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Need help with live setting - sound not cutting through

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Hey guys,

I play in a small church band. Drums, acoustic guitar, keys a violin and my Helix/Variax rig (and vocals!). I play straight into the PA and the sound is pretty decent. The problem I'm having is my guitar isn't really cutting through the mix. The sound guy may not be the best and I have tried to ask him to keep the lead guitar sound in mind but to no avail. I'm starting to think some EQ'ing may help but I'm not really sure what to do.Intro's or if its just me and the acoustic guitar sound good but if the whole band is playing my leads get drowned by the other instruments... This is a church band and of course I don't want to have to blast the electric guitar just to cut through but I'd like to be heard. We play with in-ear monitors so as far as I can tell everything sounds perfect to me but the audience is not hearing the same as the band. Its what I've been told and what I've heard from the recordings.

Any words of advice?

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Mids...if you're setting up your patches with headphones, or through a similar (or even the very same PA) rig, but at lower volumes, you'll almost always have issues trying to use those same tones at stage volume. When you get loud, the lows and highs become more prominent, the mids disappear, and your guitar vanishes from the mix. You need to tweak your patches as close to stage volume as you can.

 

Having a sound guy that doesn't know what he's doing isn't gonna help either...

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Mids...if you're setting up your patches with headphones, or through a similar (or even the very same PA) rig, but at lower volumes, you'll almost always have issues trying to use those same tones at stage volume. When you get loud, the lows and highs become more prominent, the mids disappear, and your guitar vanishes from the mix. You need to tweak your patches as close to stage volume as you can.

 

Having a sound guy that doesn't know what he's doing isn't gonna help either...

Thanks for the input. Do you suggest Global EQ settings or per patch? Would you mind giving me an example?

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Reiterating, but definitely adding in mids is where you're going to cut. Especially in a band situation, the frequency range of a mixed guitar is pretty small, so in the 500Hz-2KHz you should be able to find a range that gives you the cut you need without getting in anyone else's way. I prefer to get my patches as best as I can within the individual patches rather than using the global EQ to "fix" problems across the board. I think it makes more sense to think of the Globaly EQ as a "venue" adjustment that you might need to change in different rooms, so relying on it to make the patches right might not translate very well should you need to go somewhere else with it.

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not a lot to go on...but have you got enough volume boost happening??

The amount of increase for a solo depends on the band and the music style - some people find 3 dB to be fine but mostly its 6dB or even 10dB. I find that the more members in  band the higher the solo boost needs to be...if you are in a three piece then you are the only rhythm instrument and a 3dB boost lifts the solo a bit which is fine cos there is only bass and drums along with it.  If you add another guitar or keys then technically it might be that the rhythm sound is less but the overall result remains - the solo boost needs to be more.  If you are in a 8 or 10 piece band a 10dB solo boost could sound ridiculous at home but perfect in the mix.

 

I agree about the mids too.....great tones can sound quite nasally on their own but cut well in the mix.  I rarely run a mid control below 6 or 7 (and its worth noting that on some models my bass is on almost 0).  Sometimes, If I have an EQ in the patch,  I boost between 600Hz and 1500hZ for solo sounds.

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Here's the problem as I see it.

 

If the mix sounds good to you through your in-ear monitors, but you guitar gets lost in the FOH mix, there's a problem with the FOH mix.  You can add all the mids you want, but you can't compensate for a guitar not sitting correctly (volume-wise) in the mix.

 

Where I would start is to find out what's different between your monitor mix and the house mix, primarily focusing on volume levels.  Many old-time worship oriented sound people tend to focus a lot on the voices and the keyboard as that's what they've traditionally heard.  If you can get the sound man to understand the in-ear monitor mix tends to sound better than the recordings and the live mix you may stand a chance he'll correct something.

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Here's the problem as I see it.

 

If the mix sounds good to you through your in-ear monitors, but you guitar gets lost in the FOH mix, there's a problem with the FOH mix.  You can add all the mids you want, but you can't compensate for a guitar not sitting correctly (volume-wise) in the mix.

 

Where I would start is to find out what's different between your monitor mix and the house mix, primarily focusing on volume levels.  Many old-time worship oriented sound people tend to focus a lot on the voices and the keyboard as that's what they've traditionally heard.  If you can get the sound man to understand the in-ear monitor mix tends to sound better than the recordings and the live mix you may stand a chance he'll correct something.

 

Really good point although I often find it is proper EQ and not volume that is the real issue! So often the problem with getting the guitar to cut through is drums, keyboards, and vocals, and other instruments potentially as well, not being EQ'd and/or compressed properly to dominate only in their own separate sections of the mix. Getting different instruments to sit in their own spot in the mix takes finesse, knowledge, and a bit of art as well as science. I think proper EQ is unfortunately one of the most difficult and usually last things a good soundman learns and many never master it. I also have found keyboards to be frequent offenders in masking the guitar as they occupy such a wide area in the frequency spectrum. There is also such a thin line between cutting through and sounding too loud or harsh. This is definitely the part of a good mix that I have always found the most challenging in a live situation.

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Personally, I think EQ and spatial positioning tends to be more important in recording than in live in order to create space for everyone.  Although I'm not saying EQ doesn't play a factor in live, it has less impact simply because the acoustics of the venue plays such a big role in the outcome, and you're limited in how you can spatially arrange the sounds since most people don't run stereo outputs in a live environment.

 

The biggest single issue I run into in live performance is sound men not understanding the appropriate relative levels where each instrument needs to live so that all can be heard and nothing is overwhelming.  The voices "float" above the music, and the leads and fills and drums are easily identifiable but never dominate the mix.  EQ is just a part of this process in that EQ is just another specialized volume knob.  It changes the volume within a certain area of an instrument, but it does affect volume..either up or down.

