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Onstage Monitoring: What's In Your Band's Mix ?


allan_evett

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I've run into a new, live performance situation recently. It's one of those issues where I have to ask: Am I the odd man in the equation, or are my observations on the money ? I've been coming at this from the "I've almost always done it this way" point of view; hence the question...

 

I've been playing live with a country/rock act since Dec. '08. Typically the band plays clubs that hold 200-400 people. The band PA is about 4000W, with JBL 2 way cabinets and subs; also 3 JBL 12" monitors across the front, and 2 similar monitors for drums and keys. The band keeps the stage volume quite low. I've played with bands where my Traynor K4 has been on 7+ master vol. for most gigs; with this act, the K4 is rarely pushed beyond 3.

With the stage volume at 'coffeehouse' levels in mid-size rooms, it's tough to hear the other instruments on stage - drums, bass, acoustic guitar, electric guitar - especially with 3 part vocals at a respectable level in the monitors. The electric guitar is the least of my concerns, as the guitarist is right next to me; but that does make it tougher to hear the drums clearly. The big problem behind all of this is that, even with plenty of power and good quality monitors, the lead vocalist/bandleader refuses to put anything in the monitors but vocals. I've explained to him that, due to the size of the stages/rooms that we play and the low instrument/amp levels, it is difficult for me to hear the other instruments effectively. So, I've asked for some kick, bass, and acoustic guitar to be added to the monitor mix. The leader's response is, "That's just not going to happen; we only have one monitor amp/mix, and we can only have vocals in there". However, the lead singer and guitarist have both asked me, repeatedly, to bring an additional powered keyboard enclosure to the gigs - to be placed on their side of the stage - so that they can hear the keys... I told them to put some keys in the monitor mix; same answer; "Only vocals...".

BTW: the group doesn't want to purchase any additional power amps to create additional monitor mixes; but I'm welcome to pick up a power amp for my stage monitor if I want a separate mix. Or, I could run a separate mix off of their board into the monitor channel of my K4; still doesn't solve their issue of hearing the keys on stage though. Generally all the players have varying degrees of trouble hearing each other's instruments on stage. So my response has been: " What's the BIG deal with putting a tasteful mix of instruments in the monitor, still keeping the vocals upfront ?". They simply won't budge on this one... Weird; or am I overlooking/missing something here ?

'Someday, we'll look back on these days and laugh; likely a maniacal laugh from our padded cells, but a laugh nonetheless' - Mr. Boffo.

 

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A different main mixer with more than one monitor out could solve that problem, but it would probably run into some money the bandleader sees no reason to part with. You could get in-ear monitors off a second monitor out so you could hear and it wouldn't change the floor monitors vocals only setup. I don't know if you can hear any of the sound from the mains where you are located on stage, and it might be that the lead singer is up front and can hear the mains.

 

Personally, I wouldn't buy a second rig to put on the other side of the stage because the other members want to be hard-headed about the monitors.

 

 

Mike T.

Yamaha Motif ES8, Alesis Ion, Prophet 5 Rev 3.2, 1979 Rhodes Mark 1 Suitcase 73 Piano, Arp Odyssey Md III, Roland R-70 Drum Machine, Digitech Vocalist Live Pro. Roland Boss Chorus Ensemble CE-1.

 

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Here's what you do: go buy a cheap power amp, and leave your K4 at home. Then you get everything you want in YOUR mix (assuming the board does have more than one mon/aux send per channel), and then when they can't hear you at all ("I don't have room in my car for an amplifier and a power amp"), they either man up, or shut up.
Hitting "Play" does NOT constitute live performance. -Me.
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In most of the bands I've been in, whether I was the singer or not, we didn't put anything in the front wedges but vocals. Never bothered me, as I bring plenty of power.

 

As a singer, I appreciate the difficulty of getting to hear the vocals at all, so obfuscating that with more instruments in the wedges has been one of those things that I agree with: KISS (keep it simple stupid!).

 

But to tell you they can't hear you, and not put it in the wedges, it just plain assinine. Tell them you can't afford to buy or carry a second keyboard amp, and that it's just not going to happen.

