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Need some help with soundman issue

Discussion in 'Amps and Cabs [BG]' started by Larry Kaye, Sep 12, 2005.

  1. Larry Kaye

    Larry Kaye Retailer: Schroeder Cabinets

    Mar 23, 2000
    Cleveland, OH
    For the first time in 40 years, both the bands that I've settled into use rented PA/soundmen. There's not too much of a variety (2 different guys) in one band but the second band we've had 5 different people. With band 2 (five different sound men and sound companies), I really haven't had any issue....these guys are scramblin' just to get set up on time!!!. They don't even bother putting me into the PA if I can get enough stage volume without blowing out the other bandmembers eardrums.

    With band 1, a 9 to 12 piece depending on the gig, there's 3 to 5 people singing lead and backup, a couple horns, keys, guitar, bass and drums. I'm very "used" to playing in this sized band with similar instrumentation and vocal strength...it's just that I've never gone through the PA before. I have a really "good" or maybe a better word is "accurate" opinion/idea of how loud to play....it's based on the idea that we're not trying to totally fill the room with the band's music but are trying to get a really strong, punchy tone onto and immediately surrounding the dancefloor.

    Understand so far, right....here's the issue. I have/use over $5,000.00 worth of bass, amp, graphic, speakers, heavy duty cords, etc. on every gig. I don't share my equipment with anyone. My eq's are eq'd to optimize the tone I want outta my rig.

    Now along comes soundmen A and B let's call them, both who have nice PA's, but not huge ones....mackie powered full range cabs with yamaha? subwoofers and Bag end PA with ELF and subwoofers. They both have great monitor systems...for vocals or instruments other than bass. They both choose to take a direct signal from my bass before my graphic and my amp.

    Both their opinions are: your amp is your personal monitor...get it sounding how loud and tone wise you want just so you can hear yourself on stage and let me worry about how you sound out in the room!!

    Please understand....there are 15 channels of other instruments and vocals coming outta these PA speakers. Each channel on the board has either 3 or 4 tone controls...I think it's three. I don't have my own graphic There's one for the vocals, one for the instruments on the mains and then two for the monitors. These PA's are not 20,000 watt multirefrigerator size cab hulks. They're very compact and probably, volumewise have about as much strain on them as they can handle without trying to add a lotta bass to the PA. Their former bass player has a Traynor Block 150 or something totally archaic. It sounds like crap, it's what they're used to from a soundtech point of view.

    I really like this band and I would hate to not end up with the gig permanently because of having a tift with their well established soundpeople who are generally "nice guys". I usually am considered pretty even keeled, but I'm not ready to relinquish control over my sound....I want them to mic my bass, set the channel flat to start, and just add a touch of me in the mix. I have plenty of on stage volume to handle most of the rooms we play, based on optimizing sound on stage and on and near the dancefloor.

    I feel there's no way that a medium sized PA can do anywhere near as good a job as my rig getting me sounding and volumewise to where I know things should be. How do I convince these gentlemen without offending them or causing political issues within the band?

    Yak yak yak.

    Go Tribe.
  2. billfitzmaurice

    billfitzmaurice Commercial User

    Sep 15, 2004
    New Hampshire
    Owner, Bill Fitzmaurice Loudspeaker Design
    I work with 40 to 50 different soundmen every summer, all of them at or near the very top of the game, and I like the job that maybe 20% of them do. 10% of them are really good at mixing the bass. 80% are clueless. The situation at the club level is that probably 99% are clueless, they got the gig because they're a friend of the band and they don't play an instrument.

    I suspect that most bands with crappy soundmen aren't aware how bad they sound out front. You have to go to a gig with these guys mixing someone else so that you know what they're going to do to your tone. If you don't like it you can diplomatically suggest an alteration. If push comes to shove bands hire soundmen, not the other way around, and it's their job to make you happy. A soundman worth having will ask you what you want, not tell you what he wants.
  3. I agree. I have a modest PA myself, enough for fairly loud gigs--but i don't even attempt to run bass into the PA. Even with 15" 3-way mains (with 375 watts per main speaker) and two pairs of monitors (each pair of monitors getting 300 watts)...it's everything I can do to keep the vocals clean. Acoustic guitar in the mix-yes; fiddle-yes; lead electric-maybe; rhythym elec--maybe; keys--maybe.....but bass in the mix? No way.

