No sound check?
Playing in an originals band in an area I'm new to, and I'm a little worried about the lack of serious soundchecks at the venues we're playing. The SGs have consistently been badly positioned to offer any advice and asking the gfs for advice on levels is hopeless. So all our shows start with the levels out of whack and finish that way.
Our last gig my roommate told me afterwards that the vocals were too loud. I'm at a loss for how that could even happen. Of all the possible sound issues, vocals too loud seems impossible. Granted, I trust my girlfriend's musical taste more than my roommate's. His musical feats have gotten me to post in bass humor...
Any tricks for finding good levels in these settings. I figure my amp louder than sounds like a good mix to me. But I'm wondering if anybody else has any good ideas.
Drag musician friends to shows and buy them a beer in exchange for some mixing advice?
Get a wireless so you can check it out for yourself
Get a wireless.
So long as you exclude guitards that's a good plan. Best have one person completely take over the mixing if you can. Too many cooks....If the house guy thinks he knows what he's doing he's not going to like one person telling him what to do but three is going to get him really pissed off for sure.
If you can keep your stage volume down, you can hear the slap back.
Then you don't really need anyone to tell you if you have a good mix.
Vocals are usually a tad louder to cut over the instruments. Not much, but a little. If you're wondering why that's "even possible", make sure your on-stage volume isn't pushing through and affecting the FOH mix.
Use a wireless, long cable, or record the sessions to check the sound yourselves. That said, most sound guys don't appreciate too much input into their job, much like you wouldn't want every member having a say over your tone and voume (unless its trebly and too loud HAHA)
Hire a PA and run your own sound, or change sound guy if you're not happy with how they set sound to the room. Take this with a gran of salt, but sound guys can't make a bad band sound good. They can help, but if your mix is rubbish, or people play with dials all night trying to fix things, it makes their job tougher.
Best of luck sorting it out.
Shoot, I should have mentioned that I live in the sticks. PA covers vocals and kick (thankfully). So our onstage amps really do need to be dialed in for the FOH sound. So the sound guys aren't doing much. Mixing in vocals and boosting the kick. That's all you're gonna get.
If it makes it more fun, we're a 5-piece with 12 instruments (counting drums as 1) and 3 vocals. Lots of keyboards. I'm thinking, and I know this probably isn't ideal, but you can probably assume that practice mix between various instruments on the amps is good enough. That simplifies things.
Thanks for the comments about wireless. I don't see that happening in the near future, but I've got a Shure PSM200 in-ear thing. Maybe I can rig that up with a mic somewhere FOH and get an idea of our levels on stage and pass that on. If anybody has any experience or technical knowledge would a 57 or a 58 work better for that. I realize there's frequency response issues that should make one a favorite for this.
I guess the in-ear thing doesn't resolve any too-loud/too-quiet ouerall problems, but at least it helps with levels. Or, it could, unless there's a problem I'm not realizing.
But yeah, we can't really count on having a helpful SG in the best venues this area has to offer. Simply not something they do. It's still the '70s or something.
Some of you are probably jealous, dreaming of hauling out your stacks and cranking 'em. :)
Can anybody successfully mix from stage with IEMs? I would think it would isolate you too much. I rely heavily on listening to the mains, but maybe most people don't do that?
Caveat: I have never used IEMs. So I don't know how much "outside" noise you hear.
I play in the "sticks" myself and often find myself in a similar situation.
I'll get flamed maybe, but as a general rule you can "warm" up your sound to the point where it turns to mud, and wrecks everybody else. Guitars can be much to bassy and keyboards......good gawd, keyboards can be the worst. Guitarists often play with a tone that sounds like mush as well.
Even for a small bar you need to have a clean mix IMO. With vocals and kick drum in the PA, that's good....vocals and kick should dominate a bit. For bass, a tone that honks a bit and has some bite works well......have everybody else dial out the low end of their tone, especially keyboard.
