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Questions on mixing a function band (is there a good resource for newbies?)

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Questions on mixing a function band (is there a good resource for newbies?)

Postby Mark Butler » Wed Dec 11, 2019 3:32 pm

My function band is stepping up our level of gear, I do most of the tech but I'm new-ish to live sound and have a few basic questions. It might be that there is a good beginner's resource which covers all this, in which case please do point me in the right direction!

Our setup is as follows: 10-piece band (2x vox, 4x horns, gtr, drums, bass, keys) using Soundcraft Ui24R digital mixer, 1100W Alto TS215 active PA (sometimes also 1200W bass bins), a couple of monitors on stage.

  1. Master volume -- where is the best place to control this? There are four controls I believe: physical volume knobs on the mixer's main outputs, an output fader on the mixer digital interface, physical knobs on the PA itself, and on the bass bins. Should I set all of these about 50%? And then which is the best to adjust to boost volume? If I find myself pushing some individual track faders to 90%+, should I decrease everything else and bump the master volume instead?
  2. Gain vs. volume -- each channel has both controls on the mixer. I know the difference between gain and volume when using guitar amps etc., but in the context of live sound what is the best practice? Should I adjust the gain on each channel so that they're all peaking at similar levels (how high should this be?) Or should I adjust gain so that all the volume faders can be set about 50%? Is there a different rule of thumb for horns, vox, gtr, bass, keys, drums?
  3. Soundchecks are often quite tight for time. What is the general procedure / order to get the mix sorted? Should I set the master volume where I'd expect it'll be first, then do bass drum, snare, rest of kit, then rhythm, vox, horns?

If you can help me with these, or point me in the direction of some beginner's resource, that would be fantastic.
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Re: Questions on mixing a function band (is there a good resource for newbies?)

Postby Sam Spoons » Wed Dec 11, 2019 4:30 pm

Welcome to the forum.

1, Its unusual to have physical O/P level controls on an iPad controlled mixer but they may be the most convenient place to adjust the overall level to the room as they'll be easier to access than the input level on the speakers (which on my Alto TS110 I usually set at 12 o'clock as that equates to max 'line' level). Or it would be perfectly acceptable to set them to max and control level from the master fader (the only risk here would be introducing some hiss but most modern kit is pretty quiet).

2, Gain is to set the analogue preamp levels, too low and background hiss may be audible, too high and you'll get distortion on the loud bits*, that's usually the first job on the soundcheck (set it so the levels only go into the red occasionally on the very loudest bits, if you can't soundcheck at full chat err on the side of caution and keep a few dB in hand), the 'volume' fader is to balance the different instruments. Remember if you have to readjust the gain it will affect the monitor sends as well as the mains, the 'volume' fader will not.

3, I don't soundcheck in the same order every time but it is usually as you say, drums then bass, guitars, keys, horns and vox last, being systematic helps avoid something getting missed (so you end up with no bass in the FOH or something similar). Set the gains so nothing is distorting then get the band to play a tune where everybody is playing and set the balance using the faders. In your case you probably only have vox in the monitor**, set a rough level first then tweak to suit the vocalists when the full band are playing.

Theres bound to be something obvious I've missed but somebody will be along shortly to correct me :blush:

* With guitar the distortion is usually wanted, on PA not so much but the principle is basically the same.

** do the horns use these?

Image

https://www.clearsonic.com/collections/flector-12/trumpet-shield
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Re: Questions on mixing a function band (is there a good resource for newbies?)

Postby CS70 » Wed Dec 11, 2019 5:15 pm

Also remember: besides gravity, electromagnetism and strong and weak interactions, there's a fifth universal force still unexplored by physicists that forces a band to always play louder during the actual set with respect to soundcheck. That's especially so for drummers and guitarists named Eddie. Some say one day it will be unified with the rest in a Grand Explanation.

Make sure you keep a little headroom.
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Re: Questions on mixing a function band (is there a good resource for newbies?)

Postby blinddrew » Wed Dec 11, 2019 5:28 pm

Just a rough way of thinking about things, gain controls the sound coming into the desk, faders control what's coming out. Caveats and exceptions apply. :D
I'd recommend springing £20 on a copy of this: https://www.soundonsound.com/shop/books ... live-sound
It's on my reference shelf. (I have no affiliation to SOS or the author etc etc etc)
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Re: Questions on mixing a function band (is there a good resource for newbies?)

