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Sandbagging volume on gain checks!


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  • Sandbagging volume on gain checks!

    So last night I had an issue with the bass microphone feeding back.... this is wierd, since we use all IEM's and I usually can raise the volume to clip without even a hint of feedback.

    So nearly at the end of the 3rd set, I notice that the ACP88 compressor channel that I have on the bass is constantly completely compressed (not usually how I set it up).

    What had happened is that someone accidentally had pulled the insert out of the bass channel in setup. I plugged one of the ACP88 channels back into the bass channel, but wasn't sure it was the original one I had setup.

    As a result, I reset the threshold after asking the bass player to go to his intended gig volume.

    Obviously, after I did that, he then turned up. This did two things. The bass sounded like crap all night, and the mic was so overly amped up on compression and gain that it caused LF feedback past a certain point.

    Come on guys! Can't musicians just trust the sound board to do the mix for them ..... or am I always going to have to treat the musicians in my band like I would a horse I was putting a saddle on (cinch, wait, cinch, knee in the gut to get him to blow out the air, cinch .... ).

    Am I the only one that has issues like this?
    With Greater Knowledge Comes Greater Understanding

  • #2
    I get that with drummers, getting them to play a beat for a bit after helps, or sometimes I jokingly say "come on dude, you can't tell me you hit like a pussy" (depending on who it is, & how they will take it, of course)


    Once they start playing for soundcheck I can usually dial things down a touch if I need to.

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    • #3
      I also think that sound people should EXPECT this from both musicians and vocalists. I have been doing sound for both my bands on occasion lately (from stage) but I am very new at it, and being on both sides of this particular equation simultaneously, I realized a couple of things: First, most musicians and vocalists hold back their volume by either singing/or talking into the mic softer during a sound check or by "saving volume" or picking softer, and second, that they are not doing it to screw with you. Singers do this unconsciously, I think, because we all have egos. We all like to think that we should be a little louder in the mix or that we are usually mixed too low. It happens. So I think this is done by vocalists, if not unconsciously, than with little thought.

      I have done it myself in the past, and you're right, it is not good for the sound engineer. What I did the other night, while balancing the vocals (because I had to YUCK do sound from stage) was when the female vocalist was checking her mic, I got on her case because she was speaking like ridiculously soft into the mic. I recognized it right away, because I have been guilty of the same thing in the past. So I kind of gently rebuked her and told her she needed to use her vocal techniques and project into the mic. When she didn't do it I illustrated the point to her in a way I knew she would HAVE to understand. I took her mic off the stand and dragged her and her mic to the mixer. I then hit the solo button and stated adjusting the input trim while she practically whispered into the mic. I said, "Okay, Joss, now watch this." While she stood there in front of the board, I took her mic from her and told her to watch the LED lights as I hit solo and sang into her mic not even loud at just a moderate volume. The lights went deep into the red and I then explained to here that by doing what she did, saving vocal volume, she was sabotaging and not helping herself because when she actually SANG into the mic after I had already adjusted her input trim, she would then spend the entire night with her voice clipping and distorted in the mains!

      Her eyes popped open and the lesson was learned...I hope!

      I then explained to her that I could always raise her volume with the faders on the fly if she needed or wanted it, BUT that if she was singing all night with a clipped signal, that I could not get rid of the distortion. Anyway, sometimes you have to just explain this to musicians and singers. Most of us will save volume because we simply think we could be louder. It is, quite honestly, a fact of life and sometimes if you illustrate it to a guy or gal who is doing it in the sound check, you will both teach them a valuable lesson on the spot AND have a better mix. of course this is a lot easier to pin out in vocalists because you can see by their posture or hear in their voice that they are holding back. BUT if you just assume that most musicians will do this, you can be better armed to handle the whole "saving volume" issue.


      • #4
        An age old story....now that I'm just doing sound for my own band I've got it dialed in, but still my drummer just doesn't hit as hard at soundcheck as he does at showtime. I've made him aware of this over the years but he still does it. That's why I mic and DI the bass. The mic can hear (and show) if he turns up thru the night.


        • #5
          When I first started doing sound, mixing from the stage, I would set my levels at sound check and leave them for most of the night. I remember thinking the monitors sounded weird, so I walked over to the mixer and found that all of the channels were slamming into the red... weird, they weren't doing that before...

          I normally just set a base-line for the trim pots and I don't change them until the show actually starts. The tricky part in all this is the monitor. It's nice when I can get the whole band to play during soundcheck, easier to get the monitors right and respective instruments will be closer to "show volume". Of course they'll always turn up once the show gets going, so I leave some breathing room in my trims.


          • #6
            Mogwix, I think that may be the best way to do it, to be honest. Because if you go in with the preconception that most musicians are going to underplay during the level-check (not even the sound check) then you leave some headroom in the input trim, you will probably get a better overall mix and eliminate distortion.


            • #7
              With that said, I very rarely get to actually have the band go up and play a song during soundcheck. Normally it's just me and my assistant tapping on the mics to line-check them and then flying from the seat of our pants once the show starts. That's where experience is a huge help.


              • #8
                I have very little experience, but I am lucky that I have my band sort of trained to get to every show a minimum of 90 minutes before we are scheduled to start playing. So we always sound check an actual song or two at full volume, which helps with my lack of experience.


                • #9
                  I guess I will just have to start allowing more room and then check things after the first couple of songs
                  With Greater Knowledge Comes Greater Understanding


                  • #10
                    When you soundcheck you need to allow for people to sandbag a bit. If you're compressing then allow the threshold to be raised, and soundcheck with compression.

                    question: why are you using a comp on the bass? Is it bass-DI-board? or is there a processor in there?

                    bassist and sound reinforcement


                    • #11
                      I'm finally starting to get pretty good at "level setting".This is the term I use for running sound from stage because once you get playing,on the fly adjustments(except to monitors) are a crap-shoot.How can you really know if the cut you just made should have been a boost if you are not out front to hear it?From the Tascam,and I-pod recordings I have I can hear my mixes getting better,and better.I do have a situation where my guitarist thinks I'm burying him in the mix because he isn't real strong in the FOH.He hasn't said it,but when a guy stands in front of the P.A.,and just looks at you... In my defense,if he could get forty feet out (in a sixtey foot deep room),he would hear what everyone out front is hearing.Plenty of everything.Sandbagging drummers were the best lesson learned.I set their gain low.PFLed kick drum never hits yellow (MixWiz),and then run the fader up where it sounds,and feels right.Then I lower the fader about 5db because I have learned that when its showtime,drummers shoes amazingly gain about twenty pounds!!! Lol


                      • #12
                        Yes, almost all players do this. Not always intentionally at all...when the show starts, the adrenalin kicks in, and you play and sing louder. Pros usually know this and try to match their performance levels at sound check. But it's not something to get upset about either way; it's part of your job.
                        "If you don't know where you are going, you might wind up someplace else" - Yogi Berra, 1925-2015


                        • #13
                          I guess I will just have to start allowing more room and then check things after the first couple of songs

                          I usually set the mics at about three lights up from the bottom. That's about 25 db down from 0. It works with my band, but might not work everywhere. Singers tend to get warmed up about half way through the first set. That's usually an additional 10 db. (Again only my experience.)