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Vocal monitoring solutions for gigs in small spaces? Studio Headphones
Old 29th February 2012
  #1
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Vocal monitoring solutions for gigs in small spaces?

Hey guys,

I play in a blues/soul band. We play mostly in small, noisy bars. Because of this, we are usually really crammed into a small corner, and with the loud crowds and with our drummer, we tend to require fairly high volume levels.

Of course, this causes a few issues. It tends to work out worst for our vocalist. Female vocals sometimes struggle in these situations - she feels she has to strain her voice to hear herself.

There ain't much room for any kind of large fold-back monitors, and all the amps and drums are in such close proximity that there will be feedback issues if P.A volume is pushed too high.

I was wondering would in-ear monitors be a solution for these circumstances?

It's one of the few pieces of equipment that I am really not familiar with at all so I don't really have a good understanding of how they work.

Considering her close proximity to the loud instruments, she really only needs to hear herself in the monitors. The main problem at every gig is that she can't hear herself. A lot of the time it's just because she is situated behind the P.A and she can actually be heard quite clearly by the audience.

For what its worth, for live gigs we use an old Yamaha O1v96 - very small gigs so mainly just for vocals. Occasionally a little guitar cab and bass drum micing at slightly bigger gigs.

Thanks guys, Sorry for the newb question - I am not experienced at monitoring solutions!
Steve.
Old 29th February 2012
  #2
Gear nut
 

They'd work very well! There would be no feedback problem from them, she would hear herself and block out some of the high sound levels from everyone onstage. Only thing I would say seeing as you would be using them for the first time, is go easy on the amount you are sending to them, you don't want to deafen her the first time she uses them.
Old 29th February 2012
  #3
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What Sam said.

Look for a new (or gently used) Behringer HA4700 (4 channels) or HA8000 (8 channels) headphone amp. Feed a "band mix" from one aux send (or a secondary main out, if you run stereo) to the "main" input. Then send a "more me" channel from a direct out to the direct input of each of the HA channels you want to use. The player/singer can then tweak up the blend of the two to get just enough "more me". (BTW, that's likely the only piece if Behringer gear you'll ever hear me recommend, FWIW. I've used three - two installed at the church where I have a part-time gig and one in my own gearpack - for the past 6 or 7 years. They ain't Furman, Grace or SoundDevices, but they work.)

OR... assign an aux to each player who wants to be on IEMs. During rehearsal time, build an aux mix for each player. Once at the gig, tweak it out if you have time for soundcheck. Both HA models are single rackspace, with a IEC power connector (no wall wart) so it won't take up much space.

If everything is NOT mic'd in performance, you might want to put a "room mic" up (could be anything... we use a GrooveTubes sdc out by FOH at church, but a 57 would work fine) somewhere to provide context for the "more me" signal, and to allow both earbuds to be in. Running a single bud is problematic, especially if the stage level is hot.

Cheap buds (iPod, RadioShack, etc.) won't attenuate the room very well, and may not be able to get loud enough to overcome the ambient. Decent low-end buds (Shure SE215 and the like) come with several sizes and types (foam, silicone) of in-ear tips, and do a pretty good job of isolation. Our drummers/bass players (who don't use custom moulds) usually choose over-ear cans (Sony 7506, Shure SRH440 or better, ATH-M50, or, for the best isolation from the room, Direct Sound EX29). Either way, single-ear-bud use is typically more prone to ear damage from SPL. Having both in allows to player/singer to keep the IEM level sane.

If you don't want to go the expense of a wireless RF IEM solution (we use Sennheiser G3, but at $1000/channel new, it ain't cheap) you'll need to keep the HA on stage and run the auxes back the snake returns (unless, of course, the Yamaha is onstage as well) to feed it. Then you'll need to get some 25' headphone extender cables (RadioShack) or build some (any standard mic cable can be used... TRS-M to miniTRS-F).

I don't know if Yamaha has a iPad/iPhone control app for the O1V series. If they do, and if any band members have one of those devices, that makes on-stage real-time tweaks a breeze. We run a PreSonus StudioLive 24.4.2 to supply 10 IEM mixes which are all controlled via iPads/iPhones onstage. The current software/firmware updates have made it rock-solid.

Whatever you try, be sure to have a rehearsal or two before trying to make it work at a paying gig. It ain't rocket science, but it will take some twitching and tweaking to find an appropriate solution.

HTH.

