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lowendgalore

Bass mix in live concerts.... Disappointing?

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Seems to be a theme around big, arena+, venues. Smaller places usually have a better balance.

Always makes me sad inside when I realise my brain is filling in the bass lines rather than my ears.

The only mud should be what the audience is standing in!

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Booming bass in a venue is the bain of touring bands and even to the point where this company has come up with a great idea to help combat it:
[url="http://flexac.com/the-challenge/"]http://flexac.com/the-challenge/[/url]

Edited by Noisyjon

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It's something I've butted up against time and again. So many engineers (and I am one, not calling them all) seem to be of a generation, or outmoded school of thought, that most of the sound/time spent, needs to consist of kick drum; and that bass guitar needs to be a low rumble/thud under the kit.
Drives me nuts when it's me, and just as much when I hear it done to others. It just baffles me how such huge names are content to have their sound compromised this way.
I often used to make a point of explaining to the engineer that I'd like my FoH sound to resemble my stage sound, that it has mid content, and sound checking things like harmonics and high register chords as well as plodding stuff, in mic too, to make sure it's all there. I'd ask them to take a sec to listen to the stage sound.
It sometimes worked, not always.
These days however the big stages (hell, stages in general!) are behind me, and it's pub corners a go go.

Edited by gafbass02

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[quote name='kopite18times' timestamp='1416945801' post='2615404']
I went to see Counting Crows for the fourth time 2 weeks ago. Never heard the bass all night.
[/quote]

I saw them at the Roundhouse recently and the bass wasn't too bad.

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I would imagine that if you're a bass player in a big name band you're not going to lower yourself to sucking up to the sound man/woman before the gig as much as I do...

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[quote name='lowendgalore' timestamp='1416915679' post='2614920']
I just don't understand with all the technology and thee best of FOH engineers on this big gigs why is still so shoddy!
[/quote]
[quote name='amnesia' timestamp='1416864259' post='2614563']
Yup - the big sheds are the worst for this. Loads of kick drum and zero bass guitar definition. Lets see what happens at the Slash gig in Manchester Arena on Friday. Having seen them in a 1500-ish venue I know what it should sound like...wonder if it will? :D
[/quote]

I was a sound engineer a lot longer than I've been a bass player so here goes.

You can have the best gear in the world and it can be hard to get it right in a big space with hard reflective walls and ceilings. I can use the directional qualities of horns and line arrays to make sure the sound you hear is mainly from a speaker pointing directly at you but bass is omni-directional and the lowest notes will be partly coming directly at you and partly from the reflections off every major surface in the room. Because of the extra time the reflected sound takes to get to you it may cancel or augment the direct sound and blur the sound when there are multiple reflections.

The large halls also have long reverberation times, the time it takes an echo to die away. If the reverb time is a couple of seconds then how many bass notes will be blurred together in what you hear.

All rooms have resonances, play a note tht excites the resonance and it will be louder than you want, maybe much louder. The bigger the space the lower the resonances and this means bass is more likely to excite unwanted room resonances.

So clean bass may be tricky or even impossible.

Most people in the room won't be that interested in the bass (sad but true) what they want is the gut wrenching excitement of very loud sounds they can't do at home. One note bass does the job, and an engineer may boost frequencies to give the audience the experience they want. They may also choose to try and keep the instruments separate in the mix and it isn't uncommon for them to cut the mids in the bass to keep them out of the vocals and guitars sonic space. Live mixing is very much a compromise and their tastes may just be different from yours.

Equally they may just not be good at their job.

What I find unforgivable is the sound in Jools Holland. It's a controlled space and they can, if they want, tame room resonances. They have the best equipment and best trained engineers and the sound balance is often all over the place. Frequently with a five piece you will have one or two instruments you can barely hear. Often they are as inaudible at the end of a song as they were at the beginning so someone hasn't noticed or is asleep at the desk. The live show is often worse, which is understandable but don't they soundcheck? I listen on good headphones to so what they put out is pretty much what I hear.

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Peversely, at the Robert Plant gig last Friday the bass sound for the support (3 piece) band The Last Internationale was a bit too much, could have done with less bottom end and the volume of it being much lower in the mix. I wouldn't mind if this was representative of how it is on the album but it wasn't. It just made the guitar sound a bit weak and tinny in places. RP's band was about right mix, maybe could do with the bass being a bit higher in the mix but it was audible, you could hear all those lovely flowing notes in 'What Is & What Should Never Be' just fine. However it wasn't in a massive shed. I was actually impressed with the PA in the Wolves civic hall, no idea what it was but it was generally very clear, particularly for lead vocals.

