Seeking opinions: Vocal processors Log Out | Topics | Search
Moderators | Register | Edit Profile

Alembic Club » Miscellaneous » Archive through April 25, 2010 » Seeking opinions: Vocal processors « Previous Next »

Author Message
eligilam
Advanced Member
Username: eligilam

Post Number: 241
Registered: 2-2006
Posted on Saturday, March 20, 2010 - 9:59 am:   Edit Post

Hello all,

Just asking for some opinions on vocal processors. I'm mainly looking for a piece of gear to use in my home studio for vocal harmonies, effects, etc. I don't necessarily need a device for live/audience playing, only for the subterranean confines of my studio. I'm using ProTools 7.4 and am trying to work outside the pre-packaged plug-ins.

So far, I'm looking at the Digitech Vocalist VL3D, the Boss VE-20, and the TC Helicon Correct. I'm looking to spend less than $400-500 if possible. Anyone out there have opinions on these gadgets or any others for home use?

Thanks in advance.
Will
crobbins
Senior Member
Username: crobbins

Post Number: 557
Registered: 6-2004
Posted on Saturday, March 20, 2010 - 2:40 pm:   Edit Post

My friend tried the TC Helicon, I'm not sure which model. But cost right around $400.00. It sucked. He took it back..........
mike1762
Senior Member
Username: mike1762

Post Number: 496
Registered: 1-2008
Posted on Saturday, March 20, 2010 - 4:14 pm:   Edit Post

I've never heard one that sounded anything approaching "natural". I think most people use them as an effect.
davehouck
Moderator
Username: davehouck

Post Number: 9194
Registered: 5-2002
Posted on Sunday, March 21, 2010 - 9:39 am:   Edit Post

Will; this may not be what you are looking for, but I have a Focusrite Platinum Voicemaster that I would be willing to part with. Link to manual, pdf, picture. The Voicemaster includes the following; Discrete Transistor Input, Noise Reducing Expander, Vocal Saturator, Opto-Compressor, Voice Optimised EQ, Opto De-Esser. If you're interested, I can probably come up with some better pictures that actually show the different sections and their controls.
dannobasso
Senior Member
Username: dannobasso

Post Number: 1222
Registered: 3-2004
Posted on Sunday, March 21, 2010 - 10:08 am:   Edit Post

Dave, if Will is not interested, let me know. I think I could use this.
pace
Senior Member
Username: pace

Post Number: 510
Registered: 4-2004
Posted on Sunday, March 21, 2010 - 12:01 pm:   Edit Post

Will,

I'd skip all the digitech & T.C. stuff, and find an older Eventide on Ebay for the harmony stuff, & a Lexicon unit for reverb/chorus. I worked w/ vocalists who insisted on using the digi floor unit, and the Helicon when they first came out. The digitech is great for playing solo ac at the pub, and the Helicon was great for making the vox completely unintelligible (for an industrial metal band, this was a good thing). But, neither IMHO are conducive to producing the results I think you're going for...
briant
Senior Member
Username: briant

Post Number: 409
Registered: 12-2004
Posted on Sunday, March 21, 2010 - 12:40 pm:   Edit Post

You are not going to get a vocal processor that sounds natural in that price range. Even if you just use it to correct your pitch. I subbed for an atrociously awful cover band a few years ago and their “singer” used that Digitech unit. I could hear it “breathing” like a heavily used compressor all night while it was struggling to keep his pitch correct.

Melodyne and Autotune are the only things that come close to sounding natural. And even those sound processed if you ask them to do too much.

Not to derail this thread terribly... but here is the story of said cover band sub gig as I told it while it was happening on another bass forum. Enjoy.

Imagine me collecting my thoughts here on exactly where to start. Because wow. So here we go.

I got a call from a friend of mine asking if I was available on the 22nd of this month for a gig with this cover band. Her boyfriend is in it and the rest of the band is his father and his buddies. I’ve sat in with her boyfriend on a few occasions during his solo acoustic shows to sing with him. Decent player and singer. Turns out he’s the drummer in this band but whatever. After finding out that the pay is sufficient for me to show up I agree to do it and have the set lists sent over. I know how to play about 1/3 of it already and the rest of the songs I’ve heard so many times that learning them will be more of an exercise in listening one more time through them just with a bass in my hands to make sure what my head thinks is coming next actually does. So little to no effort required. Yay. Love these gigs.

