Vocal/Band Reverb configuration?

jkowtko

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We are doing Smokey Joe's Cafe in a couple of weeks, and for this I am fully micing the band (7 or 8 mics on the drums, plus keyboard, guitar, bass and sax) and 8 wireless vocalists, plus an extra Shure 55SH on stage.

I bought four used Lexicon reverb units over the past several weeks (mpx100, mpx110, 2 x mx200) to give me capacity for two stereo reverbs each on vocals and band.

Listening to the SJC Broadway CD I get the idea of how to use the reverb on the vocals for the various songs (generally split between lead and chorus effects), but I don't know how to deal with the band. I'm also a fan of the Jersey Boys CD and the great effects that Steve Kennedy put on the drums.

I have manual boards with no VCAs, so I'm stuck with either adjusting aux sends for each input channel for each of the 40 songs in this show (fun, huh?), or just permanently assigning the two reverbs to two different sets of mics. (fyi, I also have 8 channels of gate/compression so I assume I should be able to get the drum mics sounding pretty clean to start with.)

From what I hear from the SJC CD the snare has the most reverb coverage, with the sax coming in a close second. I occasionally hear toms, and once in a while, the kick. Jersey Boys seemed to have a great way of using these to the proper effect.

As I've never done this before, for my first attempt I would like to produce a reasonably good result.

I would appreciate advice on the usage of reverb on the band:
- permanent assignment of invididual mics to Reverb unit A or B?
- which reverb algorithms to use (Lexicon, remember)
- anything else you think I need to know to not make a complete fool of myself in this production :)

Thanks. John
 

avkid

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Do not put any reverb on that 55SH, they sound like garbage already.
(but boy do they look pretty)
Put your effects returns on a sub mixer so they are easier to adjust.
I would suggest a Tapco Mix.220FX
 

jkowtko

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I'm doing all returns to stereo input channels on the boards (fyi, I'm running two boards, one for vocals, one for band) so they should be very easy to mix back in. It's the channel to aux sends that I don't have faders for ....
 

avkid

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I'm doing all returns to stereo input channels on the boards (fyi, I'm running two boards, one for vocals, one for band) so they should be very easy to mix back in. It's the channel to aux sends that I don't have faders for ....
That's what direct outs are good for.
I don't have any brilliant ideas for you right now.
I'll get back to you after I have a good traditional thin crust NY style hot pie.
 

Eboy87

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What all in the band do you have mic'd? Just set up a mix on your channel auxes, say, aux 1 or 2, and route them to the various reverb units.

With those processors, you should be able to get 4 stereo 'verbs, or 8 mono, though I've never run an efx unit mono before. Add to taste. Oh, a few things to check, make sure the efx auxs on the return channels are all the way down, or you'll get nasty feedback. Also, and it's been awhile since I've used those processors, make sure their output is set 100% wet, otherwise you'll get some weird delay cancellations. And careful with the comps, if you can hear them working, it's too much compression.

And the extraneous comment, pizza should be served on a cracker thin crust.

If at all possible, could you post your input list?
 

jkowtko

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I'm not concerned about the board wiring -- I think I've got that covered:
- Mackie CFX boards, so unfortunately not that many buses to work with
- no direct outs ... the inserts are being used by the gate/compressors
- EFX1 and EFX2 (essentially Aux3 and Aux4) are the sends
- my last two stereo faders on the board are the returns
- yes I will be careful not to create an AUX loop!

Channel lineup as planned:
1) kick (EV RE20)
2) snare (Sennheiser 421)
3) tom (sm57)
4) tom (sm57)
5) tom (sm57 - this one may be optional)
6) hihat (Sennheiser 421)
7) ride or overhead (AT Pro37R)
8) crash or overhead (AT Pro37R)

The decision on cymbals vs overheads will be based on other percussion that needs to be picked up.

Gate/compressor on all above 8 channels (I have four DBX 266XLs)

9) keyboard (line out)
10) sax (sm57)
11) guitar (sm57)
12) bass (sm57)

Not 100% sure of the order of the last four ...

SO, my real question is on musical content, i.e. where do you usually apply reverb on bands, and what types of reverb are commonly used? Hopefully the above gives you enough info to form some good opinions :)

Thanks. John
 

Eboy87

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Personally, I use a medium hall with a medium decay (don't have a unit in front of me, and I can't remember how many milliseconds) with snare as the most, then toms, HH, and a skosh amount of overhead (I prefer overheads for drums, blends nicer IMO). Usually, I don't worry about adding guitar, 'cause they usually have some sort of reverb on their amp, unless it's acoustic, then I add a bit. I've never worked with sax, but try it out and see how you like it.

Don't overpower the original signal with the reverb, as I'm sure you know. I like it to add depth and atmosphere, but I want the original source to punch through. Just start mixing and adding things and see what you like.
 
