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Author Topic: Live sound tips and tricks  (Read 6809 times)

Tim McCulloch

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Re: Live sound tips and tricks
« Reply #30 on: January 03, 2017, 04:42:00 pm »

One technique I'd like to offer is what I call: "Don't mix from the kick drum up, but rather the main vocals down."

Too often I see sound guys trying to obtain the biggest chest thumping kick they can possibly get and then try to put everything else on top of it. Sometimes even if the bands music doesn't call for big kick drum.

It's not all about kick drum. There's a whole other group of instruments and vocalist that need to be heard.

When mixing, make sure you can hear the main vocals and lead instruments at or preferably above all the other instruments.

Preach it, brother!

I'll toss in that sound is an additive-only process.  You can't dial in the "sponge" to soak up the guitar or cymbals or bass rig.  You can only add your SPL on top of whatever is already making noise.

So if the loudest thing on stage is the guitar, as Jamin says, get that vocal on top the GTR so people who don't already know the words can understand the words.  Then fill in what you can.  You just might get a nice fat kick drum sound or you may not, but you're not working against your employer this way.
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"Practicing an art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow, for heaven's sake. Sing in the shower. Dance to the radio. Tell stories. Write a poem to a friend, even a lousy poem. Do it as well as you possible can. You will get an enormous reward. You will have created something."  - Kurt Vonnegut

Scott Olewiler

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Re: Live sound tips and tricks
« Reply #31 on: January 03, 2017, 04:59:09 pm »

One technique I'd like to offer is what I call: "Don't mix from the kick drum up, but rather the main vocals down."

Too often I see sound guys trying to obtain the biggest chest thumping kick they can possibly get and then try to put everything else on top of it. Sometimes even if the bands music doesn't call for big kick drum.

It's not all about kick drum. There's a whole other group of instruments and vocalist that need to be heard.

When mixing, make sure you can hear the main vocals and lead instruments at or preferably above all the other instruments.

I don't know why this concept is so hard for sound guys to understand. #1 goal of all my mixes is that every word can be clearly understood and then that all instruments are audible in the mix. If I can get chest thumpin kick and toms to fit into the mix; even better.  It is lot easier to add drums to a mix that already has a prominent vocal than the other way around.

Of course if you start off by tuning your system so the subs are 10-20 db higher then the tops you're fighting an uphill battle already.
« Last Edit: January 03, 2017, 05:03:38 pm by Scott Olewiler »
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John Chiara

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Re: Live sound tips and tricks
« Reply #32 on: January 03, 2017, 07:46:15 pm »

I don't know why this concept is so hard for sound guys to understand. #1 goal of all my mixes is that every word can be clearly understood and then that all instruments are audible in the mix. If I can get chest thumpin kick and toms to fit into the mix; even better.  It is lot easier to add drums to a mix that already has a prominent vocal than the other way around.

Of course if you start off by tuning your system so the subs are 10-20 db higher then the tops you're fighting an uphill battle already.

Yep. I advise students...especially in more challenging sonic environments, that getting the system to reproduce the vocals in the best possible manner, will set the stage for the other instruments to be as you'd as they can in context. I think that this focus is one of the most useful concepts to pass along. At least the civilian listeners will hear what they understand. Without that, it can just be 'noise.'
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Jonathan Johnson

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Re: Live sound tips and tricks
« Reply #33 on: January 03, 2017, 11:11:12 pm »

Since half the posts here seem to be arguing semantics, I'll throw my 2 centidollars in:

I see a trick as doing something in an unconventional manner or using equipment in a way it wasn't intended to be used.

A technique is the opposite: using well established methods and equipment as designed to achieve a positive result.

When a "trick" becomes commonplace it becomes a technique (but not necessarily a good one). When a good technique becomes rare, it becomes a trick.

Sometimes I have put a bit of delay (a few ms) in the FOH mains to tame feedback in resonant rooms. I don't know if that's a trick or a technique, but I'll throw it out there for your consideration anyway.
« Last Edit: January 03, 2017, 11:13:55 pm by Jonathan Johnson »
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Stephen Kirby

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Re: Live sound tips and tricks
« Reply #34 on: January 04, 2017, 01:10:23 am »

I got a great summer series gig simply because I had performed at one and brought my own rig.  The town got a lot of feedback that it was the first time in years that they could hear the singing.  There are three components to music for me.  The lead voice (singing or soloist) that people want to hear.  The rhythm (drums, bass and maybe one instrument that is doing something important) that makes people move.  And then everything else that fills in the spaces.  Mixing in that order will sound cleaner and more engaging to an audience.  And as said, if the acoustic noise coming off the stage contradicts with this, you do the best to get the lead voice out there and deal with the rest.
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Jamin Lynch

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Re: Live sound tips and tricks
« Reply #35 on: January 04, 2017, 10:08:15 am »

I don't know why this concept is so hard for sound guys to understand. #1 goal of all my mixes is that every word can be clearly understood and then that all instruments are audible in the mix. If I can get chest thumpin kick and toms to fit into the mix; even better.  It is lot easier to add drums to a mix that already has a prominent vocal than the other way around.

Of course if you start off by tuning your system so the subs are 10-20 db higher then the tops you're fighting an uphill battle already.

I saw ZZTop at our local arena no long ago. About 10,000 fans. We were a few rows in front of FOH. There was this massive amount kick drum. Moved my pants with every hit. Way too much. But that's all there was. Hardly any vocals. Could barley hear guitar. 

Can you imagine going to see ZZTop and not being able to hear the guitar?? WTF?

How do you screw up a 3 piece band?
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Tim McCulloch

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Re: Live sound tips and tricks
« Reply #36 on: January 04, 2017, 11:28:09 am »

I saw ZZTop at our local arena no long ago. About 10,000 fans. We were a few rows in front of FOH. There was this massive amount kick drum. Moved my pants with every hit. Way too much. But that's all there was. Hardly any vocals. Could barley hear guitar. 

Can you imagine going to see ZZTop and not being able to hear the guitar?? WTF?

How do you screw up a 3 piece band?

They were recently at a lovely restored art deco theater not too far from me and one of my guys was subbing with the production company.  He observed several discussions and interactions that largely ended with one of the band members giving *very* specific instructions to the BE about how to mix that show.  It was everything you describe, only in a more intimate setting.

I think the band members should play more golf and play fewer gigs.
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"Practicing an art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow, for heaven's sake. Sing in the shower. Dance to the radio. Tell stories. Write a poem to a friend, even a lousy poem. Do it as well as you possible can. You will get an enormous reward. You will have created something."  - Kurt Vonnegut

Don T. Williams

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Re: Live sound tips and tricks
« Reply #37 on: January 04, 2017, 04:41:11 pm »

Since half the posts here seem to be arguing semantics, I'll throw my 2 centidollars in:

I see a trick as doing something in an unconventional manner or using equipment in a way it wasn't intended to be used.

A technique is the opposite: using well established methods and equipment as designed to achieve a positive result.

When a "trick" becomes commonplace it becomes a technique (but not necessarily a good one). When a good technique becomes rare, it becomes a trick.

Very well stated!
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Re: Live sound tips and tricks
« Reply #37 on: January 04, 2017, 04:41:11 pm »


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