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When pro keyboards sound cheap through a PA System


ProfD

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As a KB player, of course I'm biased. I believe our instrument should sound studio quality on live gigs. With that out of the way...

 

I think it is a travesty when thousands of dollars worth of KB(s) sound like toy KBs coming through a really nice PA system.

 

This past Tuesday, I ran across a live band playing outdoors. They were excellent musicians.

 

The keyboard player had a Yamaha CP4, Moog Voyager, laptop running VSTs and a keytar.

 

The PA system consisted of Meyer Sound tops and subs, a DigiCo mixer and outboard gear. He had the right stuff.

 

It was a beautiful day. From a pro sound perspective, outdoor gigs should be easier to mix.

 

But no, the CP4 piano sounded too boxy. The synth solo on Styx's "Fooling Yourself" was low in the mix and sounded like a kazoo.

 

It is unfortunate that KB players are at the mercy of sound guys especially those who are burned out drummers or guitar biased. :rolleyes:

 

But, as musicians, KB players should run a sequence or have someone else play their rig and take the time to walk out and listen to how the KB(s) sound coming through the PA system.

 

Otherwise, that multi-thousand dollar rig might end up sounding like a Williams Allegro digital piano and a Kawai K1. :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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Anyone have any practical ideas on how to make progress on this?

 

My only practical contribution was to make my own band guitar-less - but we were playing contemporary jazz. That answer's not useful for most of the band situations represented here.

 

 

..
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..........

But, as musicians, KB players should run a sequence or have someone else play their rig and take the time to walk out and listen to how the KB(s) sound coming through the PA system.

 

....

 

I do that. I carry a USB stick with MIDI files and I play them. Part of it is to make sure I have not F-ed up my keyboard mix I am sending to FOH. I am using 3 boards.

 

Playing MIDI files is another thing I am going to have to figure out on the Kronos before June 5th..... But on the Kronos pretty much everything will be just the Kronos' internal Combis.

"It doesn't have to be difficult to be cool" - Mitch Towne

 

"A great musician can bring tears to your eyes!!!

So can a auto Mechanic." - Stokes Hunt

 

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I know to some Pro Audio folks , the Meyers are the Holy Grail of speakers. But I've heard both from an audience perspective , and have had first hand user experience , where I've found the tone pretty poor. I'd have to go look up the model but I'm talking about their smaller two way 10" & 12" active speaker box.

 

In fact , this is going back a few years, but I remember preferring the tone on my EV SXA 360s I owned at the time to the Meyers that were provided at one gig.

 

Yes, many different variables to consider without a doubt -- type of music , volume , room acoustics, instruments used, player's technique and taste or lack of. And of course being at the mercy of the infamous *soundman*. :cry:

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I have good luck with sounds guys usually. For the most part we hire our own production and carry the cost over to the venue through what the band charges. We don't hire sound guys that suck. Two clubs we play have sound sound but those two guys are pretty good. Most our gigs get recorded with one of those Zoom recorder thingies. We review the recordings to listen and look for things that sucked.

 

Here is a heavier rock tune from a couple of weeks ago captured by the Zooms built in mics. Keys don't cut well but that is on me. Those fizzy Trance patches get buried but on this it almost works. Something I hope to improve on my Kronos setups.

 

Recording the gig helps you fix a lot of sins.

 

FWIW this PA rig has some stuff that aint top tier (there is some Peavey and Berhringer pieces in the rig) but the sound guy does OK with it and his rates are reasonable for smaller bar gigs like this. Gear is overrated. It is what it is.

 

[video:youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rTKxPKK0BY8&

"It doesn't have to be difficult to be cool" - Mitch Towne

 

"A great musician can bring tears to your eyes!!!

So can a auto Mechanic." - Stokes Hunt

 

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It doesn't sound like this is the case this time -- but I have often noticed that the keyboard players with the most problems in the FOH are the ones that greet the sound man with 135dBC SPL of "monitors" pointed straight at the audience. Nothing like telling the sound man you don't respect him to set the relationship off on the wrong foot.

