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Compression on Live Vocal

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Compression on Live Vocal

Postby One Horse Town » Sun Mar 24, 2013 8:37 pm

Not a new topic I'm sure so apologies to all ther 'pros'. However, I'm a solo piano/singer act with a few modules - no other instruments involved. Do I need a compressor? I've heard so many different opinions ranging from 'if you've got a good mic technique you don't need to' and 'essential to cut through the mix'. Well I can imagine that it is true in full bands but this just me. Opinions? Incidentally, I'm using a Beta 58 going into a Zed 14 and ending up in DSR112's. I'm also using an SPX990 for effects and I notice that this can apply compression pre or post....would that do? Thanks
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Re: Compression on Live Vocal

Postby TSH-Tim » Sun Mar 24, 2013 9:42 pm

One Horse Town wrote:Not a new topic I'm sure so apologies to all ther 'pros'. However, I'm a solo piano/singer act with a few modules - no other instruments involved. Do I need a compressor? I've heard so many different opinions ranging from 'if you've got a good mic technique you don't need to' and 'essential to cut through the mix'. Well I can imagine that it is true in full bands but this just me. Opinions? Incidentally, I'm using a Beta 58 going into a Zed 14 and ending up in DSR112's. I'm also using an SPX990 for effects and I notice that this can apply compression pre or post....would that do? Thanks

A comp can do a lot for your vocal but your going to need a good understanding of how they work otherwise it will down hill from here

Don't go buying those £20 Behringer units lol
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Re: Compression on Live Vocal

Postby One Horse Town » Mon Mar 25, 2013 11:53 am

Thanks - but I need to know whether the spx990 will suffice bearing in mind it's only me. Also, if it IS worth getting a separate compressor any recommendations - a friend said that the dbx units (approx £100) are fine.
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Re: Compression on Live Vocal

Postby Exalted Wombat » Mon Mar 25, 2013 1:28 pm

Remember a compressor effectively turns up the gain on the quiet bits. Thus encouraging feedback. Which isn't an issue if you do your own compressing by going close in to the mic when singing softly, pull away when loud. With the added bonus of increased bass due to proximity effect when you're making a smaller sound.

You throw away all these control possibilities when using a headset mic. Some of them can be added mechanically. But you'll rarely see a "real" singer using a headset from choice. Unless they're miming :-)
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Re: Compression on Live Vocal

Postby Bob Bickerton » Mon Mar 25, 2013 7:42 pm

Exalted Wombat wrote:Remember a compressor effectively turns up the gain on the quiet bits. Thus encouraging feedback. Which isn't an issue if you do your own compressing by going close in to the mic when singing softly, pull away when loud. With the added bonus of increased bass due to proximity effect when you're making a smaller sound.

You throw away all these control possibilities when using a headset mic. Some of them can be added mechanically. But you'll rarely see a "real" singer using a headset from choice. Unless they're miming :-)


Or alternatively sing louder or softer

I often use a headset mic and whilst I'm sure the audience would much prefer it if I was miming on occasion, it does force you to use your own voice dynamics more!

I wouldn't say compression in this situation is necessary or desirable.

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Re: Compression on Live Vocal

Postby shufflebeat » Mon Mar 25, 2013 8:53 pm

Bob Bickerton wrote:
I wouldn't say compression in this situation is necessary or desirable.

Yup. One of my compadres moves between flute and tin whistles on the same mic. The flute is mellow and even, whistles leap from barely audible to excruciating depending on the octave. With repeated application of a heavy stick I might manage to encourage suitable mic technique but a compressor which just about tickles the flute but hammers the higher octave of the whistles makes the whole thing behave nicely.

I love singing into a well designed and properly applied compressor. Dynamics are often made more (melo)dramatic when amplified as opposed to singing acoustically. Good compression levels the playing field but risks losing the dynamics completely if wrongly applied.

If you're not sure then I'd say try a decent condenser mic and see how that changes your approach.
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Re: Compression on Live Vocal

Postby BigBen36 » Tue Mar 26, 2013 12:52 am

My 2 cents

I have run in to the same problem of compression but in the Music Theater world. Frankly, I have found that compression in a live setting is only good for limiting purposes. It seems that the best use of a compressor is just to just protect speakers and audience from quick harsh sounds (like yelling or screaming in theater). Anything else is going to really mess with your feedback to gain margins.

If you can, go with the dbx unit, they are very nice. Even the automatic settings are decent. I believe many would say it is their go-to for live use at least.

Although I am not a particularly good singer, I can say that good mic technique does take time to learn but its worth it and is always better than throwing a compressor on it. If you are using a compressor from your effects panel on a mixer, just know that most are not very configurable for compression.

Vocal dynamics aren't a bad thing- that's what makes people unique and entertaining.
If you want, you can always play with some delays and reverb to give more depth to your vocals too! good luck sir
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Re: Compression on Live Vocal

Postby Bob Bickerton » Tue Mar 26, 2013 9:04 am

shufflebeat wrote:One of my compadres moves between flute and tin whistles on the same mic. The flute is mellow and even, whistles leap from barely audible to excruciating depending on the octave.

