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Old 10-08-2012, 04:37 AM   #1
MattyPS
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Why can't we hear ourselves on stage?

Hi there,

I've never played in a band and I've never given a show on stage. However, I've gone to a certain number of gigs to see famous band or local bands.

A while ago (3 years ago, actually) I went to see some friends of mine playing. After the show, my friend - who played electric violin - came to me and asked something like : "What did you think about it? For me it was a pain because I couldn't hear what I was playing. The feedback was terrible".

But for me it was just fine (although at that time my ears were not as "trained" as now).

So yeah, three years later I'm thinking about that. Was their set up bad or is it hard in general to hear yourself playing on stage?
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Old 10-08-2012, 04:45 AM   #2
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Well, generally you have some sort of monitoring system to hear what you're actually playing, these could be speakers aimed towards the stage, and nowadays there are in-ear solutions as well. I do think it's a fairly common problem if you don't have a very consistent and good set-up.
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Old 10-08-2012, 04:48 AM   #3
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Yeah, you see those black boxes musicians like to put their foot on a lot on stage?

Those are the speakers for feedback.




Usually the sound guy would set that stuff up beforehand and stuff.
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Old 10-08-2012, 05:15 AM   #4
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Oh yeah those black boxes... I totally see what you're talking about.

But what happens with the sound? I mean, how come that you hear yourself better with those feedback speakers than with the amplifiers behind you?

Can you also tell me more with the in-ear thing? Does it act like a filter or something like that?
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Old 10-08-2012, 05:18 AM   #5
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It's called foldback/stage monitoring, not feedback. What you mainly hear from your backline are more the reflections from the the back wall, which are distorted and delayed. The on stage monitors are pointing directly at you, so you hear the speaker, not a reflection.

The in ear monitors basically act like earphones, but you're hearing the mix from the desk rather than your ipod.

Last edited by Deliriumbassist : 10-08-2012 at 05:20 AM.
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Old 10-08-2012, 05:48 AM   #6
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Okay so you can hear yourself in real-time (well, at the speed of the electronics).

But the reflections will eventually come back to you, right? How do you deal with that? Are their level negligible compared to the stage monitoring one?

So what I watched on videos was musicians wearing ear monitors, not ear protections.
The level on stage must be pretty loud, how can you hear something with these ear monitors without getting deaf?

I am asking a lot of questions, whose answers may seem obvious to some people, but I really want to understand this.
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Old 10-08-2012, 05:57 AM   #7
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So every member of the band gets a little spot on stage that might look a bit like this


Sometimes each person onstage can get their own mix coming through their own monitors, tailored specially so that they can hear themselves properly. In-ear monitors do the same job, and you don't go deaf in the same way that you don't go deaf wearing headphones - although sometimes you do, of course.
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Old 10-08-2012, 05:57 AM   #8
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It's actually pretty quiet behind the speakers, you'd be suprised. The sound is all pointed away from you so you can feel quite disconnected from it.
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Old 10-08-2012, 05:59 AM   #9
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A lot of in ear monitors either have filtering for external noise, or passive noise isolation. Well fitting in ears also provide noise isolation by creating a seal in the ear.

Good monitoring is acheived by having a good sound guy, good equipment, and a band that knows what they're doing, and knows how to assist the sound guy during soundchecks. You'll still get the reflections, but if the foldback is done properly, you'll be more focussed on that.
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Old 10-08-2012, 06:03 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MattyPS
Okay so you can hear yourself in real-time (well, at the speed of the electronics).

But the reflections will eventually come back to you, right? How do you deal with that? Are their level negligible compared to the stage monitoring one?

So what I watched on videos was musicians wearing ear monitors, not ear protections.
The level on stage must be pretty loud, how can you hear something with these ear monitors without getting deaf?

I am asking a lot of questions, whose answers may seem obvious to some people, but I really want to understand this.


In my experience the sound you get on stage is very distorted and sounds like a muddy mix of noise where it's hard to discern your own playing. On top of that it's usually a lot less loud since the PA speakers are pointing away from you. Sometimes these speakers hang so much further towards the crowd that the volume in the front row is considerably lower than in the middle of the crowd.
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Old 10-08-2012, 06:15 AM   #11
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Yeah it sounds wayyy different on stage than it does in the audience. Where the speakers are pointing and whether you're facing them or not makes a giant difference.
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Old 10-08-2012, 01:47 PM   #12
MattyPS
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It gets clearer in my head, thank you guys!
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Old 10-08-2012, 01:51 PM   #13
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if you can't hear distorted guitar it's usually cos the tone sucks - too much gain and overly scooped mids are the main culprits

if you can't hear vocals most of the time it's cos the singer can't project

bad sound engineers can also be at fault, but usually it's bad musicians

underpowered PAs can also be to blame, but in 2012 that's not quite the problem it used to be
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Old 10-08-2012, 07:47 PM   #14
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Sounds like your friend doesn't know what he want to hear in his mix. Or he can get a good tone to cut through.
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Old 10-09-2012, 11:49 PM   #15
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I've yet to play in a good monitoring situation
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Old 10-09-2012, 11:53 PM   #16
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Originally Posted by jthm_guitarist
Yeah it sounds wayyy different on stage than it does in the audience. Where the speakers are pointing and whether you're facing them or not makes a giant difference.

This, so much this.

Also it can really depend on the size and shape of the venue, as well. Small bars and clubs I can usually hear myself much better than in big places where there's a lot of natural room reverb and the bounceback sound you hear is always like a half second off. Drives me nuts.

But yeah, monitors are how you hear yourself on stage. In ear monitors are the best things ever, but regular stage monitors work completely perfectly if the soundman knows what he's doing.
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