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I think its a mistake to rely on the sound man to be the focal point of mixing live sound. He can play a role, but the first thing that has to be addressed is the performance itself. If everyone is playing full out throughout the whole song, then there's not going to be a lot of sonic room for the sound guy to work with. The best place to start is to focus first on the arrangement and performance. One way to think about this is similar to the concept of subtractive EQ - you cut what you don't want rather than boost what you do want. That makes better use of available headroom. The same thing applies first to the arrangement. To make your solos stand out, you need a 3dB cut on the other instruments, not a 3dB boost on yours. 

 

So attack this issue first by exploring what everyone else is playing during your solos. Make sure they know to leave some space for whatever the most important contribution is. For rock, that's almost always the vocals, leads, then rhythm section (drums, especially kick and snare, and bass). Pad instruments should be lowered to make room, rather than attempting to boost volume or mids to make the important instruments stand out.

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I think its a mistake to rely on the sound man to be the focal point of mixing live sound. He can play a role, but the first thing that has to be addressed is the performance itself. If everyone is playing full out throughout the whole song, then there's not going to be a lot of sonic room for the sound guy to work with. The best place to start is to focus first on the arrangement and performance. One way to think about this is similar to the concept of subtractive EQ - you cut what you don't want rather than boost what you do want. That makes better use of available headroom. The same thing applies first to the arrangement. To make your solos stand out, you need a 3dB cut on the other instruments, not a 3dB boost on yours. 

 

So attack this issue first by exploring what everyone else is playing during your solos. Make sure they know to leave some space for whatever the most important contribution is. For rock, that's almost always the vocals, leads, then rhythm section (drums, especially kick and snare, and bass). Pad instruments should be lowered to make room, rather than attempting to boost volume or mids to make the important instruments stand out.

 

Also an important point and it comes down to one simple word, 'dynamics'. Bands need to play with 'em!

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Personally, I think EQ and spatial positioning tends to be more important in recording than in live in order to create space for everyone.  Although I'm not saying EQ doesn't play a factor in live, it has less impact simply because the acoustics of the venue plays such a big role in the outcome, and you're limited in how you can spatially arrange the sounds since most people don't run stereo outputs in a live environment.

 

The biggest single issue I run into in live performance is sound men not understanding the appropriate relative levels where each instrument needs to live so that all can be heard and nothing is overwhelming.  The voices "float" above the music, and the leads and fills and drums are easily identifiable but never dominate the mix.  EQ is just a part of this process in that EQ is just another specialized volume knob.  It changes the volume within a certain area of an instrument, but it does affect volume..either up or down.

 

Proper EQ is certainly important in both live and recording scenarios. On a recording not only do you hopefully have an avid listener paying close attention but the amount of compression applied to recordings, particularly during the mastering phase, can make things sound very dull when they are not EQ'd properly. The EQ also has to account for the fact that a recording can end up being played on a wide variety of devices from a car radio, to a boombox, to a $5,000 home stereo system. Add to that the fact that a recording lasts forever and you definitely want to get the EQ right. 

 

The reason good EQ is so important live is for some of the very reasons you alluded to. The room acoustics and the sheer volume of a live performance can send sound bouncing around everywhere. If the EQ is not correct it can result in a wash of sound that can quickly become muddy and inarticulate. When various instruments aren't EQ'd correctly, particularly in the monitor mix, very often a volume war starts onstage. The keyboards aren't cutting through and can't hear themselves over the drums so they crank up. Now the guitarist can't hear himself, particularly when soloing and he cranks up. The vocalist can't hear him/herself now and they ask for more volume from the board. That becomes an iterative process with musicians taking turns cranking their volume and the next thing you know the band is way too loud and the soundman is tearing out his hair and spinning trim knobs down to try and keep up and the people near the front are dialing their lawyers with a class action suit for aural abuse and permanent hearing loss. The resulting increase in volume from this process of escalation actually causes everybody including the audience to have an even harder time picking out the separate instruments and voices and makes the situation worse.

 

My point is that soundmen and musicians instinctively reach for the volume when they can't hear themselves or a specific instrument well enough or feel they are not cutting through when often the real problem lies with the EQ. With that said, getting the relative volumes correct is of utmost importance as well but most soundmen have a much easier time with this than properly adjusting EQ.

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I think its a mistake to rely on the sound man to be the focal point of mixing live sound. He can play a role, but the first thing that has to be addressed is the performance itself. If everyone is playing full out throughout the whole song, then there's not going to be a lot of sonic room for the sound guy to work with. The best place to start is to focus first on the arrangement and performance. One way to think about this is similar to the concept of subtractive EQ - you cut what you don't want rather than boost what you do want. That makes better use of available headroom. The same thing applies first to the arrangement. To make your solos stand out, you need a 3dB cut on the other instruments, not a 3dB boost on yours. 

 

So attack this issue first by exploring what everyone else is playing during your solos. Make sure they know to leave some space for whatever the most important contribution is. For rock, that's almost always the vocals, leads, then rhythm section (drums, especially kick and snare, and bass). Pad instruments should be lowered to make room, rather than attempting to boost volume or mids to make the important instruments stand out.

 

Exactly!!!  In order to avoid the type of situation HonestOpinion is alluding to, it all starts with stage volume management.  It's garbage in, garbage out.  The problem is when people focus on hearing themselves rather than blending with the other people on stage.  If you aren't blending on stage there's little to no chance any mix is going to make up for that.

 

For me, I start with gain staging the input signal level to the relative level it should be in the mix based on what I've found sounds best in the studio mix, with ample headroom for boosts.  This leaves all the faders at unity so it's easy to find "home" where the proper mix is.  Then you just vary as needed depending on who's singing lead, versus harmonies, and things like the harmonica whether it's doing fills or a solo.

