Balance

Peter Kowalczyk

Freshman
Apr 12, 2013
38
0
0
Truckee, CA
... I'm not referring to the balance we sound-guys and -gals achieve by pushing and pulling faders on the console.

For those of you who take responsibility for your band's PA system, and perhaps mix your group from stage: how do you balance the left-brained demands of setup, troubleshooting, mixing, feedback suppression, etc. (all under time pressure) with the right-brained demands of performing?

After a stressful, exhausted night of schlepping equipment, stacking speakers, patching ins and outs, soundchecking, mixing the opener, and then finally playing our two sets before striking and load out (3rd day in a row of such activity), it became clear that my assumed responsibilities managing our PA were negatively affecting both my performance as a guitarist and my level of enjoyment of something intended to be fun.

Initial takeaways:
A) Our rig is overkill for these situations. (Rig: full X32, 2x DSR112 over 2x DSR118W, two monitor mixes, 4x Vox, Gtr, Bass, Sax, Drums in the PA. Situation: 150 cap Bar with cleared dancefloor and portable riser stage). I need to simplify both outputs and inputs.

B) Our X32 is too complex for my bandmates, so they're of minimal assistance. I need to train them better or simplify the equipment.

c) I need to remove technical distractions while onstage, ideally finding a mixerperson to take over. Unfortunately, there ain't much money in it to pay another party... naturally

What have you done to reach a more sustainable balance between your technical and creative sides during these sorts of gigs?
 

John Roberts

Graduate Student
Jan 12, 2011
2,309
3
38
MS
www.resotune.com
Re: Balance

Pick one... (at a time).

I found while I was managing an engineering group "and" still doing design work myself I literally could not do both at the same time, at least not very well. Managing takes a certain mental focus, that is incompatible with simultaneously letting the creative juices flow. It may have been more mechanical than that with my memory banks inadequate to juggle both, all I know is I couldn't.

My solution was to mentally shift gears. When I needed to create circuits for a new design, I would close my office door, to discourage interruptions and focus in on just that. I found the managing a little easier since it was mostly responding to my employees questions and not creating things that never were.

Maybe carry two hats and change hats when you change modes. I can imagine it being hard to get everybody to relate to you differently depending on which mode you are in. (Sounds a little schizophrenic).

Good Luck

JR
 

Rick Scofield

Freshman
May 27, 2011
9
0
0
SF Bay Area
Re: Balance

I feel your pain Peter. I'm in a very similar situation, but with two different bands, each with several configurations depending on the gig.

One band is normally an 8-piece, with drummer, percussionist who sings, sax, two singing guitarists, bass, female lead vocalist, and me, the male lead vocalist.
Everyone tries their best to help with load in and set up, but they are usually very much tied up in their own rig.
We use the Mackie dl1608, which is great as far as its simplicity and easy-to-use interface.
Also nice that we are all using IEMs, and each player can have control of their own monitor mix (well six of them can).

These gigs usually wear me out almost entirely by the time we get to sound check. But once the performance starts, I find the energy to perform at my best.

It really is sort of like turning the switch from "gear-guy" to "front-man".

Thankfully, most often I gig with either the smaller 5-piece band, where everyone has a good grasp of what they need to do for set up and sound check,
or a subset of either band doing acoustic gigs with 3 or 4 of us.

The easiest gigs are the 3-piece acoustic, where I attempt to play guitar and sing, along with a bassist and lead guitar.
Easy "minimal" set up, and I spend more time concentrating getting my guitar playing to be somewhat decent while I sing.

Most importantly, I've gotten presets down on the mixing board, so it's fairly easy to set-and-forget.

For the larger gigs I also have a pretty decent roll-in and roll-out set up for all the cables, stands, etc by using my large trunk from Audiopile.
Everything is on wheels, rolls into and out of my trailer in 2 push stacks.
Mains stacked on two small cases (mixer and wireless rack) stacked on trunk, sub (only one) with it's single amp rack transported on top.
OK, if I have my guitar, thats one other carry, plus the speaker tripods are usually a separate trip.