Hitting "Play" does NOT constitute live performance. -Me.
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I would use a separate aux out (From the main mixer) to your K4's monitor in. Get what you want in that mix. You will play better if you can hear better. Plain and simple. If the rest of the band wants more keys, put a little in with the "vocal only" mix. No need to buy anything considering what you already have will do exactly what you want.
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How are the amps positioned onstage? That can have a big effect. If everyone is pointing straight out, it'll be hard to hear those who are on the other side. We always try to have the amps angled in towards each other, almost a semi circle if you will.

 

If there IS a 2nd monitor output available, then by all means run it into your K4 and put in it what you want. That's what I do with one of my bands.

Live: Korg Kronos 2 88, Nord Electro 5d Nord Lead A1

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Bands should run at least (2) monitor mixes i.e. vocals and band respectively.

 

That would eliminate the horse poo situation describe above, enable a better stage mix and potentially reduce gear if the guitarists decide to leave behind or bring smaller rigs too.

 

Tony is right. Leave the KB amp at home. Bring a power amp and a small mixer if another monitor is available.

 

Here again, the KB player ends up pulling double-duty i.e. playing and running sound onstage. :rolleyes::laugh::cool:

PD

 

"The greatest thing you'll ever learn, is just to love and be loved in return."--E. Ahbez "Nature Boy"

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I'm old school, in that I prefer that vocals are what is in the monitors. And there is a logic for this approach in a single mix situation in small clubs, in that monitors were created for vocals, anyone trying to sing harmonies has a bitch of a time when there are other instruments in the mix, and when there is only one mix EVERYONE has to hear whatever is in the mix... so they play louder to hear themselves over whatever other instruments are in the mix... then the mix needs to get louder, then the ... well, you get the picture.

 

It has been a vicious circle since the 80s, when people who only worked in studios suddenly came out on the road and discovered that live guys didn't get the great studio monitors that they were used to hearing. It was particularly tough with female singers, mostly country acts, who expected to hear the record in their ears, but could not hear themselves over most stage volume levels from the live band.

 

Guitar and bass amps came about to get the band over the drums. Then vocal monitors came about so that the vocalist could stay on pitch against the stage level. But then drummers started playing harder, amps got bigger, keyboard players got lazy and started demanding that they be in the monitors too, 'cause they didn't want to carry amps.... and by the laws of physics, the singers had to lose again. Because amps can get louder when pushing pickups, but the inverse square law works against microphones.

 

When there is only one possible mix, it should be reserved for vocals in a band with vocals. There are other options for spreading out the sound of the band, including the extra speaker cabinet idea (which could travel with the PA... why drag it home every night? and it could even be one of those mic-stand mounted little monitors.... after all, it is only a refernece for the other guys, the fidelity is not that big of a deal..), or running a feed from your rig to the guitarist and letting him feed that into his second channel (also giving him a volume control...), I mean, a little thought could find a solution that everyone can live with. Just remember, the vocalist only has that one sound source. Cluttering it up with other stuff could screw the pooch. You wouldn't play if you had to share your amp with another instrument and you could not control the volume of that instrument independently of your own.

"I believe that entertainment can aspire to be art, and can become art, but if you set out to make art you're an idiot."

 

Steve Martin

 

Show business: we're all here because we're not all there.

 

 

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Get a small powered monitor. Then run what you want through the mix for your personal monitor. It will keep the "Vocals Only" fronts the way they are, and better help you hear the other guys.

 

http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2276/2330684325_3574f4eb05_o.jpg

 

I can understand fully the Vocals Only mentality, and to a certain extent I agree. For the most part, all I want in the monitors is the same vocal mix that's going out front. But there are occasions where I have a hard time hearing the guy on the other side of the stage. So, I'll have a little of them through my own personal monitor.

 

"In the beginning, Adam had the blues, 'cause he was lonesome.

So God helped him and created woman.

 

Now everybody's got the blues."

 

Willie Dixon

 

 

 

 

 

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If a band has a great handle on their dynamics, one monitor mix with vocals only or some band thrown in would suffice especially on a small stage.

