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No time for pre-show balance- any tips?

Discussion in 'Sound, Music, and Intercom' started by miriam, Mar 24, 2008.

  1. miriam

    miriam Active Member

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    Hi all,

    On Sat. night I am doing the sound at a competition. The show is at 8:30pm, the earliest I can get in is 7:15. The last time I did this, the organizers kept at me, can we begin, can we begin, can we begin. I told them I had not done a balance and they said to skip it.

    My ear is not so trained that I feel confident doing the balance quickly. Does anyone have any tips for me to try? I don't have any machines that help with this, like RTA or whatever.

    There are 4-5 channels: one for vocals, one for guitar, maybe one for keyboard or more vocals, two for playback. The room is square with windows along the top of one wall and double doors on the opposite wall. There are two pillars in the audience section.

    Thanks for any help.:mrgreen:
     
  2. mbenonis

    mbenonis Wireless Guy Administrator

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    How much of the equipment will be set up when you walk in the door?

    At the minimum, tell the event orgainizers that a line check is required - and there is no negotiating this point. It won't take you long, and you can get things tweaked into place during the first song. During the line check, ballpark your gains before starting, and then go to each channel and make sure it works and that the level is "about right." By that, I mean everything sounds about the same with all the faders at unity. From here, get them to play a song if there is time and go through and EQ, etc. If there isn't time, just use the first song for that. The key is not to spend too much time on any given channel when line checking - no more than 10 sec per channel, at the absolute most.
     
  3. museav

    museav CBMod CB Mods Departed Member

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    Mike gave some great ideas. You mentioned that this relates to a "competition" and I wonder how that might play into it. If it is a competition between multiple performers then the goal may be to minimize any potential advantages or disadvantages by essentially having all performers, including the first one, perform with no sound check. Not great for you, but at least there could be some reason for it.
     
  4. jkowtko

    jkowtko Active Member

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    It may be obvious but wasn't mentioned above -- use your solo bus with headphones ... you can get a lot of quick tuning and sanity-checking done that way.
     
  5. mixmaster

    mixmaster Active Member

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    Don't put anything in the monitors but the vocal unless someone asks for it.

    Are you using house gear or bringing in gear from elsewhere? If you bring in gear from somewhere else, label the cords and jacks ahead of time to make setup quicker. I prefer colored tape for this as it easier to identify at a quick glance than a written label.

    Take a CD that you a familiar with. It's easier to balance the house if you already know the material. Don't worry about getting to picky with it right away though. At first you're just looking for wide adjustments to take care of extra harshness or boominess. Do a quick listen, then get on with the line check.

    Use a quick line check to set a rough level of -5 to -8 on all live channels. I prefer the colder settings on an unchecked line. That way if one of the performers screams into the mic, I've got the headroom.

    Don't waste a lot of time getting picky with the channel EQs. It's going to change from performer to performer anyway.

    Since you probably won't have time for a full sound check, the first song is going to be your friend. Start with the vocal, get your level established, and then bring other instruments up.

    Remember the KISS principle, it will guide you through this event.

    Always smile, even after the 15th time they have asked you to hurry up. People will remember your professionalism.
     
  6. miriam

    miriam Active Member

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    The speakers will be set up. The equipment belongs to the venue, and is stored in a closet off the room we are using. And I do not think it was used since the last time I set up for them-- I left the cables organized in a way that I can quickly get what I need.

    What's a line check? Is that checking that the mics, monitors, and speakers are working properly?

    The sound should be as good as possible for each performer, not equally bad for all of them:lol:

    I will bring a CD, it is all women competing, so a female singer. Last time I did notice some harshness. I wiil try to take care of that best as possible.

    If I can get in there a different time and do a good balance, can I use those settings other times in the same venue if I do not have lots of time for a balance?

    Thank you so much for all the feedback.
     
  7. howlingwolf487

    howlingwolf487 Active Member

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    A line check is where you PFL the inputs and make sure that whatever is connected to them is patched properly into the system. Usually, I pull any XLR's out of the DI's, etc. and use an SM57 or my Audix i5 to say, "check" or something similar to confirm the correct patch. If/When you do it enough, you can get it done really fast by just making a clicking sound into the mic and go from one patch to the next...
     
  8. miriam

    miriam Active Member

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    Okay, sorry to be obtuse... what's patch? Is that making sure all the conections are actually connected? I learned all this in Hebrew...

    So a line check- that is checking the mics and DIs (whatever is in that channel) PFL. Is that considered part of the balance? It is not something a person can really skip, we need to make sure it is all working properly even if not in tune for the room.

    The part I did not have time for (and probably won't again) is checking feedback and general "how does it sound to me". That's what I call the balance, is that the wrong word for it?
     
