Sound man knows best?

aydee

Platinum Member
Too true Abe.
We had a real doozie couple of months back. 3 bands playing the same gig:

Ist one, acoustic guitar, Joni Mitchell like female vocalist, flute player, djembe/perc player, bass, keys.

2nd: us.. guitar, keys, drums, bass.. fusionesque

3rd: Prog metal band; Guitar, screamer, bass, drums.

All 3 bands sounded the same, up front, LOL!!!

...
 

Andy

Administrator
Staff member
All 3 bands sounded the same, up front, LOL!!!

...
And let me take a wild guess, they all sounded like a stadium rock band, with way over weighted sub, breaking glass highs & the mids somewhere in the soundguy's pocket. "Smiley" graphics rule!!! Did he put a sheep in your kick drum?
 

aydee

Platinum Member
And let me take a wild guess, they all sounded like a stadium rock band, with way over weighted sub, breaking glass highs & the mids somewhere in the soundguy's pocket. "Smiley" graphics rule!!! Did he put a sheep in your kick drum?
...

ROFL, Andy! You know the script too well...

No sheep around unfortunately.. he tried though, asked me to take off my reso!!
I rolled my eyes like an affronted Victorian hussy and he backed off and shoved 3 towels through the port hole instead.

I dont know man, is there some theory that the highs and lows are absorbed by warm bodies so they have to be compensated for during sound check. One hot shot once told me that.. dont know if its true.

...
 

brady

Platinum Member
Too true Abe. As a guy who's done a lot of live sound reinforcement in his time, I sometimes end up tutoring the engineer on how to replicate my sound within the overall band mix.

A classic example is how my kit balance is difficult to replicate FOH. My piccolo snare can cut your head off, I like it like that, but the sound guys struggle with either overhead balance or bleed when close micing the toms. For that reason, I carry my own hypercardoid mics for toms. They reject almost anything greater than 6 inches from the mic. This enables the engineer to balance the toms with the overheads that are tuned for cymbals. The snare never has it's own mic. An engineer who isn't used to my kit balance will usually come running with the gaffer tape to mute the snare.

In smaller gigs, I only use two overheads + kick. The overheads are positioned about 4ft in front of the kit so as not to gravitate towards the snare frequency spectrum. Gigs less than 300 audience, I use only a kick mic. Bars less than 100 audience, I'm fully acoustic.

I will be playing some more outdoor show this summer myself and am gleaning a lot (alot?) of info from this discussion. I wonder though, KIS, why don't you mic the snare? Do the overheads pick it up enough? I use a 4 piece kit with an additional side snare and was wondering if just a kick mic and overheads were enough outdoors.
 

Andy

Administrator
Staff member
I will be playing some more outdoor show this summer myself and am gleaning a lot (alot?) of info from this discussion. I wonder though, KIS, why don't you mic the snare? Do the overheads pick it up enough? I use a 4 piece kit with an additional side snare and was wondering if just a kick mic and overheads were enough outdoors.
I don't mic the snare because the overheads pick up just the sound I like. I don't need more snare wire/reso added to the mix. In small to medium sized gigs, my snare gets picked up by the vocal mics too, & I get a bit of free verb by default!

To answer your question specifically, I'd need to know a bit more about your outdoor shows: Roughly how big? Are you using your own PA? If so, a brief description of the PA. Musical style?

Irrespective of how big the gig is, using a pair of overheads and a kick mic is a great way to go if your kit sounds good. Using overheads to pick up the whole kit spectrum (excluding the kick) relies on a good sound & kit balance because EQ adjustment possibilities are limited. Just overheads is sometimes a bit difficult if the stage is tight due to bleed issues from rear line amplification.

Close mics on everything offers greater adjustment possibilities for the engineer. He can EQ each item separately. That can be both a good and a bad thing. Get some info back to me and I'll try to be more specific in my answers.
 

Andy

Administrator
Staff member
...

ROFL, Andy! You know the script too well...

