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Live Shows, why so loud and too much bass Dynamic Microphones
Old 25th July 2016
  #1
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Live Shows, why so loud and too much bass

Why are outdoor venues mixed sooooooo bottom heavy, inaudible vocals. I live in upstate ny and was at Saratoga to see SteelyDan, couldnt understand a single word, wayyyyyyyy bottom heavy.
Was at CMAC to see Ray LaMontagne and the bottom end was again sooo overbaked. The vocals were much better, but the bottom end was as fat as a cow.......

Kg
Old 25th July 2016
  #2
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Were you anywhere near FoH? I'd wager that's where things were as close as they could have been. Otherwise... that's one of my ongoing reasons to NOT pay big bucks for non-acoustic concerts (we've subscribed the NSO for nearly three decades, where the only disappointment is likely to be in music written since 1939 or so itself).

For example, I've twice enjoyed Hornsby solo in the Schermerhorn Symphony Center... but loathed the sound when Chieftains or other larger amplified ensembles played the same room. I work at or around "major" concert events (in my pro photographer personna) just enough to often say "Boy... I'm glad I didn't pay $100 for a seat for this..." It would truly depress me to see Steely Dan in a situation where the PA got in the way of the music... and I'm surprised that the venue wasn't better for their stuff. I'd much rather pay $$ for legal product (I'm still wed to CDs) and enjoy the sound as much as the music.

Would that it were different... and I'm always willing to be proven wrong on this, just one old guy's opinion.

HB
Old 25th July 2016
  #3
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This is exactly why I won't go to a big production show. That ridiculous R-O-L-L-ING bass completely over takes
everything else. Good luck hearing ANY vocals at all. It's totally insulting to the listener.

Other than ignorance and stupidity, there's absolutely no reason in this day and age why a professional live mix has to sound like that.
Old 25th July 2016
  #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by hbphotoav View Post
Were you anywhere near FoH? I'd wager that's where things were as close as they could have been. Otherwise... that's one of my ongoing reasons to NOT pay big bucks for non-acoustic concerts (we've subscribed the NSO for nearly three decades, where the only disappointment is likely to be in music written since 1939 or so itself).

For example, I've twice enjoyed Hornsby solo in the Schermerhorn Symphony Center... but loathed the sound when Chieftains or other larger amplified ensembles played the same room. I work at or around "major" concert events (in my pro photographer personna) just enough to often say "Boy... I'm glad I didn't pay $100 for a seat for this..." It would truly depress me to see Steely Dan in a situation where the PA got in the way of the music... and I'm surprised that the venue wasn't better for their stuff. I'd much rather pay $$ for legal product (I'm still wed to CDs) and enjoy the sound as much as the music.

Would that it were different... and I'm always willing to be proven wrong on this, just one old guy's opinion.

HB
FoH (front of House)?

Both shows we were by the sound guys midway front to back. I guess it was just plain too loud, and i love loud ( and clear ) sound.....
Old 25th July 2016
  #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kgveteran View Post
FoH (front of House)?

Both shows we were by the sound guys midway front to back. I guess it was just plain too loud, and i love loud ( and clear ) sound.....
Yep. I actually saw Steely Dan open for Elton John at the Cotton Bowl in August, 1973. I'd been "hired" (my fee was the price of the ticket and a ride up and back from Waco) to photograph the Elton part for a girl who was a huge fan. I was aware of "Reelin' in the Years" from radio, but was gobsmacked by the Dan's set. Look... David Palmer: Vocals, Denny Dias:Electric guitar, Donald Fagen: Vocals/Keyboards, Jeff 'Skunk' Baxter: Electric guitar, Jeff Porcaro: Drums, Jim Hodder: Drums, Michael McDonald: Keyboards, Vocals, Walter Becker: Electric bass. Come on. It just doesn't get much better than that... well, just maybe the Joni Mitchell/LA Express show in '74... "Miles of Aisles" recorded from a 5-night stand in August in LA is still one of my top-10 albums.

I remember the PA wasn't all that loud... but it was very clear. After the Dan's set I wandered down from nosebleed to the front row on the 50 yard line, wanting to get a few closeups of Elton for my friend before somebody with a badge made me go away. There were two front row seats empty on the left side of that aisle. I asked if there was anyone sitting there. "Uhhh... No, maaannn... They went back to the car for some more weed. They may not come back..." They didn't. I got six or seven rolls of great Elton shots. 300mm Nikkor... and he was seated about 25 yards out, over the hashmarks, and right over the 50. Best dang seat I ever had at a show. Opened with "Funeral for a Friend/Love Lies Bleeding" (just like the album) and killed "Saturday Night's All Right" as the encore, with all of Yellow Brick Road and some oldies (a la "Rocket Man" and "Honky Cat") between. Again... not remembering it as "loud"... just great sound. Of course, the 50 yard line seat could have played a part in it.

