Losing control of your power and tone

Discussion in 'Live Sound [BG]' started by Bass Designer, May 25, 2018.

  1. Bass Designer

    Bass Designer

    Apr 10, 2018
    Since the beginning, Bassists have been controlling their own level and tone. Recently, some Sound Technicians do not want bass amplifiers on their stages. Performing live has become
    as a recording session. Anyone feel you have lost control of your sound ?
    five7 likes this.
  2. SuperK

    SuperK Supporting Member

    Sep 12, 2012
    San Jose, CA
    Yes. The best you can do is communicate with your sound tech and let them know what you are looking for with your sound. Get a wireless rig for your bass or a long cable and get out front to hear for yourself and provide feedback.
  3. Wasnex


    Dec 25, 2011

    IMHO, I never felt I had control over my sound. The acoustics in most performing venues are horrid.

    In all actuality, the use of a custom signal chain and quality IEMs should give you much greater control over the sound you hear. Of course a lot of people don't like listening to bass in headphones or IEMs. For those people, yep...loss of control.

    This is not something new. I spec'd out a rig in 1995 or 1996 that used electronic drums and IEMs...no instrument amps allowed.
    jfh2112, Stumbo, Sid s and 6 others like this.
  4. DWBass

    DWBass The Funkfather

    If FOH cannot provide me with a stage wash with my bass sound clear and concise, I will most certainly have my rig on stage. I know how to control my sound and neither of my bands play loud at all. Been playing since the early 70's and I can remember exactly one gig where the stage wash was perfect. I had my rig but the volume was really low. I don't do in-ears. Can't stand the isolation. If FOH can't figure out how to mix properly with on stage rigs, they are not pros in my honest opinion. There's way to many inexperienced amateurs posing as sound people these days. But the onus is not always the FOH. Some bands just don't get it. Control your stage volume if you have FOH working for you. It totally defeats the purpose. Been there, done that. To the point I quit a band because the drummer and guitarist were just banging away on 11 and could not dial it back.
    Marc valero, Chef, HolmeBass and 4 others like this.
  5. brianrost

    brianrost Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 26, 2000
    Boston, Taxachusetts
    I've been asked to turn down, but no amp playing a bass guitar? Never.

    Not me. I also have done sound so maybe I just see both sides of the issue.
    Chef, Bass Designer and Passinwind like this.
  6. Mushroo

    Mushroo Guest

    Apr 2, 2007
    I don't know if I'm lucky, atypical, or both. So many talkbass horror stories about sound guys. But I've only ever had one bad experience, and it was all my fault: I was playing a bass that had no volume control, and our drummer had a long solo where the rest of us all left the stage. Foolishly I expected the sound guy to magically know when to mute my bass, and when to unmute it when the drum solo ended. In fact what actually happened is he said to himself, "drum solo.... smoke break! " And so I learned my lesson and bought a bass with a volume knob.

    If they tell me to bring an amp then I bring an amp. If they tell me not to bring an amp then I leave it outside in the car just in case. If they tell me to plug into their DI then I plug into their DI. No hassle, no drama, nothing but compliments about my great bass tone. :)
  7. Bass Designer

    Bass Designer

    Apr 10, 2018
    Musicians constantly work toward achieving their sound. We build and modify to get it right.
    As DW Bass said, there are to many inexperienced amateurs posing as sound people these days.
    vin97, HolmeBass, smogg and 1 other person like this.
  8. bucephylus

    bucephylus Supporting Member

    Aug 18, 2002
    Central Ohio
    You just described the gig I’m heading out for in a couple hours.

    The capability to play ampless has filtered down to the working class bands, courtesy of Behringer. But, great sound engineers at the local level are scarce as hen’s teeth. That is quite definitely the weak link right now.

    What I CAN control is my sound in my IEM channel. Which is stellar. And then I do my job and play and sing my parts with all my heart and soul.

    As to what our sound person does with all that... well, we are recording each gig, with the concept that we will review the mix with the sound person. Which isn’t going so well so far. Our sound person is inexperienced, and isn’t taking the job as earnestly as the rest of the band. So, lots of room for improvement there.

