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Stopping feedback from the monitors - how???

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Stopping feedback from the monitors - how???

Postby Ronnie Wibbley » Tue Nov 01, 2005 10:31 pm

Hi there - I've recently been pressed into service doing occasional live sound for a group of friends in a covers band in pub/club type gigs (something I've actively been avoiding for the last 20 years) and despite my reservations I've actually been quite enjoying it... the sound out front isn't too bad and the band is okay as well...


... except that I can't get the bl**dy monitors loud enough for them without the bastards feeding back. Now bear in mind that this isn't Motorhead I'm talking about; just a regular group of middle-aged musicians with most of their hearing still intact. They're using decent-ish mikes and Mackie wedges, but the minute I turn up the monitor signal there's low-frequency howl. I've put the wedges directly in front of the mics etc etc, but they're still not loud enough for the singers.

What am I doing wrong here? Is it something as simple as putting a graphic between the desk (Yamaha MG16/6) and the monitors and rolling off the low frequencies?

"Studio-based" Ron
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Re: Stopping feedback from the monitors - how???

Postby DougR » Tue Nov 01, 2005 10:43 pm

a really simple thing that you see really regularly that can cause problems...... have you got the monitors far enough away from the musicians, musicians arent like crickets, they dont have ears in their knees.... get the driver pointing at their ears!! its a bit like the guitarist who keeps turning up their amp because they cant hear it, he's standing infront of it with it pointing directly at the audiences ears and no where near his.... he will carry on turning himself up (dispite the look and big hand gestures coming from the enraged engineer!!!) and leaving the audience rolling around in pain (this is a sight mainly seen at teenage gigs!)
also, the wedges arent music stands/set list holders/ beer stands/ places to put your foot in the middle of a heated moment!!
a couple of simple things!!
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Re: Stopping feedback from the monitors - how???

Postby Ultimate Fish » Wed Nov 02, 2005 9:36 am

A few things to bear in mind.

As has been said, make sure the drivers are pointing at the head of the performer.

Consider the polar pattern of the mic. If it's hypercardioid the monitor doesn't want to be directly behind as there is pickup from there.

Avoid any eq boost in the monitors. A good rule of thumb with pa is to cut rather than boost.

Avoid compression in the monitors, a lot of performers don't like it and it's a recipe for feedback. Make sure the stage volume is sensible and the number of monitors is sensible. Also make sure you haven't got the guitarists monitor pointing at the lead singers mic or something like that.

Finally, how much noise is the singer making. A quiet gentle voice at a loud gig can be almost impossible to sort out when it comes to monitors. There just isn't enough gain before feedback to get them loud enough. The only answer is for them to sing louder or make everyone else quieter.

If you have a reasonable graphic eq (ie not Peavey) on the monitor sends try notching out troublesome frequencies, that should give you a bit more gain.
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Re: Stopping feedback from the monitors - how???

Postby Dave Gate » Wed Nov 02, 2005 11:12 am

Graphics.

Put a graphic into the chain for each monitor feed, either by insert or in/out depending on whether your desk has auxilliary inserts.

Move a mic close to each monitor until it starts feeding back, then reduce the offending frequency until the feedback stops.

Continue this exercise until you have dealt with all the offending frequencies.

Then try a few other exercises like cupping your hand over the mic (which simulates a singer getting his/her mouth too close).

This may sound like a ballache, and it can take time (and it's certainly easier with two people to do it), but with practise it'll become second nature.
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Re: Stopping feedback from the monitors - how???

Postby Ronnie Wibbley » Wed Nov 02, 2005 12:14 pm

Thanks for the suggestions, chaps. I'm another one of those people who thought live sound was a piece of cake compared to studio work until I actually tried it!
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Re: Stopping feedback from the monitors - how???

Postby Dave Gate » Wed Nov 02, 2005 12:32 pm

The thing about live sound is that you don't get the chance to go back and do it again if you make a mistake . . .
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Re: Stopping feedback from the monitors - how???

Postby 1030Tomorrow » Wed Nov 02, 2005 5:10 pm

What mackie monitors are you using?

