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UKMark

Real world Gigging advice re Helix Pls

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Hi

I play in a covers band, gigging 2 or 3 times a week. I currently have a Fender Deluxe Reverb 65 and a HX effects units with some outboard analog pedals (king of tone, Soul Food etc)

 

after a worrying recent gig when the Deluxe started playing up due to tube issues I am seriously considering going Helix direct to PA route.

 

We setup and run our own PA. We run an Allen Heath QU16 desk.

 

i would really appreciate some real-world advice from people who use the Helix this way. I realise there are many folks who use it in studios or just at home but I would love to know your thoughts on using it in a band live situation. 
in particular;

- what do you use for stage sound for your guitar? FRFR? Just in the usual monitors? In front or behind?

- do you have any issues with other band members wanting to hear you? Our drummer is real old school and always insists my amp is within earshot of him. He hates having the guitar feed in his monitor. Just cranky I guess! :)
- how do you monitor your level in the PA without a sound guy? I am ‘the sound guy’ and have to manage sound from on stage whilst playing so am a bit worried about how to know what my guitar level is and how it sounds in the front of house. Having the deluxe behind me can be a bit loud sometimes but I have gotten used to what is needed to blend in with the room sound overall.

 

In theory the  concept of a Helix looks amazing. Just wondered what the practicalities of it are. Not so worried about how closely it can match the sound of my deluxe or KOT pedal. I know the reality is that the people who matter (the audience) are really not going to know the difference. But if it is always way too loud or too quiet, they will know that! 
 

thanks for any advice /help

Mark


 

 

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Hi Mark,

 

I use FRFR for stage sound. I go direct to PA from the XLR out; I do not need to use power amp+cab for stage sound, and I like that what I hear on stage is the same sound that goes to PA. I usually put the FRFR as a stage monitor (Yamaha DXR10, getting sound from the Helix 1/4" out) in front of me, in monitor mode with low cut at 100 Hz. On small stages I might have to put it behind me.

 

I set the XLR out volume control to OFF, so that maximum signal is fed to the PA, but 1/4" out volume control is ON; in this way, the volume knob tweaks the volume of my stage sound.

 

As to what other band members want to hear, I won't get into that :-) Everybody has their own idea on that but our implementation is a bit messy. In my band we have 2 guitars, and my main problem is that I do not hear the other guitar well. I can live with that, as I know what the other guitar is supposed to play at any time. We do not feed a mix to the stage monitors, but we have 3 individual monitors for voice, keyboard and guitar plus one cab for the other guitar, powered from the Kemper power amp.

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I gig 1 or 2 times per week and have been doing it for years.  I implemented a Helix over four years ago.  We also use and run our own PA the vast majority of the time.  Our PA consists of a QSC TM30 Pro mixer and two stacks of QSC speakers, each stack consisting of a QSC KW 181 sub with two KLA 12 line array speakers.  Our band consists of three dedicated singers, one also playing harmonica, 2 guitars, bass and drums.

My setup is very similar to emagli in that I use my own dedicated Yamaha DXR12 stage monitor.  I have my DXR12 positioned behind me in the backline on a half height speaker pole.  I don't use any DSP contour settings to best simulate the sound from the FOH.  I have my Helix configured so that the XLR output is disengaged from the Helix volume knob and sends a Mic level signal to the mixing board and I send a Line level signal which can be managed by the Helix volume knob to my DXR12.  Generally it's only vocals, harp, and the occasional acoustic guitar that are fed through our stage monitor system consisting of two DXR12's.  We use our amps or dedicated monitors for monitoring the instruments on stage.  Normally our drummer uses a high end Roland electronic drum kit (except for larger concert level venues) and uses a DXR12 in the same way I do positioned in the backline.  Therefore we manage our stage mix of instruments individually and our vocal mix separately, so our stage instrument volume levels are pretty reasonably low in order to get a good mix with the vocal monitors and not have a lot of stage sound bleed into the audience that would interfere with the FOH sound.  This is because we have a total of 6 singers out of the seven members in the band with a LOT of harmony work.  Because the band has been together for more than 10 years we're pretty adept at getting this type of on stage monitor mix correct so that we can all hear each other.

