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Compressors on keyboards?


Ian Benhamou

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"If you have ones of those "volume-creep" bands ... there is no set it and forget it solution. "

 

Jerry,

 

We're not really talking relative levels, we are talking about consistency. As you say, the relative levels will change. But if the patches are consistent, they will not bounce all over the place all night long. With consistency, if the whole band turns up and you turn up in response, the rest of your patches all come along. And the guy at FOH isn't scrambling.

"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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"But what sounds like balanced volumes at home, doesn't sound balanced in rehearsal. "

 

Use a console meter, not your ears.

 

We all have our perspectives. I'll stand by my statement.

 

Some keyboard parts are meant to be barely heard, others are meant to be louder. Gainstaging perspectives are great for setting floor and ceiling ... but insufficient for the big issues in between. Consistent levels are not an appropriate expectation for all channels on a mixer ... particularly the multi-timbral keyboardist's channel(s).

 

This is why it is important for the sound person to know the song arrangement. A lot of tweaking is not required in the middle of a set, but the opposite is true: inappropriate tweaking in the middle of a set can start vicious overcompensation cycles. I won't bother to describe them, because we have all experienced them. Sometimes a sound person's unrealistic expectation of "consistent levels from all instruments" is a trigger for these cycles.

 

For this reason, if I am working with a new sound person ... we usually agree on a "set it and forget it" strategy for my channel(s) on the board ... at least at first. I control my submix dynamically, while he/she is worrying about floor and ceiling. (This is the part where I use my ears.) From there we can build a relationship and address any additional issues that require special handling.

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"Bill, I can't agree with that one, at least not as a blanket statement. I've used one-ear IEM for over a decade - it requires self-discipline but then most of being a musician does."

 

Tim, as a blanket statement, it stands as fact. Are you an exception? Could be, but if you are, you will be the first one that I have ever met. I get my ears checked every two years, so I know what time and tide have done to me. (Get fitted for new ear buds at the same time.) Do you?

 

Second, just to check where those levels tend to go.... about the middle of your next second set, put the other ear piece in and see if you aren't blowing your brains out.

 

Third, consult your audiologist. Yeah, it costs a few bucks, but it is worth it. Even just to prove me wrong. (g)

 

Bill

 

Bill is definitely right about this one, there is research to back it up. Please read this article in full.

 

Here is the relevant paragraph from the above article:

To overcome some of the limitations of IEMs, such as isolation from the audience, some performers will wear just one IEM. This is not a recommended solution, and it is important that performers wear an IEM in each ear, for many reasons. Our bodys natural hearing protection mechanism, the tympanic reflex, works with both ears together. Its effectiveness is diminished when one ear is protected, because it leaves the open ear more vulnerable to loud sounds. There is also a stereophonic boost (approximately 6 dB) in perceived volume when two earphones are used together. You can try this yourself with a set of earphones and an MP3 player. Start by listening to just one earphone then putting in the second without turning up the volume. The perceived volume of the first earphone will seem to increase when the second earphone is added. Therefore the converse of this, using one IEM, means the volume must be 6 dB louder to get the same perceived volume, thus exposing the IEM ear to unnecessarily excessive volume. It also halves the listening time before the onset of hearing damage.

 

CP4, Stage EX 73, Ableton

Me The Beast Orquesta GarDel

 

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Bill is definitely right about this one, there is research to back it up. Please read this article in full.

 

Here is the relevant paragraph from the above article:

To overcome some of the limitations of IEMs, such as isolation from the audience, some performers will wear just one IEM. This is not a recommended solution, and it is important that performers wear an IEM in each ear, for many reasons. Our bodys natural hearing protection mechanism, the tympanic reflex, works with both ears together. Its effectiveness is diminished when one ear is protected, because it leaves the open ear more vulnerable to loud sounds. There is also a stereophonic boost (approximately 6 dB) in perceived volume when two earphones are used together. You can try this yourself with a set of earphones and an MP3 player. Start by listening to just one earphone then putting in the second without turning up the volume. The perceived volume of the first earphone will seem to increase when the second earphone is added. Therefore the converse of this, using one IEM, means the volume must be 6 dB louder to get the same perceived volume, thus exposing the IEM ear to unnecessarily excessive volume. It also halves the listening time before the onset of hearing damage.

 

Thanks for the substantiation.

What we record in life, echoes in eternity.