We use a couple of Mackie SRM450's and they have a low cut button and another one which cuts some mids.

We normally have both of these pressed in and are able to have things nice and loud and often get asked to turn stuff down! (which is nice!)

But when we use the 450's as a drum fill we leave the low frequencys intact so the drummer can have loads of kick.

If its low frequencys you should also bear in mind the monitors placement in relation to the kick drum. If it is the kick that is causing the problem you could try puting a gate on the kicks insert.

Hope this helps..
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Re: Stopping feedback from the monitors - how???

Postby Ronnie Wibbley » Fri Nov 04, 2005 8:38 am

They're SRM350s, so it's pretty basic.

I think it's the mics that are the main offenders, as the instruments are pretty low in the monitors. I'll try the suggestions mentioned above and also bring a graphic along to see if that helps.
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Re: Stopping feedback from the monitors - how???

Postby JayH » Fri Nov 04, 2005 9:35 am

It could indeed be the mics. Try to use mics with as tight a polar pattern as possible. You'll find that cardioids or, better still, hypercardioids are the only options on a loud stage.

The null of a cardioid polar pattern is 180 degrees off-axis; that being the case, the smart thing to do is to place the stage monitors directly behind the microphone. Hypercardioids, on the other hand, have two angles of minimum sensitivity: 110 degress to the left and right of the main axis. This therefore calls for a diagonal arrangement of the monitors.

The acoustics of the room also plays part in all this. Feedback can also be caused by excessive resonance due to room acoustics. Normally low frequencies with their long wavelengths are the catalysts. This type of feedback sounds more like a deep booming sound and is indirectly related to the proximity effect. In such cases, increasing the distance between the mic and the voice (minimizing the proximity effect) will usually help to eliminate this type of feedback.

Good luck!

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Re: Stopping feedback from the monitors - how???

Postby Ronnie Wibbley » Thu Nov 17, 2005 10:18 pm

It's getting worse...

Last week they were playing at the end of a small, quite narrow, low ceiling room in a crowded pub - one side left open as a corridor and the 5 piece band packed in towards the corner. Tables and chairs literally touching the Mackies on the floor; no chance of moving them further back. Ensured all mics positioned sensibly in relation to the monitors, and the Mackies pointing as close as I could get in a head-type direction.

Soundcheck (of sorts): "More me, please" "Can't hear anything". Turn up the aux sends... instant howl and feedback. Connect up a couple of 31 band (?) Peavey graphics that someone has brought in... bass frequencies turned down. No better - every time a change is made the feedback light comes on at a different frequency.

In the end I bypassed the Peaveys as they seemed to be making things worse, if anything, and the band played barely able to hear anything. I'm standing there getting glared at feeling like a lemon. Of course the sound out front was reasonable, but the band didn't know that...

This weekend they're playing at another pub in a room likely to be just as small... Is there anything anyone can think of that hasn't been mentioned, especially for small rooms?

Incidentally the mics used are Sennheiser Evolution cardioids... optimistically at the soundcheck I tried out my Audio Technica AE5400 stage condensers, but they just sent the feedback off the scale.
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Re: Stopping feedback from the monitors - how???

Postby Garry S » Fri Nov 18, 2005 12:04 am

I'd suggest a feedback destroyer. We use a Behringer one for the monitors, it's been perfectly reliable, does the job, costs less than £100. You just plug it in between the monitor send and the amp/active speaker, leave it on its default setting, crank the gain till the faintest squeal starts, wait a bit while it finds the frequency and dips it, crank a bit more, repeat a few times and you have a handful more gain to use. Only takes 5 minutes or less.
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Re: Stopping feedback from the monitors - how???

Postby Wonks » Fri Nov 18, 2005 7:37 am

Any chance of trying out some diferent mics? You said "decent-ish" in your original description. What mics exactly are you using? Can you try out your mics singly? I recently did this and found one that started feeding back at a lot lower volume than the others even though it was a hyper-cardoid e855 mic angled away from the speaker by 30°.
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Re: Stopping feedback from the monitors - how???