HB
Old 1st March 2012
  #4
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Is there an increased risk of her frying her hearing with in ear monitors?
Old 1st March 2012
  #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 2manyrocks View Post
Is there an increased risk of her frying her hearing with in ear monitors?
Probably not as much chance as standing 3' from a R&B drum kit with a 50-watt lead amp on one side and a 6-10 bass rig in the other, all at full-tilt-boogie... :-)

Seriously... if she's having trouble hearing her vocals, the choices are (1) go acoustic (just kidding) (2) give her a wedge monitor... which will need to get more level in her face than she's getting from the rhythm section behind her. (3) Get some buds with decent isolation (Shure SE215 at $80-100 is the cheapest set I'd buy) and a headphone amp and rehearse with them before you go live. The mic most prone to feed back is a vocal mic, directly in front of a wedge. IEM pretty well eliminates that possibility.

Prolonged exposure to over 85dB from any source (I'd bet a full-tilt blues band in a small club is 102-105dB onstage) will cause damage over a period of time (http://www.dangerousdecibels.org/edu...-hearing-loss/). If you are truly concerned, it's easy and relatively inexpensive to check your levels... buy or borrow a RadioShack SPL meter (http://www.radioshack.com/product/in...uctId=12680845) and learn to use it (http://www.tnt-audio.com/clinica/spl-meter_e.html). Your first reaction will likely be: "Naah! It can't be THAT loud...!"

When the church I mix for regularly moved from a small hotel meeting room (where we were using some inexpensive 12/2 wedges for a largely acoustic band... no drums, just perc) to a 500-seat movie theater (adding a drum kit and at least one electric guitar every week... often two... sometimes three) we decided to go with the Behringer-driven IEM system we still use in a 1,000-seat auditorium, refurbed from a warehouse. Main reasons: too much spill into the room from the wedges, causing the overall house mix level to be higher than most everybody wanted, and a huge increase in SPL on the stage over the theater.

Any loud source (even a lowly iPod) can damage hearing over a period of time. Do some homework. Know what your band is producing. Make a wise decision. Be careful. It's only rock'n'roll...
Old 1st March 2012
  #6
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May ask a couple of questions to follow up on your last post?

Does your church have a choir where you are using any floor speaker monitors at all or are you only using IEMs?

I have trouble setting the speaker monitors at a level to suit our children's choir director. Part of the problem is she directs from the floor to get herself visually out of sight of the audience as much as possible and the monitors are on the stage about 3 feet above her. So she is actually positioned back of the monitors.

I have a Behringer HA400 headphone amp laying around. It sorts of looks lke this would be a good application for an IEM. She'd probably prefer the IEM over headphones so she doesn't get headphone hair.

So I should get the Shure SE215 for her and try it with the HA400? Or ante up and get the HA4700?

One reason for not using IEMs is that they could interfere with her directly listening to the choir overall. The IEMs would seem to only give her what is coming through the microphones-not necessarily all 50 something children.

Thoughts?

Last edited by 2manyrocks; 1st March 2012 at 07:56 PM.. Reason: second thoughts
Old 1st March 2012
  #7
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hbphotoav's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by 2manyrocks View Post
May ask a couple of questions to follow up on your last post?
Sure.

Quote:
Originally Posted by 2manyrocks View Post
Does your church have a choir where you are using any floor speaker monitors at all or are you only using IEMs?
We rarely use wedges. The stage is short (19'... about 6m) front-to-back, with a 110'x22' drywall wall with minimal diffsorber treatment. We do not have a choir (the twice-a-year song by the 40 or 50 kids singing to a track not included) but a 6- to 10-piece worship band. All are on IEMs.

Quote:
Originally Posted by 2manyrocks View Post
I have trouble setting the speaker monitors at a level to suit our children's choir director. Part of the problem is she directs from the floor to get herself visually out of sight of the audience as much as possible and the monitors are on the stage about 3 feet above her. So she is actually positioned back of the monitors.
Yeah. She'll get mostly thump and ooooooommm from that position.

Quote:
Originally Posted by 2manyrocks View Post
I have a Behringer HA400 headphone amp laying around. It sorts of looks lke this would be a good application for an IEM. She'd probably prefer the IEM over headphones so she doesn't get headphone hair.

So I should get the Shure SE215 for her and try it with the HA400? Or ante up and get the HA4700?
It would make sense to try it. That said, the only other option would be to chain one more small wedge (with an in-line L-Pad volume control, if possible) off the two in place. Good IEMs would seal her off from the room, though. Without a room mic mixed in at a proper level, she'd lose a real sense of how the kids are blending and are mixed with the track in the space. If you run a separate Aux for her, you can build the mix so she hears the choir as well as the track, if that helps. The choir should not be in the foldback to the stage... asking for feedback, that is.