Ah, well. Enough reminiscing. Good memories, though.

HB
Old 25th July 2016
  #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kgveteran View Post
FoH (front of House)?

Both shows we were by the sound guys midway front to back. I guess it was just plain too loud, and i love loud ( and clear ) sound.....
I would assume at that location the mix would be pretty good. There's a number of factors that influence the final product. As a general rule, if the mix is excellent at FOH and horrible elsewhere, you most likely have a system related or acoustical issue. If the mix sounds the same everywhere, for better or for worse, it's most likely the mix person. As with most generalizations, there are exceptions.
Old 25th July 2016
  #7
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Too loud? If anything is too loud you too old


Only joking...
Old 25th July 2016
  #8
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some venues have a volume "speed limit" - it depends on the city/state.
I remember working at an outdoor show one of the bands techs was sound checking and the drums were over @ 120dB at mix position. The city police were called in when when the tech refused to lower the volume.
Most arenas I have mixed in I try to keep it between 100dBA-110dBA if there is venue speed limit they are usually @ 90dBA
The big problem is that when you have 20,000 people in a particular venue a crowd like that makes a lot of noise and the PA needs to cut though that.
Old 25th July 2016
  #9
I'm not a mix engineer, but a touring musician.
Two things the mix engineer battles are the acoustics of the space, and the onstage sound. The onstage sound can be trashy sounding and louder than the PA. So the mix engineer will keep pushing the PA level until it masks the onstage trash.
Second, there are some venues (even outdoors) where the acoustics are a nightmare. Venues aren't chosen for sound, they are chosen based on size (capacity), convenient location, and the willingness to put on a loud rock show.
I did a mini-tour supporting Steely Dan (indoors and out) 6 or so years ago and they sounded pretty good (mixwise).
Old 25th July 2016
  #10
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On the other hand Since the start of the year I've seen/heard at least a couple hundred bands on every continent except Antartica and have only heard a handful of mixes that were disturbingly bad...too loud and just way off. for the most part, there were no major complaints about the sound of many of the bands I've heard...I don't agree with every mix decision, but thats more about personal taste than bands being outrageously loud or not hearing the vocals etc.

One of the good things about festivals is that you get to hear several bands and mixers on the same system/stage on the same day, which can give a good idea of what's going on...especially if you also mix on the same system. And as was said above, if it sounds good or bad everywhere, it's probably the mixer, but if it sounds good at the FOH and bad everywhere else, it's most likely an acoustic or system setup problem.

I did observe though that American shows/mixes tend to be a bit louder and brighter than European mixes generally and that many mix decisions, (on both sides) seem to reflect a lot of the things you read about on internet forums...for whatever that's worth.

But there are so many factors that can contribute to a 'bad' mix that I'm always wary about casting blame unless I'm fully up on the facts of what happened, but people who don't have a lot of experience mixing big, outdoor stages tend to mix too loud and bass heavy when they don't have perimeter walls throwing the sound back at them.

Last edited by Samc; 26th July 2016 at 12:16 AM..
Old 26th July 2016
  #11
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Kick drum is the new lead vocal...
Old 26th July 2016
  #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bratwurst View Post
Kick drum is the new lead vocal...
LMAO yes!!!
Old 26th July 2016
  #13
Has been for quite a while. Strange, I agree.
Old 26th July 2016
  #14
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I saw Stevie Wonder ( indoor venue, might not even be fair to compare, but...) about a year ago. The bass started out fat, bloated, one droning note for the first song. By song four it was soooooo tight, there was actually air inbetween drum strikes, but as stated it was an indoor venue, Buffalo NY.....

Steve Hacket @ the Riviera Theater buffalo ( i know apples to oranges, indoor venue ). I might as well played the CD, it was amazing, my 17 yr old son commented on how the sound was like, "at home"
Old 26th July 2016
  #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by chrisso View Post
I'm not a mix engineer, but a touring musician.
Two things the mix engineer battles are the acoustics of the space, and the onstage sound. The onstage sound can be trashy sounding and louder than the PA. So the mix engineer will keep pushing the PA level until it masks the onstage trash.
Second, there are some venues (even outdoors) where the acoustics are a nightmare. Venues aren't chosen for sound, they are chosen based on size (capacity), convenient location, and the willingness to put on a loud rock show.
I did a mini-tour supporting Steely Dan (indoors and out) 6 or so years ago and they sounded pretty good (mixwise).
I remember a friend telling me, he battled the bands stage volume all nite, great point. It was a bar band not a large venue, but i imagine its gotta hold true
Old 26th July 2016
  #16
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Loud mixes.....

