First Gig - Amp Settings

Discussion in 'Live Sound [BG]' started by Resonance129, Sep 28, 2016.

  1. Resonance129


    Feb 15, 2011
    What up, TB

    Had my first gig (outdoor) with a "Neo Funk R&B" band over the weekend and it went... well... OK...

    It was pretty nerve-wracking lol. Long story short, I just stared at my finger board the whole time, trying not to forget any of the music. We did 3 originals and 2 covers and everything sounded pretty durn good, but then the guitarist decided we'd redo the 3rd original a second time for some reason :bored:. And that's where things went sour... About 1/4 through the song, things just got WAY off... Train wreck. I'm not sure where the problem originated but the drummer later said he couldn't hear the PA speaker setup behind him and was just kinda wingin it. I'd like assume that's where the problem started, but I wonder if it was ME who got off, then threw everybody else off. I didn't feel like I lost my tempo but we didn't have it recorded so I'll never know. It's buggin me a little...

    The venue had their own amp/cab (Ampeg 8x10 + Ampeg head) and my question is about amp setup.

    It was really difficult to determine whether I had a good sound or not. Standing almost directly in front of the cab, I couldn't really tell if my sound was overpowering or blending with the rest of the band. Nobody on stage seemed to have any issues, and the sound guy didn't have anything to say.. But is there a surefire way, as a bassist, to set the amp so you're blending with the rest of the instrumentalists you're playing with?

    Another supernoob question brought to you by Resonance129 :bag:
  2. Gravedigger Dav

    Gravedigger Dav Gold Supporting Member

    Mar 13, 2014
    Springtown, Texas
    If you're standing in front of an Ampeg 8x10 and can just barely hear it, then you are about right.
  3. noagreement


    Oct 12, 2006
    Yo Philly!
    Congrats on the gig! Don't get hung up on the train wreck - there will (probably) be many more!

    Welcome to live sound. What you were hearing on stage is not the same as what the audience is hearing and there are tons of threads about how to mix, sound guys, DIs, settings, etc.

    There is definitely a component of trusting the sound guy to make it sound right out front and for the band. But - If you can't hear yourself or other parts of the band - speak up and tell the sound guy to increase the stage monitors volume(s).
    Last edited: Sep 28, 2016
    Al Kraft likes this.
  4. Steve Dallman

    Steve Dallman Supporting Member

    With the band I was in back in the early 80's, our first gig went fantastic. We had a good crowd at a biker bar, more students than bikers, the owner loved us. Our mix was good and we knew our songs. Two great looking gals came running up our first break and excitedly said, "Where have you guys been hiding? You are great!"

    We thought we were off to the races.

    Then the next two gigs stunk. We kept practicing and did fine after the two duds.

    We all have off nights. One bad song on the first gig isn't a train wreck.

    BTW, Our first gig was 4+ hours. That's a standard gig around here.
    steveinohio likes this.
  5. Al Kraft

    Al Kraft Supporting Member

    May 2, 2016
    Northern Virginia
    Congratulations on the gig and on playing through the train wreck - not falling apart completely, then recovering is what professionals do.

    I always try to have some upfront discussion with the the sound tech so we have our signals straight during the performance. My first request is for specific feedback during the show and especially the first song or two.

    You would be surprised how many sound techs will give you a critique after the show as opposed to communicating with you in real time when you have a volume control and EQ at your fingertips. You can never safely assume the sound tech knows what you're looking for in terms of help, and in some cases bands may have treated them poorly when they tried to help.

    In some cases, the band mix is off and the tech wants you and the drummer to stay dialed in as you are while they bring up other folks. The sound tech is as much part of delivering your performance to the audience as anyone in the band - you have to work with them that way.

    Second, whenever it's possible I always try to have a person or two who knows the band listen for me (and the band) so they can come up and tell us if something sounds off. In my opinion there is no sure fire way to know from the stage exactly what it sounds like to the audience.

    I hope that helps. Good luck with your future gigs!
  6. Resonance129


    Feb 15, 2011

    Hey, thanks much.