Before you blow $100 on Shure SE215s, bring a set of decent cans or iPod buds, set up the HA400 (I've not ever worked with that model... and know nothing about it) and see if it's better for her than just the wedges. If not, a small cue wedge for her (a mic stand mountable Galaxy or the like might work well) may be what's needed. Just be sure you can attenuate it to the minimal level she needs to be happy without dropping the oversell level of the wedges to the choir.

By all means... gotta avoid the Headphone Hair...

Good luck!
Old 1st March 2012
  #8
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Thank you for the helpful suggestions.
Old 7th March 2012
  #9
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steveyraff's Avatar
 

Thread Starter
Quote:
Originally Posted by hbphotoav View Post
What Sam said.

Look for a new (or gently used) Behringer HA4700 (4 channels) or HA8000 (8 channels) headphone amp. Feed a "band mix" from one aux send (or a secondary main out, if you run stereo) to the "main" input. Then send a "more me" channel from a direct out to the direct input of each of the HA channels you want to use. The player/singer can then tweak up the blend of the two to get just enough "more me". (BTW, that's likely the only piece if Behringer gear you'll ever hear me recommend, FWIW. I've used three - two installed at the church where I have a part-time gig and one in my own gearpack - for the past 6 or 7 years. They ain't Furman, Grace or SoundDevices, but they work.)

OR... assign an aux to each player who wants to be on IEMs. During rehearsal time, build an aux mix for each player. Once at the gig, tweak it out if you have time for soundcheck. Both HA models are single rackspace, with a IEC power connector (no wall wart) so it won't take up much space.

If everything is NOT mic'd in performance, you might want to put a "room mic" up (could be anything... we use a GrooveTubes sdc out by FOH at church, but a 57 would work fine) somewhere to provide context for the "more me" signal, and to allow both earbuds to be in. Running a single bud is problematic, especially if the stage level is hot.

Cheap buds (iPod, RadioShack, etc.) won't attenuate the room very well, and may not be able to get loud enough to overcome the ambient. Decent low-end buds (Shure SE215 and the like) come with several sizes and types (foam, silicone) of in-ear tips, and do a pretty good job of isolation. Our drummers/bass players (who don't use custom moulds) usually choose over-ear cans (Sony 7506, Shure SRH440 or better, ATH-M50, or, for the best isolation from the room, Direct Sound EX29). Either way, single-ear-bud use is typically more prone to ear damage from SPL. Having both in allows to player/singer to keep the IEM level sane.

If you don't want to go the expense of a wireless RF IEM solution (we use Sennheiser G3, but at $1000/channel new, it ain't cheap) you'll need to keep the HA on stage and run the auxes back the snake returns (unless, of course, the Yamaha is onstage as well) to feed it. Then you'll need to get some 25' headphone extender cables (RadioShack) or build some (any standard mic cable can be used... TRS-M to miniTRS-F).

I don't know if Yamaha has a iPad/iPhone control app for the O1V series. If they do, and if any band members have one of those devices, that makes on-stage real-time tweaks a breeze. We run a PreSonus StudioLive 24.4.2 to supply 10 IEM mixes which are all controlled via iPads/iPhones onstage. The current software/firmware updates have made it rock-solid.

Whatever you try, be sure to have a rehearsal or two before trying to make it work at a paying gig. It ain't rocket science, but it will take some twitching and tweaking to find an appropriate solution.

HTH.

HB
Harry, thank you so much!

Also, thanks to 2manyrocks for your questions, they helped me also.

I am so sorry I haven't replied to your responses yet - I stupidly forgot to subscribe to this thread I started, then I got into a really busy period in my recording studio so I haven't had much time for band practice since I posted.

Well, this sounds like a great idea. It's funny, sometimes it can be the simplest solutions, but I just wouldn't have thought of it immediately, despite the fact that I already own a little Behringer HA400 headphone amp (this is also the only Behringer piece of gear I've allowed in my studio!). It should be good for just testing the idea out. I also have some in ear buds which I used to use for my MP3 Player before I switched to cans.

I would say I have what I need to try it out at the next practice, but if it seems like it will work in the slightest, I will certainly be getting some good buds which offer improved isolation; like the ones you suggested. As you rightly said, the sound levels onstage do indeed seem very loud to us as the space we play in is usually extremely small in very noisy, crowded bars. I would hazard a guess and say all she will require is for the IEM to only have her vocals and none of the music - she will probably still hear our instruments more than enough!

I personally almost always play with ACS ER-20 ear plugs which are supposed to reduce sound levels by about 16dB. Admittedly I usually only put them in after we get through about 2 or 3 tunes and I am satisfied with how the levels sound. I still hear plenty to keep myself right playing guitar.

I'll research those Shure 215's and see what else is out there.

Many thanks again Harry, much appreciated!