Then I went over to my first rehearsal with them. This was the day after I agreed to do the gig. They tell me that have charts for all the songs. I’m even more excited about the ease and lack of effort required on my part by this time because the guy’s house where they rehearse is 1.2 miles from my front door. Yay. I show up with my bass and my rack with the Aguilar DB680 + Stewart World 1.6. He told me the previous evening that they “have a sound system and I won’t need to bring my own amp”. OK. I brought the rack because “have a sound system” can mean scary things. Turns out it did but I had no idea exactly how scary things can be.

They use one of the Bose L1 systems for everything. And by everything I mean everything. There are no amps anywhere and the drums are a full Roland V-Drum kit (with the V-Drum cymbals and everything…). The guitard owners each use a Digitech GNX3000 and the bass holder just goes direct into the system – no preamp, no modeler, just straight into the Blows system. The “singer” has an effects processor of some sort that he uses to add varying amounts of reverb depending on the song. While I’m not of the “everything to 11 all the time” camp (especially for rehearsals) the volume was low. Too low in my opinion as there was exactly zero energy in the room. Yes, yes, I know I know… more volume doesn’t create energy and you should be able to have all the energy in the universe playing very extremely quiet. But in this case some more volume would have helped. Trust me.

While waiting for the rest of the band to show up (see next paragraph) the guitar owners inform me that this band is “just for fun” and they haven’t gigged for over a year. I start getting that “what did your dumb ass get yourself into” feeling in my stomach.

The singer… good lord. Rehearsal was to start at 5:30. I got there at 5:20 and the guitar owners were already there and setting up – one of them lives there. The drummer got there at 5:45. At 6:00 we started going through the first set without the singer because he still wasn’t there. The singer finally arrived at 6:15. A fairly large (overweight) gentleman who smelled heavily of cigarettes. Fabulous. While there are exceptions most singers who smoke suck… way to take care of your instrument, by polluting it with cigarettes. I digress. We launch off into the wild blue yonder with a finally complete band.

Everything sounded horrid. Even the mighty Aguilar couldn’t help me get a good bass tone out of that disaster area of a setup. Also turns out “charts” to them are the lyric sheets that they have printed off the internets and most are lacking at best. Remember that “haven’t gigged in a year” comment? More like “haven’t touched our instruments in a year” for the guitar owners. The singer was struggling with any song that even began to get up in range – which is about half the setlist. It sounded to me like he used to have a decent range and voice but 30+ years of smoking have destroyed it completely. Best part? About half way through we took a break and he went outside to smoke with the drummer and one of the guitar owners. I have no idea why they do the Led Zeppelin stuff as he can’t even begin to approach Plant’s vocal range. We didn’t get to the Who tunes this week but I’m guessing they will leave me thinking the same thing. Drummer isn’t bad at all especially considering guitar is his main instrument. He rushes a bit but I wanted to get through everything as fast as possible as well so I never commented on it…

From now on I’m bringing my Modulus and plugging directly into the system. Even for the gig. Which I neglected to mention until now that this setup is what they use live as well. Why am I bringing my Modulus instead of my Alembic (main bass)? Well I’ll tell you. The rehearsal room is pretty crowded. I wound up standing near the stairs all night because that was really the only place that made sense. I had just stepped up onto the first step during a tune. Turns out that was a good move and prevented me from being in jail right now for manslaughter. The singer did some stupid move and knocked the music stand over that I was reading off of. If I had still been on the floor it would have slammed into my neck/fretboard exceptionally hard – it would have done serious damage. He didn’t really appreciate the gravity of what he had just done when I asked him to try to be a bit more careful. Since I’m not an awful jackass who reminds people every chance they get exactly how much their instrument cost I didn’t press the matter. I did make a point to remain on the step the rest of the night in case it happened again.

I’m going to do the gig. I made my bed and now I’m sleeping in it. I’ll show up, get paid, play through the songs, look like I’m having the time of my life, and get the hell out of there.

I’ll update again after our next rehearsal – which is Wednesday of next week.

----------
Wow... OK. So I'm using my studio computer to do this which I usually don't use and the keyboard is a standard Dell POS model.. eventually I believe I'll give up on correcting all the typos that I've made even this far because it annoys me to no end. I'll fix it later, I promise.