 

Still, considering the cost of equipment nowadays, a separate multiple monitor mix is easy. Also, IEMs all around could clear things up too. YMMV. :cool:

 

 

PD

 

"The greatest thing you'll ever learn, is just to love and be loved in return."--E. Ahbez "Nature Boy"

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IEM's are by far the best solution, so long as you have enough sends to get your own monitor mixes. We have enough for all 5 of us to have our own mix in our ears, and we are each in charge of our own mix. If you're not happy with your monitor mix, it's your own fault. And nothing anybody does has any effect on anybody else. Plus, since they are IEM's and we run almost everything direct (including electric drums), there is virtually no stage volume, thus, no microphone bleed. The FOH guy can mix it like a CD without worrying about bleed or feedback. It's not cheap, but I guarantee, once you try it, you'll never go back.

 

Fron the sound of things, I take it you're running your own PA? Are you mixing it from stage? Most of the places we play these days of the size you describe have house sound. If they don't, we hire it out. But we own our monitor system, so it's the same everywhere we play.

Dan

 

Acoustic/Electric stringed instruments ranging from 4 to 230 strings, hammered, picked, fingered, slapped, and plucked. Analog and Digital Electronic instruments, reeds, and throat/mouth.

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I like IEM's but playing with less mature players they can hide bad habits (overplaying, volume creep, etc) that the monitors reveal and cause to be addressed. (albeit painfully)

 

As long as the band listens well and plays with dynamics ... these monitor issues can be resolved. If the band has some rules that cannot be negotiated ... they've often had some kind of bad experience ... which can be be worth hearing about.

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I agree that what you need is a second (and possible a third) monitor mix. Given the size of the rooms you play and that the musicians can't hear one another, I'm surprised that,the singers aren't demanding some instruments in their monitor mix. It sounds like the guy in question had a bad experience and now the rest of the band has to pay for it for eternity. Assuming you have the extra sends on the board a couple of extra monitors and a stereo power amp would solve your problems.
Instrumentation is meaningless - a song either stands on its own merit, or it requires bells and whistles to cover its lack of adequacy, much less quality. - kanker
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Since the Band Leader is the Lead vocalist, I'm assuming he's set up front and center? From that position, he's probably hearing, and maybe even being overpowered by, the other instruments. He's probably got the drums right behind him and the amps pointing at him, plus lots of bleed from the FOH that you don't get at the back of the stage. In fact, in back of the stage, you end up typically getting a lot of muddy boominess, which means you need even more monitor to cut through it.

 

Vocal-Only mix in the front, Full mix in the back would probably help solve the problem. If he doesn't want to add amps, get active monitors, each person's in charge of his own, let the front or the stage have the 12" wedges with their vocals.

 

Each person having a good monitor mix will allow you to play even quieter - might seem counterintuitive that more monitors will be quieter, but you can run each amp really low if you're hearing it where you need it (through the monitor). If he's got nothing but vocals in his monitor, he can adjust himself to taste.

Dan

 

Acoustic/Electric stringed instruments ranging from 4 to 230 strings, hammered, picked, fingered, slapped, and plucked. Analog and Digital Electronic instruments, reeds, and throat/mouth.

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I did that for years with a group in the SW Chicago 'burbs. It worked out fine because the instruments were actually played with a solid amount of stage volume - from individual amps. Both you and Bill have a good point about prioritizing the monitors for vocals. That would probably be OK if these guys turned their amps up a bit; but often I hear the vocals too much over the other instruments. As also suggested in this thread, the lead singer likely had a bad past experience - and the rest of us are paying for it. But you're correct about it being ridiculous to not put some keys in the monitor when they can't hear me. Even in other situations where the room has been small, and there are few or no other instruments monitored, often the vocalists have request a little bit of my keys in the monitor. Seems more and more like it's a reaction on the leader's part: When in doubt, play it safe, keep it black and white. Basically BS in my book...

Thanks, everyone, for your input so far. I plan on at least trying the 2nd monitor out into my K4 monitor channel. I may also consider the separate power amp idea. IEM's are awesome: I used those in my last road gig; likely wouldn't work too well these guys though.

'Someday, we'll look back on these days and laugh; likely a maniacal laugh from our padded cells, but a laugh nonetheless' - Mr. Boffo.

 

We need a barfing cat emoticon!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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You could even tap into the main house mix run into your Traynor and still be better off than what you have now. No need for a seperate aux send this way. I do this with my IEM and it gives me everything needed as well as lets me know where I am in the mix.
If I listed all of my gear here my wife might see it and start asking questions.
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+1 on getting another aux send from the main console into your Traynor - you'll have whatever mix you desire.