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avkid

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I'm not concerned about the board wiring -- I think I
- no direct outs ... the inserts are being used by the gate/compressors
Channel lineup as planned:
1) kick (EV RE20)
2) snare (Sennheiser 421)
3) tom (sm57)
4) tom (sm57)
5) tom (sm57 - this one may be optional)
6) hihat (Sennheiser 421)
7) ride or overhead (AT Pro37R)
8) crash or overhead (AT Pro37R)
The decision on cymbals vs overheads will be based on other percussion that needs to be picked up.
Gate/compressor on all above 8 channels (I have four DBX 266XLs)
Are you pulling my leg?
 

avkid

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No, that's what we have to use for the show. Something wrong with it?
Kind of uncommon.
Definitely violates K.I.S.S.

Admittedly, I used to be like that too, all willy nilly with processors.
I have been taught the error of my ways.
I will occasionally gate a kick(20% of the time) other than that, no dynamic processing on percussion.

You would be amazed at the difference.
 

jkowtko

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I thought specifically the noise gates are needed on the drum mics to avoid phase interference and bleed over when you have that many mics close together. On a digital board I heard you just gate everything, then compress based on the dynamic range of each instrument. I also heard you EQ by first setting high and low shelf, then adjust to taste -- for each input. Basically with the intention of isolating each mic pickup so it mainly only hears the specific instrument it's being pointed at, and then allowing you to balance the mix as you see fit.

Although I've never studied them closely up until now, I've heard sloppy drums and not so sloppy drums. But I never heard anything as tight and clean sounding as on the Jersey Boys set at the Curran Theater in SF. So I figure if they can do it, why can't I? Our mics are decent, no? Our drummer is very good (he's the resident music director and a very accomplished musician/conductor/composer -- worked with some very large names over the years). Our PA system is is sounding pretty good since the last placement adjustment. Our boards are low-end, but hopefully that won't blow it for us. If it does I may go out and pick up an 01v96 or GL2200 to help alleviate that weak spot (since I will do that some day anyway)

Worst case, if it sounds terrible, I start shutting things off. And if it still sounds terrible, then I shut everthing off and start from the bottom up until I figure out where it's going wrong.

What I do know though, is without micing the bass, our bass guitarists amp booms and echoes around the theater and people complain about the noise. Same with some of the drums ... it's a small theater so the more controlled I can get the sound, the better. (we may have a drum shield as well).

If you only gate the kick, then are you still running 7-8 mics on drums?
 

derekleffew

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In my opinion and experience, you're attempting to do it the was the pros do, jkowtko. Don't listen to the naysayers. I'm sure Jersey Boys had a digital Cadac or similar, and thus gates and compressors on every channel. You don't have that luxury, so you're doing it "old school," which is fine.
 

jkowtko

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Personally, I use a medium hall with a medium delay (don't have a unit in front of me, and I can't remember how many milliseconds) with snare as the most, then toms, HH, and a skosh amount of overhead (I prefer overheads for drums, blends nicer IMO). Usually, I don't worry about adding guitar, 'cause they usually have some sort of reverb on their amp, unless it's acoustic, then I add a bit. I've never worked with sax, but try it out and see how you like it.
Don't overpower the original signal with the reverb, as I'm sure you know. I like it to add depth and atmosphere, but I want the original source to punch through. Just start mixing and adding things and see what you like.
Thanks, good info! In listening to the entire SJC sountrack (40 songs) there is definitely a variation on vocal reverb from none to what sounds like at least a Medium Hall on the more sultry solos. I can also hear when the snare is on, and even the toms, and I think once the kick sounded like it as well. For the sax you can definitely hear when reverb is on and when it isn't.

Some following questions for you:

1) Do I need all those gates? Avkid seems to prefer not gating, but with the tight micing aren't they kind of necessary?

2) Where do you use compression? I've heard talk of "fattening up the bass" and lots about compression on guitars ... Should I move some of these units from the drums to the guitars?

3) Do I need two reverb units for the band? I bought two each for band and vocals mainly because the digital boards have four FX units built into them so I figured they might all need to be used for something -- and just to give myself capacity in case someone decides we need a blend of different effects on different instruments at the same time. Since I'm new to this, better to be safe than sorry -- we can always not use them and I can always sell the units off later and recoup my money (and my precious rack space).

4) One more complication -- the room is very small (65 x 45, including stage area), such that we generally only use background fill except for loud performances like this one is likely to be. So at any volume you will always hear the drums directly. The same with our vocalists -- when they belt they can easily be heard clearly from the rear of the house, however they sound like they are coming from a point source. So my style of sound reinforcement is just enough to have them "fill" the room so they don't sound like a point source. And of course add the reverb now. I am sure I will be fighting with the band to keep them playing at modest volumes, and I might ask the actors to do the same. Any thoughts about this?