All that said, I probably spend more off time in my head thinking about how to optimize the system, reading posts here, etc, than I do
working on performace skills.

Probably not very well balanced...

-Rick
 

Brian jojade

Senior
Jan 15, 2011
718
9
0
Wausau, WI
www.happymacshop.com
Re: Balance

Peter Kowalczyk;84517What have you done to reach a more sustainable balance between your technical and creative sides during these sorts of gigs?[/QUOTE said:
Alcohol. That'll fix everything.

In all seriousness though, if you're doing this for 'fun' realize that the PA portion of the show isn't the fun part. If you're thinking of hiring the job out, remember that. They are there for a job and might want a heck of a lot more $$ for the WORK than you're getting paid to have FUN on stage. If you're doing all the work now, and your band mates aren't, they should realize it as well.

Once you get past that challenge, there are a few things that you can do to simplify.

1. In a 150 cap bar, why do you need 2 monitor mixes?? Are they really going to be that much different? And are you going to have time to make the adjustment to 2 monitor mixes AND FOH?

2. If you're mixing from the stage, is the full X32 the right tool for the job? An X32 Rack and iPad is smaller and easier to set up and would give you the same exact features. You could have everything pre-rigged in your rack, and plug and go. This is exactly what my mini-portable system is. I have 2 8 channel drop snakes attached to the X32 that get coiled inside the cover when transporting. One gets dropped front of stage, one gets dropped by the drums. Now it's nice short patch cables as needed.

3. Make sure you've got the right cables for the job, and STANDARDIZE wherever you can. Having less choices in cable lengths is helpful. I have 10' and 25' and that's it. Sure, there are times where different lengths would be handy, but it's faster to not have to make that decision during setup.

4. Learn to save your presets on the X32. If you're playing with the same band, the time to do sound check from show to show with the same system shouldn't take more than a couple minutes. From what you described, the whole PA should be able to be deployed by one person in about 30 minutes if it's set up correctly and cleanly.

5. Train your band to move heavy things. Then all you have to do is make sure everything is plugged in where it needs to go. Even the least technical person should be able to put a speaker on each side of the stage.

6. Get rid of all of your orange extension cords. O.K, maybe you don't have any, and that won't make a difference in setup time, but having nice black extension cords and power drops on the stage makes it look so much nicer. Looking nicer makes you feel better. Trust me.
 

Tom Roche

Freshman
Nov 28, 2013
33
0
6
Behind the Zion Curtain (UT)
Re: Balance

I wonder why you're putting mics on the drums in 150 cap bars. Set-up time can be saved right there. I agree with standardizing as much as possible and using drop snakes (as long as everything goes thru board). Are the other band members helping set up? I recommend a more simple board, maybe the Mackie DL1608 or even a small analog one. An X32 seems so overkill for the places you're playing. In bars of this size, a typical set up would be small SOS for vox, no subs, and guitars and bass run through backline.
 
Oct 5, 2012
939
1
0
Stockholm, Sweden
Re: Balance

I wonder why you're putting mics on the drums in 150 cap bars. Set-up time can be saved right there. I agree with standardizing as much as possible and using drop snakes (as long as everything goes thru board). Are the other band members helping set up? I recommend a more simple board, maybe the Mackie DL1608 or even a small analog one. An X32 seems so overkill for the places you're playing. In bars of this size, a typical set up would be small SOS for vox, no subs, and guitars and bass run through backline.
it's all about sound quality and sound balance.

if you want to sound like crap, don't mic' your stuff...
 
Dec 15, 2012
405
1
18
The Netherlands
Re: Balance

it's all about sound quality and sound balance.

if you want to sound like crap, don't mic' your stuff...

