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Sound information. Mixer on stage?

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Rick Fielding 21 Aug 01 - 11:46 PM
DonMeixner 21 Aug 01 - 11:51 PM
Rick Fielding 21 Aug 01 - 11:51 PM
Rick Fielding 22 Aug 01 - 01:23 PM
Willie-O 22 Aug 01 - 01:43 PM
PeteBoom 22 Aug 01 - 02:05 PM
Rick Fielding 22 Aug 01 - 10:52 PM
mooman 23 Aug 01 - 05:08 AM
DonMeixner 23 Aug 01 - 07:43 AM
PeteBoom 23 Aug 01 - 07:55 AM
UB Ed 23 Aug 01 - 08:27 AM
GUEST,Russ 23 Aug 01 - 08:57 AM
JedMarum 23 Aug 01 - 09:15 AM
Fortunato 23 Aug 01 - 09:23 AM
JedMarum 23 Aug 01 - 09:26 AM
Barbara Shaw 23 Aug 01 - 09:37 AM
Whistle Stop 23 Aug 01 - 10:18 AM
mooman 23 Aug 01 - 10:35 AM
Willie-O 23 Aug 01 - 11:19 AM
PeteBoom 23 Aug 01 - 11:37 AM
Barbara Shaw 23 Aug 01 - 11:49 AM
GUEST,JohnB 23 Aug 01 - 12:27 PM
Whistle Stop 23 Aug 01 - 12:46 PM
GUEST,Callie 23 Aug 01 - 01:43 PM
UB Ed 23 Aug 01 - 02:34 PM
Bernard 23 Aug 01 - 02:58 PM
Rick Fielding 23 Aug 01 - 11:16 PM
GUEST,Don Meixner 24 Aug 01 - 08:49 AM
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Subject: Sound information. Mixer on stage?
From: Rick Fielding
Date: 21 Aug 01 - 11:46 PM

Hi. this is a continuation of my "Omni-directional Mike" thread. I've gotten so much incredibly valuable information from you good folks. Thank you.

The Audio technica 4033s are sounding like a good way to go, but another thought came to mind. Jim Keelaghan and Garnet Rogers bring their own mixer on stage with them, and feed one line to the sound board. They just ask the sound guy or gal to give 'em the right amount of volume and do their own adjustments from the stage. Like me, they really get thrown when the sound person twirls

knobs all night long...but they decided to do something about it.

Has anyone who's played in a band done this? I've got five people playing a variety of acoustic instruments and singing, and I'd sure like to get a consistent mix.

Rick


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Subject: RE: Sound information. Mixer on stage?
From: DonMeixner
Date: 21 Aug 01 - 11:51 PM

Never successfully Rick. But I must admit that even after 30 years doing it the sound system still takes us by surprise. I could see (hear) it if I was doing a single rather than a band gig. And with my hearing loss I have an additional requirment. I need a very loud monitor and I have to hear the front end mix in it. Does me no good to hear my instruments and voice if I can't tell if the other guys are drowning me out on the harmonies and versa visa.

Don


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Subject: RE: Sound information. Mixer on stage?
From: Rick Fielding
Date: 21 Aug 01 - 11:51 PM

If anyone wants to see what led up to this, it's here click

Rick


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Subject: RE: Sound information. Mixer on stage?
From: Rick Fielding
Date: 22 Aug 01 - 01:23 PM

Did some "net checking" during the "wee hours" and it seems like more than a few have tried to give themselves more "sound control' by bringing a mixer on stage with them. If it really works, then perhaps asking the sound person to set the monitors and then leave 'em alone, would help. Since I've been playing for so many years I've got a real "sixth sense" about "stage balance" and if I was able to do my own "tweaking" from an onstage mixer, it might solve a lot of the "inconsistency" problems. Once agai however, it means that the band have to use a lot of personal dynamics (in and out) in their playing.

Rick


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Subject: RE: Sound information. Mixer on stage?
From: Willie-O
Date: 22 Aug 01 - 01:43 PM

In a band setting, I think it works better for a multi-instrumentalist to be able to shape his/her own sound using a little Mackie type mixer onstage, and whatever other effects. But mixing a band...it can be done, but ultimately you need some ears at the back of the hall, (a pair of ears who can communicate the needed info to the onstage board, which is inevitably distracting...)