Last Friday I went to an indoor rock concert staged in a hall that I also rent for similar rock shows. I went as a spectator to support the local musicians.

The show was too loud for me...it was deafening all the way to the far end of the hall... I actually had to leave/return to the building several times during the show to give my head a rest...

The drumset (used by all of the groups) was mixed at an incredibly-loud level for the room and the other instruments seemed to be brought up to the kit's level. The mix was balanced, albeit loud.

A note: I provide sound systems for similar events with some being in the same hall. My mixes are not usually that loud although I have the rig to do so.. I get alot of repeat business so my levels seem to be ok.

Maybe I'm getting old but it seems that the local rock scene is getting louder.....and the kids seem to love it.

just an observation
Old 26th July 2016
  #17
In our band we are sometimes too loud onstage. Various members, maybe even me sometimes.
Sometimes the lead vocal mic is a couple of feet in front of my kit. So you are getting loud trashy drums through the PA.
This is the compromise of touring and playing in different venues every night.
Once did a gig in the Toronto Skydome in mid-winter. Terrible sound.
Old 26th July 2016
  #18
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So, there's a monitor mixer onstage, and a couple guys at the mid point mixing, is that it as far as mixers outside of the "stage musician bubble"

There was two line arrays, i have no idea how many subs or what kind.... What do they Hipass that mix at.....usually
Old 26th July 2016
  #19
Yes, usually monitors by the side of the stage and out front sound mid-auditorium.
The main PA guy will check the PA sound from various parts of the venue, but this is difficult mid-show and the addition of an audience changes the sound of the space.
Old 26th July 2016
  #20
Gear Head
 

One thing I'll notice from flown arrays is a balance issue related to proximity to the speakers.

I noticed it the first time when I was up front at a national touring act's show. The kick low end and bass guitar was SOOOOOOO overwhelming but the vocals, piano, guitar, hihat, etc. were non-existant. I thought to myself: "WHAT is this soundguy thinking?" So I went and stood by him.

It sounded awesome - perfect, nearly. I had absolutely no complaints or even suggestions (if I had, I'd have kept them to myself anyway).

So, I walked down to the front again and I noticed that it got bassy-er as I got closer to the front. Sure as ****, there were a bunch of subs hidden right down in front of the stage. "Where are the other speaker cabs?" The mids and highs were all arrays 20 feet in the air. Apply the inverse square law and...

No wonder it was so bassy down front: I was 2 feet from a subwoofer cabinet and 20 feet from anything that had mids or highs (plus it was aimed over my head so I was way off-axis to the brightest part of the speakers' throw).

Maybe that's what was happening in your situation. It's also 100% possible that the engineer just had a bad day or was exposed to too much bass right before the show so his ears could be fatigued and his equilibrium thrown way off.
Old 26th July 2016
  #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mike M View Post
Last Friday I went to an indoor rock concert staged in a hall that I also rent for similar rock shows. I went as a spectator to support the local musicians.

The show was too loud for me...it was deafening all the way to the far end of the hall... I actually had to leave/return to the building several times during the show to give my head a rest...

The drumset (used by all of the groups) was mixed at an incredibly-loud level for the room and the other instruments seemed to be brought up to the kit's level. The mix was balanced, albeit loud.

A note: I provide sound systems for similar events with some being in the same hall. My mixes are not usually that loud although I have the rig to do so.. I get alot of repeat business so my levels seem to be ok.

Maybe I'm getting old but it seems that the local rock scene is getting louder.....and the kids seem to love it.

just an observation
I'm starting to understand, thanx for the post. I would really like to hook up with someone here on the forum that mite be doing a live show to see the equipment and a very brief tour to see all the behind the scene stuff, i have no interest in meeting band members, i met Steve Howe and Jon Anderson from Yes and i stumbled to get words out, it was embarassing. i'll stick to Audio hahahahaha
Old 26th July 2016
  #22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kgveteran View Post
So, there's a monitor mixer onstage, and a couple guys at the mid point mixing, is that it as far as mixers outside of the "stage musician bubble"

There was two line arrays, i have no idea how many subs or what kind.... What do they Hipass that mix at.....usually
The Ray LaMontagne show you saw had a J-rig, and 3 B-22s per side. Not a lot of sub for that venue really. I'm surprised you found the sub energy overwhelming, not my experience hearing that show.
Old 26th July 2016
  #23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kgveteran View Post
I remember a friend telling me, he battled the bands stage volume all nite, great point. It was a bar band not a large venue, but i imagine its gotta hold true
The mixer should not really be 'fighting' the stage sound, mixing is a game of compromise and the mixer can choose to reinforce instruments that are not loud and build the mix around the loud elements coming from the stage. Obviously, the more out of control the situation, is the more difficult it will be to control, but trying to "cover" the stage sound in this type of situation will only create a bigger problem. Do not chase and try to cover the stage level, try to build your mix around it instead, there is no rule that says that only the sounds you put into the FOH loudspeakers should matter.