No sheep around unfortunately.. he tried though, asked me to take off my reso!!
I rolled my eyes like an affronted Victorian hussy and he backed off and shoved 3 towels through the port hole instead.

I dont know man, is there some theory that the highs and lows are absorbed by warm bodies so they have to be compensated for during sound check. One hot shot once told me that.. dont know if its true.

...
You can also guess where I would have shoved his three towels! I have to be fair to sound guys here though. I know how to get my kit sounding just right for PA applications. I have different tunings for acoustic & mic'd. I make it real easy for the sound guys because I know exactly how to generate the sound I want. The only compensation I ask for is auditoruim related and I carry my own specific mics if the PA company's aren't up to the job. Believe me, that kind of preparation is rare.

Most sound guys have to deal with something that sounds like crap, yet the drummer expects it to sound like something off his favourite album. Essentially, crap in, crap out. The poor engineer having to deal with multiple acts & quick changeovers usually sets everything to default "build it up from the desk" setting. I know that's not how it should be, but it is the norm. Occasionally, you'll get a really switched on guy who's prepared to put in the effort, and that's refreshing.

As for audience effect, yes, it can be quite profound. There's no golden rule about how the sound is affected, as each auditorium is different. The audience will have a different magnitude of effect in an auditorium with a very high roof to that with a very low roof. The audience will typically "dry up" the sound, but that can manifest itself in many ways.
 

mattsmith

Platinum Member
-but I think that changing the tuning is a reasonable thing for an engineer to ask.
But see with respect, I think that's out of the responsibility of a sound man. You show up with whatever sound you please, then you tell the sound guy what YOU are looking for. Then the sound guy matches your specifications as close to your reasonable explanation as possible. The sound man is not a band producer. He works for the band. Now if you hand that responsibilty over to the sound man I suppose he will work to recreate your sound. But why would you hand over that kind of control?

I remember a sound man once telling me I have no idea what you guys are doing but I know how to make you sound good.

After that I tried to smarten up about all this.

Again this is no slight on the pro sound man, but as we all know some crazy stuff happens behind that board when you're playing, and if you're not going to tell the sound guy what you want then all he can do is use his instincts.

Now if you have a plan and he disputes you then that's a different thing entirely.
 

caddywumpus

Platinum Member
But see with respect, I think that's out of the responsibility of a sound man. You show up with whatever sound you please, then you tell the sound guy what YOU are looking for. Then the sound guy matches your specifications as close to your reasonable explanation as possible. The sound man is not a band producer. He works for the band. Now if you hand that responsibilty over to the sound man I suppose he will work to recreate your sound. But why would you hand over that kind of control?

I remember a sound man once telling me I have no idea what you guys are doing but I know how to make you sound good.

After that I tried to smarten up about all this.
Absolutely! The sound man is there to capture and amplify YOUR sound, not craft your sound into what their vision is.
 

cdrums21

Gold Member
In my dealing with sound men, I've been fortunate to have had good ones behind the board most of the time. They have their idea of what a kit should sound like, and you have your sound...hopefully they can enhance the good aspects of your sound to work in their overall mix. That's the best case scenario. "Crap in... crap out" is a term I've heard alot from sound men and most of the time, they deal with drummers that don't know how to tune their kits very well.

For me, usually all that is needed is some light gates on the toms, no muffling needed, sometimes they'll ask me to take the "ping" out of my snare...you know, that nice "pop" sound you strive for? I usually only have to use a small piece of duct tape or a very small chunk of moonpoop, about 1/3 the size of an actual square. Most of the time though, it's wide open and lightly gated with some 'verb. Fortunately I've never had anyone ask me to completely muffle my drums or use "O" rings and the like. I don't think I could play my drums and enjoy the gig at all when they sounded like boxes....and it shouldn't be that way. Just my opinion....
 