So tonight was equally hysterical/sad. We began with the last set which is:

Pinball Wizard
Behind Blue Eyes
I’m Alright
Here Comes the Sun
Peggy Sue
Locomotive Breath
I’m Your Captain (Closer to Home)
Pink Houses
Hocus Pocus
Cocaine
Fly Away

The Who songs were interesting... Smokey didn't do them justice and my expectations were underground. horrible. They cut "Cocaine" because that would be a "bad song for a holiday party"... OK. They do a rather interesting version of "Locomotive Breath" that features one of the guitar owners doing this big improve thing in the middle of it where the flute solo should be. And the whole feel of the song is a little off but the original bass part sort of worked for the whole thing. "Peggy Sue" was a joke... about 1000000000 BPM and just a complete trainwreck and they thought it was great. I sort of played along to the "train kept a'rollin'" drum part that was going on. Very interesting.

We wound up hitting all the John Melloncamp songs because one of the guitar owners wanted to work on his background vocals. They thought the songs sounded better than they ever had because I was actually playing the as recorded bass parts - which aren't anything to get excited about but they do make a difference in those songs because otherwise they are all the same song. Kind of sad. I can smell something coming - the "do you want to be our regular bass player" discussion. "No." is the answer.

Smokey was better this week in general than he was last week but by this time he was really uncomfortable around me and kept asking about what he could do to make things better. I think it might have had something to do with me singing all the songs in his ear off mic and me being in tune where he wasn't... he sings through a processor with real time pitch correction. The end of "I'm Your Captain (closer to home)" was hysterical as your could hear the pitch correction "breathing" like a bad compressor. Lots of unwanted flange and what not due to the processor going crazy. Oh my. The drummer suggested a few times that I just sing the song but I have no desire to take anything like that on with this gig. I'll play, I'll smile, I'll make the notes go... then I'm going home to my wonderful girl.

We hit a bunch of the other stuff in the acoustic beginning and it was just as interesting as it was last week. I whiped out the flute lead in "You've Got To Hide You Love Away" on them and they about died... mostly because the way they end that song is tragic and an insult to an otherwise great song.

"Hocus Pocus" was amazing. Really. Amazing if you mean trainwreck on fire that crashes into a school of children, nuns, and fuzzy bunnies and then explodes and takes out the entire community. I had honestly not even bothered learning it because I doubt their ability to pull it off. I learned it as we played it. I think maybe the yodel part is a climb down an E7 chord but I'm not quite sure because I haven't checked. It sounded mostly right...

Wow.

I think at this point I could play anything and they would be happy.

I brought my JPJ Alembic this evening and my Sansamp BDDI. I know I was going to bring the Modulus but I don't care so much about the JPJ and I just am so familiar with the electronics that I can't play with anything else anymore. Sad but true. It sounded alright and I wasn't worried about Smokey killing the bass.

Weeeeeeeeeeeeeeee. Fun. I'm so getting paid. And at this point I'm approaching it as a challenge to myself to learn about 40 songs and learn as much of the original bass parts as I can.

BEST PART OF THE WHOLE NIGHT: we hit a little of "mustang sally" so "see how they do it". Sweet evil jesus. One of the guitar owners plays a very extremely honky pox version of a bass line while the other one comps chords. At first I tried playing what he was doing but it just hurt way way too much to be that god damned white. So I thought "f it" and played something more hip. The drummer followed me and we got something going on while he kept doing this part against it. It sounds horrible. Like way more horrible than that song ever sounds when any bad cover band plays it. Awesome.
------
“When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro”
-Hunter S. Thompson

I’m quoting Hunter S. Thompson not for the relevance of that particular line per se but more to get you in the proper frame of mind. I realized at some point this evening during the two hours I spent in a nightmarish hell that this entire experience should be treated like a Gonzo Journalism experiment. “What sick bastard would ever say ‘yes’ to this horrible gig?”, I kept thinking. If I were any less responsible I would be sure to show up on Saturday with a fifth of Jack Daniels in me, eat their buffet, and drink lots of free whatever they are serving. Which is probably Milwaukee’s Best knowing that hick part of the state. Bloody savages. But no. I must maintain. Keep my wits about me for the need to make a quick escape when the party host figures out that the “band” they hired is a bunch of worthless hacks is very real. If I was absolutely twisted there would be no way I could possible get out of there and those worthless jackasses would leave me behind. I know their type. I’ve studied their habits.