Postby tims » Fri Nov 18, 2005 6:26 pm

Maybe cos it's obvious, but I don't think anyone's actually mentioned the monitor mix yet...

Remember that when a musician asks for "more of me" what they really mean is "I can't hear myself over the other sound on stage". Sure, one option is to turn them up, another is to try to reduce the rest of the sound (either coming from the monitors, or from stage 'amp' sound).

How are the monitor sends shared? Not everyone needs to hear the same stuff - remove anything that's not needed completely... Also, think about how the monitors mixes are shared. How to spread them out depends on how many wedges / mixes you have, but typically backing vocalists might share (with maybe a separate mix for lead vx), drums and bass are often on the same mix, etc.

Finally, you can sometimes enhances vocal 'clarity' without raising the volume by lifting the EQ around 3-6kHz. There's not much below 100Hz either, so can roll this off too...

Hope that helps
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Re: Stopping feedback from the monitors - how???

Postby tomas » Sun Nov 20, 2005 10:30 pm

JayH wrote:The null of a cardioid polar pattern is 180 degrees off-axis; that being the case, the smart thing to do is to place the stage monitors directly behind the microphone. Hypercardioids, on the other hand, have two angles of minimum sensitivity: 110 degress to the left and right of the main axis. This therefore calls for a diagonal arrangement of the monitors.

Furthermore to this reasoning, cardiods should be angled upwards, with the rear of the mic pointing directly at the monitor. Hypercardiods should be mounted roughly horizontally, so that the sound from the monitor(s) is at angles with the mic in two planes.
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Re: Stopping feedback from the monitors - how???

Postby Ronnie Wibbley » Mon Nov 21, 2005 8:14 pm

Wonkey Wabbit wrote:Any chance of trying out some diferent mics? You said "decent-ish" in your original description. What mics exactly are you using?

3 of them are Sennheiser e935s, the other one is another Sennheiser e - 300 series IIRC, but that one's nowhere near the monitors.

Friday night was a slightly less cramped area, and foldback volume was somewhat better but still ringing alarmingly if I turned it as high as the band wanted. 15 minutes with the black Peavey 31 band EQs (howl - find the red light - turn that band down - repeat ad infinitum) seemed to help a bit, but again it could have been a lot better.

Haven't tried tilting the mics upwards as last message suggests, but it seems to make perfect sense.

The other problem I'm coming up against as a new and very inexperienced grumpy live sound man is how to cut down on the cymbals coming through the vocal mics; obviously they're placed as far away as possible and not pointing directly at the kit as ar as I can manage, but with 5 musicians on a tiny stage you don't have much leeway. In the end I was resorting to muting the outputs of the BV mics as much as I could until they were used... this makes for a rather exhausting 2 hours though!
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Re: Stopping feedback from the monitors - how???

Postby Grim Audière » Mon Nov 21, 2005 8:35 pm

tims wrote:Remember that when a musician asks for "more of me" what they really mean is "I can't hear myself over the other sound on stage". Sure, one option is to turn them up, another is to try to reduce the rest of the sound (either coming from the monitors, or from stage 'amp' sound).
...
YES YES YES!!!!

When the band is playing GO UP ON STAGE and listen to what they're hearing.

THis happened to me - the band kept on saying they couldn't hear, I'd turn it up and it would feedback.

In deep frustration, I walked up on stage to listen to what they could hear and realised they were loud enough - but the keyboard was even louder.

So I dug out a separate monotor for the keyboard player to hear themselves and turned it right down in the rest. Then everyone was happy.

SO before you buy more mics, get more equipment, etc - go up and listen on stage and try to hear what they hear.

The SRM350s are excellent speakers and will output 120 dB SPL - that's loud enough for the type of situation you have. So I really think it's the mix. An easy mistake to make (I know it's easy 'cos I've made it enough times) is when someone asks to hear themselves more, you turn them up. Often a better way is to turn enveryone else down!!!
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Re: Stopping feedback from the monitors - how???

Postby Grim Audière » Mon Nov 21, 2005 8:43 pm

Ronnie Wibbley wrote:...

