Improving overall live sound


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Metro Gnome
01-12-2010, 12:56 PM
Hi, I searched but couldn't find anything. I was wondering if someone could point me in the direction of maybe an article the explains how to get a better live sound from the band. I'm specifically having trouble with the PA system, and i'm relatively inexperienced so I just need some help improving our overall sound. Thanks

Metro Gnome
01-12-2010, 03:10 PM
Bump

slaptasticdave
01-12-2010, 03:17 PM
Not sure about an article but be more specific in what you mean by trouble with the PA.

Metro Gnome
01-12-2010, 03:41 PM
Well it just ovall doesn't sound good and I was just looking for some advice on miking amps and such, if maybe doing that would improve the sound. Also I've been having trouble getting the vocals to a sufficient level without feeding back. It might have to do with maybe needing better or different pa speakers or mixer? I don't know. I'm just looking for advice

Phil Starr
01-12-2010, 04:31 PM
Just a general point, it is always worth looking in UG's columns and reviews which are generally slightly more comprehensive and reliable than the forums.

Anyway I am about halfway through a series of articles on PA; this is the first

http://www.ultimate-guitar.com/columns/the_guide_to/the_guide_to_pa_part_one_-_a_first_pa.html

It might also be worth reading "this article may save your life" which is about electrical safety on stage.

If you've any specific questions please put them in this thread and I'll do my best to answer them.

Cheers

slaptasticdave
01-12-2010, 04:33 PM
Well it could be that your PA system isn't powerful enough. If you're struggling to hear the vocals defintiely don't mic the amps as that will just more you have to hear the vocals over. You can try EQing the vocals and boosting the frequencies that sound like the correspond to the vocalists.

This is all assuming you sing, I couldn't tell you anything about screaming.

Metro Gnome
01-12-2010, 04:35 PM
Just a general point, it is always worth looking in UG's columns and reviews which are generally slightly more comprehensive and reliable than the forums.

Anyway I am about halfway through a series of articles on PA; this is the first

http://www.ultimate-guitar.com/columns/the_guide_to/the_guide_to_pa_part_one_-_a_first_pa.html

It might also be worth reading "this article may save your life" which is about electrical safety on stage.

If you've any specific questions please put them in this thread and I'll do my best to answer them.

Cheers

Thank you so much, man! That is exactly what I was looking for. I'll read it over and post again if I have a question. Thanks again :cheers:

SilentHeaven109
01-12-2010, 04:40 PM
I'm no gear expert but in my experience, the quality of the sound will simply depend on the quality of the equipment you use and how tight the band is, and if the vocals are feeing back it's probably the quality of the equipment, I used to have the same problem at a rehearsal studio I used to go. Their PA was really cheap and it fed back like crazy, yet the community centre we rehearsed at had a fairly good PA and we never suffered feedback at all really.
I would simply suggest new equipment to be honest, but couldn't really recommend anything at the moment, I'd go to a music shop, they'll probably be able to recommend something based on your needs/budget.

Metro Gnome
01-12-2010, 04:52 PM
Ok... our pa system is pretty cheap. Too cheap I think. My bassist just bought it without consulting the band. I'm pretty sure it's passive but wouldn't that mean there needs to be some kind of preamp to bring the signal to line level? I don't think we have that. It goes Mic > Mixer (crappy Behringer) > Speakers

as far as I know. Could that be the problem? We do get some sound out of it, but so far we've only been using it for vocals and keyboard

The Kush
01-14-2010, 11:05 PM
If feedback is the biggest problem with the PA, then simply moving stuff around could solve your problem. Just try to make it so the mic picks up the sound from the speakers as little as possible. This could mean rotating the speakers farther away from the mic, or moving the mic back/moving the speakers forward, or something like that. Reminds me of when my band played a gig with another band, and they kept getting feedback problems. When we went on, I just moved the mic stand back about 5 feet and it sounded perfect.

kyle62
01-15-2010, 05:32 AM
Ok... our pa system is pretty cheap. Too cheap I think. My bassist just bought it without consulting the band. I'm pretty sure it's passive but wouldn't that mean there needs to be some kind of preamp to bring the signal to line level? I don't think we have that. It goes Mic > Mixer (crappy Behringer) > Speakers

as far as I know. Could that be the problem? We do get some sound out of it, but so far we've only been using it for vocals and keyboard
No such thing as a 'passive' PA, otherwise you woulnd't hear the signal.

Behringer's mixers/powered mixers are generally quite good, could you find out the exact gear you're using?

dullsilver_mike
01-15-2010, 07:58 PM
You think this is a joke, but it's not: turn everything down a few notches. Instant tighter, better balanced sound for 95 out of 100 people asking this question.

Phil Starr
01-16-2010, 05:42 AM
You think this is a joke, but it's not: turn everything down a few notches. Instant tighter, better balanced sound for 95 out of 100 people asking this question.

Spot on though the volume control on most drummers can be difficult to find.