 

MOXF8, Electro 6D, XK1c, Motif XSr, PEKPER, Voyager, Univox MiniKorg.

https://www.abandoned-film.com

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Bill is completely right on this. His response got me wondering so I asked the folks at Sensaphonics for their opinion. Here's what I got back this morning:

 

"Hi Tim,

 

I would still recommend that you wear two and here's why. Your brain ( psycho-acoustics) perceives things 6dB louder ( three times louder) with the same signal in both ear. When you remove an earphone, it must be turned up by the same amount to perceive the same volume level as wearing two. Second, the sound entering the open ear may actually mask the sounds in the closed ear through central masking effects in the brain. In other words, you would hear you cell phone much better in a semi-loud room if you were to cup your hand over the open ear. Make sense? Third, if the room is loud enough for long enough, the open ear could risk damage. I know you are playing in supposed low volume settings but risk is also related to time of exposure. If you are playing 3 or 4 hours / day, your exposure must be lower than if you were only playing one hour. A 9dB musician's plug in the "open" ear would help.

 

Hope this helps.

 

Best Wishes,

Michael

Michael Santucci, AuD

Doctor of Audiology

Sensaphonics Hearing Conservation, Inc

660 North Milwaukee Avenue

Chicago, IL 60642"

 

Anyway, just wanted to give credit where it's due.

..
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Bill is completely right on this. His response got me wondering so I asked the folks at Sensaphonics for their opinion. Here's what I got back this morning:

 

"Hi Tim,

 

I would still recommend that you wear two and here's why. Your brain ( psycho-acoustics) perceives things 6dB louder ( three times louder) with the same signal in both ear. When you remove an earphone, it must be turned up by the same amount to perceive the same volume level as wearing two.

 

Why must an IEM be turned up? I don't do this when I remove one of them (at least I don't think I do)

I understand the basic concept of what they're saying, but for my situation, I'm basically listening in mono, and I only have my vocal, my singer, and a bit of keys in my IEM.

I can see where if you're listening to a full stereo source, and remove an IEM, then the perception of volume drops, because most of the audio is in the center anyway, and you'll only hear what's to the L/R of the recording.

In any case, I'll defer to the specialists regardless, and start plugging both ears.

 

Just tried the experiment with my iPod. Had just the left plugged, then added the right. Not sure if it's a 6dB jump, but it's definitely large, which makes sense.

What we record in life, echoes in eternity.

 

MOXF8, Electro 6D, XK1c, Motif XSr, PEKPER, Voyager, Univox MiniKorg.

https://www.abandoned-film.com

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-Unlike guitarists and bassists, we have a huge palette of sounds most of which cover the full frequency range. Would one compressor setting make some sounds more even and others too squashed?

 

Some guitarists have an extremely wide palette of sound. A lot of this is naturally compressed by distortion or tube amps, but a lot of guitarists gig with compressors as part of their arsenal as well.

 

-Is using a compressor like patching up a hole in a flawed design? ie Would it be getting to the root of the problem or am I not programming my midi volumes properly and giving myself enough headroom?

 

It's not getting to the root of the problem. You need to continually tweak and adjust your volumes relative to each other in rehearsal so by the time you take the stage, you do a minimum of futzing. You can turn up a little bit with a global volume (on-stage amp with feed?) if there's "volume creep" or some need to adjust, but your volumes can still be good relative to each other and not suddenly leap up in volume.

 

-Should I get a really good amp system for onstage instead of stage monitors which change on every gig, and lost control of my on stage volume?

 

If you are onstage monitoring only for yourself, you can buy a small keyboard amp, get it up high, and have it relatively close to you if necessary. You don't need much for personal monitoring. I've never used an amp for personal monitoring that was more than 60 watts on stage, and I've played in really heavy bands with guitarists using 250-watt Marshall stacks.

 

If it's an onstage amp for micing up and so forth, that might be another story.

 

I've never used a compressor on stage for keyboards because I've been quite vigilant about adjusting my patches in rehearsal, and I would highly recommend this.

 

If, however, for whatever reason this still isn't doing the job, you can get a compressor that is transparent (unless you don't want transparency and would rather have it color your keyboards in some cool way) and set it for a relatively mild setting so that it gently evens out your keyboard sound. But quite frankly, there's no reason you shouldn't be able to adjust your patches so that they are consistent and have good volumes relative to each other. I've played in extremely dynamic bands that changed on the dime from whisper-quiet to absolutely sick pummeling orgies of Marshall mayhem and feedback, and I always managed to gig without a problem.

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Fur sell...

 

ALESIS 3630 Nevr uzd to itz fullest pertential ...(I guess - 'cause it nvr sounded vry good t' me.) :o

 

http://www.thedjsplace.com/images/products/alesis3630compressor_2.jpg

 

Cheep!

