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Author Topic: Virtual Sound Check  (Read 1730 times)

Isaac South

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Virtual Sound Check
« on: February 09, 2018, 01:24:05 pm »

Thanks for your time.  So, I've been listening to the Mxu Podcast and they mentioned something called a "virtual sound check".  I've also heard other people talking about them.  But I don't know what they are.  Apparently, they are very useful and I want to be able to do one.

Based on my reading and assumptions, a virtual sound check is where you record your service (church, in this case), and then play it back at a later date.  And this allows you to be able to (a) work on your mix, and (b) train other people on mixing, etc.

Please let me know if I'm correct or not.

But more importatnly, I'm wanting to know how to record the service.  Is this done directly from my console (QU32).  Or do I need a DAW, like Pro Tools, Ableton, etc?

I appreciate any help. I think this will be a good tool for me.  I lead worship at my church.  But I'm also the most knowledgeable and most experienced FOH guy at our church, aside from our Bass Player (he's on stage as well).  So, we would love to be able to hear the mix at a later date and see what stuff really sounds like out there.

We have Ableton standard.  But we can get whatever we need.
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brian maddox

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Re: Virtual Sound Check
« Reply #1 on: February 09, 2018, 02:06:21 pm »

Thanks for your time.  So, I've been listening to the Mxu Podcast and they mentioned something called a "virtual sound check".  I've also heard other people talking about them.  But I don't know what they are.  Apparently, they are very useful and I want to be able to do one.

Based on my reading and assumptions, a virtual sound check is where you record your service (church, in this case), and then play it back at a later date.  And this allows you to be able to (a) work on your mix, and (b) train other people on mixing, etc.

Please let me know if I'm correct or not.

But more importatnly, I'm wanting to know how to record the service.  Is this done directly from my console (QU32).  Or do I need a DAW, like Pro Tools, Ableton, etc?

I appreciate any help. I think this will be a good tool for me.  I lead worship at my church.  But I'm also the most knowledgeable and most experienced FOH guy at our church, aside from our Bass Player (he's on stage as well).  So, we would love to be able to hear the mix at a later date and see what stuff really sounds like out there.

We have Ableton standard.  But we can get whatever we need.

I did a quick lookup and see that the QU32 has a 32x32 USB interface.  So you should be able to record up to 32 tracks/channels from your service using an external computer and some form of DAW.

The trick is to route your channels to the DAW BEFORE any channel signal processing so that you are recording the "raw" signal.  Most digital mixers allow you to source the USB feed directly after the Mic Pre in the mixer, which is exactly what you want.  Then when you play it back later you play it back "through" the same channels that the live sound went through and you can then mix those channels as if they were coming from the stage live.

So yes, "Virtual Sound Check" is a great tool for mixing practice and training among other things.  There is a HUGE caveat to this however.  Unless ALL the sound sources on your stage run direct [i.e. no acoustic drums, no guitar amplifiers on stage, no stage monitors, etc.], the mix you generate from your tracks will NOT be the same as the actual "live" mix since that live mix takes the acoustic sound coming from your stage into account.  IN most cases unning your tracks through your standard live mix will likely sound light on drums, electric guitars, and maybe even vocals if there's usually significant stage volume from stage monitors.

It's still a great tool, and i highly recommend you explore the benefits.  But it's important to understand the limitations as well.  Preferably BEFORE you fire your FOH guy.   :)
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Isaac South

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Re: Virtual Sound Check
« Reply #2 on: February 09, 2018, 02:39:44 pm »

I did a quick lookup and see that the QU32 has a 32x32 USB interface.  So you should be able to record up to 32 tracks/channels from your service using an external computer and some form of DAW.

The trick is to route your channels to the DAW BEFORE any channel signal processing so that you are recording the "raw" signal.  Most digital mixers allow you to source the USB feed directly after the Mic Pre in the mixer, which is exactly what you want.  Then when you play it back later you play it back "through" the same channels that the live sound went through and you can then mix those channels as if they were coming from the stage live.

So yes, "Virtual Sound Check" is a great tool for mixing practice and training among other things.  There is a HUGE caveat to this however.  Unless ALL the sound sources on your stage run direct [i.e. no acoustic drums, no guitar amplifiers on stage, no stage monitors, etc.], the mix you generate from your tracks will NOT be the same as the actual "live" mix since that live mix takes the acoustic sound coming from your stage into account.  IN most cases unning your tracks through your standard live mix will likely sound light on drums, electric guitars, and maybe even vocals if there's usually significant stage volume from stage monitors.

It's still a great tool, and i highly recommend you explore the benefits.  But it's important to understand the limitations as well.  Preferably BEFORE you fire your FOH guy.   :)

Brian - What you said makes perfect sense about difference between the actual service and the virtual.  I was actually just about to ask that additional question about having acoustic drums, etc.  I see how that can make a difference.
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Isaac South

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Re: Virtual Sound Check
« Reply #3 on: February 09, 2018, 02:47:40 pm »

Just thought of this.  What if I have the drummer play his drums during the virtual sound check.  Would that help?  Or is that a crazy idea?
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brian maddox

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Re: Virtual Sound Check
« Reply #4 on: February 09, 2018, 02:50:22 pm »

Just thought of this.  What if I have the drummer play his drums during the virtual sound check.  Would that help?  Or is that a crazy idea?

