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Last Night's Gig, again


bitflipper

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Half the gigs we play are in venues with fixed sound systems and a complementary FoH engineer. The other half of the time we use our own PA which I clumsily mix from the stage. I much prefer the latter scenario. Give me an empty field and one extension cord and I'll make it work.

It should be a great convenience to let somebody else handle sound. Less gear to haul, fewer distractions so you can concentrate on playing. When it works, that's all true. Get a real pro behind the board who's actually listening, and you can elevate your performance to another level. Such was not the case last night.

Feedback all night long. Muddy sound, except for the ice-pick 3KHz shrieks. "I've been doing this for 21 years", he said. Several times. Crank up the gain on the guy's mic who only sings one song and leave it up there all night. Yeh, and destroy the guitar tone while you're at it. After all what does the guitar player know about tone? Has he been working on it for 21 years?

Well, to be fair our guitarist is only 28, so the sound guy probably has in fact been destroying tone for longer.

Next week, we're playing from the back porch of a barbeque joint in the middle of a corn field. I'm looking forward to it.

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3 hours ago, bitflipper said:

Half the gigs we play are in venues with fixed sound systems and a complementary FoH engineer. The other half of the time we use our own PA which I clumsily mix from the stage. I much prefer the latter scenario. Give me an empty field and one extension cord and I'll make it work.

It should be a great convenience to let somebody else handle sound. Less gear to haul, fewer distractions so you can concentrate on playing. When it works, that's all true. Get a real pro behind the board who's actually listening, and you can elevate your performance to another level. Such was not the case last night.

Feedback all night long. Muddy sound, except for the ice-pick 3KHz shrieks. "I've been doing this for 21 years", he said. Several times. Crank up the gain on the guy's mic who only sings one song and leave it up there all night. Yeh, and destroy the guitar tone while you're at it. After all what does the guitar player know about tone? Has he been working on it for 21 years?

Well, to be fair our guitarist is only 28, so the sound guy probably has in fact been destroying tone for longer.

Next week, we're playing from the back porch of a barbeque joint in the middle of a corn field. I'm looking forward to it.

To be fair, he only said he's been doing "this" for 21 years so , that could mean, he likes torturing audiences?¬†ūü§Ē

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FOH sound is one of those things probably no two people will do the same and I think you need to at least understand the basics of audio gain staging and sound in general frequencies etc. Know when to mute em and know when to push em.

With those big stadium jobs they use all kinds of cool things like the plugins in the sound board. They have a thing for every possible scenario, and some guy sitting there that looks like he's operating the starship enterprise. Even then I have heard some terrible mixes.

I am imagining someone's buddy who shows up and is offered free beer for operating the sound board in these smaller venues. He gets the 10 minute training course and off he goes. How difficult could this be right?  If he wasn't doing this he would be in front of  a TV in his under shorts. Might as well attempt to be productive.

 

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I was listening to a bluegrass band one time at Pigeon Forge in Tennessee(?). They set up and the sound guy twisted a few knobs and they went on. They played about 30 seconds and he walked outside to have a smoke and the feedback started. He stood there at the door and finished his smoke listening to the ear damaging screeching like nothing was wrong. A song and a half later her came in and tried to stop it but couldn't so I left.

On a side note I know the or one of many maybe sound guys for Hall & Oats. I wasn't impressed with him either. 

Sound guys and bass players. I tells ya. Sheesh. ūüėĀūüėú

Edited by Shane_B.
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I'd played this particular venue on several occasions over the years (but not with this band) and have often been in the audience, so I went in with eyes open, knowing it would be a challenge. That's why we showed up at 4:30 for a 7:00 start time, so we'd be able to do a sound check and then diplomatically suggest a few adjustments.

My plan was to place my little TASCAM recorder out on a table so I'd have a reference to discuss with the guy. But when I dug out the recorder I discovered that the batteries had crapped all over themselves and the unit wouldn't turn on. Not a good omen. At least our singer uses a wireless mic and can stand out front to listen. Unfortunately, she has only one criterion for judging sound quality, namely that she's plenty loud. Bass and drum balance? Ya, ya, can you hear the lead vocal? 

So we were all set up before 6:00 but no sound guy. He rolls in at 6:30 and starts hooking up DIs and mics. (He does get credit, however, to not blinking when I ask for 2 DIs and a stereo mix on keys.) Then he informs us that we can't do a sound check until the football game's over. The game ends at 7:00, we do our check with a full house. I can't hear my vocals in the monitors, but there's no point in complaining because we have to go straight into the first set. 

Despite all that, it was a pretty good gig. The band was firing on all cylinders, the crowd was loudly appreciative. The room itself is acoustically not bad by bar standards. The stage is big enough for a six-piece band with keys, which isn't always the case at other venues where they seemed to have assumed that all music would be banjo and harmonica duos. Plus the gig's 15 minutes from my home, which with the early hours meant I was in bed by midnight. So I don't mean to demean the venue. We've already been asked back and happily accepted. 

Plus I get some comfort from knowing that at least we didn't sound any worse than every other band that plays there.