 

Playing your own stuff via MIDI sounds like an amazing way to sound check. I am going to steal this idea. Now all I have to do is pick the right song for this. Maybe "Since When" by 54-40, the band should have no trouble playing along with that while I head out front.

 

Wes

Hammond: L111, M100, M3, BC, CV, Franken CV, A100, D152, C3, B3

Leslie: 710, 760, 51C, 147, 145, 122, 22H, 31H

Yamaha: CP4, DGX-620, DX7II-FD-E!, PF85, DX9

Roland: VR-09, RD-800

 

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I'd be happy if my sound wasn't hurting people sometimes. Usually if I question it they tell me the keys are flat eq wise, which I then follow up with, well is the room eq? and have you properly tuned the system. Then they unplug me ;)
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I try to avoid soundmen altogether, and so far I've only had to deal with them (as a player) once or twice in the last few years. I used a small P.A. for my keys and now I use the SS3. Then again, I'm not regularly playing arenas or even huge rooms where I HAVE to use the FOH system. I let the vocalist, kick drum and guitar go through the system.

 

 

Just a quick story--when the internet was new, people didn't realize that ANYONE could read what you'd written, especially in 'user groups' where everyone was kind of on the same page.

 

I stumbled upon a users group of pro sound men, discussing their favorite and least favorite gigs. These were cats who were doing sound in big venues for Dolly Parton, Barry Manilow, Heart and so on. They got into telling stories about how the intentionally screwed over Dolly's guitarist because he was rude in soundcheck, so they'd screw up all his sound during the show, making him sound terrible. ("You should have seen people in the audience covering their ears when he took his solo!") Or they would gradually take a lead singer out of the monitors so he would be unable to hear himself and thus would sing way out of tune, because he was uncool at soundcheck. I was stunned, story after story and they were all laughing.

 

I typed "Guys, fun is fun, but you know...people paid a lot of money to see those shows, right?"

 

The board went silent for 24 hours!

Doug Robinson

www.dougrobinson.com

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Anyone have any practical ideas on how to make progress on this?

 

My only practical contribution was to make my own band guitar-less

Same here. No guitarists in the band. I use my own sound person. I'm in the process of building my own PA system. ;)

 

It doesn't sound like this is the case this time -- but I have often noticed that the keyboard players with the most problems in the FOH are the ones that greet the sound man with 135dBC SPL of "monitors" pointed straight at the audience.

Right. The band I saw the other day used in-ear monitors. The sound guy was in total control.

 

But, it definitely helps to control stage volume, communicate and cooperate with the folks running sound.

 

An adversarial position is the fastest way of getting dropped from or lost in the mix. :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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Allow me to take a moment to play Devil's Advocate.

 

They were excellent musicians.

 

Excellent players don't necessarily mean excellent tone. Sure, it's not likely, but let's examine the options.

 

The keyboard player had a Yamaha CP4, Moog Voyager, laptop running VSTs and a keytar.

 

Well, the keytar casts all sorts of doubt on the abilities of the keyboardist, so... ;)

 

The PA system consisted of Meyer Sound tops and subs, a DigiCo mixer and outboard gear. He had the right stuff.

 

A poor craftsman blames his tools, but given you've established that both the keyboardist and the soundman had excellent gear, why automatically assume it was the soundman who is at fault here? (again, keep in mind DA)

 

It was a beautiful day. From a pro sound perspective, outdoor gigs should be easier to mix.

 

Not at all. Different, but not easier necessarily.

 

But no, the CP4 piano sounded too boxy.

 

That's easily caused by overuse of the 5 EQ sliders on the right side of the CP4, which lots of folks seem to use to "get more volume" but which in fact causes extreme phase issues and butchers the stereo mix, never mind the mono mix out.

 

The synth solo on Styx's "Fooling Yourself" was low in the mix and sounded like a kazoo.

