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How to survive without sound man?

Discussion in 'Band Management [BG]' started by rmrf, Jun 20, 2007.

  1. rmrf


    Mar 6, 2006
    Holiday, FL
    Well. I need an advice. Right now we are gigging in small-to-medium bars. They have no sound man and they don't provide their PA to musicians, so we always use our own PA.
    The problem is we have no person during the gig to adjust our volumes. Sometimes friends come and say "we can't hear this" or "this is too loud". Ever in this case we have problems because volume varies from song to song.
    For example in fast rocking songs our heavy-handed drummer forces me to crank my 100W amp to the max, and after this we are playing something soft and my bass reap out drywalls.
    We ever thought to put all instruments and vocals to mixer board and give it with headphones to the drummer, but usually drums have enough volume, volume of my bass amp enough for monitoring is usually enough. So I'm afraid that additional volume from PA will make instruments too loud for audience.

    So I need your experience, guys. What is usual setup for small-to-medium bars?

    PS We have two geetars, bass, drums and two vocals if this is important.
  2. Lorenzini

    Lorenzini Supporting Member

    Dec 31, 2004
    Los Angeles
    Sounds like you need a real PA.
    Depends how pro you want to go.
    Ideally, for a real band sound:

    2 subs (give or take, if you don't really need to get people to dance, 1 or 0 subs)
    2 PA speakers (a must)
    1 or 2 monitors for the geetardist & singer
    1 monitor for the drummer, if it's really loud. I highly recommend this if your drummer gets overzealous.
    1 mixer
    1 poweramp, if the subs + PA spkrs aren't powered
    Infinity of XLR (mic) cables

    If I'm missing something, it's cause I woke up at 3am today.
  3. chakah

    chakah Rockin' the 80's

    Feb 2, 2006
    you definitely need a PA or have someone get a wireless setup (either guitars or a wireless mic) so you can check levels before the gig, as well as during songs.
    the other thing to do is get one of your friends to do sound for you.
  4. Need a better PA to start with. Talk your drummer into using hot rods in smaller places, and see if you can't convince him to work on playing with a lighter touch. And see if you can't find a friend of the band to run the pa for you, even if you have to give them a split of the pay.
  5. Hi, rmrf.

    +1 for the real PA system.

    +1 for the friend as a soundperson.

    A reminder: A soundperson, no matter how good, is no miracleman. A band out of balance will be out of balance in a small /medium bar no matter what (s)he does. A 50W Bluesbreakers combo will drown vocals in a 1K PA if given a chance.

    The less variance between the individual volumes in different songs the better and easier it is to everyone.

    Volume pot/volume pedal can make it or break it, use 'em.

    Amp stands are a must, or Fender type tilt legs. Gives a better projection and reduces the possibility of standing waves.

    I've used a wall of sound type of arrangement, as one can live without the individual monitors and the onstage mixing is also easier when everything comes from behind You. It's nowhere near ideal, but the best I can think of without a soundperson. Creates troubles with feedback though if the playing level is high.

    The drummer usually (unfortunately) sets the overall volume level in a band so it's up to him to do it right.

    Finally, it takes a lot of practice to do good FOH sound, so don't be discouraged if it doesn't seem to be easy.

    Just my 0.02€
  6. Mystic Michael

    Mystic Michael Hip No Ties

    Apr 1, 2004
    New York, NY
    + 1 to all the above. Only other thing I would add is that it's imperative that all you guys learn to listen to each carefully, and each develop a good ear for the mix. This is true even if you have a good PA and a good mix in the monitors, but is even more crucial if you don't.

    This applies to each of you - but especially your drummer. There simply is no excuse for anyone to be chronically playing too loud, forcing the others to crank up the volume in order to compensate. It's completely unprofessional and simply should not be tolerated.