    I actually had no problems hearing myself through that huge cab. I actually felt like I was TOO loud, but wasn't sure if I was overpowering or blending well. Indoor, it seems a bit easier to gauge my sound vs the full ensemble sound, but outdoors was a completely different beast. Not to mention a cab/amp I'm not very familiar with. Just need more experience with playing outdoors, in general.
    Thanks for the feedback.
  7. Resonance129


    Feb 15, 2011

    Aww man, that's rough lol. But it's cool you guys were able to refine your sound from then on.
    And yeah, I basically expect to have off nights. I was just a little put off by that performance for the fact that the band leader decided to do the same song a second time when it was done fine the first time, only to have us flubb it up, y'know? Not that the second time should be allowed an excuse, but still... Just sat wrong with me for a while.
  8. Resonance129


    Feb 15, 2011

    Thanks much for the kind words and sound advice. It was rough, but we got through it.
    Definitely planning to have someone I know in the crowd at the next gig to help us know what things sound like from their point of view.

    As far as speaking with the sound person goes, I suppose I didn't really know what exactly to ask if I had to lol.
    Aside from "am I too loud/soft?", or "too bassy?", what other types of questions would be good to ask?

    Again, thanks a lot.
  9. Congrats on the first gig, I still remember my first one. We are always quick to critique and nitpick, it's what we as musicians do. I'm sure it sounded better than you think. Remember, most people in the audience aren't musicians and you would be amazed on what can be played and still be considered ok. Recovering from a mistake and going on during a live show is just part of being a musician, just don't panic and flow with it. Playing music is like having a conversation between multiple people, and you react based on what is said. Be proud that it didn't fall apart. You just passed the acid test of performing live.

    Outdoor shows are completely different animals than indoors, mostly because you don't have the slap back from all the instruments. It will actually seem quieter because you aren't dealing with all of the overtones. I actually prefer outdoor shows because the drums are not killing the entire mix, and I can hear the instruments a lot better. The 810 cab you played through is one of the best cabs designed for outdoor shows, and as long as you heard yourself and the rest of your band ok you probably weren't too loud. I tend to trim some of the low end off my mix during indoor shows, but add a little more on outdoor stages to compensate, remembering that your stage amp is only a stage monitor for you and your band; the sound guy will be putting a different eq'd bass in the foh mix. And speaking of the front of house, the sound guy will have no issues telling you to turn down if you are too loud.

    Just be glad you made it through your first gig ok, enjoy the experience, and take what you learned and improve the next show. Mostly just have fun!
  10. Al Kraft

    Al Kraft Supporting Member

    May 2, 2016
    Northern Virginia
    I think you have the main two questions nailed! Just be sure to let the sound tech know that you'll be looking to them for cues on how you're doing during the show. The trick is that as you go from louder to softer songs, and folks in the band start getting in the groove after the first few tunes, the balance will often change a bit from the sound check unless it was an extensive one. Even then the mix changes when a room or space fills with people - you typically sound check in an empty room. Actively look for that feedback from the sound tech!

    You and your band mates (especially the drummer) whether you're aware of it or not have developed a method of communicating with each other as you play. Some groups do this better than others - great groups read each other's moves without even thinking. Group performance is a relationship and people can sense that as clearly as they can hear your instruments and vocals. The sound person simply needs to be invited in and included in that relationship. They are the new person in the mix at the gig and need to be treated like you would a fill-in musician or vocalist. There's a good reason many bands have their own sound tech.

    Always let the sound person know where you like to slot into the mix (e.g. hard driving, more supporting foundational, busy bass lines that are part of the lead work, whatever), if you'll have solos or places with major volume/tone/effects changes, etc. Remember too that you and the band know how to play off each other and adjust in your rehearsal space, the sound person needs to know what you're looking for so he or she can give you that in the venue space. Essentially you need to make them a member of the band for the gig. An arms length, "service only" relationship will often lead to frustration for you and them.

    You're seeking advice, asking the right questions, and have good instincts (in my opinion) - that's about 90% of the road to success right there. As a final thought, listen to everyone's comments and recognize that your best formula for success will likely be a combination of what works for others and not exactly what worked for any particular one of us. We all developed our own style and approach the same way you're doing it.