As I sit here and enjoy this bottle of Barrister “Rough Justice” I’ve been trying to replay my favorite parts of the evening. The moments that really set the stage for what will be this Saturday. I should really just pause here and finish the rest of this bottle and open another just so my mind is just in the right place – somewhere just south of thinking straight. Because this will all be so much easier at that point. And it will be much more entertaining for me to laugh about while I’m typing.

The Girl™ called and delayed my typing enough to enjoy nearly half the bottle. Perfect start. She stayed late at work tonight to finish a bunch of stuff so she can take Friday off. I know you don’t care about that bit but I just figured since I’m sharing, I’ll share.

Just like previous weeks rehearsal was set to begin at 5:30 this evening. I arrived at 5:22 and noticed that none of the other not-so-rocking middle aged combo member’s cars were there. Fabulous. The guitar owner who lives there had just finished dinner with the wife. I went down to the basement to plug into the atrocious Bose sound system and tune up. I brought my Modulus tonight and the Sansamp BDDI. I had forgot how much of a pain in the ass it is to get the obscenely large case the Alembic JPJ has in my car – it won’t fit in the boot and it won’t fit in the passenger seat. The only way to get it in there is to get it just right in the “back seat” and it involves some clever work closing the little suicide door that provides access to said “back seat”. My car is a Mazda RX-8 if you care/were curious/whatever. For whatever reason I didn’t feel like driving my truck which would have solved that problem… I digress again. The Q4 + Sansamp BDDI was able to make something resembling a P bass with mostly dead round wound strings happen through the Blows system. “Good enough”, I thought. It was definitely more than these clown shoes deserve.
The guitar owner who lives there (from now on “Guitar Owner #1”) had come down by this point and one of the first things he says to me after saying something like, “You know we really appreciate you doing this gig with us” is “Chris called (the dude I know, the drummer in this fiasco) and he is really sick and isn’t coming tonight”. It was at that moment I knew I was f*&ked. My only salvation in this sea of retarded monkeys with instruments wasn’t going to be there to help me soldier on through the 2 ½ hours of hack guitar holding, incorrect chords, and bad singing through a pitch corrector. Dammit all. Guitar Owner #1 then says something about “we’ll probably not have a full rehearsal, just hit the stuff you don’t feel comfortable with and the songs that I know Guitar Owner #2 will want to work on for his solos”. He then went on to explain how Guitar Owner #2 likes to “make the solos his own” instead of playing the actual recorded, and sometimes very signature parts of the song, solos. “Mother mary of god” I thought… is this guy serious? More like, “He hacks out his own shite solos because he is completely incapable of playing the original solos technically on top of the fact that I bet he can’t remember his name half the time – let alone the notes in a guitar solo”. Guitar Owner #2 is a nice enough dude, don’t get me wrong. But he is not going to score highest in his class on any IQ tests anytime soon.
5:45 rolls around and Smokey shows up. He sounds like he is sick again. He begins perusing the “final” setlist that Guitar Owner #1 has printed off for everyone. Smokey immediately begins complaining about starting with “hard songs for him to sing”. I’ll have to go downstairs and get the setlists so I can reproduce them here for you kids to enjoy. I do happen to know that the first song that he sings is “From The Beginning”. Not exactly what I’d consider a difficult song to sing… in fact I’d warm up on something like that. While I listened to Smokey and Guitar Owner #1 talk about the merits of starting with certain songs I kept my tongue firmly bitten. Why would I want to get into this absurd conversation with these two fruitcakes? I must admit that one thing I desperately wanted to contribute but never did was what seemed to me like a simple solution to Smokey’s problem: F’ING WARM UP PRIOR TO THE GIG YOU FAT BASTARD. Hell, sing something you like in the car on the way to the gig if you want… sweet evil jesus it isn’t a hard thing to conceptualize. Warm up. Then it doesn’t matter what the first song of the night is. But I kept it to myself. The truly perverted part of me was enjoying the ridiculous conversation that was happening. Besides, it was almost 6:00 by this point and Guitar Owner #2 still wasn’t there.