  7. I'm the bassplayer/sound tech in a 4 pc rock band and have done this for years. We have a 16 channel Mackie that is setup beside my bass rig and all vocals and instruments go into the board (guitar, bass, kb, drums (6 mks) and 4 vocals). I have a bi-amped EV system with 4 monitors and about 5,000 watts
    I use an AT wireless and hang around out front and listen for balance. It is hard for me to balance my own bass this way cause it nevers sounds loud enough cause I'm use to standing in front of my rig. I end up turning it down to where it sounds like it's just a little too soft. That seems to be the perfect spot. I've done this for so long that in many clubs I don't really have to do much. Letting one of your friends run sound for you can be a big mistake. Letting the drummer mix with headphones will probably end a drum solo with instrument and vocal accompanyment. It all depends on the club as to howmuch you need to run through the PA. A lot of times the only instrument I put through the PA is the kick drum. People have become so addicted to a deep loud kick that it's almost impossible to get acoustically. My advice is to get a wireless and run sound yourself.
  8. As to a friend of the band running sound. Pick someone with a good ear for music and TRAIN them well.
  9. Johnny Crab

    Johnny Crab HELIX user & BOSE Abuser

    Feb 11, 2004

    This works pretty good for us. No more seeing audience members grimace in pain because it's too loud NOR anyone saying they can't hear something...and
    no soundman/woman
    no more monitors
    flexible system
    a LOT less gear to drag around
    Took me a while to get used to it.
  10. Freddels

    Freddels Musical Anarchist

    Apr 7, 2005
    Sutton, MA
    Is that about a $10k PA system?
  11. Nice rig! Pricey, but seriously nice rig. Not even an option for us.

    Have you figured out a way to make your drummer play more quietly? :)
  12. rmrf


    Mar 6, 2006
    Holiday, FL
    Thanks everyone for the valuable replies.

    Yesterday we had a gig in medium bar. What we done:

    1. Ask drummer to try to play on constant volume at half of his louder one.
    2. Point geetardists' amps straight to their heads. Today I'll try to put mine too.
    3. Put mike into bass drum
    4. Made more complex sound check - we started from everything except bass and I walk around bar checking volume, then I took 20ft cord and tried to adjust my volume in a mix.

    What we got:
    1. Happy drummer :) - he has plenty of headroom now
    2. Not so loud geetardists - sound reflects from the ceiling and fill whole bar.
    3. Dancers. Yes, it really helps. We had no dancers at this bar before :)
    4. Happy bar visitors, bartender and owner. :)
    5. Happy band, because we definitely will get more gigs at that place. :bassist:

    Thanks one more time for everyone for your advices. :D
  13. hbarcat

    hbarcat Supporting Member

    Aug 24, 2006
    Rochelle, Illinois

    +1 to this. Congrats on your last gig and getting everyone to turn down; you obviously had lots better sound quality and pleasant volume levels for the bar patrons.

    One valuable tool I use is to buy a sound pressure level (SPL) meter and use it occasionally at sound check (and sometimes at practices) especially to "calibrate" the drummer. :p You can get one for about 50 beans.

    We typically use this by having the drummer play his whole kit and making sure he's hitting around 105 db with peaks about 110 db. Then everyone else calibrates to this, and when everyone is playing together we're hitting at about 110 db with peaks to 115 db. This is a good stage volume, allowing all the band members to hear themselves and each other and is adequate volume for small venues, though if you run a PA you can, of course, give the house much louder than this, as needed.
  14. BassikLee

    BassikLee Supporting Member Commercial User

    Feb 13, 2004
    Deltona, FL
    Owner: Brevard Sound Systems
    Um....... 110dB on stage is freakin' LOUD......
  15. sb69coupe


    Aug 9, 2004
    Raleigh NC
    +1, you guys are going to end up with serious hearing damage if you're playing that loud. We use a good sized PA and run everything through it including bass and drums. We dial in at 85dB constant and peaks of 90dB out front. Stage volume is even lower since we don't use large rigs and keep the levels down.

