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Mixing a metal band in a live situation

Discussion in 'F.O.H.' started by Arsnova, Sep 23, 2009.

  1. Arsnova

    Arsnova New Metal Member

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    Im having a major problem mixing metal bands live... bands with two guitarists tend to be more of a problem!

    What would you guys suggest I do in order to ensure the metal band sounds good in a small venue and large venue. How would I go about ensuring that all instruments are heard and at the same time sound large? Would it be preferable that the guitarists have different tones or the same?
     
  2. Trevoire520

    Trevoire520 Member

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    Well, first off you need a band that sound great in the practice room.

    The singer needs to have a reasonably loud voice, drummer needs to be tight and have a good sounding kit, guitar/bass players need to be tight and have good rhythm and good tones. If you've not got all this to start off with then you're in trouble.

    I will say that you should really go for clarity before large sound, I don't give a fuck if the guitar tone is monster if I can't hear anything else because of it! Also don't make the same mistake most live engineers make and just flood the venue with bass thinking that it sounds good!

    If you're lucky then the singer won't cup the mic, but this often isn't the case, so in that case you'll be trying to eq the fuck out of his mic to make it sound halfway clear.

    Get the guys to keep the backline level low onstage, this stops them from painting you into a corner as far as the mix goes. Also having the backline low will make it wayyy easier for them to hear the vocal. Their amps should be set so that they can just comfortably hear them when playing with the drums, no more.
    Get their tone's right during soundcheck, if they have zero midrange on the amp then no mic positioning/eq'ing is going to make them heard. Also make sure they aren't going crazy with the gain or everything will turn to mush. The guitarists having different tones (different amps, different channels, even just different guitars/pickups) will help to separate them in the mix.

    Use the high pass filter on everything that doesn't need mega low end. This will clean up the mix dramatically right from the start. Normally for me HPF is on everything except Kick, Bass and Floor Toms. Though in some venues/sound systems even they can get HPF treatment! Cut a fair bit of low end &/or low mid out of the vocals too, the singer doesn't need to sound like Barry White! If you've got a spare post send aux and are able to set up the PA how you want it then feed the subs from this aux and only send Kick/Bass/Floor Toms through this aux. This will keep the low end nice and clean.

    Don't bother with reverb/delay unless it's for a special effect imo, unnecessary reverb will clutter up the mix very quickly.

    And while you're doing all this, you also have the problem of feedback management! Plenty of setup time ahead of soundcheck will mean that you have a chance to ring out the monitors and front of house using the graphic eq's. If the eq's have analyzers on them then that'll make this task wayyy easier and give you more headroom before feedback for the singers who like their monitors super loud! (the cheap Behringer eq's are pretty good for this imo)

    There's so much more that could be written about this, but all in it boils down to the quality of the band and experience of the engineer, great bands practically mix themselves as they already have their sounds sorted so that they're working together and not fighting for the same space, whereas awful bands are going to sound awful no matter what you do.
     
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  3. zvish

    zvish Member

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    less bass and gain, more mids on guitars and you win :p and I mean more than less bass on guitars:) @Ahjteam wrote some time ago good tips, wait for him here.
     
  4. rsf1977

    rsf1977 New Metal Member

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    would love to here some more tips
     
  5. mick thompson

    mick thompson AKA: Ross Canpolat! SM!

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    personally (from a musicians side instead of engineer because im more of a musician)

    okay - you need to tell the musicians look lads - your playing on stage - the sound on the stage is going to be a hell of a lot different to the sound that the audience will hear (i mean me personally i like snare, hi-hats, kick drum and my guitar only in my monitor - nothing else) so get them only what they require to play the song. that way your going to reduce the amount of noise on stage re-spilling through the mics giving you a cleaner PA sound.

    use gates and lots of them! nothing worse then hearing the band talking on stage about what there going to do in the next songs solo - it ruins it for the audience.

    keep the amp volume at a reasonable level so that it doesn't overpower the PA on that specific part of the stage and work this in accordance with the size of the venue, pa size and the expected audience turnout.

    remember there is no point cranking the shit out of a pa so people in the back can hear it loud as fuck if there are no people in the back! a lot of venue pa's (in ireland anyway) are absolute rubbish - old ass speakers, crap power-amps, over peaking desks and a lot of PA distortion so turn it up so it thumps but remember to keep clarity in the room

    and again going back to bands. you need to explain to the bands again the sound on stage is different to what the audience will hear so if you think there is too much presence go up and turn the fucking thing down on the amp. end of the day the band always blames the engineer if they hear bad feedback from friends that the sound was bad so tell explain to the bands and say "look - im the engineer, i studied it, im a professional, its my job to make sure you sound good and to do that you need to do what i say - trust in me or get the fuck off my stage"

    as a musician i would expect this from an engineer because after all i play on the stage. all i hear is whats in my monitor and i have no control (along with the rest of the band members) to what the sound will be like once it goes into the mics.

    if i cant trust in my engineer then i may as well not use a PA system and tell everyone turn up your amps and have everyone competing for audio airwaves so take control of the suituation. be polite and say it in a nice way - if it fails bring on the cockiness. if they're still acting the bollox and you cant boot them off stage then do the best you can with a bad suituation because like i said everyone blames the engineer
     
  6. ahjteam

    ahjteam Anssi Tenhunen

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    I couldn't find the post, but here are some things:

    - highpass everything except the kick and bass. The higher you dare to cut it, the better.

