Bass in the Mix

Discussion in 'Band Management [BG]' started by bucephylus, Jan 28, 2006.

  1. bucephylus

    bucephylus Supporting Member Commercial User

    Aug 18, 2002
    General Manager TecPadz LLC
    I recently played a gig at a local club and the sound guy was VERY picky (which is a good thing). (I should add that a somewhat new thing for me is that ALL of the clubs hereabouts have their own rather elaborate sound systems.) Anyway, we get fired up for the first set, the mix sounds good to my ears, and about halfway through the set, the sound guy is waving at me that the bass is WAY too loud.

    Now, I don't usually play real loudly; so, this was a little confusing. I end up turned down almost to the point that I can't hear the bass at all. I'm thinking ***. So, between sets I get together with the guy, and he says " yeah, you're playing so loud that it is making the stage floor vibrate." Well, this is one of those flimsy club stages and I'm thinking, "Ok, welcome to live music moron." But, then he says "the problem is that the bass gets into the mics up front and muddies the vocal mix. If I can hear the bass at all in the vocal mix, the sound will be muddy."

    That actually made sense. So I said "OK, can you bring the bass up in the monitors?" He says "no problem." To make an already too long story not any longer, I end up with the bass barely driving my cabs, and mostly coming out of the monitor. And, yup, it sounded really clear.

    All of which makes me wonder about the role of the amp at all. For that situation, what is wanted is the best DI you can get and the most portable small cab possible. Hell, maybe none at all! Have any of the rest of you run into this situation?

    Makes me wonder why I'm dragging all the amplifier gear around.:meh:
  2. This is a discussion that is pretty frequently brought up, as alot of people are doing away with stage rigs and going to DI only. Those of us that like to keep and amp and cab do so for the sound I suppose. I personally think that the tone I can get out of my rig sounds far better than any DI I've used. To eliminate microphone feedback, try and put your cab at an angle, or even facing completely in from the side of the stage, rather than behind you pointing toward the crowd. If you and your guitar players try this out, you may find you can hear yourselves alot better, so you don't need to turn up as loud, AND the PA mix will be cleaner becuase your amps won't be pointing directly at the mics. My band practices and gigs like this normally and it has done worders for our stage mix.
  3. sloppysubs


    Nov 24, 2002
    Swansboro, NC
    Any club gig I have ever played they rarely put me in the mix. They say I will be loud enough on my own. Well that can sometimes be true, but I'd like at least a DI feed.

    I am a sound engineer/recordist.

    I don't know about/have never heard about bass mudding up a mix. At least not through a vocal mix. I ran live sound for a while and never had any problem. I did run into a few fellows, however, who had WAY to much stage volume. I just didn't put them in the FOH mix, but did put them in the monitors so they could hear themselves.

    That said, I do know it is more beneficial to 'offset' your vocal mic so you don't get bleed form your drums. (This is, of course, working off a "classic" stage set up)

    There are lots of avenues to try. Turning your cab around and relying on your monitor mix is one I can think of. Though I'm not to comfortable that way.

    Lastly, in some cases, NOT ALL, the resident sound guy at these clubs really doesn't know what he is doing. However, he/she has a vague idea.

    good luck
  4. Diggler


    Mar 3, 2005
    Western PA
    If the band isn't running aux-fed subs, you should give it a try. It can clean up the mud in your mix IMMENSELY.
  5. bucephylus

    bucephylus Supporting Member Commercial User

    Aug 18, 2002
    General Manager TecPadz LLC
    I don't know too much about the art and science of mixing, so I'm probably missing your point. This particular sound guy's requirement was that he didn't want any bass signal bleeding into the vocal mic channels; because it somehow made the vocals less clear. He also had a DI feed from the bass, and was mixing that separately. As to how this relates to the use or non-use of subs in the mains, I can't comment. For their house system, I believe he had a valid point. How that extends to other systems, I have no idea.

    The concern of bass bleed into vocal mics was a new one for me. I was mainly curious whether that is an old story or new to others here. I wouldn't have brought it up, except that the guy's approach did produce an improved result. I'm not sure how to view the role of the stage amp in this context.
  6. Jerry Ziarko

    Jerry Ziarko Supporting Member

    Feb 23, 2003
    Rochester, NY
    Quick fix for a bass amp that couples with the stage and makes a muddy mess, Auralex Gramma pad.($50) On the rare occasions (and I do mean rare) when I use an amp, the Gramma pad is always underneath the stage rig. I never knew one small variable could make so much difference in the stage sound. It really tightens up the low end nicely! On the other hand when playing through just monitors, (or in ears) invest in your own DI that you know, 1. works, 2. is good quality, and 3.accurately represents the sound or your bass. You can spend several hundred on a GREAT DI (Avalon, etc) but for overall gig use, a Countryman or Radial JDI will do just fine for around $150. They satisfy all three things I mentioned quite nicely and are very well built. Hell the Countryman is so overbuilt I don't think you could ever kill one of those! If you use reasonable care it will last you for years and will still be worth a good buck should you decide to sell it.
  7. Kael

    Kael Supporting Member

    Dec 26, 2004
    Oklahoma City
    Tightens up an overly boomy low end due to hollow stages also.
  8. +1

    I was in a band that did the "face the cabs across stage" instead of toward the front and it worked pretty well. (But it won't help the "rumble the stage" aspect.) It'll still be vibrating the floor and feed into the mic stands. It definately takes the "directional effect" out of the instruments towards the mics, though, when a crappy stage floor isn't an issue...