Best whistle I've found for balance between octaves is the Burke 'NARROW' bore D, (just about everything else is shite) but you still need to ride it in and out.

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Re: Compression on Live Vocal

Postby shufflebeat » Tue Mar 26, 2013 11:12 am

Cheers, Bob. I shall investigate further. I quite like some of the plastic ones myself but to be honest there's something about those crazy little metallic Devil pipes that warms my cockles as it strains my cochlea. A bit like an almost in tune Uillean piper. It's wrong but I like it.
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Re: Compression on Live Vocal

Postby Bob Bickerton » Tue Mar 26, 2013 6:37 pm

shufflebeat wrote:Cheers, Bob. I shall investigate further. I quite like some of the plastic ones myself but to be honest there's something about those crazy little metallic Devil pipes that warms my cockles as it strains my cochlea. A bit like an almost in tune Uillean piper. It's wrong but I like it.

Good taste will get you everywhere.........

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Re: Compression on Live Vocal

Postby _ Six _ » Tue Mar 26, 2013 7:06 pm

The TC Helicon vocal effects pedals are very good for musicians and will intelligently 'engineer' your voice as you go leaving you free to concentrate on performance.

They're not cheap but you can grab a bargain every now and then.

Demos on YouTube if you're interested!
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Re: Compression on Live Vocal

Postby damoore » Tue Mar 26, 2013 7:54 pm

My compressor has a gate, and that's the bit I actually use on the vocals when playing solo piano. It helps reduce the background noise when not singing since otherwise you get a certain amount of keynoise and, as it is hard to get away from your mic playing piano, various other undesirable noises. I also have a TC Electronics FX unit in circuit for a little reverb. The gate is in the insert for my mic while the reverb is on an FX send. I bring that back in through a second mixer channel so I can send it to my monitor as well as FOH.
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Re: Compression on Live Vocal

Postby One Horse Town » Thu Mar 28, 2013 5:13 pm

Thanks for all the replies - very useful. Elton John's sound tech swears by the original dbx 160 for Ej's vocal (beyond my budget though) so I'm looking at what many consider the next best thing... a 160a.
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Re: Compression on Live Vocal

Postby Sam Spoons » Fri Mar 29, 2013 5:01 pm

+1 to the TC Voicetone Create, Not stupidly expensive (£150ish), has some of the best reverbs I've heard and loads of other useful vocal gadgets.
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Re: Compression on Live Vocal

Postby mojo filters » Sat Apr 13, 2013 2:19 am

Whilst I can see how one of those Vocalist type pedals are good for adding FX that changes during the set, surely dynamics are best left to FOH?

Even if mixing from stage, dynamic effects such as comp, gates and possibly even reverb are best set at sound check, and with the exception of pulling down the reverb return between songs if talking to audience, should be left to keep GBF constant etc. I haven't heard it for myself yet, but I heard a few horror stories of vocalists using those pedals with terribly mismatched patches, leading to some awful unexpected feedback howling where a patch is engaged mid set.
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Re: Compression on Live Vocal

Postby Sam Spoons » Sat Apr 13, 2013 9:42 am

These pedals are like any other vocal fx, used badly they are much worse than no fx but used well can result in a subtle (usually) gloss on the vocal sound. My co singer has good ears and has arrived at a pleasing vocal sound using his VoiceTone Create. I just give him a clean mic input. OTOH, if I'm mixing and not playing I much prefer to take a clean mic feed and add fx on the desk (in fact, with my sound engineer hat on, it's a bit of an insult when a vocalist brings such a toy especially when most have far too much of everything). It's much easier to make the vocal sit in the mix that way.
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Re: Compression on Live Vocal

Postby Dave Rowles » Sat Apr 13, 2013 2:59 pm

One Horse Town wrote:Thanks for all the replies - very useful. Elton John's sound tech swears by the original dbx 160 for Ej's vocal (beyond my budget though) so I'm looking at what many consider the next best thing... a 160a.

The 160a units are good if you can afford it. I've used them on many occasions and they work well.
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Re: Compression on Live Vocal

Postby Exalted Wombat » Sun Apr 14, 2013 10:05 am

Dave Rowles wrote:
One Horse Town wrote:Thanks for all the replies - very useful. Elton John's sound tech swears by the original dbx 160 for Ej's vocal (beyond my budget though) so I'm looking at what many consider the next best thing... a 160a.

The 160a units are good if you can afford it. I've used them on many occasions and they work well.

