Study Hall

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The Old Soundman: Dealing With Indoor & Outdoor Venue Issues

Think it's a picnic running sound inside a club? Think it's nothin' but a party running sound outside? The OSM has news for you!

Old Soundman,

Yes, Stip!

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

Okay, we feel sorry for you, now move on!

The “stage” for the band is always in one of 2 places: in a nice boomy corner, or, better yet, right in front of that brick or paneled wall.

These are the times that try men’s souls!

I guess you might be a female, so no offense intended. I don’t know what “Stip” is short for. I am pretty sure that Jacquie (below) is…

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 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 mic’s. 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, Stip. That is, indeed what is happening, you are perceiving it correctly.

This problem gets worse when the guys are playing at a particularly 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 come thru the monitors and hit 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. 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! Wait a minute, you were saying something about cymbals …

The drummer can be asked to use lighter cymbals with a shorter decay time. But since he is 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.

I would be fired if I mentioned a brand name here, but it is kosher for me to tell you that you want a hypercardioid mic for your singer, and he needs to stay right on top of it.

The most radical thing you could do would be to ask the band to buy an infrared gate device to put on the mic, so that when his head moves away, it mutes the mic.

However, this has the undesired effect of really changing your mix, since that is the loudest mic on stage.

When that cymbal noise becomes the evil frosting on the cake of a monitor mix, isn’t that just the worst? You can try to identify as narrow a band as possible to reduce, on the graphics for the affected mixes.

I’m not gonna lie to ya, Stip, everything I have said boils down to band-aids. I am pretty much doctor dan the bandage man here. Stip, it is hellish there where you are. But the bigger gigs are hellish in different ways.

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“Tap-Tap-Tap, Is This Thing On?”

Okay, I’m just trying to cheer you up! on the big stages, it is really fun, sonically, when the drum riser is a mile behind the singer.

Would it make you feel better to hear how Jacquie gets treated? Sure it would!

Just had an outdoor gig. Singer was freaking out, saying “the sound sucks” when in actuality it didn’t suck at all. Tried to tell him (from my limited experience) that running sound outdoors is quite a bit different from running sound indoors.

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. Dig your site. You crack me up.


Thank you, Jacquie! My, what excellent taste you have in humor. I am a much funnier man than others, am I not?

What you are going through reflects the agony of having a limited number of clients. If I read between the lines correctly, you don’t want to just tell this guy to take a hike.

Most of the self-righteous hornblowers over on the live audio board 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.

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 their lack of confidence in their own abilities.)

In the past, I believe that the lads and lasses of the L.A.B. have recommended gently informing your yodeler that there is no “suck” knob on your console. And, that the way for him to win in life is to express himself as clearly as he can, to the limits of his ability.

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 then. But we live in a very litigious society, so it is best not to.

What you are digging for is him saying something like “there was too much low end” or “it was too trebly.” Precise technical terms like that. Is he criticizing the monitor sound or the house?

Hey, you know what? You sound like you have your head on straight. I think you’re gonna go far, with or without this dullard! You rule, Jacquie!

The Old Soundman

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