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Taking control of your own sound

Discussion in 'Live Sound [BG]' started by LBS-bass, Jan 21, 2020.

  1. Update: The following is an example, not a request for advice. The point of this post is at the end. Thanks!

    This is an issue that is coming up for us more and more. In the last year we added a new member who has brought a third harmony vocal to our overall mix. We love this, and we're adding a bunch of new songs that shine a spotlight on that, but we're finding that in a lot of the venues we play where there is a sound tech, our harmonies are getting buried, either in the monitor mix or in both mixes.

    These are smaller venues that don't pay a sound tech all that much, and typically what you're getting is someone who will push up faders in a quick sound check (if you're lucky to get one) and then go drink a beer while maybe pretending to care. We do our best to get things up in the mix if we get a decent sound check, but it's it or miss. We find that most of these techs mix harmony vocals as an afterthought, with the assumption that barely audible is better. I get it, lots of people out there think they can sing but they can't, and lots of people who think they can sing don't have any mic technique to speak of. But the result of these assumptions is that we don't sound the way we want to sound, and if we can't hear our voices, it's way worse. To add to the frustration, both the guitarist and i sing occasional leads, and we never get up in the mix for those the way we should be.

    I know IEMs are a solution to not hearing ourselves, but we don't have them right now and have no plans to add them any time soon.

    So, what we're planning to do is submix the vocals from the stage using an iPad and mixer and feed that to the house person. We haven't tried it yet, but we have the gear to do it and it seems a logical solution to a big problem.

    Guess this is all making me curious about what other things people are doing to make sure you're getting the best sound to the house that you can. Any other tips for improving what you send to the house?
    Last edited: Jan 21, 2020
  2. MynameisMe

    MynameisMe Space Ghost and Frankenstein Junior Supporting Member

    Dec 31, 2018
    Jax Florida
    Maybe teach a friend/ spouse to run sound for you? Bring them along? If there venue permits.
  3. IEMs will not help if you are getting a bad mix sent to your ears rather than to a monitor.

    Sending FOH a submix may or may not be beneficial if the person at the desk still has control of how it sits with everything else. It seems to me it would cause more problems than fix (I could of course be completely wrong).

    My suggestion would be to add a soundman to the band or at least someone you can trust and bring in on an "on call" basis.
  4. You might be right. We'll see how it goes. Our newish guitar player has a sound reinforcement business so he'll be handling the submix from the stage; he's pretty good at this and can also advise the house person on how to handle it. It seems to me that the FOH person will then be forced to get us all up in the mix using the submix signal if he wants the lead vocal to be heard. But you are right, it runs the risk of everything getting buried. This is where we have to rely on our friends/family in the audience to let us know if that submix is audible enough. We'll still have control over getting it louder, if that's needed.
    LowActionHero and MynameisMe like this.
  5. AGCurry

    AGCurry Supporting Member

    Jun 29, 2005
    St. Louis
    You could tell the sound-person that each of you sings lead.
    five7, Zbysek and SoCal80s like this.
  6. We try that, but it doesn't matter. As soon as they see our lead singer taking the helm, he goes up and the two of us get forgotten.
  7. I would not advice on sub-mixing vocals. If the soundguy has to adjust for feedback (his biggest enemy) any adjustments for one mic would apply to all of you and would often result in buried lead vocals or poor EQ. Best option would be to bring in your own soundguy or someone to sit next to the house soundguy and work with him, but this can only be done in houses that will allow that, which many of the smaller places don't. As you get bigger and you play better places you'll get better soundguys. Until then, best you can do is to get to know the present soundguy and communicate with him.
  8. Swap mics. That'll get the soundguy hopping.
  9. Bunk McNulty

    Bunk McNulty It is not easy to do simple things correctly. Supporting Member

    Dec 11, 2012
    Northampton, MA
    We also do three-part harmonies. We have our own sound guy. Been with us four years. He gets paid the same as we do. He goes everywhere we go, regardless of whether we're using our own or house sound. As I have often said, we may be a stinky little bar band, but we always sound good. He's on vacation right now, and the guys subbing for him are good, but alas, there is no substitute for experience.
    WayneP, BLDavis, AuBassMan and 14 others like this.
  10. Bullitt5135


    Nov 16, 2010
    SE Michigan
    ^^^ What Bunk said.
    retslock, s0c9 and Bunk McNulty like this.
  11. The reality is if you want to sound good out front you need a good sound guy.
    If the venues you are playing don't provide that then your options are provide your own, or play better venues that do provide a good sound guy.
    Trying to submix from the stage may work wonderfully, or it may be a complete disaster.
    What happens when the monitors have a hump in their frequency response that emphasizes the lead vocals and the FOH has a dip at the same spot? Answer: your vocal disappears out front but sounds fine on stage.
    What are the chances your sound guy who isn't mixing the vocals very well has flattened out the response of the speakers with EQ?
    punchclock likes this.
  12. QweziRider

    QweziRider Supporting Member

    Sep 15, 2008
    Northern Nevada, U.S.
    I like that idea. Never thought of it. Shouldn't be any worse for an FOH person than sending any other instrument AND you get the initial mix the way you need it. Clever.
    LBS-bass likes this.
  13. Right, I realize that the optimal thing is to have a soundguy that travels with us. Did that all throughout the eighties. But here in 2020 we do not make much bank, so nobody's going to do that job, and we have an extremely experienced soundguy on stage with us who is the one suggesting these changes and implementing them. Seriously. He knows how to avoid feedback, we are not inexperienced. It is a novel approach and that was the point.