    And since I'm supplying the PA, I'm not going to invest in subs, sub amp, and crossover--just to put bass into the mix. That's lots of money and more gear to carry/set/teardown/haul home. I figure a good bass rig should do just nicely but what do I know??
  4. WRONG! I'm the bassist and how the bass sounds is my job. You're the soundman and your job is to take my sound and project it to the masses ...savvy?
  5. Joe P

    Joe P

    Jul 15, 2004
    Milwaukee, WI
    I was a pro Soundman for years, working just a little sound company stuff, but mostly for small-time touring concert/show cover bands. The bands periodically invested and the sound systems grew, and I bought processors and stuff for the rack too. Anyway, it was so cool... But what I was sayin' is: ..

    I am a very serious and conscientious Soundman, and try to be recognized as a live 'producer/engineer'. I get very nice results; right now I'm the house sound person for a freaky coffeehouse in West Bend that's getting a reputation with indie/alternative bands and listeners for good sound!

    Anyway: It's definately true that by-far-most soundmen VERY-suck -- I mean it never ceases to amaze me. I can't even tell you what to do if your soundman sucks; I mean you're just bummin' until you get a good one, regardless - but if you have a skilled, serious and conscientious producer/engineer like me at the controls, then Dude - give us a signal so that we can interactively and artistically produce the show!

    Oh - I should mention that I'm very respectful of a musician's personal sound; how they want their instrument to sound - or how they think it sounds (ahem..) - when they play it. If I percieve a musician I'm working with as having a passion for their certain sound, I try to mic, or get a post-direct off a head or something. I mean It's important that as a musician listens to them self and reacts to his own playing (constantly; intimately! right??), that he's reacting to the same thing that the people he's playing to are listening (and reacting) to!! To give the house a largely-different sound than how the musician thinks he sounds, is like some kind of cruel joke on the musician, if you ask me!

    Production makes a huge difference in a low-available-dynamic-range mixing situation like in a club or hall or whatever. You have to keep any instrument that you want heard several Decibels above a constant and relatively-high noise floor - which is people talking - that tracks -- TRACKS -- closely-behind the maximum-allowable sound level, which is discomfort or inconvenience or whatever.

    With that limited dynamic range.. I mean it would take a while to explain; I've done this for years... Here's an 'extreme' example: Sometimes at this coffeehouse we have big, laghing, yapping, happy crowds (who STILL have to be able to order coffee), and I'm mixing like a freaky, sort-of droning or chanting sort of like ambient music - I dunno; some of it sounds like early Floyd or something, and some are like five- or six-piece bands. Anyway: When mixing, I'll like, almost arbitrarily (except that I am grooving with them, so it's certainly not 'random'!), 'cycle through' the seperate instruments; having them sort-of 'take-turns' as the fader-riding fill-in surges between vocal lines. If I do this nice and smooth and right, in relatively few measures it really CAN help to train the listeners' ears, so-to-speak, to hear each instrument in the arrangement.

    I myself, while doing all this, am especially aware of the Bass' place in the mix. In fact I'd say that I almost check the bass maybe between EACH other instrument, as I'm 'scanning along' through the mix in my head. I don't really 'ride' the bass fader so much - I more like use it as an anchor and reference for the other stuff, but between different parts of a song I'll want to make pretty major changes in the bass' place in the mix - I mean several Decibels of boost for a certain accented part where there's no vocal, for instance.

    My point, I guess, is that you may be able to keep a sucky soundman from wrecking the tone of your bass by not allowing him access to your signal in any way... But if that's the case, you have manifold-worse problems than that, if he's not MIXING y'all expertly.

    Now once you get that problem taken care of, and you have a good sound man, then give him a signal, Man! He'll make you sound BETTER! Let me 'project you to the masses'.

