member

    I guess that I mis-spoke. Proper gain staging is THE most important element to get a good mix, but using the fader positions to dertermine that...? I have always trimmed the gain at the front end of the channel using PFL and those little LEDs to set it, then adjust the faders to MIX.
    For many boards, "unity gain" is about 2/3 of the fader travel, but not all
    boards do that. And even with the gains properly set, the faders have to be "ridden" properly by somebody with a certain musical ear and constant eye-contact with what's going on onstage. Otherwise, solos get lost and the backline turns to mush.
  5. cfaalm

    cfaalm Active Member


    Our soundgirl was introduced by our bassplayer, but I trust him enough it wasn't his intention to compensate (besides, he plays a 5 string, so he isn't quite as frustated as those 4 string guys :mrgreen: ). It was the first gig she did for us. Though I'll applaude her for keeping her cool, praise her for her effort, I question her credentials. When I said that to my band members, they said I was an ungrateful SOB. Well, fancy that.

    So I'm checking my judgement. I still feel bad about it. I will be taking a sound reïnforcement course to check it also, but it's not up until a month or 3.

    I do believe we had our gain settings right or it wouldn't have been possible to get a decent IEM-mix. That one we set up ourselves. My guitar was even a bit loud there. On the IEM every solo was absolutely there. For solo's I can raise the volume myself, she doesn't even have to ride the guitar faders very actively. It's only every now and then, due to the nature of the song that it needs correction of a few dBs up or down.

    I also assume that a Yamaha 01v96 will give me no crap on its read-outs as well as the scaling on the faders. My guitar rig gives a solid clean +4dB balanced line signal, the gain can stay completely down.

    To me it just sounded stupid to say there's no more fader travel left on a channel when there's plenty on the master. I thought a simple change like lowering the drums and bass some 10-20dB and then raising the master fader with the same level might have already helped to get a better balance on the main and also to compensate for drum & bass spill. That might qualify me as an ungrateful SOB, though. :cry:
  6. moonbaby

    moonbaby Mmmmmm Well-Known Member

    No,Cfaalm, this extra post clarified things quite a bit for me. If a fader had to be that maxed out on the channel, and the master was run that low, something was definitely "off". A "re-structuring" of the fader settings was certainly in order. Especially if you were able to hear your solos through the IEMs. Just you find the Yammie easy to use for live sound? I think that the comments that were made previously are "out the window" because, if I recall correctly, there is no "gain"at those...they are simply attenuators, aren't they?
  7. cfaalm

    cfaalm Active Member

    Thanks moonbaby. This means a lot to me.

    To satisfy your curiousity:
    The fact that we wanted to go IEM was one of the reasons I bought the 01v96. I like it for live sound. It sounds good, it's compact, user friendly. Even without the manual, but especially with Studio Master a new setup is made quite quickly and everthing connects to everything. This was very useful when setting up the IEM. I would need extra experience to use it for another band, I'm not really fast with it, yet. I still haven't used all possibilities, like setting up my own libraries for eq en compression. The settings in the factory libraries are not that useful IMHO. Having your own libs would make it easier to do other bands. To mark the channels I use flexible magnetic whiteboard strips. They can be moved around, altered etc.

    In my studio it is a front-end for my DAW. There's only 16 analog inputs, so it has its limits. You can however attach something like an OctoPre or i88x to have more inputs. That way it handles 32 inputs. I work on 48KHz/24bits.

    I am not sure what you mean by the "gains" being attenuators. You'll have to set them anyway. I find that the gain settings don't have to be very high to get a decent signal in, even from microphones and especially for line signals. For a dynamic mic it would be around 11'o clock and that's the highest setting we have.

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