Festival Rigs and (below) Average Sound Guys

Discussion in 'Live Sound [BG]' started by eJake, Apr 28, 2018.

  1. eJake


    May 22, 2011
    New Orleans
    Hey y'all

    I played a bigger fest yesterday and had some dilemmas. Solely focusing on the bass part of the cluster f*** ill start out highlighting that they had an (if memory serves me right) ampeg svt pro 4 (300 watts) on top of a fridge. Now I normally don't worry about having a strong rig on a festival gig with so much PA support it shouldn't matter. We were the second to last crew to hit the stage and the monitor man didn't have the bass spread out around the stage...? The guitar player (who is young and a lil green) was telling me instead of the monitor man to turn my stage volume up. We had a 20m soundcheck which the monitor man used all of trying to figure out how to get more kick drum up in the monitor......

    Anyway this is not a thread bashing sound guys. I'm wondering what you guys do when coming to a larger fest that has a backline and really quick sound checks. My keys player said I should have brought my own head and used their cab. This makes sense to me because I know how my head works. I know that because of my familiarity with the controls, I can dial any sound I need and that it's powerful enough if I need it.

    Id like to hear from some experienced big fest players about how you maintain your sound across different backlines. Is sansamp (or something akin) a better option?
  2. Kro

    Kro Supporting Member

    May 7, 2003
    New Jersey
    It pays to be flexible, and I think you hit the nail on the head with your mentions of using your own head and/or a SansAmp.

    Here's how I approach the backline thing:

    1. I sometimes will bring my cab as a backup, but frequently I don't. With very few exception I will use the backline cab unless it is really not up to the task.

    2. My rack includes a full amp with decent DI on amp, and a SansAmp VTDI. Whenever possible, I will use my full rack. Speaker out into the backline cab, and amp DI set "pre" (but post SansAmp obviously) to the board. This allows me to send a lightly colored signal to FOH, while still leaving me free to tweak my amp's EQ and volume for exactly what I need for the stage.

    3. If backline is a combo with an FX loop, I take the send from my amp and insert it into the FX return on the combo.

    4. If backline cab is a combo with no FX return, I send my raw VTDI signal right into the amp input.

    Again, the philosophy here is to use as much of your own gear that you're familiar with as possible, while still being able to maintain a speedy transition.

    I can go into more details as to how I set up my amp and SansAmp to best work at each part of the chain, but for now I'll leave it at that.

    As for green soundguys, not much you can do there except just work with them as best as possible and make sure your own game is on point.
    Last edited: Apr 28, 2018
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  3. eJake


    May 22, 2011
    New Orleans
    That's some great info thanks so much for the response. At the moment I don't have a sansamp but if the need starts to arise more I'll buy one.

    I don't really understand whats happening with the fx loop on the combo and your amp. I've never used an effects loop, mostly a bass/rig/tuner/cable/earplugs kind of guy.

    EDIT concerning #2 you go amp di--->VTDI--->FOH?
  4. Kro

    Kro Supporting Member

    May 7, 2003
    New Jersey
    There are two reasons to use an FX loop, and one has to do with signal level, or strength. There's instrument level, which is what your bass typically outputs (and what the front-end or input of amps generally want to see), and then there's line level - which is a stronger signal. This is what rack equipment, and FX loops usually operate at - so that's the first part.

    The second, is that usually FX loop sends are post amp EQ, and returns are usually basically a power amp "in" for an amp. What that means, is that you can use the preamp section from your amp, and inject it straight into the power-section of a combo, completely bypassing the combo's preamp - better maintaining your tone. This is particularly useful if the combo in question has a less than stellar preamp.

    This might seem like a lot of prep for the rare occasions when you're given a combo as a backline, but even though IME it happens infrequently, when it does happen it can be one of the more frustrating backline experiences.

    My signal path is:

    Bass > Tuner > SansAmp (VTDI) > Amp Input (not FX loop) > Amp DI to FOH

    The reason why I'm not taking the DI feed right from my VTDI is two-fold:
    1. It allows me to run my amp's DI "post" if I want, and send my amp's full preamp tone to the board if I want (but rarely do).
    2. Because my VTDI is always on, I just have it buried in the back of my rack - and it isn't easily accessible. When I note that I send a feed straight from my VTDI to a compo amp's input, what I do is just send the tuner out - it's a convenience thing. :)

    Again, the whole point is to give as consistent of a sound as possible to FOH (but still with critical parts of my tone, like a little drive, and speaker sim), while being able to generally tweak my amp for whatever my needs, or my band's needs are on stage without messing with FOH setting.
    Last edited: Apr 28, 2018
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  5. kalle74


    Aug 27, 2004
    The way I see it... The monitor man will put stuff in the monitors if:

    -you need it, and
    -you ask for it.

    If you don't, there will be nothing.

    It's not possible for the monitor guy to guess what and how much you want or need in your wedges to make you playing click.

