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LAB Best Threads: Singers Who Want Their Vocals In The Monitors Too Loud
A range of useful advice capped by an on-target "rant"
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Editor’s Note: Here’s a fun and interesting thread from the PSW Live Audio Board (LAB) forums. Enjoy.

Posted by Kurt
I was wondering how you guys deal with singers that want their monitors so loud that you can’t get any gain out of the microphone.

Reply by Mike
Just wanted to add a few LESSER items that affect the singer’s perceived volume, since everyone else discussed the primary ones.

Monitor competition by:

—Placement of guitar amps. Are they still on the floor directed at the players’ legs but directed more towards the vocalist’s ears out front?

—Placement of the singer to the drums. Is the drummer close behind the vocalist bashing away, especially lots of big crash cymbals used frequently? You’re screwed there! Trade out the monitor speakers and amps for the FOH units!

Reply by Timothy
Engineer skills aside, vocal monitor levels are dependent on:

—Size of venue or stage

—Quality of equipment

—Vocalist microphone technique

Probably the most important of these is mic technique. If it ain’t right, ain’t nothin’ gonna be right. Most pop/rock vocalists should practice “lips on the grill.” And don’t cup the ball, dammit! {grin}

A small stage, a FOH-controlled mix without strip EQ (aux “pre” send), a crappy or nonexistent monitor EQ, a piezo-equipped wedge, a Beta 58 and vocalist who holds the mic at chin level are a recipe for disaster.

Reply by Scott
I generally try not to pull anything out of the eq that is not overwhelming. I let some frequencies fly that may not be all that pretty, but there is some credence to giving them a “mid-range” bark that will cut them like a knife, same goes for the high end.

Of course it all starts with a good microphone with superior gain before feedback. Sometimes an SM58 won’t cut it for certain singers—switch to something with more appropriate frequency response for that particular singer.

The other thing is you need monitors that are properly powered. Do you have the available wattage to satisfy the drivers?

I’ve had trouble with a few certain singers that sang so soft nothing could make them happy, and inevitably you end up with egg on your face. This is why sound checks are so important to your reputation and the quality of sound onstage.

Reply by Neal
You can only go so far. If you pull more than 3 dB from a freq on the EQ, something is wrong. I try to pull what I need from the channel strip (providing you’re using a separate monitor desk from FOH), then I go to the mix EQ to pull out more. Most of the time, the mix EQ stays fairly flat, pulling just a little here and there around 600 Hz, 800 Hz, 4 kHz, 5 kHz, 6.3 kHz, and that’s it.

If it’s still not enough… then I tell the band SVTFL. (STAGE VOLUME TOO F’ING LOUD)

SOMETIMES they listen and turn down… The lower the stage volume the better they sound—or they just don’t go into the mix. In-ears are a good choice too, but they (the singers) really have to learn to use them correctly. I recently did a show where all of the vocal mics were Shure Beta 87C`s—their pattern kept feedback to null, and I also didn’t have to ride the gains as high as I do with SM58`s for the same amount of monitors.

Food for thought… If it’s similar to a local club here where its foldback monitors and the FOH channel strip EQ also changes in the monitor, then make it sound good for FOH—and let the band learn to keep the stage volume down. They have to live with it, and find a happy medium between the FOH and stage.


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