 

As for other guys in the band - I think asking you to bring another amp so they can hear you clearly is simply rude. It's not your problem. They don't hear keys - they have to figure out the way to solve it.

 

 

The stages I play usually have a monitor speaker for every member of the band, and each member has a full mix in the monitor. I never bring any amplification.

Stage: MOX6, V-machine, and Roland AX7

Rolls PM351 for IEMs.

Home/recording: Roland FP4, a few guitars

 

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IEM's are by far the best solution, so long as you have enough sends to get your own monitor mixes. We have enough for all 5 of us to have our own mix in our ears, and we are each in charge of our own mix. If you're not happy with your monitor mix, it's your own fault. And nothing anybody does has any effect on anybody else. Plus, since they are IEM's and we run almost everything direct (including electric drums), there is virtually no stage volume, thus, no microphone bleed. The FOH guy can mix it like a CD without worrying about bleed or feedback. It's not cheap, but I guarantee, once you try it, you'll never go back.

 

 

Dan,

 

What kind (Name, Model) of IEMs are you using? Are they all the same? Are you using a monitor board with the IEMs? How is each musician "in charge" of his/her own mix? (Does each musician dial in his/her own mix on the monitor board vs. mixing two sends on a belt pack? Are you running IEMs in mono or stereo? Any EQs in the monitor rig? Do you use any stage monitors along with them? And finally, what do you send to Front-Of-House?

 

Also, does it sound wierd to have no stage volume on-stage? Or, do you have some stage monitor volume?

 

I have seen / experienced the "pedal-board to D.I. send" type band into monitor board into rock-solid stage monitors, and that was really low volume for a festival setting. I would imagine that everything into IEMs would be rather unnervingly quiet on-stage. What am I missing on this?

 

Other than cost, I have heard only two downsides to using IEMs:

 

1. IEMs block out so much unwanted program that one feels like having "tunnel vision" hearing--you hear only what is dialed into the mix.) Consequently, you hear no audience response.) The solution, of course, is to set up one or two mics on-stage and dial in the amount of ambient noise you want.

 

2. IEMs are rather unforgiving: it may unnerve a vocalist to hear just how sloppy he/she actually is. On the other hand, IEMs may "inspire" a vocalist to become a better vocalist? (I won't hold my breath on this.)

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In Eras are the best solution though they can be overkill. It also takes some thinking to get in ears correctly set up (IMPORTANT WARNING....DO NOT TRY TO RUN IN EARS WITH ONLY ONE EAR!!! THIS IS STUPID DANGEROUS, AND YOU WILL LOSE YOUR HEARING!!!!)

 

The way to get everyone to be able to control their own is with something like the Aviom or Hearback system (which are affordable, though not as solid as...) the Mytek or Masque systems.

 

A tried and true common solution is the sidewash monitor setup, where the band is in the wash monitors, and the vocals are in the wedges. Creates a messy FOH sound, but was the universal solution for years.

 

Still, the simplest and easiest and cheapest answer is that little mic stand mounted monitor I mentioned before. Costs little, takes up no space, and does the job with a minimum of fuss.

"I believe that entertainment can aspire to be art, and can become art, but if you set out to make art you're an idiot."

 

Steve Martin

 

Show business: we're all here because we're not all there.

 

 

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First, we have a splitter snake - 16 channels mounted in our moniter rack. that way nothing we do with our monitor board has any effect on FOH. For our monitor board we have an A&H Mixwizzard, which allows us to have 6 sends post EQ, Pre-fader. So we do have channel EQ, but it will affect everyones mix. Basically each band member has a row of knobs to control his/her own mix. From there it goes to the IEM transmitters mounted in the same rack - Shure PSM200 (mono). Most of the band members have replaced the E2s with better monitors - I'm using the E3s> Our drummer runs wired.

 

The sound is great. You get enough bleed through the vocal mics that you hear crowd reaction and some room - but if somebody comes up to the stage to talk to you, you have to pull one out to hear them. Since our drummer plays electric drums, he does get a wedge with kick, snare, toms, and bass guitar just so he can feel it a bit.