Indeed, but in a 150 persons bar, I mostly put them all down, but it depends heavily on the drummer. Some make that much noise that level is far to high. Not long ago I had a band in such a location, I only used vocals and some bass, kick on FOH. At that moment it was far too loud allready. Most of the time I spend far away from the stage. Not able to make a decent sound. :x~:-x~:mad:
 
Re: Balance

I wonder why you're putting mics on the drums in 150 cap bars. Set-up time can be saved right there. I agree with standardizing as much as possible and using drop snakes (as long as everything goes thru board). Are the other band members helping set up? I recommend a more simple board, maybe the Mackie DL1608 or even a small analog one. An X32 seems so overkill for the places you're playing. In bars of this size, a typical set up would be small SOS for vox, no subs, and guitars and bass run through backline.

Yes, but this approach typically requires a band who can actually play together, vs. the more typical group of egos that don't understand the meaning of the word balance. It's worth remembering that guitar and bass amplifiers were initially intended to allow relatively quiet instruments to be heard (and later, to allow a guitar to keep up with a horn band), and that things like Marshall stacks were developed to fill arenas.
 

Brian jojade

Senior
Jan 15, 2011
718
9
0
Wausau, WI
www.happymacshop.com
Re: Balance

Indeed, but in a 150 persons bar, I mostly put them all down, but it depends heavily on the drummer. Some make that much noise that level is far to high. Not long ago I had a band in such a location, I only used vocals and some bass, kick on FOH. At that moment it was far too loud allready. Most of the time I spend far away from the stage. Not able to make a decent sound. :x~:-x~:mad:

Don't get me started on players that are too freaking loud in small spaces. It's wildly frustrating when you have to bring the entire mix up to ear bleed levels just to match one instrument on the stage. But that's a separate discussion.

Even in a 150 cap bar, miking the drums can help even out their sound, as long as the player isn't beating the crap out of them. BUT, if you're running the sound from the stage, this is going to be tough to make happen. Mic the kick, maybe the hats, and call it good.
 

Jay Barracato

Graduate Student
Jan 11, 2011
1,528
2
38
Solomons MD
Re: Balance

It is very possible to change the tone of an instrument by micing it, adjusting channel eq as needed, and running it through FOH without greatly changing the total volume.

For example even if cymbals bleed into everything and are loud enough, a close mic on them with a couple of frequencies highlighted will bring back the crispness of the attack of the strike.

You lose that option if the mic is not there in the first place.

Sent from my DROID RAZR HD
 

Scott Bolt

Junior
Mar 4, 2013
386
0
0
Re: Balance

The X32 Rack might help vs the full size as others have mentioned (this is what I use for similar gigs). I have an iPad Mini with a mic stand clamp so I can monitor and change levels in a pinch.

Make a drum snake. I agree with you about micing the drums. It makes a big tonal difference (to my ears). Don't bother micing the cymbals in a small place.

Make a task list for each band member that is ONLY the PA. Make sure that the PA is setup BEFORE anything other than the drums which need to be done in parallel since they take so long. Also make sure that part of the drummer's setup is putting the mics on the drums as well. Have him hook up XLR's as well, but leave the cables near the mic until you are ready to plug them into the PA.

Store all your XLR's in a different bag than all your power drops or speaker wire so you don't have to dig around for them.

Really the task list is the biggest thing. Make moving and setting up the PA (and break down as well) a shared responsibility. NOTHING is more annoying that trying to figure out why something in the PA isn't working while the rest of the band noodles around asking you when you are going to be ready.
 
Jan 19, 2011
978
51
28
40
Oslo, Norway, Norway
drbentsen.no
Re: Balance

While working regularly in small clubs, I got into the habit of micing everyting, so I could change, shape and reinforce the bands as needed. Worked really well. And get yourself some decent mics, I did a one-off with a guitar/key/dumpad-duo last night in a 200 cap club and they were wery happy with how I made them sound. I brought a few Countryman DIs, a Royer 121+a MKH50 for the guitar amp and some D:Factos for vocals, that really helps when the pa isn't the best in the known universe.