 

However I do vary a bit, as does everyone, in how I target a good live mix.  I prefer a more lively drum in a live mix.  Since drums tend to be instantaneously peaky, I'll target their peaks at about the same level as the vocals (except for cymbals which are fairly low), which keeps their resonant volume tamed, but very much present to drive the sound.  As far as guitar, I prefer to handle the boost myself between 2 or 3db, but that's still below where the vocals are.  Actually fairly close to where backing vocal volumes are.  That way once the mix is set, it's one less thing for the sound man to manage.  He's got his hands full with other folks that can't manage their volume as precisely like harmonica or backing vocals/lead vocal mixes.

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So to sum up, dynamics and listening to your fellow band members by leaving space and backing off or cranking up at the right times, proper volume leveling, and proper EQ are all critical in getting a great live sound and cutting through the mix. It takes a village.  :)

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I think its a mistake to rely on the sound man to be the focal point of mixing live sound. He can play a role, but the first thing that has to be addressed is the performance itself. If everyone is playing full out throughout the whole song, then there's not going to be a lot of sonic room for the sound guy to work with. The best place to start is to focus first on the arrangement and performance. ...

 

One more thing occurred to me here. No doubt it is important to make sure you are playing with space and dynamics and playing softer/quieter and harder/louder to allow solos and other instruments to come to the fore. Doing your best to level your volume on stage is important and instruments like the electric guitar, bass and keyboards can and should do as good a job as possible with their own EQ to send the best prepared signal they can muster to the board. You are right not to solely rely on the soundman, if you send a crap guitar sound to the soundman don't expect him to turn swine into pearls. This is not the case for vocalists, many acoustic instruments (no knobs on a flute), and the drums. Outside of their playing or singing/mic technique they are often totally dependent on the soundman to get a good sound in the mix for them and allow them to cut through. They usually don't have their own EQ or volume/trim knobs to twist on stage.  Furthermore, even if you send a perfect guitar sound to the board, if the soundman does not handle the overall mix or your feed properly you can get buried anyway. So while the soundman may not be the 'focal point' he is certainly a critical link in the chain. Now that I take a better look at your comment, I guess that is pretty much what you are saying. A good soundman is in some ways like a member of the band but one that can heavily impact everyone else's sound. Sometimes I think they get treated as sort of an afterthought. They can ruin a band's night or make a decent band sound much better.

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Hey guys,

I play in a small church band. Drums, acoustic guitar, keys a violin and my Helix/Variax rig (and vocals!). I play straight into the PA and the sound is pretty decent. The problem I'm having is my guitar isn't really cutting through the mix. The sound guy may not be the best and I have tried to ask him to keep the lead guitar sound in mind but to no avail. I'm starting to think some EQ'ing may help but I'm not really sure what to do.Intro's or if its just me and the acoustic guitar sound good but if the whole band is playing my leads get drowned by the other instruments... This is a church band and of course I don't want to have to blast the electric guitar just to cut through but I'd like to be heard. We play with in-ear monitors so as far as I can tell everything sounds perfect to me but the audience is not hearing the same as the band. Its what I've been told and what I've heard from the recordings.

Any words of advice?

Im assuming that this isnt your first gig and youve never had a problem with any other "amp" (or probably modeler) youve tried? :)  You bought a Helix hoping to upgrade your situation a bit and along with the Helix came this problem?  

 

The Helix at times has a very poor transient response. The pick attack is undefined or mushy with a large portion of the amps..  Especially for distorted sounds. Not as bad for the half driven sounds.  If you search the forum you'll find posts similar to yours..."i feel like im playing behind the band" ect....

 

Im betting this is where some of your problem lies. It may come down to finding the right amp cab or IR combination, but without knowing the style of music,  the sound you are mostly going for, the block choices you are making, it would all be just a guess at best.

 

I doubt its an EQ thing. Unless you have other instruments in your band that sounds similar to your guitar, the guitar should be the easiest thing to make cut through the mix. There is nothing else on stage that resembles its sound even remotely.

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So I do a lot of FOH work.  Like anything else, everyone has their way of doing things... here's me... and maybe this will help you.  I just wanted to put this out there before I answer the OP question.

 

1.  The musicians should be comfortable.  I let the band setup as they will, I listen to them play a little and then I select my mics and setup.  Accommodations made for DI's and such of course.

 

2.  I would ultimately prefer if the musicians didn't have volume controls for anything but the backline.  Hey, a guy can dream.

 

3.  It is absolutely my job to make the band sound as good as possible.  It benefits them, me and most importantly the venue/audience  If I have to make lemonade out of lemons, so be it.  

 

As far as bringing lead instruments into the mix, be it guitars, bass, vocals or keyboards, channel eq's are my friend.  I rarely touch levels on anything except parts of the drum kit, or to balance multiple vocals with each other.   It's not a "hard" rule as the only rule in FOH sound is there are no rules, but as much as possible, I try to not mess with levels once they are set.   I find I can just touch the upper mid.  The boards I use generally have a center-freq on the mids so I can just plant it where I need to for the instrument and boost just a little and a lead guitar will leap off the stage.   Depending on the complexity, size of venue and gear, I may have things panned a little.  Not much obviously because you don't want to have all the guitar on one side, and all the keys on another, but just slightly panned.   Then if appropriate, I'll lift the mid freq I chose and pull the guitar up the middle for lead.  But it really depends on the material, venue, the player etc...

 

What can be done from the stage.   When I am on the stage, I figure the FOH guy knows the system and I setup for me.  It's the FOH's guys job to make me sound good, it's my job to play.  Any band I have been in, I (or someone) supplies the soundman with the setlist and appropriate notes or leads or instrument changes and such.

 

When I'm out front on sound, I generally get at least a setlist.  If I'm not familiar with the band or their arrangements, and they haven't given me notes, I'll ask for what I don't know.   