If you use a click track that the drummer can follow you can have the drummer play along to the recorded tracks and actually hear him in context with the "rest of the band".  Or if perhaps he can "follow himself" from the recordings and he's on IEMs.  Otherwise, this could get more tricky to execute than the benefit is worth.

But heck, don't hurt to try.  :)
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William Schnake

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Re: Virtual Sound Check
« Reply #5 on: February 09, 2018, 02:56:30 pm »

Just thought of this.  What if I have the drummer play his drums during the virtual sound check.  Would that help?  Or is that a crazy idea?
Isaac, in theory that would help, however it is my opinion that it would be limited help.  Here is why, drummers like all musicians play slightly differently with each performance.  In this case the original performance was recorded now you are using it for a second performance 'virtual sound check'.  Yes you will be close, but not exact.

Where the virtual sound check is best used IMO is with a touring act.  They travel from venue to venue and sound system to sound system daily/weekly.  The virtual sound check allows you to get 85%, give or take 2%, of the mix ready and system tuned prior to the band taking the stage for sound check.  It facilitates a quick sound check for the band.

Bill
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Isaac South

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Re: Virtual Sound Check
« Reply #6 on: February 09, 2018, 03:06:41 pm »

If you use a click track that the drummer can follow you can have the drummer play along to the recorded tracks and actually hear him in context with the "rest of the band".  Or if perhaps he can "follow himself" from the recordings and he's on IEMs.  Otherwise, this could get more tricky to execute than the benefit is worth.

But heck, don't hurt to try.  :)

Our band does have IEM's.  I may give it a shot.
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Isaac South

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Re: Virtual Sound Check
« Reply #7 on: February 09, 2018, 03:08:00 pm »

Isaac, in theory that would help, however it is my opinion that it would be limited help.  Here is why, drummers like all musicians play slightly differently with each performance.  In this case the original performance was recorded now you are using it for a second performance 'virtual sound check'.  Yes you will be close, but not exact.

Where the virtual sound check is best used IMO is with a touring act.  They travel from venue to venue and sound system to sound system daily/weekly.  The virtual sound check allows you to get 85%, give or take 2%, of the mix ready and system tuned prior to the band taking the stage for sound check.  It facilitates a quick sound check for the band.

Bill

William, that makes perfect sense.  Now that you mention it, I remember the guys on the podcast talking about having the sound 90% rerady and not even needing to do an actual sound check with the band. 

And yes, I'm sure you're right.  The drummer wouldn't play exactly like he did during the service.
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Laurence Nefzger

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Re: Virtual Sound Check
« Reply #8 on: February 09, 2018, 03:18:45 pm »

William, that makes perfect sense.  Now that you mention it, I remember the guys on the podcast talking about having the sound 90% rerady and not even needing to do an actual sound check with the band. 

And yes, I'm sure you're right.  The drummer wouldn't play exactly like he did during the service.
Where I have found virtual sound check to be very useful is to try stuff I would not dare to during an actual performance or service.
Most congregations would not appreciate my sweeping an instrument with a narrow boost in the parametric as I search for resonances. Musicians get annoyed even during sound checks when the audio changes as drastically as I might like in order to suss something out.

Virtual sound checks allow for considerable experimentation that may yield benefits to future performances.
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Kevin Maxwell

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Re: Virtual Sound Check
« Reply #9 on: February 09, 2018, 03:56:02 pm »

At one of the digital mixer classes I went to where the instructor was the FOH Eng for a big touring rock band he described how he did a Virtual sound check. It included what is referred to as re-amping, playing back the amplified instrument thru the amplifiers they use on stage for the show. I think he also said that they had a speaker on stage at the drums where the playback of the drums was played thru. Now as Bill said this is usually used for touring acts. And for the fellow that was teaching us, the shows were in very big places and they were the headliner. In a place that size the live drums and the amps will make a difference but not as much of a difference as in your standard church, not including Mega churches.

If the intent of the recording is to see how the people are mixing the service then there really isn’t any way to accurately do that. Especially if you are taking the raw signal pre everything, which is usually the default for then when multi-tracking. Even if it was a stereo board recording as Brien said that doesn't take into account what is low in the mix because it didn't need much if any amplification.

Maybe a really good pair of mics in the audience recording, but that isn’t cheap. But it is going to sound different, you will probably only notice some glaring errors and they may not be the mixers fault.
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Isaac South

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Re: Virtual Sound Check
« Reply #10 on: February 09, 2018, 04:02:59 pm »

At one of the digital mixer classes I went to where the instructor was the FOH Eng for a big touring rock band he described how he did a Virtual sound check. It included what is referred to as re-amping, playing back the amplified instrument thru the amplifiers they use on stage for the show. I think he also said that they had a speaker on stage at the drums where the playback of the drums was played thru. Now as Bill said this is usually used for touring acts. And for the fellow that was teaching us, the shows were in very big places and they were the headliner. In a place that size the live drums and the amps will make a difference but not as much of a difference as in your standard church, not including Mega churches.