  6. I agree that if there's a good soundman, with the proper PA equipment, the best results are obtained if he/she can control all instruments in the mix.

    However, if either of these conditions aren't met--the soundman sucks, or the PA isn't equipped to handle bass, then it's my belief that it's best to keep the bass out of the mix--let the PA and soundman concentrate on getting the vocals out front. It's trickier to keep all the instruemnt levels balanced, but at least the vocals can be clear(er). Particularly in rooms with bad acoustics, which seems to be all too often.

    The times I've had to put bass in the mix, things had a tendency to get muddy and all the PA's power was being sucked up by the bass. I guess it'd help if I had more EQ capability, compressors on the vocals, and feedback eliminators....but that's more money and gear.....I don't think I've broken even with the investment I've got so far.
  7. el_Kabong


    Jul 11, 2005
    If the PA is big enough reproduce bass guitar well and you trust the operators you should let them do their job, imo. I think your suggestion of mic'ing your cab is a good one. If I had a free channel on the desk I'd like to have the mic to blend with the di. Unless you are making signifcant eq changes between/during songs (something a mic will pick up) the fact that they are taking the di pre your amp and graphic is good as undoubtedly your settings will be taking the tonal colour of your amp, cab and the stage environment into account. You don't want to be stuck with those 'corrections' being applied to a totally different sound system and environment! Three or four bands of desk eq is plenty to get a decent bass sound (especially if both the mic and di sounds are available), a dedicated graphic on the bass channel isn't necessary.

    You have to remember that what you hear on stage with 10 other musicians and thru a heavily eq'd foldback system in no way enables you to judge the front of house requirements. It's the same logic that Bill is using when he says that bands with lousy soundmen don't know they sound bad from on stage! As mudbass says tho the pa guys work for the band, if they're not competent get someone who is, communicate your thoughts to them and let them do their job. In fact I just re-read mudbass's post and he is actually agreeing with the soundman, it is the soundman's job to communicate your sound to the masses. If you're stuck with the present operators and can't establish a good working relationship I guess you'll have to decide which is more important, the gig or 'your sound'.
  8. I agree with everything said here and can only add this...

    A good "sound man" should LISTEN to your rig! (as well as ALL the other instruments and vocals) He or she should take the additonal time to make sure that you are getting the sound you want. I find that whether it is a smaller gig with a less known band or a Top International Act, I will listen to the stage sounds and ask EACH performer if that is what they want their instrument to sound like (you would be surprised at how many people do NOT like their own sound and need help dialing in what they want...if you can help get them the tone they want and SHOW THEM HOW to do it, you will ALWAYS be working because the word gets out FAST!) Once we have the tone ON STAGE that THEY want, I go out and reproduce that as closely as possible and then I will offer to play (I play a little of everything) THEIR instrument and let them listen.

    Typically, I start with whoever is finished setting up first, get line checks and confirm everything is at least working properly. Then go from one to another and help them get to where they want to be tonally. I always mix based on the venue, the band, the instrumentation, and of course, the PA. I see nothing wrong with using the PA for bass if there is adequate PA to do so and I cetainly see nothing wrong with using a bass rig (or keyboard or guitar, etc,etc,etc) as the source to the audience if there is a lack of equipment. However, I almost ALWAYS want to at least get the KICK, Snare and Hi Hat from the drums if AT ALL possible. Even if they are at a fairly modest level in the PA, it will help fill out the overall sound.

    Personally, I would make suggestions to the sound "professional" and tell them EXACTLY what you would like for them to do, ESPECIALLY if they don't ask. Be nice, polite and DIPLOMATIC! Don't demand anything but be FIRM...It is, after all, what you are suppose to be paying for!! If you can not get the satisfaction that you think you deserve, let them know that you use a sound reinforcement company at EVERY gig you do and would like to be able to continue using their services BUT you expect to receive a professional level of service for your investment. If they don't get the hint NEVER use them again! Find someone else and keep looking until you find a good company...They are out there!! I have worked for a number of them and I know they exist!! Where are you, maybe I can point you to a good one....Good luck!!