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Back in my day "our" PA system and mixer was actually jointly owned by the guitarist and a guy he worked with who was the one who manned the mixer for live purposes and thus almost a sixth band member, although he had no musical input whatsoever, and he was paid an equal cut of whatever meagre sum we managed to get which usually amounted to whatever we could get from door receipts, minus keeping the guy who manned the door in beer all night. To offset the cost of buying it they would hire both the equipment and him out to other bands when we weren't using it. Sensible idea and it seemed to go well. People had many good things to say about the set up. Quite often though I quietly felt that our sound wasn't quite as good as it should have been all things considered, but figured that standing on a cramped "stage"  usually quite near the drummer probably wasn't the best position from which to judge, so I said nothing. Then one time, after there had been a few  gigs with multiple bands on, all of whom had played through "our" PA with "our" guy on the mixer, a regular attendee came up to me and asked how come we had the worst sound quality of all the bands when he was supposed to be our guy ? Later conversations with others went along the same lines, so it turned out to be an early lesson for me that being right about something could be a bad thing. I never did say anything because the people who said it were supposed to be his mates, so it seemed like going there would be opening a whole can of worms. Sometimes I felt that the others knew it too really, but didn't want to upset him seeing that as he didn't drink so didn't mind also being the driver.

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Reminds me of a few times I was able to provide some back-up gear due to a drunken spill mishap.¬† I also fondly recall making cardboard cutouts once the EQ sounded right (one of those rack gear types, not a proper board or anything like that).¬† These little cutouts worked remarkable well when unauthorized hands decided to reach in and "fix" something.¬†ūüėĀ

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4 hours ago, craigb said:

I also fondly recall making cardboard cutouts once the EQ sounded right

I used to have one that I made for all the knobs on an¬†analogue synth that I had. I used it to put colour coded marks for the correct¬†settings for each song it was used on so that I could set it up between songs without having to press a key to find out if it was set up right. When I later got¬†a digital synth where¬†I could program¬†the patch¬†change sequence¬†in advance and just use a footswitch to advance to the next one in the chain each time, it was much quicker and easier in the live setting, but part of me¬†kind of missed the pressure of¬†the frantic fiddling to be ready in time. Plus it made me look more like I knew what I was doing.ūüėÄ

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The sheer number of things that could go wrong in any live setup has always caused me concern from the beginning. No matter how sure I thought I was. something would happen that bothered me.

Most recently I was asked to show up to play keys. I get there thinking I will be the only keys player and there's another player there, so I think they must have scheduled us together accidentally. Nope. I am supposed to add an organ under the main keys. Of all the things I dread doing it's playing keys under another keys player because I tend to be 'busy' when I play alone and I don't consider myself an organist. To make matters worse the keyboard they have is a Roland. Roland has some of the worst organ patches on the planet. The leader realizes he sound he had in his head isn't the sound we are getting, so they end up turning my organ way down in the mix. I'm still on in ears, but I don't think anyone else hardly hears it, which was probably a good thing. The patch was THAT bad. It sounds like the intro on a 1970s game show.

That isn't all. There are piles of music on the seat in all different keys and we are playing stuff I have never heard before. I ask for music and am pointed to the pile. Oh there's the song they are playing! Wait! It's in a different key.

Closest I have ever come to walking right off the stage for good. 

Not 1 hour later I am to be standing in front of 300 people playing this and I have Alley Oop for a leader.

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So it looks like Saturday's gig will have to be cancelled. Our drummer has injured his knee and can't play. He's freaking out that he might never play drums again. Meanwhile, I'm cracking jokes.

I don't know the details, but you know how drummers are. I imagine a scenario that started with "hold my beer". 

Although knowing his wife (our singer), it could have also begun with her saying "there's something I read about in Cosmo I'd like to try".

In my defense, I'm the guy who in the ambulance about to get a fentanyl injection asked the paramedic if I'd start robbing 7-11s next week. Or when lying on a gurney getting my crotch shaved for surgery, told the (male) nurse with the razor that "in my fantasy, you're much better looking". True stories.

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On 9/20/2022 at 11:52 AM, Tim Smith said:

To make matters worse the keyboard they have is a Roland. Roland has some of the worst organ patches on the planet.

I dunno, some Yamahas could give Roland a run for their money. There's a midweek jam I sometimes attend. It can be fun if the right people show up.

But the synth they have onstage is some 90's vintage Costco special that doesn't have a single credible patch on it. It makes up for its sonic shortcomings by having a keybed action that I swear was adapted from an accordion.

But if everyone's drunk enough, I just play something lightning fast. Ooh, he's good, they'll say. If you go fast enough, it doesn't really matter what key you're in. It's a trick I learned from blues guitarists.

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7 hours ago, bitflipper said:

But if everyone's drunk enough, I just play something lightning fast. Ooh, he's good, they'll say. If you go fast enough, it doesn't really matter what key you're in. It's a trick I learned from blues  bass guitarists.

ūü§£

 

Who this guy ?

 

Kenny

Edited by kennywtelejazz
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