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Need help with muddy vocals

Discussion in 'Live Sound [BG]' started by spacerust, Jan 11, 2012.

  1. spacerust


    Feb 9, 2010
    South Texas
    I just got a dbx 231 eq. We practiced with it once and I did the recorded sound turning each fader till it sounded good for the room. Last night we had a gig and I was goimg through the process again to try to tune the room. An "old pro" came up and told me to do the smile thing and go from there. Next thing it was time to play and I didnt feel comfortable with the way things sounded. The bass was boomy, the mics were pickin up the drums adding more boominess and we wer told the vocals were muddy. I tried adjusting while we played but it was hard since I also play bass. Any tips to tune the room quickly? Start flat and then go from there? How do I keep the vocals from being muddy?
  2. modulusman

    modulusman Banned

    Jan 18, 2004
    Obviously the old pro wasn't a pro. Smiley faced EQs are ther sign of an inexperienced operator. Go back to flat and start over.
    Fxpmusic likes this.
  3. Liam Wald

    Liam Wald Supporting Member

    May 17, 2011
    California Coast
    There are just so many elements to this it is hard to know where to start.
    Setting everything flat is a good starting point.
    You also need good mics and good singer technique.
    Lots of beginning singers think that they need to touch their lips to the mic. That will make for a muddy sound. Your mouth should never be closer than 2-3 inches from the mic. And that is on the soft parts. When belting out move back farther. Singers must learn to "play the mic".
    Not all mics sound good. The old standby, Shure SM-58's are okay but not really all that great. I use an AKG C1000-S for live vocals. Problem is, if your voice isn't so good there is no hiding with a quality mic.
    Which brings me to my last point...
    If the singer isn't really good, a great PA, great mics, and all the effects in the world will not help.
    The voice is an instrument. Unlike lots of other instruments there are some definite physical characteristics required to master it. If you aren't born with them you will never acquire them.
  4. Medford Bassman

    Medford Bassman Supporting Member

    Aug 8, 2007
    Medford, Wisconsin
    The dreaded "smiley-face" EQ! Ugh, I played with a guy who sand lead, played drums and just had to work the sound because he "knew" what was perfect. The arrogant idiot would always use the "smiley-face" EQ, no matter what room.

    Every gig we heard the same thing, "You guys are great but the vocals are muffled". I'm not kidding everytime. Tried to talk with know-it-all, never was receptive because nobody could tell him everything.
    Fired his a** 3 years ago and never looked back! Got someone with expertise to train me on how to work sound. Purchasing a 31 band EQ really helped. also learned that vocals live in the mids. I use the 31 band more as feedback suppressor.
  5. Wes Whitmore

    Wes Whitmore

    Mar 10, 2003
    Columbus, OH
    Every room needs to be EQ'ed for each show. Some sound guys are trained to know what freq band they are listening too, and can just talk and make interesting sounds in the mic and EQ out the room from there. Others just play a "room tuning song" that they are very familiar with and work their way down the 31 band EQ, pegging each channel it so they know what freq they are adjusting, then bringing it down until it sounds good to them. There is a lot of trust on their ears on our part. Some use RTA software to see what frequencies are hot, or null, and use that as a tool as well. Regardless, they get the room EQ'd before they line check the vocal mics so they have a baseline tuning of the PA. They can do some tweaking with the channel strip EQ to get the voice/mic interaction that they are looking for. Just putting a smily face sounds more like what I see many DJ's do...
  6. badstonebass


    Jun 7, 2006
    Just for future info the SMILEY face almost guarantees muddy vocals

  7. For starters, the 31-band EQ is for room-tuning and eliminating feedback (although a parametric EQ does both better). You can and shoud EQ the vocals via the channel strips. A great way to “unmuddy” vocals is to roll out the bass knob. Most people put too much bass in the vocals.

    Wayne A. Pflughaupt

    Administrator, Pedulla Club #45
    Administrator, Tobias Club
    Big Cabs Club #23
    My Rig: Stage and FOH Friendly

  8. maxiegrant

    maxiegrant Bassist in Transition

    Nov 26, 2007
    Sellersburg, IN

    First rule: NEVER let some putz from the audience tell you how to run sound. I have had gigs where some complete, arrogant ******* came up to the board WHILE WE WERE PLAYING, elbowed our sound guy aside, and promptly filled the room with shrieking feedback. I wasn't the bandleader back then.

    But if anyone ever does that during a show to me now, I will simply stop the band and tell the guy to step off right quick.

    Second, use the low cut filter if you have it, and cut the lows on every single thing that is not a bass instrument. Bass piles up real fast, and you don't need it from the guitar, from the snare, from the vocals, from the cymbals, or even the toms (unless it's a big floor tom).

    If you don't have a low cut, just use the eq knobs to turn the bass down out of all the non-bass instruments.

    Then, for vocals see if you can tweak the 4-6k range.

    The main EQ should be started out flat like everyone says.
  9. wcriley


    Apr 5, 2010
    Western PA
    A little history lesson:

    The smiley face EQ dates back to "column" type speaker cabs (such as the Shure Vocal Master) that didn't reproduce much of anything other than mid frequencies. So when people started using graphic EQs, they discoved they could get a flatter response by boosting the lows and highs.

    Anyone who still thinks a PA system needs a smiley face EQ is still living in the 1960s or still using equipment designed back then.
  10. TimmyP


    Nov 4, 2003
    Indianapolis, IN
    Flatten the graphic. Use it to take care of feedback and/or what your ears tell you is a problem.

