A few bob's worth on all things Live.....

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A few bob's worth on all things Live.....

Postby Chris H » Thu Aug 18, 2011 12:49 pm

As I was typing a reply on the other thread it was locked.....I'm a slow typer (lucky i saved it on text edit) ....so here's a few points as I see things!
ChrisW wrote:I agree, that in these tough economic times, the gear to work with is going to be basic, and the spaces are no doubt challenging too.
One huge component of live sound is the sound onstage. I gotta say, musicians are often their own worst enemy when it comes to achieving a great sounding mix thru the PA.



+1 on the above with the caveat that every component is vital to getting a great live mix, although in smaller venues you can work around a bad PA and to a lesser extent, a bad room. The key is sussing out the work arounds. This is where nothing less than excellent diagnostic skills are the minimum requirement. No doubt about it though, especially in the smaller pub rooms etc if the band is playing way outta wack level or tone wise the game is over unless you as the FOH mixer can bring them around. To achieve this, a way above average level of communication and people skills is a must, and I reckon your about half way there! Being able to put up with a lot of shit without getting your back up or your testicles / or tits ( see I'm not sexist ) all tied up in knots is the first attribute.......after that one is in play, you have some scope for sorting out the competing issues in a limited timeline between the time you get to the venue and the time the band starts the show.
For this reason i always get to the venue at least an hour before the band shows up.....if I know the venue! If it's a new venue then even earlier, or better still I will check it out before the day when someone else is doing sound and see what gives.
Might as well give an outline in this thread of my way of going about the job for anyone reading this to add to or dissect into pieces.
The first thing in order of priority when I get to the venue is check the stage, making sure the monitors are plugged in correctly etc and face them forward if the monitor graphic eq's are at the FOH mix position. Then I run my favorite CD through FOH and the monitor sends with the same gain structure and graphics bypassed on each, turning them up one at a time to hear tonal and level differences. I then do the same using a good SM58 or whatever the main vox mic is. Then I will engage the graphics one at a time....you never know the settings from the night before, if they haven't been reset might be just the ticket. Most of the time though i start from scratch and tune each monitor send to sound right, the mids being the critical area to get right. Of course the desk eq is bypassed or normalized for this stage. It's always worth keeping in mind not to over eq. A good FOH system should have a flat response so there is no need for eq to correct the response of the speaker system. My live rig, one of Mick Barabasz's Lorantz systems is stellar in this regard. At outdoor shows mostly i bypass the FOH graphics. For indoor, they are used to get around the rooms standing waves etc.
I always optimize the tuning of the stage monitors for the vox. The way to get clarity is to adjust the mids only enough to remove nasaly and thick low mid muddiness, while avoiding making the sound too thin. Always HPF at around 100 Hz except in the drum fill. Adding highs is best avoided because it reduces the gain before feedback ratio and you always want as much gain as you can get, not because you want to wind it up as loud as you can but because having a bit of gain to spare adds clarity.
Live sound is a sum of the parts so a lot of low end will be heard onstage from the FOH subs and usually a fair amount of mid resonance from the rear of the mid high boxes hanging just above and in front of the stage will be heard onstage. For this reason when the band is checking "their" monitor mix i have the FOH on as well. When the band arrives they see me working at finishing off the setup so i do a few theatrics that gives them the message that A) I know what I am doing and B) Just as important, I am there for them and will do anything in reason to achieve the best sound they can get. If the singer can walk up to the mic and do an impromptu sound check and it's loud and clear, you have their confidence. I always ask them what they want as I mic their gear etc ect...little demonstrations that I'm about working with them not against them. I find this approach is the secret to bringing them around later if there is a need to adjust their stage sound. Often they come with a "sensitivity" from prior negative experiences with live sound engineers so I organize a few therapy sessions with a pathologically twisted psychologist I have the misfortune to know.........that way I'm doing them both a favour!
Joking of course but the temptation is there........... this is when you must avoid reacting to their negativity and avoid getting your dangly bits all tied up and twisted!
By setting up and tuning the system the way I have described, the individual mix elements of the musos on stage should need minimal eq to sound great. Again with open mics, by avoiding excessive additive eq especially in the highs, you achieve a better gain before feedback ratio. Also a totally necessary way of working in smaller venues is the FOH mix is a combo of stage sound reinforced with FOH sound. For this reason once I have a basic mix I will pull all the faders down after I explain a bit what i am doing to the band. I will have a listen to the stage sound while they are playing, make a few suggestions if needed and add the various elements of the mix so I achieve a good sound combination with the FOH complimenting the stage sound. This IS the way you avoid having a mix that is too loud....exessive volume is the byproduct of trying to mix over the top, level wise, of the stage sound.
It's worth pointing out here that If it is an acoustic show for every open mic on stage the gain before feedback is reduced a bit so it is always worth exploring options that use a fewer number of open mics. When doing big bands I have a sure stereo mic that is just the thing for getting the overall band sound over the FOH in a balanced and full sound. Then its spot mics for soloists and di for bass / keys and one or if recording two OH for kit and one on the kick.... you get the idea........
I just saw a show at a Vic arts centre where they got the micing and sound so wrong in this regard. They miced everything like it was a rock show.......All I can put it down to is as it was a school show the rostered AV techs do the job and as often is the case, those are the jack of all trades and a master at lighting and plugging in projectors but are mediocre at sound.
Doing great acoustic shows is another ballgame and having a great PA with delay speakers further back in the room is the best way to achieve great sound without exessive SPL at the main speaker stack.

I have done lots of live work here in Melb at many venues and outdoor settings and all i can say is It's a very different bag than the studio work i do. Funnily enough I really enjoy doing live sound..........most of the time!
(PS:I have been a bit quiet around here lately.........with the move to the peninsular i have been too busy surfing and fishing and paying off debts!)
Last edited by Chris H on Thu Aug 18, 2011 7:16 pm, edited 4 times in total.
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Re: A few bob's worth on all things Live.....

Postby rick » Thu Aug 18, 2011 1:17 pm

looks more like about $27 bucks on the door chris .. not a few bob !
that wins the post of the week award for most information without a pause

and trust me that is the kettle calling the pot black :)
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