 

Just because he owns a Voyager doesn't automatically give him a free pass into "mana from heaven" sound quality; I know more than a few lawyers with chops and $$$$$ worth of gear that sound like ass. ;)

 

It is unfortunate that KB players are at the mercy of sound guys especially those who are burned out drummers or guitar biased. :rolleyes:

 

It's unfortunate that sound engineers have to deal with musos that don't understand how wildly different their patch volumes are, and keep making me leap for the keys faders. Screw that, I'm just going to toss a 10:1 comp/limiter on the channel and be done with it.

 

But, as musicians, KB players should run a sequence or have someone else play their rig and take the time to walk out and listen to how the KB(s) sound coming through the PA system.

 

This I agree with. Also, talking to the engineer can go a very long way to improving the end result. I've said it dozens of times on this forum (and not least of all because I do live mixing AND I play every week in a variety of different projects), the engineer should be treated like a member of the band. Communicate, communicate, communicate (then fire his ass when he sleeps with the guitarist's girlfriend ;):rawk:).

 

Otherwise, that multi-thousand dollar rig might end up sounding like a Williams Allegro digital piano and a Kawai K1. :laugh::cool:

 

I'm betting the engineer running a rig as nice as you described was disappointed to hear the shite coming down the snake from the keyboard rig. ;)

 

's Advocate Mode>

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I always talk to the man at the front desk. I ask if my send is too hot, too weak, is there anything I can do to make his job easier. Then I usually touch base again after the 1st set. I usually have good luck with sound guys. But we are local weekend warriors and around here we know which sound guys to avoid. But most are OK.

 

But the next day that little Zoom video recorder gives us a good idea how things went down. If you have someone in the crowd or ... we set ours up at the front desk. If you are really concerned one of these may be a decent investment.

 

 

"It doesn't have to be difficult to be cool" - Mitch Towne

 

"A great musician can bring tears to your eyes!!!

So can a auto Mechanic." - Stokes Hunt

 

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I'm in line with Sven. Unless the keyboard player was sending each keyboard to it's own DI and the house guy had full control over everything, maybe it was the mix he was sent by the keyboard player? A Moog kazoo and a boxy piano could be on the keyboard player- making things sound good to his in ears and affecting the FOH feeds.

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

Toys: Roland FA08, Novation Ultranova, Moog LP, Roland SP-404SX, Roland JX10,Emu MK6

www.bksband.com

www.echoesrocks.com

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As a group keyboard players do not have a great rep with sound guys at the weekend warrior level. Did a job with a sound company I really like and after the gig the two guys were really complementary talking about how they didn't have to chase level all over the place and how all the patches were balance. I thought that was really cool.... but it should be so. I busted my ass trying to get all those performance setups balanced.

"It doesn't have to be difficult to be cool" - Mitch Towne

 

"A great musician can bring tears to your eyes!!!

So can a auto Mechanic." - Stokes Hunt

 

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Allow me to take a moment to play Devil's Advocate.

Brotha Sven, I appreciate your perspective. :thu:

 

You are right...any number of factors could have been at play. But, everybody on that gig was serving in a professional capacity.

 

I don't know if the KB player f8cked up his own sound. But, the keytar enabled him to stand out front on the subs during his "Fooling Yourself" solo. :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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One of the best results I ever got when running through and outdoor system was to use a Yamaha P-95 with external speakers.

 

I cranked the P-95 and placed one Shure SM 58 maybe 3 to 4 inches from its external speaker.

 

It sounded SO MUCH better than running direct in mono. In fact it sounded quite a bit like a well miked acoustic piano.

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One of the best results I ever got when running through and outdoor system was to use a Yamaha P-95 with external speakers.

 

I cranked the P-95 and placed one Shure SM 58 maybe 3 to 4 inches from its external speaker.

 

It sounded SO MUCH better than running direct in mono. In fact it sounded quite a bit like a well miked acoustic piano.

