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reesewilliams777

Need advice to cut through piano and keyboard live

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Hi folks, 

I am new to Helix LT and may of effects in general (back in day I was more of Les Paul, Boss distortion, some reverb, Fender AMP guy). I play in church band and we have both grand piano and electric keyboard player and usual pads and many of our singers are in midrange frequencies. So my ask is what are some best practices for ensuring my guitar comes through mix ? Our board folks are very elementary (not sound technicians). Has anyone had success using global EQ to scope in to bandwidths in additional to EQ like parametric ? Also does compression help and perhaps OD ? What I feel like is happening is that my sound is getting washed out a bit as church fills up with folks and other people and instruments are all competing in the midrange. Need some ideas, thanks. 

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I'd just set up a medium broad mid band in the global EQ (Q around 1) with a moderate boost (something like 3dB) and experiment with the center frequency.

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Most songs in church bands tend to be keyboard/pad heavy.  Much of the guitar work tends to be in the intros and bridges.  It's really less about EQ and more about everybody working to make space for all the different instruments.  Overplaying is the worst thing you can do and is the most common error in church bands because it does nothing but interfere with the vocals.  Make sure your palm muting technique is good as that's generally what's used a lot by guitar players in that style of music and really helps to stick out fill nicely when surrounded by keyboards.  Just listen closely to the YouTube videos to catch on to the tones and the techniques being used.

That being said, if you're doing mostly current P&W songs, you're going to need a relatively clean sound with a slight touch of crunch to it and a fair amount of compression to give it enough body to exist well with the keyboards for most songs  There's absolutely nothing you can do in Global EQ that you can't do with a parametric EQ within your patch so use Global EQ for what it's meant for which is to make corrections for the room.  I've been playing live with my Helix every weekend for over 4 years now and have yet to find a need to use Global EQ.  If you need OD (which tends to be rare in that style of music) stick with things like the Minotaur or Teemah to give you the boost and sustain without too much dirt.

The Vox amps along with the Archetype Clean, HiWatt, and Soldano clean tend to be very useful amps for most modern P&W music and for more ballad type songs the clarity of the Jazz Rivet.  As far as cabinets, the 2x12 blue bell 2 x 12 silver bell are probably the most prominent speakers in that style of music as well as the 4x12 HiWatt Fane.  If you're using Helix stock cabs use a dual cab block so you can use a combination of mics to get a nice round sound.  I prefer a combination of MD421 dynamic and R121 ribbon.

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My advice from playing in various church bands over 20 years is that a lot of time mix problems really aren’t mix problems as much as they’re arrangement problems. If you have keyboards or piano, an acoustic guitar, and an electric guitar or two, that’s a lot of midrange instruments, and beyond the fact that they’re all living in the same sonic space, you also have multiple vocals in that same range, too. So you really need to pay attention to what you’re playing along with what everyone is playing. Sometimes someone will have to stop the band during rehearsal and say, “OK guys, the electric is carrying the song during this part, so the rest of us need to hang back...”. That will help a lot. I wouldn’t be afraid to simplify things a lot more than they are on the recording.

 

Beyond that, I’d say that even though P&W music is synonymous with big delays and reverbs, in a live setting a little can go a long way. One rule of thumb I’ve learned from mixing is to set those sorts of effects so you think they sound good, and then dial the mix back some. That can help so you don’t get that build up of mid-range wash.

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5 hours ago, DunedinDragon said:

There's absolutely nothing you can do in Global EQ that you can't do with a parametric EQ within your patch so use Global EQ for what it's meant for which is to make corrections for the room.

 

But the Global EQ is adjusting all patches at once. So things can done at a soundcheck. Impossible with individual EQs in case you're using more than just 2-3 patches.

You can still transfer the Global EQ settings to a patch EQ later on.

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Phil_m is right on. Sometimes, if you don't have space to play, you shouldn't be playing. In my experience, if you are playing with a great pianist, just give up and hang back because most church pianists do not know how to play with a full modern worship band. Unless your worship leader understands arrangement and space and is willing to address it nothing will change. And if the pianist is the worship leader, well, good luck.

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14 hours ago, phil_m said:

My advice from playing in various church bands over 20 years is that a lot of time mix problems really aren’t mix problems as much as they’re arrangement problems. If you have keyboards or piano, an acoustic guitar, and an electric guitar or two, that’s a lot of midrange instruments, and beyond the fact that they’re all living in the same sonic space, you also have multiple vocals in that same range, too. So you really need to pay attention to what you’re playing along with what everyone is playing. Sometimes someone will have to stop the band during rehearsal and say, “OK guys, the electric is carrying the song during this part, so the rest of us need to hang back...”. That will help a lot. I wouldn’t be afraid to simplify things a lot more than they are on the recording.

 

Beyond that, I’d say that even though P&W music is synonymous with big delays and reverbs, in a live setting a little can go a long way. One rule of thumb I’ve learned from mixing is to set those sorts of effects so you think they sound good, and then dial the mix back some. That can help so you don’t get that build up of mid-range wash.