 

Bottom line...  I would not adjust my rig to the house unless the house sound asked me to do something specific to help.  And trust me, if the soundman can get you into the mix, likely any changes you make to "help" will only make things worse.   Put it this way... if you boost the mids to get you into the mix for leads, and the soundman doesn't understand how that works...  he's just going to pull the level down for your rhythm parts and you won't be in the mix at all.  Either he/she knows what he's doing, or doesn't.  And if he doesn't, that's kinda on the venue.    

 

YMMV JMHO

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...

 

I doubt its an EQ thing. Unless you have other instruments in your band that sounds similar to your guitar, the guitar should be the easiest thing to make cut through the mix. There is nothing else on stage that resembles its sound even remotely.

 

I respectfully beg to differ, there are many instruments including the human voice that can overlap frequency ranges with the guitar. Particularly when there are multiple instruments that are too loud or EQ'd incrorrectly they can cover up every square inch of the guitar's portion of the frequency spectrum. Granted timbre plays into differentiating instruments as well but timbre alone will not guarantee cutting through in a poorly setup PA. As I said earlier, the keyboards in particular can potentially cover up the entire range of a guitar depending on the patch being used and the range being played in. Even vocals can interfere with or be interfered with by the guitar. Ever try to hear yourself singing with badly EQ'd guitar in your vocal monitor, or conversely, hear your guitar over the vocals when you don't have enough high end in a dull guitar sound? It can also be a function of band size and as amsdenj mentioned earlier how much 'space', dynamics, and good listening/responding is being employed in the music. A large band with multiple vocalists can start to provide a wall of sound that can be hard to cut through. Correct EQ along with the right volume is better than just cranking up alone. 

 

The link below shows charts with the frequency range of various instruments. You can see how much overlap there is between various  instruments and between instruments and vocals. Utilizing varying EQ and different parts of the frequency range to empahsize specific instruments can really help them cut through when necessary and reduce the amount of volume required for a specific instrument to be heard clearly..

http://www.guitarbuilding.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/Instrument-Sound-EQ-Chart.pdf

http://www.stormythursdaywebcasttheater.com/info/audio_frequency_equalization_charts.php

 

Multiple guitarists in the same band can also be a challenge. Natively different EQ curves among other things are part of why it is easier to pick out guitar parts when each guitarist is playing a different guitar with different pickups (e.g. one guitarist has a Strat, the other a Les Paul) . The guitarists can be further differentiated by slightly varying their board EQ from one another.

 

I think as alluded to earlier, if you are still having problems cutting through once you have the volumes leveled, and are playing with appropriate space and technique, start adjusting EQ rather than just adding volume to allow individual instruments to be clearer in the mix. Otherwise, you may find yourself to be in a constant war of volume between band members. 

 

A good article on different instruments and where to focus their EQ.

http://blog.sonicbids.com/the-ultimate-eq-cheat-sheet-for-every-common-instrument

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Next we'll be finishing each others sentences...  

 

4 minutes apart this time..  LOL

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I respectfully beg to differ, there are many instruments including the human voice that can overlap frequency ranges with the guitar. Multiple instruments that are too loud or EQ'd incrorrectly can cover up every square inch of the guitar's portion of the frequency spectrum. Granted timbre plays into differentiating instruments as well but timbre alone will not guarantee cutting through in a poorly setup PA. As I said earlier, the keyboards in particular can potentially cover up the entire range of a guitar depending on the patch being used and the range being played in. Even vocals can interfere with or be interfered with by the guitar. Ever try to hear yourself singing with badly EQ'd guitar in your vocal monitor, or conversely, hear your guitar over the vocals when you don't have enough high end in a dull guitar sound? It can also be a function of band size and as amsdenj mentioned earlier how much 'space', dynamics, and good listening/responding is being employed in the music. A large band with multiple vocalists can start to provide a wall of sound that can be hard to cut through. Correct EQ along with the right volume is better than just getting cranking up alone. 

 

The link below shows charts with the frequency range of various instruments. You can see how much overlap there is between various  instruments and between instruments and vocals. Utilizing varying EQ and different parts of the frequency range to empahsize specific instruments can really help them cut through when necessary and reduce the amount of volume required for a specific instrument to be heard clearly..

http://www.guitarbuilding.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/Instrument-Sound-EQ-Chart.pdf

http://www.stormythursdaywebcasttheater.com/info/audio_frequency_equalization_charts.php

 

I think as alluded to earlier, once you have the volumes leveled, and are playing with appropriate space and technique, start adjusting EQ rather than just adding volume to allow individual instruments to be clearer in the mix. Otherwise, look to be in a constant war of volume between band members.

 

A good article on different instruments and where to focus their EQ.

http://blog.sonicbids.com/the-ultimate-eq-cheat-sheet-for-every-common-instrument

 

I'm not sure willjrock actually read much of the OP's actual post as he seemed to give more of a global response geared more toward a high-gain environment and made statements about not knowing the style of music and what instruments were involved...both of which were pretty clearly stated by the OP.

 

The reality is in most worship style music pick attack is rarely something one concerns themselves with, and competing with a (typically) vocal heavy environment consisting of drums, acoustic guitar, electric guitar, keyboard, and violin in a church setting with often a lot of live ambient resonance presents some very unique issues that most people that are used to playing in clubs seldom encounter.

 

It really all comes back to one thing in this case:  If the mix is good on the in-ear monitors, then what is the difference between that and the FOH mix?  Figure that one out and it will all be fixed.

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Fletcher-Munson can play into the whole equation as well. If your only recourse to be heard over the mix is to increase your volume be prepared to cut your low end and high end in particular or you may exhaust your listener's ears by the end of the evening. Volume and EQ are interdependent and go hand in glove.

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Fletcher-Munson can play into the whole equation as well. If your only recourse to be heard over the mix is to increase your volume be prepared to cut your low end and high end in particular or you may exhaust your listener's ears by the end of the evening. Volume and EQ are interdependent and go hand in glove.

