The result is that the singer hears the sound jump out of the stage monitors on the big notes, while it collapses in the mains. When the microphone is pulled away on big notes, the singer avoids the compressor and the vocal collapses far less from her perspective.
Younger singers have difficultly understanding this, older ones do it instinctively.
The reverb plays an important role in the monitors. We’ve always used an M5000, because of its dense early reflections (ER), as well as a four-way crossover. If you can, turn your reverb effect down so that only ER is heard.
First, EQ the reverb to sound natural.
Next, pre-delay is the critical adjustment, and it needs to vary from 10 to 30 milliseconds, depending on the room. Like any special sauce, a little bit goes a long way – don’t overdo it.
The four-way crossover allows the reverb to be tailored to complement the natural venue acoustics. Shortening the lower frequencies that already dominate the stage helps. Leaving the mid-highs the longest helps brighten the room for the singer.
There are lots of microphone cable choices. When I inherited this gig, I found the sound company’s tech taping spare cables into the drum loom.
After a week of constant failures with a mostly phantom-power input list, I bought the show a new set of 30 generic “quad” microphone cables for about the cost of a half-case of gaffe tape. Before sound check was even over the band was asking what had changed, and if I had a new console that day.
The case for carrying the main “show” cable for the lead vocal is clear on many levels. What has been lost, now that a generation has grown up with wireless microphones, isn’t just coiling a “figure-eight,” but also the ancient art of paging a vocalist’s microphone cable: one of those gigs handed down father-to-son a lifetime ago.
Cable pagers of yesteryear know that performers who travel with microphone in hand tend to do so in a consistent direction, often clockwise. And this happens several times each song, so that by show’s end, there can be quite a twist in the microphone cable.
This can be counteracted by simply taking microphone and cable before the show starts, and spinning it the other way a dozen or so times. This “buys” enough turns that by the encore, the cable is still relatively un-kinked.
There are many designs and approaches to wedge-based monitoring. I’ll skip the theory and just tell you what we spent 10 years finding out on tours and one-offs.
Her stereo wedges need to be a dozen feet apart and facing each other so that the sound comes from each side, helping the reverb’s stereo effect. The back of the wedge must be propped up with a two-by-four, so the horn is on-axis at the down-stage center position.
She travels to the sides of the stage so a second wedge, similarly angled, is needed about 12 feet past the first. This second pair can be a mono mix, as she’ll only hear one at a time except when she’s dead center.
You can high-pass this mix more than the others, as lots of low-frequency energy is coming off the mains at side-stage. A fourth mix that helps is the so-called upstage “butt-fill.”
The only thing that goes in her mix is her vocal and reverb. In extremely reverberant halls a very small amount of piano for pitch and maybe kick-drum for time will be needed, but only if she asks for it.
By the way, she has as many signals as a New York Mets third-base coach. Never take your eyes off her on stage and you’ll start learning them right away.
Good luck. She’s the best and deserves the best.
Mark Frink is an independent engineer and free-lance tech writer.