If the intent of the recording is to see how the people are mixing the service then there really isn’t any way to accurately do that. Especially if you are taking the raw signal pre everything, which is usually the default for then when multi-tracking. Even if it was a stereo board recording as Brien said that doesn't take into account what is low in the mix because it didn't need much if any amplification.

Maybe a really good pair of mics in the audience recording, but that isn’t cheap. But it is going to sound different, you will probably only notice some glaring errors and they may not be the mixers fault.

Thanks for the info.  Good stuff.  I'm a bit confused, though.  If my keyboard is run directly through the sound system, and I play that back through the same channels as it was live, am I not going to hear the same thing that the audience heard?  (I'm only talking piano, as an example, here.)  I realize that the drums and other things will make a difference.
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brian maddox

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Re: Virtual Sound Check
« Reply #11 on: February 09, 2018, 04:14:18 pm »

Thanks for the info.  Good stuff.  I'm a bit confused, though.  If my keyboard is run directly through the sound system, and I play that back through the same channels as it was live, am I not going to hear the same thing that the audience heard?  (I'm only talking piano, as an example, here.)  I realize that the drums and other things will make a difference.

Anything you run direct will sound identical [assuming of course that the signal path is identical to the original].  So keyboards and usually acoustic guitars and even bass guitar [if they don't use a sizable amp on stage] will come across very much like they do live.  And as i said before, if you don't have loud wedges on stage, vocals will be very close as well.  You'll even be able to solo up the vocal mics and hear how much bleed is getting in to the them from those perky drums and guitars.  :)
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brian maddox
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Kevin Maxwell

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Re: Virtual Sound Check
« Reply #12 on: February 09, 2018, 06:34:00 pm »

Anything you run direct will sound identical [assuming of course that the signal path is identical to the original].  So keyboards and usually acoustic guitars and even bass guitar [if they don't use a sizable amp on stage] will come across very much like they do live.  And as i said before, if you don't have loud wedges on stage, vocals will be very close as well.  You'll even be able to solo up the vocal mics and hear how much bleed is getting in to the them from those perky drums and guitars.  :)

I would disagree with one little part of that. The size of the amp doesn’t matter it is how loud it is run. I have heard some small amps that are just run too loud for the environment. And some of them are incredibly beamy. There are also some factors that can affect the playback. You would have to make sure that it is coming back into the board at the same level that it left. If it was boosted in the DAW then it might be louder coming back in, or the other way around it doesn’t always match up on playback. You would need to have a way to calibrate it. And you would want to run any wedges the same way they are run for a service. This is for practicing not for getting any ides as to how it is being done now.

I mention the following to let you know it isn’t all cut and dry. Just because we can save all of the setting in the digital consoles doesn’t mean that those setting are going to work from week to week.

I usually laugh to myself when after a sound check/rehearsal when the band says “everything sounds great just leave all the setting there”. And then they come out and play louder and sing differently due to the excitement of preforming before a live audience. I was doing a small concert that was supposed to be outdoors, due to the weather it was moved to a relatively small room indoors. It was small enough that anything I did to the house mix would be heard by the musicians. After a sound check they said “don’t make any changes just leave everything set where it is, the last time the sound guy was changing things constantly”. I couldn’t leave it alone there were changes needed as the show went on. After the show they thanked me for how good it sounded and thanked me for not making any changes during the show. I just said “you’re welcome”. When you do it right it is just right it isn’t necessarily noticeable as to what you are doing.

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Wes Garland

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Re: Virtual Sound Check
« Reply #13 on: February 10, 2018, 05:06:56 pm »

You guys got any hot tips for switching back and forth between "live" and "virtual" for X32?  I keep thinking there must be a fast way to change 24 inputs' sources without changing anything else?

My other interest, besides virtual sound checks, is rehearsals missing one or more members, where one member is the drummer.  We could just play our own tracks.
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Robert Lofgren

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Re: Virtual Sound Check
« Reply #14 on: February 11, 2018, 05:04:23 am »

In the latest firmware update they implemented a playback/recording switch on the home routing view. There you can toggle between the two routings.

You can also create routing presets in the library. A snippet will also get you there.

You guys got any hot tips for switching back and forth between "live" and "virtual" for X32?  I keep thinking there must be a fast way to change 24 inputs' sources without changing anything else?

My other interest, besides virtual sound checks, is rehearsals missing one or more members, where one member is the drummer.  We could just play our own tracks.
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Dave Garoutte

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Re: Virtual Sound Check
« Reply #15 on: February 11, 2018, 03:05:40 pm »

The Soundcraft Si series has the same problem, but I'm waiting . . . . . . . for a firmware update. 
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Wes Garland

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Re: Virtual Sound Check
« Reply #16 on: February 17, 2018, 09:52:21 pm »

In the latest firmware update they implemented a playback/recording switch on the home routing view. There you can toggle between the two routings.

Thanks - I didn't see that, and it works perfectly!
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