 

Up until about a year ago we had a dedicated sound person which I had trained.  After the last one left I found I could manage it pretty well without a sound guy so we never replaced him.  Because the TM30 mixer has the capability of using a tablet over WiFi to control the mixer, I do have one on stage with me, but we position our mixer out in front and I can normally get the mix setup correctly with a good sound check before we play and seldom need to make any adjustments during the performance.

The real key to doing this is to have a consistent signal feed to the mixer.  Because my Helix feed will always be the same regardless of the setting of my Helix volume knob I am meticulous in the setup of my presets to get them to the same volume and signal level and measure them at home using the TM30 mixer.  The other guitar amp, bass amp, and drums signals are more affected by their master volume settings on their amps so we generally first get our stage balance where we want it, then gain stage the incoming signal levels at the board so they're all equal, then finally adjust the individual channel mixes through the faders for both FOH and stage monitor mixes.  Although that sounds complex it really doesn't change much from gig to gig as we all know where our stage settings should be on our amps and such, so it only really takes about 5 to 10 minutes for gain staging.  We then sound check going through a couple of songs with myself and the other guitar player out in front using our wireless setups to get the final mix correct.  Things get a bit more complex when we play concert level gigs using acoustic drums, but we always have a dedicated sound man for those situations.

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I'm usually doing it pretty much similar to what DunedinDragon described, except that I prefer to have my personal FRFR (an Alto TS310 that I'm astonishingly happy with) placed in a more typical wedge monitoring style. I try to place it a bit further away than what one might know from stage wedges (helps with potential phase issues between woofer an HF driver, also my patches seem to generally translate better that way) and also usually put it on top of a small utility case (height around 20cm) which seems to help nicely with whatever proximity effects, hence reducing any boom - but I still always have my global EQ adjusted so it'll cut away some further low end (only applied to my monitor path) on very resonant stages. Don't usually need it, though.

Works absolutely fine for me that way. I might try with one of these half height speaker poles one day (I actually own a pair since ages), but as I am trying to reduce the amount of things I'm bringing onstage (or forget at the venue, *sigh*...) as much as I can, I don't feel much of a need for that, especially given that I'm pretty happy already.

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I use a EV ZLX12P behind me on a pole in places where the PA isn't pulling enough weight, and on the floor behind me in places where it is. Never had an issue with stage volume. As far as monitors go, we do IEM in both bands, so I don't really pay attention the wedges. Get a cheap wireless guitar setup to have so you can walk out in front of the band for soundcheck and levels. There's no way to get a good mix from behind the mains. As far as your drummer needing your amp "live" instead of through his monitors, you could explain to him that since you're using FRFR the sound in his wedges will be the same as the sound from your "amp" and if that doesn't work for him, tell him to buy his own dedicated guitar wedge, lol. He can tap off whatever FRFR speaker you're using and blast his own face off. 

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I just kind of skimmed this and it may nave already been mentioned but you can set Helix up so the main master volume on the Helix only controls the 1/4" outputs and has no control over the XLR's. The XLR's can be set at mic or line level to sent to the FOH and you can then control the level of whatever you've chosen to plug your 1/4 inch output(s) into from your Helix's main volume control.

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I'm really interested in the posts in this thread,i have just bought a Stomp & would love to get to the level where I could use it in a gigging situation,so subscribing.(smiley ?)

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Hi all

 

Thanks for all the very helpful replies here, amazing!

 

To expand on the FRFR thing. When using a monitor  IE maybe the Yamaha DXR10 or 12) in front of you, like a traditional wedge, do you also feed in the usual signals from other sources (Vocals etc) so it doubles as your guitar sound source on stage and also the band mix monitoring you want to hear? Reason for asking is I am trying to reduce the amount of gear I have to haul around. If doing this reduces the monitor count that is another plus point. Or maybe you keep the FRFR unit for guitar only and have a separate wedge for vox monitors etc?

