Muddy-mud-mud from the stage/soundman setup - help

Discussion in 'Location Recording' started by Seedlings, May 16, 2007.

  1. Seedlings

    Seedlings Active Member

    We play in a 10,000 sf, untreated, 100+year-old brick and plaster church building with 25 foot ceilings and a balcony - and the stage is in a corner. The problem is that the soundman can't clean up the muddy FOH, so he ends up pulling all the instruments out of the mains and pusing up the VOX.

    2 questions:
    Are there any suggestions on EQing the monitors and/or mains so that the sound is intelligible enough to bring up the instruments back up in the FOH?

    More importantly, how would you tell this to a soundman who is a really nice guy, does it for free, but doesn't really have an ear?

    I KNOW we need to treat the room. Trust me, I'm trying to get that going. Can you help with any other practical suggestions? I thought about pulling down all the sliders a couple of dBs from 125-500Hz every time I walk by the EQs...


    4 vocals, 1 electric, 1 acoustic, keyboard, like an 11-piece drum set (2 OHs, Kick, Snare), bass guitar. Mains are 4 Mackie SRM450s & 2 18" subs, I think Yamaha. 4 monitor mixes via a hodgepodge of powered Yamaha and Peavey 10" floor monitors. Music is rock-ish.
  2. MadTiger3000

    MadTiger3000 Active Member

    Pay a soundman who is a professional with some experience and an ear.

    Your band is paying the free price now, and you don't like it too much.

    KC has some budget soundpeople, I bet.
  3. JoeH

    JoeH Well-Known Member

    A few thoughts come to mind here, as well.....

    What is the BAND doing to help fix the sound? How loudly do THEY play? Are the drums acoustic or electronic? Is there a way to start there with the "fix"? Electronic drums emanate only out of the speakers, so it's easier to tame the sound that way, vs. REAL Drums resonating all over the place without even turning on the mics. Is it just the Kick drum? The low toms? Bass guitar? These are just a few of the places to look for culprits when cleaning up the mud.

    Many male vocalists want to have their pant legs rattle when they step up to the mic and go "Test, test, test....", sometimes even female vocalists want this effect, at least when they're talking. We all know this stuff isn't really needed for good vocal blend when the fundamental tone is 300hz or above. Same with keyboard players who want to sound full and robust (like a full range pipe organ) when playing 3-note accompaniment parts along with the rest of the band. The mud can build up everywhere.

    I'm not saying to disembowel the individual sounds of each player, but it can help a lot to dial out anything below 80 or even 100 to 150 HZ if it's truly not needed.

    Probably the best way to start is to have the band play without any PA at all and listen to what you're dealing with. As you probaly know, things will sound quite different between an empty hall and a full one, as well. Factor that in when you're crafting your live mix as well.

    Your sound guy probably wants to do the best job he can, even though he may be inexperienced. The best way to learn is to keep listening to good mixes as well as bad, and understanding the differences between them.

    I hope things can improve for you there, good luck with it!
  4. Kent L T

    Kent L T Active Member

    If the problem is with the stage noise you should try and turn it all down if its already low you can try and wall(make it a nice looking one) in the drums with a wall just high enough to reach the top of the toms. Put some sound absorbing material on the inside of the wall. You could do the same thing with the guitar and bass amps. Will have a side benefit all those people that think the stage has all that unsightly gear on it will now be happier.

    It is still gonna be tough with volunteer sound men and less that stellar acoustics.
  5. BobRogers

    BobRogers Well-Known Member

    The fact that he is able to pull all the instruments out of mains indicates that your stage volume may be way too loud. How do you sound without the PA? If you sound like mud without the PA, then there is no way for the PA to clean it up.
  6. sheet

    sheet Well-Known Member

    I am in Olathe. I might be able to drive over and take a listen. I used to work for a church that had an imposed limit of 85dB. The room had an RT60 of close to 5 seconds, was VERY boomy, and I had to do the same thing. I had to go for intelligibility. The band iteslf without PA or wedges was over 85.

    Big rooms like that were not designed for modern music. They were designed for amplifying speech acoustically. So you have to decide what you want and live with the sacrifices.

