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Crap Sound at Gigs or Perfect Mix for Whom?


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52 minutes ago, Velarian said:

I wonder if these issues are caused by the mixing console being optimally positioned in both distance from the stage and the height so that it sounds spot on there, but as soon as you move off-axis the effect of the crowd and room change the balance of frequencies? I'm reminded of a situation in a small room where just a couple of feet lower that than the optimal position produced a significant uplift in low-mid/bass frequencies. You would think that the FOH team would have someone checking different positions in the audience to provide feedback to the main desk, although I guess that might be easier said than done in a densely packed venue.

Exactly this from my experience. 

 

My band does mainly theatres, and the mixing console location is often not fully optimized for getting the best overall sound.

Many times it will be under the first tier of seating right at the back of the room which often gives a false impression of the

bass sound. Then in other places it can be not even central or at the top of a tiered seating arrangement. Of course there 

are usually reasons for this, mainly to do with audience sight lines not being affected etc, but it does make it hard to get 

a decent sound throughout the room. Our sound tech listens to the band in all areas of seating during soundcheck, but

inevitably there will be anomalies which don't show up until the customers are seated. Wherever possible we patch in 

to the theatre's system for the upper tiers which can help, especially if it's a 'flown' arrangement.

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2 hours ago, Velarian said:

I wonder if these issues are caused by the mixing console being optimally positioned in both distance from the stage and the height so that it sounds spot on there, but as soon as you move off-axis the effect of the crowd and room change the balance of frequencies? I'm reminded of a situation in a small room where just a couple of feet lower that than the optimal position produced a significant uplift in low-mid/bass frequencies. You would think that the FOH team would have someone checking different positions in the audience to provide feedback to the main desk, although I guess that might be easier said than done in a densely packed venue.

 

1 hour ago, casapete said:

Exactly this from my experience. 

 

My band does mainly theatres, and the mixing console location is often not fully optimized for getting the best overall sound.

Many times it will be under the first tier of seating right at the back of the room which often gives a false impression of the

bass sound. Then in other places it can be not even central or at the top of a tiered seating arrangement. Of course there 

are usually reasons for this, mainly to do with audience sight lines not being affected etc, but it does make it hard to get 

a decent sound throughout the room. Our sound tech listens to the band in all areas of seating during soundcheck, but

inevitably there will be anomalies which don't show up until the customers are seated. Wherever possible we patch in 

to the theatre's system for the upper tiers which can help, especially if it's a 'flown' arrangement.

There are some really relevant points in these posts.

You can set up a system to sound really great, but once you fill the venue with big bags of warm water (we sometimes call them the audience) the mix is going to change, most notably with attenuation of the higher frequencies. 

Where you're situated in the room is also going to affect the sound you hear. Higher frequencies are more directional, so the further off-axis you go from the source, the more losses you get. Line-array systems tend (if they're well designed and set up) to be a lot better than traditional point-source systems, however the systems aren't always deployed correctly and some systems which are named as line arrays aren't really.

Subwoofer placement can also have an effect, which us, as bass players, will probably have experience of. There's a really interesting Sound on Sound article which discusses this and argues against the commonly seen setup of subwoofers and mid-range/tweeters located together (at smaller venues typically with spacer poles). As bass frequencies are less directional, if there are multiple sources, there can be interference, which will, depending on the location in the room, enhance some frequencies, or attenuate others.

Using an existing system in a theatre is, more often than not, a really good idea. If it's a pro-theatre, it's likely that the system will have been installed and set up by specialists, often with system manufacturer support. Additionally, the theatre technicians will have a lot of experience of working in the room, with a variety of different performances, so should be able to offer some really good advice. 

Moving around the venue whilst the band is playing is really helpful, if it's possible. With digital desks nowadays, it's a lot easier to grab a tablet and have a quick walk around. With the electronic band that I mix for, this is how I like to approach it, although it can get difficult if the venue is very busy.

 

Edit, here's the link to the Sound on Sound article. Definitely worth a few minutes of your time if you're interested in this sort of thing.

https://www.soundonsound.com/techniques/bass-place

Edited by jimmyb625
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So it is not me, thank goodness. Two other stories:

 

1. Glenn Hughes at Southampton in 2016. Same story except the kick obliterated everything, including bass and vocals every time until the compressor released.