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[quote name='KevB' timestamp='1417084784' post='2616865']I was actually impressed with the PA in the Wolves civic hall, no idea what it was but it was generally very clear, particularly for lead vocals.
[/quote]

Always been one of my favourite venues the Wolves Civic, seen so many bands there over the years and I've honestly never heard a band sound bad there, well, they may have played badly but the sound system was never to blame. It's the perfect venue for me in terms of size and sound quality. Love the place!

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Recent middle size concert in Cardiff (3-5000 I guess). All I can say is that if I was the artist concerned I would have been mighty disappointed with the sound. Immense (too much) bass and kick drum, sufficient to make balcony shake, just an indistinct thump. - vocals harsh when singer at full tilt. All just too loud. Did not do the artist justice. Has made me think though - no need for anything more than a cheap bass because any subtlety will be lost if this is the foh mix that is in vogue. Band played well, plenty of energy, very tight, would have been outstanding gig with good mix. The support act - vocals & two guitars had their sound massacred. How hard is it to mix two vocals, one electric guitar and one acoustic?

Edited by 3below

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I think where the majority of us are coming from is that the bass didn`t use to suffer in the live mix, it seems a recent thing. Given the progress in technology and equipment, shouldn`t it be getting better, irrespective of awkward rooms and stages?

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[quote name='Phil Starr' timestamp='1417077234' post='2616774']
I was a sound engineer a lot longer than I've been a bass player so here goes.

You can have the best gear in the world and it can be hard to get it right in a big space with hard reflective walls and ceilings. I can use the directional qualities of horns and line arrays to make sure the sound you hear is mainly from a speaker pointing directly at you but bass is omni-directional and the lowest notes will be partly coming directly at you and partly from the reflections off every major surface in the room. Because of the extra time the reflected sound takes to get to you it may cancel or augment the direct sound and blur the sound when there are multiple reflections.

The large halls also have long reverberation times, the time it takes an echo to die away. If the reverb time is a couple of seconds then how many bass notes will be blurred together in what you hear.

All rooms have resonances, play a note tht excites the resonance and it will be louder than you want, maybe much louder. The bigger the space the lower the resonances and this means bass is more likely to excite unwanted room resonances.

So clean bass may be tricky or even impossible.

Most people in the room won't be that interested in the bass (sad but true) what they want is the gut wrenching excitement of very loud sounds they can't do at home. One note bass does the job, and an engineer may boost frequencies to give the audience the experience they want. They may also choose to try and keep the instruments separate in the mix and it isn't uncommon for them to cut the mids in the bass to keep them out of the vocals and guitars sonic space. Live mixing is very much a compromise and their tastes may just be different from yours.

Equally they may just not be good at their job....
[/quote]

This is exactly it and well said Phil.

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The last band I saw live was Sikth and the mix was nothing short of perfect. Could hear every little accent clearly. Was fairly surprised at how good it was actually. Rammstein also had a near perfect sound live.

On the other hand I've saw so many bands with horrible live mixes I don't care to count.

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I have to say that on the last 2 Rush gigs I've seen I've been sorely tempted to drag Geddy offstage during a song, stand him half way down the centre aisle and say 'Is this [i]really[/i] how you want it to sound?' You wonder if the big arenas are so unfit for purpose that the sound engineers have given up on them. We all know that bass gets the crappy end of the stick during sound check at the best of times. I guess those bands where the bass player is a key band member (Rush, Iron Maiden, Yes etc) in terms of running things then they'd get better treatment but I think the bass on Rush tours still sounds crap, though some others will disagree. Not being able to hear bass when it's a key component of the overrall sound in a medium sized venue just isn't acceptable though.

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The fascination with packing the largest power output from the smallest box has not helped.
Flown line array leave very little lower mid punch for the bass to sit.
Sub this, sub that, but a bass guitar is not a sub bass instrument and trying to make it one leaves that dull rumble so many describe.
The present favoured system of line array is just useless at getting a clean bass guitar sound, yes its easy to set up and easy to install, but PA firms need to listen to concert goers, most agree, the PA gear is utter crap at the present time, a good sound is a thing of the past, they knew how to do it in the old days, but here we are with the "bees knees" of flow array systems and we have absolutely terrible out front sound.

Edited by spacey

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Best 'big gig' live sound I ever heard by a long way was Peter Gabriel at the Mancheter Area on his Growing Up tour. Stunningly clear, bass included. I was on the front row admittedly, so maybe it wasn't so good elsewhere in the arena, but still a benchmark live sound for me.

