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almost OT: Power needed for the band? Can you run out?


Ross Brown

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I had a party on Sunday. Weather was beautiful and we hired a blues band to play. It is a good band but they could not play because they could not get their sound system to work properly. They claimed they were not getting enough power from the house, ie extension cables too long, blah blah blah They would start to play and then a horrible noise would occur and they would stop. It was always right after the big voiced singer would really dig into a phrase. After four attempts they called it a day party was still good but was real close to being great. If they would have been able to play.

 

My rock band has played this party with exactly the same power in the same place with the same extension cables. We had plenty of power.

 

What would prevent this from happening again (besides hiring a different band)? Power conditioners do the trick? Better extension cables?

 

I may run power to the place where the band sets up but I wonder what the real problem was. Have you ever encountered this? I have not and I have played plenty of places with suspect electric

 

"When I take a stroll down Jackass Lane it is usually to see someone that is already there" Mrs. Brown
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I've definitely played in places which did not supply enough voltage to run a band.

 

If you use old-fashioned gear, it will work but not sound right.

 

If you use a Hammond organ, the pitch will drop as the voltage drops.

 

If you have any digital gear, it may not work at all.

 

The more high-tech gear you have, the more chance that it will be damaged by running it at a lower voltage than it was designed for.

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dilithium crystals.

 

I assume that when the music stopped, someone had to reset a circuit breaker or two.

 

When in this situation we first strip to the bare minimum. No stage lights, etc. If the guitar player has a tube amp that can turn off half the tubes and only plug in half of a stack, do it. Two 8 ohm bass speakers in parallel in your rig? Unplug one of them. If you can, turn off the monitor amp and angle one of the front end speakers more towards the band. Anything you can think of to decrease the needed draw. And do what you can to make sure the extension cords are as big-uns as possible, and that they are all plugged into different circuits. Any other things that were plugged in this time that weren't plugged in last time? It's always that damn hair dryer or the microwave....... Use a GFI if you have one. or two.

Things are just the way they are, and they're only going to get worse.

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dilithium crystals.

 

I assume that when the music stopped, someone had to reset a circuit breaker or two.

 

When in this situation we first strip to the bare minimum. No stage lights, etc. If the guitar player has a tube amp that can turn off half the tubes and only plug in half of a stack, do it. Two 8 ohm bass speakers in parallel in your rig? Unplug one of them. If you can, turn off the monitor amp and angle one of the front end speakers more towards the band. Anything you can think of to decrease the needed draw. And do what you can to make sure the extension cords are as big-uns as possible, and that they are all plugged into different circuits. Any other things that were plugged in this time that weren't plugged in last time? It's always that damn hair dryer or the microwave....... Use a GFI if you have one. or two.

+1

 

Definitely the longer the run, the bigger gauge the cable needs to be. Ever notice why you can't buy a 200' long 18 gauge extension cord?

 

I have heard bad things about generators and tube amps. Don't know how true that is though.

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What would prevent this from happening again (besides hiring a different band)? Power conditioners do the trick? Better extension cables?

Power conditioners (at least any that you would consider buying at an affordable price) wouldn't do the trick. At best they'll only protect from voltage spikes...not dips. Paul gave the best advice I can think of.

 

My favorite solution (I used this in a thread a long time ago):

 

http://i118.photobucket.com/albums/o92/shadow1784/mobilerig.jpg

 

Yes, that's a Zvex amp. Kind of like a tasty cherry on top of a poop flavored ice cream sundae.

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under voltage issues can be more damaging to high tech gear than over voltage... fans won't turn at the right speed, so gear won't cool properly, magnetc contacts won't close tight, causing arcing inside the components, which will melt them, even in tiny parts inside on the circuit board...

Next time around, make sure the band knows ahead of time what the power situation is, so they can bring more appropriate gear.

Paul also suggested using GFCI's, and I would strongly encourage you to get some. You can get extension cords with GFCI outlets built in, or take the time to convert a few outlets in the house, specifically the ones you use for the stage, to GFCIs.

They won't help with the low power situation, but they will isolate any equipment that is causeing the circuit to overload, and they will definitely save equipment or injury if somthing does fail and go to ground. At work here we use nothing but GFCI outlets throughout the property, in fact it's now corporate wide policy.

 

It might also be beneficial to do some research and figure out how much power a typical band will use, and possibly have an electrician add a circuit or two dedicated to that, if this is something that occurs on a regular basis.

 

DX

 

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Without a lot of lighting, two 20 a circuits should have powered the average band (not a Grateful Dead wall of sound).

 

Voltage loss in extension cords could be the source of the problem. Heavy extension cords are expensive. A single 20 amp rating needs number 12 wire; even then there will be some voltage loss. I used to own a motor home, which had a single 30 amp cirucit, and a 20' "pigtail" connection. I fabricated a four wire (three wire plus earth ground) 100' cable so I could hook up when the power was further away - used number 6 copper wire for all four wires - that gets expensive real quick - but there was no perceptible voltage loss.

