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What to do to reduce bleed from drums?

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Airton Pereira:
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?

Alex Lusht:
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

Dave Dermont:

--- Quote from: Alex Lusht on January 20, 2011, 09:55:59 pm ---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....

--- End quote ---

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.

TJ (Tom) Cornish:

--- Quote from: Alex Lusht on January 20, 2011, 09:55:59 pm ---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....

--- End quote ---
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.

Alex Lusht:
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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