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Author Topic: Sound System Problems  (Read 6208 times)
chuckzee90
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« on: February 08, 2010, 11:17:22 AM »

Not so much a problem with the sound system, per se, but more a problem with the people running it.  Last sunday we had an acoustic player, and electric player, a flute player, a trumpet player, me (bass), and a piano player... also an accompanying vocalist. 

The drumset was funny... we took an electric set apart and kept what we liked and replaced what we didn't with acoustic drums.  So he had four toms, two real two electric, a real snare, electric and a cymbal high hat, and real crashes and a real ride.  The sound guys did a decent job EQ'ing it, but then again, drums are easier.  They got things to an agreeable level.

Annnd we started having problems after that.  The only things you could apparently hear were the acoustic guitar and the guy singing, and the flute guy (who was ridiculous... sometimes in a bad way) and the piano once in a while. 

I had my stack up there with me, and I -wanted- to crank out some stage noise, but they always get furious if I'm the one generating sound and it's not coming out of the system... so I did what they told me to... and lo and behold, only the drummer and I heard any bass.  I don't have a problem with being turned low, cause I'm the bassist, but a friend came up to me (that plays bass) and said "Were you turned off or something?" 

The electric guitarist had a similar complaint.  The flute and the trumpet made so much busy noise that all he could really do without crashing into them was ring chords once every couple of measures of music. 

So what I'm really asking is... how do you resolve a situation with sound guys that think they know what they're doing... when they don't? 
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Eddy
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« Reply #1 on: February 08, 2010, 12:30:22 PM »

Wow.

i don't know where to start, of course not being there and witnessing first hand the issues. For the record, I play bass. I play at my church and with other artist/gigs around town. My day job is audio/video engineer. I work at a landmark facility in our town.


You report leads me to believe you had a few issues beyond the closing question (how do you resolve a situation with sound guys that think they know what they're doing... when they don't? ).

Let's start with the obvious: The sound guys aren't responsible (totally anyway) for the flute and trumpet parts, as I understand it anyway. If trumpet and flute were overplaying, or playing badly, the sound personnel would have little control. That sounds like a worship leader/music director issue. The flute and trumpet sounds like they need to have a written part instead of allowed to ad-lib. Same goes for the guitar. I understand being a team player, but I would've thought basic arrangement could've been decided during a soundcheck or rehearsal.

I'm a strong proponent of everything through the console, with no instruments trying to carry the room with their own amplification. It's not always feasible, I totally understand.  (EXAMPLE: I played a pre-Super Bowl event yesterday afternoon where drums were NOT mic'd and my amp carried the room).
I treat my bass the same live as I would when I record. Get the drums up, then adjust my volume to sit with kick - then don't touch it!!

Speaking of drums. I've worked with hybrid kits quite a bit. You're choices seemed a bit odd. The hybrid kits I've worked with tend to be electronic kick, toms and sometimes snare, while it's usually acoustic cymbals and sometimes acoustic snare. Mixing electronic toms with acoustics and electronic cymbals with real ones seems a bit strange. I never argue against success though, if you say it sounded good - I believe you.

SO the vocal and acoustic was good? What kind of piano? You said it was in and out of the mix?

On the surface, it sounds like a person was mixing who was unfamiliar with the material being played/performed or the equipment.

Let's see if we can talk it through.
« Last Edit: February 08, 2010, 12:32:05 PM by Eddy » Logged

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CRBMoA
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« Reply #2 on: February 08, 2010, 12:50:51 PM »

I would like a lot more info, but on first blush, I would say that unless you are working a room LARGER than 500-600 settas, everyone going direct makes the sound guys job a heck of a lot easier.

I would actually say that unless the worship team is made up of semi-pro or better players, direct should be the only option.

Of course, without a good monitor system, that is a tall order. (read: Impossible)

So how big is the room, what is the backline and monitor situation, and what drives FOH?
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2 Cor 10:5
chuckzee90
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« Reply #3 on: February 08, 2010, 08:53:58 PM »

I'll just run-down all of what was going on this sunday...

The space is rented from a public school.  It's a "cafetorium", and we bring our own sound system in and set it up.

The worship leader:  acoustic/singing.  He's fine.  I think he kind of throws everything in, though, meaning the musicians, and then kind of lets them try and figure it out.  So, in that aspect, he's not doing THAT great of a job, but he doesn't mess anything up, either.

Piano:  She's a good piano player... but the piano is bad.  She's also getting no help from the sound guys.  She gets drowned out really easily, or her monitor will get drowned out and she has to stop and listen so she doesn't get lost.  I notice it a lot during practice.