At just after 6:00 Guitar Owner #2 arrived and 5 minutes later we finally had this worthless excuse for a rehearsal underway. We skipped the entire “acoustic medley” which is now starting the evening off. You know. That thing where they are playing a bunch of songs with no vocals that sort of sounds like an original song of theirs, Zeppelin’s “Ten Years Gone”, Heart’s “Love Alive” and “Crazy on You” and then something called “Signe”… I have no idea if that last bit is a cover or not. It certainly sounded like nothing I’ve ever heard before. We then skipped “From The Beginning” because Smokey was still pissy about singing that song first. So we proceeded to do two original songs of theirs that are gracing the first set. There is nothing about either of them that couldn’t be written by a rhinoceros with a piano and a semi-firm grasp of the English language who was trying really really hard to write a sappy love song. It is obvious that Smokey knows how shite these songs are because he was making excuses about how they are “just silly sappy love songs” the whole time. In fact, Smokey always seems very nervous when he talks to me. Like I might actually act out on the thoughts that are running through my head. I think maybe some sort of deep rooted primordial survival instinct in him knows that I think he is a worthless excuse for a singer. Now is the proper time to share the fact that we didn’t even make it all the way through one of their own songs because Guitar Owner #2 got lost. I never listened to the recordings they gave me of these songs but I was able to keep up with the horrid excuse for a chord chart they gave me and the fact that the songs are so predictable that anyone could guess what the next chord was going to be. It is sad that he got lost in a song he wrote. Very sad.

After abusing me with that mindless drivel we moved on to other things. I was asked “what do you need to work on?” to which I replied, “Whatever you guys want, I now have all this stuff memorized”. The look on everyone’s faces was inexplicable. This strange combination of amazement, fear, and horror. It’s only 39 songs (I fetched the setlists while you guys weren’t looking) and I had 2 weeks to learn them. It isn’t like I did it overnight. So we proceeded to hit all the numbers that they felt they needed to sort things out on. Like “Johnny B Goode”… huh?

We spent at least 15 minutes going through Johnny B Goode. I’m not sure what part about 3 chords in the key of ‘A’ is hard but apparently something in there is. Guitar Owner #2 was struggling along mightily with it and he is the one playing the lead bit. It is obvious to me that he hasn’t heard the song in at least 30 years because his interpretation of the main signature guitar line is about nothing like it should be. It sort of sounded like a bad cross between Johnny B Goode and ELO’s (who completely suck ass by the way) version of Roll Over Beethoven. Horrid.

After that 15 minutes that I’ll never get back Smokey decided that it was time for a break so he and Guitar Owner #2 went outside to have a cigarette. Exactly what Smokey needed at that point since he was already complaining about “blowing his voice out”. Uh huh.

Oh my. That reminded me. Smokey apparently went to Guitar Owner #1’s place last night and setup all these harmonizer patches on his vocal processor last night. So now we have the luxury of synthesized vocal harmonies on a whole mess of songs. F’ing YAY!!!! I may find it in my heart of hearts to make sure Something Bad™ happens to his little vocal processor on Saturday night before the gig starts.

After the break we flogged a bunch of other stuff that they wanted to work on. We didn’t make it all the way through a single song without stopping for some reason or another. Usually it was an arrangement issue. And no one was taking notes but me. There is no f’ing way in hell that any of them are going to remember anything that was discussed tonight come Saturday. I guarantee you in fact that Guitar Owner #2 has already completely forgotten everything we talked about tonight… and probably the fact that we even rehearsed for that matter.

Then it happened. The coup de grace of the evening. We played through “Hocus Pocus”. If you recall in our last installment that I learned the song while they were playing it. Well by tonight I’d had a moment or two to actually sit down with a bass and the original recording so I learned how to play it properly. We got 8 measures in before I shared the following information with them, “You’re playing that incorrectly”. I know. Not again. “Huh?” was the response. “The main riff there isn’t the same thing over and over, there is one chord that changes from a C the first time to a D the second time – then they follow that pattern every time they play the main riff”. “Huh?”. Dammit all to hell. I play it for them. I stop and show them the part that changes. I do it again. I play both versions. I play it again. I tell them again. I show them again. Eventually they understand. Smokey gets a big shit eating grin on his face when the two guitar owners finally play it correctly with me like he “gets it”. That “oooooohh.. so THAT’S how it is supposed to sound” look. I want to stab him in the neck with a screwdriver at this point but whatever. So we finally get on with it. I surprised Smokey with me playing the yodeling part on bass when the time came. I just can’t stand listening to him butcher it even if he is doing it as a joke – I guess that part of their shtick with this song is that he fails miserably at that part much to the enjoyment of the audience… sure. It just sounds like an animal being tortured. I don’t want to hear it. So now I’m covering that part on bass.

