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Author Topic: What to do to reduce bleed from drums?  (Read 15436 times)

Airton Pereira

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What to do to reduce bleed from drums?
« on: January 20, 2011, 09:03:53 PM »

Hi,

I'm a drummer, but I sing too. I use a AKG wireless headset that is really good, but the condenser mic capture a lot of bleed from drums and cymbals. I already use a heavy High Pass filter (around 500 Hz) and reduce all the highs above 4 khz. What more could I do?
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Alex Lusht

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Re: What to do to reduce bleed from drums?
« Reply #1 on: January 20, 2011, 09:55:59 PM »

Hi Ariton,
I work with a singing drummer and have done sound for many many many singing drummers.  Your experience is very common.  But don't worry it's easy to fix!

Here are some simple suggestions...

1. Your own dynamics are the key to your success! If you play your cymbals very loud, it will be difficult to get your vocals in a mix without all of the cymbal bleed.  The very first thing to do is play those cymbals softer!!!  And it's free to try!  And really, I don't think I have ever heard...."Hey man, can you turn up the cymbals"... in my entire career!  Those puppies are going to bleed into every open mic on stage!  So FIRST I would say, play softer.  ESPECIALLY when you are singing....

2. Your gain staging is very important.  You want as little pre amp gain as possible that still allows a good signal for your vocal.  Lots of dudes live by the "gain it red then turn down a little" mic pre gain theory.  I think this is an approach that can cause a lot of problems, especially if you are concerned with bleed.  The lower the gain on your mic pre, the less your mic will pick up the other sources.  On live sound boards, it's important to remember, that the gain knob only needs to be used if their is insufficient signal.  You might need very little gain on your condenser mic.  Try it with your gain knob all the way down and just push up the fader.  If you need a little more signal add a bit of gain at a time until it sounds good....

3. Your EQ settings seem a little much. This could be causing problems with your gain staging as well... If you are putting a high pass filter all the way up to 500, you are missing the "meat" of your voice.  That makes you have to turn the gain way up, causing a cascading effect of problems.  Your voice will be much more powerful and easier to mix if you set that high pass down to, say... 150 or so. And, really, if you gain stage properly, you might not need all that EQing at all!  Perhaps you could try the gain staging mentioned above and start with your EQ totally flat.  You may find that with the right gain, you need very little EQ...

4. If you have some money to spend, you could also use a gate on your vocal mic.  The gate, basically, can turn your mic "off" automatically when you are not singing.  It is GREAT for singing drummers.  However, gates can be tricky to set correctly and can really screw up your mix if not used properly.  I would recommend hiring someone for an afternoon to go over a gate with you and show you how to use it, should you decide to go that rout.

In general, remember that this kind of thing can be as easy to fix as simply "turning down" the things on stage that are too loud in the mix.  In your case, you can control the cymbals by playing them softer!  Use lighter sticks, or "hot rods" on the tunes that you sing on.  Dynamics are everything!  If you play softly while you sing, then when you really blast off during the jam parts it will be a much more dynamic and impressive sound for you and the audience....

Hope these suggestions help!
PEACE,
Alex
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Dave Dermont

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Re: What to do to reduce bleed from drums?
« Reply #2 on: January 21, 2011, 08:54:26 AM »

2. Your gain staging is very important.  You want as little pre amp gain as possible that still allows a good signal for your vocal.  Lots of dudes live by the "gain it red then turn down a little" mic pre gain theory.  I think this is an approach that can cause a lot of problems, especially if you are concerned with bleed.  The lower the gain on your mic pre, the less your mic will pick up the other sources.  On live sound boards, it's important to remember, that the gain knob only needs to be used if their is insufficient signal.  You might need very little gain on your condenser mic.  Try it with your gain knob all the way down and just push up the fader.  If you need a little more signal add a bit of gain at a time until it sounds good....

No, not really...

You see, the sound going into the microphone is going to be the sound that comes out of the speakers. neither the microphone nor the preamp has the ability to distinguish between what sound is the sound you want to amplify, and what sound is "bleed". No amount of "gain staging" trickery is going to change that.

The EQ does seem a bit extreme, but I suppose it'll work if your audience listens to a lot of AM radio.  ;)

I really think you need to try a different microphone. My suggestions are the Audix OM7, or posibly even the OM6. The Crown CM311 is the Mac Daddy of headset mics for drummers.

Differoid Technology is your friend.
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TJ (Tom) Cornish

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Re: What to do to reduce bleed from drums?
« Reply #3 on: January 21, 2011, 09:26:25 AM »

2. Your gain staging is very important.  You want as little pre amp gain as possible that still allows a good signal for your vocal.  Lots of dudes live by the "gain it red then turn down a little" mic pre gain theory.  I think this is an approach that can cause a lot of problems, especially if you are concerned with bleed.  The lower the gain on your mic pre, the less your mic will pick up the other sources.  On live sound boards, it's important to remember, that the gain knob only needs to be used if their is insufficient signal.  You might need very little gain on your condenser mic.  Try it with your gain knob all the way down and just push up the fader.  If you need a little more signal add a bit of gain at a time until it sounds good....
I'm really curious what experiments you've done to test your theory. 