    To be a little more specific, our sound engineer is still in the mode of trying to mix so that “everyone can be heard,” and still carries a deep bias that the guitar is the dominant instrument and the kick drum should be louder than any other percussion piece. The person hasn’t taken the time to listen to the tunes with an analytical perspective, and is operating on what they think they know. As a result, the performance recordings have way too much rhythm guitar wash burying the solo parts and even vocals, and the band isn’t swinging as hard as what the musicians are putting into it, in large part because the FOH mix has a weak back beat. I mean, the back beat is there. But, the downbeat is burying it.

    With the ampless setup, you do all the homework the best you can; but, the mix is ultimately in the hands of the sound engineer. They own it. I’ve greatly enjoyed the bigger gigs I’ve done with pro sound folks. Trying to train a part time person for local gigs is painful.

    That’s my status. Haven’t sold my amps yet. Still trying to get a handle on the ampless thing; and the issue isn’t the gear.
    Last edited: May 25, 2018
  9. Wasnex


    Dec 25, 2011
    In my experience a board mix is rarely an accurate reflection of house sound. It's very hard to dial in the low frequency instruments because even good over the ear headphones don't provide enough isolation to allow you to balance low frequency instruments in the mix. Also, dealing with acoustic issues often requires some nasty EQ tricks that does not translate well to the recording.

    Are you running just a DI or using some sort of preamp? What sort of amp and speaker sound is your goal?
    HolmeBass likes this.
  10. bucephylus

    bucephylus Supporting Member

    Aug 18, 2002
    Central Ohio
    Well first, the sound person sits out in the House with a tablet bluetoothed to the board. They are mixing with DCA channels we have set up to make the mixing much simpler. So, they are sitting in the house, and that’s what we are mixing. The recorder is sitting right next to the person; so, we have a very good idea what they are doing.

    The primary issues are mix related vs bass tone. But, I will allow that I continue to be less than satisfied with the bass tone in the FOH. My signal chain is Jazz Bass with Onboard Sadowsky preamp through some pedals, which are off most of the time, into a Demeter VTDB to the board. I just inserted a Demeter BEQ in front of the VTDB to give me a little bit of gain control to deal with trim issues with different basses; but, it is set flat and close to unity gain. The FOH speakers are QSC 153i’s sitting on JBL subs. I have spent hours dialing the EQ on the Behringer board and have it about as close to optimal as it’s going to get. I would characterize the bass sound in the mains as ok; but, doesn’t make me all weepy. I would take almost any high quality bass rig over it in a heartbeat, and wouldn’t even consider that setup as a stand alone large bass rig. It’s loud. It sounds ok. Just ok.
    Last edited: May 25, 2018
    Bass Designer likes this.
  11. Wasnex


    Dec 25, 2011
    Well you have some quality gear and should have a nice sound in the board.

    Just guessing...I suspect the problem is either the speakers, the way they are setup and tuned, or poor acoustics. I have mixed many shows on extremely high end PA speakers in poor acoustic environments...the result is always crap.

    Oddly, one of the best sounding rooms I ever mixed in was a rectangular cafa-gyma-torium in a middle school in Turkey. The mix from the mains sounded almost identical to my Sony MDR 7506 headphones. I mixed in this room on a couple of occasions and it was always excellent.

    If I were running sound, those are some of the things I would question. Is the system nominally flat to begin with? How does commercially recorded music sound on the speakers? Center packed or stereo subs. Aux fed subs with just bass and bass drum...or at least agressive HPF on all channels that should not be feeding LF garbage to the subs (I prefer both)? Any clue about how the mains and subs are crossed over and phase/time aligned? Has the system been rung for feedback modes? Are the drums gated?
  12. bucephylus

    bucephylus Supporting Member

    Aug 18, 2002
    Central Ohio
    Well, you seem to know what you are doing. I have no doubt we would have great sound if you were at the helm!
    jamro217 and Wasnex like this.
  13. QweziRider

    QweziRider Supporting Member

    Sep 15, 2008
    Northern Nevada, U.S.
    One band, one sound (to rip off a movie). Nothing more dominant than anything else unless it's called for in a given song.