The other problem I'm coming up against as a new and very inexperienced grumpy live sound man is how to cut down on the cymbals coming through the vocal mics; obviously they're placed as far away as possible and not pointing directly at the kit as ar as I can manage, but with 5 musicians on a tiny stage you don't have much leeway. In the end I was resorting to muting the outputs of the BV mics as much as I could until they were used... this makes for a rather exhausting 2 hours though!
The e935s are excellent mics - no need to worry there. And as to muting mics until they're used - well welcome to the wonderful world of live sound. Pain isn't it!

Unfortunately, you only have a few tools to avoid cymbals in mics, and placement is the first and foremost. Remember to think of the angle as well as position. But at the end of the day, if the singers and quiet and cymbals are loud, you have a fundamental problem that's a pig to solve.

Are the singers trained? My wife once called me in as an emergency because they couldn't get the PA to pick up a small vocal group. So I rushed over and the first thing I did was turn every mic off so I could hear the source. I then walked right up to the vocal group and still couldn't hear them. Rather annoyed, I turned ot my wife and said "When they sing, the PA song, but if they don't sing, no PA on earth will pick them up" and stormed out.

Still, got a curry out of it

At the other end of the scale, I used to work with a trained singer who did a lot of professional backing vocals, and she was a joy to work with. She could belt it out (or not - such control). Never any feedback problems there!

Sorry - that turned out to be a rather useless post.
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Re: Stopping feedback from the monitors - how???

Postby Wonks » Mon Nov 21, 2005 9:03 pm

Ronnie Wibbley wrote: I think it's the mics that are the main offenders, as the instruments are pretty low in the monitors.
What instruments are in the monitors and how are they fed into the PA? Have you got any other mics used that could be feeding back rather than just the vocals? What is the band line up?
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Re: Stopping feedback from the monitors - how???

Postby seablade » Mon Nov 21, 2005 9:51 pm

>And as to muting mics until they're used - well welcome to the wonderful world of live sound. Pain isn't it!

Heh continuing on the line of useless posting...

Wait till you have to do it with 20-30 vocal mics... THAT sucks.

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Add the orchestra on top of it;)
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Re: Stopping feedback from the monitors - how???

Postby Ronnie Wibbley » Mon Nov 21, 2005 11:00 pm

Wonkey Wabbit wrote:What instruments are in the monitors and how are they fed into the PA? Have you got any other mics used that could be feeding back rather than just the vocals? What is the band line up?

Band line up is drums, bass, two guitars (either 2 electrics or an electric and an acoustic via soundhole pickup and DI). Main use of the PA is for vocals - 1 lead singer, 3 backing vocals. Usually the 2 guitar amps are mic'ed up but very little goes through the PA; in fact it's a job keeping one of them quiet enough in the average pub room. Bass doesn't go through PA and on drums just kick drum has a mic, but once again this is sometimes too much for a small room. 3 monitors are split one for lead singer and two the same for the main 2 backing vocalists, via the 2 aux sends.

I think given the very low level (if any) of the other instruments in the PA, and the fact they're all at the back of the stage, the culprits have to be the vocal mics (main one in particular), although the acoustic guitar can also howl with the best of them when the gain is turned up.

As you can see, the set up could hardly be simpler, which makes it even more annoying when they can't hear themselves.

One tip which does seem to be working is getting the guitarists to angle their amp cabs up behind them; the main offender certainly kept it lower this weekend (at least until the encore!).

As I've said before, this isn't Motorhead, just a pub band doing the usual Stones and Bryan Adams covers, struggling to get the level up to that of the drumkit.
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Re: Stopping feedback from the monitors - how???

Postby Ronnie Wibbley » Mon Nov 21, 2005 11:01 pm

Oh, and thanks once again for all of your suggestions.
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Re: Stopping feedback from the monitors - how???

Postby IvanSC » Tue Nov 22, 2005 10:36 am

A thought: With a setup like this in pubs and small clubs, you should really only need AT MOST a little kick in the p.a. Other than that, vocals only. If the band are too loud, no amount of wicking up the monitors will help.

