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Suggestions for Improving Vocals in Rehearsal Space.


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Greetings,

I'm trying to get our vocals to cut through in our practice space really well.  Our amps aren't loud, really low actually but can still hear the guitars fine.  Everything is pretty well separated, and the guitars have a few areas slightly scooped on our EQ pedals to help the vocals come through, but still sound full.

Here's the thing, we've had issues finding a singer, and I've decided I'm going to give it a go, take voice lessons the whole nine yards.  But the problem is, I can't hear myself as well as I'd like, and trying to improve and just sing on key, I really need to hear myself well and I don't want to destroy my voice by trying to sing loudly cause that's not going to help anything.  I can hear my voice "ok", but on softer sections, or sometimes lower notes, I'm just guessing, when I listen back on recordings, it's not pretty.  But if I'm recording vocals in a studio environment, it's not a problem to be on key better, or be able to at least hear when I'm not.  Our drummer is a loud one, but it's not like he's always bashing the snot out of things or isn't dynamic.  That's another can of worms and it may come down to asking him to soften up, but aside from that, I'm looking for any info/suggestions that would possible help me hear things better.  

1st off, our monitor set-up.  We have a Peavey Mixer, something similar to this, probably an older model, it has reverb settings.  We have 2 Peavey monitors, Pr12 or something similar, and a Nady floor wedge.  It's not a question of power at all, it's just getting feedback.  We have a couple low wattage orange amps and 2x12 cabs.  Hearing the guitars in the room is not a problem, even if really low in volume.  We don't have a bass player but have a backing track I pre-play, so we have that in check for the most part.

I have an older video of us recording a practice session (think the audio is from a different take but same difference).  Video is here.  Our room is not much bigger than it shows in the video. Basically it's a reference, we've changed a few things since, and the PA wasn't set up then.  The best solution I've come up with so far, is putting our guitar amps and bass amp back against the wall, on the floor to the left and right of drummer.  I have the PA monitors on stands about ear level where my cab (orange one) is in the video and same on the other side.  Before they were way in back but I can hear them better when they are more up front, unfortunately that is more conducive to feedback it seems.  And the wedge is on the floor sort if on the side of the drums.  Mic would be in the center of the room, about where the black roll'y chair is.  If move it left or right but it seems to be better off in the center.

If from the video, you think that the problem is just the drums being hit to hard, that would be good to know, and I'll just have to have that conversation about toning it down.  I know those cymbals are more live, cutting cymbals, but he can't just afford to buy a whole new set at the moment.  Aside from that though, are there any suggestions on placement of amps or monitors to maximize volume and minimize feedback?

For examples, amplifiers on ground or elevated to get the vocals to cut through?  I put them on the ground thinking that makes them more out of the way.  Or possibly abandoning elevating the mains on the stands and using them as floor monitors, and raising the amps up?  Any particular positioning to try for any of the cabs?  We could move the drum set back, there's probably another 6'' to a foot of room to do so.  Our EQ on the PA is very basic, so it's hard to cut a feedback frequency without taking out a huge chunk of the vocal sound.  I'm open to trying whatever, but as of now it seems that a little bass rolloff and everything else flat seems to be the best I could get.  The mics we use are a Shure 58Beta and we have some Senheisser E822S for backing vocals (which I'm not AS concerned about at the moment).  Our room is also treated pretty well for dampening sound as you can see the blue moving blanket on the wall (and are behind the drums as well).

The only other thing is I've dusted off the old Tele and that seems to really help with being able to hear my guitars, but making a little more space for the vocals.  But basically, ANY ideas suggestions would be helpful, even for a slight improvement.  Or maybe our room is just too small and we're going to have to deal with never having the vocals be loud enough with a drum kit in there?

Thanks for reading through all that, I know it's a lot, but I'm just trying to improve and really flesh things out to get the best possible mix for singing.

 

 

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FWIW, we took all the amps out of the equation in our rehearsal studio. 

Guitars, bass, keyboard, all into the mixer.  Acoustic drum kit not mic'ed, and I just have to pay attention (with a muffle on the kick, and sometimes -- although not usually -- Hot Rods or even Cool Rods) so we can get all our volumes to be complementary.

And then we reconfigured the (approx) 20x25 room so that all the vocal mics are on the "west" wall, elevated PA speakers on the "east" wall and therefore aimed at the singers -- and the sub is over there, too.  The speakers are essentially used as full-mix monitors, no "FOH" needed.  No feedback, even with vocals in the mix at very high volumes.

We bring the bass volume up near the level of the kick, then we bring in keys volume, then guitars.  Vocals are WELL above all that part of the mix, withouth much trying.

Guitar bubbas usually have so many pedal gadgets that they can produce whatever they want without having to overdrive a high-watt tube amp in a small space...

The durmmer has to believe he's part of the mix, has to understand too loud is as bad (usually worse) than too soft, etc.  IOW, he needs to be trying to do his part to produce just the right mix, not always cutting through with "hey, look at me" stuff...  And of course that applies to the other instruments, as well.  The goal is the mix.

-D44

 

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Interesting putting instruments through the mixer.  At this point it's not so much the amps that seem to be the problem.  What we had in that video, the guitars are actually way less loud now.  Muffling the kick might be a good idea.  I think the cymbals are the most difficult thing, we might need to talk about toning those down.

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Craig Vecchione wrote:

The drummer is way too loud for that room. The cymbals are so loud they're at the forefront of the mix. He's also bashing the snot out of everything. If he isn't on board with the plan, you'll be screwed with any tactic short of e-drums.