 

Also, I assume you use the XLR feed to the desk to not only feed the FOH PA but also the Aux feeds to other monitors for those on stage wanting guitar in their monitor?

 

Really like the tip about sending the XLR to the desk for main PA without volume control, keeps the signal consistent from gig to go.

 

Sounds like the biggest challenge is going to be levelling up all the patches. Are there any useful tips of sources for help on this? I find it hard enough getting my Tube Screamer level increase to be not too overwhelming. In fact we did a gig on Saturday and I was using my new (and very lovely) King of Tone. I took a solo, kicked in the overdrive and promptly had a complaint from the audience that my guitar was too loud! Ah the challenges of playing live :)

 

Thanks again for the help.

Mark

 

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10 minutes ago, UKMark said:

When using a monitor  IE maybe the Yamaha DXR10 or 12) in front of you, like a traditional wedge, do you also feed in the usual signals from other sources (Vocals etc) so it doubles as your guitar sound source on stage and also the band mix monitoring you want to hear? Reason for asking is I am trying to reduce the amount of gear I have to haul around. If doing this reduces the monitor count that is another plus point. Or maybe you keep the FRFR unit for guitar only and have a separate wedge for vox monitors etc?

That depends on how reliant you are on your amp/stage sound for your band. Both of my bands still have to fill at least the front part of the room from the stage, so I keep mine behind me facing the audience and don't send anything else  to it because I'm using it in place in my normal "amp" and I wouldn't want my monitor mix coming through my "amp". 

 

When it comes to leveling the patches the best advice is to do it at performance volume, through the gear you plan on amplifying it through. There's no reliable way that I've found to build patches at lower/home/headphones volume and have them translate to full-volume performance without re-adjusting them. 

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52 minutes ago, UKMark said:

When using a monitor  IE maybe the Yamaha DXR10 or 12) in front of you, like a traditional wedge, do you also feed in the usual signals from other sources (Vocals etc) so it doubles as your guitar sound source on stage and also the band mix monitoring you want to hear?

That can be done and it would be great. I tried to get my band mates to do this, but never succeeded... I guess one of the reasons is that I am the only one having a monitor with multiple inputs, so this would not solve the problem for all band members. 

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39 minutes ago, gunpointmetal said:

When it comes to leveling the patches the best advice is to do it at performance volume, through the gear you plan on amplifying it through. There's no reliable way that I've found to build patches at lower/home/headphones volume and have them translate to full-volume performance without re-adjusting them. 


Very true. Leveling patches is a very important process, but I have not found any other way to do it that is more reliable than trial and error at gig volume. 

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2 hours ago, emagli said:


Very true. Leveling patches is a very important process, but I have not found any other way to do it that is more reliable than trial and error at gig volume. 

Just wait till the new meters arrive :-)

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11 hours ago, UKMark said:

To expand on the FRFR thing. When using a monitor  IE maybe the Yamaha DXR10 or 12) in front of you, like a traditional wedge, do you also feed in the usual signals from other sources (Vocals etc) so it doubles as your guitar sound source on stage and also the band mix monitoring you want to hear? Reason for asking is I am trying to reduce the amount of gear I have to haul around. If doing this reduces the monitor count that is another plus point. Or maybe you keep the FRFR unit for guitar only and have a separate wedge for vox monitors etc?

 

Personally, I prefer to have my guitar separated from other things, so yes, I usually like to have both. In other words, I simply treat my own monitor every bit as a guitar amp.

I do however make use of it's extra input (or of the several inputs once I bring a little monitor mixer, too) here and there, in case space is tight or when there's not enough monitoring paths and wegdes, etc.

 

Quote

Sounds like the biggest challenge is going to be levelling up all the patches. Are there any useful tips of sources for help on this?

 

Well, I'm always just using 1 patch per gig. That keeps leveling manageable.

And it's one of the reasons why I keep asking L6 for global blocks to be added to the Helix. Because leveling a lot of patches properly is just horrible (and even worse than on other modelers).

