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Stems or Two Mix at gig soundcheck
Old 4 weeks ago
  #1
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Stems or Two Mix at gig soundcheck

Given the fact that the world of public gatherings is in the midst of what looks to be a one year "time out" this live sound category has regressed to a point that is well below insignificant. I have witnessed many short term road blocks in various sections of my country over the 50 years I have spent gigging however a total worldwide shutdown of all public gatherings is certainly uncharted territory. Perhaps we should focus on the pros and cons we have experienced in our professional endeavors and reassess the gear and protocols we have been deploying. Let's face the facts: we do not have a long list of professional to dos these days to subdue this type of thinking outside of the box. For this reason I am advancing a subject that has raised strong opinions so widely divergent the term polarized comes to mind. There may never be a better time to delve into the specific issues involved in control of sound reinforcement.

1) The first 25 years of my career were analog dependent and confined to studio recording with large console dominated gear also in use for FOH and monitoring gig duties.
2) The last 25 years have been a fast moving journey into a new digital paradigm with gear that has opened up high quality home based project studio recording and world class FOH processing possibilities that can be carried with one arm. Without question this has expanded the world of recording and SR exponentially but it has also produced a very wide range of dependable processing competence.
3) Control of the mix: Artist on stage or Venue console? This is an open question that does not have a universal or prevalent answer. One of the reasons SamC is one of my favorite posters in these threads is his commitment to delivering to the artist on stage the sound they want along with a clear understanding of venue priorities. Given Sam's history his competence is never in question, however he has on several occasions alluded to a few outstanding SR performances controlled by performers from the stage.

When we consider setting up a show file and all of the attendant processes involved the question comes around to who should manage the process and when these activities should occur. While it is true artist driven stage control is far less than ideal: it is also true very few SamC's are available to competently craft an appropriate stage mix. IMO most performers need to prepare their own show file and mix to implement at the gig. Specific venue standards should always be the FOH console responsibility and to this end a stereo two mix of the planned performance will be helpful however setting up the individual channel processing from stems should be conducted by artist employed personnel well in advance of any venue sound check. In the event a venue does not have gear capable of employing a prepared digital show file the artist needs to carry their own mix and processing gear.
Hugh
Old 4 weeks ago
  #2
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Brent was kind enough to bring me up to date about SamC's passing: a tragic victim of this virus that took away his business and unfortunately his life as well. Sam was my favorite poster on this forum for many reasons but at the top of the list was his persistent opposition to miss-guided opinions. This forum will never be the same with out SamC. I had one interesting spirited colloquy with Sam several years ago based on my strong bias against stereo FOH mixes. We both gave up a little ground and found an acceptable middle ground and that process is a prime example of a forum worth following. Most of us have our own bag of strong biases and we need knowledgable experienced opposition to remind us that ours is not the only boat in the water. I have been involved in several of these verbal skirmishes with Brent and at this point he and a few others will have Sam's big shoes to fill on this forum. Brent has the intellect and background to do the job very well.