    Singers should eat the mic for the best possible ratio of wanted to unwanted sound and best gain before feedback.

    EQ the vocals to compensate for the proximity effect of the microphone ( http://www.padrick.net/LiveSound/Proximity.jpg ).
  11. JaamE

    JaamE Owner of the GK Angry Bird amp

    Apr 13, 2011
    Olympia, WA
    Even having not much esp with live sound (I do radio production) i could tell you that...vocal sound is in the middle...pulling up a freq that isnt there is just going to make things muddled.
  12. Keithwah


    Jan 7, 2011
    Milwaukee WI
    The rule of thumb here is, if the voice sounds boomy, turn the bass down on the channel eq and combine it with the low cut filter on the channel too. The human voice (outside of the oompapa dude in the Oak Ridge Boys) doesn't get down where the low cut filter engages so it makes sense to use that filter to ward off unwanted rumble of stage noise from getting into your vocal mics. Don't turn the hi's up, turn the bass down to clear this problem up. Always start your channel eq at 12:00 or flat too. And try not to boost the channel EQ past that point, use the channel eq to cut bass, mids or hi's from the sound of the voice or instrument going through the PA. Boosting tends to introduce an unnatural tone to the natural sound of the voice or instrument. This doesn't usually apply to electronic drums, keys, your CD or Ipod.

    I've mentioned this in several other threads, but you probably have a smart phone or somebody in the band has a smart phone I am guessing. There are several free RTA program available. While I do not advocate using this to tune your system when you have availability to use an IVIE IE-45, Systune or SMAART....it is better than using nothing at all.

    Ten minutes of white noise, pink noise and Brownian noise : Free Download & Streaming : Internet Archive

    Download the Pink Noise MP3 file and rip it to CD or to your iPod/MP3 player/Laptop etc. Feed that into your mixer with the dbx set flat and the mixer channel set flat; and watch your smart phone's RTA response, cut (NEVER BOOST! ALWAYS CUT on your house EQ!) the frequencies that are above the 0db center of the display so that all freqs are even at the 0db mark. Your system is now dialed in as flat as you can get it. Use the individual channel eq to add "more bass" to the individual instrument. Keep in mind you can never make a mixer with a 15 band EQ attached sound like concert quality. So don't kill yourself trying to do so. You can repeat this same process for your monitors which I assume you are running on the second channel of the dbx 231. Don't waste the second channel running in "stereo" if your stage monitors don't have an EQ.
  13. Adam Harzuf

    Adam Harzuf

    Nov 16, 2004
    My currently favorite method for tuning the room is to go the main middle mic and have the assistant raise my level up to very loud. This achieves 2 thins:
    1. I can hear and reduce feedback from mains in a more than real life situation, giving me some peace of mind. It's a better approach then just ringing out speakers because I actually excite what might feed back, and I know better when to stop.
    2. I can further hear artifacts and resonances around the stage and back from the hall, and all the muddy stuff. Since the mains are turned away from me it's actually listening with a LPF, which makes easier judgement.

    After that I go to the sound post and listen to the system, not surprisingly I often have some high frequencies to take care of, while the low (but not lowest) end is taked care of.
  14. this is a good thread - keep it coming.
    One thing I did other than the eq'ing was add clean headroom to the mains to reduce distortion. Gigs over the weekend went well.

    I have one thurs, Fri where I play AND do sound, one sunday sound only. this will be helpful to try a couple of things - in particular cutting bass on more channels.

    I had a chance last week to do sound for Eric Steckel and Todd Wolfe and had NO issue with vocals. I hope that stands true with my own band - one singer has a very quiet less dynamic voice. I hope to get him in the mix adequately - it is always a serious challenge - without feedback.
  15. Adam Harzuf

    Adam Harzuf

    Nov 16, 2004
    Get that quiet singer a beta57a, if his highs aren't piercing to start with, and if he has full lows. It's a workhorse, great gbf and has the highest male vocal intelligibility I know. If you need darker, n/d 967.
  16. I bought a beta 58 just for him, and have been waiting to try a friends beta 57. I can't keep buying him stuff - he has to help out. I DID add a crest 1500 watt power amp for the mains, to improve headroom/clarity. I know its overkill and have to be careful - but man - I lucked into it as part of a deal.
  17. Adam Harzuf

    Adam Harzuf

    Nov 16, 2004
    My opinion is, trade the Beta58 for a Beta57. It's a better mic in all regards, including GBF.
  18. walterw

    walterw Supportive Fender Gold Supporting Member Commercial User

    Feb 20, 2009
    overkill now = just getting by a few months down the road :smug:
  19. walterw - I hope not.....

    The venue I set up for is a steady gig for me - weekly blues jam, I run/do sound and it is different than most - we have REALLY good sound - turn out and stellar players for the most part. Everyone wins on that one.

    I also do sound for shows there - some are national acts passing through the area. If I make it much louder - it will drive people out of the room. For now, If I need more than I have - I will hire someone.
  20. gary m

    gary m

    Jan 17, 2011
    Mid -Atlantic
    Keeping mud out of the vocals...think about an Electro-Voice PL80 mic. For bottom heavy vocalists, this alone can make quite a difference. The PL80 doesn't suffer from proximity effect and has a nice boost in the 6K range that sounds very clean. If there's still too much on the bottom, try rolling off lows starting at about 100Hz.

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