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13 hours ago, UKMark said:

To expand on the FRFR thing. When using a monitor  IE maybe the Yamaha DXR10 or 12) in front of you, like a traditional wedge, do you also feed in the usual signals from other sources (Vocals etc) so it doubles as your guitar sound source on stage and also the band mix monitoring you want to hear? Reason for asking is I am trying to reduce the amount of gear I have to haul around. If doing this reduces the monitor count that is another plus point. Or maybe you keep the FRFR unit for guitar only and have a separate wedge for vox monitors etc?

 

Sounds like the biggest challenge is going to be levelling up all the patches. Are there any useful tips of sources for help on this? I find it hard enough getting my Tube Screamer level increase to be not too overwhelming. In fact we did a gig on Saturday and I was using my new (and very lovely) King of Tone. I took a solo, kicked in the overdrive and promptly had a complaint from the audience that my guitar was too loud! Ah the challenges of playing live :)

 

The DXR series has two channels so you could potentially use one for your direct monitor output and setup the other channel for a feed from the desk.  But then I'm not sure you're accomplishing anything more than you would if you just fed a custom monitor mix from the desk to the DXR based on a single XLR feed from the Helix.  Most powered stage monitors have a "Link Out" also, so you could potentially take the feed from one of the other monitors and feed it into your DXR.  As I mentioned before, in our band we use our on stage amps/speakers to work as our stage monitors and reserve the main front monitors for only the vocals and harmonica and it works very well as long as everyone can manage the stage volume.  That changes of course on a larger stage and bigger venue.  Then we leave the mix up to the sound crew and their monitors.

I have a whole process set up for normalizing the signal level of my Patches that I use as part of my prep for gigs.  I simply plug my XLR out into a mixer and monitor the signal level as  I play through the preset to ensure they all stay in the same range.  Usually I make all my volume adjustments in the preset on the channel volume of the amp block as that doesn't affect the tone.  When it comes to lead volumes, it may come up very slightly on the meters, but generally the difference in tone is more than enough to set it apart in the mix given that my normal rhythm part is dropping out when I play lead.  But you do need to monitor the signal level for the whole patch...all stomps and all snapshots.  Generally it's best to rely on both the signal meters and your ears because distorted tones will always be perceived as louder whether they are or not.  When Line 6 incorporates their metering system I may change my process depending on how theirs works.  For now, mine is rock solid and stable.  Here's a pic of how mine is setup at home.

 

frankenstein sound lab (small).jpg

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There is already some great advice here, I'm just going to answer a few of your question based on my experience.

 

On 2/5/2020 at 12:47 AM, UKMark said:

what do you use for stage sound for your guitar? FRFR? Just in the usual monitors? In front or behind?

 

This depends on the gig. If I have my own monitor mix and a quality monitor (or IEM setup), that is all I will use. If I don't have my own mix or if the monitor rig is not up to par, I will supplement it with an FRFR behind me. There are also times when I need that FRFR to fill a small room because a PA is vocal only.

 

Gigs come in all sorts of shapes and sizes, I'm prepared for any and all :)

 

On 2/5/2020 at 12:47 AM, UKMark said:

do you have any issues with other band members wanting to hear you?

 

Usually they just have to ask for my guitar in their monitor... it's 100% up to them. For gigs where the monitor rig is not individual, I will angle my FRFR to cover the stage as required, without any one person taking a direct hit. It's no different than when I have to use an amp.

 

On 2/5/2020 at 12:47 AM, UKMark said:

Our drummer is real old school and always insists my amp is within earshot of him. He hates having the guitar feed in his monitor.

 

That sounds like his problem, not yours! 

 

On 2/5/2020 at 12:47 AM, UKMark said:

how do you monitor your level in the PA without a sound guy?

 

Did you always put a mic on your guitar amp in the past? How did you handle that? 

Things might change a little depending on whether or not you point an FRFR from behind you, or toward you... but it doesn't take long to adjust for that. 

 

 

 

 

 

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