    I hope that's useful!
  11. Steve Dallman

    Steve Dallman Supporting Member

    My current band is tight, and we're all very experienced, and have had history playing with each other going back over 30 years. But we still make our mistakes. Brains going blank because of our ages and health is the biggest reason. We just make light of them, have a good laugh and move on. We sure ain't getting "perfection" wages where we play. This music stuff is supposed to be entertainment. It's supposed to be fun.
  12. mattattack187

    mattattack187 Bass Enthusiast Supporting Member

    Feb 2, 2012
    Ellsworth, ME
    I had my first gig ever Friday night. I've always practiced with a Sansamp BDDI into a mixer so I just ran that into the effects return of my amp. Sounded awesome! The sound guy was pretty happy to see that little box too.
  13. Al Kraft

    Al Kraft Supporting Member

    May 2, 2016
    Northern Virginia
    Congratulations! OBTW, I've found the BDDI to work best just the way you're using it. If that box has "your sound" in its capabilities, it's a great tool and I've never met a sound tech that didn't like it.
  14. mattattack187

    mattattack187 Bass Enthusiast Supporting Member

    Feb 2, 2012
    Ellsworth, ME
    I liked running it that way because it's the sound that I'm familiar with. The Amp was more so just a monitor for myself but it was nice to hear that sound coming through it. Yeah the Guitarist from the headlining band ran our sound and he mentioned he really dug the bass tone. I'm not too experienced in gig life obviously but from what I read around here sound guys are familiar with the Sansamp and know it's simple to get a good workable sound out of it.
  15. Al Kraft

    Al Kraft Supporting Member

    May 2, 2016
    Northern Virginia
    It's always a big plus when you can hear your bass in a venue such that it sounds like what you are used to. So often you end up in a situation where the bass tone in the venue is really different from what you normally hear and it can be a little difficult to get into the groove.
  16. buldog5151bass

    buldog5151bass Kibble, milkbones, and P Basses. And redheads.

    Oct 22, 2003
    Always worth having either a band member (with long cord or cordless transmitter) or friend out in the audience for sound check or first tune to listen to the mix. What you hear on stage often has no relation to what the audience is hearing, regardless of the quality of FOH.
    Last edited: Oct 11, 2016
    Al Kraft likes this.
  17. denhou1974


    Mar 6, 2008
    It's nice to have a good tone on stage but if you're running through the PA the audience probably won't hear what you hear.

    In these situations I go with the following:
    "It's my job to play good, it's his job to make me sound good."
    Al Kraft likes this.
  18. Dynomuttasaurus


    Jul 23, 2016
    This is a pretty awesome thread. I recently had my third gig (first outdoor) and was in a similar situation. Last band of the night, no sound check, using the house Carvin amp with a 6x10 cab. I plugged in and ran a couple riffs with the drummer and rhythm guitar. Felt good. But, our lead guitarist was having a complete equipment meltdown. He had to borrow an amp, guitar and effects. Everything.

    So, we're running late. Lead guitarist just plugs all his borrowed equipment in and cranks everything to 10 (despite his amp being micced) -- and I'm stuck right in front of it. All I could hear was lead guitar. I was getting blasted with everything except the rhythm/beat. Oh dear lord!

    In my inexperience I was immediately frustrated/embarrassed/flummoxed. Leaned back to crank my amp a notch to try and hear myself a little... And, then I looked out. People were ROCKING OUT. At that point I let my inner brain take a break and played to the audience energy. I still have no idea what it really sounded like, but it really doesn't matter. In the end, it's the feeling the audience takes away.

    My motto is now: Practice is for me. Play out out is for them.
    Remyd and Blue Dragon like this.
  19. sedan_dad


    Feb 5, 2006
    No. Noodle around before you start and try to dial in clarity in your sound. When you guys start ,keep your volume down low. try to blend in from your perspective. The lows will carry you fine. People or the sound guy will let you know which way to tweak your volume.