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building a high end vocalist-controllable live vocal processing rig
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BattleAngel
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#1
9th November 2006
Old 9th November 2006
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Talking building a high end vocalist-controllable live vocal processing rig

Hi folks. I've been away from reading this forum so much in the last few months but I have a question I'd like to run by you all. I'm the lead singer and one of three guitar players in a band called Arizona from NYC (check out Bruce Warren from XPN's post about us here). We've been mostly a studio band, still being in our early days and all, but have recently made great strides towards becoming a rediculous live band. We had the chance to play a support role on the Indigo Girls' october tour this year, we've played all over in our hometown of NYC, and have covered the small-medium club scenes in Atlanta and Asheville, NC. We haven't put on a full tour but are gearing up for a tour of the east coast launching in February.

So here's my question.

Nick Campbell, our lead guitar player, is a monster with effects pedals. He's like Neil Young meets Page Hamilton meets Johnny Greenwood. Everyone in my band is thrilled with his effects pedal playing and our other guitar player Andrew is also insane in this regard (I however don't even use a distortion pedal, lol). I've always kept it simple on the guitar and gone for control with just my hands and note choice rather than effects, but I am a very versitile and energetic singer and for months now I've been dying to do with vocal effects what Nick is doing with guitar effects.

Basically- I want to create a foot-switching (maybe w/ an expression pedal?) controllable system for applying vocal effects to the 3 lead vocal mics on stage, and a group effect for the 2 background vocal mics. I was checking out some live The Doors stuff and Morrison just has this killer reverb effect on his voice that stays out of the way but totally defines his signature sound. John Petrucci of Dream Theater (or Steve Morse before him) have such elegant control over their effects processing. I'd love to meld the vibey sound of effects like Morrison's with the control of a well thought out guitar rig. I'd also really like to get some compression and EQ on my lead vocal mic (we endorse electrovoice/blue cardinal mics) so I can tame it to the room (these are sensitive mics).

So my question to you folks is-
a) Would any of you like to take a crack at designing such a rig? What pieces would you put together if price was no issue?
b) Are there 'rig builder' type people who I could hire to design and fabricate this system? If so, I'd really like to give my business to someone who specializes in this sort of thing, can anyone recommend somebody?

Thanks!
Ben
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9th November 2006
Old 9th November 2006
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I don't think I would be running a floor based effects rig for vocals.

I would wait until you have a "sound man" doing your shows all the time and then have him run it.

The role of a singer during a live show is to be a very compelling performer, and this is much much harder if you are worrying about effects and such.

As far as vocal processing that will kick you up a notch live.... good reverb and a good compressor (like a distressor) wil make you sound tits on a boar....
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BattleAngel
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9th November 2006
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I hear what you're saying, but I would argue that if you're going to let a guitar player (especially one who also has to sing) **** around with effects because it's "part of his instrument", why not let a singer (who has to play the guitar) explore the reaches of what can be done w/ vocal processing? I'm going to be stuck with a guitar anyway so I'll be standing in one place regardless.

So putting aside the issue of if is a good idea or not, any ideas?
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9th November 2006
Old 9th November 2006
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Do youy guys have your own FOH & monitor engineer ?
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9th November 2006
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No we're not even close to that stage and if we were I wouldn't be taking this to an internet forum- the idea of this would be to give me control over an important part of our sound during the time when we don't have anybody who is going to be able to give our live sound a lot of attention.
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9th November 2006
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BattleAngel View Post
why not let a singer (who has to play the guitar) explore the reaches of what can be done w/ vocal processing?
Because the guitarist can hear what the FX are doing, the singer can't, and never will be able to.

It's as simple as that.
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9th November 2006
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You guys are ridiculous. This is the high end forum on gearslutz, not the 'question whether or not I can tell what the hell I'm doing' forum. If I'm building a vocal rig I'm going to make sure I'd be able to monitor what is going on with the vocals. And if your comments are meant to insinuate that guitar players have better ears for detecting the nuances of effect manipulation of one's own playing, you just don't know what you're talking about.

I'm happy to pull this thread right away since none of you seem to be willing to actually address the topic of making a system like this a reality. If someone would be kind enough to recommend a place where I could find someone whose job it is to put together control rigs for musicians, I can just pull this post and pursue my question elsewhere.
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9th November 2006
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#9
10th November 2006
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dbx ProVocal

Have you ever seen the Butthole Surfers? Gibby Haines controls
a whole mess of gear in front of him while he's performing, albeit
not with foot pedals but he does have mucho effects on his
vocals that he plays with in a live setting. So... it has been done.