None of us have long term life contracts but when a valued acquaintance 20 years my junior sadly is taken from the conversation I am left with the eternal question: "Why do such bad things happen to good people"?
Hugh
Old 4 weeks ago
  #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by hughshouse View Post
(...) When we consider setting up a show file and all of the attendant processes involved the question comes around to who should manage the process and when these activities should occur. While it is true artist driven stage control is far less than ideal: it is also true very few SamC's are available to competently craft an appropriate stage mix. IMO most performers need to prepare their own show file and mix to implement at the gig. Specific venue standards should always be the FOH console responsibility and to this end a stereo two mix of the planned performance will be helpful however setting up the individual channel processing from stems should be conducted by artist employed personnel well in advance of any venue sound check. In the event a venue does not have gear capable of employing a prepared digital show file the artist needs to carry their own mix and processing gear.
Hugh
imo the difference between approaches you mentioned depend on (and vary with) several parameters (in no specific order):
- gear/desks: some desks are widespread/many people know more or less how to get sound in and out while other desks require highly specialized people to set them up and manoeuvre them (large format broadcast desks offering by far the most options but also having the most steep learing curve).
- budget: some shows include production rehearsals which for other shows would be complete overkill and simply a waste of resources, time and money.
- complexity: smaller and less complex tours can usually go ahead after one extended soundcheck; from then on, it's more about minor adjustments than setting up entirely different mixes.
- size of band: a small trio certainly takes less time, gear and effort to mix than a big band.
- genre: there's a huge difference between a solo artist (singer/songwriter), a metal band and an orchestra...
- size of venue/spl level: a semi-acoustic club gig with the pa barely noticeable is a different scenario than mixing at an openair with a large multi-hang pa!
- expectations: you cannot expect a conductor or soloist to dial in his/her mix on an ipad...
- level/lack of expertise: people taking care of their own cue mix need at least some basic understanding of audio-related things.
preference: personally, i'm fine mixing monitors from foh up to ca. eight artists on stage, assuming they have reasonable requirements...

...but then again, things can heavily depend on a specific settings and combinations of above mentioned criteria.

cheers,

dd




p.s. i miss sam too: we had plans to co-operate this summer...

Last edited by deedeeyeah; 4 weeks ago at 10:09 AM.. Reason: typo
Old 4 weeks ago
  #4
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Yes , it is a matter of scale and competence. If we consider for a moment the likely % of readers of this forum that are involved with Large scale live performance production IMO the number would be very small. I initiated this thread for this specific reason: There is a huge number of home based project studios with gear capable of credible tracking, mixing and FOH/monitoring. The primary question to be answered is do they have the skill to do any of these activities very well? Given this unknown, we need to remember both Owen Bradley and Chet Atkins were highly accomplished musicians well before they became involved with recording. The very best SR is manipulated by people with a strong musical background and to this end performers that have the gear and skill to create their own recordings should not feel bound to relegate FOH duties to external personnel. I can easily build a case for either approach: this is where the proverbial "rubber hits the road".
Hugh
Old 4 weeks ago
  #5
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A big issue is now getting insurance companies to insure large venues.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bMizzJBsv3o&t=3s

http://www.adelmanlawgroup.com/about-steven-a-adelman/
Old 4 weeks ago
  #6
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Regarding monitors, it really depends on many factors. In my experience, there are very few situations where a competent monitor engineer isn't a good if not the best option (without considering the cost). Mixing monitors can be very demanding, though. When you consider the cost, other options may make more sense in some situations. Still, I can't go without mentioning that some musicians have absolutely no clue how to achieve what they want or even what they want in terms of monitor mix.

Getting an optimal FOH sound is usually much more than loading a static mix saved into a snapshot during a rehersal. Even from the cost perspective, there are many well equiped mid-sized venues (at least in Europe) and most festivals will also provide enough quality gear to accomodate resonable requirements. Hauling gear with you usually costs something. OK, if you are a one man band doing small bar gigs, a cheap digital mixer with a well tweaked mix and a pair of active speakers may give you a beter sound than trying to rely on a drunk bar owner randomly twisting knobs on a 25 year old 8 channel Mackie mixer connected to some ceiling speakers. For pretty much all somewhat serious productions, a FOH engineer can achieve better results than can be done from stage.
Ability to hear the sound in the venue (which almost always sounds different during the show than during the sound check), ability to mix dynamically (you can't play a guitar and ride faders at the same time) are just some of the many reasons why FOH engineer makes sense.