Cheers!
Old 7th March 2012
  #10
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Your question and the replies helped me, too. Thank you all.
Old 7th March 2012
  #11
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GZsound's Avatar
Maybe it's just me, but I would have a long heart to heart talk with the band.

If the singer can't hear herself then the band is playing too loud. Apparently the drums and amps are overpowering the PA with their stage volume.

This is pretty typical of most rock/blues bands with less than professional members.

Get smaller amps, have everyone turn down until they can hear the singer. Let the PA carry the load instead of the on stage equipment.

If you have room off the stage, set up a pair of speakers pointing back at the band like side fills..

But unless the band learns how play professionally with low stage volume, anything other than IEM's won't work.
Old 7th March 2012
  #12
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Thread Starter
Quote:
Originally Posted by GZsound View Post
Maybe it's just me, but I would have a long heart to heart talk with the band.

If the singer can't hear herself then the band is playing too loud. Apparently the drums and amps are overpowering the PA with their stage volume.

This is pretty typical of most rock/blues bands with less than professional members.

Get smaller amps, have everyone turn down until they can hear the singer. Let the PA carry the load instead of the on stage equipment.

If you have room off the stage, set up a pair of speakers pointing back at the band like side fills..

But unless the band learns how play professionally with low stage volume, anything other than IEM's won't work.
These issues have all been addressed many times over the years - We've all been playing for nearly 15 years, in which time I've started working professionally in audio recording and live sound. We've sold our amps and downgraded to smaller amps specially for this band. I personally have a little 30watt Orange which I keep switched down into its 15watt setting, and even at that, I am rarely turned more than half way up. The bass player is one of these overly modest characters who is almost always a touch on the low side. Small, small bars, so nothing is generally mic'd up apart from the vocals which are being pushed with a 1500watt power amp driving two 600watt 15inch PA tops.

Point is, I appreciate your point, but I wouldn't have asked about monitoring solution advice if I hadn't exhausted every other effort, particularly the obvious. Drums are the only thing that doesn't come with a volume knob, so the band all has to play louder than those. So, we've addressed the issue to the drummer many times and he struggles to play very low. Eventually, when a drummer has to repress his playing so much, he isn't really into the groove as normal and the playing is affected. We've tried brushes but it lacks the attack and punch needed for the style of music. At this stage, he is just tapping the things.

If anything, the crowd is louder than the band in a lot of these places. I really am sure than IEM is the solution. Although I am pretty sure her vocals can be heard clearly in the audience, for us on that cramped stage, pressed up against the speakers and amps and drums, she just can't hear herself - out in the audience it sounds good, on the stage we are all so close it sounds rubbish, and as I stated there is no room for on-stage monitors facing us and it would also cause feedback.

Thanks.
Old 8th March 2012
  #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by steveyraff View Post
These issues have all been addressed many times over the years - We've all been playing for nearly 15 years, in which time I've started working professionally in audio recording and live sound. We've sold our amps and downgraded to smaller amps specially for this band. I personally have a little 30watt Orange which I keep switched down into its 15watt setting, and even at that, I am rarely turned more than half way up. The bass player is one of these overly modest characters who is almost always a touch on the low side. Small, small bars, so nothing is generally mic'd up apart from the vocals which are being pushed with a 1500watt power amp driving two 600watt 15inch PA tops.

Point is, I appreciate your point, but I wouldn't have asked about monitoring solution advice if I hadn't exhausted every other effort, particularly the obvious. Drums are the only thing that doesn't come with a volume knob, so the band all has to play louder than those. So, we've addressed the issue to the drummer many times and he struggles to play very low. Eventually, when a drummer has to repress his playing so much, he isn't really into the groove as normal and the playing is affected. We've tried brushes but it lacks the attack and punch needed for the style of music. At this stage, he is just tapping the things.

If anything, the crowd is louder than the band in a lot of these places. I really am sure than IEM is the solution. Although I am pretty sure her vocals can be heard clearly in the audience, for us on that cramped stage, pressed up against the speakers and amps and drums, she just can't hear herself - out in the audience it sounds good, on the stage we are all so close it sounds rubbish, and as I stated there is no room for on-stage monitors facing us and it would also cause feedback.

Thanks.
It sounds like you have covered just about all your bases and it seems the only answer would be for IEM's.

I had a set of speakers that I hung on our FOH speaker stands under the mains that pointed back at the band, just small 250 watt 10" monitors and that worked very well in small cramped spaces since it didn't take up any more room than the speaker stands themselves.

Our lead singer tried IEM and didn't like them at all so we had to use some form of monitoring and the side fills worked very well when we played in very small locations.
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