 

hurrie! is going on craiglizt next weak. :freak:

 

Comez wit pwersply! :thu: but i lst thinstruction manuel a long time ago.

 

hi jeff, you weasel who made me buy this POS. :mad::wave:

 

 

"Music expresses that which cannot be put into words and that which cannot remain silent." - Victor Hugo
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Does anyone out there send more than a stereo output from the keyboard mixer to FOH?

Yes. I have two stereo pairs, one for basic keys (pianos, clavs, organ) and one for synths.

 

I'm sure I'll be reviled here, but I run my key rig in mono. I always have. Not that that's a good reason, but does anyone in the audience really give a damn?

Stuff and things.
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I'm sure I'll be reviled here, but I run my key rig in mono. I always have. Not that that's a good reason, but does anyone in the audience really give a damn?
You won't be reviled. While many here are pretty adamant about running in stereo, there are a few of us who run in mono. The biggest trick to running in mono are stereo samples that have phase problems when heard in mono without doing anything else to them.

"I'm so crazy, I don't know this is impossible! Hoo hoo!" - Daffy Duck

 

"The good news is that once you start piano you never have to worry about getting laid again. More time to practice!" - MOI

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"I run my key rig in mono. I always have. "

 

I ren my guitar rig in mono, no matter which rig I'm using (including the MIDI rig.) My guitar is not 20 feet wide. It can sound BIG, but ....

"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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I did some searching on phase problems - and here's my big dumb question - How do you tell if you have phase problems? Does the signal completely disappear?

 

Aren't the L/mono (or the Electro's R/mono) outputs designed so we can correctly run mono through an amp or PA?

 

Sorry to get the thread off topic...

 

 

 

 

Stuff and things.
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I did some searching on phase problems - and here's my big dumb question - How do you tell if you have phase problems? Does the signal completely disappear?

 

Aren't the L/mono (or the Electro's R/mono) outputs designed so we can correctly run mono through an amp or PA?

 

Sorry to get the thread off topic...

 

A common prob of modern keyboards incl. onboard FX is, the FX often aren´t mono compatible.

Is possible to go mono w/ every "stereo"-keyboard but w/ the FX OFF.

Unfortunally, todays digital keys patches quality depend on the FX used in the patches. The FX are part of the overall sound,- so, switching FX off and going mono may result in a completely different sound. This also rules for many virtual instruments.

There are exceptions. Some keyboards offer mono-fx in addition to stereo fx, so the stereo fx can be replaced bny mono fx in the patches to use ´em mono.

Eventually a lot of editing work if the machine doesn´t come pre-programmed w/ alternate mono patches.

The L/mono output isn´t guaranteed to work correctly in mono,- it´s just only there.

Some work o.k. some not.

 

Stereo samples or stereo sample maps are a different story.

The behaviour in mono depends on what is/was sampled in stereo and how.

 

A.C.

 

 

 

 

 

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Bill is completely right on this. His response got me wondering so I asked the folks at Sensaphonics for their opinion. Here's what I got back this morning:

 

"Hi Tim,

 

I would still recommend that you wear two and here's why. Your brain ( psycho-acoustics) perceives things 6dB louder ( three times louder) with the same signal in both ear. When you remove an earphone, it must be turned up by the same amount to perceive the same volume level as wearing two.

 

I am confused by 6 dB being three times louder. Although there are several ways of referring to dB (decibel), i.e.,dB, dBU, dBV, dB SPL, I am going to make the assumption that dB SPL is what is being discussed here. Gary Davis, the physicist (and sound guru) who wrote the "Sound Reinforcement Handbook" for the Yamaha Music Corporation (as well as several very thick, technical books on acoustics), states in section 3.3 "Relating the Decibal to Acoustic Levels" (3.3.1 dB SPL, c. 1987, Revision 4 9/24/87):

"How do we perceive SPL? It turns out that a sound which is 3 dB higher in level than another is barely perceived to be louder; a sound which is 10 dB higher in level is perceived to be about twice as loud. (Loudness, by the way, is a subjective quantity, and is also greatly influenced by frequency and absolute sound level.)"

 

Perhaps the writer at Sensaphonics is referring to something else. Could somebody shed light here? Or, perhaps a typo?

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".. barely perceived to be louder..."

 

This is where you are running off the rails. Perception verses actual measurement. The Sensaphonics document is correct.

 

I try to make this point all the time on the guitar forum... watts verses actual sound pressure level. 100 watts is not twice as loud as 50 watts.