It may be distracting to performers (we try to be subtle), but we're just trying to get the best sound to the audience. People switch or trade instruments, and all of a sudden the balance needs to be shifted again, which may or may not be evident from the stage. As for the monitor mix, it's there for the performers convenience. I have no idea why a sound person would change it on the fly unless specifically requested to do so by the performer.

Willie-O


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Subject: RE: Sound information. Mixer on stage?
From: PeteBoom
Date: 22 Aug 01 - 02:05 PM

Hi Rick -

It sounds to me like you need a solid sound engineer who knows your music, style and sound. Of course, everyone who has played in a band needs that too - I've found that solo or duo acts have got a bit more leeway than bands do when it comes to mix. It is one thing to set the room up and have a "perfect" mix, right up until the room fills. Then the rules change, right? In summer, heat and humidity will vary - particularly in an air conditioned venue - blowers kick in and watch the weather sensitive instruments freak out. Intonation is not the only thing to suffer - relative sound projection will also suffer.

It is a luxury to have someone who can hear what the house sounds like do all the tweaks for you AND keep the relative mix for the guys on stage - personally, I prefer hearing the house mix instead of a "specialized" monitor mix. It is possible to run the board from the stage - but normally, it is a set and forget mix - where you get an "ok" sound and try and set the balance for the night. After all, most bands playing the bar or club scene face exactly that, right? The small amount you make for the show gets even smaller if you throw in an extra cut for a sound tech. When my band is playing small venues, that is exactly how we work - set and forget. If we are playing much other than a club or a bar - we have a couple of sound guys we can rely on.

Why? Let's face it - someone with ears in the audience can bring up a soft voiced instrument for a solo, then back it down a bit when the solo is over. If you're playing with mic'd instruments instead of using DI's, the banjo player with a habbit of shifting his body "a little" and bringing his banjo 4 inches closer to the mic than when levels were set during the sound check (and giving a GREAT banjo chording solo at the same time) can be backed down, until he shifts back to where he normally stands (not that the banjo player in my band EVER does that...)


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Subject: RE: Sound information. Mixer on stage?
From: Rick Fielding
Date: 22 Aug 01 - 10:52 PM

Thanks guys. Some good info coming out, and just like on the other thread it's verry helpful.

Rick


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Subject: RE: Sound information. Mixer on stage?
From: mooman
Date: 23 Aug 01 - 05:08 AM

Dear Rick,

I always do my own mixing now having had some awful experiences with some "unsound" men who have been a disgrace to the honourable profession of soundman.

If I were doing this full-time (I'd like to) I'd probably try and find a good soundman who understands the type of music I/the band play. As it is, it's currently you-get-what-you-get which is why I prefer to mix myself and just send the mix to the power amp.

Best regards,

mooman


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Subject: RE: Sound information. Mixer on stage?
From: DonMeixner
Date: 23 Aug 01 - 07:43 AM

The Dady Brothers from Rochester NY mix their own sound from the stage and then feed the house. They use mics for vocals only and their accoustic instruments are all pick ups on board. Rather than step into a mic for lead work they use foot pedal volume controls. The house sound sets the over all comfort mix and equalizes for the house. The brothers deal with the dynamics of the show. They work very hard at this and I have never heard their mix sound bad or the balance be off.

I know I have seen others do this but I can't remember names just now. Probably at Irish festivals tho'.

Don


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Subject: RE: Sound information. Mixer on stage?
From: PeteBoom
Date: 23 Aug 01 - 07:55 AM

Excellent point, Don! Volume pedals on instruments with pick ups would nicely balance the "annoying banjo moving man" and "ever so delicate mandolin not quite being heard over the fiddle and accordion" problems.

Regards -

Pete


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Subject: RE: Sound information. Mixer on stage?
From: UB Ed
Date: 23 Aug 01 - 08:27 AM

Don, any more info on the Dady Brothers? Are they running the mix from the monitors directly into the mains? Would there be another mixer to control overall house volume?

We generally have the mixer on stage for all the Pete Boom reasons, and its a source of great angst as there are generally no knowledgable eyes or ears outside our normal venue.

Ed


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Subject: RE: Sound information. Mixer on stage?
From: GUEST,Russ
Date: 23 Aug 01 - 08:57 AM

Rick,
I respectfully suggest that you pay attention to PeteBoom and mooman. Sounds like what you really need is your own sound man. I've seen several groups who bring their own sound man with them. Sure you could do sound yourself but perhaps this would be a good job to delegate so that you can concentrate on performing.