Also ... this showfile thing ... while there are exceptions, relying on showfiles for FOH has IMO gone over the top.
Old 4 weeks ago
  #7
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Jetam mistakenly believes pretty much every show needs all individual channel control for FOH and monitors should be performed by external personnel. This may be necessary on his side of the world however it certainly is not a given in the USA. The question of appropriate mix and processing competence exists with both musicians and SR engineers. We are no longer bound by the restraints of yesterdays analog protocols and given the proliferation of world class processing available to all of us: mixing and processing is no longer the exclusive domain of FOH console technicians. Session ready musicians that listen carefully to each other and never play over the top of leads can and do control their own dynamic range much better than external personnel shaping the performance. This is an absolute truth whether they establish their own "set and leave it " protocol or hire pros to do it. Their monitor requirement is a wedge producing a reasonable collective copy of FOH output. This protocol is not possible with hot back lines that require the FOH personnel to shape the show: however in that case most accomplished R&R performers that I know prefer controlling their own personal monitor mix with one of A&H's systems.
Given today's use of pre recorded tracks seamless management of their integration is imperative. The question to be resolved is whether a performing musician or FOH technician needs to control the shape of the performance. There is no predominate answer: It depends--------!
Hugh
Old 4 weeks ago
  #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by hughshouse View Post
Jetam mistakenly believes pretty much every show needs all individual channel control for FOH and monitors should be performed by external personnel. This may be necessary on his side of the world however it certainly is not a given in the USA. The question of appropriate mix and processing competence exists with both musicians and SR engineers. We are no longer bound by the restraints of yesterdays analog protocols and given the proliferation of world class processing available to all of us: mixing and processing is no longer the exclusive domain of FOH console technicians. Session ready musicians that listen carefully to each other and never play over the top of leads can and do control their own dynamic range much better than external personnel shaping the performance. This is an absolute truth whether they establish their own "set and leave it " protocol or hire pros to do it. Their monitor requirement is a wedge producing a reasonable collective copy of FOH output. This protocol is not possible with hot back lines that require the FOH personnel to shape the show: however in that case most accomplished R&R performers that I know prefer controlling their own personal monitor mix with one of A&H's systems.
Given today's use of pre recorded tracks seamless management of their integration is imperative. The question to be resolved is whether a performing musician or FOH technician needs to control the shape of the performance. There is no predominate answer: It depends--------!
Hugh
No, I don't believe that every show needs this, my experiences led me to believe that having a capable engineer or two won't produce inferior results in almost all situations and will more likely than not increase the quality of the show.
Having a FOH engineer doesn't mean that he does the dynamics instead of the musicians, but like a conductor in an orchestra, he has a better perspective about the whole picture and can do fine adjustments accordingly. Besides this, many modern genres require a quite a bit of compression for envelope shaping and controlling micro-dynamics. This somewhat limits the musicians' control of macro dynamics.
If you get into a highly reverberant venue (way to common), just doing a system EQ won't cut it. You'll have to heavily control all the peaks to prevent them from burying other sounds and you need a lot of frequency separation to make things intelligible. If you take the same mix outdoors, you won't take advantage of the dynamic range and clarity that a good sound system can offer.
I've witnessed many wordclass musicians (including several from USA FWIW) get carried away by the music and move from the optimum position to the microphone or a microphone attached to an instrument moves during a solo. FOH engineer can often considerably compensate for such events by adjusting EQ and levels.

