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Hello, I'm new to this forum. I have been researching the tech of music for a bout a year, picking up gear like a Firestudio Mobile, Sm58, and other ways to satisfy recording needs. was the forum that seemed to have a Live Sound community. Cutting to the point..

The annual variety show at my high school is coming up. I'm been forced to hear horrible sounding mixes over the past years thanks to the great sound guy the school hires...and his "wonderful" speakers. This year I hope to make a band that is listenable to all ears. Here's what I got in mind.

As i go through this feel free to honestly correct my lack of knowledge.

The song is Misery Business - Paramore. It requires: Bass, Lead Guitar, Rhythm Guitar, Vocals, Drums. For a PA System, my friend runs a movie screen business. He has many powered Mackie Speakers that i hope we can use at our disposal. He also has 3 Behringer Mixers (I don't know what models). The other choice for a mixer is a giant 24 input board that our auditorium keeps stashed up in the sound room. Either way.

I'm not quite sure for amps what we will and won't have. I realize whatever amps we get they will need to be mic'd. It will range from my 15W amp to possible a giant cabinet stack.

The mic's we can use are currently limited to my SM58, 2 small condenser mics at my church, a SP B1, a wireless shure, and a cheap dynamic behringer. I'd like to have at least two mikes on the drums (kick & snare?) depending on what is too quiet. Then shape the rest of the band around the drums. Plus 2 vocals mics, along with a mic on the bass and one of the guitars.

Alright, monitors. Since these Mackie speakers have thru's on them, my idea is to feed the mains outs to 4 monitors: drums, vocalist, guitar & Bass, and other guitar. I realize they will all be hearing the same mix, but they can turn the amp on the speaker up and down as needed. I will try to keep the pan pretty centered so there's not a big difference between the two channels. Then the output will of course go thru to 2 L&R speakers for the audience. Any flaws in this plan?

As for effects, i hope the mixer comes with some onboard presets. Otherwise I'm not sure where I'm going to polish up the raw sound. I want to be able to practice with headphones for everyone, to play along with the ipod. I'd need a headphone amp and a mixer to run all the DI & mic's though...

That's all i got so far. Please suggest what i need to buy/do. Thanks for reading it all the way down to here!


Profile picture for user bouldersound

bouldersound Sat, 08/28/2010 - 22:11

If you have any influence, try to push for smaller amps. In any case, mic the amps but assume they might get pulled from the main mix if they are too loud.

With two mics on the drums I'd go for a kick and an overhead. If the guy is a real cymbal basher but light on the snare maybe mic the snare, but an overhead also gets the toms and sounds great if the drums and drummer are good. If you can manage three mics then: kick, snare, overhead.

If I were you I would mix this show in mono, but use a board with monitor sends (pre-fader aux sends) for the stage monitors. Even if you just use one mix for stage it will be a better choice than passing the main mix through all the monitors.

Skip effects, If you're doing this in the typical school auditorium then it probably has plenty of natural reverb, and adding more effects would just muddy the mix. Concentrate on minimizing stage volume and getting things mixed right.

Profile picture for user dvdhawk

dvdhawk Sat, 08/28/2010 - 23:00

I'd like to offer some thoughts, in no particular order - if I may. I see you're still very young. You may know some of these things, and others you may not have thought of (yet).

For starters, I've got a son your age who plays drums, and I'm familiar with this style of music and even the specific Paramore song you mentioned.
As a long-time semi-professional musician myself who happens to own an exceptionally nice PA system - I have the task / chore / opportunity / nightmare of mixing multi-band shows with a bunch of teen-rock bands with some regularity. So I'll just tell you the most common mistakes I see some of them repeating, so hopefully so you can avoid them.