    Here are safe exposure times for increasing sound levels:

    Hours Per Day Sound Level
    8 90 dB
    6 92 dB
    3 90 dB
    2 100 dB
    1.5 102 dB
    1 105 dB
    .5 110 dB
    .25 or less 115 dB
  16. Jim Carr

    Jim Carr Dr. Jim Gold Supporting Member

    Jan 21, 2006
    Denton, TX or Kailua, HI
    fEARful Kool-Aid dispensing liberal academic card-carrying union member Musicians Local 72-147
    I don't mean to be harsh, I'm just stating an opinion from over 40
    years of performing::bag:

    Overly loud drummers and guitarists are the hallmark of immature
    and amateurish enembles. Until a player hears and performs their part
    as a contribution to the overall sound of the song, no PA or
    soundperson can fix it. A good PA is essential, but a band must be
    able to adapt to what is available or what their budget affords. Each
    player is responsible for the sound of the band.

    I dont mean the music can't be or shouldn't be loud. Yet, the overall
    sound of the band has to fit the song AND the venue. Otherwise, the
    band won't work much, and thus probably won't stay together for long. :ninja:

    On the brighter side, it sounds like you and your band have made real
    progress toward a professional and artistic manner of performance.
    Congratulations! :D
  17. Dkerwood


    Aug 5, 2005
    My bassist has a wireless, so she slips out front occasionally to tell me if something is too hot in the PA. Usually vocals are run a little hotter than I would normally, because we're a Christian band - the words are even more important than your "typical" band.

    I can't wait until we can afford some subs. Maybe Santa can bring me some subs for Christmas?

    Oh, and the other thing that keeps us under control is good monitoring. All three of us get a monitor. My guitar amp is only turned up enough to get a good tone to the microphone, not any more than that. Often, if we have a soundman, he'll ask me to turn up a bit so he can get a little more signal! Anyway, guitar runs through the monitor mainly. Depending on the stage space, I'll usually put the amp on a stand in front of me and point it at my head. The little boost of volume (amp plus monitor) really helps me to hear the guitar without blaring it in the monitor.

    Also important - don't put anything in the monitor that you don't need. My drummer occasionally says something stupid like, "I can't hear my snare in the monitor." I ask him, "Do you NEED snare in the monitor?" And his answer is always no. I usually keep bass out of the monitor as well. If we have three mixes, my mix has my vocals and my guitar. My bassist's mix has my vox, her vox, my guitar (at a lower level) and occasionally bass. Drummer gets a little bit of everything (sans drums), but I try to keep backup vox out unless she's singing lead somewhere. The rule of thumb - the more sound you get onstage, the louder it is out front. In my church, the mains are barely even on - most of the FOH sound comes from monitors.

    I'd also advise compressing the mains slightly, but don't compress your monitors. That way, you don't get TOO loud, but the compression saves you from getting too quiet out front.

    Anyway, good luck with your mixing.
  18. MammaryVest


    Oct 18, 2006
    Stoneham, MA
    I think the easiest solution to not having a sound man would be to not use a sound system except for vocals.
  19. JKT


    Apr 30, 2007
    Buffalo NY
    Endorsing Artist: Barker Basses
    Yeas but probably not the best solution in all situations. It looks like you're getting and applying good info.

    +1 on the post re not always miking everything. This is key. learn to read the venue.

    If and only if, the band can learn to cop and stay, at a consistently normal and appropriate stage volume, you can then actually put more stuff into the FOH. Most guitar players for example, are often paranoid about being heard clearly depending on their rig and the venue. Train them to back off on the stage volume in return for a little taste in the FOH.

    If your PA has no subs and you have a substantial bass rig, when the larger shows happen let your bass rig try and handle as much of the low end as it can and DI the bass in the FOH for mid/high clarity. It can help the bass sound and not tax a smaller PA so much.

    lastly, realize that you will never,ever make everyone happy and most people have no clue what they're hearing. Learn who you can trust, and politely ignore everyone else.

    JKT :bassist:
  20. rmrf


    Mar 6, 2006
    Holiday, FL
    Great words! :bassist:
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