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Should I use a compressor for live vocals?
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Jonny2010
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#1
1st August 2010
Old 1st August 2010
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Should I use a compressor for live vocals?

We have a problem with our live setup in that we only run vox through the FOH but our singer is often too loud when he's going for higher notes, we've told him he needs to step back from the mic when he does it but he doesn't it, is a compressor/limiter going to solve our problem? Thanks
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1st August 2010
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the foh should be looking after that for you.

if you guys do your own sound then investing in a comp is a good idea. it will bring your vocal more to the front and tame your singers peaks.

its an essential for live sound IMO
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1st August 2010
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yes, you need to compress.
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1st August 2010
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You don't tell a singer what to do with his body while singing. The problem is yours. Use a compressor or limiter, since obviously you don't want an accurate representation of the full dynamic range of the human voice, you want an even volume.
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1st August 2010
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Shy View Post
You don't tell a singer what to do with his body while singing.
in fairness the singer probably needs to also learn about natural dynamics but this isnt something thats easily done and shouldnt be something that adversly affects his performance by overthinking it. the trick is for him to eventually use his body instinctually. this will help to not hit the comp too hard and give an overall better sound.
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1st August 2010
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It adversely affects most people's performance. Some can get used to it, most can't, and it depends on the style of singing and music. You can give recommendations from your recorder's standpoint, or choreographer's standpoint, but that's all. If you get too much distortion from the compressor, it's your job to use a more suitable compressor, which may not be so great for a quiet voice but is better for very high gain reduction.
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1st August 2010
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but if you have a singer with a huge dynamic range even the most transparent of compressors wont stop degredation at louder levels...

and in the situation we're talking about here i cant see anyone humpin their la2a to venue after venue.

its like everything else in a live situation, there needs to be give and take. sometimes a problem needs to be looked at from differant angles before a suitable solution is hit upon.
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1st August 2010
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People use compressors much more expensive than that for live setups. It's possible to get a clean sound with even insane gain reduction, but if you're not willing to use expensive or the right tools then that's another problem.
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1st August 2010
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yeah but im talkin in your everyday 150 peeps venue for smaller indie/rock bands... would you hump your la2a for that kinda gig?

any bigger and you would expect decent gear to be in place already.
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1st August 2010
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Personally if it was my band (seems to be the case here, "our singer"), certainly, since I care a lot about good sound. If it's for someone else, then yes, definitely it depends.
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1st August 2010
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Shy View Post
Personally if it was my band (seems to be the case here, "our singer"), certainly, since I care a lot about good sound. If it's for someone else, then yes, definitely it depends.
dont get me wrong, i do care about good sound but id rather find a compromise with vocalist and use a nice dbx than lug a vintage piece around crappy venues where people assume our expensive shiney stuff can be used as beer mats
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Stage logistics it tough
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i used to do an electronic live thing where id have laptop, controllers and synths set-up. crap venues, stage right in front of crowd (if there even was a stage).

i'd do a soundcheck and comeback after a drink and there'd be friggin drinks lined up right infront of my gear. a**holes
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FOH engineer will need to compress it. No doubt.
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2nd August 2010
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Only if you want it to sound good and get hired for more jobs.
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If only vox are going through FOH, I'd assume this is a very small venue. And also if the FOH engineer is asking if compression is needed, I'd assume it's not a place that notably large acts play at often (no offense dude), otherwise comps would alread be installed in the FOH rack. I personally wouldn't bring a compressor that cost me more than a couple hundred bucks to a place that small. But if you want to patch your LA2A into a PA head, that's your perogative.
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2nd August 2010
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if you can, yes !
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I'll be honest here and say that most bars or clubs you play you won't even see a compressor. I've run into many places that have a alright sound system to great but have no idea what they are doing at all but raising lowering levels, highs and lows and it stops there. I try to run a good converter out to the main FOH and keep the mix on the floor using my selction of outboard compressors and pres and do it that way so I won't be caught off guard. I've had some gigs go over like a dream and some go over so dissapointing because the sound man walked away and didn't know the automatic cut off was engaged on his peavy board, that's a problem on many Peavy boards non FOH aren't aware of.

If you play a pro show or something nice it should go over fine. My first thing when I book anything is to chase down the FOH and see what he has and his knowledge is. Most are burnt out hippies that spin keep it on itunes on the weekedays with a few sm57's and 58' for bands on the weekend. Not good for a band that has lots of creative sequneces, video projection, midi going on.

To the guy at the top cover it up with plastic or anything! I've played lots of live shows with synths and all kinds of gear. You should see the guy from girl talk he has saran wrap all over his laptop and has plenty of backups at this point. A club can be a dangerious place for gear and anything but that's what makes it fun is the off cuff wtf is going to come out the speakers, what is this band going to do and how far are they going to take it.
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2nd August 2010
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In live situations, especially in bars, you have to be careful that the compression doesn't pull up to much stage sound between songs and create feedback situations. It is usually better to have a foh engineer ride the vocals with a fader than to try compression when playing in bars.
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I use as many compressors in the live rig as I can afford. FOH buss, on each monitor send, vocals, bass guitar, kick drum...

we do our own live sound and in that situation, I believe it is even more critical, because when I am playing guitar and singing, obviously I can't keep my fingers on the sliders. Nor would I be able to hear (from the stage) where I need to adjust the stuff anyway.