 

2. Glenn Hughes with Black Country Communion 2017 or 2018, at the Hammersmith Odeon/Apollo  or whatever. Big rigs on stage for both Glenn and Joe Bonnamassa and the sound was superb. I could hear all the vocals, all the instruments and it was loud. There was no lighting effects just 4 musicians at the top of their game.  

 

I will leave feedback for the show.

 

 

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1 hour ago, casapete said:

My band does mainly theatres, and the mixing console location is often not fully optimized for getting the best overall sound.

Many times it will be under the first tier of seating right at the back of the room which often gives a false impression of the

bass sound.

 

As this is usually the case, the sound guy should be wandering around to check the sound out in the room. I don't think I've ever seen them doing this.

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39 minutes ago, chris_b said:

 

As this is usually the case, the sound guy should be wandering around to check the sound out in the room. I don't think I've ever seen them doing this.

 

2 minutes ago, stewblack said:

They usually do walk around, in my experience. Especially as the desk is now a tablet.

He does this using an iPad when possible, but as the mixing area is sometimes a few flights of stairs away

from the areas to check, it’s a nightmare if anything untoward happens when he’s left the desk unattended.

 

(Also in some smaller venues it leaves the desk open to audience interference, which we had on one gig

a few years ago! )

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Elvis Costello , June 10th Liverpool Philharmonic , utter car crash of a sound set up , I’ve posted elsewhere. 
I don’t normally go to the arenas as the sound has been disappointing on the occasions I have. Competence aside , those places must be a mare to get the sound right , but the Philharmonic should be a breeze!  
 

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1 hour ago, lurksalot said:

Elvis Costello , June 10th Liverpool Philharmonic , utter car crash of a sound set up , I’ve posted elsewhere. 
I don’t normally go to the arenas as the sound has been disappointing on the occasions I have. Competence aside , those places must be a mare to get the sound right , but the Philharmonic should be a breeze!  
 

Yep as it has extremely good acoustics - it was part of the design of the hall back in the 1930s, like the shape of the side walls to reduce reflections / standing waves. There's a permanently mounted PA system suspended form the roof and sound desk. Many (classical) concerts are broadcast live from there on Radio 3. I've only ever heard Clannad and Capercaillie performing there and that wasn't recently, but I don't recollect any sound issues. 

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a few years ago went to Rebellion, the sound on the first night was awful, sounded like they'd got a reverb on the kick, my mate went up to the sound desk to complain and the sound engineer just pointed at the ceiling and shrugged his shoulders, by the 3rd night the sound was spot on in the same venue

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2 hours ago, lurksalot said:

Elvis Costello , June 10th Liverpool Philharmonic , utter car crash of a sound set up , I’ve posted elsewhere. 
I don’t normally go to the arenas as the sound has been disappointing on the occasions I have. Competence aside , those places must be a mare to get the sound right , but the Philharmonic should be a breeze!  
 

 

1 hour ago, zbd1960 said:

Yep as it has extremely good acoustics - it was part of the design of the hall back in the 1930s, like the shape of the side walls to reduce reflections / standing waves. There's a permanently mounted PA system suspended form the roof and sound desk. Many (classical) concerts are broadcast live from there on Radio 3. I've only ever heard Clannad and Capercaillie performing there and that wasn't recently, but I don't recollect any sound issues. 

 

Unfortunately there's a big difference in building design between something that will suit orchestral and choral music which often need a bit of help projecting out in the auditorium, and something that suits loud amplified music, where that same projection will play havoc with the sound. 

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1 hour ago, PaulWarning said:

a few years ago went to Rebellion, the sound on the first night was awful, sounded like they'd got a reverb on the kick, my mate went up to the sound desk to complain and the sound engineer just pointed at the ceiling and shrugged his shoulders, by the 3rd night the sound was spot on in the same venue

Wasn`t The Empress Ballroom was it Paul, the sound in there is usually pretty rotten imo.