Yup. I probably should have said that initially...boosting the mids is only one way to get more. Pulling down the lows and highs a bit accomplishes the same thing, and sometimes works better. EQ is quite often about ridding yourself of frequencies that you don't want, rather than boosting the desirable ones. You can easily end up with too much of everything..."sonic vomit", if you will. ;)

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... Pulling down the lows and highs a bit accomplishes the same thing, and sometimes works better. EQ is quite often about ridding yourself of frequencies that you don't want, rather than boosting the desirable ones. You can easily end up with too much of everything..."sonic vomit", if you will. ;)

 

This is a really important point and goes to the soul of a 'subtractive' EQ approach. Sometimes you don't need to boost the guitar or its EQ but instead pull down other instruments in the ranges that are interfering with the guitar. Some soundmen use this approach almost exclusively with the possible exception of adding a high shelf bump for some sparkle or airiness. This principle (subtractive EQ) can be applied to the EQ on the guitar as well as the rest of the instruments on the stage. Doing things this way can really help keep volumes from getting out of hand, particularly in small clubs. It usually makes it easier to control microphone feedback as well.  The only 'vomiting' that should be going on is from that patron who needed just 'one more for the road'.  ;)

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Thanks everyone for the input. Like I thought, EQ may be the best solution. Would you guys suggest a simple EQ per patch? Should I put it right after the cab?

 

Thanks!

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Thanks everyone for the input. Like I thought, EQ may be the best solution. Would you guys suggest a simple EQ per patch? Should I put it right after the cab?

 

Thanks!

 

EQ can be used in any of a number or multiple locations including right after the cab or often after overdrive/distortion and before the amp. I would experiment to taste. Remember, unless you test it at close to performance volumes you may not have a realistic idea of what it will sound like cranked up. Your objective should be getting each preset sounding as good as possible, once you have individual presets dialed in you can use the Global EQ when needed to adjust to the particular venue and/or PA.

 

Btw, one final suggestion. I noticed you said you were not getting a whole lot of help from the soundman with the lead guitar sound. If you haven't already I would set up a boost on every preset. I prefer a boost on the output block at about +3db but you can adjust the amount as necessary. I use the output block so I don't need an additional volume block and the boost is very transparent because it is in the final block and therefor does not change the input level going into the effect and amp/cab blocks upstream. You can kick up the volume when necessary yourself, especially when soloing (hopefully he will not dial it back down). You can also use a snapshot to kick in the boost and make some EQ adjustments simultaneously for solos.

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When various instruments aren't EQ'd correctly, particularly in the monitor mix, very often a volume war starts onstage. The keyboards aren't cutting through and can't hear themselves over the drums so they crank up. Now the guitarist can't hear himself, particularly when soloing and he cranks up. The vocalist can't hear him/herself now and they ask for more volume from the board. That becomes an iterative process with musicians taking turns cranking their volume and the next thing you know the band is way too loud and the soundman is tearing out his hair and spinning trim knobs down to try and keep up and the people near the front are dialing their lawyers with a class action suit for aural abuse and permanent hearing loss. The resulting increase in volume from this process of escalation actually causes everybody including the audience to have an even harder time picking out the separate instruments and voices and makes the situation worse.

 

My point is that soundmen and musicians instinctively reach for the volume when they can't hear themselves or a specific instrument well enough or feel they are not cutting through when often the real problem lies with the EQ. With that said, getting the relative volumes correct is of utmost importance as well but most soundmen have a much easier time with this than properly adjusting EQ.

 

 

Very good point. This escalating volume war is all too common. Modern stage systems can make it worse. There's three basic stage configurations: with stage amps, without stage amps but with stage monitors, and IEMs. They all present different challenges.

 

Stage amps provide good individual feedback, each musician has local control of their stage volume, and can adjust it to meet their playing needs. Interaction with other musicians is possible to some extent because everyone can hear everything on the stage locally pretty well. Add vocal stage monitors and you have a pretty controllable situation where musicians can interact dynamically pretty well. But there's a downside. First is the amount of gear you have to setup and manage. Then there's stage footprint which gets pretty important in small clubs. But most of all is stage volume. 100W Marshall guitar amps and 300W SVT bass amps create a lot of sound. It a small club, its nearly impossible to balance that sound with a good FOH mix since the stage volume will be so loud that the mains can't be brought up enough to take sonic precedence. Instead they make something that is already too loud louder.

 

So we tried to eliminate stage amps and just use stage monitors. This points the sound at us instead of out to the audience, so its a little easier to get the FOH to overcome the stage volume. We each have or own stage monitor and everyone has their own stage mix so they can hear themselves well enough to provide the feedback they need to perform. But there's a downside. The stage monitors are also subject to volume wars since as soon as one person turns their monitor up, everyone else follows, especially the drummer since all the monitors are pointed right at him! And the stage monitors often reflect off the wall behind the band right back out to compete with FOH with an odd, reflective, out of phase sound.

 

IEMs largely eliminate the sage volume, except for the acoustic drums. But there's a downside. The IEMs tend to isolate you from the audience, make it harder to hear people talking to you on and off the stage, are often in mono and don't provide good position separation, and don't interact with the instruments physically. That is, guitars respond differently when the strings are reinforced by the speaker output. This gives better sustain and more live dynamics. 

 

But all of these suffer from a disconnect between what each individual musician needs to hear for their personal needs, and what's actually going out FOH.  As musicians, we need to hear what's on the stage, or our individual monitor mixes in order to play. But the dynamics to the audience is in the FOH which we can't hear. So this is a case where the sound man is actually another member of the band, dealing with the live dynamics that the musicians on the stage can't do themselves. And this is not an EQ or compression issue, you have to ride the faders.

 

Now our band doesn't have a sound man, so frankly its almost anybody's guess what's going out those FOH speakers at any point in time. This is a big problem for us and I'd appreciate any insight more experienced people might have.