I use FMR RNC, Ashly CL and a CAD for my live rig. I would never, ever bring along some unit that takes up more rack spaces and costs serious money like the one guy was talking about. I too care about good sound and our rig sounds better than any of the clubs we perform in that provide sound. You do not need to most expensive gear available to get good sound. But to control dynamics, especially if you can't keep your hands on the sliders, you need compression.

The compressors can protect your speakers, as well, if you use them that way, which is a serious plus--and at the same time get more apparent volume out of the rig.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Albert L. View Post
In live situations, especially in bars, you have to be careful that the compression doesn't pull up to much stage sound between songs and create feedback situations. It is usually better to have a foh engineer ride the vocals with a fader than to try compression when playing in bars.
The above has been my experience too.

Also, I find that some clubs have the threshold set low on vocal compressors or the mix bus and it dulls the sound and makes EQ adjustments less effective than expected, so I often back off the threshold and get a crisper sound.
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18th October 2012
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The trouble with compressing the whole signal live is if the bit that goes in the monitors has make up gain, you lose control of the gain structure in the monitor and feedback city results.

The only way I have found that works with a small board is to mult the vox with a WWind splitter and feed into two channels; serially or insert compress the one going to the House (no aux to mix 1) and send the other channel's uncompressed signal out the aux to the monitor mix. The House gets the smoothed signal and the singer gets the fully dynamic.

There are other ways but this is simple for a small club mixer and an outboard compressor in a Gator box with some xlr/trs shorties.

Good luck,
WalterT
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21st October 2012
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jonny2010 View Post
We have a problem with our live setup in that we only run vox through the FOH but our singer is often too loud when he's going for higher notes, we've told him he needs to step back from the mic when he does it but he doesn't it, is a compressor/limiter going to solve our problem? Thanks
Yes, use a compressor. Set the threshold so it is acting more like a limiter and only reducing the gain when the singer is too loud. Don't use any make up gain. Experiment with the threshold and ratio until it sounds good.

I've come across lots of cheap compressors. The only one I wouldn't use is the Alesis. Drawmer, dbx, Behringer will all work in your situation.
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22nd October 2012
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I prefer that a singer stay on the mic, so the tone does not thin out as it would when a singer backs off a mic.
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23rd October 2012
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Steve_B View Post
Yes, use a compressor. Set the threshold so it is acting more like a limiter and only reducing the gain when the singer is too loud. Don't use any make up gain. Experiment with the threshold and ratio until it sounds good.
Yeah, everyone here is talking about compressors but what you need is a limiter. Singers (or speakers) who hit superloud notes or words can really annoy a crowd.

Ashly is always an excellent choice.

LP
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24th October 2012
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TimmyP1955 View Post
I prefer that a singer stay on the mic, so the tone does not thin out as it would when a singer backs off a mic.
I prefer the opposite. The proximity effect from a singer swallowing the mic can work with softer passages, but when they are belting it sounds horrible and requires more EQ to cut the low end. Mix a Jazz band with singer who has impeccable mic and voice control, and you barely have to do anything forint to sound great!

Compression is a must. High dollar compressors are completely unnecessary for most gigs, and a DBX or FMR will do the trick. If you need more than 6-8 db of gain reduction at the peaks and your compressor can't do it without distortion, ride the fader. I have seen a couple summit audio compressors in the FOH rack for say, Roger Waters, but at a noisy club or bar, and not being fed through a top of the line Clair, L'Acoustics or D&B line, the nuances will be all but lost, and if the type of compressor you use makes or breaks your gig, you have bigger problem!
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25th October 2012
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Humm?? Has anybody else noticed the start date of this thread is Aug.1 and the fact that the OP has never replied? I just love forums.
This topic is why I love my Digital board,, always a good compressor just a button push away.
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26th October 2012
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I tend to use the units that have expansion, compression and limiting in it (like a dbx 166, or Behringer Composer...etc.) I'll set the threshold pretty high so his soft parts don't compress, and when he gets sorta loud it only compresses up to 6dB of gain reduction, and when he gets super loud the limiter is stopping the super loud parts only. Typically I'll use a fast attack time and a medium release time, but all those are going to be dependant on the source, so my settings may not fit your needs. I also wont change any output unless the mix needs, or if I need more fader travel.
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28th October 2012
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Guitar, bass and keyboard players have to hump thousands of dollars of instruments and amps to a gig, no matter how small. Vocalists think they can just turn up empty handed and everyone will worship them. They don't even want to bring their own mic.

Why shouldn't they bring an expensive compressor if they care about their sound?

A TC Helicon Voicelive is a cool toy for singers who want to bring some magic to what they do.

Admittedly, this can be a sound engineers worst nightmare. So many things can be screwed up by an egotistical maniac who thinks they know better.

But with the right amount of love, peace and understanding - a vocalist who brings quality hardware to a gig can sound fantastic. That's what most of the super groups do, and it's obvious to everyone.
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28th October 2012
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Quote:
Originally Posted by audibell View Post
The trouble with compressing the whole signal live is if the bit that goes in the monitors has make up gain, you lose control of the gain structure in the monitor and feedback city results.

The only way I have found that works with a small board is to mult the vox with a WWind splitter and feed into two channels; serially or insert compress the one going to the House (no aux to mix 1) and send the other channel's uncompressed signal out the aux to the monitor mix. The House gets the smoothed signal and the singer gets the fully dynamic.

There are other ways but this is simple for a small club mixer and an outboard compressor in a Gator box with some xlr/trs shorties.

Good luck,
WalterT
Another way is to send the vocal you are compressing to a buss then insert the compressor on the buss.
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