 

We don't own FOH PA. If they don't have house sound, we hire it out and add it to our price. A typical rig for most gigs would be 2 pairs of dual 18" subs (8 18's total), and either a pair of 3-ways or 2 pairs of 2-ways on top depending on the room. We need a pretty beefy PA since everything depends on it.

Dan

 

Acoustic/Electric stringed instruments ranging from 4 to 230 strings, hammered, picked, fingered, slapped, and plucked. Analog and Digital Electronic instruments, reeds, and throat/mouth.

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"We don't own FOH PA."

 

That is a very smart arrangement.

 

I know several touring acts that own their own monitor rigs and mics, or In Ear rigs and mics. No surprises that way. Back in the day, the Doobie Brothers owned their own stage rig, and rented FOH...

"I believe that entertainment can aspire to be art, and can become art, but if you set out to make art you're an idiot."

 

Steve Martin

 

Show business: we're all here because we're not all there.

 

 

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Yes - we also use our own mics and even our own DI's since there can be a huge difference in levels with different DI's. I use the Radial passive DI's. We usually barely even have to touch our IEM mix from show to show - just minor adjusments to compensate for whatever bleed we're getting through the mics.

Dan

 

Acoustic/Electric stringed instruments ranging from 4 to 230 strings, hammered, picked, fingered, slapped, and plucked. Analog and Digital Electronic instruments, reeds, and throat/mouth.

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Dan,

 

That is the exact same monitor setup we have and we've been extremely happy with it. I decided to purchase the MixWiz and the split snake myself, that way the monitor system goes with me when this band comes to an end.

 

I have never had a better monitor mix and it is much, much quieter than the on stage madness I'd grown accustomed to over the years. When our set is over, I'm astounded how much louder the DJ is. At the end of the night no ringing, fatigued ears.

 

Cheers,

Gord

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We live in the small venue private party world - and virtually always provide our own PA. FOH is the typical 18" sub with a 15"/horn combo speaker on top of it (in our case it's Yamaha Club V series cabineets). We use 4 of the Yamaha wedges (12" and a horn) for monitors - connected in pairs and driven by the left and right channels of a single amp. 3 of the wedges are up front positioned for the Guitar player, sax player and vocalist. The 4th wedge sits beside the drummer. I run a seperate aux send from the PA board into a channel on my keyboard mixer and use my keyboard rig for my "vocal monitor" as well. An A&H MixWiz feeds everything.

 

Although the 4 wedges carry two seperate mixes - the two mixes tend to be pretty similar. It's primarily vocals and sax - with a smidgeon of keys IF it's a big stage. The sax sits a hair hotter in the mix on the pair that the sax player is on. The mix that I run through my keyboard rig is primarily vocals and sax - with a hint of guitar (especially if we're on a large stage and/or playing a low volume gig.)

 

I'm happy to say that we do a pretty good job of keeping our volume under control - and manage to get a pretty good sound on stage. Subs and guest musicians often comment how much they like the volume and stage sound we get.

 

 

The SpaceNorman :freak:
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..... The band keeps the stage volume quite low.......

If your band can keep the stage volume low, that's a great thing.

 

The recommendation someone else made to look at how the various amps are located and pointed is a very good one. There is a natural tendency to point one's amps at the audience, but if you have all band sounds going through the FOH, then the on-stage amps are actually serving as stage monitors, and they should be situated for that purpose.

 

I suggest you approach the band leader and say something like this: "ok, I understand that only the vocals will go in the wedges, but can we have a band discussion about optimizing the on-stage sound, including how the guitar and keyboard amps are situated?". The idea would be to get the whole band to buy into the concept that all their amps are acting as "stage monitors", and to have everyone consider how the band is going to get the right mix of sounds into your stage area, to enable the band to play as well as possible.

 

You might not be able to predict ahead of time what specific setup will make the on-stage sound work for your band. Start by talking about the need for all the musicians to hear everyone else, as opposed to *how* to accomplish this. The covers band I play in puts only the vocals in the wedges, but we have all the amps pointed towards the center of our stage area. Also, our amps are situated far back enough on stage (closer to the back wall than the drummer is) so that the drummer's ears are within the "spray area" for all these amps. Every once in a while we forget to do this, which causes the drummer to not be able to hear the piano parts, which causes the Billy Joel songs to fall apart. Our drummer's drum kit is deafening; we have no problems hearing him.

 

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