    - Avoid feedback at all costs, even if it makes the band sound a bit worse. Feedback is always caused by too much gain, so drop it down a bit. Bad mic positioning doesn't help either

    - the most basic EQ method: boost +9dB, find feedbacking or shitty sounding frequency, cut somewhere between -3dB and -6dB, next knob

    - CUT is always better than BOOST when EQing

    - make the musicians drop their stage volume to minimum, especially too loud guitars can make the musicians' life on stage infernally painful, because it is usually compensated with super loud monitoring. Quiet stage volume makes their and your life easier. I mixed this one deftones-sounding trio for 3 years and during the first year time their stage volume dropped almost 20dB because I told them to drop the volume on their amps, and the stage volume ended up so quiet that the vocalist didn't even need his own voice to the monitor and they said that they could actually hear each others better that way. After that I didn't have a single gig with monitor feedback with them.

    - if you (have to) do monitors too from the FOH mixer, only give as few elements to the monitors as possible, because the more elements you put there it usually only get really cluttered. Vocals, keyboards (and all line level material in general) and own instrument are usually always okay, but I try to avoid giving reverb, guitars, bass and drums to the monitor because they really hog the clarity from the monitor. I do give them if they ask it, especially to the drummer, those who are on the opposite side of the stage and those who use in-ear monitoring. If the band wants "a little bit of everything", I won't give it to them. I rather make the first play a short segment, then tell me what they can't hear.

    - If the mixer has groups, route the vocals into a group and don't put any compressors in the individual vocal tracks, but only on the group. This way you can feed the vocals to the monitors a lot louder without feedback

    - Drop the low end on the guitars, and preferrably already from bass knob from the amp (I usually drop like -3..-6dB around 150hz and on the lowshelf on the mixer, because they are usually just muddy shit)

    - if its a small venue, don't use overheads. I have NEEDED overheads only on 2 indoors venues in Finland so far with rock/metal-bands (Tavastia and Kaapelitehdas, capacities 700 and 1500), and I actually never needed overheads a single time when I was a house engineer in Kulttuuriareena Gloria (capacity 600) for two years, and I even mixed sold out concerts during that time

    - last and not least: make the vocals sound really fucking loud in the mains.
     
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  7. Trevoire520

    Trevoire520 Member

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    Yep, if the band sounds good then it's because the band is great. But if the band sounds bad it must be the engineer's fault :rolleyes:

    I've done plenty of turd polishing when it comes to doing live sound, with singers whispering and cupping mic's, guitarists with shit tones, sloppy bass players and inconsistent drummers. End up spending their whole set trying to de-fizz guitars, get vocals to a decent level without feeding back, and disguising shit playing from drummer and bassist. Eventually you get to a point where you've done all you can and just leave them to finish thier set. Oh and they always think that they're fucking amazing.

    When a band actually have their shit together sound wise and performance wise it's a godsend, I can actually work on making them sound good, instead of disguising the aural shit thats coming off stage. I get to tweak the snare sound to perfection, get the bass sitting just right, get the toms sounding monster etc. That is when I love doing live sound.
     
  8. ahjteam

    ahjteam Anssi Tenhunen

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    yeah, of course the same thing as for the studio applies here: fix the problem from the source
     
  9. arv_foh

    arv_foh Brian K

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    Here's a few things I can think of off the top of my head....

    Already mentioned, but ring out the PA and monitors before the show with subtractive EQ... very important, and play some music you are familiar with over the PA to see if there are any highly offensive/harsh frequencies that need to be tamed

    Don't hard pan the guitars like you do with studio stuff. I usually pan about 70/30 or 80/20. That way you still have a stereo field (somewhat) and the people that are only on one side of the PA can still hear the other guitar. The only thing that should be hard panned are overheads.

    The hardest thing about mixing metal is the guitars. Good tone (above all) and good microphones will help you out. I prefer a 609 and a 57 together, if you have the option. Heil PR30s are great on guitar too if you're carrying your own mics. The more channels of guitar you have, the "bigger" you will be able to make it sound, but you can get away with 1 channel. Mids are crucial for the guitarists to be heard.

    I usually gate all the drums and use comp/gates on the kick(s?) and snare. Comps on the bass gtr and all vox (really only necessary for the lead usually though). Use sidechain filters if your gates have them to prevent cymbals from opening the gates.

