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Insights Learned From Doing Monitor Sound For True Singers
Working for that breed of performing artist who sings quite well and requires a refined approach in order to do their best on stage
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Now take 160 Hz and sink it. It’s an evil frequency that simply must be killed, and in combination with the high-pass, you’re almost there.

Another frequency that gets in the way of female vocals is 315 Hz, as it’s heard clearly in the head and in the mains. Sink it halfway.

Now with 400 and 500 Hz you must be careful, as this is where the natural singing voice turns into falsetto. It’s made more difficult because it’s really 450 Hz, as well as by the fact that some of these frequencies actually come out of the sides of both the other monitors and the mains.

If you take too much of this out of the singer’s mix, it still hits her from all the other loudspeakers which also have her voice in them, but aren’t pointed at her. Oh, and sink the crossover frequency in each mix.

You must split the vocal microphone into two channels: one for her, a second for band wedges.

She can adjust the EQ on her voice in the band’s mixes as well, but it won’t be the same as what she wants on her voice in speakers pointed at her.

The other half of a stereo graph should offer enough flexibility when combined with channel EQ. Programmable EQ helps, as room modes change nightly per venue, while voice and microphone fixes remain somewhat steady.

That’s enough EQ for now. You already owe me lunch.

Wireless, Not
Much as guitarists hate wireless companding, my singer doesn’t like the response of wireless microphones.

Because she takes it off the stand, the microphone must be taped to the cable so it can’t accidentally come unplugged. It’s a condenser, so it makes a loud sound if this happens.

A roll of PVC electrical tape is handy for this daily, and seemingly insignificant, chore. Insignificant, that is, until it comes unplugged in front of a full house at a sensitive moment in the show. Or on live television.

She won’t use in-ear monitors (IEM). We’ve tried them several times, and we’ve tried the best. When we last had background singers, we talked them into IEM, using John Hardy pre-amps for the vocal microphones, giving each their own reverb and individual stereo mixes with everything panned and tweaked, in hopes that they could convince her that it was the way to go.

And indeed, they said they’d never heard themselves better, but she still insisted she’d rather be deaf than sing with things stuck in her ears. She enjoys the intimacy of bantering with her audience between songs, and that would be lost without the ability to quickly answer comments from any direction they originate.

Most musicians like goofing around and jamming. It’s why they became musicians in the first place. It’s OK for them to have a little fun, if you’ve allowed time for it.

But when the singer arrives on stage for sound check, everything else must already have been checked, so there’s no reason to pay attention to anything but her and her microphone.

Band and crew understand that it’s entirely her stage when she’s on it, and all else is attended to only when she’s done out of courtesy and respect.

Compression & Reverb
Singers hate compression, but FOH engineers use it to create the studio sound that exemplifies pop music. Good singers learn to put up with it. Great singers learn how to cheat the compressor with microphone technique.

Monitor engineers naturally eschew the use of compression on the vocals. When the singer hits a big note, the stage monitors faithfully reproduce it, while the voice in the mains gets knocked back by 3 to 10 dB by the FOH comp.

Source: Live Sound International

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