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Subject: RE: Sound information. Mixer on stage?
From: JedMarum
Date: 23 Aug 01 - 09:15 AM

The problem is; from stage you can't know what it sounds like out front. You need to have someone you trust operating the front of house mix - you need to do a sound check and get the general mix down before you start. I don't think mixing from the stage is a good idea. You want the band to be musicians, not sound techs. You want to focus on music performance, not be distratced by thoughts of "is this guitar too loud, or the mando too crisp, or the vocals unbalanced"

I don't like volume/eq controls being used on stage, either for the same reason. Just because on of the members thinks his fiddle is too quiet doesn't mean he isn't already dominating the sound out front. It might mean the monitor mix needs help.

I think you're moving the wrong way if you're allowing band members to mix from the stage. You're much better using the acoustic, single/dual mic approach. Short of that, a good sound man is a major contributor to the performance.

I know what you mean about the 6th sense, though. I swear I can read the audience behavior signs that tell me if the sound is loud/low, too crisp/too muddy etc. I trust that ability to help me mix when I'm doing a solo - but with a band, I really want to have a trusted set of ears in the audience, and preferably at the mixing console!


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Subject: RE: Sound information. Mixer on stage?
From: Fortunato
Date: 23 Aug 01 - 09:23 AM

I agree with Jed. Too many times (when mixing from the stage) I have finished a set to applause, only to be told by my wife: "I couldn't hear your vocals," or "your guitar was too low." But how much do I turn what up or down? As Jed has said, you only hear the monitor mix when you're on stage. Now, can you afford to pay a good sound person for the gig? If so hire them.


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Subject: RE: Sound information. Mixer on stage?
From: JedMarum
Date: 23 Aug 01 - 09:26 AM

This is an example of why musicians ought not mix from the stage - one of my musician friends has EQ and volume controls on his guitar. He likes to have a lot of his own guitar in his stage monitor, so he asks for the mix to be set that way. When I watch him perform, his guitar EQ is poor and his guitar volume is too loud - so the overall sound impression people get is "I like Michael but he's too loud." Well, the overall volume is not too loud, the 'bad' sounds are too loud. I've worked with the sound guys when he is performing - they EQ the guitar in an attempt to resolve those probs, then adjust the volume to a more appropriate level, and before long, Michael has, from the stage, readjusted the sound to HIS liking, and once again the audience is complaining. Michael has another guitar with no controls on-board. We never have a problem with it (it has another problem, and that is probably a discussion for another thread; it has an internal condenser mic that creates a different set of challenges).

I think this story typifies the problem of musicians mixing from the stage. Even if they have superior judgement about how a mix should sound - they are not is a position to make that judgement from the stage.


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Subject: RE: Sound information. Mixer on stage?
From: Barbara Shaw
Date: 23 Aug 01 - 09:37 AM

Call me naive, but I still think the way to go is to think acoustic and balance yourself by listening to yourself. That's the whole point of one mic, which is simply to amplify this balanced sound. If one instrument is too delicate to be heard at one point, that means everyone else is playing too loud. If the audience only hears the banjo, that means the banjo player is hogging the mic or just playing too loud.

I personally don't want the sound engineer to dictate which instrument gets boosted when during a song. Unless he knows how we might vary the performance (even we wouldn't know that, unless it's so stale that it's the same every time), it's bound to be slightly delayed from the actual delivery, and all acoustic dynamics are undermined.

You'll spend more energy on music and less on sound engineering if you get the band members to just listen to themselves.


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Subject: RE: Sound information. Mixer on stage?
From: Whistle Stop
Date: 23 Aug 01 - 10:18 AM

I'm with Jed on this. I spent years with my band mixing from the stage, because we didn't have a choice. It was a frustrating exercise, and eventually we decided to hire a sound man and consider him a fifth member of the band (and pay him accordingly). Someone you trust running the sound from the front of the house is the best way to go.

The "trust" aspect is vital. It sounds like Rick has been working with one or more soundmen (or "soundpersons," if you like) who can't be trusted to mix according to his tastes -- possibly ones hired by the venue, rather than by his band. I have dealt with that, too, and it can drive you up a wall. The musicians tend to "solve" this problem by doing more of their boosting/cutting on their own, using whatever controls are close at hand (volume knobs, proximity effects, etc.), as Jed has described.