Perhaps a drum shield ;)

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Craig Vecchione wrote:

 

 

The drummer is way too loud for that room. The cymbals are so loud they're at the forefront of the mix. He's also bashing the snot out of everything. If he isn't on board with the plan, you'll be screwed with any tactic short of e-drums.

 

On a cruise ship a few years ago I saw a drummer that srapped his sticks in plastic food wrap.   That took a bunch of bite out of the high hat and cymbals.  I imagine hot rods are similar.  Anyway from experience of doing the exact same thing with real drums in a band a few years ago I simply got tired of it and bought a set of used edrums,  then ran EVERYTHING into the board,  bass direct  POD type gear for the guitars.  Add a decent sub and a powered speaker or two and PRESTO!  no more problem.

Now onto the singing aspect,  haven't heard you sing, but good live singers tend to sing not so much loud but they develop a midrange push in their voices,  call it resonance or what have you.  But this tone pretty much is the secret to hearing yourself it will just cut right through a mix like butter.  One of my ex singers is pretty quiet normally,  she opens her mouth and starts singing and its like someone turned on a guitar amp, you have to experience it to know what I mean.

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Craig Vecchione wrote:

 

 

The drummer is way too loud for that room. The cymbals are so loud they're at the forefront of the mix. He's also bashing the snot out of everything.
If he isn't on board with the plan, you'll be screwed with any tactic short of e-drums.

 

 

Yep, I'd say that's the key factor: the drummer playing to the right level in the mix.  Cheapest, too. 

Throwing technology at it (e-drums, rods, shields, muffles, perforated e-cymbals...) can help -- maybe -- but most of that won't immediately improve the drummer's skill level.

-D44

 

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Its a

Rehearsal

Not directed to anyone in general but I've showed up to many practice sessions where the band says they can't hear their monitors and wanted my help to get them loud enough. I go in and see the main PA turned to the band. Subs on 11. Guitars,drums mic'ed up and in the PA and the Band can't hear vocals in the PA because it feeds back? It a room the size of yours? (really) Then they go out on a gig and turn the PA around and all this sound is gone so the answer? Turn up more on stage to get that "feel". Now they can't hear the monitors.... Really???? You think.......????

END rant.

For your problem you have a very small room. Those drums are screaming and its hard to tell how loud the guitars are as there is no reference to go by. Could your singing be heard if you were singing in that video with no speakers/monitors on?

In a room that small you should be able to sing with no monitors or pa and be loud enough. Turn your guitar amps down to work around your vocal level that way. Next have the drummer work around that as well. If he can't hear your vocals then he is too loud.

Its a practice where great tone for days and thunder drums are not needed. Learning the songs and playing together is more important. You have a small , entry level monitor system so you, wanting to keep the volume down, are going down the right road!

When you've learned to practice at a low level then when you go out it will be all gravey for you and the band. You'll know how to turn down and "listen" to each other instead of trying to get this or that louder. ( I thought your video had a great groove! )

Someone told me a long time ago , If you can't hear as a band turn down NOT up!

Dookietwo

 

 

 

 

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Learn to play together!

Do you see everyone in a symphony playing as loud as they can with violins drowned out from

loud percussion, and horns blasting so you cant hear the woodwinds?

No you dont because an orhcestra plays together as one unit!

This is only an example.

Everyone in a rock band must learn to play together just as a symphony does.

Control your volume and your tempo.

Control your dynamics as a band.

If you guys all sit down and come to this agreement then use your rehearsal space to practice

doing just that.

:)

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Dookietwo wrote:

 

 

For your problem you have a very small room. Those drums are screaming and its hard to tell how loud the guitars are as there is no reference to go by. Could your singing be heard if you were singing in that video with no speakers/monitors on?

 

In a room that small you should be able to sing with no monitors or pa and be loud enough. Turn your guitar amps down to work around your vocal level that way. Next have the drummer work around that as well. If he can't hear your vocals then he is too loud. 

 

 

Singing in the room with no PA?  Hell no haha, could never be heard.  The higher volume of guitars was just for the video purposes to make them more even with the drums.  Honestly, I don't want to be loud, it was the only way to keep up.  I can get the vocals to sound fine with the guitar volumes on their own, when the whole band plays that's the issue.

Our guitars are probably 30% less loud now, and doing vocals with that, I could hear myself "ok", but some parts disappeared, mostly where the cymbals are.  It's not like I can't hear them at all, I'd say it's about 75% where I'd like it to be based on the last practice.

I'll try to do a "decent" recording with vocals and post it and see if there's any hope.  The other problem is, when we were doing vocals, our drummer said he played a lot softer, so he wasn't even playing at the volume in the video, which is even more frustrating to learn.

The guy who runs our practice space has been operating a recording studio for 30 years or so, and is very knowledgable with sound engineering etc., and is also a friend of mine.  I'm going to ask him to come down, pay him a recording rate, and "analyze" our setup to maximize vocal clarity.  Then we can all hear, as a band, exactly what the problems are, and hopefully find some realistic solutions.

 

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Sit down and have a talk. Discuss what practice/rehearsal is about. It's about playing the songs properly, working on harmonies etc. to do that you have to be able to hear each other. Play for the room.

 

Our live rig consist of 5000W FOH, 1500W for monitors, everyone has their own monitor mix. I play through a 100W JCM800, the other guitarist uses a Marshall or fender, 6 piece Yamaha Recording kit etc.

 

 

 

But for practice, our PA is a fender passport, 4 piece drum kit. We can all hear each other, it's not real loud etc.

 

 

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