 

Small household type generators are not well enough regulated (besides the noise from the generators).

 

Best way to really cure the problem is to have the electrician put in circuits to a waterproof box in the yard - GFI receptacles only. I ran one of these for the pool pump in our back yard. You may have to make the run in conduit, the largest direct burial wire I could find was 3 wire number 10 - which is 30 amp rated.

 

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We live on 4 acres and the place we put the band makes a nice natural ampitheater... maybe I could talk my wife into getting a covered pavillion built too while we run electric.... hmmmm...

 

I'm off to buy my Powerball ticket.....

 

(I think I will have the electrician come out though... thanks)

"When I take a stroll down Jackass Lane it is usually to see someone that is already there" Mrs. Brown
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Ross, how often do you have these events?

 

In your first post when you mentioned "from the house" I thought you may have not meant an actual house but a venue.

 

Also, how much crap did these guys have?

 

Be careful with the electrician, a lot of times they'll put a simple tester on the line and say "yep that's good, 120v, my job here is done" when in actuality it's merely close, good for a standard light bulb but not sensitive equipment. I have a nifty little tester that you can leave on the line and see the exact voltage (117v please), watch it dip or surge and a bunch of other things too.

If you think my playing is bad, you should hear me sing!
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Ross, how often do you have these events?

 

In your first post when you mentioned "from the house" I thought you may have not meant an actual house but a venue.

 

Also, how much crap did these guys have?

 

 

Not often enough for a pavillion. Once or twice a year.

 

They were a blues band. They had more crap than my rock band. We have enough to blow your face off....

 

 

"When I take a stroll down Jackass Lane it is usually to see someone that is already there" Mrs. Brown
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Be careful with the electrician, a lot of times they'll put a simple tester on the line and say "yep that's good, 120v, my job here is done" when in actuality it's merely close, good for a standard light bulb but not sensitive equipment. I have a nifty little tester that you can leave on the line and see the exact voltage (117v please), watch it dip or surge and a bunch of other things too.

That's very good advice... being an industrial electrician myself, I have all sorts of expensive gadgets and meters for this kind of stuff... but a lot of residential guys will do exactly that... if it's in the ballpark they're happy. As long as you make sure they know that the circuits you are putting in is for powering an outdoor stage, and that there will be a pretty good draw on it, they should do it right for you. You should put in 2 separate 20 amp circuits, with 2 sets of GFCI outlets each (2 dual gang boxes each for a total of 16 places to plug things in.) As long as your panel has room and can handle the extra load... it isn't necessarily about what it can physically handle, but what the codebook says it is allowed to handle, which is usually a bit less than what it can actually do.

I would definitely shy away from a generator, depending on how far the place actually is from the house. Like MBK said, your average household generator is fine for powering a motorhome or tools and the like, but not something you want to use for your purposes. The kind of generator you would want for that would cost you more than the electrician.

Good luck with the powerball!

 

DX

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We had major problems at one gig when it got dark and the lights were powered up.

 

Hire a generator. Its probably not worth buying one for two or three uses a year. Modern portable generators have stabilised power output and are silent compared with the sound of any band that has a drummer. One of our relatives owns one that we can take to outdoor gigs if necessary. We've never had any problems with it. Just make sure all your gear is turned off before you stop the generator.

Feel the groove internally within your own creativity. - fingertalkin

 

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Some amplifiers just draw a lot of current. That's a fact of live sound. Bass amps draw more. The power amps for a PA are going to draw a lot, too. And if there are lights involved? Forget about it!

 

You may have been running lines from two seperate 20 amp circuits, but what else was on those circuits? A major appliance can draw a lot of current. And Jeremy's right...a coffee pot can draw a lot of current. Even a hair dryer can. That's why some power recepticles (notably in bathrooms) actually have a trip switch because of those extremes in amperage.

 

If you have another party like this, you can probably rent a generator with a long line. That way you can keep the exhaust fumes downwind, and the noise to a minimum. You just need to make sure that it's got a fairly high amp rating. I would look for 30 amps or more.

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I dunno about the generator thing; it's a lotta coin to buy a unit that's worth a damn. I'd first examine the extension cords involved. Maybe make my own units with GFI's at the end of them. How long of an extension cord do you need to reach the band area from the two dedicated circuits? When I replaced my pool pump I needed a power cable that could deal with 20 amps. It was cheaper for me to buy an extension cord of the appropriate gauge and just hard wire it in than it was to buy the appropriate romex (Romex wire....is that the right term???) Also, don't use extension cords longer than you really need.

