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How to get the mix right

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [BG]' started by Rockin John, May 10, 2002.


  1. We're a 3 piece + vocals doing a "classic rock" style. We've got about 200 Watts total, available, for the instruments and 100 on a basic PA for voice (no miking up, no foldback). That set-up's served us OK but, on occasions, we've been told we play too loud: venues = small clubs, pubs, etc.

    Our new vocalist couldn't hear herself singing at the first rehersal (observers here said we were too loud). Second rehersal her husband brought along some mixing stuff and miked us all up to supply foldback. To get the volume down and the mix OK with our gear we all turned down. But that killed the feel of the thing, we just couldn't get rocking and, frankly, the music was dire :(

    There seems to be a conflict here. I can't understand how it can be possible play more quietly yet maintain enough volume to get the 'feel' right. Unless the answer is feed the total mix into a proper PA setup and rely on foldback to increase the apparent instrument volume.


    I'm really confused about this. Any thoughts would be appreciated.

    Thanks.

    John
     
  2. wulf

    wulf

    Apr 11, 2002
    Oxford, UK
    Does that three piece consist of bass, guitar and drums? If so, the lower volume limit is going to depend on the drummer.

    Get the drummer to play the groove from one of your songs as quietly as possible while still keeping the feel. Increase the volume a bit but leave plenty of headroom (the volume can always be dropped by hitting less things ;) ).

    If you're playing what I think of as 'Classic Rock', you'd probably want to bring in the bass next. It sounds like you're relying on your amps to hear what you're playing and to fill the room (not an ideal situation) so you want to find a volume and a place to stand where you can hear your playing clearly but where it doesn't overpower the drums from the audience perspective.

    Next, bring on the guitar, and do the same as for the bass. The guitarist will almost certainly need a couple of volume settings - one for rhythm playing and one when taking solos (if you do lots of bass solos, that will also apply to you ;) ). You'll also have to make sure the volume is not thrown around too much by different combinations of effects. The aim is that the guitar can be heard even when picking out single notes but that it doesn't drown the bass and drums.

    Finally, add the vocals - again clear enough to be heard, but not enough to overpower. In all these things, it helps to have an impartial but trustworth listener to stand back in the room and advise on levels.

    If you can establish this kind of benchmark (don't forget to make a note of the settings....) then you've got a basis to build on - you should have plenty of room to build on but with everything balanced rather than everything flat out. The bottom line is that it's much easier to build up the sound rather than turn everything up full and then try to work out what to turn down.

    A final point to bear in mind - something which sounds good on it's own doesn't necessarily work so well in an ensemble; what sounds like a killer bass tone in your practise room might interfere with everything else. For clear 'Classic Rock', you'll probably want to work back in the other direction - use the vocals as a benchmark, make sure the guitar doesn't obscure that and then fit the bass under the guitar (maybe turn down the mids and some of the treble).

    YMMV, but I'll be interested to hear how you get on.

    Wulf
     
  3. Yes.

    I agree.

    Yes, we rely entirely on our amps to hear each other. The guitarist uses two combos either side of the setup, fed by some effects gizzmo or other on the floor. That means I can usually hear him OK. But the poor drummers has 50% hearing loss due to an awful industrial accident, years ago. That makes hearing the rest of us far more difficult for him than would ordinarily be. He found the foldback an enormous help, consiquently. I found it totally alien and couldn't get on with it at all (my first time using it, though).

    There's perhaps the other aspect, too. That of naturally hitting the drums harder and/or guitar & bass turning up a bit when you're rocking. The dreaded vicious circle.:eek:

    It might well be that the new singer's hubby will slot all his lovely mixing gear into the band [he's apparently got a 1K PA rig @ home. Oh my God....:cool:]

    Your advice is excellent, Wulf. We've got to get this sorted.

    Thanks.