It's the same if the audience is loud, do not try to cover them, or you will be chasing your tail through the performance. Being the mix to and appropriate level and leave it there...the audience will get quieter when they can't hear the band. Another 'trick' is to pull down the kick drum a few dBs and they will usually calm down a bit.

I 'discovered' this phenomenon some years ago while mixing for three days in a row at Feyenoord Stadium in the Netherlands...they were concerned that the stadium could shift if 90,000 fans started jumping around too much during the two and a half hour concert. I was told to lower the volume if the accelerometers placed around the stadium got too excited. I pulled the kick fader down by accident once and noticed the effect it had on the crowd...it has served me well since.
Old 27th July 2016
  #24
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So who says who does the mix ? I have no idea who's in charge at the show, does the mixer(s) answer to anyone
Old 27th July 2016
  #25
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They answer to the band, and/or the band's management...and depending on how hands on the band and their management are, they may dictate all important aspects of the mix including how loud it should be.
Old 27th July 2016
  #26
Gear Nut
 

Live sound? W now have more options than ever. This creates quite a challnge for those talented enough to do right by the music being served. Excess bass to the extreme is most unfortunate.
Not only does it drown out everyone else but the definition
of the bass players notes is usually sacrifiiced in the process.
Ground Stacked subs are always employed when I experience the too-much-bass syndrom.
These will converge quite well at the mix position but not real well in other parts of the venue be it inside or outside.
So for starters I say, fly the subs and integrate them with the mains with a digital crossover....Dont use a seperate feed for the subs. This is THE most unmusical way to intrgrate them.
Center fill....or better yet center channel...if you can do it you can keep prime singers and performers out front of the stage blast. Monitors....... Stage, IEM whatever are the most complained about from the talent's standpoint. Small gig, big gig the monitors need to be right and not destroy the main house sound. I do both and its not easy for me as I never stop a second to breathe!
But job 1 is for the mixer to have a musical concept of what is expected. I too have witnessed Stevie Wonder at the Hollywood Bowl with a string section. I never heard the strings. WTF. On stage I'm sure he thought all was fine....It wasn't.
Old 27th July 2016
  #27
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Quote:
Originally Posted by adastra View Post
The Ray LaMontagne show you saw had a J-rig, and 3 B-22s per side. Not a lot of sub for that venue really. I'm surprised you found the sub energy overwhelming, not my experience hearing that show.
Gotcha. What frequency do they hipass (looks like about 37hz from the brochure). How do you guys XO this system ?
Old 27th July 2016
  #28
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I've been to a few large concerts where the sub bass was way overpowering and severely impaired the clarity of the band.

It's horrible witnessing an amazing, articulate bassist like Pino Palladino be represented by nothing much more than whomp whomp whomp. And I'm not talking about some bad listening position, but fairly centre and near the sound desk. This is happening far too often. It seems to be a movement. I don't know WHAT they're thinking.

It's like the engineers have come straight from an all night rave...
Old 27th July 2016
  #29
Quote:
Originally Posted by Samc View Post
They answer to the band, and/or the band's management...and depending on how hands on the band and their management are, they may dictate all important aspects of the mix including how loud it should be.
You hire the mixer on reputation.
Trouble is you really have no idea how the show sounds while you are doing it.
Feedback comes back from family and friends, but then you still don't know for sure.
At the beginning of the tour the artists management may see the show and pass comment, but on the road managers tend to 'pop out' for the main showcase gigs only - London, New York, LA etc...
Often one of our band will stand in the auditorium during soundcheck while the rest of us play, but the entrance of an audience tends to radically alter the sound of the venue.
Old 27th July 2016
  #30
Quote:
Originally Posted by Samc View Post
The mixer should not really be 'fighting' the stage sound, mixing is a game of compromise and the mixer can choose to reinforce instruments that are not loud and build the mix around the loud elements coming from the stage.
The sounds off stage are sort of second hand and not as well presented as the sound through the PA. For example, drum bleed through vocal mics.
This is mainly for large venues, as in small theatres and clubs there is not much you can do but work with the onstage sound.
I know some mixers prefer IEM monitoring, because it removes the loud monitoring (mini PA) from the stage sound. Also, the screens around drums, which I hate.
On most of the gigs I do we try to keep the onstage sound as low as possible. The keyboards don't have amps, just use their monitors and the guitar rigs are small combos.
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