Oh wait... a couple of these are important enough to have some order.
FIRST: Buy or borrow a tuner and tune both guitars and the bass to it just prior to taking the stage. If you have more than one tuner, make sure (at practice) that they're all calibrated the same. There is nothing more bush-league than a band that is out of tune, unless it's the band standing on stage all trying to tune to each other simultaneously. The audience doesn't want to hear that. Not only is it very amateurish, it almost never goes well with respect to the tuning - especially with heavily distorted guitar tones - see #2

SECOND: I love seeing the next generation rockin out. But if there's anything that I see that universally runs most of them off into the ditch, it's awful guitar tone. There are certain guitar sounds that make a young man feel like a stadium rockstar in their bedroom - but there isn't a soundman or PA system in the world that can put THAT sound into context with a live band. (or recording) The young guitar player thinks it sounds great, but their ears are lying to them. That's because it's so far beyond distorted that they can't hear the mistakes. The resulting mush never mics up well either. It's so buzzy and over-saturated it no longer makes a note. I can watch their hands go up and down a half octave and the sound doesn't change. Less musical than a chainsaw. I've seen bands at these events with two guitar players, one has a small amp with a real tone and other guy has a big ridiculous el-cheapo fullstack. Fullstack guy is shredding away, but it cannot cut through the thunderous racket of the rest of the band. At the same time you can hear every note played by the guy with the smaller high-quality amp. If nobody else is playing you can hear the cheapo stack, but as soon as the band starts in they get lost. So, listen to the tone of your guitars with that in mind and get a grip on the musical differences between distortion / drive / overdrive / saturation / buzz / crunch / punch. 99% of the time a little 1x12 combo by Fender, Marshall, Mesa, Vox, Orange, Line6, etc. will absolutely spank a big cheap stack of crap. (unless you've ruined the sound of the perfectly good amp with pedals that simulate the big stack of crap)

If you're using a small combo amp - find a case or something you can sit it on to get it up off the floor a couple feet. It will sound better and be easier for you to hear.

THIRD: A well-tuned drum set with good heads is as important to the overall feel of the song as a well-tuned guitar. If the drum kit sounds stellar you can get a pretty nice sound with a mic on the kick drum and a decent overhead will pick up the rest. Although I don't see a mic on your list yet that I'd recommend for the kick drum.

A Couple Questions:
Are you planning to do the mixing from stage, or will you have a sound-tech back in the auditorium minding the mix?

Other than the bass guitar, what else were you thinking of running through a DI?

What do you plan to do for the almost mariachi band intro?

OK now in no particular order -

If the stage is big, you don't necessarily need to spread yourselves out the whole way across. It will affect the way the band gels (or doesn't gel) when they're used to practicing in close quarters (or headphones) and suddenly they get on a big stage. Since you want to practice with headphones that's a whole new dimension you'll have to get adjusted to. Get as many rehearsals on the stage prior to the performance as possible.

I'll assume you've got at least two strong vocalists for that song. Borrowing another SM58 somewhere would be useful. It will add some consistency to the vocal sound and make the monitors easier to keep stable and free of feedback.

Do not hold a SM58 in a way that blocks the back part of the windscreen - it changes the pattern of the 58 and it will be much more likely to feedback.

Mic technique will go along way in polishing the sound of the vocals. With a little bit of thought/awareness and a little bit of practice your singers can do wonders for the sound by backing away from the mic a bit for the loudest parts and practically eating the mic on the quieter parts. Even if you have things like compressors to help polish up the sound, starting with decent mic-technique puts you way ahead in the game.

The powered Mackie cabinets can sound really good. If you're going to be micing drums, DIing bass, etc. you might want more than 2 for L&R fronts (if you can get 'em). These will also sound better if they're not just sitting on the floor. Powered subs would also be extremely useful for rockin' on the heavy side if you can get 'em. [Don't forget you'll need a number of sufficiently long mic cables to get the speakers all tied together and a nearby electrical outlet or extension cord for each.]

Having used one before - I'm considerably less enthusiastic about any b-rnger mixer(s). If it does have effects presets, I hope you find something you like. Luckily, there aren't a ton of effects on the song in question. A pretty lush reverb on the snare, toms, vocals, and some delay that gets bumped up in the mix during the bridge.