Postby Sam Spoons » Wed Dec 11, 2019 5:46 pm

CS70 wrote:Also remember: besides gravity, electromagnetism and strong and weak interactions, there's a fifth universal force still unexplored by physicists that forces a band to always play louder during the actual set with respect to soundcheck. That's especially so for drummers and guitarists named Eddie. Some say one day it will be unified with the rest in a Grand Explanation.

Make sure you keep a little headroom.

Told you somebody would find something........ He's right BTW :clap:

blinddrew wrote:Just a rough way of thinking about things, gain controls the sound coming into the desk, faders control what's coming out. Caveats and exceptions apply. :D
I'd recommend springing £20 on a copy of this: https://www.soundonsound.com/shop/books ... live-sound" target="phpbbpopup
It's on my reference shelf. (I have no affiliation to SOS or the author etc etc etc)

Tried to find a suitable article in the mag but failed, forgotten about the bulk, definitely just what you need. :thumbup:
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Re: Questions on mixing a function band (is there a good resource for newbies?)

Postby Music Wolf » Wed Dec 11, 2019 8:40 pm

Mark Butler wrote:Master volume -- where is the best place to control this? There are four controls I believe: physical volume knobs on the mixer's main outputs, an output fader on the mixer digital interface, physical knobs on the PA itself, and on the bass bins.
.

In my set up (Mackie DL806 desk which is iPad controlled) I usually have a one of these

Image

Between desk and cabs to act as a physical fader. As I'm mixing whilst playing and because I find that the iPad is not always as responsive to my touch as I'd wish (possibly due to my hard, guitarist's, fingertips) I find it useful to be able to adjust the master volume quickly whilst playing - especially if feedback occurs.
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Re: Questions on mixing a function band (is there a good resource for newbies?)

Postby Mark Butler » Tue Dec 24, 2019 11:33 pm

Many thanks for your responses all.

Sam, we do get a monitor for the horns for larger gigs -- normally just the keys player and the vocalist use them. At some point we will be moving to in-ears which should make life easier, but in the meantime we must continue with physical ones. The hardest thing is getting the vocal monitor loud enough to be heard, but without feeding back. Is this a usually placement issue or do I need to figure out which frequency is feeding back and work out how to cut that from the monitor?

We don't have horn mic shields. Presumably they alleviate the need for the horns to hear themselves in the monitor as some sound reflects back -- do they have any other benefit? We usually have to give the horns lead vocal in their monitor as well, so we would still need one one stage for that purpose...

CS70 I think this might be the strongest universal force of all... What is it about drummers eh? And trumpets too for that matter.

blinddrew thanks for the recommendation, have purchased!

Music Wolf this is a great shout; the iPad can indeed be a little slow, especially if I'm also using it for charts and have to switch app. Usually I'm next to one of the PA speakers but wouldn't be able to kill the other one quickly, so this would solve that issue. Would you recommend also using these on monitors, or is that overkill? Presumably if there was sudden feedback, you'd just kill the PA volume rather than killing each monitor and hoping that solved it?
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Re: Questions on mixing a function band (is there a good resource for newbies?)

Postby Music Wolf » Wed Dec 25, 2019 8:10 am

Mark Butler wrote:Music Wolf this is a great shout; the iPad can indeed be a little slow, especially if I'm also using it for charts and have to switch app. Usually I'm next to one of the PA speakers but wouldn't be able to kill the other one quickly, so this would solve that issue. Would you recommend also using these on monitors, or is that overkill? Presumably if there was sudden feedback, you'd just kill the PA volume rather than killing each monitor and hoping that solved it?

I use on main outputs only. I can quickly tweak the master vol with the rotary control as we go or I can hit the mute button at the end of the set / in case of emergency (i.e. feedback). Normally we're not playing 'on the edge' but, last week, we had a gig in a small pub. Not much by way of sound check and, when I needed to push my vocal up for the one song where I sing lead, I went too far and into feedback. The mute came in very useful.
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Re: Questions on mixing a function band (is there a good resource for newbies?)

Postby Sam Spoons » Wed Dec 25, 2019 12:12 pm

Mark Butler wrote:The hardest thing is getting the vocal monitor loud enough to be heard, but without feeding back. Is this a usually placement issue or do I need to figure out which frequency is feeding back and work out how to cut that from the monitor?