OT:

Make sure your band mates really know how much work you're doing and the cost of it. Have them decide if they want to help you out, hire someone to help you or reduce the level of production you're using.
 

Tom Roche

Freshman
Nov 28, 2013
33
0
6
Behind the Zion Curtain (UT)
Re: Balance

it's all about sound quality and sound balance.
That's the musicians' job.

if you want to sound like crap, don't mic' your stuff...
In a 150 cap bar? Nonsense! If a band playing in a 150 cap bar sounds like crap unmic'd, then they'll sound like crap mic'd.

The poster acknowledged his rig is overkill, with too many inputs and outputs. For 150 cap bars, an obvious answer is to leave the drum mics at home. Leave the subs at home, too. Sure, one can shape the sound when mic'ing drums or other instruments, even in little bars, but that isn't the point here.
 

Max Warasila

Graduate
Feb 20, 2013
1,188
61
48
Richmond, VA
Re: Balance

That's the musicians' job.


In a 150 cap bar? Nonsense! If a band playing in a 150 cap bar sounds like crap unmic'd, then they'll sound like crap mic'd.

The poster acknowledged his rig is overkill, with too many inputs and outputs. For 150 cap bars, an obvious answer is to leave the drum mics at home. Leave the subs at home, too. Sure, one can shape the sound when mic'ing drums or other instruments, even in little bars, but that isn't the point here.

Well, I think there might be a valid use for the drum mic (1) and subs if he wants it really, really, really kick heavy.
 

Scott Bolt

Junior
Mar 4, 2013
386
0
0
Re: Balance

There isn't a small enough gig that I wouldn't mic the kick at a minimum. Even a single sub and a kick mic will make a world of difference in the overall sound in a small venue.
 
Oct 5, 2012
939
1
0
Stockholm, Sweden
Re: Balance

That's the musicians' job.


In a 150 cap bar? Nonsense! If a band playing in a 150 cap bar sounds like crap unmic'd, then they'll sound like crap mic'd.

The poster acknowledged his rig is overkill, with too many inputs and outputs. For 150 cap bars, an obvious answer is to leave the mics at home. Leave the subs at home, too. Sure, one can shape the sound when mic'ing drums or other instruments, even in little bars, but that isn't the point here.
The musician can't alter the projection and balance of his/her instrument than for a few people.

Five meters away in a crowded bar you only hear the snare and the cymbals from the drums. The guitar amps with its narrow beam (only sounding good right in front of them) begins to sound like crap because the musicians and front crowd blocks the sound.

It has nothing to do with the musicians but rather that the FoH must blend the stage noice and balance it into the rest of the venue without adding any sound level.

I think THAT IS the point... Even for the OP.
 

Peter Kowalczyk

Freshman
Apr 12, 2013
38
0
0
Truckee, CA
Re: Balance

Thanks to everyone for thoughtful replies; I figured that many of you have dealt with this issue already.


quote_icon.png
Originally Posted by John Roberts
Pick one... (at a time).

I found while I was managing an engineering group "and" still doing design work myself I literally could not do both at the same time, at least not very well.
JR

.. there's the rub - the ability to quickly re-optimize one's meat processor from analytical to creative is as much an issue as the equipment.


quote_icon.png
Originally Posted by Rick Scofield
But once the performance starts, I find the energy to perform at my best. It really is sort of like turning the switch from "gear-guy" to "front-man".
-Rick


Exactly. Kudos to you for reaching a level of competence in both areas where that's possible.


quote_icon.png
Originally Posted by Brian jojade

1. In a 150 cap bar, why do you need 2 monitor mixes?? Are they really going to be that much different? And are you going to have time to make the adjustment to 2 monitor mixes AND FOH?