Metro Gnome
01-16-2010, 11:28 AM
No such thing as a 'passive' PA, otherwise you woulnd't hear the signal.

Behringer's mixers/powered mixers are generally quite good, could you find out the exact gear you're using?
Oh really? I didn't know that. I don't know the exact model but I could try to find out. The mixer is pretty small, 6 tracks I think. And the speakers are Samson, also on the small side.

And yeah, the drums are hard to keep to a reasonable volume

Phil Starr
01-16-2010, 02:23 PM
Mixers and speakers are described as 'active' if they have an amp built in.

Metro Gnome
01-16-2010, 05:02 PM
Mixers and speakers are described as 'active' if they have an amp built in.
So there IS such thing as active speakers and mixers? Man, I'm always confused about gear for live sound. I'm in over my head. :haha:

Phil Starr
01-17-2010, 04:37 AM
OK, assuming you've read all three of my articles 'A guide to PA' in the columns let's have a look at some specifics for you to try.

How many band members do you have and what do they play?

What backline (instrument amps) do you each have (how many watts is each instrument using)?

What mic/mics are you using?

Are you gigging regularly or is this mainly for practice/rehearsal?

How many watts is the PA?

Is the PA amp in the mixer or in the speakers or separate?

If you can get back to me with the answers i'll see what sort of set up you should try to get the best results.

Cheers

Metro Gnome
01-19-2010, 03:55 PM
OK, assuming you've read all three of my articles 'A guide to PA' in the columns let's have a look at some specifics for you to try.

How many band members do you have and what do they play?

What backline (instrument amps) do you each have (how many watts is each instrument using)?

What mic/mics are you using?

Are you gigging regularly or is this mainly for practice/rehearsal?

How many watts is the PA?

Is the PA amp in the mixer or in the speakers or separate?

If you can get back to me with the answers i'll see what sort of set up you should try to get the best results.

Cheers
we have 4 members: guitar, bass, drums, vocals. My amp is 60 watts tube, bassist's is 800 watts SS.

I beleive the PA is 200 watts; Thats what it says on the speaker. I'm thinking the amp is in the speaker because we can plug a mic directly into it and get sound.

Also, the other day a friend of mine offered to give me his speakers. They're much bigger and better than mine and he said all I need for them is a power amp. I'm guessing that's like an active mixer? I don't know but I was thinking I might be able to use his speakers for the PA and use my old ones as moniters and just buy a decent power amp. Does that sound like a good idea?

Phil Starr
01-19-2010, 07:47 PM
The Samsons are OK budget speakers and you are pretty close to having a workable set up.

You can both be louder than the drummer which is all you need. This sort of power will be overwhelming in an enclosed environment like a practice room so if the sound is crappy there then you just need to turn down. This includes the drummer.

Start by getting the bass volume set to match the drums. You get that lovely effect of the punch when the bass and kick are exactly matched which doesn't work if one is louder than the other.

Now set your volume to match the others. Try to judge this by getting someone to stand as far back in the room as practical and not on top of the amps. You will all think the others are drowning you out in all probability but you have to get used to this. To hear yourself better stand closer to your own amp or tip it up so it points straight at your ears. To hear the others move closer to them. Don't spoil the balance by turning yourself up or down.

If you have set yourselves up at this level then the Sampson's should be plenty loud enough for vocals. At practice place them on the floor pointing directly at the backs of the mics.

OK an aside here. guitars and mics produce a few thousandths of a volt. A pre amp like the ones in your guitar amp amplifies this to about 1Volt which is called a line level. Your mixer is a pre amp as well. Pre amps have all the controls like volume and tone as well. The line level is taken by a Power amp and turned into Watts. The confusion comes because we usually have the pre amp and power amp in a single box and just call it an amp.

What your friend is saying is that you need a power amp to take the 1Volt that your mixer gives out and turn it into enough watts to drive his speakers. You don't need it with the Sampsons because they have the amp built in. You can buy a power amp of 200W per channel for 200 or less in the UK and the cheap ones sound OK.

This will give you a set up which will let you gig for audiences of a couple of hundred people perfectly acceptably.

Try using what you have with the samsons in a practice set up and try to get a good sound at your next practice. If the sound is still poor let me know and we'll work out what is wrong.

You didn't say what mic you are using

Afterhours
01-19-2010, 08:10 PM
Spot on though the volume control on most drummers can be difficult to find.

+1.........you can always get the drummer a pair of HotRods, that's what we did.....:)

punkforlife93
01-19-2010, 08:59 PM
Timing.

Metro Gnome
01-20-2010, 07:41 PM
Ok, we're using a Samson Q7 for vocals, and the drummer has some other's we could use to mic the amps. Should we mic the amps for practice? And 1 more question: when I look for "power amps" online, all I can find is either active mixers or guitar power amps. I'm assuming they're not the same as what I need, so I don't know where to look. An active mixer just has a pre amp correct? If not could I use that in place of a power amp?