Andy

Administrator
Staff member
sometimes they'll ask me to take the "ping" out of my snare...you know, that nice "pop" sound you strive for? I usually only have to use a small piece of duct tape or a very small chunk of moonpoop, about 1/3 the size of an actual square. ...
Sounds like you've got your act well sorted out cdrums. Next time the "engineer" asks you to take the ping out of your snare, remind him/her that's what parametric EQ is designed to do. He/she should also listen to your sound in the band mix before deciding what to chop.
 

PQleyR

Platinum Member
But see with respect, I think that's out of the responsibility of a sound man. You show up with whatever sound you please, then you tell the sound guy what YOU are looking for. Then the sound guy matches your specifications as close to your reasonable explanation as possible. The sound man is not a band producer. He works for the band. Now if you hand that responsibilty over to the sound man I suppose he will work to recreate your sound. But why would you hand over that kind of control?

I remember a sound man once telling me I have no idea what you guys are doing but I know how to make you sound good.

After that I tried to smarten up about all this.

Again this is no slight on the pro sound man, but as we all know some crazy stuff happens behind that board when you're playing, and if you're not going to tell the sound guy what you want then all he can do is use his instincts.

Now if you have a plan and he disputes you then that's a different thing entirely.
My comment was drawn from a recent experience where slight adjustments needed to be made to a kit, not big changes. One other kit was hired in and so not tuned by anybody beforehand, so that was the reason. I agree with you, if someone's carefully tuned a kit they shouldn't expect an engineer to change it, but on the other hand if they don't know what they're doing then an engineer who does know has little choice.
 

Aeolian

Platinum Member
I have had far to many experiences with self proclaimed instant producers so I know where some people are coming from.

But, I really wonder about this "my sound" thing. Even if you are used to session work, most folks have no real idea what their drums sound like to a live audience. A guitar player can take a wireless rig and walk out front to hear how their sound is working with the overall sound of the band. But a drummer can't. Folks with lots of festival and backline experience, hearing many different folks on the same kit and then playing it themselves may have some idea how what they hear behind the kit translates to what comes out of the PA and what it sounds like within the context of the song. But for the most part, you really need a trusted ear out front that can communicate what is going on and what you probably need to do.

Somebody needs to be conversant in how drums can be made to sound, how the PA can affect that, and how the overall mix of the band should sound. And being at the back of the stage behind the kit is not a place where that can be easily accomplished.
 

brady

Platinum Member
I don't mic the snare because the overheads pick up just the sound I like. I don't need more snare wire/reso added to the mix. In small to medium sized gigs, my snare gets picked up by the vocal mics too, & I get a bit of free verb by default!

To answer your question specifically, I'd need to know a bit more about your outdoor shows: Roughly how big? Are you using your own PA? If so, a brief description of the PA. Musical style?

Irrespective of how big the gig is, using a pair of overheads and a kick mic is a great way to go if your kit sounds good. Using overheads to pick up the whole kit spectrum (excluding the kick) relies on a good sound & kit balance because EQ adjustment possibilities are limited. Just overheads is sometimes a bit difficult if the stage is tight due to bleed issues from rear line amplification.

Close mics on everything offers greater adjustment possibilities for the engineer. He can EQ each item separately. That can be both a good and a bad thing. Get some info back to me and I'll try to be more specific in my answers.
I just played my first outdoor gig this past weekend with the band that I've been playing with for a couple months. The PA belonged to one of the churches that promoted the show. I don't think the band has one of our own; as far as I know. I do know that the next 2-3 gigs we have we will be using another band's PA.

Until we get our own (or at least a nice one) your general micing advice helps. Last weekend I only had a kick mic and an overhead and was told it sounded pretty good. Thanks.
 

Jeremy Bender

Platinum Member
So does this mean we should not expect an amplified version of the acoustic instrument sometimes but rather a distorted picture of the sound?

If that's the case, then I would imagine a sound mixer for a rock band would be hired/fired on their talent and experience just as a musician would be.

I can't imagine spending all the thousands of hours of practicing, developing a style, choosing the right drums, heads, tuning combinations and cymbals, only to have the final amplified product not sound like the instruments we chose to play in the first place!