2. If you're mixing from the stage, is the full X32 the right tool for the job? An X32 Rack and iPad is smaller and easier to set up and would give you the same exact features. You could have everything pre-rigged in your rack, and plug and go. This is exactly what my mini-portable system is. I have 2 8 channel drop snakes attached to the X32 that get coiled inside the cover when transporting. One gets dropped front of stage, one gets dropped by the drums. Now it's nice short patch cables as needed.

3. Make sure you've got the right cables for the job, and STANDARDIZE wherever you can. Having less choices in cable lengths is helpful. I have 10' and 25' and that's it. Sure, there are times where different lengths would be handy, but it's faster to not have to make that decision during setup.

4. Learn to save your presets on the X32. If you're playing with the same band, the time to do sound check from show to show with the same system shouldn't take more than a couple minutes. From what you described, the whole PA should be able to be deployed by one person in about 30 minutes if it's set up correctly and cleanly.

5. Train your band to move heavy things. Then all you have to do is make sure everything is plugged in where it needs to go. Even the least technical person should be able to put a speaker on each side of the stage.

6. Get rid of all of your orange extension cords. O.K, maybe you don't have any, and that won't make a difference in setup time, but having nice black extension cords and power drops on the stage makes it look so much nicer. Looking nicer makes you feel better. Trust me.



Good stuff here
1) singing drummer likes to hear himself, hence wedge #2. Otherwise, I wouldn't bother.
2) No, the full-size X32 is not the right tool for this job. Really, I don't know what convinced me to get the full-surface instead of the rack initially; it would be a better fit for most of the gigs I do as a non-performing sound engineer, which are in similar venues.
3) A good idea. I've been reflecting on minutes wasted digging for the right-length cable. Keeping them coiled and tied, and training bandmates that elbows are inappropriate cable-management tools will help here.
4) After a few gigs now, I have a pretty good starting point. Standardizing the input list to match will help. I need to work on my library of saved EQ presets and channel processing configs, many created while mixing other bands. I guess if I backed up all the saved show snapshots from the console onto USB, I could use X32edit to piece them back together, ya?
5) On my to-do list: 10 step setup and troubleshooting guide. They can stack and patch the system, but are stuck troubleshooting when, for example, the preset came up with DCAs down. Note: don't assign DCAs on template presets... I should work on stepping back here and letting them handle things.
6) Agreed; I'm slowly replacing all the orange ones in the band's kit :)


Many comments on drum mics and stage level... We play high energy tunes and always strive for a dance party, hence the subs and a kick drum mic. My bandmates would be heartbroken not to use 'em. No more Overheads in the small rooms from now on; there are three vocal mics up front to get all the cymbals.


quote_icon.png
Originally Posted by Robert Lofgren
The musician can't alter the projection and balance of his/her instrument than for a few people.

Five meters away in a crowded bar you only hear the snare and the cymbals from the drums. The guitar amps with its narrow beam (only sounding good right in front of them) begins to sound like crap because the musicians and front crowd blocks the sound.

It has nothing to do with the musicians but rather that the FoH must blend the stage noice and balance it into the rest of the venue without adding any sound level.

I think THAT IS the point... Even for the OP.


Indeed, I like to mic more than 'necessary' when mixing others in small rooms to augment the stage sound (compensate for tilted-back guitar amp in the house, 'polish the brass' as it were, etc.), but thats a subtlety that seems difficult to do from stage. We've enlisted a few well-intentioned friends to take the 'Pad and push faders while we play, but I'm concluding that an inexperienced operator with too many inputs at his fingertips can do more harm than good (No good when I can see the limit LEDs flash while playing on stage while deputized mixerperson du jour is nowhere to be seen in the house.) I even encourage our friends in the crowd to tell us when we need turn down (it helps when the bass player hears it from someone besides me), though that feedback usually comes too late to be useful. The value of _professional_ help is not lost on me, and I've been advocating it to the band, with limited success due to the economics of these situations. I'll be pushing more strongly for an experienced engineer for larger gigs that do require a larger input list.

