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Almost OT: Live PA Support - Compressors/Processors?


davio

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**Not regarding bass playing but I don't know where else to post a question of this nature**

 

My band plays a lot of festival-type shows as well as small club/bar venues with minimal PA support. Typically we only send vocals through the PA and adjust our amp volumes accordingly during a brief sound check before our set. The PA invariably consists of nothing more than mixer, power amp (or powered mixer) and speakers. Occasionally, like at our most recent show, we have a PA capable of handling a full mix but still consisting of the same 3 basic components (plus EQ at this last show).

 

Side note: My band is a 7-piece hardcore band needing 15 channels of a mixer if we're going to run everything through the PA (3 mics, 3 guitars, bass, keyboard, Korg drum machine and sound module linked together, kick, snare, 2 toms and 2 overheads). Think Underoath plus another guitar and mic if that helps. That is why we usually just send vocals through the system. For this reason I've been considering a small 8-channel mixer for drums to send 2 mixed subs to the board. Is that a good idea?

 

I was recruited to run sound for the 3 bands before mine (which is fairly typical) because the people with the equipment didn't know what they were doing and they asked me to fix their problems. While I have a decent ear and a basic understanding of sound equipment and its use, I'm by no means a seasoned pro. The biggest thing I was constantly thinking about the entire night was the benefit of using compressors for live sound.

 

In this setting, how could I optimize my bands sound with compressors and/or processors that I could bring in a rack to compliment whatever PA equipment is available?

 

I was thinking, at the very least, a vocal compressor or processor. Would I need 1 for all the mics or 3 for each individually?

 

I know that compressing drums when recording a rock band is a must. Is that done in live settings? If so, is the whole kit run through one compressor? Are there separate compressors for kick, snare, toms and cymbals? Or are they grouped together (i.e. kick and snare through one compressor)?

 

Any knowledge you'd be willing to impart upon this youngling would be most sincerely appreciated.

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I'd keep it simple. Let your only effect be reverb and simply however much of each vocal to it via the effect send. Use EQ for feedback avoidance. Use limiters to avoid power amp clipping.

 

Don't start messing with compressors live - it's incredibly complicated and likely to cause more harm than good.

 

Alex

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I too thought of using a compressor. Mainly because we have sax and thats a real pain to get right without someone running a desk. I would be tempted to put a stereo multiband between the mixer and the amp to compress the whole mix.

 

But like Alex said, it would take a lot of time to get right. Would your band members stand for an extended sound check while you messed around trying to get it right? But you could always practice and get some ball park fiqures using a live recording from the desk.

 

If you do this let me know how it turns out.

Feel the groove internally within your own creativity. - fingertalkin

 

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The Drive rack is very nice.

VERY VERY nice IMO.,

one ompressor/limiter will do you fine if your levels are set right. I ahve a DBX dual 15 band eq with compressor and limiter in it and it does everything I need.

But I do know what you are saying about compressing vocals, it help get ride of feedback.

Jonathan

 

 

 

 

 

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Using a mixer on just the drums to create a sub- mix can work no problem there are a couple of things though to be careful off. You need to be careful to prevent gain ramping which can lead to feedback ie make sure none of the channels on the drum mixer are peaking to much. You need to allow a little more set up time with this approach as well because this mixer normally ends up beside the drummer away form the foh board, it can take a little longer to get a balanced drum mix.

 

The only effect that I've ever used on vocals is a reverb/delay of some sort to set the vocals into the mix. I run that through either the fx loop or an auxillary return, find a sweet setting and use the individual channel controls to add more or less effect to each vocal channel. I sometimes add a little to the snare drum as well at the drummers request, I prefer the dry sound though.

 

I also use lo cut filters if they are present on everything bar the bass guitar. This takes the boomy sound of the mix, gives it more energy/clarity and importantly headroom.