    John

    PS. Can't really do bass solos...:eek:
     
  4. Ívar Þórólfsson

    Ívar Þórólfsson Mmmmmm... Supporting Member

    Apr 9, 2001
    Kopavogur, Iceland
    My band has got similar problem at practices :oops:
    We play insanely loud, we need to use earplugs so we won´t go home deaf.

    The problem?
    No volume button on the drumset :rolleyes:
     
  5. Yes. It really is difficult. IMHO you can't really play a drumkit softly and get the same feel, although hitting it a bit softer might well be reasonable.

    John
     
  6. Another thought.....

    I guess mixing through a decent PA is the best way to go? (Hubby's got a 12 or 16 chan Soundcraft). That way, provided the guy on the mixer is on the ball, the sound can be properly set up, and it doesn't have to be really loud to get the desired effect.

    Is all that kind-a reasonable?

    John
     
  7. craigers2

    craigers2

    Sep 26, 2001
    Cleveland
    in my last band, we had the same problem of being too loud in many of the clubs we played. my drummer had to switch and play with lighter sticks and even brushes on some songs so we could bring our volume down.
     
  8. Ívar Þórólfsson

    Ívar Þórólfsson Mmmmmm... Supporting Member

    Apr 9, 2001
    Kopavogur, Iceland
    Using a PA will probably help you alot.

    My band has a power mixer which is 2x350W, we run the guitar, bass and vocals through it, and we use our amps as our personal monitors. Works well on stage, but we're a pretty loud band though... damn drums :rolleyes:
     
  9. The feeling seems to be going towards the idea of small(er) personal amps and a PA? It's naturally something we'd thought about but until the other night didn't realise perhaps how important a concept it is.

    John
     
  10. wulf

    wulf

    Apr 11, 2002
    Oxford, UK
    In an ideal sound setup, you can hear yourself well enough to be comfortable and your bandmates well enough to lock in with them. The audience hears the resulting music at an appropriate volume level for the situation (although, my preference is for clarity rather than raw, ear-bleeding volume).

    The problem in a smaller situation is getting appropriate stage volumes without those taking over the properly balanced mix being sent out over the PA, and with making sure that each person gets appropriate foldback when you've maybe only got one or two foldback channels to play with.

    A workable solution (once you've got your stage volume down to a reasonable minimum) is to use a couple of foldback with the overall sound of the band and then use your amps for when you need to hear your playing a bit more clearly. If you can get the amps nearer your ears than your ankles, you can keep the volume down but still get the clarity.

    Another thing that helps is good visual communication. Play with your eyes open and that will make up for some of the problems you might suffer with hearing a proper representation of what's going on :D

    Wulf
     
  11. Craigers

    I like the idea of the drummer using light sticks / brushes. I'll suggest that.

    The guitarist's observation was that the bass would be better not being folded-back. Is that reasonable? Seems unreasonable to me cos it gives him less chance to hear me clearly.

    Wulf

    Getting the amps off the foor would clearly solve many difficulties. That in itself means smaller bins and I like that idea for many reasons :D :cool: I had flirted with the idea of lower power bass setup (100 W max) with a small (say) 1x15" perched atop a heavy duty tripod. Might try that.

    John
     
  12. Player

    Player

    Dec 27, 1999
    USA Cincinnati, OH
    The best set up I've ever been in was with a drummer who had plexiglass panels that went around the drums. He said He felt that if he played softer or with lighter sticks, the drums didn't sound as good. So to combat the volume problem he made the plexiglass panels. The best thing was that it forced the rest of the band to play at a reasonable volume to be able to hear the drums. We didn't have to push the monitors as hard to hear the vocals and the was never a problem with feedback. We could actually talk to each other on stage without screaming.
     
  13. wulf

    wulf

    Apr 11, 2002
    Oxford, UK
    If the guitarist only wants guitar through the foldback, I'd be highly suspicious... :cool:

    Certainly, you need to be able to hear what you're doing, and the drummer will probably want a certain amount of bass as well.