In any case, I'd hook up the monitor cabinets to at least one separately controlled Aux send from the mixer - preferably with an EQ in line. What the band wants/needs to hear on-stage might be the last thing the audience needs more of. So it's best to have your monitor mix(es) and main mix independent of one another - and someone mixing you from a mix-position out among the crowd. I can't say your monitor plan is flawed, but it's much more appropriate for an acoustic duo than a hard-rockin' 5-pc band.

If you're considering buying something - you can never go wrong with more SM58s or SM57s. No matter what you do in the future you'll be able to find a use for them.

If you're looking to blow a BIG pile of cash - I know how to do that too. Give us a budget and I'm sure everyone here will have some ideas on how to spend it wisely.

That's all I got at this late hour. I'll check back to get your thoughts sometime in the next day or two.

Best of luck!

bennyboytx Fri, 09/03/2010 - 18:06

Thanks for the replies! I appreciate the thoughtful people who care enough to help me out. Specifically, I will be responding to DVDhawk, but i thank you bouldersounds for the tips!

Sorry for the late response, I was busy with school/soccer all week. Since I originally posted this, there's been some changes. Let me get you up to speed and put us on the same page.

DVDhawk, i can't image what pain you must go through mixing these teenbands, but you seem to be the kind of guy who know what works. I want to correct myself on the venue of the show. It will be in our big gym, with us facing the bleachers, not our auditorium (sad). Why we pay someone when we have our own PA in there, IDK.

As far as tone, I trust my ears for the most part. I've recorded guitar and mixed my own acoustic cover in my DAW so my ears aren't completely virgins.

Your questions:

Mixer will probably be closer to / behind us. The way they run it is they push the band gear to the back of the gym, let the dancers, and singers preform up front with the sound dude first, and we are responsible for our own sound. My friend has at least 500 feet of XLR in various lengths, so i know we should be covered.

Bass is my least familiar instrument. If I DI it, does the bassist have to listen to himself through monitors? We have a bass amp we can mic, but if we can free up one mic, that's great. Can you inform on how to DI the bass exactly? Also is there an advantage of Taking the Line/Headphone out of the small 15W amp into a line in on the mixer? or is micing the better solution.

Well my plan for the little marching mexican band intro was to just have someone play a cut track of just that intro on a ipod playlist in the mixer. It was going to be a simple way to get the tempo right, but...

The girl who was possibly gonna sing for us doesn't think she could work it out, so right now Misery Business is without a lady singer. I could go shopping in the choir class for another, but I doubt i'd have any luck. I have some chops myself but since the vocals are for a female, most of the notes are out of my comfort range. But we have 4 guys + me still. A possible alternative is to pick another one of our favorite alternative rock songs, Sugar we're going down by fall out boy. We're kind of stuck with 5 people, and 3 guitars might look a little silly down there, so someone has to drop their guitar. We'll see.

I talked to my local guitar shop man, he basically said the same things you did. He warned me of the rush performance though. IF we have to move any stuff before we go on, it's gonna mess with our sound. If we setup in the back and only move the speakers up, I suppose they should be able to hear us fine?

We have at least 10 speakers with stands, so double up for sure. I've never mixed a live band before, so i'm a little naive on the subject of alt buses, sends, inserts, monitors. Can you go into noob-detail a little?

When we practice this, we have an open garage/shop to ourselves. I only suggested headphones because when i practiced with drummerman in his room, i nearly went deaf without headphones, but it worked nicely cause we split and ipod and played along.

That is about where I'm at, thanks for your help so far.

Quick Questions:

is there a use for a large condenser mic like a Studio projects b1? Or is that studio only?

What mic would you recommend for a kick? & where would this "overhead" mic be positioned?

Stage presence tips? I know we won't be wearing Kaki shorts, but what's some ways to make us look professional?

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dvdhawk Fri, 09/03/2010 - 23:03

Another important question: Are they going to give you sufficient time to set all this up between acts? If you're all frazzled from the quick set-up you might not be able to give your best performance. Get some help with the set-up if there's someone you trust to do it right.