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I first encountered the problem with a room many years ago. A local gig in a bar that was a stretched rectangle shape. So parallel walls with shiny surfaces, a pair of very short walls and a pair of long walls, with a relatively low ceiling. All surfaces were reflective with no curtains etc. Try as I might I couldn’t hear a thing on that gig - bass, PA, singer, drums - all a massive mush, and we’d limited the volume especially as in problem rooms the louder you go, the worse it gets. These kind of spaces just don’t work for live music unless there is something to absorb all the bouncing sound waves and the frequencies of standing waves are identified.

Over my gigging career of just over 20 years probably < 10% of the sound engineers I encountered had any clue what they were doing. Even in some pretty decent professional venues with expensive PA systems. As has been said, soundchecks were almost always bottom up instead of top down. This, and dealing with musicians and promoters were the main reasons I gave up playing live. I don’t miss it one bit.

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1 hour ago, Lozz196 said:

Wasn`t The Empress Ballroom was it Paul, the sound in there is usually pretty rotten imo.

think so, Bad Religion on the first night was awful, Sham 69 a couple of nights later was spot on

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I think rooms are a big issue, however I have seen many shows at the Pavilion Bournemouth and the room is really not the problem. It may be that the desk was under the rather low circle, that may have altered the sound at the desk and many shows have the desk at the front of the Circle. However surely the mixist should have wandered the room while the Lighting Control Person protected the desk from the audience of mainly 70-80 year olds?

 

Maybe the majority of these sound guys learnt their "craft" with Drum and Bass?

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43 minutes ago, FDC484950 said:

I first encountered the problem with a room many years ago. A local gig in a bar that was a stretched rectangle shape. So parallel walls with shiny surfaces, a pair of very short walls and a pair of long walls, with a relatively low ceiling. All surfaces were reflective with no curtains etc. Try as I might I couldn’t hear a thing on that gig - bass, PA, singer, drums - all a massive mush, and we’d limited the volume especially as in problem rooms the louder you go, the worse it gets. These kind of spaces just don’t work for live music unless there is something to absorb all the bouncing sound waves and the frequencies of standing waves are identified.

Over my gigging career of just over 20 years probably < 10% of the sound engineers I encountered had any clue what they were doing. Even in some pretty decent professional venues with expensive PA systems. As has been said, soundchecks were almost always bottom up instead of top down. This, and dealing with musicians and promoters were the main reasons I gave up playing live. I don’t miss it one bit.

 

I don't envy the challenge for that room one bit. I imagine you'd play a note, wait for a second and then hear it coming back to you. 

 

36 minutes ago, Chienmortbb said:

I think rooms are a big issue, however I have seen many shows at the Pavilion Bournemouth and the room is really not the problem. It may be that the desk was under the rather low circle, that may have altered the sound at the desk and many shows have the desk at the front of the Circle. However surely the mixist should have wandered the room while the Lighting Control Person protected the desk from the audience of mainly 70-80 year olds?

 

Maybe the majority of these sound guys learnt their "craft" with Drum and Bass?

They should definitely poke their heads out to listen to what is going on.

The problem is, just as with musicians, there are many different levels of competency. I'm not involved in the pro sound industry, but from working with the folks who are, it's easy to see that training and education in the subject area is often lacking. I'm not saying that is the be-all and end-all to make a good engineer, but having an understanding of the underlying physics of sound is never a hindrance imho.

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2 hours ago, Muzz said:

This ^ - see my 'Fun Lovin Criminals at Manchester Cathedral' post earlier...

The band I tech for supported Turin Breaks there. According to one of the engineers who provided the main rig, there's about 2 seconds of natural reverb decay in there!

I was just glad we didn't try to run additional stage monitors for our bit, but even then I've never run a mix so dry.

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As I said in my original post, maybe it's because most of the audience either don't say anything or simply don't care.

 

I'm lucky in that I don't go to "big" gigs where this problem seems to be most prevalent. I don't like big venues and luckily for me the bands I go to see aren't popular enough to be playing them - the largest places I go to regularly are Rock City and Whitby Pavilion. If I did encounter it, then I would be complaining on the band's social media pages, on the venue's social media pages, and if I could find out who was responsible for the live sound their social media pages too. I might also ask the sound engineer at the gig in as polite a way as possible why the sound was like that - was if the band's preference, venue acoustics or simply because "that is how it is done these days".