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There's something you really have to be careful about when using submixes, and this is from someone who has always carried a submixer for a ton of rack synths: the soundcheck becomes doubly important since you are taking control of the mix away from the person who can fix problems DURING a song. If the kick drum is WAY too loud relative to the snare, there will be nothing an engineer can do without killing the snare. Things also sound different when there is a mass of bodies in front of the PA cab, so getting there early to soundcheck is not optimal either. The best compromise is to work out a system with the engineer so he or she can communicate changes required, or better yet, put the submixes under his or her control as well (but that's often impractical).

 

As far as overall compression...well, I'd avoid it unless you really know what you're doing. Even then, only the mildest of ratios is appropriate for the mains...I always prefer limiting and eq instead.

 

I will also concur that the DriveRack is an excellent solution for a lot of PA issues.

"For instance" is not proof.

 

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First, thank you all for the feedback so far!

 

I've used the DriveRack before (for a different situation not involving the band) at the suggestion of some of you. I absolutley love it! However, I was thinking of compressor(s) for individual channels rather than an overall processor. I was hoping to hear that it wouldn't be all too difficult to get some set-it-and-forget-it vocal and drum compressors to set in a rack on the stage to then run to the board. As I said, the people running most of our shows typically know little more than "turn each channel up until you can hear it" so I hoped that I could get a rig together to process these channels to even out peaks and liven up the sound before sending it to the cavemen at the board.

 

As far as the submix board for the drums. Seamy and 09, I was thinking of sending kick and snare in one sub and toms and overheads in the other to allow the warm body at the board to adjust accordingly. My drummer is fairly well experienced in live and recorded sound and usually has a good handle on how to mix his sound and balance the levels so I know we can work with a setup like that.

 

I/we have no problem spending personal time, band practice time and some extra soundcheck time right before these little local shows to tweak compressors and whatnot to get them running properly if they're a good idea in the first place. We're not exactly playing NY clubs where we're expected to plug into the backline and go in 5 minutes.

 

So IF I should use vocal compressors and/or a reverb unit, again, should there be just one for all 3 mics or a seperate one for each mic? I guess with reverb I could use just one but a compressor?

 

IF compressing drums, should I use one for kick and one for snare or one for the kick/snare submix or one for the overall drum mix?

 

Sorry if I sound like I'm not listening but I'm not sure if I'm stating my questions properly or not fully understanding the answers.

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This is what I was looking at for my band.

 

Alesis 3060

 

3 of them would do you as you can have them run split rather than linked in stereo, so six chanels in 3 rack spaces. The added advantage is that you can use the gates for the drums. If you are doing a mono mix of the drums you could use your spare compressor chanel to further expand/compress the overall mix.

 

Smokin....

Feel the groove internally within your own creativity. - fingertalkin

 

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Of course that added advantage is that if you don't like it you can sell me one at a knock down discounted special hardly used second hand price. :)

Feel the groove internally within your own creativity. - fingertalkin

 

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You HAVE to have one compressor for each mic. Think about the consequences...one person pins his mic into the red and there's a gain reduction across all three channels.

 

Compressors are considered insert effects...they have to be inline, not bussed to an effect send/return.

"For instance" is not proof.

 

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Additionally, here's my take on compressors in a live situation. You need to really think about what this is going to do to your sound. If you are using for anything other than slight safety limiting, it WILL change your sound. People who have not played with compression in context have a tendency to play too hard because after a certain point, their volume is not increasing at all. I'm not saying that you shouldn't do it, but if you are using it to augment a disadvantageous mixing situation, be really careful.

"For instance" is not proof.

 

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Gates do more than just eliminate noise, they can be seen exactly as a gate. If you set the decay and release right, you can tighten up the drums sound considerably. Reducing a lot of the natural reverb from the Bass drum (which can make it sound muddy) and and spill from the bass guitar. The idea is that you then add EQ and processed reverb to fatten up.

 

Used correctly with good mic placement this will make the drums cut through the mix better.

Feel the groove internally within your own creativity. - fingertalkin

 

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