 

Could you ahem, amplify on that cool solution?

You used one mic, and that mic was near one speaker, so would you say it was a Mono sound?

Using the mic, is better, than using cables to create your sound!

I just did an outdoor gig in a huge park,, and I wished I had sounded better. I was friendly with soundmen too.

Comments about this solution and why it might be something to consider!

You don't have ideas, ideas have you

We see the world, not as it is, but as we are. "One mans food is another mans poison". I defend your right to speak hate. Tolerance to a point, not agreement

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Playing MIDI files is another thing I am going to have to figure out on the Kronos before June 5th..... But on the Kronos pretty much everything will be just the Kronos' internal Combis.

 

Pretty easy, in fact, you won't need the stick. Plug the stick in, load your SMF into a song, select your patches/effects (hint, may need to delete the patch/bank messages from the tracks so it doesn't change it back when you hit play), save a .SNG file to the hard drive. From now on, just load the song file off the drive and you're good to go.

 

 

Want to test a specific combi? Create song from combi. Load your SMF into another song, copie tracks from song with note date to the song created from the combi, save, good to go.

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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As a KB player, of course I'm biased. I believe our instrument should sound studio quality on live gigs. With that out of the way...

 

I think it is a travesty when thousands of dollars worth of KB(s) sound like toy KBs coming through a really nice PA system.

 

This past Tuesday, I ran across a live band playing outdoors. They were excellent musicians.

 

The keyboard player had a Yamaha CP4, Moog Voyager, laptop running VSTs and a keytar.

 

The PA system consisted of Meyer Sound tops and subs, a DigiCo mixer and outboard gear. He had the right stuff.

 

It was a beautiful day. From a pro sound perspective, outdoor gigs should be easier to mix.

 

But no, the CP4 piano sounded too boxy. The synth solo on Styx's "Fooling Yourself" was low in the mix and sounded like a kazoo.

 

It is unfortunate that KB players are at the mercy of sound guys especially those who are burned out drummers or guitar biased. :rolleyes:

 

But, as musicians, KB players should run a sequence or have someone else play their rig and take the time to walk out and listen to how the KB(s) sound coming through the PA system.

 

Otherwise, that multi-thousand dollar rig might end up sounding like a Williams Allegro digital piano and a Kawai K1. :laugh::cool:

 

Was the sound man hearing crook sounds coming from the keyboards and trying to figure it out and adjust?

(I've heard early model keys sounding awesome for decades, so something is very wrong here)

 

Brett

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Brotha Sven, I appreciate your perspective. :thu:

 

You know I'm always going to call it like I see it (although it's just as likely it was the sound engineer's fault, but I wanted to posit a reasonable alternative, just for the jury's consideration ;):2thu: ).

 

You are right...any number of factors could have been at play. But, everybody on that gig was serving in a professional capacity.

 

Absolutely in agreement. I'd love to hear examples of said band in a different live context; you might want to see if there's anything on YouTube that could either support or refute my hypothesis. :cool:

 

I don't know if the KB player f8cked up his own sound. But, the keytar enabled him to stand out front on the subs during his "Fooling Yourself" solo. :laugh::cool:

 

LOL... was it buried in the mix, making him look even sillier? ;)

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So 90% of the gigs I play don't have a sound guy. Small venues, etc. When we do have a sound guy, 90% chance he isn't entirely on his game.

 

That's my world, your world may be different.

 

As a result, I have learned to take complete ownership for my stage sound, and don't count on FOH. Over the years, this has resulted in a rather jaundiced view of how to do stage amplification for keyboards, and how not to do it. I have great-sounding boards, and it bothers me when they can't be heard properly.

 

For really small venues (e.g. up to 50 patrons) it's now my SSv3 + Behringer sub rig. Can't imagine better. Life is good.

 

For the next step up (100-200 or so patrons, bigger rooms), it's a pair of Fulcrum Acoustic FA12acs, planted back stage left and back stage right. Maybe not the Meyers, but certainly in the same league. If there's a sound guy, he gets to work the vocals and that's about it. Could I use the SSv3 setup here? Yes -- but I don't have to.