 

So every time you don't complain to someone who might be able to do something about the sound (i.e. not on here), you are in effect enabling the continuation of inappropriate live sound.

 

Edited by BigRedX
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3 hours ago, BigRedX said:

 

 

Unfortunately there's a big difference in building design between something that will suit orchestral and choral music which often need a bit of help projecting out in the auditorium, and something that suits loud amplified music, where that same projection will play havoc with the sound. 

You may well be correct in that, however , the venue staff concurred that the sound was abysmal , they know how the room should have sounded , they have a few gigs there , the support act sound was fine and Crystal clear 

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I would only like to add to all of the above on this thread, that it's no longer an excuse for the sound engineer to be sat in the best spot in the room and therefore not know what the band sounds like elsewhere. Wherever we have played*, and at least at the last few gigs I have attended in proper music venues, there were sound engineers walking around with tablets and making (perhaps only minor) adjustments from all corners of the room.

 

It definitely helps if the room itself has been purpose-built or at least kitted out for music performances, of course, and that seems to be becoming a rarity.

 

*Edit: where I wasn't the sound engineer, i.e open-air festivals etc.

Edited by Silvia Bluejay
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I recently saw a touring ABBA tribute band in a very nice old theatre that seats about 1000 that has very good acoustics and an excellent sound system. Unfortunately the sound engineer, who is very good, likes a lot of bass and kick drum and while the musicians did a fine job and the bassist played all the right stuff the overall sound was way too modern and that clean ABBA sound from the band turned to mush. The vocals were fine but the overwhelming bass was not only annoying but absolutely wrong for that music. To be fair, the sound guy was pretty young but he should have been aware of what ABBA sounded like and he had the technology available to get things right.

A month after that concert I played DB in the same venue in a band that was part of of a musical drama production and I made sure to talk to the sound people at the first rehearsal and they absolutely nailed the sound I wanted FOH and I had a number of compliments from other musicians. I think the ABBA problem was just a matter of not knowing what the original band sounded like although I can understand bit of fiddling to get a bit more room filling modern sound but they overdid it.

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That's a pertinent point - at the Stranglers gig I went to (Manchester Apollo, not a 'problem' venue, I've heard many good mixes in there) I walked all over, thinking JJB's bass must just be sounding terrible from where I was standing, but no, it was at least consistent...I went and stood right behind the sound engineer, who seemed pleased (well, he stood there with his arms folded) - the main issue in that case wasn't the all-too-usual boom and mush per se, it was the fact that a big part of the band's signature sound (yeah, the bass), was EQ'd allll wrong for the band; it was a very Metal, scooped sound...almost like the sound engineer wasn't familiar with how it was supposed to sound...I've since heard it was better at other gigs, and as I say, it was their first tour with in-ears, so JJB himself might well have had his usual bass sound in his in-ears...

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On 21/06/2022 at 11:33, jimmyb625 said:

Subwoofer placement can also have an effect, which us, as bass players, will probably have experience of. There's a really interesting Sound on Sound article which discusses this and argues against the commonly seen setup of subwoofers and mid-range/tweeters located together (at smaller venues typically with spacer poles). As bass frequencies are less directional, if there are multiple sources, there can be interference, which will, depending on the location in the room, enhance some frequencies, or attenuate others.

This is an interesting point, I was Technical Manager for Pansonic Ramsa Pro Audio for a short while and the recommendation in all the RAMSA system literature, It strongly recommended that ALL subs be placed together, not on either side with the tops. I have also seen it argued that in many venues the Tops should be placed together and monophonic.

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21 hours ago, BigRedX said:

So every time you don't complain to someone who might be able to do something about the sound (i.e. not on here), you are in effect enabling the continuation of inappropriate live sound.

 

So I did and very quickly got the following response:

"Hi John,

Thank you for letting us know. I'll pass your comments onto the sound engineer. 

Kind Regards, "

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9 minutes ago, Chienmortbb said:

So I did and very quickly got the following response:

"Hi John,

Thank you for letting us know. I'll pass your comments onto the sound engineer. 

Kind Regards, "

 

Brilliant.

 

We just need to keep it up and let people know every time the sound is inappropriately mixed, and maybe something will get done about it.

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