Stage Monitors for Musicals & One-Act

Discussion in 'Sound, Music, and Intercom' started by Mikhail, Aug 9, 2019.

  1. Mikhail

    Mikhail Member

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    I'm searching for advice on not only how to properly set up stage monitors but also suggestions for possible upgrades to our current system.

    Our current speaker set-up is essentially 4 Mackie PA speakers (see picture below). Our two mains are set on stands just in front of the stage and face the audience. The other two are set on the front of the stage and used as stage monitors for the performers. The result is loud. The group performs well, but we always get the note that it's too loud (from the judges; the director sometimes wants it louder). However, if we turn down the monitors more, the students complain about it being hard to hear.

    To make it a tad more complicating, our school performs 2 main shows a year: a Fall competitive One Act and a Spring production. The One Act production requires us to travel to different stages each year and set up our equipment within a 15 minute period. For both productions, we perform community shows in a rented space (different for each) in which we bring our equipment and set it up there.


    So first off,
    - What would be a better speaker set up? I've read that placing the monitors as side fills would be better. How would these speakers be placed (right next to the curtain/leg facing the back corner)? Should they be on stands? How far backstage/into the wings should they be placed as I want to make sure they do not interfere with stage managers and set changes?


    Then,
    - Given the requirements of having traveling productions (especially One Act), is there a better choice of speakers that you would recommend?

    Thanks!



    [​IMG]
     
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  2. TimMc

    TimMc Well-Known Member

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    Greetings, @Mikhail -

    Why do these need to be amplified at all? I may have missed the memo but I thought most non-musical plays were typically performed without obvious amplification. If the judges are complaining the show is too loud, Herr Direktor needs to re-think his/her/their approach to both theatre and audio and that the impact of Direktor's choice of SPL harms the show's ability to compete in these contests. That said, it's the Direktor's Show and it can Suck Out LoudĀ® if that is the artistic "vision."

    That leads me to: how are you micing up the performance? Individual wireless mics placed on the actor's face, head, body, built into hat/costume, etc? Area mics (hung, on stands, or on stage apron)? Is this actively "mixed" by a SoundPerson or is it "set and go"?

    If this is a spoken word show why does the cast need monitors at all? If they need to hear SFX cues, fine, but if the actors cannot hear each other on the stage there are other problems, from poor speech articulation by the actors to the backwash of muddy sound from behind the plastic PA boxes. Only one of those can be fixed by the audio dept. ;) Monitoring for most forms of theatre is almost never on the apron/downstage edge like in a rock and roll concert - typically in the wings (sometimes on stands, sometimes hung on/in lighting boom truss towers), flown over the stage from a line set, or built into set pieces (and in props and practicals).

    If this is a musical I'm also curious as to why the cast cannot hear itself. Plastic PA radiator? Band/orchestra/tracks too loud? Weak voices? Those are Direktorial issues and if Herr Direktor is not seeing/hearing a problem... that's the problem, although there is almost nothing you can do to fix that.

    How is your relationship with Herr Direktor and the headmaster/principal of the school? How is the drama dept viewed by the school hierarchy? Is there a potential for you to be demoted, fired or transferred if you become assertive? Sometimes a practical demonstration of "less is more" is not taken in the helpful and educational spirit in which we SoundPersons intend them.

    edit ps: There are plenty of speakers better/lighter weight that the old Mackies. Most new speakers are significantly better than the stuff made 7-10 years ago, let alone 15-20 years. Yamaha DSR112 get lots of love over at the Pro Sound Web live forums for a wide variety of uses (besides live music) but there are several brands with quality products; finding the one(s) that might be a good fit for your needs shouldn't be difficult. Don't purchase anyones bottom line models.
     
    Last edited: Aug 9, 2019
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  3. Mikhail

    Mikhail Member

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    These are indeed musicals that we are doing. The one-act shows have lines and songs cut to make them fit in the 55min time requirement.

    We are micing usually between 22-28 actors using headset mics. This is all being actively mixed by myself and a student with usually one more student helping to cue SFX and pre-recorded music.

    I think the music is hard to hear for the performers mainly with larger group numbers. I usually boost the monitors during group numbers in order for them to hear better and feel it more, but that creates a louder volume for the audience. I don't usually have any music going to the mains at all given the strength of the monitors.

    I think I could start flying monitors for the community performances (though I have no training or knowledge in that... yet). My biggest question would be for the One-Act performances when we go to other schools or theaters.

    My relationship is great with the school and director. The drama dept is very successful so it is definitely appreciated and respected in the school community. The main thing is I have only been doing this (school musicals) for about 4 years whereas the director has been doing it for 25+ years. We just want to make it as good as possible for the students as well as the audience.
     
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  4. DrewE

    DrewE Active Member

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    Before doing too much, I would make an attempt to personally get on-stage during a tech rehearsal and hear what the performers are hearing and not hearing. It might not be as much that the music is not loud enough as it is that other things, or unimportant parts of the music, are too loud. (You aren't sending the vocal mics to the monitors, are you, particularly for group numbers?)

    Before you fly any speakers, make certain that they are specified for that kind of rigging. It appears the Mackie SRMs are capable of being flown, but many PA speakers are not and sometimes the case construction of them is unable to deal with the different stresses of being flown. Having half a loudspeaker fall on your head makes for a very, very bad day. From an audio point of view, you'd have better luck flying them in a vertical orientation than in a horizontal orientation; the horns disperse more widely in the horizontal plane than the vertical plane (with the speaker upright). That makes them less than ideal for floor monitor duty, too, though that's not at all uncommon for these sorts of PA speakers that can sort of be used as monitors. (Some models do have horns that can be rotated for horizontal mounts.)
     
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  5. TimMc

    TimMc Well-Known Member

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    Up over the heads of the cast is important. On stands in the first or second wing, where ever you can make things with work entrances/exits and scenery movements. If you've been using the monitors on the deck the first row of the cast effectively blocks the sound. If the cast can't see the speaker (free of obstruction) then they can't hear it well, either. Start with this in mind and see if you can run a lower level of music.
     
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  6. FMEng

    FMEng Well-Known Member Fight Leukemia

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    Another thing to try is to reduce the amount of bass in the monitors. The singers need to hear the melody, and the bass just interferes with that. It also spills more to the audience.
     
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  7. TimMc

    TimMc Well-Known Member

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    "There was something fishy about the bass player, probably a Pisces, playing for scale."

    - The Fire Sign Theater, with my ichthyology modification
     
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  8. Matt Marcus

    Matt Marcus Member

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    Are you sourcing the monitors pre, or post fader? Are you putting any vocals into the monitor mix, or just the playback?
     
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  9. macsound

    macsound Well-Known Member

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    Definitely getting the sound over the heads. Hitting everyone in the shins with 90dB doesn't help the 3rd row of singers.
    Also, if you're putting speakers in the wings, visually look at where the speakers will be and how much will make it through the wing - such as - moving the speaker out of sightlines usually chops off a bunch of the dispersion onto the stage.
    Also yes, EQ. Roll off bass but also listen to the front and backside of the speaker. Any molded plastic speaker resonates very differently than a wooden one. You may be able to EQ more than initially expected simply because the speaker box doesn't have much dampening effect.
     
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