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keyboard and bass interfering with each other?

Discussion in 'Live Sound [BG]' started by mizzou541, Aug 15, 2013.

  1. mizzou541


    Jan 8, 2010
    KC, MO
    Ok, so a very good friend of mine has started playing keyboard with us and he's awesome. The only problem is that the last time we played live, it makes it difficult to hear my bass cut through the mix.

    I don't know anything about the physics of sound but it seems like to low end of the piano is interfering with my sound and it just sounds like a muddy mess (at least to me). There were a couple times that I actually had to do a double take because I thought I was playing the wrong note.

    Keyboard is going directly into the PA and my setup for this last small gig was my markbass LM-II and 1 of my Aggie 112s. I typically use 2 112s but this deal was just a small patio thing so I figured one was enough.

    Anyone struggled with this or have any suggestions?

  2. Keyboards are able to completely push you aside if they want to. The best way is to play compositions that have few keyboard notes played to not overflow the mix, or the keyboard needs to be EQ'ed more narrowly to allow other instruments to shine in the mix beside the keys.

    Keyboarders with a relaxed and precise playing style are usually no problem, even more if they only play more piano like single notes. As soon as the chords start with full force the problems usually arise.
    The choice of sounds available to the keyboard is another thing. Those broad patterns with lots of effects can really mud up a mix. It is even harder than mixing bass and two heavy guitars, which tend to get in each other's way a lot, too.

    I'd say: keys play less and "thinner" stuff, or needs to be EQ'ed down.
  3. mcblahflooper94


    Aug 31, 2011
    I could be wrong, but I'm guessing the keyboardist needs to EQ his bass down a little. Do you have only one other guitarist? If you have two and a keyboardist, you're fighting a big battle.

    EDIT: You also need to make sure that he's not playing in a solo setting, but he knows to simplify his parts in a band setting, like the above poster advised.
  4. mizzou541


    Jan 8, 2010
    KC, MO
    Thanks for the responses...

    Yes there are two guitar players and keys but one of the guitar players is usually just adding fills and/or playing harp so very rarely are they both just smashing out power chords at the same time.

    So djaxup-when you say the keyboard should be EQ'ed more narrowly, do you mean roll back the top and bottom a bit (sorry if I'm not following the terminology).
  5. 2saddleslab

    2saddleslab Supporting Member

    May 30, 2003
    What if there was an accident w/ the keyboard players left arm?

    Just kidding, I would never promote violence. Although competing with low end frequencies could create friction.
    wizay and kopio like this.
  6. To be more precise about the EQing: Bass and low mids should be turned down on the keys usually. The more guitars/keys your band sports, the thinner everyone needs to sound for themselves, otherwise the mix won't work and just be one big convulted mess.

    I am not sure about the treble EQing.

    What kind of bass to you play? I play in a similar setting and two things work really good for me:

    - providing a nice lowmid pillow with my P-Bass. Sounds great, but I just about never get to hear the actual notes i play. It is more like providing the body and strenght of the band sound.
    - using a two pickup bass like a J or my Spector LX, i go for a hi-fi smilie face EQ sound, with mids cutted and bass and treble emphasized. That requires wattage, a good amp/cab combo and quite some speaker surface. It usually sounds very nice with fat guitars, but really needs a powerful amp to sound good and focused. This way you hear what you are playing, provide a good bass punch and still leave the mids/low mids to the guitars and keys.
    Admiral Akbar likes this.
  7. mizzou541


    Jan 8, 2010
    KC, MO
    All the cool stuff happens with the right hand anyway.
  8. jgroh

    jgroh Supporting Member

    Sep 14, 2007

    I had the same problem in my last band. Most of the time the keyboardist was great, but occasionally he would overdo the left hand and I would mention it to him. Actually, it can happen with other instruments...the guitarists in my current band were stepping on my toes alot too (mostly just the one...the other was better) They had really thick, bass heavy tones that was cool soloed, but it covered so many frequencies I couldnt hear myself at all.
    musicman7722 and SteveCS like this.
  9. will33


    May 22, 2006
    The keys player might be a great player, he just isn't used to playing with a larger group. He doesn't have to, and shouldn't be going for a huge sound like when he (or she) plays solo.

    Turn the bass knob down a bit on the mixer channel that is running the keys, and have their left hand stay out of the very low notes, you're handling rhe low stuff with your bass.
  10. davidjackson


    Sep 10, 2011
    Ah - this old chestnut.

