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Sound Levels Issues


kwyn
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Struggling with being too loud or to quiet in the PA mix. My guitar players mic their amps on stage. I just run through the board. I have the option of using my monitor for just me and sharing another monitor with the bass player for full band OR getting a full band mix into my monitor and setting my levels from there.. We don"t have a sound guy. I figure option 2 would work because the monitor mix I would get would show me exactly how loud my keys are, except that with drums and guitar amps on stage, it may mess that up.

 

I have never been good with sound and levels and it has been an ongoing struggle. any tips?

 

It has also been suggested to possibly mic a keyboard amp like the guitars do? I don"t have an amp right now. Just a pair of zlx"s of which I only use one. I play pretty much just organ, APs, and eps.

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Playing music in a Guitar based band is a recipe for hearing loss and later going deaf. It starts with temporary hearing loss then Tinnitus. I got tired of being blasted out and stopped playing in guitar bands, Eventually I did a solo act with my own small PA, and a floor monitor to hear my vocals and my drum machine on a low volume. One of the reasons I started getting regular gigs and corporate parties is because eventually I used my Yamaha ES8 workstation playing full sequences, I sounded like a band. People that did the hiring commented that their group could get up, dance, or just sit and listen and talk to each other. My stage volume was just loud enough for me to hear it clearly. I am 73 and I can still hear. Do yourself a favor, find a different way to make music.

 

 

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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We don"t have a sound guy. I figure option 2 would work because the monitor mix I would get would show me exactly how loud my keys are, except that with drums and guitar amps on stage, it may mess that up.

I know my tone is gonna come off as lecturing, so apologies in advance but your monitor is not for you to "show exactly how loud my keys are." Job #1 is for you to be comfortable hearing yourself in relation to everything else on stage. Not having a sound man to balance things out front is a problem, sure, but you have to get yourself right before anything else can happen. Worry about how it sounds to you before you worry about the house mix!

 

It has also been suggested to possibly mic a keyboard amp like the guitars do? I don"t have an amp right now. Just a pair of zlx"s of which I only use one. I play pretty much just organ, APs, and eps.

 

I would use a DI box and of course I would be in stereo but let's not open that can 'o worms. With two ZLXs I am wondering why you run "just throught the board"? Hook up those bad boys to your key rig that you spent your hard-earned money on, and enjoy your sound â as much as possible anyway, with two guitar players and their miced-up amps!

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In my experience, a good sound in the keys position is about 50/50 "I can't hear X and I need to" and "I have too much Y and I need less".

 

@Kwyn - if you're at your playing position, and silent, what do you hear? Is the sound a. at a sensible level? and b. balanced (i.e. all other instruments in sensible proportion to each other)?

 

(If you answered No at least once, then rectify that before trying to fix your sound).

 

If the answers are both Yes, then we can think about adding you into the picture. Position one or two of your ZLXs with you in the sweet spot, and set your level so that you get the best mix you can.

- How does it sound to you?

- How does it sound to the band?

- How does it sound to the audience?

 

If the band/audience want less, try and position the speaker so it's angled further away from them (but still giving you the sweet spot).

If the band want more, try and position the speaker so that it's angled more towards them (but still giving you the sweet spot). Or use your second ZLX for that purpose.

If the audience need more, same suggestions, also try running into the FoH PA.

 

Bringing in a mix of instruments into your monitor can complicate the picture substantially - I would recommend running through the checklist above before trying that.

 

Cheers, Mike.

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If the onstage soundman is you, you're going to have to just suck it up and listen the mix in the monitors. If not, I'm with those who suggest one of your monitors be dedicated to just the keys.

 

There is no right or best way to handle the situation you describe. Trying to get keys in a mix with two guitars is tough enough when there is a dedicated soundman - next to impossible when there's not. If you are happy and the band is working, it's all good.

 

I guess.

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Is it the sound to the FOH you're levels are off, or your monitor mix that is off. You're in a tough situation going direct into PA and having no soundman to check the FOH. So you're stuck listening to a monitor mix that may or may not be same as what FOH is hearing. Don't see how your doing it with that much being mic'd and no roadie or sound man to help with the FOH mix. At least then you only have to deal with your monitor mix feeding you what you want.
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If I'm in a "no sound guy" situation, I like to have all the vocals and my keys in the monitor. As well I want the relative balance of both elements to accurately reflect what's going on in the house. In this way I can balance my keys to where they should be relative to the vocals, so at least I know I'm locked in there. Guitar(s), bass, and drums, well, that's a whole other can of worms....
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Is it the sound to the FOH you're levels are off, or your monitor mix that is off. You're in a tough situation going direct into PA and having no soundman to check the FOH. So you're stuck listening to a monitor mix that may or may not be same as what FOH is hearing. Don't see how your doing it with that much being mic'd and no roadie or sound man to help with the FOH mix. At least then you only have to deal with your monitor mix feeding you what you want.