As Dave mentioned, both the preamp trim and the fader are pure gain devices - they don't have any significant (in this context) tonal effect, and are designed to work exactly with the "gain it red then turn down a little" method of operation.  If you add 6dB of gain via the trim and then take it away with the fader, you will be in the same place with the same sound, with the same mic pickup pattern and content.  The opposite is also true.

Modern mixers with low-noise preamps and high voltage busses are pretty forgiving for gain staging problems.  Once you set the trims so that the output of all of the preamps are fairly uniform, it doesn't matter very much where your input gains or your faders are, so long as you aren't clipping anything, and end up getting enough signal out of the system to accomplish your purpose.  Setting all of the trims to "red" and then backing it off is perfectly reasonable, as long as you back it off enough that you don't end up clipping something.
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Alex Lusht

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Re: What to do to reduce bleed from drums?
« Reply #4 on: January 21, 2011, 11:48:45 AM »

I think that what I'm getting at is that it seems to me that a "hotter" mic will pick up "more" sound.  Its that simple.  In my experience, if you reduce your mic gain, your mic will not pick up as much of the other sources compared to what's right in front of it.  It's not a frequency issue, it's like an iris issue. The less gain on your mic pre, the less bleed you will get from sources farther from the mic.  That is my experience.  YMMV...... 

     IMHO, The "Gain it Red" theory is a terrible way to set your gain.  Every input from every mic will have a "sweet spot".  This may sometimes be a very high gain setting, but not always.  There is simply no reason to automatically turn every mic's pre amp "all the way up". Most of the time I need very little pre amp gain on our Drummer/Singers vox.  He sounds great, he plays dynamically, he addresses his mic properly etc... He sounds full and clear in our four part harmonies and on his solo songs, with very very little bleed from his kit, cymbals or otherwise.  His pre amp is no where near the "red".  I'm simply suggesting that one should simply Try mixing without "red lining" everything. I think one will get a cleaner, more full, easier to mix sound.....

But again, putting the technology/nerd stuff aside.... The MOST IMPORTANT weapon in your sound is YOU!!!  If you play with the proper dynamics and volume, you will have a better sound and an easier time mixing!

PEACE,
Alex
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Mac Kerr

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Re: What to do to reduce bleed from drums?
« Reply #5 on: January 21, 2011, 11:57:40 AM »

I think that what I'm getting at is that it seems to me that a "hotter" mic will pick up "more" sound.  Its that simple.  In my experience, if you reduce your mic gain, your mic will not pick up as much of the other sources compared to what's right in front of it.  It's not a frequency issue, it's like an iris issue. The less gain on your mic pre, the less bleed you will get from sources farther from the mic.  That is my experience.  YMMV...... 

Whatever the microphone hears will be passed on to the console. The mic pre gain does not matter. If low gain settings pick up less bleed, they also pick up less vocal. The issue is not what the mic pre gain is, but what the S/N ratio is at the mic. Loud singer/quiet drums=less bleed, soft singer/loud drums=lots of bleed.

The only way to reduce bleed is to increase the S/N at the mic. The Crown 311 is a noise canceling mic which if used properly can improve that S/N a lot. It uses 2 mic elements out of polarity with each other. Vocals are close mic'd on one side so they do not cancel out, ambient sound hits both elements and is canceled out. To work well the mic must be very close to the singer's mouth. The farther away from the mic, the more like ambient the vocal is. Using a vocal mic with a more selective pickup pattern will also help reject some of the drum bleed, although to a lesser degree than a noise canceling design like the Crown.

Singing drummers need to sing loud and play soft.

Mac
« Last Edit: January 21, 2011, 12:22:27 PM by Mac Kerr »
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Alex Lusht

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Re: What to do to reduce bleed from drums?
« Reply #6 on: January 21, 2011, 12:02:25 PM »

I've mixed lots of shows.  The gain on your mic DEFINITELY MATTERS!!!  But what do I know.
Go ahead, crank it all up!  Have fun with that......
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Mac Kerr

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Re: What to do to reduce bleed from drums?
« Reply #7 on: January 21, 2011, 12:07:32 PM »

I've mixed lots of shows.  The gain on your mic DEFINITELY MATTERS!!!  But what do I know.
Go ahead, crank it all up!  Have fun with that......

