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Live vocal solution
Old 24th May 2006
  #1
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Ted Copulate's Avatar
 

Talking Live vocal solution

Hey guys. I know this is a recording forum and not a live sound one, but I though some folk might be experienced in the live aspect.

I'm working on a solution to some vocal issues my band is having. We have two vocals, a main singer who has a lot of volume dynamics, and I scream and do some singing and harmonies. Because of these volume dynamics (particularly when I go from screaming to singing) we're using Shure Beta 87a mics- they're condensers so they dynamics are a bit reduced.

So here's my bands' problems:
1) The 87a mics need phantom power, which not all clubs have.
2) People tend to mix me like a backing vocalist, when some of my vocals are main parts. This is particularly annoying when I do a singing part- if my screaming part is mixed in the background my singing parts are totally inaudible.
3) I'm fed up with the live sound guy putting too many effects on the vocals- particularly delay.


-------

The solution I had, and let me know if you think this'll work out well, is to take some of our gear, put it into a 6-space rack, and basically mix our vocals ourselves. The gear would be:
Preamp: Trident S20
Compressor/Gate: DBX 166XL
Reverb: T.C. Electronic M-OneXL
Line Mixer: Rane SM-26B

This way we could plug into the Trident, turn on phantom power, have our own verb settings (a bit for him, none for me), balance the vocals ourselves and give the sound guy a mono feed. We'd work out the settings at rehearsal and mark them, so setup time would be nothing.

Potential problems:
1) Yes, I know the S20 isn't the most loved preamp, but I like it well enough for vocals and I got a good deal on it. It's my only pre besides the 002.
2) The SM-26B only has 1/4" outs. Think that'll be a problem? They're balanced.
3) If they take the output and line it into their mixing board through a preamp it could get noisy?

What do you all think?
Old 24th May 2006
  #2
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Zwinter's Avatar
 

As one of those FOH engineers you mentioned I would mind having a band bring there own rack. I know the pre-amps on the console are not all that great and welcome something better. But I would not enjoy having the band mix their own vocals; in fact, I see huge problems happening because of it. If you are on stage singing there is no way for you to hear what it sounds like other than what's in your monitor (which will tell you nothing about what’s happening in the house). So how are you going to know whether you need to turn something up or down? The only solution you leave the FOH guy is to turn up (or down) all of vocals, or just let things go and live with vocals which aren't loud enough (or are too loud).

Plus, I usually find that as people start filling the venue things change and I will want to adjust my EQ setting. This may be a change that I do to all of the vocal channels, but it also may not be. By giving the FOH engineer a mix of the vocal you are really limiting what I can do.
Old 24th May 2006
  #3
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Ted Copulate's Avatar
 

Actually, that's kind of the point. I want the sound man to only be able to bring the overall volume of both vocals up and down. I'm sick of them screwing up the balance between the two. I know how I want them balanced. He doesn't.

I'll be spending time at rehearsals making sure that the preset levels are correct. I want to avoid the soundman riding faders on the fly. Sure if someone's good it can be a good thing, but more often than not it's some yahoo.

I'm sure you're one of the good ones, but if I have to limit a good soundman's control just because he's one out of ten, and the other nine times they're clueless, then it's the lesser of two evils.

In fact, if I talk to the soundguy ahead of time and I can tell he knows what he's doing (i.e. he's not micing my amp with a 58 dead center of the cone, or hanging a mic by the cable over the amp so it's pointing at the floor) I won't bring out the rig.
Old 24th May 2006
  #4
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danno812's Avatar
 

Everything Zwinter said is true.

Here are some additional thoughts. Rather than send a mix of all the vocals together. Just use your preamp (for the phantom power) and a compressor on your vocal and send that already processed signal to the FOH. This will help your dynamics (screaming vs. singing parts) and still allow the FOH engineer to do his job. He can just ride levels between you and the lead singer at that point.

As far as the delay issue goes...before the show, kindly and with a smile (I really mean that) ask the FOH engineer to please not add delay to the vocals, suggest that you would like just a little reverb and nothing more. In a very non-condescending way imply that you know that you guys are all on the same team for the show tonight and that you are looking forward to having fun on the gig. You may want to suggest that you'll tip him, buy him a beer or burn one with him at the set break.

There are alot of flunky live sound guys out there in clubland, but there are some who really know there job, do it well and appreciate musicians who respect the fact that, for that night, everyone really is on the same team. I know it is hard to tell the difference when you first arrive in a new place, but if you always start with the premise that the night is going to be fun, that you are happy to be there and that this guy is probably a good engineer (even if it turns out the other way) it will go a long way.