"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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Bill is completely right on this. His response got me wondering so I asked the folks at Sensaphonics for their opinion. Here's what I got back this morning:

 

"Hi Tim,

 

I would still recommend that you wear two and here's why. Your brain ( psycho-acoustics) perceives things 6dB louder ( three times louder) with the same signal in both ear. When you remove an earphone, it must be turned up by the same amount to perceive the same volume level as wearing two. Second, the sound entering the open ear may actually mask the sounds in the closed ear through central masking effects in the brain. In other words, you would hear you cell phone much better in a semi-loud room if you were to cup your hand over the open ear. Make sense? Third, if the room is loud enough for long enough, the open ear could risk damage. I know you are playing in supposed low volume settings but risk is also related to time of exposure. If you are playing 3 or 4 hours / day, your exposure must be lower than if you were only playing one hour. A 9dB musician's plug in the "open" ear would help.

 

Hope this helps.

 

Best Wishes,

Michael

Michael Santucci, AuD

Doctor of Audiology

Sensaphonics Hearing Conservation, Inc

660 North Milwaukee Avenue

Chicago, IL 60642"

 

Anyway, just wanted to give credit where it's due.

Too bad this idiot doesn't know what 6dB means! LOL! Doctor of Audiology, but must be mathematically challenged. All the other stuff he says sounds reasonable.
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I am confused by 6 dB being three times louder. Although there are several ways of referring to dB (decibel), i.e.,dB, dBU, dBV, dB SPL, I am going to make the assumption that dB SPL is what is being discussed here. Gary Davis, the physicist (and sound guru) who wrote the "Sound Reinforcement Handbook" for the Yamaha Music Corporation (as well as several very thick, technical books on acoustics), states in section 3.3 "Relating the Decibal to Acoustic Levels" (3.3.1 dB SPL, c. 1987, Revision 4 9/24/87):

"How do we perceive SPL? It turns out that a sound which is 3 dB higher in level than another is barely perceived to be louder; a sound which is 10 dB higher in level is perceived to be about twice as loud. (Loudness, by the way, is a subjective quantity, and is also greatly influenced by frequency and absolute sound level.)"

 

Perhaps the writer at Sensaphonics is referring to something else. Could somebody shed light here? Or, perhaps a typo?

It doesn't matter what the reference is: 10dB is always twice as loud, by definition. (OK, people differ, and some report 6dB as sounding "twice as loud". The point is, 2dB is NEVER anywhere near twice as loud. It's "noticeably louder".)
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I'm sure I'll be reviled here, but I run my key rig in mono. I always have. Not that that's a good reason, but does anyone in the audience really give a damn?
I do, but I'm unusual in that respect -- and in many venues, stereo just doesn't work anyway. If you're happy with mono, then you go with that and don't give it a second thought unless you want to. The performance matters 10 times as much, anyway.
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Without a reference, we are usually in trouble. Power? Or Amplitude? I agree that so long as we stay in the same reference quantity (dBm, dBv, etc...)then it is easier, but as soon as we start to talk about doubling and squares and distance....

 

 

...and after all, how many think that -10 and +4 are 14dB apart....

"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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Good point, Bill, I was assuming amplitude and not power. But 6dB increase in power is still not 3 times louder. A 10dB increase in power is twice the power, which is only 3dB louder (in amplitude).

 

And, *everybody* knows that +4 dBu is roughly 12 dB higher than -10 dBV! ;)

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Back to the original question, though.

 

A compressor changes the dynamics of the instrument (patch). I would use a compressor on an individual patch if that's the dynamic response I wanted for that patch.

 

I would NOT use a compressor on the full keyboard mix, other than perhaps a peak limiter if I had peak problems (which I do not, with digital gear, but might, with analog gear.)

 

Mark says "digital is already compressed." I don't exactly agree, but I do if his point is that with digital, you usually don't have problems with peaks. Digital is either compressed or not depending on how the patch is set up. With 24 bits we have a dynamic range of over 120 decibels.

 

No, the difference here between digital and analog is more that the digital tends to be more predictable -- it won't ever go over 0dBFS. Analog is not so predictable. That's part of the beauty, of course! :)

 

As mentioned above, the solution is to balance your patches, which handles 90% of the job. To close the remaining 10%, adjust your playing or use the patch volume to compensate. I use an expression pedal -- I can't imagine playing Hammond without one.

 

And of course, you want a predictable monitor. However, I'm sure that plenty of travelling keyboardists rely on what's provided rather than lugging around a monitor. I just play locally, and always use my own rig. At the local level, you can't expect a decent monitor. At the big circuit level, you should be able to demand it (but I bet there's still plenty of variety, and I'll let the big dogs fill us in on that.)

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