You're probably right, I've never mixed a show, I only read about it on the internet.  ::)

Mac
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TJ (Tom) Cornish

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Re: What to do to reduce bleed from drums?
« Reply #8 on: January 21, 2011, 12:16:08 PM »

I think that what I'm getting at is that it seems to me that a "hotter" mic will pick up "more" sound.  Its that simple.  In my experience, if you reduce your mic gain, your mic will not pick up as much of the other sources compared to what's right in front of it.  It's not a frequency issue, it's like an iris issue. The less gain on your mic pre, the less bleed you will get from sources farther from the mic.  That is my experience.  YMMV...... 
I'm curious which pins on the XLR cable are used for the mixer to report back to the mic what selective things it should be picking up and which protocol is used?

Interesting technology.
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Todd Cooke

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Re: What to do to reduce bleed from drums?
« Reply #9 on: January 21, 2011, 12:17:09 PM »

This helps me....When I sound check, I set vocals vocals first.  After the drummer's vocal level is set, I check the rest of the kit.  Maybe I will need little or no additional snare, kick or overheads to add into the mix.  The vocal mic becomes part of the overall kit mix.  However, I rarely mix loud rock...that's another animal.
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Chris Hindle

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Re: What to do to reduce bleed from drums?
« Reply #10 on: January 21, 2011, 12:41:18 PM »

I've mixed lots of shows.  The gain on your mic DEFINITELY MATTERS!!! 

Nope. Loudest thing at the mic wins. Simple as that.
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Alex Lusht

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Re: What to do to reduce bleed from drums?
« Reply #11 on: January 21, 2011, 12:50:47 PM »

Tom,MAC,Chris are you trying to tell me that a pre amp setting has no effect on what comes into your mix?  That a hotter gained mic WON'T pick up more sources?  I simply disagree.

Todd... GREAT suggestion!!!!


Tom, MAC, Chris, et al...... how bout some solutions to the question?  Other than the ones that you have repeated from my first post. i.e. relative volume of the sources is important( see Number one in my original post)




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TJ (Tom) Cornish

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Re: What to do to reduce bleed from drums?
« Reply #12 on: January 21, 2011, 01:31:11 PM »

Tom,MAC,Chris are you trying to tell me that a pre amp setting has no effect on what comes into your mix?  That a hotter gained mic WON'T pick up more sources?  I simply disagree.
We are saying two things:
1. Turning up the gain affects everything the mic hears uniformly - adding 6dB of gain makes the intended target - the vocal 6dB louder.  It also makes all the undesirable background noise the same 6dB louder.  There is no relative benefit of clarity from additional gain at the preamp.
2. The suggestion that the preamp gain knob has a different effect on the mics performance than the fader is incorrect.  It is true that the circuit topology of a preamp gain control (which usually is a gain control) is often different from a fader (which is often an attenuator, and not a gain control), however, within the electrical limits of the board, they accomplish the same thing and their actions are on the same vector, so to speak.  Turning one up and the other down the same amount will net you no change.

One can make the argument that preamps have a different tonal character and the signal timbre may change slightly depending on how hot the preamp is run vs. the channel fader, but this is a small effect, and has nothing at all to do with what the mic "hears".


Todd... GREAT suggestion!!!!


Tom, MAC, Chris, et al...... how bout some solutions to the question?  Other than the ones that you have repeated from my first post. i.e. relative volume of the sources is important( see Number one in my original post)
Other than your incorrect understanding of the affect of mic gain, your post was pretty good, and your post plus the clarifications of others cover the usual bases:
- Turn the offending source down (play quieter)
- Get the mic closer to the good source and farther from the offending sources (eat the mic)
- Get a mic with a tighter pickup pattern.
- Gate to keep the mics off until good signal is present.

About the only thing left is to ask the vocalist to sing louder.
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Alex Lusht

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Re: What to do to reduce bleed from drums?
« Reply #13 on: January 21, 2011, 01:54:33 PM »

I'm Sorry, I can be "offensive" and "defensive" which is a dangerous combo....!

I didn't mean to offend...

I have spent my life enjoying this magic that we all create.  I came to this forum hoping to find new ideas, camaraderie, advice, community, and all the things we are here for!

Anyhoo, I hope some of the suggestions will help for the drum bleed problem.

Peace,
Alex
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Doug Fowler

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Re: What to do to reduce bleed from drums?
« Reply #14 on: January 21, 2011, 02:10:13 PM »

I'm curious which pins on the XLR cable are used for the mixer to report back to the mic what selective things it should be picking up and which protocol is used?

Interesting technology.

No protocol involved, it's actually simple and ingenius.  This technology was used AFAIK by the Grateful Dead 'back in the day' by taping a pair of microphones together, reversing the polarity of one (IIRC), and ensuring the capsules were a specific distance apart to make all this work.

I suspect with a Wall of Sound tm directly behind the performer, this was a huge, huge advantage.

