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Author Topic: Live vocal FX done the right way?  (Read 2161 times)

Ted Gravlin

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Live vocal FX done the right way?
« on: April 06, 2024, 04:30:24 PM »

Looking for advice from the pro sound guys. Regional band touring as a tribute act. A couple steps above the local bar band playing for the drunks. But not with the budget to carry a crew with us.

How should I feed to FOH the specific vocal FX that my band would like for various parts of songs. In the same way that my guitar rig knows that the bridge of Song A needs a delay of exactly 456 ms, I'd like to be able to send the FOH a delay signal from our singer's mic. These would ideally be programmed to kick in various presets timed with our backing tracks using MIDI like most of our other gear.

And it's not even very often... just about 5-6 times in the set when things need to get a bit trippy for about 20 seconds. That will make it sound EXACTLY like the original artist.

Yes I know the stock answer is to let the FOH engineer do it. But they often miss the cues for specific sounds and special FX like super long specific delays that aren't just part of the "normal" vocal chain. Just like I wouldn't expect someone else to be switching my guitar tones an hour after we met.

We're already carrying our own IEM rack with an X32 rack and our own split snake. We could split the wireless mic signal in our rack from whatever source and send both a dry signal and then a "Special FX" line down the snake to FOH into a separate channel.

But what's a good unit to use that won't cause an eyeroll from the FOH engineer? We don't intend to mess with the rest of the signal path. Good FOH guys already handle reverb, slapback, compression etc just fine. Just add in the special stuff to the mix.

I guess i could run Waves or whatever but then I need yet another laptop to run Superrack and what not. I kinda like hardware solutions for being more bulletproof.

Any other suggestions are welcome.
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Les Kanekuni

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Re: Live vocal FX done the right way?
« Reply #1 on: April 06, 2024, 04:50:41 PM »

Looking for advice from the pro sound guys. Regional band touring as a tribute act. A couple steps above the local bar band playing for the drunks. But not with the budget to carry a crew with us.

How should I feed to FOH the specific vocal FX that my band would like for various parts of songs. In the same way that my guitar rig knows that the bridge of Song A needs a delay of exactly 456 ms, I'd like to be able to send the FOH a delay signal from our singer's mic. These would ideally be programmed to kick in various presets timed with our backing tracks using MIDI like most of our other gear.

And it's not even very often... just about 5-6 times in the set when things need to get a bit trippy for about 20 seconds. That will make it sound EXACTLY like the original artist.

Yes I know the stock answer is to let the FOH engineer do it. But they often miss the cues for specific sounds and special FX like super long specific delays that aren't just part of the "normal" vocal chain. Just like I wouldn't expect someone else to be switching my guitar tones an hour after we met.

We're already carrying our own IEM rack with an X32 rack and our own split snake. We could split the wireless mic signal in our rack from whatever source and send both a dry signal and then a "Special FX" line down the snake to FOH into a separate channel.

But what's a good unit to use that won't cause an eyeroll from the FOH engineer? We don't intend to mess with the rest of the signal path. Good FOH guys already handle reverb, slapback, compression etc just fine. Just add in the special stuff to the mix.

I guess i could run Waves or whatever but then I need yet another laptop to run Superrack and what not. I kinda like hardware solutions for being more bulletproof.

Any other suggestions are welcome.
IMO you are asking too much.  Imagine getting a new band member who had never rehearsed with you or heard the material and asking them to play specific things at specific points in songs.  It probably wouldn't work out too well.  Find some kind of pedal-controlled mute switch and have someone in the band un-mute the FX at the appropriate moments.
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Ted Gravlin

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Re: Live vocal FX done the right way?
« Reply #2 on: April 06, 2024, 05:06:26 PM »

IMO you are asking too much.  Imagine getting a new band member who had never rehearsed with you or heard the material and asking them to play specific things at specific points in songs.  It probably wouldn't work out too well.  Find some kind of pedal-controlled mute switch and have someone in the band un-mute the FX at the appropriate moments.

Actually I'm not asking the FOH engineer to mute or unmute or do anything at specific points at all. I'd like to control it from our own rig. Either from our backing track rig sending MIDI to our unit to select the proper FX patch and mute/unmute. OR I could send the same MIDI from my guitar rig MIDI controller. (pretend its just another guitar pedal)

The real question is what gear will decent good sound guys not reject out of hand? And how to connect to FOH? ( as I mentioned I'm assuming a dry channel and wet channel in their board would be best)
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Don T. Williams

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Re: Live vocal FX done the right way?
« Reply #3 on: April 06, 2024, 05:27:49 PM »

A little bit more about your setup would be helpful.  What are you currently using MIDI with and for?  MIDI can be set up to change EFX parameters. The EFX sound you want can be set up in your X32 Rack and sent to the FOH engineer's console for him to mix into the house PA.  Just assign the EFX to an empty buss and patch that to a line going to FOH.  This would let you control whatever EFX sounds you like with the FOH engineer adding your EFX to his mix.  It might be best to go through a DI box or isolation transformer with the outgoing EFX signal.  Your X32 may not like the FOH consoles grounding or phantom power showing up on its output.
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Tim McCulloch

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Re: Live vocal FX done the right way?
« Reply #4 on: April 06, 2024, 06:04:09 PM »

You may dislike the results but at least it will be for a different reason...

The one thing I never, ever want to see is a wet mix as the only source for the vocal.  As the house FOH guy, give me a dry-only vocal and a wet-only vocal.  I can mute the wet side when the singer speaks and otherwise adjust the balance as needed.  If it sounds sterile I may add a bit of reverb to the dry signal so it sounds like it's in the same acoustic space as the rest of the of sources.

