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Am I Broken


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Did a gig last night. With people I love and trust. Took the Ampeg SVT for that lovely valve goodness.

Singer soundchecked the instruments and bv's then we swapped and I went out to check the band with her vocals.

I was appalled.

The bass sound was just a weedy, thin, fizz. 

I asked her in all honesty had she really meant me to remove the glorious bottom end, not just from mine but from the whole band's sound?

I went along with it, one must respect the person doing the soundcheck. Later I received many plaudits from members of the crowd.

So am I broken? Why can't I be trusted to know what a good bass sound is? It seems I lack all objectivity when it comes to my own sound.

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It’s a tough one Stew, but eventually I came to trust the feedback from “knowledgeable” people out front rather than my own opinion. 
Who do you want to please? Yourself or the audience ? Ideally both, I’d say, but if there’s a choice which one will lead to more bookings?

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2 minutes ago, Len_derby said:

It’s a tough one Stew, but eventually I came to trust the feedback from “knowledgeable” people out front rather than my own opinion. 
Who do you want to please? Yourself or the audience ? Ideally both, I’d say, but if there’s a choice which one will lead to more bookings?

I quite agree, I didn't turn up nor alter my tone. But how can I enjoy playing if I know my bass sounds sh1te?

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Just now, stewblack said:

I quite agree, I didn't turn up nor alter my tone. But how can I enjoy playing if I know my bass sounds sh1te?

I hear you brother. I’ve come to the conclusion that often I have no real control over my sound. So I concentrate on note choice, locking with the drummer, groove, all the things I can control. Like a lot of us I’ve paid big money to see and hear players who are considered masters and their sound has been totally y-fronts. So I’m not going to lose any more hair fretting about it.

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Soundchecking is an art, and if you let anybody from the band do it - with the possible exception of the bass player! - they will mostly pay attention to their own sound, and turn down anything that appears to interfere with that.

While I'm in no way a pro, I have a certain amount of experience in making a band sound decent at The Dog And Duck. First of all, the acoustics of the room can fool you, especially for the low frequencies: they are prone to sound really loud in certain places and really weedy in others, and I mean 'places' in the same room. So walking around while listening is a must. What you were hearing, @stewblack, may have sounded a lot better a couple of metres to the left or the right, for instance. And of course when the audience was in.

Another important thing I've learnt is that having a majestic sound in the rehearsal room, or in your own practice room, away from the band, means very little. I have lost count of the times @Happy Jack and I have had to make changes to his pedal settings, or EQ, or both, just because he would otherwise disappear in the mix, or indeed overwhelm it, as the case might be. Precision basses are infamous for sounding great (if you like that kind of sound) while playing on your own or with the band at low volume, but ending up as a horrible muddy mess as soon as you start playing in the corner of The Dog And Duck by the door to the gents'.

So, er, you'd probably have to persuade one of the band's significant others to become your sound engineer. Short of that, boost the mids and cut the lows on your bass sound, counterintuitive as it may seem. At least you'll cut through and people might even hear you...

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1 minute ago, wateroftyne said:

Huge difference when there's people in the room.

Just beat me to it - soundchecking in an empty room is really only a starting point for getting a good sound mix IMHO. First few songs with an audience in are critical for the engineer to make adjustments, however small or large. 

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We used to sound check early, when there's a few people milling about. We have very long leads (which we only use for sound checking), and literally wonder about, around the space checking levels etc. We also had a great sound guy, which helped.

Whenever we recorded live gigs and listen back to individual instruments, we always sounded rubbish, but somehow sounded decent in a live environment.

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My old band about 10 years back, the singer always did the level checks.

Most nights he would signal 'bass too loud'...I eventually turned my volume to zero. Got the thumbs up, it was spot on.......!

We had two loud guitarists. Clearly, he could not work out bass from their frequencies. 

Needless to say, I had the last laugh (Alan Partridge quote alert). Thumbs up reciprocated, up went the bass. He still thought it was great!

 

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9 minutes ago, hooky_lowdown said:

Whenever we recorded live gigs and listen back to individual instruments, we always sounded rubbish, but somehow sounded decent in a live environment.

Unfortunately, the only way to record live sound properly is to have different sources and mix them. We use the feed from the PA; however, we don't mic the drums - except the kick - so we also need to record the sound from within the band, and the sound in the room with normal microphones.

Edited by Silvia Bluejay
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1 hour ago, stewblack said:

one must respect the person doing the soundcheck. 

Bwahaha.  

Err, nope.  

In most cases, in the majority of cases, the sound guy has never heard a note you've played and has little idea what you're supposed to sound like as a unit.  Be nice to the sound guy, yes, but beyond that?  Nah.

Being nice to the sound guy is akin to not sending your main course back to the kitchen.

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1 hour ago, wateroftyne said:

Huge difference when there's people in the room.

Amen. I've had a number of sound checks where the Bass in particular sounds awful, thin and quiet.

It's a totally different story when there are people in the room. 

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For some reason the ordinary punter seems to prefer a trebly bass, rather than a bassy bass. In bands where I’ve had a traditional bass sound it often seemed that I may as well have not turned up, but in the bands where I’ve played with a lot of top end & drive I always received very appreciative comments, and not just a few either.

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58 minutes ago, NancyJohnson said:

Being nice to the sound guy is akin to not sending your main course back to the kitchen.

Woah! Never mind the bass mix.

What happens when you send your food back to the kitchen?:/

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In an empty room, standing waves cause bumps and dips in the low end depending on where you stand within that room. This maked soundchecking quite the task in many cases.

Nowadays soundguys can move about, controling the mixingdesk with a tablet or smartphone to fine tune. That is quite a blessing.

 

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Only 2 things I'd take from it:

1. Trust the sound guy/girl. Whether they're good or bad, it will drive you mad if you dont.

2. If you think theyre giving you a poor bass sound, dont take a 40kg svt head. A 2kg class d will do just fine.

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3 hours ago, stewblack said:

I quite agree, I didn't turn up nor alter my tone. But how can I enjoy playing if I know my bass sounds sh1te?

Don't you not get any enjoyment from playing with other people, the vibe of your band rocking, the atmosphere of the venue or even the musicianship of what you are playing?

 

Surely that's where the enjoyment comes from and the reason to play live.

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3 hours ago, stewblack said:

But how can I enjoy playing if I know my bass sounds sh1te?

Bass never sounds "sh1te".

The worst that can happen is that you don't like the sound you're producing. Doesn't mean it's the wrong sound, or a bad sound, or that everyone else hates it too.

The important thing is that, if you can hear that you don't like your sound, then you must be able to hear your bass. Job done. 

@Silvia Bluejay routinely mids the bejasus out of my bass, making my beautiful Mike Lulls sound like bloody Warwicks. 🤬

But hey ... if that's what the band needs, if that's what it takes to enable the audience to hear that there is an actual bass being played, best go with it.

My solution has been to follow @Beedster's advice and buy a Rick. 🙄

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I had written a lengthy reply but scrapped it for this -

You aren't broken! Once a room is filled and the band is playing the dynamics change. Plus, singers know nothing about sound 😂

 

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Great advice all around.

A couple of points specific to last night. We were outside and the people opposite were already at their tables under ther marquee (no sides)

Singer sings in bands for her living , is hugely experienced , and doesn't sing while soundchecking the instruments.

I don't think everyone who loved the sound is wrong I am frightened I was!

And yes my first thought was screw carrying the Ampeg if all they want is a weedy midrange!

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