    And I agree; I use an amp because I want to control my sound; (and don't confuse "sound" with "volume"). Doesn't hurt to mike the cab instead of going DI, (or do both if the soundman has enough cables.) Sounds like you got lucky and had a guy that had a handle on the situation. Glad it worked out.;)
  9. FriscoBassAce


    Dec 29, 2004
    Frisco, Texas
    Independent Manufacturers Representative
    But wouldn't a low-cut filter applied to the vocal mic channels on the board eliminate any floor rumble vibrations into the mic stand?

    I'm fairly new to the sound and mixing world, but I know that I read that in my mixer manual. Since vocals can't produce extremely low frequency soundwaves (in most cases anyway), you just use the low-cut filter on that particular mic channel and it will eliminate vibrations, pops, rumbles, etc. Right???
  10. Dkerwood


    Aug 5, 2005
    It's always easier and better to eliminate the bleed at the source. Low cuts are nice, but then you also eliminate low harmonics and resonance from the singer that you would normally get. If you use the Auralex pad, you "uncouple" the amp from the floor. Thus, the physical vibration doesn't exist anymore, and no more vibration feeds through the mic stands.

    My advice? Try to fix muddy mix problems acoustically before trying to fix them technologically. In other words, look at all the sound sources and consider moving them around. Even if that means slightly turning amps, monitors, mics, etc, etc... A few inches can sometimes make a world of difference.
  11. This is one reason why I never have my amp facing out. It's always sideways or even completely facing back, but always toward me. I also make sure that I am at least 6+ feet away from it so I can hear the bass better without having to turn up quite so loud. I find that if I am right up on top of my amp I need it louder to be able to hear it the same as if I am moved back slightly. Usually I have it tilted back and try to have it shoot into something soft and fluffy, besides me :) (ie if there's a curtain backdrop).

    And yes a subwoofer helps too.
  12. WalterBush


    Feb 27, 2005
    Yuma, Az

    Not entirely, and it will affect the sound of whatever channel the low-cut is on. Yeah, lots of people use them, but they roll off the lows on a sloping curve--it's not like they suddenly chop the frequencies off cleanly at 70 or 80 Hz. Isolating bleed with good mic placement is always better.
  13. WayneP


    Oct 11, 2004
    Katy, Texas
    As a sound man (as well as a bass player), I can’s say that I have either. Typically the muddy mix is caused by too many sources generating heavy low end. If all low end in the room is limited – rolled out of the guitar and bass amps, and also the vocal and drum mics - the bass will be really clear and distinct in the mix (room acoustics and your instrument allowing).

    Won’t help, bass is omni-directional. Fortunately, many vocal mics (especially the venerable Shure 58) start rolling out at about 200 Hz, so they don’t pick up bass well (which is why it’s a waste of time to stick a vocal mic in front of a bass cabinet).

    If they’re putting you in the system, you really aren’t controlling your sound. If you’re running your amp too high, you’re only competing with the house system and muddying things up (if you’re playing in a place that has subs).

    I have, and I agree. And yes, everything sounds much clearer both to myself, and to the audience once the bass rig is not competing with the house sound system. That’s why I ditched my traditional bass rig ten years go and never looked back. :bag:

    Back then I was plotting to assemble a state-of-the-art bass rig, bi-amped with real pro audio components (i.e., crossover, compressor, amps etc.), and a custom cabinet, probably with a couple of 10s and an 18. Fortunately I was short of cash at the time, and good sense prevailed over redundancy and saved me from wasting a lot of money. The places I typically play in have a tri-amped systems with dual 15” mains and a pair of horn-loaded 18" subs, all of it driven with a few thousand watts of Crown and Crest power. Eventually it sunk in, what was the point of building and lugging around some hulking high-powered bass rig when I was getting the same thing, actually even more, with the house system – for free??? After all, they were going to patch me into the system with a direct box and tell me to "turn it down!"