Keep it clean. Well, that's what we like in our "sticks"
Go digital. Get a digital board that can be run with an iPad. That way the sound guy can walk the room and hear from all angles. It also does away with the need for a snake because it is wireless. You can simply put the board beside the stage. It makes no sense at all with all of the advantages of digital to stay analog these days.
1) Presets - you can get the board to SAVE your entire mix for a venue (up to 50 presets I think).
2) All effects are in the board - Get rid of your effects rack. It is obsolete.
3) Powered speakers - Get them. They have come a long ways. What used to take a huge box truck can easily fit in a regular work van and be just as lout and sound just as good.
4) Each band member can set their OWN monitor mix via an iPad or iPhone.
But the main advantage to me is a wireless sound guy. He can blend into the crowd and really get a feel for how things are going from out front.
My band has a PA with no sub, and a keyboardist, so we may be similar in our stage needs. Our trick to a good sound is turning down. The levels we as musicians think we need to play at is way above the actual level needed. Getting the guitar, bass and keyboard EQ'd together is key as well. The need for a defined EQ range is doubly needed with as many instruments as you say you employ.
The EQ thing cannot be over discussed. The frequency levels in which a bass or guitar or keyboard sounds good on its own is much different than what it needs to be to sound good in a mix. The problem is magnified when using your rig as FOH support.
Turn down. Play for yourselves on stage, it's the sound guys job to make you heard in the rest of the room. Most bands play far too loud, I know mine does! All your amps should be doing is serving as monitors.
Easier said that done, I know. But most often, you just need to turn down and hear yourselves good on stage. Beyond that is out of your (our) control.
I agree the sound guy should be responsible for the room but with only vocals and bass drum that gonna be nearly impossible. I would talk to the owner/manager and tell them you need that sound check.
I agree with turn down. The quieter the on-stage volume the easier it is to get a good mix. But that is *much* easier said than done. In practice I have had to drop the bass and vocals from the mix in a desperate attempt to get the volume down enough to make the bar owner happy :(
forget trying to mix with IEMs, that just ain't gonna work.
with no subs, you have to keep the stage volume down, and you have to go out front to get an idea what's happening.
Get enough PA to put everything in it.
Get a soundguy.
Get to the gig early enough to do a proper soundcheck.
This third one is not optional. Nothing sucks worse than trying to dial it in on the first couple songs, particularly if you have no soundguy out front.
Many good replies here. I'm really interested in that iPad mixer thing. That sounds brilliant. I definitely want to look into that. Good excuse to get an iPad!
But we're not bringing a PA to our shows. We're out in the middle of nowhere, but it's a smaller city and the venues have PAs. Nothing great though. Vocals and kick. That's all you can ask for. My PA could mic everything and blow yer windows out, but I'm not bringing a PA to a venue that already has one. That's nuts. It'd be a ton of work and for it we'd never get invited back to venues that will headline us.
We have perfectly workable PA support. Vocals and kick can get you to a happy place. I'm just asking for tricks from those of you who've done it, if you have any. We're stuck with this setup. How can we make it work for us?
I've gotten complaints at both our shows so far that the mix was bad. Not a 'too loud or too quiet' thing, but a 'mix' thing. And right now we're basically doing the Motorhead thing: 'Everything louder than everything else'. Which doesn't seem to be working.
So I guess I demand more of a soundcheck?
FWIW, stage volume hasn't been a problem for us. Having done SG for a church, I feel safe saying that's not our problem. When I first joined the band I had no issues playing with a 50 watt guitar amp and a 115 cab. My bass amp was broken at the time. At practices my common complaint is that somebody needs to turn up. No earplugs needed. Nobody in this band has volume issues, including the drummer, which is awesome. No feedback problems on stage. None of the usual complaints about being too loud. But I do think we have mix issues.
I guess at our next show I could get a friend in the audience to do some baseball stuff after the first song. I'm just hoping somebody here has any advice to add to that.
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