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How to balance the sound in a band?

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [BG]' started by pdeon99, Oct 29, 2006.

  1. pdeon99


    Oct 8, 2005
    I play in a guitar/bass/drum trio + 3 vocalists. (Classic rock/pop, and some jazz.) Drums are not miked and the rest of us have separate rigs, unmixed. Venues vary acoustically from large rooms, to outside, to mid-size bars.

    I believe we are often too loud and distorted, based on my own ears (and my terrible volume-induced playing technique when playing in a bar setting). Drummer says that's normal for a bar setting; I refuse to crank up the bass beyond being able to hear it in the mix; guitarist says he needs a high volume level to hear himself, but the audience sometimes cannot hear the vocals over the guitar. We know the guitarist's amp is underpowered (therefore distorted), and the vocal PA suffers feedback if mic inputs are raised too high - therefore they must nearly scream. Basically, I believe the drum sets the initial level (can't do much about that?), and then the guitar cranks up, and my bass, and the vocals and everyone tweaks until it goes into "unpleasantly loud/distorted" territory, IMO. These are all good guys, and quite experienced as amateur musicians, so there's no 'a-hole' factor here. We just need a way to balance the instrument sounds objectively to achieve a reasonable volume level with everyone being heard.

    This has got to be a common problem. The audience hears very different sounds than the musicians on stage. How do you establish good sound balance in a band? Looking for well-established rules of conduct, equipment placement suggstions, reasonably priced special equipment solutions, or whatever.

    (Moderator - is this the right forum?)
  2. Have you guys thought about buying your own PA system and micing everything that needs to be heard of the drums? You can control the sound of the band, just have the drummer or a friend of the band stand like 50 ft away and tell you what needs to change.
  3. pdeon99


    Oct 8, 2005
    We definitely want a new PA system for the vocals. But I'm not too familiar with the uses of PA systems - would you mic the drums and put the mixed sound of the entire band through the PA speakers? (My bass amp is a Mesa Boogie - tough for a PA system to compete with that.)
  4. Sorry, I ment micing everything BUT the drums.

    You would just have to give each vocalist a mic, and then mic your guitarist's rig with a SM57, and just take the DI out of your head.
  5. I'm sorry, your guitarists amp is underpowered? i have never heard of this being a problem, what is he using?
  6. SnoMan

    SnoMan Words Words Words

    Jan 27, 2001
    Charleston, WV
    Underpowered but too loud is what's confusing me....
  7. thats what i meant :) obviously if you cant hear the guitarist then thats a problem, but this isnt the problem, what sort of speakers is he using?
  8. My band always hires sound. Always. Drums are miked, and we set our amps appropriately for stage sound. Then the soundman can make us sound great FOH.

    For small rooms, we sometimes only mike the kick and snare, but everything else is still miked. I've rarely had to use my amp to fill up the entire room, and it's not ideal.

    I've also been in bands that have done their own sound, but, IMHO, an experienced soundperson can make you sound MUCH better.
  9. SnoMan

    SnoMan Words Words Words

    Jan 27, 2001
    Charleston, WV
    There's our answer.

    A PA should help this problem. Once you're able to mic the guitar and run it thought the PA, he'll be able to turn his amp to face himself and possibly raise it up closer to ear level.

    Raising the guitarists amp(if it's a small combo like I'm thinking) may help a great deal as well regardless of the PA. Get the sound away from his ankles and up to his ears.
  10. Sounds like he could use an amp stand...

  11. mrmoonjam


    Apr 17, 2006
    Here, Now
    I think you have several interacting problems, and I agree with the suggestions so far. I want to address one that hasn't been mentioned:
    I agree that getting too loud and distorted in a bar setting is easy to do, but it's not inevitable. The drums do tend to set the initial level, but a drummer can learn to play all the chops he/she needs without excessive volume. This is a little known truth of drumming, and I thinks some drummers actually don't realize it. Also, you can put the drums behind a plexiglass shield to help contain the volume.
  12. Bottom Feeder

    Bottom Feeder encridublee smatr

    Nov 22, 2004
    Huntington Beach, CA
    From what I am gathering, a PA would NOT neccessarily help the situation if the drums are too loud. You said that the overall levels in the room are too high and micing everything to compensate for the drums just brings the overall level up.

    If the drummer hits too hard, you can use the plexiglass shield as mentioned by mrmoonjam. This will allow the guitarist to turn down. As also mentioned, getting his cab up to his ears rather than his feet will help as well. At this point you can use a PA to create a better mix. But first you need control over the entire mix. A good drummer should be able to control his volume to a certain degree.
  13. pdeon99


    Oct 8, 2005
    The problem I THINK I need to solve is the independent ratcheting of volumes when each player thinks he is not loud enough, when in fact it is because he cannot hear the "real' volume because of speaker placement or whatever. It would appear that I need to learn about PA systems, mixers, and miking. Anyone know of a good reference link or book for "stage sound mixing 101"?
  14. pdeon99


    Oct 8, 2005
    I found an excellent book on the subject. It's put out by Yamaha, titled "Sound Reinforcement Handbook" ISBN 0881889008. They also sell a well-produced DVD titled "Exploring Sound Reinforcement".
  15. ihateusernames


    Jun 26, 2006

    I'd also suggest heading over to Harmony Centrals Live Sound & Production forum. They have a goobers sticky and outside of that these concerns are discussed on a regular basis.

    IMHO, the first thing to learn is how to maximize the effectiveness of what you're using at the moment. This would cost nothing more than time. Set up, amp placements and eq changes will have huge impacts, either good or bad.

    I'd like to point out something in reference to your comment about screaming vocals. Screaming/yelling/loud singing into a mic is in essence raising the input level of the channel. What I mean is that putting a hotter/stronger signal into the system is not much different than using trim knobs/channel strip fader to increase the output of a weaker signal.

    Good luck, this could be a neverending quest!
  16. EunosFD


    Jun 7, 2006
    Amp/speaker placement can make a big difference in what the band members hear as opposed to what goes out to the crowd. For example: I play (guitar) through a '59 Bassman RI amp; 4x10 and pretty big for a combo amp. But I'm 6'5" so even with an amp that size the sound is still well below ear level and as such it sounds a lot quieter to me than it actually is.

    My solution was to put tilt-back legs on it so now I tilt it up towards my head and it makes a big difference in the sound. So, your guitar player may want to look into something like that (amp stand, milk crate, et cetera) or even something like Weber Beam Blockers. Check them out here:


    I'm probably going to install some of these as well as they're not very expensive and a reversible mod.