Any suggestions for something very affordable that is 95% as good? It must be out there!
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Re: Compression on Live Vocal

Postby JonSSH » Sun Apr 14, 2013 1:43 pm

Sorry bit late joining this thread....
The compressor in the SPX990 isn't really up to much. I would avoid using in any situation. However a good compressor live is a great benefit. It will help you get more out of a small system by limiting peaks that may distort the input/speaker. It will also help reduce the dynamics smoothing out the sound whilst meaning you can set the level for greatest clarity.
I still use DBX160's as my first choice compressor for live work. They sound great, are simple to use and have easy to read metering. One glance and you can see what you are doing! They also sound good even when working quite hard. they are a bit pricy but you very much get what you pay for...
If you shop around though you can pick up something like a RNC (really nice compressor... yes that is it's name..) for £150..
There is no difference between what works in the studio and what works live... get the best you can... a 160 will set you back about £250 the older the better.....
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Re: Compression on Live Vocal

Postby One Horse Town » Sun Apr 14, 2013 7:20 pm

Thanks for that. I had my suspicions about the spx. Someone recommended a BBE maximiser instead a compressor - any thoughts? I'm using Yamaha DSR 112's which claim to have compressor tech. built in....they call it FIR X? Anyone else have a comment about this? I might be able to get away with just these then.
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Re: Compression on Live Vocal

Postby Bob Bickerton » Sun Apr 14, 2013 7:53 pm

One Horse Town wrote:Thanks for that. I had my suspicions about the spx. Someone recommended a BBE maximiser instead a compressor - any thoughts? I'm using Yamaha DSR 112's which claim to have compressor tech. built in....they call it FIR X? Anyone else have a comment about this? I might be able to get away with just these then.

BBE maximisers were used to 'enhance' crappy sounding systems and are rarely used these days. Not sure why you'd use one on a vocal channel. They tend to give an instant wow factor that quickly tires and becomes a yuk factor.

So here's a few questions: When you described your system above, you didn't mention anything about a graphic EQ between your desk and speakers. Do you have one? And what monitoring do you have?

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Re: Compression on Live Vocal

Postby shufflebeat » Mon Apr 15, 2013 9:40 am

Do be aware OHT, there is a tendency for us folks to get a little bit sidetracked by the perfectly noble practice of acquiring shiney things. It may be that what you need most is to forget about the details that no-one but another collector will appreciate and just make music with a good, basic system.

It's cheaper, too.

P.S. my default position is I always need a new piece of kit. I get it if I can't think of several good reasons not to. I'm getting better at that, though.
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Re: Compression on Live Vocal

Postby One Horse Town » Mon Apr 15, 2013 12:54 pm

Thanks Bob
I'm starting out as an Elton John tribute act - solo-just me and a stage piano + motif modules. I've got 3 DSR112's (1 as a monitor) and a DSR118 subwoofer. Overkill I know but the sub was from bankrupt stock and was approx half price. These will run from a Zed 14 desk. The desk and modules etc will be with me on stage as I obviously won't have a sound tech with me. Your comment about the eq interests me given that venues can differ widely and can change when full of bodies. However,unlike the real thing, I'm not playing arenas - this will be weddings and smaller scale stuff. The BBE thing was only an idea - thanks for your advice on this.....as 'shufflebeat' says, one can get a bit unnecessary about boxes etc!
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Re: Compression on Live Vocal

Postby One Horse Town » Mon Apr 15, 2013 12:55 pm

Fully agree with you!
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Re: Compression on Live Vocal

Postby One Horse Town » Mon Apr 15, 2013 6:28 pm

Compressor issues are very complex aren't they? To be honest, for my use, I might not bother with them.
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Re: Compression on Live Vocal

Postby Bob Bickerton » Mon Apr 15, 2013 7:53 pm

One Horse Town wrote: Your comment about the eq interests me given that venues can differ widely and can change when full of bodies. However,unlike the real thing, I'm not playing arenas - this will be weddings and smaller scale stuff.

All the more reason for EQing your system, I never leave the house without a graphic.

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Re: Compression on Live Vocal

Postby shufflebeat » Tue Apr 16, 2013 7:29 am

Bob Bickerton wrote:
One Horse Town wrote: Your comment about the eq interests me given that venues can differ widely and can change when full of bodies. However,unlike the real thing, I'm not playing arenas - this will be weddings and smaller scale stuff.

All the more reason for EQing your system, I never leave the house without a graphic.

Bob

+1

I do get some odd looks at the swimming baths but it's worth it just to know you're prepared.
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Re: Compression on Live Vocal

Postby One Horse Town » Tue Apr 16, 2013 1:04 pm

Bob, given the gear I've already described and the fact that it's just me playing small venues/events, do you still recommend an equaliser? If so, can you recommend one? Thanks
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Re: Compression on Live Vocal

Postby One Horse Town » Tue Apr 16, 2013 1:07 pm

Shufflebeat :I do get some odd looks at the swimming baths but it's worth it just to know you're prepared.

Bit graphic?
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Re: Compression on Live Vocal

Postby Sam Spoons » Tue Apr 16, 2013 3:20 pm

One Horse Town wrote:Shufflebeat :I do get some odd looks at the swimming baths but it's worth it just to know you're prepared.

Bit graphic?

It's when he goes to the pub afterwards and gets totally parametric.....
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