 

Anyway, I'd examine that area more thoroughly before buying a generator.....unless you live in a tornado area or something where you could really use one anyway. Fer instance my in-laws have a real fancy totally automatic one that runs on natural gas, mostly so that their sump pump (..and the fridge, I guess...) will still work after a crazy-common thunder storm. Ha! It'd be tax deductible if you have a business in the house!

Things are just the way they are, and they're only going to get worse.

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We generally require 2-20A and 2-30A circuits, but that's full lights and PA for 800 people. I would think 2-20A circuits would be enough for what you describe, but I'd bet my ass the ext cords were too small guage. You draw a lot of current through a small ext cord, and the voltage will drop significantly. Does no good to measure the voltage - measure it at the end of the ext cord under FULL LOAD!

 

Incidentally, see the following:

 

http://www.powerstream.com/Wire_Size.htm

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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Go with 10 gauge wire if you're going ot buy extension cords. It is rated to handle up to 30A. It is expensive, but it will be worth the cost.

I would still recommend running a couple of circuits out there... that way you know they are done right and also, they will be there whenever you decide to build that pavillion...

Romex is expensive but there are other kinds of wire and methods that will do the job just as well. How far is it, anyways?

Hard wiring an extension cord is one way to go, it's cheap, easy and it will work just fine, but it will not pass an inspection by any means, because it is not ratee for that use. If you ever plan to build or upgrade you'll need to do it right. And just FYI, you can do the work yourself, a whole lot cheaper than hiring it out, and then have an electrician inspect it if you need to, IE: for insurance, selling your house etc. If you do it yourself you just have to make sure the installation meets NEC requirements. You should be able to find those online, or ask an electrician. I'd be happy to help you with that... just let me know some details and I'll pull my code book out and send you the info.

 

Or you could solve the whole problem and just go wireless. :thu:

 

DX

 

Aerodyne Jazz Deluxe

Pod X3 Live

Roland Bolt-60 (modified)

Genz Benz GBE250-C 2x10

Acoustic 2x12 cab

 

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Yea... they were worried about damaging the digital gear....

 

Uh, why was a blues band using digital gear?

 

That seems kinda un-bluesy.

 

Don't know... I have heard them play twice before. Once we were playing the same festival gig. They followed us. They are a good blues band.... Good sound... when they play.

"When I take a stroll down Jackass Lane it is usually to see someone that is already there" Mrs. Brown
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What would prevent this from happening again (besides hiring a different band)? Power conditioners do the trick? Better extension cables?

Power conditioners (at least any that you would consider buying at an affordable price) wouldn't do the trick. At best they'll only protect from voltage spikes...not dips. Paul gave the best advice I can think of.

 

My favorite solution (I used this in a thread a long time ago):

 

http://i118.photobucket.com/albums/o92/shadow1784/mobilerig.jpg

 

Yes, that's a Zvex amp. Kind of like a tasty cherry on top of a poop flavored ice cream sundae.

 

pfft.

 

Only audio grade generators will grace my amplification. Sure they cost 8X as much, but isn't YOUR sound worth it?

 

http://www.box.net/shared/static/5tzalr1sgh.jpg

 

The fact that it is a black generator means the power gets to the amp faster.

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...

You may have been running lines from two seperate 20 amp circuits, but what else was on those circuits? A major appliance can draw a lot of current. And Jeremy's right...a coffee pot can draw a lot of current. Even a hair dryer can. That's why some power recepticles (notably in bathrooms) actually have a trip switch because of those extremes in amperage.

...

 

I'm not sure that's entirely correct. Do you guys have 3.5kW hair dryers and coffee pots over there?

With water heaters you often get an imbalance between the live and neutral as the element is inductive which messes with the input and output currents and confuses the GFI. I would imagine that the recepticles in bathrooms have GFI protection to stop you getting elctrocuted when your hairdryer comes into contact with the water.

 

Here's another table showing the wire sizes verses the length of run you should use for a particular current. http://www.cerrowire.com/default.aspx?id=51

Feel the groove internally within your own creativity. - fingertalkin

 

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Most GFCIs will trip at .5 to .7 milliamps of ground fault current, so it doesn't take much else on the line to shut one down. Especially the lower grade variety available from your local Home Depot. I've never had an electric water heater so I've never encountered that particular issue, but it does kind of make sense.

Ross, how far is the stage from the house?

Also, just because there isn't anything plugged in to a particular outlet doesn't mean there isn't anything else sharing that circuit.. there are the possibilities of shared neutrals, add-ons that no-one knows about and other such things that could very easily cause similar effects. I just worked on a 277V lighting circuit last night that had a shared neutral with who knows what else, and it caused me all kinds of grief until I figured out where to isolate it.

 

DX

Aerodyne Jazz Deluxe

Pod X3 Live

Roland Bolt-60 (modified)

Genz Benz GBE250-C 2x10

Acoustic 2x12 cab

 

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