Thank you, yeah this is kind of where my head is now, I love the big guitar sound of some P&W bands but I am going to dial it back on the reverb and delays and just go for simplier approach

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10 hours ago, jonandtice said:

Phil_m is right on. Sometimes, if you don't have space to play, you shouldn't be playing. In my experience, if you are playing with a great pianist, just give up and hang back because most church pianists do not know how to play with a full modern worship band. Unless your worship leader understands arrangement and space and is willing to address it nothing will change. And if the pianist is the worship leader, well, good luck.

So this is EXACTLY the issue the two keyboard players both overplay WAY too much and it's like they don't listen to the video of the artist at all 

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17 hours ago, DunedinDragon said:

Most songs in church bands tend to be keyboard/pad heavy.  Much of the guitar work tends to be in the intros and bridges.  It's really less about EQ and more about everybody working to make space for all the different instruments.  Overplaying is the worst thing you can do and is the most common error in church bands because it does nothing but interfere with the vocals.  Make sure your palm muting technique is good as that's generally what's used a lot by guitar players in that style of music and really helps to stick out fill nicely when surrounded by keyboards.  Just listen closely to the YouTube videos to catch on to the tones and the techniques being used.

That being said, if you're doing mostly current P&W songs, you're going to need a relatively clean sound with a slight touch of crunch to it and a fair amount of compression to give it enough body to exist well with the keyboards for most songs  There's absolutely nothing you can do in Global EQ that you can't do with a parametric EQ within your patch so use Global EQ for what it's meant for which is to make corrections for the room.  I've been playing live with my Helix every weekend for over 4 years now and have yet to find a need to use Global EQ.  If you need OD (which tends to be rare in that style of music) stick with things like the Minotaur or Teemah to give you the boost and sustain without too much dirt.

The Vox amps along with the Archetype Clean, HiWatt, and Soldano clean tend to be very useful amps for most modern P&W music and for more ballad type songs the clarity of the Jazz Rivet.  As far as cabinets, the 2x12 blue bell 2 x 12 silver bell are probably the most prominent speakers in that style of music as well as the 4x12 HiWatt Fane.  If you're using Helix stock cabs use a dual cab block so you can use a combination of mics to get a nice round sound.  I prefer a combination of MD421 dynamic and R121 ribbon.

thank you one question how do you feel about possibly using the marshall amp models to get more midrange push ? Great feedback on EQ, I have been looking at the parametric EQ more lately and that does seem promising. You along with others that have responded are on to where my current thinking, to simplify things a bit and go less on mix in terms of reverb and delay. I have been downloading patches from various sites and some of them are great in my room but don't translate well in the mix, so yeah, going to simplify around compression, EQ, slight reverb and delay, and as you suggest boost and minimal OD. 

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Other path I am taking, is to explore lead lines and accenting that are in the higher frequencies, just get out of the midrange when I can but it still needs to fit the song

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3 hours ago, reesewilliams777 said:

thank you one question how do you feel about possibly using the marshall amp models to get more midrange push ?


I think you have to let the song determine things like that rather than pre-determining them.  I have used some marshall amp models in praise songs, but more for songs that need a big push in dynamics in which case I'll have a cleaner boutique amp like the Archetype Clean through most of the song and then when the bigger buildup happens, normally in a chorus, I'll switch over to the Marshall.  But Marshalls aren't really known for their sparkling cleans which is what you need through most of the song.

Probably the best thing you can do for yourself is get rid of the single amp for all performances paradigm and open yourself up to "what does THIS song need" and make your decisions based on that.  This is where the Helix REALLY shines.

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4 hours ago, reesewilliams777 said:

Other path I am taking, is to explore lead lines and accenting that are in the higher frequencies, just get out of the midrange when I can but it still needs to fit the song

 

Honestly it's very hard to make recommendations without knowing what style of church music you're playing.  Most of the more modern praise style songs are very formulaic and often are lead by a lead guitar intro theme and the guitar lays back with palm muting during most of the verses just adding some slight fills between vocal phrases, and then becomes heavier with more push during the chorus.  Then the bridge will have it's own feel mostly made up of slower strummed techniques or arpeggios.  If everyone is doing their jobs correctly and staying out of each others way EQ is seldom if ever an issue.

If you're doing more classic gospel that's a whole different set of techniques and the same with more of the rock based christian music.

My advice to anyone whether they're playing in a church band or a conventional band is to let the original recording be your guide.  You really don't need to invent much and whatever you might invent is not likely to be better than what the original producer of the song came up with, so just follow his lead.

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Hm, ok, didn't know this was about arrangements and such as well (I thought it was a plain sound issue).

With two overplaying keyboarders, things are really getting tough.

Anyway, in that case, I highly recommend to just listen to the keyboards and try to find your space. Basically, this can happen tonally, frequency-wise and rhythmically. In each of these areas, you have several options at your disposal.

Keyboarders playing huge chords? Fine, go for way smaller chord structures. Triads work pretty well quite often, especially as you can play inversions all over the neck with ease. But maybe you'll even have to reduces yourself to double stops or single notes. Again, these can be played all over the neck, so in case the keyboards are covering the lower registers, go way up to, say, 10th position and above.