I would say check out the dbx ProVocal. It has compression,
EQ, delay, reverb, mic modeling, chorus/flange, gating etc. And
has MIDI control which I believe would allow you to change to
whatever preset you wanted with something like a Roland FC200
Make up your effects presets and hit the corresponding foot pedal
for that patch. Should work.

ProVocal here: http://www.dbxpro.com/ProVocal.htm
FC200 here: http://www.roland.com/products/en/FC-200/brochures.html

I've never used mine for this exact purpose but
I think it's a really cool idea. I think I'll go try it out!

Hope this helps... good luck.
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10th November 2006
Old 10th November 2006
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Hey BattleAngel,

I know you think these guys are being a bunch of negative-nancys but they're actually giving you practical advice.

I am a singer and I've played 100's of shows and I've also dicked around with vocal fx processing on stage.

Here's the two biggest problems that you run into, that you might not be totally aware of in the planning stage.

1. Feedback Loops: If your on-stage vocal FX change the gain-staging of the vocal chain you'll run into all kinds of feedback problems especially at smaller clubs with low powered and often crappy PA systems. This also *really* pisses off the FOH guys, with good reason, because it makes them look like a shlub.... oh... and it also makes you look like a shlub.

2. Monitoring: If you don't have a dedicated sound guy I don't know how you're going to "make sure" that you'll be able to monitor things with accuracy while you're on stage... especially if you'll be making real-time changes to these FX.

Anyhow...

A dedicated sound guy who knows *your songs* and *your sound* is really the best way to go...

If you're hell bent on setting up your own rig you could get something like this ->

http://www.soundsculpture.com/produc..._models.htm#GL

and interface it with a bunch of outboard FX or stompbox FX or both. You could use a midi-controller to switch between FX and what not...

The best would be if you could get a stereo FX send from the FOH board and allow the house engineer to blend the amount of FX for your entire vocal mix, rather than have all of the FX in series with the microphone signal... but I'm not sure how easy this would be...

Good luck!

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10th November 2006
Old 10th November 2006
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BattleAngel View Post
If I'm building a vocal rig I'm going to make sure I'd be able to monitor what is going on with the vocals.
Really?

So, you'll mic up the room, compensate for the mic(s), feed this to your monitoring system and somehow make a judgement how to mix what you hear from the FX, how to edit to suit the room, instantaneously, whilst singing.

You haven't a clue!
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10th November 2006
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"The best would be if you could get a stereo FX send from the FOH board and allow the house engineer to blend the amount of FX for your entire vocal mix, rather than have all of the FX in series with the microphone signal... but I'm not sure how easy this would be..."

That would be ideally what I'm looking to be able to do.

"So, you'll mic up the room, compensate for the mic(s), feed this to your monitoring system and somehow make a judgement how to mix what you hear from the FX, how to edit to suit the room, instantaneously, whilst singing."

I'm talking about switching a few patches and maybe having real-time control over the tempo of a delay or tremolo something like that. After enough practice with the effects and then enough practical experience live, you don't think I could apply the basic kind of effects switching that a guitar player gets to enjoy onto my vocal performances? I'm not talking about outrageous effects editing here. It's a matter of patch on or patch off. Guitar players can step on a pedal and change their entire tone. On Arizona records, I try to keep my vocals mostly dry but there are some parts of songs when a vocal effect will really kick a section into a new sound, and we're not able to totally duplicate that feeling live.

What I'm proposing would be mildly more difficult than a drummer who runs loops of whole sections of songs on stage when he's performing as a side-kick to a female vocalist, for example. I definitely don't need to get as nuts as The Butthole Surfers or Kevin Barnes from Of Montreal for example, who I think messes with effects live. I don't need to mic up a whole room to kick on a pedal that would put a slapback delay on my voice, do I? I think you're just being a cock block, sir Ssaudio.

Any way, I'm clearly not the most experienced live singer out there and I know there is a world of information and wisdom I'm not privvy to. I certainly don't mean to come across as a know-it-all because the one thing I know is that I'm not!

I appreciate the two or three of you who actually gave me some feedback on how to start making this project a reality. I think that I can design a simple system, check it out a few times live, and see if it makes any difference or not or whether it's a huge screwup. If it turns out to totally blow, I'll suck it up. But if it works, it could be the beginning of a really fun part of performing for me, and I don't know why a single one of you would advise a singer/songwriter against chasing a creative idea as far as it will go...