Crown PDF on differoid technology:

http://www.crownaudio.com/pdf/mics/136368.pdf

I owned a four-pack of CM-310s for years.  I got them when I was doing noisy club gigs.  They didn't sound as 'nice' as some other options, but getting a significant amount of cymbal bleed out of the vocal microphones made up for it, in spades.

For the OP:  get thee a CM-311a and fix your problem as much as you can, with hardware.

Seriously, if you're not 'lips on grill' you won't be heard.  They work that well, in my experience.
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James Babcock

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Re: What to do to reduce bleed from drums?
« Reply #15 on: January 21, 2011, 05:20:29 PM »

Singing drummer myself, I use the Crown CM311 after trying pretty much every recommended headset mic available. The AKG picked up more cymbal bleed than the Shure by far. Could it also have something to do with the actual physical drum setup? I run my cymbals fairly high compared to the newer "norm" ala Travis Barker. Even the particular cymbals being used should be considered. Sometimes drummers will select a cymbal set without recognizing they will be having microphones on them and don't necessarily need to cut through the guitars and such on stage like needed sometimes in a small loud rehearsal room. Also being able to play for the room is a skill learned over some years on stage as well. One can still LOOK like they are bashing like the cool kids like to do without actually hitting the things that hard. Being able to mix ones self on the kit and work with the room is paramount to having a good front end sound that isn't battling the extremely loud stage mix.

Rock on,
James
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Scott Middleton

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Re: What to do to reduce bleed from drums?
« Reply #16 on: January 24, 2011, 04:36:48 PM »

About the noise canceling "Wall of Sound" mics...

"2 B&K caps used in out of phase pairs as differential noise canceling mics"

Sing in to the top one only, bleed is canceled.



« Last Edit: January 24, 2011, 04:38:26 PM by Scott Middleton »
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Douglas R. Allen

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Re: What to do to reduce bleed from drums?
« Reply #17 on: January 24, 2011, 07:42:38 PM »

Many years ago I heard the "turn the gain down the mic won't hear as much far away method" and I questioned it. To find out for myself I put 2 speakers out. One speaker 1 foot away from my rta mic the other 10 feet away from the mic. I put 2 test tones on. 1k  in the speaker 1 foot way and 4k in the speaker 10 feet away. 
I set both speakers volumes so 0db read on an RTA I had at the time at these freq. (In 1988 it was all I had)
Turning the gain up and down on the mixer within the 12db range the rta had showed no difference in spl between the two tones. The same effect for the fader.
If changing gain means less input for a signal farther away I should have noted a difference in spl between the tones.
I also wondered back then why some assigned a source to many groups to gain-gain to reduce feedback? Seems the same thing to me. If a preamp won't give you what you need in a modern board then how quite is the source signal?
Get what you want in the mic louder and have what you don't want to go in it turn down or hit lighter.
Get the best mic you can.

Douglas R. Allen
« Last Edit: January 24, 2011, 07:45:10 PM by Douglas R. Allen »
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Mark Hadman

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Re: What to do to reduce bleed from drums?
« Reply #18 on: January 30, 2011, 10:00:49 PM »

Many years ago I heard the "turn the gain down the mic won't hear as much far away method" and I questioned it. To find out for myself I put 2 speakers out. One speaker 1 foot away from my rta mic the other 10 feet away from the mic. I put 2 test tones on. 1k  in the speaker 1 foot way and 4k in the speaker 10 feet away. 
I set both speakers volumes so 0db read on an RTA I had at the time at these freq. (In 1988 it was all I had)
Turning the gain up and down on the mixer within the 12db range the rta had showed no difference in spl between the two tones. The same effect for the fader.
If changing gain means less input for a signal farther away I should have noted a difference in spl between the tones.

Douglas R. Allen

Fantastic! What a hero! I've often idly dreamed of setting up such a demonstration...

There is, however, one very common situation in which Alex's theory holds some water - that is when there is compression (or other dynamic processing) between the gain pot and the fader. Otherwise, yes, the gain pot and the fader have exactly the same effect on what gets into the main mix bus. In the OP's case, I would recommend reducing or completely removing any such compression.
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DavidTurner

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Re: What to do to reduce bleed from drums?
« Reply #19 on: January 31, 2011, 01:30:09 PM »

I've mixed lots of shows.  The gain on your mic DEFINITELY MATTERS!!!  But what do I know.
Go ahead, crank it all up!  Have fun with that......

I am sure you have mixed a lot of shows Alex, but don't discount what Mac and others have said here and elsewhere. Mac is a true professional having been the mixer for some mighty big events (football games with super in the title to just name one). He is always eager to share his wealth of knowledge and you can benefit greatly from the things he has to say. I know that I have.

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Re: What to do to reduce bleed from drums?
« Reply #19 on: January 31, 2011, 01:30:09 PM »


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