    Also, "a little of everything in my wedge" is not a monitor mix. It's a sure-fire way of making the stage wash unbearable for all of you. Pick out three things you need the most.

    Adjust amp volumes, and aim speakers to have A REALLY GOOD BALANCE on stage before starting to fill it out with any monitoring.

    If your volume is good to you, and your closest neighbouring players, but "a little low" further up the stage, the player who needs it should ask for a little "fill" in his monitor.

    I bring my own stuff. All of it. I can, and will, set it up really quickly, and know that "my sound" will be there. I will also be quick to take it off the stage after we're done.

    Your keys player (and your intuition) is right.

    Bring your own stuff. No point in trying to make, say, a SVT cab sound like a G&K Neo. Whatever gives you "your sound" is the better option. Think it through, and give a workable signal (max 2 lines, no over-EQ) to sound guys.
    Last edited: Apr 29, 2018
    eJake likes this.
  6. wesg


    Mar 14, 2013
    I had a fun festival experience last year. The venue was boat-access only so we were traveling light. Bass rig was backlined.........and somebody stole the amp->cab (speakon to speakon, IIRC) cable earlier in the day. Bass player is panicking because he has no way to make the thing make noise, and his usual rig is on the mainland.

    I walked around and found one of the previous acts having beers....and managed to borrow the "emergency amp" and cable said bass player carries with him. So, anyhow, my guy plays the show on the borrowed head + cable, all was okay, and he made a mental shopping list after the show.................now he owns a small head and cables for either speakon or 1/4" cabs, these travel with him in his gig bag. "Don't leave home without it!"

    I played another festival with another group about 5 years ago. Bass player thought the bass rig was going to be backlined. Turns it was, BUT, only for the headliner. (Whose stupid idea was that?!) ... He went DI and punished the 12" wedge at his feet. Mixerman knew his craft and dialed up a good and appropriate tone from the console in a jiffy.
    eJake likes this.
  7. s0c9

    s0c9 Supporting Member

    Jan 9, 2014
    1964 Audio artist, Fractal Audio Beta Tester
    I just finished running sound at a local festival - TWO 14 hr days, with a 20,000w PA and 7 bands, some local, some regional. We DO NOT provide backline. no-one is EVER happy with it... so .....
    FWIW - I'm NOT a pro soundguy... and I've never mixed either of the folks below, before.

    EACH band brought it's own gear.. we provide mics, stands, wedges, etc. If you had an IEM rig, we could split from/to it.
    Only one of those bands got a sound check - and that was the Sat pm headliner (see vid below) and that was only ONE song.
    Everyone else (due to 30 min between tearing down one band and kicking off the next) got a line check and we mixed "on the fly"..
    It takes a couple of songs to get the audio down when you don't know the band or their setlist or who plays what parts. When that's original material.. mix by the seat of your pants.
    We also use an iPad on stage to get basic monitor levels set and tweak as necessary as they get going.

    Apologies for the camera shake, but holding a phone for video while mixing can be a challenge.
    Here's a quick flash, of Texas Country/Red Dirt artist Dalton Domino as I mixed him last night (Sat 4/28 in Keller, TX).
    Recorded on my iphone cam with NO audio enhancements.. uploaded to youtube just now.

    Here's one from Pat Waters... That's Nashville recording artist Bradley Banning to his left. They traded off songs anda couple of duets for an hour +

    Last edited: Apr 29, 2018
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  8. JRA

    JRA my words = opinion Supporting Member

    i know that you said this was not a sound guy bashing thread, but:

    i'll bash...and i'm a sound guy! if the the crew isn't up to the task = things can be worse (except by luck) than if you mixed yourself from stage...even in that situation! so rather than try and advise you of work-arounds: you may not need to alter anything. you had some bad luck with the sound crew (monitors?). we cannot prepare for other wannabe 'professionals' when they are unable to perform. better luck next time! :thumbsup:
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  9. Wasnex


    Dec 25, 2011
    A long time ago I did a gig for an audience of 10K in the Groenplaats in Brussels. 15 minutes to setup and sound check with a rather large system. Due to the time constraints I decided to go ampless so I could help everyone else get setup. I was provided a couple of 15 inch wedges that were up to the job. During sound check I got a decent bass level and mix. The monitor tech kept asking to put more drums in the mix and everyone told him no, including our drummer. Probably would have been a great gig if the tech would have left the mix alone after our sound check.

    As soon as the show started the monitor guy went nuts with the 8x15 drum fills, basically he pushed the faders for all drums to "11". Guess that was his thing. Every bass drum hit would ring at 100 hz at a level that essentially concealed my sound. I kept looking at tech and he was really getting into the music and would not look up, and when he did, he would not take any direction. Had a big smile on his face.

    Under these circumstances you are really at the mercy of the audio techs and if they have their own priority and agenda there is not much you can do to overcome their incompetence or inattention. My bass sounded great, but I could barely hear it under the constant roar of the drums.