    It might be that you have a huge RT60 and so cutting the low end and band in the engineers mind/ear is a fix. It is likely the only thing that he can do. He cannot fix the room without a dozer.
  7. Seedlings

    Seedlings Active Member

    Wow! Thanks for the help!

    MadTiger3000, unfortunately, free is the budget right now, but I know where you're coming from!

    JoeH, we're pretty light players (worship band). The drummer does a nice job lightening up on the acoustic drums, even using hot-rod sticks sometimes. I'm the electric guitar and the singers can't hear my amp from the other side of the stage unless it's up a little in their monitor. We do have a lively bass player and his fader doesn't come up at all from the soundboard. The keys run through the monitors and I can just hear them in my monitor, but they do sound a little thick, now that you mention it. He's a pianist at heart and, I'm not sure, but he may be heavy on the left hand...hmmm... something to look at! Now, the vocals... ouch. The lead guy is loud and sometimes backs a couple of feet back from the SM58 to help. The lead girl has a great, sweet, clear voice. That really doesn't come through from my end of the stage. It isn't light and airy enough. My backing vocals are... quite a bit in the background. At the board I've hit the 80Hz low-cut filter, backed the 80Hz low EQ, dialed the mid parametric to about 250Hz and backed that down a little, and upped the 12K a tad. Really it doesn't matter because unless I'm lead on that day, I'm way back in the mix. So's the bass player's vox - way back in the mix.

    When you say to "have the band play without any PA," do you mean no vocals? Or just monitors and no mains?

    Kent L T, it's not really the drums. As I wrote to JoeH above, I'm thinking more it's the vox and keys.

    BobRogers, how can we play "without the PA?" Do you just mean without the mains and only the monitors, or no vox and just bass, drum, guitar?

    Sheet, my man, how'd you do it? You said "The band itself without PA or wedges was over 85." We're a worship band and we're actually in Saint Joseph, which is exactly 1:20 from I-35 & Santa Fe... remember, $3.12 per gallon, and you already know our budget for soundmen!!!!

    All, are you saying just give up on this soundman? Any advice on helping him? Gently nudging him?

    Our new soundbooth is almost done. Maybe he'll "start all over" once it's up. Maybe that's the ticket.

    Thanks again. I hope this helps someone besides just me, because this is GREAT advice!!

  8. sheet

    sheet Well-Known Member

    St Jo? Wow. The last time I was up there, I saw Petra in concert at some church, in a detached metal youth building. Wow. Pretty bad sound that night.

    If I am up that way on business, I might come by. PM your church's name, address and performance times.

    I think that you should have someone at the church call a consultant to tell you what you can and cannot expect from the room. THEN pitch the engineer if they say that you have the tools and acoustics for the job. If you have no money to fix the problem, and bulldozing the church is not an option, and you get along with the soundman, then keep him around. Wait until you have all of the info first.
  9. Seedlings

    Seedlings Active Member

    From my memory, Petra always had a bad sound. I'll send you a note, Sheet.

  10. BobRogers

    BobRogers Well-Known Member

    I meant just bass, drum, guitar. The idea is to find out how much of the mud is due to the instruments, room, position. If the sound is muddy without the PA, there is nothing for the PA to do but make the mud louder. I'm suggesting you take the PA out of the equation and answer the question of how quietly you need to play in order to get clarity.

    If you get along with the soundman, I wouldn't ditch him. He's in a bad acoustic situation with a limited budget. If you are lucky, a one shot consultation can tell you how to make the best of the situation and he can handle the week-to-week operation.
  11. Seedlings

    Seedlings Active Member

    Thanks! The new soundbooth (probably a misnomer, it is basically a 8' x 8' room with only 4' high walls) has its last finish coat of stain and the equipment will be back in there soon... my first suggestion is going to be just as you said. Perhaps the vocalists and keyboard player could lend some extra ears to the soundman to analyze the bass, drums, guitar sound right off the stage... we'll go from there!

    Thanks to all. If some incredible fix comes my way, I'll be sure to pass it on, although:



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