Guitarist:  Interesting situation.  He's really good, but he's a really good progressive rock and metal kind of guitar player.  He's got a lot of effects he uses, but they aren't distracting.  It DID clash this sunday big time with mr. jazz flute, though.  So he's running through an effects thing, then through a channel pedal board, into his amp, then into the system.  So... he got turned down due to the brass section we had going on, and he also had to stop playing some parts because of the Jazzy solos going on.

Drummer:  Maybe I wrote it wrong... he had the acoustic bass drum, real cymbals, then he had the acoustic toms and electric toms, and the real and electric hi-hat.  And it was cool.  He was set up on a platform, and I was just to his right, with my stack on the ground behind him, to the right a bit. 

Bass (Me):  Like I said... My stack is in the way back, usually turned down low.  I use it more to shape my sound than to actually make noise. I have an equalizer on my head so... if it sounds bad, then I fix it.  But volume I can't control.  They must have just killed me in the system.  I'm running an Acoustic B115... Fender BXR on my T-40... passive.  I was tempted to just turn myself up (at a certain point I heard my sound drop off, but not in the monitor) but I decided against it. 

Flute + Trumpet:  I lump them together because they were sharing a mic.  They were just too loud and... as far as prepared music I think the worship leader just gave them the chords.  They were also out of tune.  Sad

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1954bassman
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« Reply #4 on: February 08, 2010, 10:21:54 PM »

To be honest here, you may have an un-fixable problem. Out-of-tune. No arrangements. Terrible monitor mix. A progressive rock guitarist and 'jazz' horn section.

On wait, I have a revelation here....


Add a banjo and an accordian  Grin
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Bass with Grace
chuckzee90
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« Reply #5 on: February 09, 2010, 06:49:06 AM »

the flute and the trumpet were temporary.

I just wanted to vent about it. Cheesy
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Eddy
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« Reply #6 on: February 09, 2010, 07:19:00 AM »

1954bassman said,
Quote
Add a banjo and an accordian


You know what the difference is between an onion and an accordion?
Nobody cries when you cut up an accordion.

OK chuckzee90, you have a unenviable task ahead. So let's break it down further.

First of all, as 1954bassman indicated, no soundman or PA will fix poor arrangements and out of tune instruments.
That is task one. Everyone needs to be on the same page and in tune. I have the luxury of playing with seasoned, touring pros who work with pros (as in heard on the radio, names you'd recognize) every Sunday.
We get charts, but we also talk trough arrangements. Who lays back and when. Sometimes we're instructed to, "play it like the recording." In those cases, the recorded track is provided and we learn it like the record. If the bass lays out during the verses, I lay out. It's that simple.

As for setting up and mixing. I'm guessing your soundcrew are volunteers? Right off the bat you said they don't know what they are doing. Does anyone have experience with sound/mixing?

Quote
It's a "cafetorium", and we bring our own sound system in and set it up
How many people attending? About how many could fit in the space?
How much PA? Mixer with speakers on a stand? You mentioned monitors, what are you using?


What kind of piano? Is it a grand, upright, electric?
I understand you're using a bass amp, correct?
The guitar player has an amp, too?

If I understand correctly, every instrument generates it's own sound without the benefit of the PA?
You have acoustic piano (?), acoustic guitar, since the kick snare and cymbals are 'real' then the core of the kit is acoustic, horns, plus bass and guitar with amps. Is this right?

CRBMoA said,  
Quote
going direct makes the sound guys job a heck of a lot easier.

I would actually say that unless the worship team is made up of semi-pro or better players, direct should be the only option.
I'm not gonna' disagree, but if you have all that ambient noise then doing that will be a fundamental change for EVERYONE on the team.

So let's get some answers to these questions so we can work toward helping with a viable solution.







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CRBMoA
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« Reply #7 on: February 09, 2010, 09:29:03 AM »

Couldn't get the quotes to work correctly, having computer issues:

CRBMoA said,  
Quote
going direct makes the sound guys job a heck of a lot easier.

I would actually say that unless the worship team is made up of semi-pro or better players, direct should be the only option.

I'm not gonna' disagree, but if you have all that ambient noise then doing that will be a fundamental change for EVERYONE on the team.

So let's get some answers to these questions so we can work toward helping with a viable solution.



I realize what kind of a mountain we are dealing with here, and more info would help. So I agree with you, too.

The caveat I left out was that IEMs are 1.) expensive, 2. Require a digital board (usually), 3. Take a while to get used to (about a year).

And yes, there is a lot of ambient noise to deal with.

I feel for you, Chuckzee90.


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2 Cor 10:5
chuckzee90
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« Reply #8 on: February 09, 2010, 11:42:45 AM »

haha sorry I am not giving all the necessary info... as far as what we are ACTUALLY using, I have no idea... just general tidbits.  I haven't run around and checked everything. 