    Once the light dawned that the stage rig should be nothing more than a personal monitor, I started putting my brainpower towards assembling a bass rig that would compliment a house system, not compete with it. Here's what I came up with.
    • Pre-amp with both stage and house outputs.
    • Parametric equalizer connected to the house send, to EQ my signal to the mixing console much more precisely than the three- or four-band channel strip can.
    • Stereo 15-band equalizer connected to the stage send, to tone-control my stage speaker.
    • Stereo low-powered one rack space amp, to power my stage speakers, which are...
    • A pair of good quality stage monitors, one for me and another dedicated for the drummer.
    Yes, stage monitors. It's really a revelation once you get the sound firing up at your ears instead of at the back of your knees (guess I'm a freak of nature, I didn't get any ears back there!). You hear texture and resolution that you just can't get standing 3-4 feet in front of a cabinet that's firing at your butt. It's a much more accurate and hi-fi sound. And actually, it makes perfect sense, doesn't it? Ever see a singer say, "Put that monitor behind me firing at my butt so I can hear it better!" Anybody here ever set up their home stereo with the speakers behind them?? Hello, McFly!!

    Other bonus using stage monitors, with the speaker firing right up at you, a little amp like the one I have is all that's needed (and it doesn't even break a sweat!). With a stage monitor you also get a better representation of what the audience is hearing from the sound system vs. what your normal bass cabinet sounds like (since sound systems don't have a stack of 10's and a cheap peizo).

    In my mind, the traditional bass amp (and the big guitar rigs, too) is a throwback from the 60s and 70s when stuff like the Shure Vocalmaster passed as a PA system. Certainly you needed a bass rig back then with large cabinets and drivers because PA systems couldn't handle bass. That's all changed, but the archaic, hulking bass rig prevails. Bass players won't give them up - I guess it's a macho thing. :rolleyes:

    All the more reason to ditch the amp and go with a good stage monitor. :bag:

    Now, if you play in places with dinky little PA speakers on poles, then you need a big bass cabinet. I keep one for those occasional gigs. ;)

    Wayne A. Pflughaupt
  14. So...then you move on to say that;

    So..."If they’re putting you in the system, you really aren’t controlling your sound.", then why the EQ your "send", since you aren't controlling the final product anyway?

    I like to control my sound with my amp and the soundman better darn well use what I'm sending out or he's fired. The only thing he should be doing with my sound is EQ'ing it to the differences in room's accoustics and mixing the volume.

    On the other hand, I'm really giving your stage monitor idea some consideration. Problem is, I'd have to have one for me, one for the drummer, and one for the guitarist that keeps complaining that he can't hear me good enough. Still, overall, that's better than having one gigantic rig blasting across the stage just so we can hear it up there, and then messing with the audience mix. Good point!:D
  15. WayneP


    Oct 11, 2004
    Katy, Texas
    Good question! Basically I‘m doing myself what you said the soundman should do, “EQing to the differences in the room’s acoustics.” I’m just making sure that there are no hot spots or dead spots, so all the notes from lowest to highest can be heard. The soundman can’t effectively do that with the channel strip, but I can with the parametric.

    Don’t know if you’ve ever used a parametric, but they’re awesome. You can equalize with surgical precision! I also use it to compensate for some deficiencies in my 4-string, like weak fundamentals on the E string below the G fret, and a somewhat hot, broad peak in the 100 Hz range.

    So basically I have a lot of control of the final product. After that, if the soundman feels I need overall more or less bottom end, more midrange, etc. he can adjust that with his channel strip – which is about all they’re good for anyway: general adjustments.

    That’s actually what I was referring to when I said “controlling sound,” the tonal characteristics of the amp, which I know is an important factor to most bass players (which is separate from the room and fine-tuning EQing discussed above).

    However, the sound of an amp only really gets out to the audience when you’re in a small enough venue so that the stage amps provide the sound, and the PA system is only handling vocals. There, everyone can hear your amp.

    If you’re in a large enough venue to require a high-powered system with subs, that all changes. If you’re patched into the system, what the audience hears is the PA system, not your amp (unless you’re running it way louder than you should be). Obviously, a PA speaker with long-throw compression drivers for the highs, 15-inchers for the mids and 18” front- or horn-loaded subs for the lows isn’t going to sound anything like your bass cabinet. (The same holds for guitar players too, but that’s a discussion for some other Forum. :) ) If the bass cabinet is mic’d, then the tonal characteristics of the mic is added to the equation, since none of them have flat response – at least none that anyone is going to use on stage.

    You don’t have to take my word for it, check it out for yourself. Someday during a sound check, get a long enough cable or a wireless rig that will let you to get out in front with your bass. Have the soundman turn you off in the PA system, so you can listen to your amp. Then have one of your band mates unplug your speaker cabinet so that you can hear yourself in the system only. You’ll find that the two sound nothing alike. Basically, no one gets to enjoy the fabulous “sound” of your amp but you!