Good luck out there!

Old 24th May 2006
  #5
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danno812's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ted Copulate
Actually, that's kind of the point. I want the sound man to only be able to bring the overall volume of both vocals up and down.
It is very different in the FOH then it is on stage, and the ability to EQ individually is an absolute necessity in a live setting.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ted Copulate
I'm sick of them screwing up the balance between the two. I know how I want them balanced. He doesn't.
This is not the attitude that will win anyone over on to your team.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ted Copulate
or hanging a mic by the cable over the amp so it's pointing at the floor) I won't bring out the rig.
This practice is usually done out of necessity because cheap club owners rarely want to foot the bill for anything...including an additional mic stand. It does work and on a positive note... the effort is being made to mic it at all.
Old 24th May 2006
  #6


One thing you can do is designate a friend as your "mixer". As long as he's half-witted or more and knows how your mix should balance, just about any FOH engineer would be happy to have him mix.

That way, all he has to do is baby-sit. Sometimes a break like this is welcome.

The other thing you can do is learn to work the mic better. If you can't sing softer, but it needs to be relatively softer in the mix, back-off. When you sing the main lyric, get into the mic. Most small clubs don't have a rack full of compressors and your vocal probably won't be routed to one.



-tINY

Old 24th May 2006
  #7
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synthoid's Avatar
 

I perform regularly in China and often there is no FOH engineer or else he doesn't know the difference between stereo and mono (no I'm not kidding). For this situation, a simple line mixer is a great solution. I use a Numark RM6 1U line mixer for this. It has only six channels but when I run into this problem it's on small gigs. It doesn't have phantom power however... Myself, if I were a screamer I would look for a good dynamic mic to suit my voice, but everyone has favorite mics ...

Now, if one of you really smart engineers wants to tag along to some raggedy-ass bar in China to do FOH for us, then I can ditch my RM6.

-synthoid
Old 25th May 2006
  #8
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Ted Copulate's Avatar
 

Okay, so based on everyone's recommendations I'm thinking of making a compromise: I can pan our vocals hard left and right and give two mono feeds- one for each vocalist. But since I'll already have the levels balanced with the line mixer, I can say "keep the faders on your board even unless you really need to change them."

As far as technical issues, though, do you guys think I'll need a stereo DI box (or two mono ones) to convert the signals back down to mic level, or will most clubs accept a line level signal?

How's a DI box like this look?
http://www.audiopile.net/products/DI...1_cutsheet.asp
Old 25th May 2006
  #9
Lives for gear
 

I can see zero benefit in dropping your mic preamp down to mic level again ... all mixing desks can handle mic or line levels.

Seems like you have a basic trust problem with your mixer guys ...

In my view, the mixer guy is the most important member of your band. He has the power to make you suck or shine. If you just leave this job to whatever monkey is available, you deserve what you get. I think ideally, you should find somebody suitable to be an equal member of the band. Maybe not always possible, but i'm sure the successful bands all have a successful working relationship with a sound engineer.

But it's better to trust the monkey on the desk than to try to mix yourself.
Old 25th May 2006
  #10
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You know, a really simple solution for this would be to have them set up 2 mics for you... There are, of course, other potential issues with that, but that seems like a possible solution... make sure the engineer can set one up for each of your volumes maybe? In fact, maybe you'd want to scream into a good ol' 58 or something, and sing into your beta.
Old 25th May 2006
  #11
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Jim vanBergen's Avatar
 

Wow...to have such an amount of distrust in FOH engineers...sorry you have met the scum of the mixer trade, or been stuck playing rinky dink ****hole bars in NYC.

Two different visions:
The Butthole Surfers lead vocalist has his own rig, with preamp, mixer, and his vocal delays. I still added some compression (2:1, overeasy on a 160A at threshold +0, unity gain) and EQ'd the vocal send but HE had the control of all his other elements, anf I stayed away from his fader.
I have experienced other acts that did similar things-- sometimes to their benefit, and sometimes to their FAULT, including a band who had a mackie onstage at the keyboard position that all the vocal mics went into, so the keyboardist could "mix" the vocals. After giving the guy the benefit of the doubt and listening to two songs at soundcheck, I put splitters on each mic and took the directs to FOH- and the client, who booked the band, said "I'm glad you took control, because you know, ultimately the talent should not be in control of the PA".