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Now our band doesn't have a sound man, so frankly its almost anybody's guess what's going out those FOH speakers at any point in time. This is a big problem for us and I'd appreciate any insight more experienced people might have.

 

Sounds like you answered your own question.   If you care about the sound out front, and it's your system, you should get someone to take care of the sound out front.

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Very good point. This escalating volume war is all too common. Modern stage systems can make it worse. There's three basic stage configurations: with stage amps, without stage amps but with stage monitors, and IEMs. They all present different challenges.

 

Stage amps provide good individual feedback, each musician has local control of their stage volume, and can adjust it to meet their playing needs. Interaction with other musicians is possible to some extent because everyone can hear everything on the stage locally pretty well. Add vocal stage monitors and you have a pretty controllable situation where musicians can interact dynamically pretty well. But there's a downside. First is the amount of gear you have to setup and manage. Then there's stage footprint which gets pretty important in small clubs. But most of all is stage volume. 100W Marshall guitar amps and 300W SVT bass amps create a lot of sound. It a small club, its nearly impossible to balance that sound with a good FOH mix since the stage volume will be so loud that the mains can't be brought up enough to take sonic precedence. Instead they make something that is already too loud louder.

 

So we tried to eliminate stage amps and just use stage monitors. This points the sound at us instead of out to the audience, so its a little easier to get the FOH to overcome the stage volume. We each have or own stage monitor and everyone has their own stage mix so they can hear themselves well enough to provide the feedback they need to perform. But there's a downside. The stage monitors are also subject to volume wars since as soon as one person turns their monitor up, everyone else follows, especially the drummer since all the monitors are pointed right at him! And the stage monitors often reflect off the wall behind the band right back out to compete with FOH with an odd, reflective, out of phase sound.

 

IEMs largely eliminate the sage volume, except for the acoustic drums. But there's a downside. The IEMs tend to isolate you from the audience, make it harder to hear people talking to you on and off the stage, are often in mono and don't provide good position separation, and don't interact with the instruments physically. That is, guitars respond differently when the strings are reinforced by the speaker output. This gives better sustain and more live dynamics. 

 

But all of these suffer from a disconnect between what each individual musician needs to hear for their personal needs, and what's actually going out FOH.  As musicians, we need to hear what's on the stage, or our individual monitor mixes in order to play. But the dynamics to the audience is in the FOH which we can't hear. So this is a case where the sound man is actually another member of the band, dealing with the live dynamics that the musicians on the stage can't do themselves. And this is not an EQ or compression issue, you have to ride the faders.

 

Now our band doesn't have a sound man, so frankly its almost anybody's guess what's going out those FOH speakers at any point in time. This is a big problem for us and I'd appreciate any insight more experienced people might have.

 

It totally mystifies me that people have these kind of problems.  I can understand it if the band hasn't been together that long, or members are changing a lot.  But getting a good consistent mix shouldn't be that hard if everyone is disciplined and you have a consistent approach to your sound.

 

We had lots of problems getting our sound right for the first year or so, but eventually we worked things out as far as managing our stage sound and FOH sound, and we really don't do anything that exotic in our setup.  All of our instruments use a traditional setup with amps, or FRFR speakers, positioned behind us.  In smaller indoor venues we use electronic drums with their own FRFR speaker and mic'd acoustic drums in larger or outdoor venues, and I use an FRFR speaker.  The bass and rhythm guitar both use standard amps.  All of us know where out settings need to be and we seldom vary from that.  We have monitors but those are only for vocals and the harmonica.  We first get all our stage instrument levels working correctly before we add in vocals and FOH.

 

We do use a soundman, but he's still learning.  That's okay because we understand exactly where our mix levels and individual EQ's need to be based on the levels that work best from our studio recordings.  So all the soundman has to do during sound checks is dial in each channel's gain to that specified signal level (as measured by the signal strength on the meter as he PFL's each channel) and we end up with a set mix on the FOH with all faders set to unity.  Each channel has been pre-EQ'd and rarely needs any changes.  The only "riding of faders" necessary is typically to lower the vocal channels of the singers singing harmonies on a given song, and occassionally manage the mic of the harmonica depending on if it's on a solo or doing fills.  As far as guitar leads, he just sets and forgets my fader because I manage that boost myself.

 

Apparently not obsessing over EQ for each venue seems to work out just fine for us because we constantly get compliments from our audience about how we sound so consistent everywhere we play, and we never adjust anything on the EQ.  So it's hard for me to understand why it's so challenging for so many bands to suffer through so many exotic setups and EQ problems to get a good sound.  If the stage sound is solid and consistent and everyone can hear themselves and everyone else on stage, it's not a problem blending or in creating dynamics within a song without any interaction from the desk.  And it's been that way for 7 years in spite of changing sound men two times.

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Now our band doesn't have a sound man, so frankly its almost anybody's guess what's going out those FOH speakers at any point in time. This is a big problem for us and I'd appreciate any insight more experienced people might have.

This reminds me of a shooting range I went to once...they were trying out a new promotion: "Point It Anywhere You Want Tuesdays". So many ambulances....I never went back. ;)

 

This is what sound checks are for. Without a soundman, somebody needs to take charge and stand out front with a nice long cable and actually listen to what's going on. If your singer has been crooning away in Chinese this whole time, that might be something you'd wanna know...

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It totally mystifies me that people have these kind of problems.  I can understand it if the band hasn't been together that long, or members are changing a lot.  But getting a good consistent mix shouldn't be that hard if everyone is disciplined and you have a consistent approach to your sound.

 

We had lots of problems getting our sound right for the first year or so, but eventually we worked things out as far as managing our stage sound and FOH sound, and we really don't do anything that exotic in our setup.  All of our instruments use a traditional setup with amps, or FRFR speakers, positioned behind us.  In smaller indoor venues we use electronic drums with their own FRFR speaker and mic'd acoustic drums in larger or outdoor venues, and I use an FRFR speaker.  The bass and rhythm guitar both use standard amps.  All of us know where out settings need to be and we seldom vary from that.  We have monitors but those are only for vocals and the harmonica.  We first get all our stage instrument levels working correctly before we add in vocals and FOH.