 

It"s the foh that I"m more concerned about. But, getting feedback 'can"t hear you' or 'too loud' has me adjusting things on stage and completely confusing me

 

And lots of good advice from everyone. Much appreciated

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What is going through the sound board is not a reflection of what the house mix sounds like. Listen ing to board tapes will tell you that. In fact it is usually a reverse representation. What is loudest at the board is what was quietest onstage. So at soundcheck or early in the show you need to step offstage and walk the room while the band is playing to at least get a ballpark idea. Soundcheck with Eminence Front and set your arpeggiator to hold and take a stroll. As for adjusting levels throughout the set for solo boost, louder is better than being too low. Just remember to bring it back down after your bit or everyone else will come up to the new baseline level. Do I do all this? When I can. Sometimes no.

 

More- running only through the board is a recipe for not being able to hear yourself. You need at least one powered monitor of your own .

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I've mostly been in situations where the rest of the band--that needs to be--is in my mix. Guitars and vocals are directional, I need to hear the other vocals at least. When I was in a band with two guitars--never again--I could never hear the rhythm player on the other side of the stage, and after hearing a recording of the band, I was thankful.

 

Now we all go direct and rely on monitors, we also don't have a sound man but run sound from stage. IMO mixing amps and direct is somewhat difficult but can be done. We also have a mix of wedges and in-ear monitors. I personally will NEVER go back to wedges, my ears no longer ring after shows with in-ears. If this band folded and I couldn't find one where I could use them, I'd just hang it up.

 

As Jr says, the monitor mix and out front are normally not the same at all. If you are using those line arrays that can go behind you, as my friend's band does, then they are the same. Here's an irritating thing that has happened to me a bunch: someone out in the audience mentions to someone in the band that "keys are too low". Then the band comes to me like it's my fault that I'm too low--no, whoever is setting levels at the board needs to turn me up. Now it may be that my gain is too low, that should have been something set long before, find a good level for each instrument that still has some headroom. If I turn up my level at a gig my gain at the preamp now be too high and I'll distort both mains and monitors. And if the people in the band can't hear me, again that's not necessarily a case where I should turn up what I'm sending to front of house. Running sound as a band is a team effort and all too often guys with amps just simplify it to "turn up" but you can't necessarily just do that. My current band has made it work for hundreds of gigs with no sound man because we all work together, we don't change our setups often and if we do we take some time to work out the gain structure (e.g. when our guitarist got his Ax8 pedalboard, we took part of practice to make sure it was dialed in.)

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You must have separate volume controls for feeding your stage monitors (or in-ears) and for feeding FOH. If somebody with trusted ears in the audience tells you to adjust your level, they mean adjust your FOH send level.

 

If it's fine out front and you need more/less on stage, adjust your stage monitor level.

 

This can all fall apart if your stage monitor level is already too loud for FOH (as is usually the case with guitar amps.)

Moe

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"I keep wanting to like it's sound, but every demo seems to demonstrate that it has the earth-shaking punch and peerless sonics of the Roland Gaia. " - Tusker

http://www.hotrodmotm.com

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Indeed, this is the biggest reason we stopped using amps. Too loud on stage, and many of our gigs are lower volume.

 

The other nice thing about going direct is less to shlep :) The "cost" of course is more reliance on having a great monitor mix and good gain structure especially if, like me, you get 100% of your monitoring back from FOH. Having a digital mixer where each person can tweak their monitor mix via phone or tablet helps a LOT.

 

When we have a gig where we aren't running sound, we do tend to use amps and I bring a powered speaker as an "amp" just in case, and I don't try to use my in-ears typically. Happily those tend to be outdoors where sound isn't bouncing around.

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I'm not adding much new but yeah no sound guy is hard. I've been using IEMs for 18 months now but that relies on our sound guy providing me a good mix (I actually do like a bit of everything, not just vocals and keys) and I also have a direct feed of my keys that I can mix in at my end. Agree with the others: use your monitors for keys and go from there....
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First, I am not sure if your band is too loud but that is usually the case.

 

As often as not, I've found it is the drummer that drives the volume up first. From there, it is a race to the bottom.

The other thing I hear often (including the thousands of gigs I've played) is everybody taking up way too much space in the arrangement.

 

With 2 guitars, keys, bass and drums, all of you should barely be playing. Crisp appropriate arrangements require everybody setting egos aside and experience (recording helps, so does listening to successful recordings).

