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Old Soundman: Stage Volume & Singer Freaking

A guy who really needs to learn how to mix drums, and more whining from the talent...

Dear Old Soundman,

I occasionally run sound for a band that tends to play at local hole-in-the-wall venues.

O.K., we feel sorry for you, now move on!

The “stage” for the band is always in one of two places: a nice boomy corner, or better yet, right in front of a brick or paneled wall.

One of many problems I run into (including the lead guitarist who insists he hears better with his knees)…

I know that guy! And I think half of our readers at home do, too. He must have cloned himself a dozen times in each and every state of the union!

… is cymbal bleed-thru on the vocal microphones. If I try to spare the audience the shrill ring of these upper frequencies by pulling back the highs on the board, I seem to lose clarity in the vocal.

That is not an illusion. It is indeed what is happening, you are perceiving it correctly.

This problem gets worse when the guys are playing at a loud stage volume, and I need to crank a little more vocal, which of course starts to feed back when the ring of the cymbals hit the mics, then comes through the monitors and hits the mics again. You know the sad, sad story.


I do indeed know the sad story, and even sadder is the fact that the list of remedies is a very short one. I’m a straight shooter, Stip. Move back the drum riser.

But you can’t—you’re stuck in this little club with a stage the size of a saltine. Now that you mention it, some cheese and crackers would really hit the spot right about now!

The drummer can be asked to use lighter cymbals with a shorter decay time. But since he’s a club guy, getting paid very little beyond the endless chain of longnecks he consumes, he probably only has his local music store’s finest, thickest bang-a-langa models. Don’t tell me he wears those warm-up things on his wrists? You do have it rough, Stip.

You want a hypercardioid mic for your singer, and he needs to stay right on top of it. I’m not gonna lie, everything I’ve said boils down to band-aids. It’s hellish there where you are. Would it make you feel better to hear how Jacquie gets treated?

Dear OSM:
Just had an outdoor gig. The singer was freaking out, saying “the sound sucks” when in actuality it didn’t suck at all. I tried to tell him (from my limited experience) that running sound outdoors is quite a bit different from running sound indoors. And, we are using quality equipment.

Since I’m a rank amateur at this, is there anything specific I can tell him to shut him up? He’s a great singer, but like most musicians, he has high-end hearing loss.

Thanks mucho. You crack me up.

Thank you, Jacquie! My, what excellent taste you have in humor.

Most of the self-righteous hornblowers over on the Live Audio Board (LAB) would be real quick to say that you should proudly tell this character off and then march off into the sunset, with your pride intact and your wallet quite empty.

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AudioPros Appointed To Rep EAW In Northeastern U.S. & Metro New York

Well, I guess some of the more sensible ones who read a lot of self-help books would advise you to talk to the guy when he is calmer (since right after a gig is a notorious time for musicians to make ludicrous remarks, usually due to lack of confidence in their own abilities).

He may continue to say “Wull, I dunno, Jacquie, it just sucked, y’know?” Most of us would shake your hand if you just hauled off and slugged him. But we live in a very litigious society, so it’s best not to.

What you are digging for is him to say something like “there was too much low end” or “it was too trebly.” Precise technical terms like that.

Luv –
The Old Soundman

There’s simply no denying the love from The Old Soundman.

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