I have never stated that monitors should be performed by external personel. My opinion is just that a competent monitor engineer, who knows the musicians, won't do any worse for most performers that are satisfied with doing their own mix while a significant portion of musicians who are satisfied with a monitor mix made by such an engineer won't be able to make an equaly satisfying mix by themselves.
There is no doubt that a satisfyable monitor mix can be made from a FOH console, dedicated monitor console or on a personal mixer.
I find it hard to imagine any pop star tweaking a mixer on stage, though.
Old 4 weeks ago
  #9
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I read very carefully jetam's second paragraph in his post #6 . Depicting artist control of a show as "a one man band doing small bar gigs with a cheap digital mixer with a well tweaked mix and a pair of active speakers that would be better than a drunk bar tender twisting knobs on a 25 year old Mackie driving ceiling mounted speakers".
FYI, My last gig was at Rosen hall on the ASU campus, 400 seats were covered by my KV2 ES FOH and EX10 wedge for monitoring. My Digigrid?Waves LV1 processing for the six high end tube mics that I use with my ensemble delivered a show that was sonically spectacular. My old friend, Jerry Douglas, brought his Jazz band the following week to an adjoining 1,200 Schaffer performance center with a custom installed Million $+ SR system and his show was a sonic disaster. He was using a big time Nashville fader pusher that did not know the difference between an ear bustin R&R blast and old folks buying $50. tickets to see a 14 time acoustic music grammy winner.
In my set and leave it protocol I use 1176 comps on instruments and LA2As on vocals with identical mixes from my studio post production. Truth be told Rosen is the best acoustic music performance center I have worked with in my 50 year career. I could have easily used just 2 of my EX10s on poles---the space is that good. Here is the bottom line jetam: With the world class session pickers in my ensemble or my one man front end portion, neither you nor any one else would or could have improved the performance and most likely you would have missed some of the nuances that are critical in the acoustic Americana we do. I have a long history of SR and recording experience with some of the best performers in the Americana genre and most all of them either own or have ready access to high quality project studios where they shape their tracks expertly. To suggest that they are not capable of high quality stage control of their own performance is flat out wrong. The big time pop performers you alluded to must be more limited in their skill set or perhaps choose for convenience to hire some one to do it. Either way is certainly understandable but the ability of some performers to deliver high quality channel mixes from the stage is becoming more that an occasional event, it's relatively common over here.
Hugh

Last edited by hughshouse; 4 weeks ago at 01:21 AM..
Old 4 weeks ago
  #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by hughshouse View Post
I read very carefully jetam's second paragraph in his post #6 . Depicting artist control of a show as "a one man band doing small bar gigs with a cheap digital mixer with a well tweaked mix and a pair of active speakers that would be better than a drunk bar tender twisting knobs on a 25 year old Mackie driving ceiling mounted speakers".
FYI, My last gig was at Rosen hall on the ASU campus, 400 seats were covered by my KV2 ES FOH and EX10 wedge for monitoring. My Digigrid?Waves LV1 processing for the six high end tube mics that I use with my ensemble delivered a show that was sonically spectacular. My old friend, Jerry Douglas, brought his Jazz band the following week to an adjoining 1,200 Schaffer performance center with a custom installed Million $+ SR system and his show was a sonic disaster. He was using a big time Nashville fader pusher that did not know the difference between an ear bustin R&R blast and old folks buying $50. tickets to see a 14 time acoustic music grammy winner.
In my set and leave it protocol I use 1176 comps on instruments and LA2As on vocals with identical mixes from my studio post production. Truth be told Rosen is the best acoustic music performance center I have worked with in my 50 year career. I could have easily used just 2 of my EX10s on poles---the space is that good. Here is the bottom line jetam: With the world class session pickers in my ensemble or my one man front end portion, neither you nor any one else would or could have improved the performance and most likely you would have missed some of the nuances that are critical in the acoustic Americana we do. I have a long history of SR and recording experience with some of the best performers in the Americana genre and most all of them either own or have ready access to high quality project studios where they shape their tracks expertly. To suggest that they are not capable of high quality stage control of their own performance is flat out wrong. The big time pop performers you alluded to must be more limited in their skill set or perhaps choose for convenience to hire some one to do it. Either way is certainly understandable but the ability of some performers to deliver high quality channel mixes from the stage is becoming more that an occasional event, it's relatively common over here.
Hugh
the two different shows you desribed are more kind of case studies, as much as jetam was referring to a situation in a bar: as typical as they are on their own, they have almost nothing in common!

i've experienced excellent sound under terrible conditions and vice versa; i've experienced old folks still being at the top the game as much as oldies who have really lost it; i've come across youngster who i was wondering how it'd be possible that they delivered such mature work while other young folks i wished they would have picked up another profession etc.

bottom line is though than no two seats in a venue sound alike, certainly not a seat on stage and one out in the audience - therefore, if things need to get changed...

and they ALWAYS need to get adjusted: music is a dynamic, not a static process!