    I have been there brother and know well the pain you are talking about. The way I got around it was to have very diplomatic conversations beginning with "I think it's getting a bit crowded down the bottom end, shall I try doing something in a higher register?". This always sounds so bad that everybody then agrees that the keys need to go there instead and leave the low end to the bass.

    It is usually a case of the keyboard player being so used to playing solo as everybody else has said that they aren't great at finding their place in the mix without a bit of prompting.

    However, in some songs it just isn't worth the fight. We sometimes do some keys heavy songs (Emilie Sande stuff or similiar) an d it makes sense to let the keys cover the low end there.

    EDIT: If you want to go for the nuclear option get hold of a Sadowsky outboard pre-amp like mine. That cuts through anything to the point that everybody else suddenly sounds like your backing band!
  11. bkbirge


    Jun 25, 2000
    Houston, TX
    Endorsing Artist: Steak n Shake
    Pro keyboard players know how not to step on the bass. They either play an octave up with the left hand, a lot less notes, or leave off the left hand comping altogether. The problem isn't an issue of EQ most of the time, it's an issue of arrangement.
    Admiral Akbar likes this.
  12. mizzou541


    Jan 8, 2010
    KC, MO
    Sounds like the keyboard player should just ignore the left 1/3 of the keyboard for the most part.
  13. LordRyan


    Dec 9, 2012
    Being a Bassist and Keyboardist I see both sides of this issue.

    I play Bass with a keyboard player who quite often plays the wrong note in the left-hand and it does clash though he doesn't seem to notice. As long as he is playing the correct note I have no problem with him playing on the lower end of the keyboard.

    In another band where I play Keys the Bass player sometimes complains about me being in her territory. I play the part that is on the original recording and it really doesn't sound right if I play an octave higher in an attempt appease the Bass player. I'm pretty sure things sound fine out front as we have done professional studio recordings of the songs without any clashes.

    I think part of the solution is to make sure the keyboards are not EQ'ed heavily toward the low end. Another part of the issue could be the Bass player is too close to the Keyboard monitor which gives him or her a different perception than what is heard out front. This is usually more of a problem where the musicians are crowded together on a small stage. On a larger concert stage where the musicians can be some distance from each other this wouldn't a problem. Usually in this situation with professional sound each musician can have a separate floor monitor with their preferred mix of instruments and vocals.
  14. will33


    May 22, 2006
    I used to play with a keys guy who was very good about slotting with the bass, but he would always pump a few notes along with me before a lead part came up. This was on a more modern keyboard, but apparently was still done out of habit to get the Leslie spinning for the lead part. :)
  15. kevteop


    Feb 12, 2008
    York, UK

    In situations where where there is an established keyboard part in the usual bass guitar register, and if there isn't room for you to contribute anything else in that register, bear in mind you've got more notes up at the other end of the neck you could be using. Maybe switch some effects on and come up with some synth hooks and let the keyboard player have the bass end if he/she wants it. :)
    Nenko likes this.
  16. mizzou541


    Jan 8, 2010
    KC, MO
    I think this could be part of the problem too. I think we need to find a way to turn the keys down in the monitors a bit. Ideally he needs a small amp to play through that he could put next to him so he could hear himself and then run him through the board and control the outward sound there. The player we had before played through an amp but he would always crank it up and then we had no control up front to adjust the volume level.
  17. jaywa


    May 5, 2008
    Iowa City, IA
    The good thing is, he's going through the P.A. so you should be able to back down the low frequencies on his channel at the board. Like, a lot. That will help more than anything else.
  18. derrico1

    derrico1 Supporting Member

    Apr 12, 2005
    Charlottesville, VA
    ^ Generally this. You could throw a high-pass on the keys *if* nothing in your sets calls for any deep patches from the keys.

    It's far better, though, if your keys player learns how to play in an ensemble that includes electric bass.
  19. BassCliff


    May 17, 2012
    So. Cal.

    I agree here. If a keyboard player is new to playing with an ensemble they may not be used to working with a bassist. The keyboardist is used to playing their own bass lines with their left hand. A keyboard player with a heavy left hand can lead to many musical conflicts and clashes unless the you both are playing exactly the same bass line. Of course, that is totally unnecessary for most songs/tunes.

    It's OK for the piano player to play bass notes with his left hand as long as he leaves the bass lines to you. Encourage him to listen more and be an ensemble player. Each instrument has it's job, it's niche to fill in the tune. Be gentle.

    And that's my profound glimpse into the obvious for today. :rolleyes:

    Thank you for your indulgence,

  20. RustyAxe


    Jul 8, 2008
    Yep. Tell the keys player to lay off the left hand. Better yet, tie it behind his back.