Are you allowed to rock out using, say, powerchords a little? Fine too, because this is where you can really set yourself apart from keyboarders. Using a marshall-esque type of amp will help you to cut through.

Are the keyboards covering the low and high end? Try to find your frequency spot in the midrange area.

What's going on rhythmically? This always requires special attention. Apart from fat riffs and directed/organized spots (such as accents and stops) there's zero need to double a rhythm played by a keyboarder. Rather go for something complementary. In case they're playing quarternote based stuff, go for 8th notes inbetween. In case they're playing busy stuff, play less (and vice versa). In case they're playing long sustained chords, go for something more accented. Etc.

Oh, and talk to the guys. "Are you going to play that line? Otherwise I could". Stuff like that.

And fwiw, as has been said already, even if pretty much each and every P&W player wants to sell you their "washed delay/verb" patches 'n tricks, especially with two keyborders you might be better off using less effects. Keep those for the moments when you're exposed. In a full mix, they'll either get lost or help to create an undefined mess.

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A lot of good advice listed already as far as addressing your tone and style.  But your tone or your playing style might be only half the problem.  I've experienced my share of overplaying keyboard players in a P&W setting and it can be quite frustrating.  Since your sound person is inexperienced, this falls back on the lead/director and the players to make the necessary adjustments, though no sound engineer should be expected to ride the faders for the entire set.  Everyone must learn to serve the song and not themselves.  

 

Some questions to ask yourself.... Do you guys practice together as a band?  Does everyone show up on Sunday morning rehearsal, often at the last minute or consistently late?   Do people actually put some time in during the week and practice by themselves or do they simply show up and _mail it in_?

 

These are all symptoms I've experienced at one point or another leading to the problem you've described.  If any of the above sounds like your situation, first, pray about it and then discuss it with your leader/director.

 

My apologies for addressing this issue philosophically rather than conventionally.  I just wanted to shed some light on this from a different angle...from one P&W guitarist to another.  

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>> other people and instruments are all competing in the midrange.

Yes, see above..

Sounds more like an issue for "musical director" than "soundman".

 

If you feel musicians are competing for space, talk to them. If it doesn't help, stop wasting time and find a new band.

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On 7/3/2020 at 4:52 AM, DunedinDragon said:

 

Honestly it's very hard to make recommendations without knowing what style of church music you're playing.  Most of the more modern praise style songs are very formulaic and often are lead by a lead guitar intro theme and the guitar lays back with palm muting during most of the verses just adding some slight fills between vocal phrases, and then becomes heavier with more push during the chorus.  Then the bridge will have it's own feel mostly made up of slower strummed techniques or arpeggios.  If everyone is doing their jobs correctly and staying out of each others way EQ is seldom if ever an issue.

If you're doing more classic gospel that's a whole different set of techniques and the same with more of the rock based christian music.

My advice to anyone whether they're playing in a church band or a conventional band is to let the original recording be your guide.  You really don't need to invent much and whatever you might invent is not likely to be better than what the original producer of the song came up with, so just follow his lead.

Thank you for all your feedback, I wanted to get this post out to folks who have more experience in P&W songs / bands. Essentially, you and others confirmed to me where the solution lies, in going back to the original songs, videos, or agreeing on a version we want to do and then each person doing their part, playing their instrument correctly, singers. etc... and it's probably less of a sound issue (though I think we need some help there also).

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5 hours ago, reesewilliams777 said:

Thank you for all your feedback, I wanted to get this post out to folks who have more experience in P&W songs / bands. Essentially, you and others confirmed to me where the solution lies, in going back to the original songs, videos, or agreeing on a version we want to do and then each person doing their part, playing their instrument correctly, singers. etc... and it's probably less of a sound issue (though I think we need some help there also).

 

Having served as the music director in a church band for almost 10 years now, here's a key list of items to keep in mind for effective performances.

1.  Effective praise music is all about dynamics.  That's the key to connecting with the audience and inspiring them and this starts with selecting the right music that has dynamic range.

2.  A praise band often has more in common with an orchestra or a show band than it does a traditional club band.  All instruments don't need to play all the time.  Instruments come in and out as needed and is key to building dynamics.

3.  If possible incorporate variety into your song selections.  Nothing gets more boring than 15 minutes of the same kind of music.  Pacing is critical.  Start with something with some punch to it then move on to more message based and less lively though provoking material.

4.  Copy as best as you can the source material.  This is copying not only the arrangements, intros and outros, but also the specific sound of each instrument in a source song.  This is where you need to use your ears and get your EQ correctly set properly for each instrument.  Don't expect the sound crew to do this for you.

 

5.  ALL instruments need to lay back to allow space for vocals.  This is more true on verses and bridges, and less true on choruses when you need more push and dynamics.  This is usually more technique than it is specific reduction or addition of volume.  In other words, palm muting or lighter strumming pressure or strumming position (neck strumming versus bridge strumming), or use of effect pedals for guitars and bass, and less key pressure on keyboards.

6.  Most songs have an identifiable musical theme passage (lead line or keyboard line) that's established at the very start of the song and is used throughout.  This is typically done by one instrument and all other instruments need to lay back when that theme is present.

I hope these ideas help.

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