I think Barbara's point is an excellent one; the musicians need to act like musicians, and use their ears to gauge the dynamics of the whole band, increasing or decreasing their own intensity based on how the whole band sounds (not just their own contribution). But when you factor in the amplified sound, the noise associated with the crowd and/or venue, the way additional bodies absorb sound, and the way your ears can get fatigued as the night goes on, the musicians can use all the help they can get. This becomes increasingly important the louder you get, the more members you have, the larger the venues are, the rowdier the crowds, etc.

Realistically, most of us like to hear a little more of ourselves than is ideal -- the guitar player wants a little more guitar, the mandolin player wants a little more mandolin, etc. [This applies to all types of musicians, by the way, whether they're playing in a rock and roll band or a symphony; ever wonder why the violin evolved to an instrument that is held under the chin?] A good monitor mix can give you this, while the front-of-house mix is more balanced, and the sound man adjusts for the changes that inevitably occur between the time the band sets up and the last song of the night.

If you want to go with a single or dual mic setup, or to mixing from the stage so as to keep the control in your own hands, I recommend trying it for a night with a trusted friend (one with good ears who is brutally honest) sitting out front.


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Subject: RE: Sound information. Mixer on stage?
From: mooman
Date: 23 Aug 01 - 10:35 AM

I respect the views of Jed and Fortunato and would always use a regular and good sound man if I could afford one (and then find one). Unfortunately very few of us can and because of disastrous experiences with inexperienced soundpersons in the past I now prefer to do my own mixing. Generally it is not too difficult to find one or two friends with a "good ear" to stand in the room/hall/auditorium and help with the balance and mix. As long as no-one then "does their own thing" with individual levels subsequently, I find this works quite well.

As for concentrating on being a musician, I would far rather do the above than be trembling with anger and fear on stage looking into the uncomprehending eyes of the "soundman from hell"!

Best regards,

mooman


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Subject: RE: Sound information. Mixer on stage?
From: Willie-O
Date: 23 Aug 01 - 11:19 AM

It appears we have come to an impasse. All positions are clearly stated, and all have their advantages and disadvantages. It's a compromised world we live in!

Just one thing am I sure of: in 2001, the word is "sound tech", not "sound man".

The other thing I am sure of: you can't hear the room mix from the stage!

Recently I was doing outdoor sound for a 3-pc band. While we were sound checking, the guitar player decided the fiddle wasn't loud enough, and went out on the lawn asking me to turn up the fiddle volume till it reached what he considered an adequate level. Finally had to point out to him that there was no point in boosting the fiddle up and up BY ITSELF, I needed him onstage playing so I could get A MIX. You gotta let go, you gotta trust somebody.

Spose if you got a wireless pickup and went out touring around the audience you could be checking your own sound balance while they thought you were being Mr Showman....but then you go back and tweak the levels and guess what? you're still guessing.

Willie-O
waiting for a perfect world


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Subject: RE: Sound information. Mixer on stage?
From: PeteBoom
Date: 23 Aug 01 - 11:37 AM

mooman - that's a great point about finding a qualified sound tech you can afford. There is a solution though - Have any friends in another band who have decent ears who aren't playing the same schedule as you? With a little training, they can be taught the basics of running a board fairly quickly. Then make yourself available to do the same thing for them.

Like I said before, it is entirely possible (although not ideal) to run sound for a band while playing in a club or a bar for 50 to 200 people. If you're playing a BIG venue - it is impossible. It just doesn't work. Even if the board is next to the stage and your sound guy is moving around the hall to check the overall sound and tweaking as needed for the entire first set - that is something you can't do if you're playing.

Pete


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Subject: RE: Sound information. Mixer on stage?
From: Barbara Shaw
Date: 23 Aug 01 - 11:49 AM

Just 2 more cents and I'll let it go: if you ever have the choice for sound engineering, get Cardinal Sound (before they retire). These folks from Connecticut do it right. They know acoustic music and make the audience and the bands happy, whether it's single or multiple mics.