Bass might be the easiest of all. Since you've got a bass amp, don't put the bass through the monitors unless you absolutely have to. Position the bass amp where the whole band (especially the drummer) can hear it. The last thing you want in a gym is more bass firing off in different directions - which is what would happen if you pump it back through the monitors.

The speaker in a guitar amp imparts a lot of the tone of the electric guitar, so one would usually mic a guitar amp. The only advantage of taking the Line Out of your small amp, would be IF you like the way the Line Out sounds it would free up a microphone. In a gym a more direct signal might not be a terrible thing - again if the tone doesn't suffer too much. Some Line Out/Headphone outs in small amps disable the speaker when you plug something in- that may not be cool.

Some popular dynamic kick drum mics for stage use:
AKG D112
Audio Technica ATM25 (out of production)
Audio Technica ATM250
Audix D6
Beyer Opus 99
Electro-Voice N/D868
Electro-Voice PL33
Sennheiser e602
Sennheiser e902
Sennheiser MD-421-II
Shure Beta52
Shure PG52
Shure SM57
Shure SM58

You could use your B1 for an overhead mic, most people would use a smaller mic for that. Heavy large diaphragm mics like the B1 are hard to get 6ft - 7ft above the drums without a REALLY big heavy boom stand. Whatever you use, put it directly over the snare pointing straight down.

The Aux sends kinda go like this:

I apologize if you had to side-scroll.

bennyboytx Sun, 09/12/2010 - 06:36

DVDHAWK! I know it's been a while but since we last chat there's been alot of changes to the supply list. I had a couple questions to run by you just because they popped up here and there.

Thanks to our band room & auditorium, we have so much crap laying around that is never put to use. If you have a bright idea of where we can use this stuff then please tell, but here's a list.

  • Behringer Eurodesk MX 9000 ($1000)
  • Some 400W power amps
  • 2 rack mounted 20ish band equilizer
  • 3 SM57's
  • A bunch of mic stands with booms
  • Giant 4 foot tall passive speakers with matching subs (idk the watts)
  • A 50ft 8x8 snake.
  • A Yamaha Portable PA system with attached Powered mixer.
  • MP8DX 8 channel powered mixer
I took the snake, sm57's ,stands and yahama PA. Now we got more than enough.

I want to be able to stick to 8 inputs on the mixer. possibly leaving 2 open for drum toms. Could I use those those small Yahama speakers as monitors if i plug them into a line input on the attached powered mixer? I'm trying not to use a power amp, so just wondering if that would work.

And as far as micing guitar amps go, I was wondering, since the mics can handle alot of SPL, it is better to turn the amp all the way up, and the mixer channel down? Or to keep the amp quiet, and blast the PA? I'm concerned that the player will not be able to hear himself since its the only way he has to monitor what he's playing.

And I did get a DI box, 2 actually. I'm waiting on one but the passive one does work nicely. Thanks for your help.

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dvdhawk Sun, 09/12/2010 - 23:36

Most "variety shows" don't give the acts much time to change from one act to the next. It's a real mood killer.
Has anyone given you any idea how many minutes you'll have to set-up all this stuff?

Honestly, there's not much point in worrying about bustin out the whole 9 yards, if you got 2 minutes for the changeover.

So, first things first - how much time do you have?

bennyboytx Mon, 09/13/2010 - 04:23

There's no set time, but from past years, It can't go so long as to the audience wonders if they are going to go anytime soon. So lets say 3 minutes prox. I realize we'll have to sacrifice some things. But i just want a basic setup that we can just plug in and go.

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fourone3 Tue, 09/14/2010 - 09:05

If it helps at all, is it possible for the same drum set to be used throughout? My HS variety show was nowhere near as elaborate as what you seem to be taking under, though. But, we were able to keep the one kit on a small riser that we built in shop, that slid easily with carpet underneath.

Either way, it looks like you'll be having a great time! Good luck!