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IMO a lot of it has to do with the modern fashion of having a loud clicky bass drum, so to give some bottom end (which is what the bass drum should be for) they use the bass which means no definition, a lot of recordings suffer from this as well.

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[quote name='Lozz196' timestamp='1417127726' post='2617433']
I think where the majority of us are coming from is that the bass didn`t use to suffer in the live mix, it seems a recent thing. Given the progress in technology and equipment, shouldn`t it be getting better, irrespective of awkward rooms and stages?
[/quote]

It may be a fashion thing and it also may be that the systems we use at home are getting better.

In the 80s CDs were only just emerging and HiFi was a big thing.

It might also be a power thing in that we just didn't have the power and technology available for that bottom end.

Listen to a 70s record and then listen to a remastered version. There is so much more bass added. Add huge average volume available due to digital sound compression techniques. Not always good.

It's a live version of the loudness wars.

Edited by TimR

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[quote name='JellyKnees' timestamp='1417179169' post='2617831']
Best 'big gig' live sound I ever heard by a long way was Peter Gabriel at the Mancheter Area on his Growing Up tour. Stunningly clear, bass included. I was on the front row admittedly, so maybe it wasn't so good elsewhere in the arena, but still a benchmark live sound for me.
[/quote]

I've always been impressed with the bass sound at Gabriel gigs. I was expecting good things of the PG So back to front tour and went to the LG Arena yesterday. The bass was too low in the mix and lacked middle, making it indistinguishable most of the time as it was trying to compete with drums and keyboard sounds. When Mr Levin picked up the Stick, you couldn't hear that at all. Very disappointed with the low end :(

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[quote name='KevB' timestamp='1417084784' post='2616865']
I was actually impressed with the PA in the Wolves civic hall, no idea what it was but it was generally very clear, particularly for lead vocals.
[/quote]
I saw the Black Crowes there and the sound was crystal clear across the board. Great venue.

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did a gig last night at a small venue supporting Vice Squad and sound wasn't good, muddy, indistinct vocals and something was booming, my partner reckoned it was my bass but but on parts of songs where I played on my own it was on the trebley side, at least 2 people went up to the sound man to tell him but it didn't seem to make any difference and Vice Squads bass sound was a muddy mushy mess (stingray with a pick)

Edited by PaulWarning

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And how the hell do you make a Stingray a muddy mushy mess - prizes for achieving the virtually unachievable there I reckon.

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[quote name='zero9' timestamp='1417224874' post='2618461']
I've always been impressed with the bass sound at Gabriel gigs. I was expecting good things of the PG So back to front tour and went to the LG Arena yesterday. The bass was too low in the mix and lacked middle, making it indistinguishable most of the time as it was trying to compete with drums and keyboard sounds. When Mr Levin picked up the Stick, you couldn't hear that at all. Very disappointed with the low end :(
[/quote]

I was there too, beat me too the punch. Love listening to Tony Levin, but from where I was sat all I could hear was mushy thump from the drums..Mind you it suited Biko as the encore song perfectly!

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Last week I had a dilemma: should I go to see the amazing Joanne Shaw Taylor at the O2 in Shepherd's Bush, or take a chance on my friend's recommendation of Bigelf at the Garage in Islington?

I'm glad I went with Bigelf - it must have been one of the first gigs in a long time where I've stopped and thought, "you know what? The mix is actually really good here." Really effin' loud, but amazing clarity in a mix that at some points was having to cope with drums, bass, guitar, vocals and two keyboards. In contrast I'd seen JST at Shep's Bush the year before, and been frustrated by the booming bass frequencies - the sound was muddy to the point of being distracting, which was a shame because I could tell the band were giving a great performance.

As BRX said earlier, part of the problem is alleviated by going to see smaller bands at smaller venues that cope better with the sound (plus you feel better for supporting smaller artists), but unfortunately this silver bullet doesn't work if you've got a lazy engineer at the desk. We've played a lot of places where they just assume that drummers are just metronomes (kick and snare emphasised, rest of kit barely audible) and bassists just exist to chug root-note quavers (won't be needing those mids, then...) under the guitarist who has no imagination beyond playing a wall of chords with a different effect pedal for the middle-8...anyone who's heard Cherry White live will know that all these assumptions are incorrect. I have a friend who does A/V tech for conferences and came to see us at the old Water Rats - "the sound was weird: lots of booming bass and lots of top, but there just seemed to be nothing in the middle." In the Water Rats - not exactly an arena-size venue...

(And thus concludes my rant.)

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