Anywho, does anyone want to tell me how you delete a thread on gearslutz?
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10th November 2006
Old 10th November 2006
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it's doable, i'd keep it simple though.

if you had some simple switching and maybe tap-tempo... the tricky part will be that i think you mentioned vocal fx for all vocalists... or just you? if it was several vocalists, you would have to determine which midi commands pulled up which patches on each fx unit...
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10th November 2006
Old 10th November 2006
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BattleAngel View Post
I'm talking about switching a few patches and maybe having real-time control over the tempo of a delay or tremolo something like that. After enough practice with the effects and then enough practical experience live, you don't think I could apply the basic kind of effects switching that a guitar player gets to enjoy onto my vocal performances? I'm not talking about outrageous effects editing here.
Fine, but without knowing what it sounds like out front it will never be that simple. I can understand why you might think it's fun, but you'd get much more satisfaction knowing that it actually works - spend the money on paying a FOH engineer to understand what you want FX wise and let him mix it properly; that way you can concentrate on your performance with the safe knowledge that your FX are doing what you hoped for but not getting in the way - remember, there are a thousand things that can go wrong during a live show, the last thing you want is to lose the vocals too.
#15
28th February 2008
Old 28th February 2008
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Im currently looking into the same thing. TC VoiceLive looks awesome, but its pricey. A rig like this looks fun, see the right side for vocals. http://www.hdaee.f2s.com/v2/rig.htm I know this thread is old as hell, but thought id show what id found elsewhere.

PS. yeah i know html must be disabled for signatures, oh wellz, uploading the image did not work for some reason either...
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#16
29th February 2008
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My backround is mainly all studio based however having listened to description of the kind of effects your looking for id suggest an Eventide H3000 or an Eclipse.

Its one box that is very simple to use and has hundreds of high quality reverbs, effects, delays, harmonizers, and the crazy stuff too. It can be used in a live situation easily however in the studio the effects can also be layered which can give you some very original sounding ressults.

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#17
21st June 2010
Old 21st June 2010
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BattleAngel View Post
Hi folks. I've been away from reading this forum so much in the last few months but I have a question I'd like to run by you all. I'm the lead singer and one of three guitar players in a band called Arizona from NYC (check out Bruce Warren from XPN's post about us here). We've been mostly a studio band, still being in our early days and all, but have recently made great strides towards becoming a rediculous live band. We had the chance to play a support role on the Indigo Girls' october tour this year, we've played all over in our hometown of NYC, and have covered the small-medium club scenes in Atlanta and Asheville, NC. We haven't put on a full tour but are gearing up for a tour of the east coast launching in February.

So here's my question.

Nick Campbell, our lead guitar player, is a monster with effects pedals. He's like Neil Young meets Page Hamilton meets Johnny Greenwood. Everyone in my band is thrilled with his effects pedal playing and our other guitar player Andrew is also insane in this regard (I however don't even use a distortion pedal, lol). I've always kept it simple on the guitar and gone for control with just my hands and note choice rather than effects, but I am a very versitile and energetic singer and for months now I've been dying to do with vocal effects what Nick is doing with guitar effects.

Basically- I want to create a foot-switching (maybe w/ an expression pedal?) controllable system for applying vocal effects to the 3 lead vocal mics on stage, and a group effect for the 2 background vocal mics. I was checking out some live The Doors stuff and Morrison just has this killer reverb effect on his voice that stays out of the way but totally defines his signature sound. John Petrucci of Dream Theater (or Steve Morse before him) have such elegant control over their effects processing. I'd love to meld the vibey sound of effects like Morrison's with the control of a well thought out guitar rig. I'd also really like to get some compression and EQ on my lead vocal mic (we endorse electrovoice/blue cardinal mics) so I can tame it to the room (these are sensitive mics).

So my question to you folks is-
a) Would any of you like to take a crack at designing such a rig? What pieces would you put together if price was no issue?
b) Are there 'rig builder' type people who I could hire to design and fabricate this system? If so, I'd really like to give my business to someone who specializes in this sort of thing, can anyone recommend somebody?

Thanks!
Ben

Ben,

What you are looking for can be accomplished in a few different ways.

One would be to get a TC Helicon Voiceworks or voicelive 2 for every singer and use a MIDI foot controller to daisy chain them to switch patches and tap tempo the delays in unity.