Sorry for all the questions, but I just want to get everything straight. I've been reading all your responses and really appreciate it.

Phil Starr
01-20-2010, 07:52 PM
The Samson is a good mic for not much money. It stands up well to the Shure SM58 for sound in our bands set up.

Don't mic the amps until you are more experienced, the amps are easily loud enough and you usually get the best sound by keeping it simple and keeping clutter out of the monitors and PA.

This is the sort of thing you need to look for as an amp.
http://www.bluearan.co.uk/index.php?id=WARAMP17&browsemode=category

You don't say which country you are in so I can't really recommend suppliers

Metro Gnome
01-20-2010, 08:12 PM
I'm from USA. It's strange, I can't find anything like that when I try to search. All I find is guitar power amps and active mixers

Nate.K
01-20-2010, 09:04 PM
+1.........you can always get the drummer a pair of HotRods, that's what we did.....:)

+2........
That or there are flat plastic rings that you can buy. They fit around the drum skin and dampen the sound, without changing the tone to much.
Make sure that if the speakers don't plug into an power outlet, you have the instrument cable plugged into a POWERED! output on the mixer. Some mixers have both powered (active) and unpowered (passive) outputs. Powered just means that it adds electricity to the signal, making the sound MUCH MUCH louder and more responsive.

Well, that is just my 2 cents :o

Metro Gnome
01-20-2010, 11:02 PM
+2........
That or there are flat plastic rings that you can buy. They fit around the drum skin and dampen the sound, without changing the tone to much.
Make sure that if the speakers don't plug into an power outlet, you have the instrument cable plugged into a POWERED! output on the mixer. Some mixers have both powered (active) and unpowered (passive) outputs. Powered just means that it adds electricity to the signal, making the sound MUCH MUCH louder and more responsive.

Well, that is just my 2 cents :o
Oh like RemO rings. Yeah I have them. I just have to tell my drummer to play quieter. lol

Phil Starr
01-21-2010, 04:22 AM
Here's a start
http://pro-audio.musiciansfriend.com/live-sound/live-power-amplifiers

RadioMuse
01-22-2010, 01:09 PM
Okay, assuming that's a power-amp mixer unit you should be in the clear if you know what you're doing with speaker positioning, and EQ.

I have a cheap Phonic 740 Plus PA system, with just the two stock speaker cabs, our practice space is a 100% echo chamber (we all wear ear plugs and scale everything to the drums) and we're running two vocal mics, amplified acoustic guitar, bass, and keyboards through the PA directly (with no other amps): only guitar is through an amp. We have mild feedback issues with the vocal mics and the acoustic guitar gets away if it's strings aren't muted, but in all seriousness we can hear our vocals pretty decently and this isn't an impressive rig or optimum practice space.

Basic advice for speaker placement:

* If you're in an echoy place like a garage you're usually best off pointing the speaker cabs somewhere other than in the direction of the microphone at all as dynamic mics don't pick up reflected sound very much and are thus less likely to feedback.

* Never point the speakers in a direction that they'd dump into the microphone the direction you sing into it (duh?).

* If you're setting up speakers as monitors usually place them so that they're pointed at about the chest of the singer assuming they're about 4-6" (~10cm) back from the mic. This will allow them to hear without the microphone picking it up too much.

Then EQ advice:

* Microphones tend to feedback most in the mid to high-mid range. This sucks because it's where a lot of your vocal character comes from; however when you're practicing your vocal character/timbre doesn't really matter as much as whether or not you're on-pitch so drop any frequencies that are prone to feedback. This is somewhat tricky and involves cranking the system until you start to get hints of feedback without any instruments playing or anyone singing (just the PA) and mixing it out... This takes some experience for sure and can be risky because you can overload the speakers on a specific frequency and blow them out (I made this mistake on a Kustom cab once, luckily it was repaired under warranty). The safest (but less effective way) to go about this is to try dropping frequencies anytime it starts to feedback.

* Mix ALL LOWS OUT on the vocal channel(s). I know it doesn't necessarily sound as "good" but it can take a singer from sounding like the adults on "Charlie Brown" to sounding at least vaguely like themselves. Particularly at high volumes, when fighting with other instruments. You can even mix down the mids a good deal... Try to keep the highs as much as possible because in a three-band EQ that's what's going to cut through the mix the most. Removing the mud is key!

* If you have a dedicated singer have them NOT move around with the mic and find a place and direction it's less prone to feedback (speaker placement advice again, basically).

Beyond that there are feedback suppressors available that apparently work quite well by automatically removing frequencies when they behave like feedback. I've yet to try these, but have been intending to. It's basically the same thing as what I was talking about in the EQ except it's digital, completely automated, and fairly risk free.

This: http://pro-audio.musiciansfriend.com/product/Behringer-FEEDBACK-DESTROYER-PRO-FBQ2496?sku=188954

Anyway, best of luck to you.