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Drums In The Center

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  • Drums In The Center

    I'm talking stage setup here, not panning in a recording.

    There seems to be a law that the lead singer always has to be in the middle (though it's OK for another player to sing lead occasionally and stay where he is), but is there a law that says that drums must always be centered on stage?

    Now before you go off to find and post a video with the drummer off to the side, don't bother. I'm sure it's happened before somewhere in the history stored on the Internet. But here's why I'm asking:

    I occasionally work with an electric Celtic band with the typical setup of:



      The problem is that there's always too much drums in the lead singer's vocal mic and the fiddle mic. It's easy to see why. The lead singer is right in front of the drummer, the fiddler is usually right next to him. They rarely play on stages that are deep enough so there can be much separation, and besides, they like working close. And with all that racket on stage and everyone wanting a lot of keyboard, fiddle, and vocal in their monitors, there's a lot of leakage from the monitors into the vocal mics as well (fiddle and guitar are sometimes a problem with feedback through the monitors, too, but that's a different issue).

      So I was thinking that if the drums were off center (this would be stage left) so they were closer to the bass and pipes and not directly in line with the vocal mics, everything would sound better and everyone could hear better on stage. Even though we're friends (at least off stage) I'm hesitant to suggest this to the band since they always set up how they set up, with the drums in the center, lead vocal/guitar directly in front of the drums (I don't know how she stands all that racket), keyboard and fiddle stage right and bass and pipes stage left.

      Does it seem like moving the drums maybe 6 feet off center, putting them maybe 45 degrees off axis from the lead vocal mic, would be of any use in getting better control over the stage volume? If nothing else, this would get the monitors that need to be loudest because they're near the loudest instruments further away from the live mics,

      Should I or shouldn't I?
    --
    "Today's production equipment is IT-based and cannot be operated without a passing knowledge of computing, although it seems that it can be operated without a passing knowledge of audio." - John Watkinson, Resolution Magazine, October 2006
    Drop by http://mikeriversaudio.wordpress.com now and then

  • #2
    The reason the drums go in the center by default is... then everyone gets an equal chance at onstage, visceral communication with the drummer. Hearing and feeling a hat, snare and kick can make all the difference between hacking your way through a show and making it something special. So monitors! Right?

    Sure. But now they've got to be right. Otherwise, everyone's gonna just want those tubs center stage. We wanna hear them, we wanna feel them. And we want to be able to have him hear us was well to facilitate interaction. Stage center insures that most players will get what they need.
    Thomas Jefferson said... "The day will come when the mystical generation of Jesus, by the Supreme Being as His father, in the womb of a virgin will be classed with the fable of the generation of Minerva in the brain of Jupiter." hmmm...

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    • #3
      I'd feel the same way - you just don't want to mess with the band's vibe, even if it makes perfect sense from a recording perspective.

      In your shoes, I might play them the vocal and fiddle tracks soloed with all the bleed and tell them you can improve this a lot by either retracking the vocal and fiddle back in the studio (if that's not really an option, at least you mentioned it so they'd be aware of what's involved) or try moving the drums and/or the vocalists around a bit to see if that would help.

      And let them choose...maybe some sort of better but not best compromise would result?

      nat whilk ii

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      • #4
        Last two concerts I have been to was Alice Cooper in Dec. of 2011 and his drummer was to the right of the stage (almost far right). Last night I went and saw "The Offspring" and their drummer was far left. Go figure !!! Here is a video someone shot last night of the layout. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vQNHakxQlvM
        <div class="signaturecontainer">I like Z Cars<br />
        and Guitars</div>

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        • #5
          Like most part time bands, they don't perform enough to work on their stage setup and sound, and there are a few "floating" members. They rarely have the same drummer for two seasons and there are about three fiddlers that seem to rotate. it's amazing that they get there and get set up on time. Sound check is usually about three minutes "Can you hear the keyboard OK? Is your voice loud enough in the monitor? OK, let's go." They don't ask me if I can hear OK.

          Fortunately, they're all really good musicians and have good arrangements so the show usually OK. I just wish I could get it to sound better at the festivals where I usually end up with them on my stage.

          Them
          --
          "Today's production equipment is IT-based and cannot be operated without a passing knowledge of computing, although it seems that it can be operated without a passing knowledge of audio." - John Watkinson, Resolution Magazine, October 2006
          Drop by http://mikeriversaudio.wordpress.com now and then

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          • #6
            You could:
            a) Tip the singers mic upwards so he sings downward into it (assuming the ceiling isn't low enough to cause feedback problems), or possibly angle it to one side a bit

            b) Put one of those acrylic cages around the drummer

            or, best of all

            c) Convince them to lower their stage volume

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            • #7
              As a lead singer type myself, I almost never stood dead center. Usually a little off to one side or the other. Gives room for lead guitarist or whomever to step forward and center for a solo!

              Comment


              • #8
                best of all
                Convince them to lower their stage volume


                How do you convince a drummer to play softer when you're the sound engineer? I'm supposed to solve those problems, not him. This group would be a good candidate for an in-ear system, and if this was a full time project for all of them, they'd probably embrace the technology. But when they play fewer than a dozen shows a year, and with some differing personnel, it's hard to think about that possibility.
                --
                "Today's production equipment is IT-based and cannot be operated without a passing knowledge of computing, although it seems that it can be operated without a passing knowledge of audio." - John Watkinson, Resolution Magazine, October 2006
                Drop by http://mikeriversaudio.wordpress.com now and then

                Comment


                • #9
                  For years a played with a band where we setup a large riser in the back the held both the drums and the keyboards so the drummer was just-to-the-right of center. Unless we played a room with a corner stage and then it was back to the traditional drums-in-the-center setup.