Another would be to build a custom rack with pre's and processing and again a MIDI foot controller to controll the effects.

Alternatively you could get an interface like a Profire2626 or RME fireface 800 and run the Waves Rack with the plugins of your choice....


We could make something work for you.

Sean
#18
21st June 2010
Old 21st June 2010
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I cannot see a reason why it shouldn't be done. If you have a vision of how your vocal effects should sound like live then by all means go for it. It obviously takes some trial and error and research, some good habits and discipline in patch programming and maybe a few beers offered to the FOH guy to keep an eye on your thing: when I did live sound it actually happened to me a couple of times and it's really no big deal. To me it's not that different from a guitar player switching his fxs and stompboxes. The main thing is that the level of the programmed patches has to be consistent or it's going to wreck havoc on your vocals.
This setup can be simple as a single do it all box (TC Helicon and similar) or more elaborate with separate pieces of gear for each task.
In the latter case I'd go with a dedicated high quality mic pre or channel strip, so that you can set your basic level, EQ and compression ratio: after all the vocal is always yours and it's not going to change that much from gig to gig. A good example could be the Focusrite ISA430MKII which packs all of the preamp and dynamics need for vocals (pre, EQ, compression, de-essing and gating), plus has insert points along the signal path that allow you to tap into whatever other device you may need (eg. a distortion fx...).
You could go straight from the pre output into an FX device and derive your stereo FX from there, but I suggest you get a line mixer and generate a mono send to the FX box: this will allow the FOH guy to have a straight dry vocal and an L-R 100% wet fx signal should he need to tweak EQ or balance things.
In the end you'd be sending FOH 3 lines: mono dry vocals and stereo wet FX.
I'd go with something like an Ashly or Rane line mixer/splitter to get a split from your dry vocal, send it to the FX processor: here the choice is almost endless...and really depends on what kind of effects you need and want: I have and like the Eventide Eclipse for its depth of programming, quality of patches and capability to go from simple reverb/delay patches to extreme and radical sound design. But it can be a simple Lexincon MPX serie or TC M3000. If you need harmonizing then go Eventide or TC Voice Prism.
The final thing you need is a MIDI foot controller to get everything under control: I really like and use the Voodoo Lab Ground Control: I have the older serie which is sturdy and easily programmable. Plus it's got 2 inputs for footpedals that allow to control MIDI parameters in real time (like reverb time, or volume, delay level, modulation etc...) which I used to do with my guitar setup. I belive the newer version also has a tap switch for delay and modulation parameters...

Remember: if you want this to go smooth during a live performance then be consistent with patches level and balaces or you'll run into troubles: the FOH guy will go nuts chasing FX levels to avoid feedback or too much wet signal versus the dry vocal...but if done right it can be fun and very cool. Be sure to get all of the three signals back into your monitors onstage so that you can hear what's going on yourself.
Besides...I've seen David Bowie do it in one of his live gigs...so...

Hope this helps
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#19
24th June 2010
Old 24th June 2010
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Voicelive2 my experience

I am a vocalist and I can tell you my experience with the Voicelive2. If you have the choice between using Voicelive2 and a sound guy, go with the sound guy.

I personally found myself distracted from my vocal performance because I had this piece of equipment onstage to deal with. I found it's pre-sets to be way too thin lacked body.
It's probably great for an acoustic act with pauses between tunes to think about and select the effect for the next tune.

In my opinion for live stage shows it distracts the Vocalist from what he/she is trying to do, create expressive quality vocals.

Pitch correction, over compression, over bearing effects, that's just non-singers way of trying to mask their lack of ability and convince themselves they sound good.

Put quality emotive Vocals into the mic. Let the sound guy figure out the little tweaks you may need for those great Vocals to reach the audience.

Don't have a sound guy? then I suggest getting yourself a good mic, JoeMeek compressor for a touch of compression a touch of verb and that's it. leave the rest up to your ability.

(pitch correction = cheating)

my 2 cents

PS: I've never found an effect that that brought the audience out of the seats in amazement. But when I hit the E over high C it does the trick every time.
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#20
28th June 2010
Old 28th June 2010
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I think it could be done but I would try to do it the way no-one ever seems to do it - supply front of house with three channels - the clean vocal straight from the mic, and a stereo pair of FX channels with no vocal in them.

Then let whoever's mixing FOH blend them. If you get the levels about right from one patch to the other, he will hopefully not need to move the level of the FX faders too much.