In the end I don't really care how you do it.  If it sucks, it ain't my fault.  If it's great, I'll point to the band and say "the magic happens on the stage."
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Ted Gravlin

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Re: Live vocal FX done the right way?
« Reply #5 on: April 06, 2024, 06:06:52 PM »

A little bit more about your setup would be helpful.  What are you currently using MIDI with and for?  MIDI can be set up to change EFX parameters. The EFX sound you want can be set up in your X32 Rack and sent to the FOH engineer's console for him to mix into the house PA.  Just assign the EFX to an empty buss and patch that to a line going to FOH.  This would let you control whatever EFX sounds you like with the FOH engineer adding your EFX to his mix.  It might be best to go through a DI box or isolation transformer with the outgoing EFX signal.  Your X32 may not like the FOH consoles grounding or phantom power showing up on its output.

My guitar rig is 100% MIDI controlled. Fractal Audio Axe FX controlled by a MIDI controller pedalboard. This board also calls up presets on our laptop for backing track Playback and I have a button dedicated to start/stop. SO... for each song... I select the song from my pedal board. (usually its the next one in the bank since I try to program them in setlist order). Once a song is selected It sends out MIDI PC to the guitar rig and the laptop to make the proper patch changes. It also reconfigures the pedalboard as needed for the proper FX on/off states for each effect in the virtual world. There's no reason that some extra commands couldn't also be sent where it needs to go to set up vocal effects processing for that song also.

I thought about just using one of the X32 rack's FX units. (we're only using 2 of the 8 as it is) And that might be a great solution. As you said create the routing to send the FX out directly to one of the XLR outs and send it down the snake.

I guess I'm asking if anyone has a better solution ... as in "DUDE you need to check out one of THESE because they're awesome"
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Ted Gravlin

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Re: Live vocal FX done the right way?
« Reply #6 on: April 06, 2024, 06:11:14 PM »

You may dislike the results but at least it will be for a different reason...

The one thing I never, ever want to see is a wet mix as the only source for the vocal.  As the house FOH guy, give me a dry-only vocal and a wet-only vocal.  I can mute the wet side when the singer speaks and otherwise adjust the balance as needed.  If it sounds sterile I may add a bit of reverb to the dry signal so it sounds like it's in the same acoustic space as the rest of the of sources.

In the end I don't really care how you do it.  If it sucks, it ain't my fault.  If it's great, I'll point to the band and say "the magic happens on the stage."

Definately wouldn't send only a wet signal.... It would be a dry signal (where the FOH guy would do his "normal" reverb ans whatnot.) And a separate wet channel that wouldn't even be active all that often. Probably just need to run the fader up and leave it alone. If things go to shit.... there's a mute button and the regular vocal is still running.
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Matthias McCready

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Re: Live vocal FX done the right way?
« Reply #7 on: April 06, 2024, 08:00:45 PM »

Are you running Ableton? If so why not just record the vocal effects/parts and mix them ahead of time, and have that as a track channel hitting FOH?

This offers a few advantages:

1. it gives a wet (prerecorded)/dry(live)
2. The effects can be dialed in perfectly, and you may have access to better feeling tools - I can make the delay on the console in front of me work, but there are certainly some plugins I would prefer given the opportunity
3. No potential for feedback, or any other weird issues - as a FOH engineer I would be leery a vocal effects unit for just this reason, even when in parallel what has been outputed has not always been inherently useful.
4. Delays tend to pickup drums and all sorts of room stuff, this would clean the effect up a lot, allowing it to be cleaner.
5. It gives FOH the ability to control the tonality of the fx to the room.

---

If redundancy is important you could run two computers with the same Ableton session and use a Radial SW8-USB - this unit acts as 2x interfaces and a switcher. For the setup you use a midi controller that fires both sessions. Your first computer has a 1k output, if that stops it automatically rolls over to the 2nd computer. The switch is so fast and seamless you cannot hear it.

---

That would be my approach, not sure if that is helpful or not though.
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Art Welter

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Re: Live vocal FX done the right way?
« Reply #8 on: April 06, 2024, 08:12:00 PM »

Definately wouldn't send only a wet signal.... It would be a dry signal (where the FOH guy would do his "normal" reverb ans whatnot.) And a separate wet channel that wouldn't even be active all that often. Probably just need to run the fader up and leave it alone. If things go to shit.... there's a mute button and the regular vocal is still running.
Ted,

Using one of the X32 rack's FX units for the "wet" channel should work OK once dialed in.
Since the FOH engineer would be leaving it up all the time for the 5-6 times in the set when it's used, you may also want to put a noise gate on the FX return channel.

Art
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Tim Weaver

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Re: Live vocal FX done the right way?
« Reply #9 on: April 07, 2024, 10:18:28 AM »

Option A: Tracks. They work, but you need to communicate to the FOH guy that they need to up in the mix. Too many bands bring tracks that are basically a complete other band and it just serves to destroy a mix because it gets too crowded.

Create the FX you need, put them on a single track and feed that to FOH on it's own. If you have any other tracks like percussion or whatever, make sure those get their own track and channel to FOH.


Option B: Route the FX to an aux out of your stage mixer. Devise a way to mute, unmute, and change patches from the stage then send that to FOH own it's own channel. Communicate to the FOH guy what that channel is, what it does, and not to mute it out front. If you screw up the muting, thats on you.




Either way you want to feed a "clean" channel to FOH with the FX on it. It needs to be fully wet, no dry. Let the mix engineer decide how much to use out front because every venue is different.
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Re: Live vocal FX done the right way?
« Reply #9 on: April 07, 2024, 10:18:28 AM »


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