So where are we? I think they have somehow got worse over the last few weeks while I’ve managed to put practically zero effort into this and memorize their entire setlist. Sad. There will be catastrophic failures on Saturday. This is a given at this point. These guys are not the kind of players who can share a quick glance with everyone and fix something weird that just happened on stage. No. These are the instrument owners who panic, stop playing, and look around like a deer in the headlights of a fully loaded 18-wheeler barreling down on them at 90MPH when the smallest thing goes awry. This whole gig is so far gone at this point that I just don’t care – not like I really did in the first place but I like to put on a front like I did maybe just a little bit. As I stated before: I’m going to show up, get paid, play my notes, and get the hell out of there as quickly as possible.

If anything this experience was hopefully entertaining for anyone who is still reading at this point.
-----------
Oh man. No setlist!

Here it is. Bask in the glory.

Acoustic trainwreck medley
From the Beginning
Two of their atrocious original songs
Lucky Man
Norwegian Wood
You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away
And I Love Her
*break*
Feliz Navidad (f*ck knows why this is here)
We Gotta Get Outta This Place
I’ve Just Seen A Face
Nights in White Satin
Ticket To Ride
Satisfaction
ROCK In the USA
Gloria
Wild Night
Evil Ways
Hurts So Good
*break*
Ramble On / Babe I’m Gonna Leave You medley
Wicked Game
Please Please Me
Mustang Sally
Keep Your Hands To Yourself
Authority Song
You May Be Right
Bad Moon Rising
Johnny B Goode
*break*
Pinball Wizard
Behind Blue Eyes
a formulaic horrible original blues song of theirs
Here Comes the Sun
Peggy Sue
Locomotive Breath
I’m Your Captain (Closer to Home)
Pink Houses
Hocuc Pocus
Fly Away
----------------
“Why not, we’d be fools not to ride this strange torpedo out to the very end”
-Raoul Duke

So there I was… mother of god, there I am… So I showed up at the gig tonight with my Modulus Q4, a Sansamp BDDI, my music stand, a tuner, and all the normal goodies in my gig bag (including strings, wire cutters, extra 9V, etc…). I arrived at 5:45pm and Smokey and Guitar Owner #2 were outside smoking away on what I’m guessing were there 4th or 5th cigarettes of that session. The building was in fact out in the middle of nowhere and the ambiance outside was very rural. Meaning it smelled heavily of cow manure and other farm type smells. Perfect for this gig. The building looked like it was probably some form of outbuilding for the hired hands maybe or possibly a church back in 1920. It was maybe 2000 square feet total but divided into two big rooms; one of which had a full kitchen of sorts. The other side had a stage and that was where I found Guitar Owner #1 frantically running cables for his beloved Bose system and generally looked very stressed out. By the looks of it there was no way we would be sound checking at 6:00 when we were scheduled to. I said ‘hello’ and unpacked my gear. I sort of walked about the place checking it out briefly while Guitar Owner #1 finished setting everything up. I asked if he had heard from the drummer and he said he was in fact on his way. Thank god. At just after 6:00 the catering showed up and started setting up food in the other room. At roughly 6:15 the first few party goers started trickling in. At 6:45 we were ready to run through a bit of a sound check. They selected “Evil Ways” as our sound check song. We’d never played all the way through that song in rehearsal because it was “easy” and we “didn’t need to”. Uh huh. We started it no less than 4 times before we finally made it into the vocals because of various disagreements in how to start it between Smokey and the guitar owners. I wish I was kidding. A fabulous way to start the night. It was at this point I really really wish I had brought a fifth of Jack Daniels and just drank myself into not caring at all. Smokey’s roommate wound up being the creepy looking dude who was hanging out and kept looking at me oddly. He was our person who figured out if the balance was OK standing out in the room. We got a full verse/chorus/verse/chorus into the song before I just stopped playing because no one was doing anything but playing and I asked, “So HOW DOES IT SOUND?!?” “Great! Good balance” was the noise from the back of the room. “Well great, we’re done then I guess” They agreed. I asked “So when are we going to start?” “7:00” “So in 6 minutes” “Oh… it’s really 6:54 now?” “Yes” “ well… soon, but probably not 7:00”. I wanted a drink. Sadly I stuck with water.