  9. Larry Kaye

    Larry Kaye Retailer: Schroeder Cabinets

    Mar 23, 2000
    Cleveland, OH
    It's taken me 40 years, like I mentioned, but I finally have a GREAT LIVE SOUND, Clean full lows, punchy non barkey mids, and crisp but not brittle highs, plenty of volume and headroom, but more importantly, I"ve had no negative feedback from anyone...owners, other musicians, band members, substitute-fill in players, friends, relatives, and most importantly, all of the fore-mentioned soundmen.

    I have things to the point where even in crappy acoustic rooms with wood floors, no acoustic tile, high ceilings, rumblebass city, I've gotten good, no, excellent sound with no PA support. Even with my 40 years experience, I have to be comfortable on stage with how I sound in order to play my best and contribute the most musically to any band. When I go to musician's jams throughout my area, I ALWAYS take my own equipment. What usually happens....everyone after me uses my rig, not the house bass player's.

    There are some rooms that still sound better than others but I've been able to adjust my tone enough to :) make the gig worthwhile.

    My feeling right now is that perhaps with a DI and a mic, that could work, or perhaps the mic only route if it can handle amplifying a fairly loud signal without it causing other issues, I'm more than willing to try these things. But at this juncture, I'm not willing to just let these two different guys, as "nice people" as they are, decide what is or isn't the right volume or tone for the bass in the room. I feel I know best and that my experience and opinion on this matter is far more accurate than these guys.

    Let me give you one example....Last Saturday we were playing in a very nice acoustically sound room for around 250 people at a wedding. As the coffeehouse soundman mentioned, there was so much ambient noise between the talking and glasses clinking, we were fairly loud. IN the middle of the first louder dance set, there was a loud, low / low mid feedback. I noticed it right away and stopped playing. It wasn't me. The mic on our drummer's floor tom seemed really pingy and boomy which didn't help, but it turned out to be that the soundman had the lower half of the keyboard too bassy and too loud and his coming through the moniter got picked up by the tom tom mic and was feeding back. The soundman automatically told ME to turn down, like it was my fault. I stopped playing totally, the feedback continued, and and I wasn't even playing.

    There was no way in this room that I needed to be in the PA, The room totally soaked up the highs and there was no rumble at all. I'm trying not to be too "loud" as my tone is much more cutting than the former bass players. So, it turns out I could not adequately hear or feel the bass unless I had around 20% more volume. Once he fixed the volume on the keyboard, I turned up to where I needed to be, no one complained, the band members didn't turn their instruments up to match me?, the drummer, guitar and key's stayed the same volume. The singers heard the moniters perfectly. I had nothing but compliments from everyone on stage. The soundman said nothing about me being "too loud" in the room or having ugly tone that his PA could make more beautiful. I made the comment to him that the last 3 sets sounded much better to me. He agreed.

    Example 2, 10 days ago we played in a room that was acoustically the worst small room I think I ever played in. It was so freakin' loud in there a boom box would have been enough, let alone a 9 piece band. Anyhoo....when setting up the sound the tech had me louder in the drummer's moniter with absolutely ****ty tone than I was on stage. All I could hear was his moniter and it wasn't even facing me. If I sounded anything like that in the room through his PA, I would have thrown up!!! My Schroder 1210 was plenty loud in that room with NO PA Support at all.

    I'm willing to listen and I'm obviously willing to be mic'd up in extremely large venues or outdoor type of concerts, but why not see if I can get a light volume boost of what's coming outta my speakers after active tone controls, preamp tone controls and 31 band graphic + the inherant clarity of my Schroeder rig first. It's just funny that with two 115 two way speaker cabs for vocals, horns, guitar, and keys, that I do not need PA support in my other 9 piece horn band, yet the bass's tone and volume are exemplary...well matched to the band and room with no help.

    I just think that soundguys sometimes are so intent on micing everything up and don't always need to.