 

We do use a soundman, but he's still learning.  That's okay because we understand exactly where our mix levels and individual EQ's need to be based on the levels that work best from our studio recordings.  So all the soundman has to do during sound checks is dial in each channel's gain to that specified signal level (as measured by the signal strength on the meter as he PFL's each channel) and we end up with a set mix on the FOH with all faders set to unity.  Each channel has been pre-EQ'd and rarely needs any changes.  The only "riding of faders" necessary is typically to lower the vocal channels of the singers singing harmonies on a given song, and occassionally manage the mic of the harmonica depending on if it's on a solo or doing fills.  As far as guitar leads, he just sets and forgets my fader because I manage that boost myself.

 

Apparently not obsessing over EQ for each venue seems to work out just fine for us because we constantly get compliments from our audience about how we sound so consistent everywhere we play, and we never adjust anything on the EQ.  So it's hard for me to understand why it's so challenging for so many bands to suffer through so many exotic setups and EQ problems to get a good sound.  If the stage sound is solid and consistent and everyone can hear themselves and everyone else on stage, it's not a problem blending or in creating dynamics within a song without any interaction from the desk.  And it's been that way for 7 years in spite of changing sound men two times.

 

I have found this often corresponds to the size of the band, their experience level, and what kind of music they play. Love when things work like your description and sometimes/often they do. Some bands, especially experienced ones like yours appears to be, some sound systems, and some soundmen seem to get it done with minimal hassle and configuration. Definitely ideal, good on you!

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Hi there, I play at church too, and we use IEMs. Lots of good advice here, but they should be taken in moderation and context.

 

First, regarding band arrangement and personal tones, I assume it's all good since your IEM mix sounds good. Just to be sure, have a listen to a recording of the IEM mix and check with your music director/bandmates.

 

2nd, regarding the IEMs themselves, as long as your levels are relatively similar to the audience's, don't worry about the Fletcher-Munson stuff people tend to throw around. If you take a look, between 80 and 100dbA, the loudness curves are almost the same, especially within your guitar's 80-8000Hz range. Since church volumes are not that high, just make sure your IEM gain isn't too high as well.

 

3rd, room acoustics matter much more than you think. This is mostly under your soundguy's scope, but understand that there's a limit to how much he can do for a particular room.

 

Have a dialog with the band and soundguy, compare recordings and get the conversation going both ways. Remember to put people above striving towards perfection.

 

Each week my band gets a different soundguy, and as expected, each recording sounds very different depending on who's mixing. We should do our best to improve the overall sound, but sometimes we just gotta let go a little. As long as your heart's right and your sacrifice costs you something, God will honor your service ☺

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...

 

2nd, regarding the IEMs themselves, as long as your levels are relatively similar to the audience's, don't worry about the Fletcher-Munson stuff people tend to throw around. If you take a look, between 80 and 100dbA, the loudness curves are almost the same, especially within your guitar's 80-8000Hz range. ...

 

I appreciate your point about when the IEMs and the audience's levels are "relatively similar" but firstly that often may not be the case. Secondly differences in critical factors like frequency response between the drivers/speakers in a tiny in-ear system compared to a large PA can be significant. This means the audience may be hearing something quite different in the FOH than you are in your IEMs.

 

While the differences between 80-100db may not be as pronounced as some other regions they still exist and can effect guitar tone; particularly if you have been dialing in your presets at 60db and go out and play at 80db or significantly higher. Apparently 90db is where the entire curve really starts to level out and our ears become more equally sensitive to all frequencies.

 

The first video is a quick synopsis on the Fletcher-Munson (equal loudness) curve and how it impacts how we hear with a little historical background on how it was developed. We guitar players will find the section at 3:22 minutes in of particular interest as he starts talking about electric guitar. The second two-part video actually focuses on how to use the Helix to adjust for Fletcher-Munson.

 

A little bit of hyperbole here, but ignore Fletcher-Munson at your own peril and depending on the circumstances expect it to affect your tone detrimentally if you do. Honestly, I don't know if you have to "worry" about it but you probably want to at least consider this "Fletcher-Munson stuff people throw around" even if you determine it is not a factor in the way you design and play your presets.

 

Start at 3:22 in this video if you want to get straight to the part about electric guitar.

 

 

Here is a great and very scholarly two-part video about Fletcher Munson that actually gives tips on getting good sounds at different levels and uses the Helix to demonstrate specific methods to adjust for it. (Note: I believe this was first posted elsewhere by thurston9)

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I appreciate your point about when the IEMs and the audience's levels are "relatively similar" but firstly that often may not be the case. Secondly differences in critical factors like frequency response between the drivers/speakers in a tiny in-ear system compared to a large PA can be significant. This means the audience may be hearing something quite different in the FOH than you are in your IEMs.

 

A little bit of hyperbole here, but ignore Fletcher-Munson at your own peril and depending on the circumstances expect it to affect your tone detrimentally if you do. Honestly, I don't know if you have to "worry" about it but you probably want to at least consider this "Fletcher-Munson stuff people throw around" even if you determine it is not a factor in the way you design and play your presets.

Thanks for pointing out stuff I missed. The IEM vs FoH frequency response is a different subject from Fletcher-Munson, and it is important. Even FRFR IEMs & FoH speakers are not perfectly flat (especially FoH which is affected by room & directionality).

 

Listening to a reference track on both sources will help you appreciate the differences. How different, you'll have to find out for yourself.

 

But back to the Fletcher-Munson stuff, people seem to imply that your IEM or tweaking volume is lower than audience volume. At a modern church, that's 65-80db. IEMs can easily do 95db.