  9. howlingwolf487

    howlingwolf487 Active Member

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    A "patch", as far as live sound goes, is how the signal(s) is/are routed to the console(s) and other pieces of gar in your system.

    It sound like you're dong a battle of the bands type of show - in that case, the first song is the soundcheck...you use that time to get the appropriate levels of each instrument at the board and also in the house mix. If you are mixing wedges from the console, too, then dial them in as well if needed.

    Balance isn't necessairly the wrong word, it just has a few meanings which can make it confusing to others reading the post. If talking about a stereo channel on a mixer, balance refers to the knob which chooses the side (Left or Right) of the stereo signal that will be heard.

    Gotta go now, but I hope that helps!
     
  10. mixmaster

    mixmaster Active Member

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    Balance is usually meant to evaluate one signal compared to another. A left channel signal being the same volume as a right channel signal is one example of things being balanced. Drums not being louder than vocals is another. Making two horn mics sound good together could be a third use for the term "balance".
    When we use an EQ to adjust the sound coming out of the mains to make something "sound good to me", that's more often referred to as "tuning the system". If you are using pink/white noise, or using controlled feedback, that is often called "ringing out the system". For your application, I would suggest that "tuning the system" is the best term for what you are doing.

    Harshness in a woman's vocal is usually a problem in the 1khz to 3 khz area. Drop that bandwidth on a vocal channel's EQ by about 3db and see if that helps. If the harshness is evident on all channels, make your adjustment on the house EQ instead.

    If you can get in ahead of time to work with the system, great! Any adjustments that you make to the overall sound should be able to be duplicated at a later date as a reasonable starting spot. However, small adjustments will be necessary to accommodate for day to day changes like more (or fewer) people in the room. If the room gets rearranged and the stage moves, then you're back to step one.
    As far as recording your settings for next time: If you don't have digital equipment that lets you store settings, take a digital camera with you. You can snap a couple of quick pictures of the front of the EQ and the console, then look at them later to reset stuff on the day of show. Take a picture of the stage so you can see how things were set up there also. If you try something new or different, it's nice to have a picture or notes to help you remember it for next time.

    The sound should be great for all performers. However, realize that you have certain restrictions (time in this case), and give it your best shot. Building mixes on the fly, fighting for set-up time, these are just part of the job. It's why live sound is sometimes called "combat audio" and it's where the adrenalin rush comes from that keeps us going in this industry.
    You WILL get faster with time and practice. Relax, Do your best, have fun, get paid. You'll be fine.
    Matt
     
  11. miriam

    miriam Active Member

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    I really appreciate all this info, you guys. I arranged with the venue to set up this morning (it is Friday here, and it is their equipment), so tomorrow night I can spend the time "balancing" and "tuning" the system.

    Wish me luck!
     
  12. BNBSound

    BNBSound Active Member

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    I realize that your event is already over, but here's a quick tip for EQ-ing the female voice. The first scenario is for if you have a "British" style EQ, which is one with dual sweep mids. First, roll off the lows about -6 dB, that will eliminate and rumble from mic handling and stage noise transmitted up through the mic stand. Then take the low-mid and set the gain for about -3 dB and initially set the frequency around 600 or 800. Once each singer starts you can move it up or down a little to get rid of any shrill or nasal sound and reveal the warmth of the singers lower register. On the high-mid, set the frequency between 1 kHz and 1.5 kHz and leave the gain alone. If you get someone who's especially shrill you can start rolling the gain down a little on that one.

    If you only have a single sweep mid, as found on a lot of common Mackie, Behringer, Peavey and Yamaha small format consoles, follow the same instructions for the lows, and then just apply the low-mid technique with the single sweep mid that you have at your disposal.

    If the desk has a fixed mid you only have one option, twist and pray. Keep in mind though to always try to reduce gain of a problem frequency before you boost gain of a happy one. You get clarity and warmth by taking out the mud, not boosting the highs. The same techniques are easily adapted to male vocalists by using the low-mids from about 200 Hz to 500 Hz. Of course you may get some emo-crooner who is whining away in his upper register, in which case switch back to the female voice technique. Weather you treat him like a girl when you see him back stage is entirely up to you.
     
  13. Andy_Leviss

    Andy_Leviss Active Member Premium Member

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    At risk of being a bit pedantic, British EQ and dual-swept mids have nothing do with each other. "British" EQ refers to a particular type of EQ based not on its sweep/lack thereof, but it's tonality. It's a bit of a grey area as to what exactly it means, since it varies depending on which marketing team is throwing the term around, but generally it's got a wider bandwidth, particularly in the mids, and is usually said to color the signal more than other styles of EQ.

    For a more detailed answer, here's one from Sweetwater's glossary:
     

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