I have recorded a lot of bands that use on-stage vocal processing (including one big name band from Brooklyn, just a couple of weeks ago, where all three singers have their own vocal FX pedals), and it has never once turned out well. For one reason or another, stuffing a vocal mic thru a floor-unit processor has always mashed the sound of the mic, probably thru over-processing. You cannot salvage a great vocal sound from an over-compressed, over-eq'd, over-reverbed starting point.

But at least if you keep the main vocal clean, they can vary the level of FX at FOH as required.

But the question is, are you playing the kind of music that needs a constant variety of FX on the lead vocal? (I don't know, you might be). Just because you can have an array of FX on a guitar, does it necessarily follow that it's appropriate for the vocals as well? Or will it just make the vocal sink back into the mix, and therefore harder to hear?
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6th June 2011
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Hello,

I build machines that can help : producer1 english
These are hand made machines, ask for details ...
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14th June 2011
Old 14th June 2011
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BattleAngel View Post
Hi folks. I've been away from reading this forum so much in the last few months but I have a question I'd like to run by you all. I'm the lead singer and one of three guitar players in a band called Arizona from NYC (check out Bruce Warren from XPN's post about us here). We've been mostly a studio band, still being in our early days and all, but have recently made great strides towards becoming a rediculous live band. We had the chance to play a support role on the Indigo Girls' october tour this year, we've played all over in our hometown of NYC, and have covered the small-medium club scenes in Atlanta and Asheville, NC. We haven't put on a full tour but are gearing up for a tour of the east coast launching in February.

So here's my question.

Nick Campbell, our lead guitar player, is a monster with effects pedals. He's like Neil Young meets Page Hamilton meets Johnny Greenwood. Everyone in my band is thrilled with his effects pedal playing and our other guitar player Andrew is also insane in this regard (I however don't even use a distortion pedal, lol). I've always kept it simple on the guitar and gone for control with just my hands and note choice rather than effects, but I am a very versitile and energetic singer and for months now I've been dying to do with vocal effects what Nick is doing with guitar effects.

Basically- I want to create a foot-switching (maybe w/ an expression pedal?) controllable system for applying vocal effects to the 3 lead vocal mics on stage, and a group effect for the 2 background vocal mics. I was checking out some live The Doors stuff and Morrison just has this killer reverb effect on his voice that stays out of the way but totally defines his signature sound. John Petrucci of Dream Theater (or Steve Morse before him) have such elegant control over their effects processing. I'd love to meld the vibey sound of effects like Morrison's with the control of a well thought out guitar rig. I'd also really like to get some compression and EQ on my lead vocal mic (we endorse electrovoice/blue cardinal mics) so I can tame it to the room (these are sensitive mics).

So my question to you folks is-
a) Would any of you like to take a crack at designing such a rig? What pieces would you put together if price was no issue?
b) Are there 'rig builder' type people who I could hire to design and fabricate this system? If so, I'd really like to give my business to someone who specializes in this sort of thing, can anyone recommend somebody?

Thanks!
Ben
Hi Ben,
I'm a producer/ engineer who sometimes tours as a drummer singer in the band jim's big ego( bigego.com) For five years or so I've been using efx to my left for my vocal mic and it's been a great effect at times but also a bitch for sound checks and even just downright chaotic to figure out a system that was sonically pure enough to add efx with out noise or issues for the pa and different clubs and venues. Ive had to add a Preamp to the output of the mic infront of me and then use a splitter to go to effect units and then have the touchable controls at my side and the stereo volume pedal at my feet. I do delays, distortion, flange, and even vocal loops by controlling the feedback parameters. Tempos are banged with my left hand while drumming with my right. I'm rebuilding my rig now but nothing out there looks right on... It's all aimed at gb singers. If you want to talk more about this I'd be happy to discuss it. You can reach me most days at my studio. Notable productions(notable.com) best dan
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#23
3rd March 2012
Old 3rd March 2012
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I am a guitarist turned vocalist and I'm on the same mission. My band does covers of all the Big 4 bands and some other old school metal that has really made me have to learn what I am doing. I use an SM58 and Shure IEM System. I know from playing guitar for 20 years the better your tone the sweeter the reward. I think mostly I want this for my monitors. If it sounds like buttah in my ears I'm going to be comfortable and confident. Let the sound guy use as much or as little of that signal as he deems fit. I am coming up with something as we speak. I will share if anyone still has an interest in this thread.
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