    Honestly, I really wasn't asking for advice on my plans. We are going to do this and see how it goes. It's a done deal. But thank you to all who thought that was my intention and offered what you thought I was requesting.

    I asked a question at the end of that post. I was hoping that would be a seed for others to talk about how they control their own sound. I wanted to hear other novel approaches to frequent problems. I'm thinking of deleting this because since no one is answering the question I asked, I don't think it's eliciting anything of value.
    Last edited: Jan 21, 2020
  14. You aren't getting anything much of value because trying to mix something you can't actually hear is a very difficult thing to do. This is why high end stages usually have a monitor engineer as well as a FOH engineer, and also why most stages with only an FOH engineer tend to get really bad monitor mixes.
    I've had to mix from stage before and the results are usually less than optimal, even worse than a moderately competent sound guy, but YMMV. Let us know how it goes. I'm sure it will sound great on stage, but that isn't really the point is it.
    SoCal80s likes this.
  15. Well, the point is getting the best mix we can get in the situation at hand. I've been in bands that did both, and there's never an optimal solution unless your FOH person is really good; my experience with these smaller rooms is that you're often better off setting it up yourself because, with wireless technology, you can get a pretty good idea of what's going out during a sound check, whereas the "techs" who will work for what these rooms can afford to pay are just fader pushers who know far less about what it takes to create a good mix than we do.

    So if this is just going to be a continual rehash of why you should only work toward better sound if you have maximum dollars to pay a FOH tech and the rest of us should just settle for sounding bad, I will be deleting the post, because that's not how I do things. But thanks :)
  16. Ewo

    Ewo a/k/a Steve Cooper Supporting Member

    Apr 2, 2008
    Huntington WV
    In small rooms we use our own small PA, keep the volume down, and mix from the stage. The guitarist will walk out front on a long cord and give a listen.

    In big rooms with their own system and mixer, whelp...we're like Blanche Dubois, dependent on the kindness of strangers.

    But your idea of providing the house with a vocal mix you control sounds worth trying.
    viper4000, Keyser Soze and LBS-bass like this.
  17. No Joke- you can buy small stage mixers that have wireless phone remote control support. Seems to me that if you set that up for your stage submix, sent it out to the main board, and had a friend with serious mixing skills in the crowd somewhere adjusting things on their phone (as needed, hopefully not riding faders LoL), it would solve your problems.

    You can NEVER tell what it sounds like in the crowd when you're on the stage. even with mains aimed straight at your faces - the room changes everything, as do the people in the room and the location within the room of where you're listening.

    So my suggestion is over the top, maybe, but a cool extension to your concept. If not, then your idea, OP, still seems wise to me. Certainly the worst thing (which has happened to me far too many times in my life) is having the vocal mics not leveled right. Not only that but there are times in some groups when you change who's doing lead vocals - having your own control over it is extremely beneficial, that 5db up for lead vocals, process the bg vocals through a spec of reverb to gel them into the background, but at least getting levels well suited is paramount.
    mikewalker and LBS-bass like this.
  18. I've dealt with this a few times and learned long ago to impress upon the sound engineer that we have three lead singers (even if we don't, I fib), all three need the same volume in the monitors and the FOH. I don't tell him we have one lead and the rest of us "only" sing harmony/BGV; that puts the wrong idea in the sound tech's head. I want all the mics up in the mix just forward of everything else, up with the snare. Then we, the singers, control our volumes by use proximity and vocal volume control.

    The trouble is, unless he rehearses with you, the nice-to-meet-you sound tech has no idea when you want true BGV that are noticeably lower than the main melody, or tight three-part harmony where each part has the same volume.

    I just implore the tech to give all mics the same lead singer treatment in mains and monitors. It has worked very well for me.
    Keyser Soze, ak56 and LBS-bass like this.
  19. Most venues will let "your friend" simply run the desk, maybe with supervision. So why bother with the extra hardware?
    dkelley likes this.
  20. FugaziBomb


    Jun 5, 2017
    Not really. If one mic feeds back, the only thing the FOH can do is tank the whole vocal mix mid song - that's just one horrible possibility. The only safe solution is to get a dedicated sound guy. Cobbling any other solution together is asking for trouble.

    Also, it really should be said that the worst thing you can do to get good sound from an unfamiliar sound guy is toss him ANY curve balls.
    SoCal80s, punchclock, kjp360 and 3 others like this.

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