  10. BurningSkies

    BurningSkies CRAZY BALDHEAD

    Feb 20, 2005
    Seweracuse, NY
    I agree with you Larry.

    Lately a bunch of the shows we've been doing we've been bringing our own PA system, and usually that means either 500w out front with 500 to monitors for the band or 1000w out front and a second amp with 800w for monitors.

    A few of the guys in the band want everything in the PA. Our drummer wants kick, snare and overheads just to start, and even with little 15's with horns out front he wants bass, guitar keys all in the mix! I always feel that once you throw everything into a system in a small room, you kill the mix not enhance it. I too now have a sound that's pretty killer, between my current bass, my amp and cab, and it can carry most rooms without being in the PA.

    The other night we played a show in just this situation, except I brought a friend who IS a decent soundguy...he doesn't do it often because he prefers studio work to live. We had 5 vocals set up and he only put kick and some extra guitar in the PA and it sounded GREAT out front. I have a room recording to prove it. My amp CAN carry a room, it can sound good and sit in the mix at the same time...and I CAN play dynamically without being overpowering. I hate going out front and hearing what a sound man is doing to my sound.
  11. Joe P

    Joe P

    Jul 15, 2004
    Milwaukee, WI

    Dude: It's called "mixing", I think. Soundguys are sometimes so intent on MIXING.

    ..Ahh - that's what we DO, Man.

    Bad soundmen are BAD; good soundmen are GOOD. ..ah...

    Never mind.

  12. Larry Kaye

    Larry Kaye Retailer: Schroeder Cabinets

    Mar 23, 2000
    Cleveland, OH
  13. Joe P

    Joe P

    Jul 15, 2004
    Milwaukee, WI
    I MEAN: you kinda' have to mic it, in order to mix it!

  14. +1!

    Mic your Cab! If they insist on going direct, then do both at the same time. We did a gig and had someone come in and record us live, and he both mic'd the cab and ran me direct and mixed the two together and got a great sound.

    But if you want your sound to be what you're hearing, and the soundman won't go direct after your effects, then insist that they mic the cab. That's where your sound is.
  15. natrab


    Dec 9, 2003
    Bay Area, CA
    One of the problems with bad sound guys is that many of them are not musicians. Some are disgruntled because they never were good at playing music or put in the time to be good. This can often tie in with their taste in the overall mix and lack of knowlege on what a good sound is. Yet somehow these guys find their way behind the board and you're stuck up on stage with no control of your sound. I actually only experience bad sound guys about half the time. Many gigs I play are at great venues with high end setups and old-school soundmen who really know how to dial in a sound (The Catalyst in Santa Cruz is one place that comes to mind).

    As far as small gigs go, we often provide the PA and get a fellow MUSICIAN to run sound for us. This gives me more input on how the setup is run. For the majority of venues, I have a priority on what to mic that adds more mics for the size of the venue.

    Most important are the vocals. The number one goal of the PA for me is to amplify the vocals and get them sounding good. Horns or other lower volume instruments come next. Everything else in the band can be loud enough to fill most small venues, so if we're lacking in equipment, I'll just put vocals through the PA. Next up for me would be the kick/snare/highhat. Having control over these small elements can really help even the mix. Next up would be guitar, since guitar cabs are so directional and I like to get some in my monitor (especially since our guitar guy likes to put his cab facing backwards and mic it to keep an even sound). Last up would be to MIC the bass. This allows my high end to carry through the PA (which adds definition to the bass lines and allows me to cut through). My cabs can easily provide enough low end if I'm not running a large setup with subs or enough mains to handle my lows. Ideally for a large gig, I'll DI as well while keeping the mic to dial in some of the crisp highs (which I love coming out of the horn in my Schroeder).