Most gig bands end up having everybody flatlining the songs all the way through and nobody leaving any air. So nothing breathes and no mix will ever sound good. It is very difficult to hear oneself in a throbbing pool of clutter.

 

Personally, I dislike monitors aiming at my head. I keep my volume low, try to play sparingly and encourage others to consider that path. We are lucky in that our drummer listens to our sound as a whole, keeps his volume down and his parts simple.

The bassist is good at lower volume but needs to forget about Geddy Lee. Our lead singer strums a solid acoustic guitar part but he likes it too loud and too busy - used to playing lots of solo gigs. He is also an excellent soundman, we get a good sound overall out front.

 

We had keys for a bit but and I liked the sound but personalities did not mesh so they left. So, yeah - I am that second guitarist. I get why people complain but it isn't always the case. I'm also the "other singer" and harmony/backup vocals - and the only soloist.

 

Overall, it is still too messy. We have fun and it's less worse than many other gigs I've had so I keep at it.

Some ideas to consider, you need to figure out what is making it difficult before coming up with a solution. Just pushing more volume into your own head won't help matters, especially long term.

Once you figure it out, have a frank discussion with the rest of the band and you may need to decide if it is really the best place for you. Good luck!!!

It took a chunk of my life to get here and I am still not sure where "here" is.
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Another question - when you get feedback saying too high/too low, is that on the same song or different songs? Are you happy your own level between songs are consistent?

 

 

My two cents:

Last band I played in was two guitars 80s rock band. I did the sound from stage - was it perfect? probably not. Did we gets lots of feedback about levels being off? No, so must have been ok (ish). As noted above often starting with the band sound can help on getting keys to sit in a mix better.

 

Some advice based on that situation: -

1. Encourage guitarists to use monitors and not just rely on their amps. This encourages them to turn their amps down as monitors tend to point towards their ears (wedges) rather than guitar amp/speakers which tend to play to their ankles (or knees if on a stand)

2. Discuss with guitarists gain structuring, particularly if they are using lots of pedals and/or multiple amp channels. One of the guitarists would get horrendous feedback and it was because he had the gain on 10 and volume on 1. After setting the right gain structure feedback was gone and levels between songs when certain pedals/channels were in/out was consistent

3. Work with guitarist to get a good balance between rhythm and solo levels. You want to avoid the solo level turning into the rhythm level as the night goes on.

4. If you have a desk with compressors, use them on the guitarist channels. This takes a bit of sound checking in rehearsal but using a med/high ratio on the compressor can deal with volume creep as the night goes on.

5. Between yourself and the guitarists work on consistent levels between songs

6. Work with guitarists to drop volume during solos to give the soloist space

 

I mixed the sound using in ears. During sound check I would use my keytar out front to get a good mix of the band with my keys playing. My in ears had keys predominant, guitars second panned left and right and then some vocals. My mix was driven post fader so as the FOH changes my mix changes. I would use the relative balance between the keys, guitars and vocals as a reference to keep levels during the gig

Nord Stage 2EX | Nord Wave | Mainstage | Key Largo
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I think SteveUK has great advice. Unfortunately, none of it would have worked well with me. I have struggled with live band mixes for many years. I can't tell you what the answer might be, but I can give you a long list of things that don't work well.

 

There was a period where I tried to be live sound guy while playing keyboards. It didn't work. Another period where we'd try set vocal levels up front, only to have the guitarists quickly destroy any semblance of mix.

 

The only thing that sort of worked was when I got everyone on IEMs and used a live mic in the audience facing the stage. From my keys, I could isolate what the audience mic heard, as well as the main mix. I could dial the guitarists' IEMs +10db, and they'd smile all night and roast their ears while the band played at background levels. But I'm either mixing sound, or I'm playing keyboards as I can't easily do both at the same time.

 

We now have a roster of 2-3 different sound people we use to run the PA. I bring the gear and set up, and the sound person runs it for a split of whatever the band is getting that night, which might pay for gas :) We were lucky to find retired folks (we're in FL) with great soundboard experience who just wanted to get out of the house.

 

Quick happy story? There's this microbrewery in town that hosts live music in their cavernous warehouse. It's like playing in a school gym, only with beer. Many bands have died on that hill. The sound guy dialed down on all the midrange instruments (guitars, keys) and emphasized lead vocals and bass rhythms which of course were reinforced by the crushing reverb. Winner! The night was full of soaring vocal lines, the singers really got into it, the audience went nuts, the staff was dancing and the manager wants us back ASAP.

 

If all else fails, you can do what I did early on: bring lots of keyboard amplification and let other folks sort it out. That seems to work for lead guitarists, so ...

Life is too short to be playing bad music.

 

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So much good advice here. My perspective FWIW...