Seems to me if we are considering the amplified result firstly, before the acoustic picture is drawn, then we have truly put the cart before the horse.
 

Andy

Administrator
Staff member
I just played my first outdoor gig this past weekend with the band that I've been playing with for a couple months. The PA belonged to one of the churches that promoted the show. I don't think the band has one of our own; as far as I know. I do know that the next 2-3 gigs we have we will be using another band's PA.

Until we get our own (or at least a nice one) your general micing advice helps. Last weekend I only had a kick mic and an overhead and was told it sounded pretty good. Thanks.
Ok, if we're talking about simple band PA here (let's say up to 2K), with a good budget desk & simple outboard or built in effects, the simple 2 overheads, and maybe kick, is certainly the way to go. If the PA has subs then it's worth putting the kick through it, if not, then leave it out. The trick with such a setup is to elevate the drums just enough to maintain band balance and maybe add a touch of bottom end to the kick to make up for the bass loss outside (wer're still talking outside gigs, right?).
 

Andy

Administrator
Staff member
I can't imagine spending all the thousands of hours of practicing, developing a style, choosing the right drums, heads, tuning combinations and cymbals, only to have the final amplified product not sound like the instruments we chose to play in the first place!
I'm sorry to say Jeremy, that's the norm for many.
Unless you have your own band engineer who knows his stuff, or the hire PA guy is really switched on, and you can effectively communicate your wishes to the engineer, and the PA is of suitable quality, you're unlikely to get a precise replication of your sound. If you just turn up at a venue where the PA is provided, and expect the house engineer to just replicate your sound but make it louder, you're usually in for a shock.

Just like musos, there's both good & bad out there, and a good performance is all about communication.
 

mattsmith

Platinum Member
I agree with you, if someone's carefully tuned a kit they shouldn't expect an engineer to change it, but on the other hand if they don't know what they're doing then an engineer who does know has little choice.
That choice shouldn't even be on the sound man's radar. The sound of your drum is nobody's business but yours and the band you play with. If you don't know what you're doing, then don't get up there until you do.

Here's what I have never understood about this discussion.

1. Band arrives on stage with a particular sound.
2. Sound man amplifies THAT sound.

What's the issue other than some sound men want more than they're supposed to have? IMO it isn't the sound man's job to decide anything of an artistic nature, and even relatively small things like tunings falls under that. Unfortunately a large number of soundmen see themselves as the artistic consultants of the band, and a lot of bands unfortunately allow that. However, I truly thinks this irritates solid pro sound men who want to work with you in a more collaborative manner.

Once again/// a good pro sound man wants you to tell him what your sound is. If you have no clue about that, isn't that the equivalent of pretty much showing up to the gig without sticks?
 

Pollyanna

Platinum Member
Ideally, an engineer will have a fair idea what you're after from your kit's acoustic sound and the genre. My pet hates are:

1. In the 80s I struggled to get sound guys to give me enough toms or cymbals. They seemed to consider conventional toms old hat and cymbals "messy". They just wanted cannon-like snare and kick. Often my requests landed on deaf ears.

2. Related - genre-messing. You want to play grooving stuff, hoping for a clean, strong sound. Instead you get this massive stadium rock sound ... on kick and snare. It made things feel ponderous.

In hindsight, I wasn't assertive enough.
 

brady

Platinum Member
Ok, if we're talking about simple band PA here (let's say up to 2K), with a good budget desk & simple outboard or built in effects, the simple 2 overheads, and maybe kick, is certainly the way to go. If the PA has subs then it's worth putting the kick through it, if not, then leave it out. The trick with such a setup is to elevate the drums just enough to maintain band balance and maybe add a touch of bottom end to the kick to make up for the bass loss outside (wer're still talking outside gigs, right?).
As far as I know, the next couple gigs are outside. Although, I know of one that will indoors but we're using the venue's PA at that one.

Thanks.
 
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