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Food for thought…..no bashing intended

Discussion in 'Live Sound [BG]' started by salcott, Apr 28, 2015.

  1. salcott

    salcott Supporting Member

    Aug 22, 2007
    NYC, Inwood.
    From a friend who knows whereof he speaks:

    I've been in pro sound since I was 15 years old. I've learned a lot over the years, and one of my absolute greatest mentors was/is Dan Healy, the legendary soundman for the Grateful Dead. He was there since virtually the beginning of the modern PA system. That band and its crew were for years the top guinea pig testing ground for PA equipment. Many of the biggest names in sound grew out of that "laboratory". One thing I really took from that school was the kick drum and it's role in the music and the mix. Like them or not, the sound of the Grateful Dead is to this day, arguably the finest sounding live concert experience in history, just amazing, audiophile, not-too-loud, and outrageously danceable. One of the fundamental aspects was the lean and tight and hi-passed kick drum. What that does is let the bass guitar notes rule the bottom end, real notes with pitch and musicality. The kick drum would be clear and fast and would sit ABOVE the bass helping define the downbeat, but not dominating the entire system and fatiguing the heck out of the listeners. Also, that modern loud, muddy kick loads down the eardrums and makes everything get loud. Also, people don't dance well to giant kick drums. It makes people unable to feel the music and bass notes in their belly and they end up just standing there half paralyzed bobbing their heads. It's tiring, exhausting, and non musical. Concerts are just plain better when the kick drum is quieter and has its energy below 80Hz rolled off nicely. I've actually written and presented lectures on this very topic of low end in audio, the tragic abuse of kick drums in live concerts, and the physiological effects it has on the human body. And one of the worst things that can happen to a band is to have a big, subby kick drum on stage, loud in the monitors. That ruins band dynamics and ruins stage sound. It's the killer of music.
  2. pacojas

    pacojas "FYYA BUN"

    Oct 11, 2009
    i like a thick kick with just enough volume to hit me in the chest,.. not the gut. (if that makes any sense) ya know, i want to feel it, but like you said, not loud & muddy. even the "808" styled kick can be successfully mixed by a trained ear. presence!
  3. Pilgrim

    Pilgrim Supporting Member

    I find that most sound "guys" make two drastic mistakes:

    1) Too f****n LOUD. I like loud music, but at a really high sound level, the frequencies interfere with each other and the whole sound goes downhill. Louder is NOT better after a certain point.

    2) Bass (usually the kick) is indeed emphasized WAY too much. You end up with nothing but thump, with no note definition or musical quality. It also screws up the mix and destroys the note definition of all instruments.

    I've seen and heard Dick Dale a number of times. He is famous for (among other things) being one of the first guys to play really loud. But he NEVER lets the sound get so loud that you lose the definition of individual notes from him, the bass player Sam Bolle, or the drums. He's been playing for more than 60 years, and he DOES know what the heck he's doing. I wish more sound guys did.
    Last edited: Apr 28, 2015
    salcott likes this.
  4. BAG


    May 5, 2014
    New Zealand
    I agree wholeheartedly. The main stage at a local music festival last year had the kick (and the bass in the FOH) up so loud and deep it chased people out of the room...... and that was even with a folk style band that was Drums, Bass and acoustic guitar. It literally made some people feel sick and ruined the whole set. I couldn't take it and i'm a slightly deafened ex-roadie, one of the bands I worked for were renowned as one of Australia's loudest in the 70's and 80's. I believe part of the problem is sound guys who are bottom end deaf and/or push the kick because they can, not because they need to.
    salcott likes this.
  5. smeet

    smeet Gold Supporting Member

    Nov 27, 2006
    Woodland Hills, CA
    I understand why they do it. They want it to sound and feel powerful. But it's the easy way out to simply push up the kick and low end. A good sound man can make it sound powerful without it being painfully loud.
  6. 4Mal

    4Mal Supporting Member

    Jun 2, 2002
    Columbia River Gorge
    This is one reason I do aux fed subs... Easy to attain AND control a little emphasis in the lows. I hate flabby lows...
    pacojas likes this.
  7. BazzTard

    BazzTard Banned

    Our drummer insisted on micing the kick even in tiny pub gigs.

    So what I did was during the sound check I turned the kick drum all the way up, until the drummer was happy.

    Then I turned it all the way OFF for the set, he didn't know the difference,like all drummers,they only hear the kick during the soundcheck.
    salcott likes this.
  8. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    It all depends what band you're in. For the Dead, a relatively light and folky band, sure. For any number of other types of bands, it would be death. No one type of mix is universal to all music.
  9. 4Mal

    4Mal Supporting Member

    Jun 2, 2002
    Columbia River Gorge
    As, far as bass below the kick or above the kick. It's more about architecting the low end in a considered manner.
  10. salcott: I agree with what you have written. I like to mix with that approach too. We often use an SM57 on the kick for exactly that reason and we almost always get very good results. The exceptions are usually because the drummer doesn't know how to tune his drums right and, sadly, this is a fairly common problem. JimmyM has a valid point though. You can't take a "one size fits all" approach to mixing but for me this has proven to be one-size-fits-most. One metal band that takes this approach to their sound is Pantera. Rex's bass resides on the bottom and the kick rides above it really well. That is in large part because the drummer uses a wooden beater and the kick heads are tuned rather tightly. Their mix sounds really good I think. I would like to hear a bit more mids out the bass but that's just my preference.
  11. BurningSkies

    BurningSkies CRAZY BALDHEAD Supporting Member

    Feb 20, 2005
    Syracuse NY
    Endorsing artist: Dingwall Guitars
    And I thought I was the only one who aux sent to the sub rather than using it's onboard crossover. : ) Also that way I can control how much of what is going to sub more effectively. In our (small) live setup with band-provided PA tend to bring the kick up volume-wise just under the rest of the band to have it support the groove, not be 'lead kick' and kill the mix. Partly this works for us because we're not carrying a HUGE system, but also because it allows me to isolate the kick and put in just what we need.
  12. 4Mal

    4Mal Supporting Member

    Jun 2, 2002
    Columbia River Gorge
    The other advantage is keeping mic stand bases out of the subs. Just by itself that cleans up some low end. You can hpf the mics all day but that hpf is on a slope and there is some crud down there that is noticeable by it's absence. Not to mention acoustic guitars... I do bleed a little guitar into the subs if it needs some sweetening in the low end just a bit... If I had the guy from Pearl Jam or maybe Barry White on a mic, he might be down there as well... Like damn near everything in audio, there are no hard and fast rules - do it this way all the time stuff... There are techniques and tools in your kit. Apply them as necessary.
    BurningSkies and Frankjohnson like this.
  13. BurningSkies

    BurningSkies CRAZY BALDHEAD Supporting Member

    Feb 20, 2005
    Syracuse NY
    Endorsing artist: Dingwall Guitars
    In our band the subs are all about kick. I don't need subs and I try to roll the organ off well above 100hz so it doesn't swamp the bass. The guitars are all chorded on the 4 skinny strings. I pull most of the bass out of the vocals with our limited board EQ.

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