About 100 people in attendance, could probably fit a decent amount more than that... 150-200 comfortably? 

We try to have -all- the sound running through the PA, and yes, speakers on stands... I don't know what the monitors are, exactly.  I share one with the drummer, the pianist has one, the guitarist has one, and the worship leader has one he shared with the accompaniment singer.  I forget what the flute and trumpet dudes were using.

Volunteer sound guys?  Yes... I think one of them is on the board for the church, so who knows if that still counts Smiley  I don't know them that well beyond "Hey, yeah, can I get a cable for this..."

electric keyboard.
bass + amp
guitar + amp

did I miss anything?

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Eddy
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« Reply #9 on: February 09, 2010, 01:36:44 PM »

A room for 200+/- is a relatively small room.

It's always difficult to call, when I don't know the room or the gear being used. There's several options.
If the room is 'live' (lots of hard surfaces and echo) then you may simply being doing too much.
If it's dead (loads of carpet and padding with no echo/reverb) then your approach will vary.

Given you said "cafetorium" I'm gonna default toward a more lively room.

Based on waht you said earlier, the drum kit is mostly acoustic/real. You indicated that the kick, snare, cymbals and some of the toms were acoustic/real. The only electronics were some toms and additional hihat.
I'd ditch the electronic OR go totally electronic. You're adding monitor issues by mixing it up. My slight inclination (again based on guess work on the room/gear and the information provided) would be to scrap electronics and go all acoustic.
Start without mics. In a room that small, if the kit projects well and the drummer is typical of most rock drummers (with a heavy hand), then you may not need to mic them at all. At most, maybe a kick mic, then add an overhead and/or snare mic as required. I'd be willing to guess you don't need mics at all.

Bass. You said you're playing a stack. Can you down-size? At my church I use my pedals through a DI to the PA and we use IEMs. When I play elsewhere, I tailor my rig for the occasion. I can go with a full stack (15 and two 10's with up to 1300watts) or I can use just the 10s, or I can go to a Fender Bassman 25 kickback that sits in the wedge monitor position. Only in rare occasions does my bass amp carry the room. I use it for a my monitor and send a signal to the PA. You should work toward doing the same.
If you don't DI. Have the drummer play, then you play along with someone listening about 4 or 5 rows back. Turn up until they tell you that your level is the same as the kick drum, then stop and DO NOT touch your volume again.

Guitar: loads of variables depending on the amp and player. Best case would be a smaller amp 30 watts or less, less is more. Have the amp tilted back and facing the players head OR in front facing backwards in the wedge monitor position. Mic and adjust as required in the music.

electric keys should be DI'd
acoustic guitar should be DI'd

Then vocals mic'd.

The least you can put back in the monitors the better. Vocals, acoustic, if you have to - put the piano in. If the piano has it's on amp, I'd try to keep it out.

Organize your stage so you can all hear each other. Improve your playing by listening to everyone else.
« Last Edit: February 09, 2010, 01:50:24 PM by Eddy » Logged

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chuckzee90
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« Reply #10 on: February 09, 2010, 02:03:53 PM »

the room's large enough where not mic'in our vocals is a problem. 

See, the room is bigger than the amount of actual usuable space... so it gets tricky.  I'm bad at guesstimating.  There's the area we actually use, with about 10-15 rows of chairs, maybe 200 seats and we don't fill them all.  Then there's an area extending beyond the back row... that's where the sound system "stand" is, and beyond that is a little area with tables... and behind that is the little 'cafe' coffee area.  So sorry, I meant 200-300 as in useable space, whereas the room is decently big.  It's all hard floors.  The ceiling is strange... it's wavy, but not good wavy.  Hard to explain. 

I think I might ditch my cab and head and DI in.  I wanted to this week, but the WL wanted the amp.  I'll just do what I think is best.

I agree with the drums.  I'll try to talk him out of mixing it.  (the guy's my room-mate haha)

I TOTALLY AGREE with you on that I want someone standing in the seats telling me how it sounds.  We don't have that.  We get no feedback from the sound guys.  We just yell at them when we want more of us in the monitors.  I will try the bass-kick/bass level thing... try to talk someone into checking our levels for us. 

Guitar player.. I'll ask that he tip it back.  I play for a different service, a night service, and the first thing we do is make sure we're not all blaring noise in one direction or crossing eachother's monitors, etc.  it works well. 

I am mostly sure the keys and guitar are DI'd. 