The most common mistake newbies to "serious" gigging make is expecting to hear themselves perfectly in monitors. Now this just isn`t going to happen, given the other constraints you have to work with. I agree with the suggestion that you go have a listen onstage yourself, since you at least will have an objective sense of the relative levels. Guarantee it is the musician`s onstage level that is giving the problem. BUT if the worst comes to the worst, do what I finally did. Buy a little headphone amp and have the singer`s monitoring run though a pair of iPod style headphones. Works for me in my duo. We can set our own mix and feedback is never ever a problem.

Unless you play some really big clubs/pubs, I cannot see any further problems if you use this method. We get a mix from the mono out on the desk and tweak it to suit each user by adding an extra feed for the "I want more of" channels from either the unused Aux feed or one of the direct outs. Oh - Behringer Powerplay 4700 the one with bass & treble controls on each headphone output, another useful feature.
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Re: Stopping feedback from the monitors - how???

Postby Guy Johnson » Tue Nov 22, 2005 12:27 pm

Ah, the "pleasures" of loud players in small spaces! I've come to a few conclusions over the years . . .

You can use all your skill and experience, and still have bad results in gigs, especially small ones.

The main reason is the band being too loud - usually down to guitar and drums. The (much) lesser reason is unsuitable venues, and poor engineering

Bands that regulate their sound always sound better. In your case, Ronnie, angling the guitar cab to aim at his ears is a good move, with the added benefit of a bit of 'bite' from the amp reaching the rear of the rooms from HF reflections off the ceiling.

The cymbals - ride cymbal and closed hat excepted. This is entirely down to the playing - loads of drummers bash away at the cymbals, too often and too loud, mashing the HF of the band to hell. And, incidentally, not laying down a really nice groove, as the cymbals smear the timing of hits, where toms, kick and snare do not . . . Also the drummer needs to realise there of loads of vox mics amplifying the highs off the cymbals (which messes the monitor sound as well).

Too many people think they can play what they bloody well want, and the engineer will fix it. Well, that's complete and utter bollox, of course: We can make the best of a bad job, and if we are sensible, talk to the band, see if the band will trust us, and then work out playing-styles that suit the various venues and punters . If the band won't adjust, them leave the band - you don't want to get an undeserved reputation. You really don't.

I'm sure we have all noted great sounds in all sorts of venues, and how pro the band and mixer are. And in all sorts of styles, too. As punters want good mixes more and more, they will (thank God) shun the badly balanced bands, and want to see the better ones. With high quality PAs the norm now, this difference between sounds is more apparent.
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Re: Stopping feedback from the monitors - how???

Postby rikvee » Wed Nov 23, 2005 2:46 pm

Haha, funny thread this one!
You stop feedback by tuning (and positioning) speakers with your voice and a graphic equalizer.
It took me perhaps 6 years of 200+ shows a year to feel I could do this well ...
Training your own perception is the answer, good luck .....

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Re: Stopping feedback from the monitors - how???

Postby LawrenceH » Sat Dec 17, 2005 2:07 pm

Hey Ronnie,
Some thoughts that perhaps no-one has mentioned:
Suggestions here and the solutions people use are of two types - correction electronically, with EQs/gates/destroyers in the signal chain affecting the monitor, and acoustic correction affecting what gets into the mics in the first place. The second is the most important, you don't need to start worrying about 31-band graphics until you have sorted the acoustics as much as possible. Following is what works for me in a variety of situations similar to yours, I rarely even use my 31-band graphic except in really dire circumstances!

Low frequency feedback in a small space may come from direct coupling of the monitor output through the microphone stand so ensure they aren't too close. I have used foam padding under monitors, and felt/rubber under mic stands to reduce this and/or you can get get special suspension mic clips consisting of a rubber cradle.