What you want to do makes sense. I hope you can use the rig in rehearsal, direct to your monitors, so you can really listen to what you are doing and find the bumps in the system to flatten them out and get EXACTLY what you want and need.

Any FOH engineer worth his salt should accept two line level XLRs from your mixer(just buy trs-xlr M adapts) for vocal lines with no problem. Tell him to match them evenly, say that you BOTH sing lead and harmony, and to match the levels and leave them alone.

I hope to hear back from you sometime, that you happily go to a gig, find a FOH engineer who cares, and takes the time to ask you what you want, what you need. You can succinctly explain what you want as well as you did in your post, and get exactly what you need.

Best of luck, and hope this helps-

Jim van Bergen
(Broadcast, Recording, & Live)
Old 25th May 2006
  #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ted Copulate
I'm sick of them screwing up the balance between the two.
have you tried telling them how you want it?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ted Copulate
I know how I want them balanced. He doesn't.
from on stage you cant tell how anything should be.

get the idea of doing your own sound out of your head it is not possible. the number one for any band live is be nice to the FOH guy and tell him/her what you want. if you are nice to them they will be nice to you and give you a good mix. if you are not nice they will not be nice and may give you a **** mix on purpose.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ted Copulate
if I have to limit a good soundman's control just because he's one out of ten, and the other nine times they're clueless, then it's the lesser of two evils.
so you want a **** mix 10 times out of 10?

if you arnt happy with any of the in house guys get your own enginear, they can learn how you like everything and mix for your songs. they will have the proper prespective, and you will get a great mix every time. dont just get a knob twiddler friend from around the corner, get a good live enginear.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ted Copulate
I'll be spending time at rehearsals making sure that the preset levels are correct.
why waste your time, get your enginear to do it then you will get a good sound.
Old 25th May 2006
  #13
Gear Nut
 
Ted Copulate's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by aussie_techie
have you tried telling them how you want it?


from on stage you cant tell how anything should be.

get the idea of doing your own sound out of your head it is not possible. the number one for any band live is be nice to the FOH guy and tell him/her what you want. if you are nice to them they will be nice to you and give you a good mix. if you are not nice they will not be nice and may give you a **** mix on purpose.


so you want a **** mix 10 times out of 10?

if you arnt happy with any of the in house guys get your own enginear, they can learn how you like everything and mix for your songs. they will have the proper prespective, and you will get a great mix every time. dont just get a knob twiddler friend from around the corner, get a good live enginear.

why waste your time, get your enginear to do it then you will get a good sound.
We're not talking about a local club that we play at frequently. My band does a lot of touring, playing 50 different clubs in two months. There's no rapport to be had, I'll never be at most of these clubs again, and I've never seen a small scale diy band that could afford their own engineer on the road.

I've already decided to use one output per vocalist, so the issue of "mixing myself" is taken out of the equation anyway.

Would you guys recommend a dynamic instead of a condenser if I'm working the proximity to control my volume? Call me crazy, apparently I'm wrong here but my singer's levels seem more consistent now that he's using the 87a.
Old 25th May 2006
  #14
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Ted Copulate's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jim vanBergen
Wow...to have such an amount of distrust in FOH engineers...sorry you have met the scum of the mixer trade, or been stuck playing rinky dink ****hole bars in NYC.
Most of what we play is rinky dink ****hole bars.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jim vanBergen
I hope to hear back from you sometime, that you happily go to a gig, find a FOH engineer who cares, and takes the time to ask you what you want, what you need. You can succinctly explain what you want as well as you did in your post, and get exactly what you need.
Don't get me wrong, sometimes we work with good house engineers, but often we don't.
Old 25th May 2006
  #15
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I understand where you are coming from, and that your band is not yet at a position to carry a FOH engineer...so I think your solution is a workable one.

As far as the condenser vs dynamic, just remember that the condenser is more sensitive. Ultimately I'd try that first but I have some people who sound best on different mics. Some people live by the 58 and others sound better on a 105 or an AKG 535. Just keep trying stuff out until you find what really works for you.

Good luck-
Old 25th May 2006
  #16
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ssaudio's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ted Copulate
I've never seen a small scale diy band that could afford their own engineer.
that's because most don't ask.

If you reckon you are good enough, ask the decent young engineers you have met if they fancy doing some gigs with you - 99.9% of them will jump at the chance and all you have to be is honest, realistic and pay them what you can afford.

If you want to perform and be good at it, you shouldn't be arsing about with this stuff, it will affect your and ultimately your band's performance way more than a crap engineer will.