    Just some general EQ stuff
    Take out some 250hz in the kick and 400hz in toms, this will help clean up that "mud"
    Boost 3k on the kick for attack and 8k for click
    Boost 3k on toms for warmth and and 8k for some attack
    Boost 1k on the snare for a more woody, fat snare type sound
    I try to leave guitars flat, if they have good tone you shouldn't need to do much, but I normally find myself cutting 3k on guitars to get rid of some harshness, but it varies
    Vocals cut lows and low mids

    This has already been mentioned, but high pass everything. The only thing I don't highpass is kick in a metal mix. Snare around 100, Toms around 100, and 80 for floor tom, I'll usually high pass the bass guitar around 60-80hz to leave the rest of the low end for the kick to breathe. High pass guitars around 125. Vocals around 160. Hi hats and overheads at 400.

    There's different ways to do everything I just said. That's just how I do it, and usually the results are very good. There isn't one "save all" preset just like there isn't for studio stuff, you really have to adjust for band to band. If you are dealing with decent bands with decent equipment, knowledge, and tightness playing, your job becomes 1000x easier.
     
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  10. egan.

    egan. daylightdies.com

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    You actually address this later but just to clarify, it is a frequency dependent gain issue and you should be ringing out room resonances before the band even hits the stage with a graphic. Same goes for the monitors, you get much more gain before feedback if you kill the frequencies where the room "sings."
     
  11. espartaco

    espartaco espartaco

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    wow! i think this is really helpfull info,i think many of us here are only working and focusing on recording and mixing stuff and not really aware of the sound enginering for live purpouse , maybe some other sneapsters can add more info and make this an epic thread of info for mixing in live situations,etc etc! thougth just an idea!..

    (sorry if theres is something wrong whit my english) :loco:
     
  12. arv_foh

    arv_foh Brian K

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    I find that 800, 2.5k, and 6.3k/8k are especially problematic frequencies in my monitor system. I always use 58s too unless a singer brings their own mic, which leaves me another frequency response curve to ring out :loco:
     
  13. colonel kurtz

    colonel kurtz Member

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    so true

    i played a gig once where i was borrowing a triple recto...we sound checked and got levels and all that before playing, and the amp was set to like 3 on the master

    then i got onstage, and decided i wanted it a little louder...turned the amp up to 3.5(you recto owners know what a difference a tiny turn of the master makes), and totally wrecked the monitor mix - and as a result pretty much wrecked our entire set with it :cry:
     
  14. arv_foh

    arv_foh Brian K

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    One thing I forgot.. Walk the room because while it may sound good at the mix position it can vary greatly throughout the venue.

    Stage volume is more important while in small venues because you can overpower the PA, I usually don't tell people to turn down but I'm running at an 800cap venue.

    Use short and long delays to enhance screams, and ride the guitar faders and boost the lead guitarist's solos.
     
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  15. HeadCrusher

    HeadCrusher Member

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    How do you get them louder to the monitors that way? Do you send from the Group to the Monitors or still from the individual channels?
     
  16. ahjteam

    ahjteam Anssi Tenhunen

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    I send the uncompressed signal from the individual channels to the monitors and the compressed signal goes to the PA. The reason for this is because compressed signal is more prone to feedback than uncompressed
     
  17. HeadCrusher

    HeadCrusher Member

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    Ah ok now I get what you ment. Thanks.
     
  18. arv_foh

    arv_foh Brian K

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    I would say this depends on how your system is set up. If you apply a ton of gain to the compressed signal (output on the comp) then yes you will have problems with feedback. It's all about gain structure.

    Not that I'm trying to argue with you, but I send the compressed vocals to monitors every show and never have issues with feedback. If anything it will help you, especially if you have a vocalist that sings quietly and screams obscenely loud. I prefer to have a separate monitor engineer (we have a separate monitor desk) but often times this is not in the budget for small/local band shows.

    Also if you aren't familiar with specific frequencies, buy an RTA (real time analyzer) to help you ring out monitors. There is a great app called RTA for iPhone and iPod touch that costs $10. It is surprisingly accurate. If you buy a handheld RTA you will probably spend $200+ for a decent one. If you have trouble finding the frequency, boost it on the graph, until you hear feedback, then pull out that frequency. This should be done before anyone is even in the building so you don't look like a jackass with it going on during your show.
     
  19. egan.

    egan. daylightdies.com

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    I agree with this. Heavy compression in the monitors will hose you but "standing" on the peaks prevent feedback caused by the vocalist hitting certain resonances.
     
  20. PhilR

    PhilR Studio Scapegoat

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    Make a big plywood sign with the word "MIDRANGE" on it in large letters. Then proceed to beat guitarists around the head with it until they're too concussed to argue.
     

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