It doesn't matter where the mic/monitor are positioned in direct relation to each other if monitor sound just bounces off the back wall/ceiling straight down the mic. Position bearing this is mind as much as possible where you get a choice, and consider buying smoe stage cloth and a stand to hang it from behind the band. This I promise will benefit the sound more than any EQ unit as it will reduce bouncing of sound into the monitors. It will also clean up the drums helping to solve your other problem! Further it will tighten up the stage sound in general making it easier for the players to hear themselves and each other clearly so the monitors/amps will not have to be as loud.

Thi stage cloth solution really is worth pursuing, it will cost no more than buying a feedback destroyer/EQ and will have a MUCH greater benefit on the overall sound! I know it's not as fun as getting a new toy but it does do what those toys promise but can't. You could also incorporate it into a lighting goalpost.

Try and get monitors pointing as directly at people's ears as possible, they don't then have to be so loud - someone else has said this above and they're right.

Make sure all the guitar amps are on stands, preferably tilt-back, so the players can use them as monitors. They hear themselves easier then and don't have to be so damn loud because the sound isn't going under their legs any more!

Good live sound generally is not something you can come and impose upon a band afterwards if the stage sound is bad, if the band are co-operative and recognise their role you will find it much easier. I hope this is useful, please do consider the drapes option as I really can't stress enough how much it has transformed live sound for me. Good luck!
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Re: Stopping feedback from the monitors - how???

Postby Ronnie Wibbley » Sun Dec 18, 2005 12:51 pm

Thanks very much for your comments!

These are two points I hadn't considered before (drapes and acoustic decoupling mic stands/monitors) - they sound eminently sensible as well. I'm especially keen on the back of stage drapes idea, although as the band typically plays in very small pub rooms I don't know how it would look in practice. I'm sure there are ways and means though.

Cheers


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Re: Stopping feedback from the monitors - how???

Postby Goonster » Fri Jan 06, 2006 12:59 pm

invest in a good quality feedback exterminator and you wont get any feedback problems.i had one and it worked a treat.
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Re: Stopping feedback from the monitors - how???

Postby legitmik » Sat Jan 07, 2006 4:05 am

if you're sending the monitor send from the foh try using the phase rev button on the channel. that can help. sometimes. or split the lead vocal into a spare channel and send the monitor feed from that. works well with lead vocals. you can eq it different to avoid feedback prone frequencies.
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Re: Stopping feedback from the monitors - how???

Postby Ronnie Wibbley » Tue Jan 17, 2006 11:19 am

This is getting more interesting. Last night was another very, very small pub set up (6 piece band crammed into the end of a room, low ceiling) where the only things going through the PA were four vocal mics and a DI'd acoustic guitar. Again, I was trying to keep the levels as low as possible which meant in practical terms telling the drummer to lay off a bit and trying to get the vocals to come to the same level.

No real feedback problems this time, but lots of "can't hear any of me", "more me please" comments from the singers. Boost aux sends, boost aux sends, right to the limits of feedback. Then singer stage left starts complaining about the loud acoustic guitar in his monitor from singer stage right. I turn it down - he keeps complaining. I turn it off in his monitor but he's holding his ears like he's in pain. By this stage I'm seriously worried that I've wired the monitors up to the wrong sends or something.

At the break I check and sure enough, there's no acoustic guitar in that monitor at all. The other singer does't believe me until I get on stage, strum the guitar and get him to put his ear down by the monitor (incidentally providing another free source of entertainment to the pub clientele). All we can think is that somehow the sound of the acoustic is bouncing around the walls and ceiling of the pub like Steve Davis's cue ball trying to get out of a tricky snooker and coming back right on the other side of the stage.

In the second set the monitors are as loud as I can get them without feedback. At the start of one of the songs with all 4 singers going, I turn down FOH for a second or two and can hear them all loud and clear - the monitor output is loud enough on its own to fill the room. I mention this to them afterwards and they still say they're having trouble hearing themselves.

Hearing tests all round, I think.
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Re: Stopping feedback from the monitors - how???

Postby legitmik » Tue Jan 17, 2006 12:13 pm

as was mentioned before, make sure the monitors aren't firing at their knees. Strangely enough, moving them further away or getting the singer to back off the mike a bit can help. Seems contrary to physics, but...
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