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Subject: RE: Sound information. Mixer on stage?
From: GUEST,JohnB
Date: 23 Aug 01 - 12:27 PM

The sound guy who does our local concerts seems to vary CONSIDERABLY on different nights. I know he can do really good sound, because I have heard it. I have also suffered through horendous nights, IMHO, which I could mix better myself. One of these nights was a James Keelaghan concert. I was so fed up with the sound quality that I brought it up at a couple of our board meetings. It was subsequently a question on our audience survey/feed back sheet. Approximately 96% of the response to the question of Sound Quality came back GOOD or better. My question is, what are the few of us with good hearing going through all this turmoil for, when the majority don't even know the difference. JohnB


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Subject: RE: Sound information. Mixer on stage?
From: Whistle Stop
Date: 23 Aug 01 - 12:46 PM

Good point, JohnB, but I think they DO know the difference. They just don't know why. In other words, they know that they either liked the show, or didn't, but they don't realize that a big part of their reaction is due to the quality of the sound that came out of the speakers.

Willie-O, I stand corrected -- the gender-neutral term "sound tech" is the best one to use. I also agree with the rest of what you said (and PeteBoom as well -- good idea on sharing sound tech responsibilities with other musicians).


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Subject: RE: Sound information. Mixer on stage?
From: GUEST,Callie
Date: 23 Aug 01 - 01:43 PM

We had a regular gig in a venue and originally had lined up a sound guy. Turned out he couldn´t make it at the last minute. We were kind of relieved - because he has such fantastic ears and equipment he was also going to cost us an arm and a leg.

We ended up getting a friend with ears to sound check us, and then I kept the mixer next to me in performance and actually didn´t need to move anything at all.

The most we ever had to mix were 2 acoustic instruments and 3 vocals. Ordinarily, this can be tricky, but in this venue we were ´semi-unplugged´- that is, had the speakers half way down the room. The front half could hear us pretty much acoustically and the second half of the room heard the performance a little bit more boosted than the folks in front. Seemed to work really well.

I hasten to add that it was a relatively small room (about 100 audience members), great natural acoustics and a concert situation where people sat down and listened. I think if there were other variables, such as competing with slot machine and bar noises or people chatting that I would have found it impossible to mix myself from the stage.

Good luck experimenting!

Callie


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Subject: RE: Sound information. Mixer on stage?
From: UB Ed
Date: 23 Aug 01 - 02:34 PM

Let's back up a moment.

1. Professional sound guy is the way to go if you got a good one and can afford it. 2. If you can't afford one, mix it yourself and pray (I do like the idea of trading with other local musicians). 3. If your mixing and praying, none of the other musicians better change a damn thing.

So here's the question: Certainly room dynamics change from full to empty. However, if you can get the mix right before (in the empty room) with the wireless allowing you to play along, are there dynamics other than volume that will change as the room fills? And if so, are these dynamics relatively insignificant as compared to the volume of the main mix? Where I'm going is, can I get her set up before hand and then boost the entire house as the venue fills up?

Ed


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Subject: RE: Sound information. Mixer on stage?
From: Bernard
Date: 23 Aug 01 - 02:58 PM

The EQ in an empty room is dif


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Subject: RE: Sound information. Mixer on stage?
From: Rick Fielding
Date: 23 Aug 01 - 11:16 PM

John said:

"My question is, what are the few of us with good hearing going through all this turmoil for, when the majority don't even know the difference. JohnB"

This is what keeps me up at night John....AND keeps me trying to get info with threads like this and the "omni-directional mikes" one.

Last year I went down to a Toronto venue where some of my friends were playin' bluegrass. The sound was so completely atrocious I left after twenty minutes. They had a guy sitting at the board who didn't stop twirling knobs for five seconds. The next day I asked onr of the players how he could stand it. His response was "the beer's free." There are times I just KNOW I'm from another planet. Thank gawd there's some folks here from the SAME planet!

Rick


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Subject: RE: Sound information. Mixer on stage?
From: GUEST,Don Meixner
Date: 24 Aug 01 - 08:49 AM

Ed,

I don't know how they mix their monitors. I can't imagine not hearinf the front end however. How can you fix problems with the finished sound if you aren't hearing it in the first place?

I think they have volume pedals on everything but the bass. It should be considered that they are two brothers and a bass player, not a five piece band. Their sound is balanced around two accoustic instruments and two voices. And as I said they worked very hard at this to develop a really good sound that does their job.

I think if you add more people to a mixer the problem expand exponentially with each person. Any thing more than 3 and I'd rely on the sound guy if possible.

Don


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