Also remember that a decent engineer will mix for the crowd as well as the band, that shouldn't be underestimated.

I'd also add that 99.9% of the time a good ol' 58, the desk input and 'whatever' compressor will work just fine given a reasonable room and boxes - the rest is up to you and the engineer - it ain't that hard, honest
Old 25th May 2006
  #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ted Copulate
We're not talking about a local club that we play at frequently. My band does a lot of touring, playing 50 different clubs in two months. There's no rapport to be had, I'll never be at most of these clubs again, and I've never seen a small scale diy band that could afford their own engineer on the road
thats more of a reason to be nice to the sound guy. it may be kind of annoying to have to tell somebody new every time but it will be well worth it. to most sound guys you are just another band they have to get though that night, in most cases their main priority is to keep the show running on time. if you take the time to talk to them be nice, help them by setting up quickly etc then they will make the effort to give you a good mix.

Quote:
Originally Posted by ssaudio
that's because most don't ask.
exacly a young enginear will gladly do it for a modest price and they will have the time to learn your songs. if your good enough to be touring you should be good enough to get your own enginear.


if you want to minimise problems stick with a good old sm58 or a beta58, every sound guy will know how to deal with them. bringing in other mics is just another source of more problems, with the average house enginear who doesnt know your mic. if more singers relised this we wouldnt have to deal with the issues of other mics and could spend more time getting a good sound.
Old 25th May 2006
  #18
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danno812's Avatar
 

You were asking about mics, so I have a couple of suggestions for you. Both of these mics are hypercardiod so they are great for rejecting feedback from the monitors. They are also very affordable!

AKG 3700- This is a very underrated mic (or at least one that flies under the radar) It sounds great and is much warmer than a 58.

Audix OM5(or the higher priced versions)- This mic is HOT! It is clear, crisp and is probably the closest you'll get to a condenser but is still a dynamic so it doesn't require phantom power.

I've had great success with both of these mics, but really... you do have to find what works best for you.

Have FUN!!

Old 25th May 2006
  #19
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Ted Copulate's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by aussie_techie
if you want to minimise problems stick with a good old sm58 or a beta58, every sound guy will know how to deal with them. bringing in other mics is just another source of more problems, with the average house enginear who doesnt know your mic. if more singers relised this we wouldnt have to deal with the issues of other mics and could spend more time getting a good sound.
I just don't get this mentality. If I played at a club where they told me "you have to use this Fender twin: it sounds great on guitar and I know how to mix it so you'll sound great," I'd be dumbstruck. Mind you, I love Fender twins, but it's not my sound in my band.

At our studio we have 57s, 58s, an e609, an e835, a Beta57a, an old Unidyne III 545, and an 87a (not counting studio condensers) that we've tried on vocals live, and for our singer an 87a sounds the best. Every vocalist has mics they sound great through and poorer through. There's no standard "good" mic. The 87a works well with his voice. Why wouldn't we want to use it?

Not even arguing about the whole setup, but just about using your own mics, if a soundman is "used to" a Beta 58 and has a hard time getting a good tone through an 87a I wouldn't trust him to mix us anyway.
Old 25th May 2006
  #20
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danno812's Avatar
 

I believe you absolutely should use your own vocal mics whenever possible. Having been a live sound guy for 10 years it never bothered me when people brought in their own vocal mics. The best reasons for this besides you getting the basic sound you like are:

It usually freed up a couple mics I could use elsewhere, and more importantly for you...

It helps keep you healthier (especially when travelling) because you're not singing into the same spit covered house mic that has been used by the last hundred singers to pass through before you .
Old 25th May 2006
  #21
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Boy, I must be playing at the wrong clubs. Sounds like you guys play at nice clubs with talented house engineers who will good-naturedly step aside to let your band engineer take over the board. So I guess if there are three bands playing three sets in the evening you will have three different engineers taking over the board.

The clubs I play in are lots different than that. In nice clubs there is typically a house engineer, and he expects to run sound for the evening. In ****ty clubs there is a tangle of beer-soaked wires and maybe a guy who knows how to power on the whole mess.

-synthoid
Old 26th May 2006
  #22
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Jim vanBergen's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by synthoid
Boy, I must be playing at the wrong clubs. Sounds like you guys play at nice clubs with talented house engineers who will good-naturedly step aside to let your band engineer take over the board. So I guess if there are three bands playing three sets in the evening you will have three different engineers taking over the board.