    I normally run my instrument's volume wide open. During this gig, I sound checked with the volume dialed back a bit so I would have some range to adjust. Unfortunately, there is really nothing I could have done to overcome an 8x15 drum with low frequency feedback. A large powerful amp would have helped, but the gig still would have sucked.
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  10. You don't mess with your stage volume because a guitarist asks you to, you send guitarist to monitor man.
  11. If I was on drums I would have got up and unplugged monitors until it got some attention.
  12. Wasnex


    Dec 25, 2011
    Apparently he loved the rock star treatment. It was unusual for the band to do stadiums or huge fests, so his normal monitor was Sony 7506 headphones or a single Apogee AE3 with a 10" woofer.
  13. bearfoot

    bearfoot Inactive

    Jan 27, 2005
    Chittenango, NY
    Ah, yes. Well. I am one of those guys.

    I'll just give my 2 cents. I didn't set out to be "the sound guy". I am a songwriter and player like everyone else, with a bit of PA gear. A friend of mine starts up a festival, and soon all these musicians are calling me the "sound guy". I'm getting run ragged, working 18-hour days, my gear gets trashed, and I don't always even get to play.

    That was 10 years ago. I've upped my game a lot since then, and can consistently get a good sound. Now it is to the point where the tables have turned, and I am more of a sound-nursemaid to musicians who are newer to amplified performance. I relish the role, try to make them feel as comfortable and welcome as possible, and get very annoyed when something doesn't go right. (last year, the output/preamp on my Zoom recorder failed, and all the promised stage recordings were ruined)

    The more professional acts do tend to just hand me a single XLR from their stage rig, and do their own mixing. I think if you are playing a variety of festival situations, that's the best way to go if you are a smaller act.

    There is a LOT more to professional sound than I ever suspected on the musician side of the fence.
  14. s0c9

    s0c9 Supporting Member

    Jan 9, 2014
    1964 Audio artist, Fractal Audio Beta Tester
    Looks like I'm getting to run sound at this upcoming event in Dallas in June (22-24).
    Not sure which acts/stages yet.. but. . Oh look. Dalton Domino, 7pm Friday night!! Maybe I'll get to mix him again.. :)
    See vid above !!

    Taste of Dallas
  15. juancaminos

    juancaminos Supporting Member

    We played a large out of state biker event that we were thrilled to play. We were told to bring guitars and drum sticks only that a full back line would be provided and due to the quick change over it was manditory to use the stage set up. OMG the stage sound was terrible. The monitors were way loud and distorted, my bass amp sounded nothing like what I was used to, etc. We talked to two very popular bands there who said it's always like that and that we just had to power thru it. We did and we had fun anyway. In fact a few years earlier we shared the stage with one of those bands who provided their own back line and full sound system including their own sound guy for us. Again the stage sound was terrible The monitors were loud and distorted. Their sound guy just shrugged and said that is the way their singer liked it. OMG!
  16. s0c9

    s0c9 Supporting Member

    Jan 9, 2014
    1964 Audio artist, Fractal Audio Beta Tester
    Truthfully, as someone who has been paid for working BOTH SIDES of the stage over many years.. I'm amazed at what folks on stage want (or put up with) in their monitors. Many bands now carry IEM rigs with splitter snakes so THEY control their own mix and let FOH worry about FOH and not monitor mixes.
    Prices are VERY reasonably these days and with remote control/wireless capability on digital systems one can easily swap out a band in 30 mins. It's REAL easy for the band AND the SR provider.
    There's simply no comparison between a crappy wedge mix and what you can get from an IEM rig. If you gig regularly, I highly recommend bands exploring purchasing one.
    All you need is a digital (rack mount) console - eg: X32R, X-Air, Ui24R,...
    16-channel splitter snake
    IEM transmitters...
    and of course.. a rack to house it all.
    juancaminos likes this.
  17. 4Mal

    4Mal Supporting Member

    Jun 2, 2002
    Columbia River Gorge
    I often run a three man crew for festivals. Stage manager, monitor engineer, foh engineer. At change over time, the FOH guy is adjusting the preprogrammed scene for the next act... we built scenes for all the acts that responded to our rider inquiries... SM and ME do the change over. SM does a micro-foam wipe down on the vox mics and changes out guitar cords for the inevitably bad ones brought by the band. ME uses his tablet to confirm what the players want in their mix.

    The ME does start monitor mixes with some assumptions based on the rider so it is more fine tuning. Drop the piano, add more violin... once in a while we get that wrong and go back to zero, mostly we’re close based on what we would want to hear.

    we do a fair amount of backline and everything gets tested before hand.

    If the band is happy, they’ll deliver a better performance. If they are happy, I’m not shy about asking for a plug to the promoter. This is not the cheap approach and so the promoter needs to have it drilled into his head that we are better than the other guys.

    To me the funny thing is that none of this stuff is tough. It just takes paying attention, being organized and having the crew understand roles and responsibilities.
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