    What are you routing your IEM channel through to get your sound "stellar?"
  14. QweziRider

    QweziRider Supporting Member

    Sep 15, 2008
    Northern Nevada, U.S.
    100+ gigs a year and I have yet to run into that one. I'm just lucky, I guess.
  15. First, I'd like to say what relief this thread's actual subject is, and not what most of us experience as we age (i.e. another "Get Off My Lawn" thread). With all fairness to the FOH, soundcheck environments and curtain time aren't usually the same. Temperature, the number of people in the room, where in the room they're located, humidity... all vary as the gig progresses. What may be okay at the check may be crapola starting the second set. FOH's job is to deliver a high quality, balanced sound to the audience. They need the right information to pass along, or it won't work. By the right information, I mean a usable signal from every instrument and mic. Too much distortion, excessive volume wars, etc. make their job even more difficult. The more exotic the instruments and the amount of them can kill, too. (Harmonica, dulcimer, acoustic guitars, ethnic percussion... are just asking for trouble.) If what the instrument is supposed to sound like is an unknown, you probably won't be happy with what shows up in your monitor. In many cases, the musical taste of the FOH is what they base their settings on. If you listen to the music they do and agree on the mix, no problem. Dissatisfaction is the result of a band favoring one thing and the FOH doing it their way. Outdoors gigs and those with horn sections can be a nightmare. Usually if the band has the maturity and ability to get their tone at a low volume, mixing isn't a problem. One other thing is the amount of experience needed to become a decent sound engineer. To jump right in and be able to work like a seasoned pro is no mean feat in any career, including this one. No one likes a gig spoiled by rookie mistakes at the board. I would just rather play a small club without all the hassles.
    bucephylus likes this.
  16. rwkeating


    Oct 1, 2014
    In the past, when I've had this request made of me, I was still able to use a very small amp (like a tilt back or an actual amp plus monitor cabinet) as a monitor in front of me. This gave the sound person what they wanted and allowed me to make sure I could hear myself the way I wanted to. It actually worked out very well.
  17. Tim Skaggs

    Tim Skaggs

    Sep 28, 2002
    "Do not want bass amps on their stages" and "do not allow bass amps on their stages" are not the same. If the sound tech actually owns the stage, it could be amps aren't allowed, but that would be about the only circumstance where I wouldn't use an amp. It might also be the last time I play on that particular stage, but not for sure, depending how well the monitors sound.
    mesaplayer83 and DWBass like this.
  18. Wasnex


    Dec 25, 2011
    The only time I have been specifically requested to not use an amp was when I subbed at a church for their big Easter service. The first issue was the decay time for low frequencies in the hall was extremely long, so they wanted to limit how much low end was put into the room. The second issue is after the musicians played, they were expected to exit the worship hall, pick up their checks, and leave the premises.

    Neither was a problem for me as I have a small kickback combo with wheels. After my part of the service was over, I pulled the power and DI plugs, and rolled out. I have to admit, I wanted to crank up the volume more than I did.
  19. I mostly play casinos now, because they're the only ones paying enough to make gigging worthwhile. Most of them have, or are going to an ampless clause in the contracts. About half of them also insist on electronic drums because they want TOTAL control over volume levels. They are kind enough to provide the drums, although the presets and condition of the kits can be fairly suspect, but thats a whole 'nother topic.
    So I put together a pedal board with a GK Plex for these jobs and I'm fairly happy with the sound. It definitely takes away from the live feel of playing when you're using iems though. To me , it sounds like a very watered down version of the band . But if I like making decent money, which I do, then I smile through the less than stellar sound I'm getting folded back to me and collect the check at the end of the night.
    It ain't rock and roll like the good old days, but it allows me to keep a 5 piece band together and working. And these days, thats not easy. So yes, we've lost some control, but we don't have to play for $100 a man and can walk in with our instruments , a pedal board, and that's it. I do miss the sound and feel of amps onstage, but I don't miss having to haul and set up a full PA and lights just to make sub par money.
    JGbassman and AndyLES like this.
  20. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Yamaha, Ampeg, Line 6, EMG
    On the contrary. After getting increasingly frustrated with sound techs who don't know how to mix bass for my band, I totally take control of my sound and I force it on sound techs whether they like it or not. Now I can't control how I'm mixed or the overall volume levels, but I darn sure control the signal that they're getting through outboard gear.

    As for performing ampless, I will if I'm forced to and the money is there, but so far it hasn't happened.
    basscapes and MDBass like this.

Share This Page