    That’s why I like to use a dedicated stage monitor for myself. They have a similar design and use similar drivers to the house speakers, so I have a better idea of what I actually sound like out there. Actually, if I have the opportunity before a show, I’ll tweak everything from the audience position to where I like it. Then I don’t have to worry about whether or not what I’m hearing on stage sounds “good” or not. Long as I can hear what I’m playing, I’m happy.

    I’ve corresponded with a few others in recent years who’ve tried it out. Their experiences pretty much paralleled mine: It was a bit strange at first, but once they got used to it they loved it and would never go back to bass-in-the-butt. I mentioned still having a big cabinet for gigs where they have a small PA system – well, that’s only for the benefit of the audience. I still bring the stage monitor for myself.

    Well, I’m not willing to lug around a third monitor. He can just ask the soundman for more bass in his monitor mix. :D

    Speaking of lugging around monitors, in order to minimize competing with the sound system, I limit the lowest frequencies in my monitor. This lets you get away with using a smaller monitor with a 12” woofer instead of a 15”. It also gets more mileage of my little stage amp, since it’s the ultra-lows that demand lots of power. The sound system fills in the extra lows for you, so you will still hear them.

    Wayne A. Pflughaupt
  16. bucephylus

    bucephylus Supporting Member Commercial User

    Aug 18, 2002
    General Manager TecPadz LLC
    Excellent input, Wayne! Very well thought out. Thanks.

    Regarding the monitors, I can see where that would work, but you could get the same effect just tipping a small cab. The thing there is that one could select the cab for tone and portability aside from volume. For example, I've got an old Flite 4x8 with NEAR drivers that has great tone, but not a lot of air motion. I'm thinking to use that. My monitor wedges are Peavey 12" that work OK, but I'm not exactly excited about their inherent tone; although I suppose if you EQ the heck out of it at low volume, it wouldn't matter.

    I've got a gig tonight at a club where we bring our own small sound system; so that will require the Hulk rig. Tomorrow night I'm back over at Scottsdale, and I'll give the smaller "monitor" a try.
  17. bucephylus

    bucephylus Supporting Member Commercial User

    Aug 18, 2002
    General Manager TecPadz LLC
    Wayne, out of curiosity, when stage space is a premium, how do you deal with the monitor plus rack? It seems that the footprint would actually be larger than just the self-standing rig?
  18. WayneP


    Oct 11, 2004
    Katy, Texas
    Thanks for the kind words. I’m actually surprised the amp guys aren’t lining up to take a shot at me! :D :bag:

    It’ll work fine in many respects. You’ll definitely notice an improvement in sound quality once it’s tilted back and aimed at your ears (however, once you’re hearing what it really sounds like, you might hate it!). I have seen a few bass amps in recent years with sloped backs, specifically for this purpose. A step in the right direction, at least!

    There are only a couple of downsides. For one, (as I noted) it won’t sound much like the PA system speakers, so what you’re hearing is exactly that – what you’re hearing. The other, if you have one of the combo amps that tilt back, it’s difficult to get to the controls while you’re playing.

    You definitely want a good stage monitor, just as with bass cabinets!

    Yeah, that can be a problem. I put my rack on a keyboard “x” stand, adjusted so it’s as high as the stand will allow, but you’re right, it essentially takes as much of a footprint as if it was sitting on a cabinet. Fortunately, there’s usually always room at the front of the stage for one more monitor. In tight situations you could forgo the drummer’s bass monitor (if you’re going that route) and let him get it in the regular monitor mix.

    Wayne A. Pflughaupt
  19. bucephylus

    bucephylus Supporting Member Commercial User

    Aug 18, 2002
    General Manager TecPadz LLC
    So, perhaps, QuikLok needs to make us a rackstand that the wedge can slide under.

    And, I agree that Bass wedges should be an interesting topic. I haven't looked. Does anyone make them?
  20. Dkerwood


    Aug 5, 2005

    When I'm playing guitar, I use my amp more as a tone machine than anything else. Of course, I just use a 2x12 combo, and not turned up very loud, tilted back and aimed at my head. IMHO, though, I've never found a guitar preamp that sounds better than a mic'd amp (at least not in a situation where I could a/b the two sounds). Of course, I then do all that I can to duplicate the amp's tone in the PA (as close as possible, anyway).

    Of course, in the bass world, I don't know how many times the soundman has had me just plug my bass directly into the system first, and then the signal goes to my amp as a monitor. Imagine that! I could show up with nothing but my axe and be fine! My fancy amp isn't even in the tone equation, save for in the acoustic space.

    I'm not sure that I agree with the monitor situation being much better, though. Yes, it's not dealing with speakers designed specifically for bass guitar, but the subs ARE designed specifically for bass, while your monitors are not. It will still sound different than your stage mix. And of course, if you move around much on stage, you'll lose your bass audio as soon as you step away from your monitor, right?

    Btw, what kind of monitors do you use?