It is common to approach this from the wrong angle but, the laws of physics apply here too and the only approach guaranteed to work is this :- if the singer can't hear the foldback turn the whole band down. It ain't easy but it can be done.

Things to consider, horns, especially brass, are very loud (much louder than voices) so if the band is so loud that they need foldback to hear themselves the poor singer is stuffed. Get them set of the disks I linked to above. Do you have a guitarist? Is his amp <20 watts? If not it's too big, make him get a smaller amp (remember the Beatles used AC30's in Shea Stadium). Drummer? Ok that's a little trickier but if he has a full on rock kit and plays with telegraph poles for sticks then point out that those soul drummers from the '60s used what we would now describe as 'Jazz' kits and sticks 'cos that's all there was.
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Re: Questions on mixing a function band (is there a good resource for newbies?)

Postby ef37a » Thu Dec 26, 2019 12:06 am

CS70 wrote:Also remember: besides gravity, electromagnetism and strong and weak interactions, there's a fifth universal force still unexplored by physicists that forces a band to always play louder during the actual set with respect to soundcheck. That's especially so for drummers and guitarists named Eddie. Some say one day it will be unified with the rest in a Grand Explanation.

Make sure you keep a little headroom.

The effect is also increased in proportion to the amount of alcohol consumed.

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Re: Questions on mixing a function band (is there a good resource for newbies?)

Postby Mike Monte » Thu Dec 26, 2019 1:46 pm

Hello mark,
Technical stuff aside, you have to get your rig going (monitors rung out, levels set, etc.) in a hall and not on a gig.
I had my GB band (general business band). When I purchased new PA gear we'd rehearse "once" in my church's (rather large) hall to dial things in.
(I would give our priest a $ donation for heat.)

In doing so, I was able to set all my levels and get a good hand on things before gigging my new gear.

I have found that once a rig is set (and the settings are saved) there usually isn't much to do at different venues other than tweaking things a bit.

It's hard to incorporate new gear in a gig on-the-fly....
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Re: Questions on mixing a function band (is there a good resource for newbies?)

Postby Music Wolf » Thu Dec 26, 2019 3:37 pm

This is pretty much what we are planning to do in January / February when gigs are thin on the ground. Instead of rehearsing at our usual practice facility with small, untreated, rooms we are planning to hire a much bigger rehearsal space with a decent stage for the day. The plan is to get all the levels (FOH and monitors) set and for the singer to experiment with in-ears. We're also hoping to make a multi-track live recording, time allowing.

As a retirement present my colleagues got me £200 worth of Andertons vouchers and, in a couple of weeks time, I should also get a 30 year service award as part of my final salary. High on the wish list is a Behringer XR18 desk so that will be a part of the setup activity.
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Re: Questions on mixing a function band (is there a good resource for newbies?)

Postby Mike Monte » Fri Dec 27, 2019 5:21 pm

"we are planning to hire a much bigger rehearsal space [b]with a decent stage for the day"[/b]

Food for thought:

I know in my area there are very few venues with actual stages...thus rehearsing "on a stage" would not have worked for us as it would have been an unrealistic setting.

(Our church hall has a 24x16 stage but, during rehearsal, I elected to set my band up against a wall....much to the dismay of our vocalist "why not use the stage??" she kept saying....).

I wanted to set some basic levels in "as close to a gigging situation" as possible.

In my area a stage is a luxury, not the norm.
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Re: Questions on mixing a function band (is there a good resource for newbies?)

Postby Music Wolf » Fri Dec 27, 2019 9:03 pm

We play a real mixture ranging from small pubs to clubs with stages and outdoor venues. We just try to get a basic setting which we can store (oh, the beauty of digital desks) and then tweak at the venue if we get a sound check.
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Re: Questions on mixing a function band (is there a good resource for newbies?)

Postby pointfive » Fri Jan 03, 2020 5:19 pm

Music Wolf wrote:
In my set up (Mackie DL806 desk which is iPad controlled) I usually have a one of these


Mr Wolf, thanks for this tip, this sounds ideal for my (similar) purposes. Is there any tactile response from the knob, i.e. is it stepped?

:thumbup:

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Re: Questions on mixing a function band (is there a good resource for newbies?)

Postby Music Wolf » Fri Jan 03, 2020 8:18 pm

That one isn't stepped but it is a big, chunky, knob with a nice smooth feel - Ooh err missus ;)
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