To fully appreciate the rest of the evening you need to get a visual of the setup. So I’ve taken a moment to photoshop a plot of the stage for you. Here it is:



The drummer and I were actually on the stage proper with the Blows sound system. The guitar owners (stage right and left) and Smokey were on the floor in front of the stage. This becomes very important later. Meaning the rest of the night. The guitar owners both had their backs to me all evening and neither of them is versed enough in the ways of playing with a sub (or themselves for that matter) to actually look and make eye contact. This isn’t always a bad thing. I mean, if they are playing the songs as originally written as long as the sub has learned the tunes it isn’t a big deal. Too bad that wasn’t the case. I knew the originals like the back of my hand and come to find out they played a lot of them nothing like the original. In many cases completely different than what we had rehearsed the past few weeks.

They start playing the big acoustic trainwreck at about 7:15. I didn’t bother playing along at all because horrible playing and noises were happening all around me. Talk about playing some stuff that is outside of your technical ability. Ouch. The chords in “Ten Years Gone” were all mostly incorrect and simplified versions of what they should be. The Heart songs suffered a similar fate. I’m not hip to the others to accurately pass judgment but I would assume given the stuff I know they were equally less than stellar. The nice thing about this part was that EVERYONE was in the other room eating still during this. In fact during the entire first set. No one from the party was paying a lick of attention to the band while they flogged their way through the first set. Smokey joined us and we played “From the Beginning”. Well… we played their version of “From the Beginning”. We’d played through it in rehearsal a few times at least and most of the time we did it like the original recording. Tonight not so much. Extra chorus here, interesting guitar thing there, something else here… wow. Which was interesting because it was at that moment I realized that I couldn’t see either guitar owners’ hands to get a feel for where they might be going next. So I was left to listen to whatever Guitar Owner #1 was playing and guess where they had gone based on what he was playing – assuming he wasn’t playing wrong notes/chords. About half the night I couldn’t hear Guitar Owner #2 at all because of how the sound system was setup – sort of stereo but not really. It is difficult to explain fully. But whatever.

The first set ended and I was very happy that no one in the other room probably heard their god awful original songs; which I spoke about in the last entry. They were bad. “Lucky Man” wound up suffering the same fate as “From the Beginning” where they just did really really interesting things out of the blue with the arrangement that made no sense at all. A few of the Beatles songs were actually somewhat passable – “You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away” and “And I Love Here” were actually almost all correct – at least the arrangements were right and I felt sort of at ease as they ended that first set. We broke.

The rest of the night was just wow. Wow wow wow. So much for listening to the original songs. Things changed on too many songs to even get into. Arrangements were new and interesting and I had to follow along to what I was hearing vs. being able to watch and maybe anticipate what might happen next. The guitar owners were so concerned with trying to get the notes out themselves that they didn’t bother making eye contact to let me know the next change was coming. The next change that wasn’t at all where it sound be and/or was moving to some other part of the song that it shouldn’t at all. Fabulous. I’ll just hit a few moments that really really stand out:
• Guitar Owner #2 starting “Authority Song” when he should have been starting “ROCK In The USA”. Smokey had a look of absolute terror on his face when this happened. He managed to find the lyric sheet within 8 bars of vamping on the main riff and that song finally happened.
• Guitar Owner #1 playing something that wasn’t even close to right in “Satisfaction” during the “and I try, and I try, and I try, and I try… I can’t get no…” bit where it is (basic notes) E B E A in the bass line. He was definitely not playing anything like the proper part. At all. So much so that the first time through I looked down at my hands I thought for sure I must be half step off of where I should be. Not so much. At least he was consistent and played the wrong thing every time. Solid.
• ”Wild Nights” was just amazing. They jumped from part to part, didn’t do any chorus twice like it is supposed to be, did a completely different arrangement of the bridge, put a pre-chorus/chorus in where there isn’t any, then finished it in a strange bridge to half chorus thing.
• SEVERAL songs where I didn’t ever bother playing along to the original, just listening because the songs are so easy to just listen to and learn that it isn’t worth the time. Well… those are the songs that you expect to hear the next chord in your head and when it doesn’t happen you start to second guess yourself. And when the guitar owners are playing conflicting things and it most definitely isn’t the next part of the song that you’re expecting. Things get interesting for a few bars while the hired help is figuring out what just happened. Compound that with the fact that I can only see the guitar owners backs. Yeah. Good times. Great times in fact.
• Mustang Sally. About 1/3 of the way through the song I just couldn’t take it anymore and I started funkin’ it up something fierce with a 16th note sort of Jaco-ish bassline. The drummer looked at me, smiled, and followed along. I caught Guitar Owner #1 looking back at me during Guitar Owner #2’s solo with a scared/shocked/no clue look on his face. It was priceless. He kept playing the Guitar 101 for Dummies version that was so square you could have framed a building with it while the drummer and I made a bit of fun go. I enjoyed this immensely.