                  Night Ranger has traditionally done this setup which I always thought a pretty cool way to deal with a singing drummer.

                  _________________________________________________
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                  • #10
                    I just saw a case where drums were to the side, but I can't remember where. I believe it was a big act, and it was a youtube. IIRC, ELP used to do that, with Lake in the middle.

                    Drums in the center is the natural thing to do, but if the musicians are willing and it sounds good, then do it!

                    I always like it when guitar necks point away from center, so I usually play stage right. That also seems "right" because a grand piano would normally be on that side, to open to the audience but with the player facing the other players rather than away from it. For that silly reason, I like to put piano to the left in a studio mix, if there's no reason to do otherwise. But right now I'm in a band with a left-handed guitarist, so I set up on the opposite side. It wasn't ever discussed; we both just headed for our sides on the first gig and that was that.
                    learjeff.net

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                    • #11
                      How do you convince a drummer to play softer when you're the sound engineer? I'm supposed to solve those problems, not him. This group would be a good candidate for an in-ear system, and if this was a full time project for all of them, they'd probably embrace the technology. But when they play fewer than a dozen shows a year, and with some differing personnel, it's hard to think about that possibility.


                      It is never easy.

                      That's why I included other options...

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        The sound guy has to take charge, don't ask, explain the problem and the solution in a way that if they don't comply, their performance and the audiences' experience of the performance will be dreadfully compromised.
                        They don't know sound, that is why you are doing it.
                        Tell them what it is, its simple facts, it's not emotional. If they don't want to listen and you hate the experience with out repair, stop doing sound for them.

                        A drum cage, or drums to the side, hottest mikes farthest from drums.
                        Mute all mikes not in use religiously.

                        One question, are the vocal mikes 58's? If not, like if they are EV's or something hotter change to 58's and 57's get rid of any condensers and "stand" instrument mikes that aren't clip on. All that **************** adds up with a loud drummer.
                        <div class="signaturecontainer">How does a monkey eat an elephant?</div>

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          The sound guy has to take charge, don't ask, explain the problem and the solution in a way that if they don't comply, their performance and the audiences' experience of the performance will be dreadfully compromised.


                          All well and good if you're the band's regular hired sound guy. You were hired, hopefully, for your expertise and they'll probably take your advice.

                          I was really asking, not what I should do with this particular band, but whether there was any merit to the idea of putting the drummer off center for the reasons I explained, and if there would be any downside as far as the interaction between the drummer and the rest of the band. I'm not talking about putting him in a closet or back stage someplace (though there are times when I'd have liked to do that) but rather just put him so he wouldn't be directly behind the lead singer.


                          They don't know sound, that is why you are doing it.
                          Tell them what it is, its simple facts, it's not emotional. If they don't want to listen and you hate the experience with out repair, stop doing sound for them.


                          My position is that I'm the sound engineer at a festival. There's no real advance planning, you ask the band, when they show up, what they need and you try to give them what will work. Sometimes we get these choral groups with 20 members who say they need 20 microphones. I know the particular band that I was using as an example from past performances, plus a few of the members are long time friends. They'd consider any suggestion I made to them regarding sound, and I was just wondering if this particular suggestion would be worth while or would cause more trouble with something else than it would (if at all) help with the sound.


                          A drum cage, or drums to the side, hottest mikes farthest from drums. Mute all mikes not in use religiously.


                          Well, OK, have you had experience with moving drums to the side, or does that, to you as it did to me, just seem like it might help? A drum cage is out of the question due to the circumstances, and without knowing the band's material very well, it's risky to mute mics because you don't know when someone is going to start singing. The regular hired guns work with sound in rehearsal and they know the material, so they can mute unused mics.


                          One question, are the vocal mikes 58's? If not, like if they are EV's or something hotter change to 58's and 57's get rid of any condensers and "stand" instrument mikes that aren't clip on.


                          The vocal mics are almost always SM58s because that's what the sound company provides. I think that the lead singer would sound better on a different mic, but she's used to the SM58 so I haven't tried an alternative under fire. And when they rehearse, they don't rehearse with a sound system, so the only time they get sound is when they perform, which is fairly infrequently.

                          This isn't a rock band, but that doesn't mean they don't play loud.
                          --
                          "Today's production equipment is IT-based and cannot be operated without a passing knowledge of computing, although it seems that it can be operated without a passing knowledge of audio." - John Watkinson, Resolution Magazine, October 2006
                          Drop by http://mikeriversaudio.wordpress.com now and then

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Now before you go off to find and post a video with the drummer off to the side, don't bother.


                            Hey Mike, I was recently at some festival where the drummer of the support act was on the right hand side of the stage (from an audience perspective). The weird thing about it though, is that he was playing with his back toward the audience. I've never seen anything like it. I have a picture of it somewhere on my cell phone and will try to upload it here as soon as I can find the time.
                            .

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                            • #15
                              Here is one easy option.

                              http://www.sweetwater.com/store/detail/CSPA45/

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