 

So the danger is not only that the fear of the Fletcher-Munson effect may drive someone to practice/monitor at excessive volumes, and end up on the opposite side of loudness perception (louder than audience level). At best, he/she will get ear fatigue/cotton-ears/temporary hearing loss. At worst, it'll be permanent.

 

In summary, sometimes "not hearing loud enough" is the cause of discrepancies. Other times, it could be:

-hearing too loud

-ear fatigue

-differences in source freq response

-room effect

-directionality

-intentional change (soundguy)

-other causes??

 

So guys/ladies, please take care of your ears, for they are precious instruments themselves. 85db and above is where damage could happen for prolonged exposure. If your IEM/practice level sounds as loud as FoH level (at audience distance), trust your ears or do SPL measurements. Take frequent breaks, and hopefully we'll all still be making & enjoying music 50 years from now!

 

Ps: HonestOpinion, thanks for the links, I'm a nerd and will check them out for sure!

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Assuming your tunes generally have vocals, and that the vocal can be heard well, I would set my solo level similarly. That should get the job done, unless the rhythm section cranks up when you solo, in which case you need to be even louder, or get the MD to control the band's dynamics. I would spend some time at sound check sorting it out. That's why we do sound checks.

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...

So the danger is not only that the fear of the Fletcher-Munson effect may drive someone to practice/monitor at excessive volumes, and end up on the opposite side of loudness perception (louder than audience level). At best, he/she will get ear fatigue/cotton-ears/temporary hearing loss. At worst, it'll be permanent.

 

In summary, sometimes "not hearing loud enough" is the cause of discrepancies. Other times, it could be:

-hearing too loud

-ear fatigue

-differences in source freq response

-room effect

-directionality

-intentional change (soundguy)

-other causes??

 

So guys/ladies, please take care of your ears, for they are precious instruments themselves. 85db and above is where damage could happen for prolonged exposure. If your IEM/practice level sounds as loud as FoH level (at audience distance), trust your ears or do SPL measurements. Take frequent breaks, and hopefully we'll all still be making & enjoying music 50 years from now!

...

 

Lots 'o good points here! I second your concern about hearing loss and have also recommended people use hearing protection if they design their presets at anything close to performance levels. I wish I had taken better care of my ears as I definitely have hearing loss from too many Marshall stacks along the way.

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Lots 'o good points here! I second your concern about hearing loss and have also recommended people use hearing protection if they design their presets at anything close to performance levels. I wish I had taken better care of my ears as I definitely have hearing loss from too many Marshall stacks along the way.

Ah I think I see why we disagreed before on loudness perception. It's just a matter of difference in context.

 

You see, performance levels for some of you will probably be far higher than the OP's. He specifically mentioned a church setting, which would definitely be much quiter than a club or rock concert.

 

In that church context, performance levels are very similar to comfortable practice levels. Which is why I felt that loudness perception didn't play such a big role.

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You see, performance levels for some of you will probably be far higher than the OP's. He specifically mentioned a church setting, which would definitely be much quiter than a club or rock concert.

 

In that church context, performance levels are very similar to comfortable practice levels. Which is why I felt that loudness perception didn't play such a big role.

 

Ummm that kinda depends on the church...    Heavy Metal Praise music has been around for awhile...  then there's TSO, and Stryper..  just say'n.

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Regarding setting up patches at performance volume...  just to clarify....   "performance" volume, not "audience" volume.   You should set things up for as loud as YOU need them on stage.

 

I also have a tip for those using IEM's...   They are fantastic...  but if you can, put some monitors or sidefills on the stage...  you will be able to lower the volume in the IEM's and have a more in the room feeling than that isolated thing that happens sometimes with IEM's.    The monitors or sides need NOT be up to normal monitor levels..  Just put guitars, vocals and keys in them at a rough mix...    I'm sure someone knows the mechanics of this.. but they just need to have some level in them and it's like it pulls the sound from the IEM's and surrounds you with it.    When I do this I hear things from the singer like "I don't hear the floor monitor unless I put in my in-ears"...   yep.. you read that right, and those that know the trick know what I'm talk'n about.   I think it also enhances the foldback from the FOH speakers... like I said... I never learned the mechanics... or maybe I did and forgot...  but it's a great trick.    And when I mean low levels in the monitors.. I mean LOW levels.. Like low enough to hear if you stick your head in front of them, but not enough to worry about feedback if someone drops a mic.

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Ummm that kinda depends on the church... Heavy Metal Praise music has been around for awhile... then there's TSO, and Stryper.. just say'n.

They exist, yes. But I'll bet you every dime in the collection plate that you're not gonna find any of those acts at your local parish on Sunday morning...;)

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Regarding setting up patches at performance volume...  just to clarify....   "performance" volume, not "audience" volume.   You should set things up for as loud as YOU need them on stage.

 

I also have a tip for those using IEM's...   They are fantastic...  but if you can, put some monitors or sidefills on the stage...  you will be able to lower the volume in the IEM's and have a more in the room feeling than that isolated thing that happens sometimes with IEM's.    The monitors or sides need NOT be up to normal monitor levels..  Just put guitars, vocals and keys in them at a rough mix...    I'm sure someone knows the mechanics of this.. but they just need to have some level in them and it's like it pulls the sound from the IEM's and surrounds you with it.    When I do this I hear things from the singer like "I don't hear the floor monitor unless I put in my in-ears"...   yep.. you read that right, and those that know the trick know what I'm talk'n about.   I think it also enhances the foldback from the FOH speakers... like I said... I never learned the mechanics... or maybe I did and forgot...  but it's a great trick.    And when I mean low levels in the monitors.. I mean LOW levels.. Like low enough to hear if you stick your head in front of them, but not enough to worry about feedback if someone drops a mic.

this would probably work in a church setting. A loud rock club with a full FOH PA w/subs and 10k watts, you would have to crank the monitors just to get them over the room noise. 

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