Thanks. John
 

avkid

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1) Do I need all those gates? Avkid seems to prefer not gating, but with the tight micing aren't they kind of necessary?
Gate the kick.
If you just throw a bunch of 57's at a drum kit you will need to compress and gate the heck out of everything.
Using the right mics, the ones that are tailored for the source(freq. range of the drum) is the best way to keep offensive bleed down.
I don't really see the need to fully mic a kit in a theatre with less than say 800 seats unless the room is horribly "dead".
I went from 6 mics on a kit to 3.
Everybody is more happy with 3.
 

Eboy87

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Glad I could be of service. The jury's still out on gates. If the pit is very noisy, and there's lots of bleed, I'd say gate the drums, but I don't think it's vitally necessary. It might be though with the bass. Is there a way you can get the bassist to go direct? I assume he's playing electric? There should be a direct out on his amp, and just tell him to turn it down so that he can hear, and let you take care of reinforcing it. But, back to the drums for a moment. Since you have a small house, here's how I would do the drums. I'd mic the kick, then use one or two overhead, probably two in stereo, if you run stereo. As for compression, I'd add a smidge on the kick, just to even it out. Like I said, if you can hear the compressor doing what it does best, you've used too much. I'd do the same on the bass.

For the reverb units, that's up to you. I've gotten by using one unit on the whole kit and kabuttal (I know that's spelled wrong). You're only limited by the number of auxes you have available. Try something creative and see how it works out. Maybe use a hall 'verb for some parts, or tap delay. Part of the fun is experimenting until you find what sounds and works good.

I come from a small theater too, so I know it's a losing battle with the band. To quote Airplane, "Just wanna tell you good luck, we're all counting on you."

EDIT: Sorry, I just proofread my previous post. When I said "medium hall with medium delay," that should say decay not delay.
 
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dj_illusions

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I do alot of live sound for festivals etc. and will usually stick a gate on the kick and comp on the snare but it all depends on what the kit actually sounds like and the skill level of the drummer to know where the deficiencies are in the kit itself. i sometimes keep a comp and gate on standby for overheads depending on the overall sound image from the rest of the band + ambient noise...

just my 2c
 

jkowtko

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In my opinion and experience, you're attempting to do it the was the pros do, jkowtko. Don't listen to the naysayers. I'm sure Jersey Boys had a digital Cadac or similar, and thus gates and compressors on every channel. You don't have that luxury, so you're doing it "old school," which is fine.
You're darn right! There's nothing they have that I don't have (except for $$, high-end equipment and experience ... :| ) I believe the Cadac used for Jersey Boys was a J-type, and those are analog, aren't they? Which means no on board sound processing -- however they probably had a rack or two under the table. Still, even the least expensive digital boards such as the Yamaha 01v96, have gate, compression and four-band EQ on every input channel ... and I'm guessing they didn't put it there for looks. So someone's got to be using these on a regular basis.

Another thing to note -- this is not a one-time performance. It's a community theater musical, with 17 performances spread over four weekends, and add another week for tech. So we have a lot of time to experiment with and tweak the sound.

Again, I will not be foolish. If the equipment I have isn't up to it and/or I cannot get it to produce the sound I want, we can always remove or turn off pieces of it, or bag the entire mic strategy altogether and run the band unplugged. It will not sound as good, but it will suffice as a last resort.

Another note -- I am not doing this for volume! The venue is small enough that an unplugged piano and bass can fill the room easily. I am doing this for balance, texture and ambience (i.e. reverb). So maybe it's a different goal than most people face with a large auditorium and only one or a few performances.
 

SHARYNF

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A couple of things to keep in mind, the techniques used for recording vs live sound are different, mainly due to the fact that in live sound you still will get the original sound from the actual instrument in the venue. In a large venue, where the original actual instrument sound is likely to not be heard many of these techniques can be used, in a small venue where the actual instrument sound can be heard, there is a real problem of significant non complimentary effect.

Especially on Drums it is likely that your SRM450'S Unless you have a sub woofer are not going to get the desired effect on the kick you are looking for

In a super high end pa, with proper subs, etc, some folks would start with a system that uses aux fed subs so that only the inputs you want to cover the low end would be sent to the subs, and to further clean up the sound some hign end designs for examble with Dave Rat (RHCP) would go with a pa for vocals and a pa for instruments.



Sharyn
 

avkid

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In a super high end pa, with proper subs, etc, some folks would start with a system that uses aux fed subs so that only the inputs you want to cover the low end would be sent to the subs
Nonsense Sharyn, all you need is an aux send, 2 crossovers and some "book learning."
I have done it(the system below), and it works great.