Harmony Central Forums
No announcement yet.

Octet gig with primitive sound reinforcement, if that. Help needed.

  • Time
  • Show
Clear All
new posts

  • Octet gig with primitive sound reinforcement, if that. Help needed.


    Any help with the following would be appreciated.

    Apologies in advance. I know how lame this situation is.

    Jazz octet. Good players (some top local pros), decent book, 4 horns, guitar, bass, kb, drumset. Mostly we play for fun.

    But, the guy who organizes it arranged a restaurant gig.

    Nice place. Large, high ceilings. Maybe 100 x 50?

    We sett p against a wall at the end of the room.

    No PA. Horns seem to be loud enough anyway.

    First gig, piano sets up back to the wall an amp on each side. I'm (guitar) to his left. Bassist to his right (with an amp - he plays pretty loud). Drummer to the bassist's right. That is, the rhythm section is in a straight line against the wall and the horns are in a parallel straight line a few feet in front.

    Drummer can't hear me. I can barely hear him, even though he's a loud player, but that's fine with me. I'm too old for a lot of racket <g>.

    Second gig, piano sets up at one end of the stage, kb perpendicular to the wall. Two amps, behind and to the side. I set up sort of behind him. We're each way too loud for the other, but neither one of us is too loud for the room. We can hear the rest of the band well enough to tell when the tune is over.

    Third gig coming up. We're thinking to bring two kb amps with 4 channels (one is my Roland KC150). Set one up in front facing the audience and let the leader set the volume on it. Set the other as a side-fill or monitor (facing us) and use that to hear ourselves.

    I understand that there are proper ways to do things. And, this isn't a situation in which one of those ways is going to happen.

    Other than finding a new hobby, any suggestions?

  • #2
    Turn everything down, get the stage volume balanced. I have a septet and we set up similarly [but we have a PA and hotspot monitors because we have several singers]. We set up [facing , l-r]: Drums, bass, guitar, keys, with the drums and keys angled in, and the horn section in front of the rhythm section. For us, it always comes down to stage volume control. The PA and monitors are secondary considerations, and as you have no PA, then it all comes down to getting everyone, especially the drums and bass, under control.

    You could also move your rig to the other side and flank the drummer.and maybe use one of those KB amps as a monitor on your end of the 'stage'.
    Last edited by daddymack; 02-28-2017, 06:37 PM.
    "We are currently experiencing some technical difficulties due to reality fluctuations. The elves are working tirelessly to patch the correct version of reality. Activities here have been temporarily disabled since the fundamentals of mathematics, physics and reason may be incomprehensible during this indeterminate period of instability. Normal service will be restored once we are certain as to what 'normal' is."

    Life's journey is not to arrive at the grave safely in a well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, totally used up and worn out, shouting '...man, what a ride!'

    "The greatness of a man is not in how much wealth he acquires, but in his integrity and his ability to affect those around him positively" ~Bob Marley

    Solipsism is the new empiricism. -Alan Burdick


    • #3
      It all comes down to musicianship IMO.
      Good players playing in a band are different than good musicians playing a band. Good players do just that; play...they play with no concern for the overall product...it is all about them...as long as they can hear themselves (and everyone in the audience can hear them) they are fine.

      A musician is truly concerned with the "overall product", ie; the band's sound and thus listens (and plays within himself)...

      I have played/gigged with many guitarists that range from player level to musician level.

      In my jazz gigging days (as a sax player who led/contracted my band) I always had the guitar player put his amp on a "tray stand" (the kind that one would find in a function room...BTW, I have two of these),,,, and put the tray stand/guitarist's amp directly behind him aiming the cab at the guitarist's upper torso. Guitarist volume solved...

      I would always keep the bassist/drummer in close proximity with the bassist's amp close to the drum throne. They have to 'lock" or it's over IMO.

      Other than that, we were good to go.

      Your group is a jazz group, right? One mic for the soloists and away you go. Why complicate things??


      • #4
        Your group is a jazz group, right? One mic for the soloists and away you go. Why complicate things??


        Yes, we're a jazz group. Basically playing big band style arrangements, but with 4 horns only. During the first gig, somebody put a pocket recorder on a table out front. Basically, the horns were plenty loud (without amplification) but the entire rhythm section was hard to hear. That time, the drummer complained he couldn't hear either guitar or keys. The next time, the kb and guitarist each complained that the other was too loud -- on stage, not for the audience.

        One opinion is that we should not play any louder, which means maybe we'd be fine if the horns would play quietly. It may be possible, but it's not the way I'd bet.

        Next time, we'll be pressed against a wall, with the rhythm section in one line and the horns in front. The question I'm wondering about is the best way to make sure the guys on the opposite ends of the rhythm section can hear each other.