We do the whole walk in and practice two hours before the service thing... which I'm never keen on;  but the worship team is made up of college students and a lot of times the schedules are not flexible;  we are also renting the space only one day of the week, so we'd have to find somewhere else to practice or just get there earlier. 
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Eddy
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« Reply #11 on: February 09, 2010, 02:21:24 PM »

Vocals SHOULD be in the PA.

What I was trying to convey is that you should try to keep as little out of the monitors as possible - just vocals and acoustic guitar would be perfect. Since the piano is DI (and probably no amp) then it'll have to be there too.

Your bass amp, the elec. gtr, and drums should be loud enough to be heard on stage with going trough the monitors - just the additional help for the FOH.

The other thing you need to avoid is over taxing the PA (if it's a small portable). If  its just a couple hundred watts with a 12 and horn up on sticks, it is possible to throw too much at it. If that's the case, definietly keep drums and bass out of the PA, especially since the piano has to be there.


« Last Edit: February 09, 2010, 02:51:31 PM by Eddy » Logged

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CRBMoA
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« Reply #12 on: February 09, 2010, 03:47:06 PM »

If I was playing that room, I have a Fender Bassman that pushes 100-120 watts through a 15. I would try to stand between the drummer and my combo, and I would point the enclosure at the drummer. That way, we can hear well enough to lock in, but not kill FOH. If you face your cab toward the congregation, the drummer will never hear you.

Eddy knows what he is talking about.

cb
« Last Edit: February 10, 2010, 09:20:07 AM by CRBMoA » Logged

2 Cor 10:5
chuckzee90
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« Reply #13 on: February 09, 2010, 09:01:06 PM »

thank you guys a ton.  I'm going to write this stuff down and have a chat with my WL... see if we can move some stuff around.  Appreciate it! 
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Eddy
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« Reply #14 on: February 10, 2010, 07:47:21 AM »

let us know if we've helped at all. Without being there, seeing and hearing the room as well as knowing what gear is in play really makes giving specific advice difficult.
In that vein, I'll try to recap the key points.

1) Don't over do it or over think it. If the drums are loud enough without mics, there's no need to mic them.

2) Bass, think one of two clear directions:
A: allow your amp to carry the room. Determine your loudness by playing with the drummer. Once you're loud enough to match the kick - stop and stay there. If the drums are un-mic'd then I would favor this option.
B: amp as monitor, DI to PA let the PA do the work. This is definitely a game day decision not knowing your PA. If it's a small portable, this is NOT the best option. otoh, if the PA is adequate, I prefer this method.

This is a bass forum, so I feel comfortable instructing bass players. This is an area where you should be your own expert. Know your environment and what gear should be used. If it's better to let your amp carry the room do that. If DI, a nice PA and IEM's are available, know how to utilize that. In a situation where you're amp carries the room, if you set your volume with the drummer and leave it alone (avoid the temptation to turn up) then there's no way you'll be too loud. In fact, once things start cookin', the sound crew may even ask you to turn up a smidgeon. If they do, that's ok. Just a quick note: this method works if the drums are mic'd as well. Just remember, your bass needs to sit with the kick. If the kick is mic'd, have the sound guy turn that on and again match the level. If you're DI'd, then you should match volume acoustically and the sound guy should match volumes in the PA.
Never base your volume on what a piano player, or especially a guitar player is doing - it's you and the drummer together.
Don't over complicate things, kick drum and bass guitar go together like peanut butter and jelly.

3) Keep the monitors as lean as possible. Vocals, acoustic guitar, elec piano would be as much as I'd put in there based on what we know. You and the guitar player are using amps, position them so everybody hears the amps and keep them out of the wedges. With acoustic drums and no IEM's, it would take a huge room/space for me to consider putting any drum in a monitor wedge.

4) a smaller, low wattage guitar amp usually works better than a huge one. Place the amp where it's only a monitor and mic it for FOH. I like tilting the amp to either be pointed at the guitar players head from the rear, or even better in front in the wedge position. This does two things, A: it keeps the direct signal from ripping someone's head off in the audience, B by pointing it straight at the guitar player, they usually keep their volume in check.

Lastly, Don't fight with the sound crew. Do your best to work with them. You are trying to make their job easier - especially since we're talking about volunteers with minimal expertise.
I'm guessing that your underlying issue is cacophony; that is things too loud, and you're not able to hear what you need to. By uncluttering and uncomplicationg, it should make things clearer and easier to manage.

prologue/afterthought. Our church auditorium seats over 1000 people. We do not mic the brass, there's no need to.  I really didn't talk about the horns since you said they were "temporary". The flute could be a different story, if it carries a melody line. Just the thought of mic'd trumpet in a small room makes my head hurt  Wink  Grin
« Last Edit: February 10, 2010, 08:03:21 AM by Eddy » Logged

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