...and especially if an artist is busy playing an instrument on stage, one better lets an experienced technician with whatever background (could be a painter, romancer, nurse or mechanic...) but with terrific taste take control and take some decisions out in the room so a concert becomes (or remains) the best experience the audience AND the artists can possibly have!

unfortunately, it only take one idiot in the wrong position (whether that's on stage, at foh or at the head of the state) and things can go terribly wrong...
Old 3 weeks ago
  #11
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Adjusting changing room anomalies is an entirely different process than the subject individual channel management involved in a virtual sound check. I always prefer a FOH console mgt. protocol when/if the house FOH gear and technical staff are competent. I have never found our show needed external channel manipulation or monitoring. We know exactly what we want to hear and how to accurately mix and monitor our performance with our set and leave it protocol from the stage. "Tuning the room" in our case is exactly the same whether working with our live performance or our stereo show recording: they are pretty much the same performance.

I agree with most all of deedeeyeah's perspective pursuant to these issues and the ability to accurately assess the quality of house gear and personnel is the determining factor in my work. The Rosen recital hall has a pipe organ and two 9 ft. grand pianos: it is primarily used for music school student acoustic recitals. The existing SR gear is old, poor and seldom ever used. For this reason I provided our complete SR delivery. As previously stated this is not my preferred practice however I have the gear and expertise to do both stage front end capture and FOH when absolutely necessary. I also have a A&H SQ5 with a DX168 that allows I-Pad room adjustments after the seats are filled. This gear works better than the Waves LV1 when we need to do all of the SR.

The primary reason I wanted to start a discussion about virtual sound checks by house personnel at the gig was to dispel the notion that other options are not advisable or possible. Scale and relative competence of the performers are the primary determining factors IMO.
Hugh
Old 3 weeks ago
  #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by hughshouse View Post
(...)
The primary reason I wanted to start a discussion about virtual sound checks by house personnel at the gig was to dispel the notion that other options are not advisable or possible. Scale and relative competence of the performers are the primary determining factors IMO.
Hugh
...scale in the sense of size and volume i'd like to add:

in any venue where a small to significant part of the sound emanates directly from the stage, whether due to the unamplified instrument(s) being loud or combos, stacks, wedges and sidefills contributing the overall 'noise' (so almost everywhere except for very large outdoor shows), virtual soundchecks imo are a bit pointless...

...and even more so on large outdoor shows - for other reasons though.

if you refer to listening to a backing track which later will be part of the performance, then i got more love for it, assuming that it primarily serves the artist(s) during soundcheck to accomodated to the idiosyncrasies of a particular venue.

if the idea is to adjust the fr response of the pa and/or wedges, i mostly don't want to bother the personel by endlessly feeding the backing tracks or my favourite tracks for evaluating 'linearity' but do a quick sweep and then quietly dial in a few filters IF i think this will help the results.

if there is some heavy tweaking required, i'll adjust fr resonse with my lake lm44; more often however, i tune the filters to the suspect frequencies on the house eq but don't apply any cuts: should i need to, i can however quickly grab my eq (weiss eq1 in my case if not using filters on my beloved vista desk).

but virtual soundcheck in the sense of trying to acoustically emulate the artists performance (and possibly even tweak multiple channels on my desk)? no way!

it would be presumptuous to assume that the sound would be anywhere near the same as during a concert; anyone who has ever heard two people play the same instrument, speak or sing into the same microphone knows how far apart the results between two individuals and situations can be: add the crowd, raised background noise, different absorption, changing temperature, humidity etc.

finally, how could i know that the artist(s) might decide to play completely unamplified?! (i remember sam mentioning one of his best shows being one in which the artist decided to do exactly this...)
Old 3 weeks ago
  #13
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Is there a tl;dr ? I can't make heads or tails of the question(s?) being explored here.
Old 2 weeks ago
  #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by brew View Post
Is there a tl;dr ? I can't make heads or tails of the question(s?) being explored here.
Yeah, from my reading of it, just smile and nod. Just another beard stroking thread.
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