        • #5
          The question I'm wondering about is the best way to make sure the guys on the opposite ends of the rhythm section can hear each other.
          In my opinion, your rhythm section is setup wrong. Put the rhythm section BESIDE the horns. Horns stage left, rhythm stage right. In a big band, you would wind up with trombones beside the drummer's high hat. Get the bass player beside the ride cymbal. Guitar player roughly even with the front line of horns. Piano player should be set up roughly perpendicular to the stage, looking out over the ensemble. The piano player must be able to see the guitar player, and vice-versa. The drummer and bass player must also be able to see each other.

          Next, have the guitar amp behind the guitar player and up on a stand or chair. Get the piano amp behind the piano player, on his left, pointed so it can cover at least the guitar player, pianist, and audience. Two speakers might be better for coverage (not volume) here.

          I am going through exactly this problem with one of the big bands I work with. I recently changed from a strung-out rhythm section to a proper setup and sectional cohesion is up a million percent. This band also sets up with Kenton Wings, but saxes and trumpets flipped......that will also change on the next gig if I have my way. MikeM pointed out recently that bones and trumpets need to sit together, and he is SO right.

          You only have four horns, setting up in a single row beside a rhythm section might not look right. This is probably why they convinced you to set up poorly. Set up the rhythm section properly. What do you have for horns? How about two saxes in the front with a bone and a trumpet flanking them from ~24" back?

          How were the sax levels out front? Usually if the saxes and brass are balanced, then you can bring up the rhythm section a bit. Note that a big band rhythm section is NOT loud, although with a smaller group, you will want more piano than usual. Are the horn players playing dynamics, or is everything blastissimo? Big band power comes from dynamics. You can't get loud unless you've been quiet.
          Last edited by wesg; 03-03-2017, 12:26 PM.
          Do daemons dream of electric sleep()?


          • #6
            I appreciate all the responses. Wesg, I clipped your email and sent it to the leader. He likes the idea and we're going to do it at the next gig. Thanks to all for taking the time/trouble to respond! Much appreciated!


            • #7
              Glad to help! Let us know how it goes, and post some audio!

              If your horn players normally sit, try and get the brass to stand -- for exactly the same reason we want loud speaker horns up in the air: projection, coverage. And saxophonist ear protection. If they won't stand, risers work well and look great.

              If you're mic'ing anything, try something cardiod in the front row high and pointing down at a 45 degree angle. A saxophonist taking a solo will get a mild volume boost. Of course, regardless of sound reinforcement, every player in the group must remember this mantra: "If I cannot clearly hear the soloist, I am playing too loud".

              Here's a clip from one of my groups late last year....the rhythm section was poorly placed, although the layout LOOKED nice. I patched over the layout problems with sound reinforcement equipment, but a better layout would have been less work and sounded better. That was our second gig. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z2AuvyGY9Iw

              Last edited by wesg; 03-04-2017, 10:25 AM.
              Do daemons dream of electric sleep()?


              • Rick6
                Rick6 commented
                Editing a comment
                We played the gig last night.

                We followed your suggestions. Set up in a V shape. On one side we had the two saxes on chairs and the trumpet and trombone behind them on bar stools. Which looked better and kept the bells of the brass above the heads of the reedmen.

                We set up the drummer at the point of the V, the bassist next to the ride cymbal and the piano at a right angle to the back wall. Guitar at the pianist's right hand, facing the horns. (Not quite continuing the V shape, but close).

                The pianist brought two small powered speakers which he put on sticks, one behind himself pointed towards FOH and the other behind the horns pointed at a 45 degree angle (basically facing the same way as the horns).

                The leader didn't like hearing the piano from behind the horns, so they turned that one down pretty far.

                The pianist also brought a tiny Roland unit (like a breadbox) with several inputs. We ran extra lines from piano and guitar into it and put it facing drums and bass (pointed towards the back wall). That was in case they complained, but they didn't, and we never turned it on.

                I put my amp inside the V, in front of the piano and angled it a little toward the horns. The pianist and bassist could hear it, apparently out of the open back, and it was pointed, more or less, towards everybody else. The drummer didn't complain, so I guess he could hear it okay. I also liked being next to the pianist, being able to hear him perfectly from the speaker-on-stick just behind us and being able to see everybody.

                We started with a quintet and sent a trombone player out front to give an opinion. It was, piano and drums were too loud, guitar wasn't loud enough. We made those adjustments.

                Result: best sound we ever had! First time ever I could hear everything in balance. I was able to use just one earplug (in the ear facing the bass and drums -- who usually quite loud) -- and that gave me one ear unimpeded (this is because of hearing issues - I have to be careful). After the gig, almost everybody commented on how well they could hear.

                So, thank you, thank you, thank you!

                Last edited by Rick6; 03-08-2017, 02:34 PM.