For the smaller ones though, I'm resolved to eliminate some inputs and focus more on 'mixing' our stage sound before mixing the PA. I fully realize that good sound starts with a good band that listens well and plays dynamically, perhaps even more so in small room. While we're focused in this discussion on technical aspects, I'll be the first to admit that if I were a more competent and fluid guitar player, the whole business of the PA as well would be less of an issue :)

And if 'fun' is the main objective (and for our style of music, that case could be cleanly made), then perhaps Brian's suggestion

quote_icon.png
Originally Posted by Brian jojade
Alcohol. That'll fix everything.

... is most salient. :)


 

Rob Gow

Sophomore
Jan 15, 2011
227
1
16
Re: Balance

Here's how we work together as a band.

We all work together, as a band. 5 monitor mixes, one center fill mix. Not really overkill for the rooms, up to 400 people.

Or drummer doesn't try to destroy his drums every set, he plays for the room. He's come a long ways, from when his nickname was BamBam :)

Our bass player has his amp on the other side of the drummer pointed our way. The theory is with the longer bass sound waves, it gives them some room to stretch out before it gets to him, he has some bass in his monitor as well.

Both guitar players have a rhythm and lead volume. If we aren't doing a lead we sit back in the mix. We have some of both guitars in our monitors, mine louder than his in my monitor etc.

Keyboard player has a volume pedal as well. We keep on her so she's not on her lead keys volume all the time.

Then we have some singing technique. 4 mics, bass sings only backup, the other guitar player sings most of the songs, the other 2 take turns singing lead here and there. Whoever is singing lead gets right up on the mic, and backs off a bit for harmonies. It's a matter of working together towards what's best for the band, not whats best for themselves.

We save presets for each venue we play, so soundcheck doesn't take very long. StudioLive 24.4.2 monitor mixes are saved as well so it doesn't take long to dial in.

Everyone helps with load in, the bass player and I get the lights up, then I let them wire up the DMX & power. I use an 8ch sub snake at the drums, 6 drums, bass and guitar stage left all into that. A 6 channel drop snake to the front, for 4 vocals, acoustic DI & a keyboard DI. My guitar sits beside the mixer so it's a 10' for that and that's about it. Running the cables to the monitors & front end goes fairly quickly. I'll have someone behind the rack and I let them know where to plug each cable in.

One thing though, I'm always on top of my gear so I know that every cable is good, all the snakes etc, so I'm not trying to chase down a bad cable.

We did a new room recently, got everything set up, a community hall. I picked a similar hall and recalled it. Set the gains for everything, and then went out front with an iPad. Dialed in the drums real quick, then I got the guys to play Some Kind of Wonderful. Got a good solid mix going, and I was on stage with the band in time to play the solo. Our bass players wife was surprised at how quickly we were able to sound check. So the technology does help out.
 
Last edited:

frank kayser

Junior
Jan 11, 2011
290
1
18
Maryland suburbs of DC
Re: Balance

Addressing only the drums...
IMO, There is no reason that the drummer cannot be taught how and where to place the mics on his/her drumset.
Throw them a drop snake, label which mic goes where, and you worry about the rest.
In theory, if you're also mic-ing guitar cabs, they can also be trained to do that work.
Get the drummer (or have the drummer get themselves) some in-ears, and let them handle their own in-ear mix via iPad/iPhone. Less weight, less cables. One thing you don't have to touch.
If you continue to use the x32, use the presets to their fullest. Sound check from bar-to-bar should be minimal.
Delegate!

frank
 

Chuck Simon

Junior
Jan 19, 2011
332
1
0
Re: Balance

It seems to me that there is no way you are going to need or use the features available on the X32 when mixing from stage in a 150 cap room. Was that choice made by buying all the hype or do you think it is the logical choice for the job at hand?