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Author Topic: How do you keep your stage volume down?  (Read 11847 times)

Mark Allen

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Re: How do you keep your stage volume down?
« Reply #20 on: May 25, 2004, 09:07:57 am »

Of course I agree that it's much easier to dial in a mix when one has the advantage of low stage volume.  However, I personally would MUCH rather deal with a stage volume that's a little 'intrusive' that uses a good set of acoustic drums (and by extension a happy drummer), than a 'virtual' stage with V-Drums.  The last large church situation I worked in was with a Calvary Chapel type of church in a large room that sat appr. 2500 people.  It had a stereo EAW system and a GREAT band!  The church's house drum kit was a nice DW 6pc. set.  Even in this large room, I often had to shape the mix around the acoustic energy the snare (and to a lesser extent the kick)drum was putting out! In that situation I just use the acoustic energy and then 'support' it with the system.  In other words, I add 'snap' and LF info to the kick but pull the mids back so that the acoustic combined with the amplified energy works together to get a nice sound.  With the snare, I add some e.q. based on the needs of the song (+ 3K to cut through up tempo material, + 400Hz to add 'beef' for soft songs) and blend it with the acoustic energy.  Just 'shaping' the sound around what's already there.
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"Those who hear not the music think the dancer is mad." - anonymous

Mark Allen

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Re: How do you keep your stage volume down?
« Reply #21 on: May 25, 2004, 10:43:37 am »

There are other techniques that can be used. (Had to leave after posting the last reply. Sorry.)  For example, a dynamic technique that had to be taught applies to high energy songs.  When the band is pumping things up and the vocals start to suffer, it's natural to automatically reach for the faders to turn up the vocals.  Often this leads to ever escalating levels.  What actually works much better is to slightly reduce the band levels.  Interestingly, if you have enough control over the bass signal, bringing it down just a bit lets the vocals pop up over the top of the mix instantly!  Of course, at this point we're back to acoustic levels and, admittedly, you can only turn levels down to the acoustic noise floor.  

Another technique is to use compression.  Actually, I think compression is the church soundman's best friend.  Compressing the kick drum helps to tighten everything up.  Compressing a subgroup on the background vocals can help tighten them up and bring them out in the mix.

I'm a bass player and love gobs of low end, but since low frequencies modulate higher frequencies, they often mask vocals and really muddy up a mix.  So, working to tighten up low frequencies using e.q. and compression can help immensely.

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"Those who hear not the music think the dancer is mad." - anonymous

Mark T

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Re: How do you keep your stage volume down?
« Reply #22 on: May 25, 2004, 11:14:24 am »

Thanks.  That makes sense and we do much the same regarding using SR to support acoustic energy from the instruments.  

Our setting is much smaller (400 people) in a room that is about 50' deep and 85' wide with square corners and hard walls.  It even has a nice peak running down the middle that focuses stage sound in all the wrong places.  It's a poor acoustic space for high energy music and that's what drove our particular need for low stage volume.  We've done a few services with our praise band in large ballrooms, acoustic-friendly sanctuaries, as well as outside. Stage noise just isn't as big of an issue in those situations and as a result mixing FOH is often much easier.  I'm not trying to downplay what a pro does in a large venue (our technical setup is very simple in comparison) but a small venue has it's own unique challenges that would make life interesting for even a seasoned professional.

IN our case, the drummer is a great guy but he really dislikes V-Drums so we use his acoustic kit. As you said, it makes the drummer happier (though he was willing to do whatever it took tim improve things). Without a shield, you can hardly stand to be in our sanctuary when he's playing and into the groove of a rockin' tune.  Balancing the level of instruments with the drums resulted in painful audio levels and poor quaility as well. We had similar issues with the combined volume of stage wedges, three guitar amps, and a keyboard amp in our small space.  People complained... a lot.

We had no choice but to reduce stage volume. We couldn't afford to do what would be needed to fix the acoustics in the room. We used a combination of processors and DIs for guitars, shields for the drums, and IEMs.  We did not end up with a perfectly quiet stage but the overall SPL was much more manageable.

The shields affect different frequencies at different levels, we have found that much of the kick still can be heard even with the shields while much of the high frequency sound is blocked.  Like you, we found adding a little kick LF to mix helps create a crisp bottom end.  Likewise we found we had to add some overhead mics back into the mix to bring some of the high end sizzle of the cymbals back, but at a reasonable overall level.

The net result is that the congregation was much happier.  We didn't make a big deal about the changes, we just implemetned them one by one over a period of a few weeks.  The comlaints stopped altogether and we actually started receving compliments about how good everything sounded.

This may be a gross oversimplification, but it seems that the point is that mixing must be done with your ears.  We have lots of volunteers who start off thinking they should mix with headphones.  For the reasons you pointed out, that's a bad idea since the rest of the congregation doesn't have the luxury of listening to the headphone mix by itself.  You have to hear what the toal mix of acoustic energy and SR energy sounds like in order to blend the two well.

Knowing how to do that is the tricky part.  Having a toolkit of techniques including appropriate use of EQ, compression, and gating will help tremendously.  Being able to identify and correct speaker issues (like phasing and alignment) will also help. Knowing how to spot stage volume as an issue and knowing how to reduce it is handy too.


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Mark Allen

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Re: How do you keep your stage volume down?
« Reply #23 on: July 05, 2004, 11:38:12 am »

Mark,

I haven't read the forum for a few weeks, so I just saw your reply.   I don't know if I mentioned this before, but we've been doing something with the kick drum that's very effective!  As a I mentioned, we have a shield like you do, but we are also using 4 x 8 foam rubber lining the bottom part of the shield as well.  (The drums sit behind a divider, so the foam isn't visually critical.) We mic the kick, but then push the front head against the foam!  The results are excellent!  The acoustic level of the kick is reduced a lot, but the drummer still gets sensory feedback and we have all the control we need of the sound;  in fact the kick sounds great!
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"Those who hear not the music think the dancer is mad." - anonymous

WylieE

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Re: How do you keep your stage volume down?
« Reply #24 on: September 13, 2004, 12:44:49 pm »

TimmyP wrote on Wed, 05 May 2004 05:59




Drummers and Percussionists: Please get your emotional high from creating the groove of the music, not from the physio-psychological pleasure of pounding on things.  If you are too loud, it will be impossible to make the vocals audible above you.  When this is the case you are not a vessel from which His word flows, you are the cork in the bottle.  (Have you ever seen what they do to bottle corks? Smile

One of the main issues we face is our worship leader absolutely loves to have his monitors very, very loud.  He wants to feel the music.  Oftentimes, it is the same with our keyboard player.  There are days when there is so much coming from the stage monitors, that I don't/cannot run the instruments in the house.

Frankly, I lost that battle and have resigned from running the sound team.  I've had several meetings with the worship leader and he won't budge.  My conscience won't allow me to damage the hearing of the congregation, so it will be up to someone else to fight that battle.

-Eric.





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