 

In the party band I play in the ONLY monitor I have is my personal monitor, which has keys in it and nothing else. The guitarist points his small Vox amp across the stage so we can all hear him, the bassist is easily heard through his cab and the drummer is also easily heard. We have two vocalists who mainly have their own vox and a tiny little bit of keys and guitar in their monitors, the rest of us can hear them adequately through the spill from their monitors. Depending on exactly how we're all positioned on stage, sometimes the drummer will ask to hear me better, in which case I'll point the monitor half way between us and turn it up a little so we can both hear the keys to our satisfaction.

 

We're not exactly playing Wembley Stadium so the less noise-distributing devices on stage the better. Cluttering up the on-stage sound with a bunch of noise just results in everyone turning everything up so they can hear over the cacophony - which then creates way too much volume, feedback and ringing ears at the end of the evening.

 

If we have a FOH person I completely trust them to get me correct in the mix and just worry about being able to hear myself through my personal monitor. Sometimes that trust is misplaced, but I don't have much alternative so don't spend any emotional energy on it. If we don't have a FOH person our guitarist will wander out the front on a long lead and make necessary adjustments during sound check, or the first song if we don't do a sound check. With experience you get to know roughly where your levels should sit on the desk and it all tends to work OK.

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Our band mics all instruments. So that I don't influence the sound of my monitor going to FOH I have changed the position of my monitor so that it sits behind me and fires up; just loud enough for me to hear it. One of our guitar players goes out front during a sound check and ensures balanced sound between all instruments. The only thing coming out of my monitor are my keys. If others across the stage want more keys then they get it through their monitors, I don't turn up or down for them. This keeps consistent FOH levels and for me a more consistent monitor level. We try to keep stage levels down; works pretty nice. Another band I'm in we only mic vocals and everyone tries to get their instruments to the crowd from the stage; bad idea as everyone is trying to get to "11". the worse part of this is small stages where I might get a guitar amp very close to me; this is a direct reason for my current ear damage.

57 Hammond B3; 69 Hammond L100P; 68 Leslie 122; Kurzweil PC3; M-Audio Code 61; Voce V5+; Neo Vent; EV ELX112P; GSI Gemini & Burn

Dyin Breed Band

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You"ve received lots of good advice here. A band is about personalities. Struggles about sound are often struggles about personalities. A successful band finds a balance.

 

I hope you find a way to make it work. All the best.

 

Let me extrapolate just a bit on this.

 

A truly successful band knows it's about the song, not that anyone's individual instrument is the most important on any particular song. Sometimes the keys are playing a subtle pad to add ambience. People often don't realize that soft pad is part of what they hear, until it's gone. Then sometimes the keys are the focus of a song. Other instruments need to understand that and play accordingly.

 

As far as stage volume: if everyone's mic'ing their amps, the amps do not need to "go to 11" If it's too loud on stage, the band needs to figure it out.

 

Finally, as far as FOH, unless it's a very, very small club or coffeehouse, there needs to be someone out front who can monitor the mix, and adjust as necessary (regardless of where the board/mixer/powered pa setup is.

David

Gig Rig:Roland Fantom-08| Yamaha MODX+ 6 | MacBook Pro 14" M1| Mainstage

 

 

 

 

 

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Special call-out to reverb mentioned above....too many effects has been a source of bad monitor and live mixes for as long as I can remember. We keys players are culprits, many of our patches have tons of verb and delay that sound good alone--but in a mix, and ESPECIALLY in a venue with a lot of built-in verb, you just can't pick out the notes....the volume may be fine, or even too loud but it can be the proverbial "wall of sound".

 

Our guitarist is having issues with guitar vs vocals in his wedge, and I've given up convincing him to turn down the echo on his guitar. There's no doubt in my mind it's partly or totally causing his muddy mix where he can't hear and then suddenly things are too loud. Those in our band on wedges have excellent qsc speakers so it's not poor quality monitoring.

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Special call-out to reverb mentioned above....too many effects has been a source of bad monitor and live mixes for as long as I can remember. We keys players are culprits, many of our patches have tons of verb and delay that sound good alone--but in a mix, and ESPECIALLY in a venue with a lot of built-in verb, you just can't pick out the notes....the volume may be fine, or even too loud but it can be the proverbial "wall of sound".

 

 

This is a problem people just getting in to recording, live, everything. They EQ and add common effects like reverb listening to each instrument/track isolated. They fatten it up and to make it sound cool, but then when they hear the who mix wonder want happened and they don't realize all that EQ and 'verb start summing up and you have a Boomy swirl of sound. Like playing together in a rhythm section each people find a rhythmic hole to fill the same goes for sound. Have to find your own slice of the audio range to fit in with the rest of the band.

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