 

After that, we're into more pro sound guys. I use QSCs for my own stage monitors, and trust that the sound guy can do his job. It's happened once or twice :)

Want to make your band better?  Check out "A Guide To Starting (Or Improving!) Your Own Local Band"

 

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As a follow-up to Jazzoo's observation -- I recently started something I plan to make a habit: "Hi, I'm Wes. I'm playing keyboards with the band tonight. Here's a copy of my stage plot and input list if you want to use it ...... blah blah ... hey, you want a beer?"

 

When I come back with alcohol, I let the guy know that I generally EQ my patches with a weak low end, don't play keyboard bass most of the time, and will do my best not to screw up his mix. Getting off on the right foot with the newest member of the team matters. Because, like it or not, that sound man is an integral member of your team for the night.

 

Wes

Hammond: L111, M100, M3, BC, CV, Franken CV, A100, D152, C3, B3

Leslie: 710, 760, 51C, 147, 145, 122, 22H, 31H

Yamaha: CP4, DGX-620, DX7II-FD-E!, PF85, DX9

Roland: VR-09, RD-800

 

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As a follow-up to Jazzoo's observation -- I recently started something I plan to make a habit: "Hi, I'm Wes. I'm playing keyboards with the band tonight. Here's a copy of my stage plot and input list if you want to use it ...... blah blah ... hey, you want a beer?"

 

If I may interject, you're halfway there.

 

The sound engineer should have your band's stage plot, input list, and song list (presuming cover material) at least 3 days before the gig.

 

Sure, 50% of the guys won't bother looking at it, but the fact that you bothered to email it shows you're pro... and goes a long way to preventing those nasty little surprises ("whaddaya mean you need a vocal input for keyboards?" for example) when you load in.

 

 

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Sven - you're right about the stage plot timing. At my level (random house sound guys), though, I don't know how to get it into their hands. I have given them to the people who booked me before, but none of them have actually ever made it to the guy running the board that night. I've been tempted to end-run management before and ask some of the guys I "know" on facebook if they're working that night, but I'm concerned that that would appear even less professional.

 

At least an input list makes the line checks go faster. Gives me time to teach the sound guy about Leslie speakers. Most of the guys I've worked with, I'm the first Leslie they've ever mixed. I've even been asked why I brought my dresser.

 

BTW - you said song list. Nobody's ever said they want one, so I've stopped offering. Do YOU actually make use of it? I know I would want one, but I'm not a sound guy, I just play one on stage in small venues. We're about as cover bandy as cover bands get, and have a moderately large setup (21 inputs; 8 are drum kit). Including a lead singer who moves between two mic stands, depending on whether he's playing guitar or congas.

 

Wes

Hammond: L111, M100, M3, BC, CV, Franken CV, A100, D152, C3, B3

Leslie: 710, 760, 51C, 147, 145, 122, 22H, 31H

Yamaha: CP4, DGX-620, DX7II-FD-E!, PF85, DX9

Roland: VR-09, RD-800

 

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BTW - you said song list. Nobody's ever said they want one, so I've stopped offering. Do YOU actually make use of it?

 

Yeah, it's often just part of the package; in a lot of clubs, the sound engineer doubles as the "DJ" (ie. often he just brings up the fader on the MP3 collection the club has :facepalm:), but that helps to make sure the venue doesn't start playing, for example, Journey's Greatest Hits when I rolled in with my Journey tribute. ;)

 

Now it's just a habit for some of the bands I work with. Not all, but it doesn't hurt. :)

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KC brethren it was not my intention to indict sound folks here. There are good apples among them.

 

I really wanted to encourage my fellow KBs to pay more attention to how their rig sounds across the board. ;)

 

Since both KBs and pro sound are near and dear to me...in the words of King...can't we all just get along. :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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