    That's just how I do it. If a soundguy tries to take my signal before it gets to my amp, I usually let him. This is only because I go for a very natural high-fi sound in most of what I do. For hard rock/punk/etc., I'd require my cab to be mic'd, because that's the music where the bass gets drowned out and turned into mud. The microphone allows some semblance of the bass line to cut through rather than just being a rumble in the background. I'm always respectful, but firm in this matter. If they just want me to go DI without the guitar/drums or anything running through the PA, I'll politely say no thanks.
  16. I'm not unreasonable, I'll even supply the mics. I've got an Audio-Technica ATM25 for the bottom cab and an SM57 I like to use on the top cab. I'm willing to work with the soundguy. I'll even help him remove the guitarist's foot from his arse when he tries to DI the guitarist's amp. :D
  17. Petebass


    Dec 22, 2002
    QLD Australia
    I probably do 50 gigs on bass for every gig I do as a sound guy, but that's enough for me to know that there is one gadget every musician and soundman MUST have - the ability to communicate.

    In all honesty I find that 99% of sound guys are prepared to listed to what you have to say, provided of course you ask him/her the right way. Name calling doesn't help. Neither do snide remarks about "failed musician" or "all sound guys suck". Avoid anyting that might create an "Us Vs Them" situation. Work with each other instead of against each other and a lot of these issues can be resolved.

    There is one point I'd like to make. You'd be surprised how much of your stage sound becomes part of the FOH mix. Even with bigger PA's. The bigger foldback and drumfill that usually accompanies them makes most people play louder. Simply put, the better your stage sound, the better you'll sound out front, so don't panic that you're relinquishing your $15K sound because you're not. Try to think of it in terms of "Sound Reinforcment" rather the "Full Production". Does that make sense?

    Every musician should do at least one show as a sound guy, and vice versa.
  18. JimmyM


    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    While I feel that a soundman should mic you and not bitch about it if you don't like going DI, I think you really need to relinquish some control of your sound to the soundman. That doesn't mean you should turn down so low that only you can hear it, but it does mean that you should let them put you in the PA and not try to out-blast the PA. If their system is crappy, that's one thing, but even decent budget PA's have tremendous bass-reproducing capabilities, and the fact that there's 15 other sends from other instruments going to it is immaterial.

    Also, i think you shouldn't sell the idea of DI'ing your bass short. If you have enough channels, let them DI you and mic you, and you go out front and listen and compare the different signals. I think you will be quite surprised what you hear. The idea of DI'ing my bass used to make me sick to my stomach. Then I listened to it vs. the mic in a blind test one time, and I greatly preferred the sound of my bass DI'd. Then I went to a studio and did the same thing in a blind test, and the DI sounded a lot better there, too. So now my amp really IS just a monitor, and it's the way to go as far as I'm concerned.
  19. 8mmOD


    Mar 20, 2005
    I endorse & use Tech 21 pedals, Eminence loaded cabs, EMG pickups, Jim Dunlop picks & Ernie Ball Strings, BC Rich Basses.
    Sounds like you need better sound guys for band #1. I'd buy them some beers and politely try to work it out. "I want them to mic my bass, set the channel flat to start, and just add a touch of me in the mix." is not an unreasonable thing to ask. if that doesnt work, just turn up your amp to where you are happy and screw 'em. but dont get an ulcer over it, its just music.
  20. KJung

    KJung Supporting Member

    I don't think putting a mic on your cab will have any positive impact... as was said above by a few others, a good sound man should be able to get a great sound from a direct, pre EQ signal... a bad soundman will screw up the mic'd signal also!

    The way I approach this is to get the best sound I can on stage.... what comes out of the front mix on those occasions where I run through a PA are not under my control, unfortunately. You should be happy you can even use your own rig.... many gigs at Casino's, etc. require that you use their backline... many times it's not very good stuff. However, I can always somehow 'get my sound' and make it through the gig happy.

    Edit: Also.... I've found that sometimes the sound coming out of your amp is not quite as good as you might think out in the audience... likewise, the sound you are hearing on stage coming out of the mains might not be as bad as you think. There's really no way to tell... a great bass sound 5 feet in front of an amp might totally suck 30 feet into the room... likewise, a lot of rumble, etc. on stage from the mains might be crystal clear out in the audience. Even with people sitting in on your rig, you can't really tell, due to different technique, etc. The point is, it might not be as bad as you think out in front.