    However, proximity to your ears is more important than raw volume - ever wonder why headphones (relatively miniscule speakers) sound so loud? I know one person who gets by quite happily with a little Peavey practise amp, by virtue of clever positioning!

    Wulf
     
  14. No, there's nothing suspicious. :) This was the first time any of us had used monitors so there was a very steep learing curve in progress. In any case, the idea that night was to hear the prospective singer again but, in an attempt to help her hear herself, all the extra kit just got in the way.

    But, and it's an important 'But' for us, it demostrated a problem that had been bugging us for ages. Now in a better position to do something about it, and with grateful thanks to contributors to this thread.:D

    On a general basis, I've always been against the idea of overly loud bands. There just doesn't seem any point to deafening your audience, just because the power's there to do it. Sure, sometimes it's necessary but usually it isn't. Frinstance, I went and did an open mic at a local pub. I sang a number without using any PA, me on bass, an acoustic and an electric guitar both through the PA. It went a real treat, so it can be done.

    John
     
  15. brianrost

    brianrost Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 26, 2000
    Boston, Taxachusetts
    It's really simple:

    Vocals are the #1 priority, period. If you can't hear the singer you might as well do instrumentals instead :D

    If the unmiked drums are too loud, the drummer needs to understand how to play at a lower volume but with a powerful feel. This can be done (check out a jazz band some time), it's just that most drummers never seem to learn how. Things like "hot rods" and brushes are not the answer, who the hell plays rock drums with brushes?

    Something else you need to understand is that the mikes that pick up the vocals also pick up other loud noises...like drums and guitar amps. When you turn up the vocals, the drums will be in there, too and they will get louder. You need to try to isolate the vocal mikes from the other stuff on stage as much as you can.

    Good luck.
     
  16. Luck seems to run very quickly in the opposite direction of our band, Brian.

    This lady singer - who was just perfect for what we wanted - has decided she doesn't want to sing with us after all. What happened between the rehersal last Wednesday and Saturday night, I don't know. I'm gutted. The others, too.

    OK, the mixing stuff would have been really nice but WE'RE ABSOLUTELY RAVING DESPARATE FOR A SINGER. Jees, we've been without for nearly 5 months and have seen our standard slip from us being quite a reasonable band to, well, virtual newbies or something.

    So utterly depressingly bad.

    Sorry, guys, not on thread but I need to get this off my chest.

    John
     
  17. wulf

    wulf

    Apr 11, 2002
    Oxford, UK
    Better start working on your vocal technique :rolleyes:

    Where are you based in Britain? Might be worth posting something a bit more specific than 'England' in case anyone can give you any leads to suitable singers.

    Wulf
     
  18. Well, I've been filling in for those 5 months as best as I can, just to try to keep the thing ticking over. But I'm a very long way from a lead vocalist :eek:. Having said that, the PA / sound situation might be part of the problem: I'm having to belt it out into a fairly crummy mic just to be heard [and to hear myself] and my throat's gone after 3 or 4 songs.

    And thus endeth the rehersal.....

    I did wonder about a little ad-thingy on TB. I'll think about it.:D

    Thanks.

    John
     
  19. wulf

    wulf

    Apr 11, 2002
    Oxford, UK
    Belting it out until your throat bleeds :eek: certainly won't help you develop vocal finesse!

    However, look on the bright side... at least this discussion might help you get the volume levels better balanced, even if we can't magic up a vocalist to assist you!

    Wulf
     
  20. brianrost

    brianrost Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 26, 2000
    Boston, Taxachusetts
    I second this advice!!!!

    How many times do we hear people moaning how they can't find a singer? EVERYBODY should step up to the mike and start working at it. Hell, listening to Bob Dylan or Johnny Rotten is proof you don't have to have a great voice.

    Once you start singing you are never going to have the problem of finding a singer again.

    If you need to learn how to sing, join a church choir...I'm serious, it helped me tremendously.