The clubs I play in are lots different than that. In nice clubs there is typically a house engineer, and he expects to run sound for the evening. In ****ty clubs there is a tangle of beer-soaked wires and maybe a guy who knows how to power on the whole mess.

-synthoid
As someone who has worked as a very high profile 'house FOH engineer" at a venue that specializes in NY premieres and broadcasts, we are expected to maintain the integrity of the house system while turning over the control of the section of the console used by the artist to their FOH mixer, like them or not.

On big nights it was not unusual to have six or eight mixers from the ten bands.... everybody gets their chance.

While every club has beer/champagne tossed, I keep visquene sheets at the console to protect it and we get work calls for the Midas Heritage 3000s and Clair PA, to wipe the cables clean of alcohol, sweat & vomit.

Cheers!
Old 26th May 2006
  #23
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I really am playing at the wrong clubs.

-synthoid
Old 26th May 2006
  #24
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u b k's Avatar
 

i think the most key point here is to communicate to the foh engineer *what* you want, not *how* do it.

iow, give him 2 vocal feeds and tell him clearly that you both sing lead, acknowledge that you're a tricky vocalist who shuttles back and forth between soft and screaming, and ask him to do his best to keep both vocalists equal in the mix.

but do not tell him to keep both faders equal, you'll lose your ally in a flash. tell him how you want things to sound, let him figure out how to make it happen.

it's a subtle difference in communication style, but critical nonetheless.


gregoire
del ubik
Old 26th May 2006
  #25
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Ted Copulate's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by u b i k
i think the most key point here is to communicate to the foh engineer *what* you want, not *how* do it.

iow, give him 2 vocal feeds and tell him clearly that you both sing lead, acknowledge that you're a tricky vocalist who shuttles back and forth between soft and screaming, and ask him to do his best to keep both vocalists equal in the mix.

but do not tell him to keep both faders equal, you'll lose your ally in a flash. tell him how you want things to sound, let him figure out how to make it happen.

it's a subtle difference in communication style, but critical nonetheless.


gregoire
del ubik
Good points. By this point I'm considering just picking up a phantom power box for clubs that don't have it and ditching the rest of the idea. But my main problem is that sometimes it's hard to really talk at all to the engineer because of a rushed set up time.

Would this be stupid? I'm thinking maybe I should make a quick notes sheet on how we like to be mixed, print 60 copies for tour, and just say hi and give him the notes before it'll play.

It'd just say:

"Side of stage guiarist's vocal: no reverb/delay. Sings and screams but will back off the mic to accomodate volume changes.

center guitarist's vocal: moderate reverb. If using delay, please only use occasionally/sparingly.

Please keep both vocalists at equal volumes in the mix. Thanks!"


What do you think? Would giving them a printed sheet like that be too crazy? Either that or else I'll just do the preamp/mixer/reverb> two vocal feeds via stereo DI so we can control our effects, and I'll just ask him to keep us dry and at equal volumes.
Old 26th May 2006
  #26
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danno812's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ted Copulate
What do you think? Would giving them a printed sheet like that be too crazy?

Definitely NOT crazy or stupid. Its actually a common practice to provide a STAGE PLOT and include your notes at the bottom of the page. Get it to the sound man early and he will thank you for it. It helps make setup a breeze. It also helps to eliminate confrontations that verbal messages sometimes cause when they are not delivered or received as intended.

Old 28th May 2006
  #27
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danno is right its a good and common but make sure you give it to them before the show starts so they have time to go though it. its not good to present something right before you play. its not easy to read something in a dimly lit room while you are rushing to setup.

if you not having time to talk to them then get to the venue early and discusses what you want before the show starts.

as ive been saying courteous communication is vital.
Old 8th June 2006
  #28
Super Moderator
 
Remoteness's Avatar
So Ted,

How did it work out?
Old 8th June 2006
  #29
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ExistanceMusic's Avatar
 

Holy crap I didnt even get through most of this. You don't need gear or an instruction manual on how to mix your band, you need a mixer who knows your songs.
Any band that is playing out regulary, should be able to justify the expence (determined mostly by how much you can pay and the size of the gigs) of their own engineer. It's dead common and shouldn't come as a shock to any house guy.
end of story.
Old 10th June 2006
  #30
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Jim vanBergen's Avatar
 

Jesse I agree with you, but the basis of the thread ( go back and read it, its' interesting!) is thatfor various reasons, they are yet UNABLE to have a fulltime FOH engineer, whilst they develop their band and play shows.

Everyone has to find their way, right?

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