So wow. The biggest pain the whole evening was arrangements. When you aren’t going to bother playing things like they are supposed to be played you should at least let someone know about it. At the very least it would have been nice to watch someone’s hands so I could have anticipated a bit more. All said and done I had surprisingly few really atrocious notes come off my fretboard. I got some food. I got paid. And thank GOD I don’t have to deal with this horribly abomination ever again. Next time they need a sub I’m going to be washing my car. Or something.

In the end what did we learn? We learned that no matter what happens you smile, say “thank you”, play your part, get paid, and go home. If you’re in my particular position you are more selective with your gigs in the future and don’t just do them as a favor for a friend. I have the luxury of not being a professional player that relies on this income to make ends meet. This is just for fun. This gig however wasn’t fun. It was more like a horrible carnival ride where I was an unwilling participant.

Thank you for reading. Hopefully you enjoyed this. Part of me wishes there was audio or better yet video. Sadly none exists. Only in my head and I’m going to try desperately to forget about it.
eligilam
Advanced Member
Username: eligilam

Post Number: 242
Registered: 2-2006
Posted on Monday, March 22, 2010 - 4:23 am:   Edit Post

Briant,

Nah, that wasn't much of a tangent.

Dave, danno, and everyone else: Thanks for the input. Without the benefit of being able to test-drive the processors myself, what I could find on the internet seemed a sketchy regarding these things. I will continue my quest for improving my own horrid vocals...perhaps by (gasp) getting some better voice mics.

Oh, and Dave, thanks for the Voicemaster info. However, I think I'll keep searching... Danno, have at it!

Will
bigredbass
Senior Member
Username: bigredbass

Post Number: 1374
Registered: 9-2002
Posted on Monday, March 22, 2010 - 7:43 am:   Edit Post

I thought I was the only one who made a living out of playing train wrecks. Thanks Briant!

I think vocal 'processors' (and digital FIX EVERYTHING production) should live in a special circle of hell. If you CAN'T sing and you CAN'T play and if you're NOT WILLING TO PUT IN THE WORK to reach at least a basic proficiency, GET THE HELL OFF THIS STAGE ! ! ! This ain't American Idol or StarSearch, GO HOME !

J o e y
lbpesq
Senior Member
Username: lbpesq

Post Number: 4349
Registered: 7-2004
Posted on Monday, March 22, 2010 - 7:53 am:   Edit Post

Briant:

Great story! One thing I must disagree on, though, is the Bose L1 tower. I use one for vocals only in my studio (and will soon be setting up a second). For this purpose, I love it. I think it works quite well, though I wouldn't want to put a whole band through it.

Now back to the original thread. I'm a Luddite. If you want a machine that sings, get a cd player!

Bill, tgo
edwin
Senior Member
Username: edwin

Post Number: 540
Registered: 5-2002
Posted on Monday, March 22, 2010 - 9:29 am:   Edit Post

Briant,
That was right up there with the tales of Mixerman!
I think we've all been there to one degree or another, but most of us have managed to purge our memories of so much exquisite detail.

As far as vocal processors go, Will, I think you might be better off overdubbing the backgrounds, etc. It will sound better than any box. I know there are a lot of options, but nothing in that price range will sound remotely realistic. You might be able to get away with some software versions (Melodyne, etc.) in post production.
george_wright
Intermediate Member
Username: george_wright

Post Number: 142
Registered: 3-2005
Posted on Monday, March 22, 2010 - 9:59 am:   Edit Post

Brian, enjoyed the story over lunch today; thanks!
jet_powers
Senior Member
Username: jet_powers

Post Number: 491
Registered: 2-2003
Posted on Monday, March 22, 2010 - 10:58 am:   Edit Post

Good story indeed.... I was under the impression that the Bose towers are meant to be used by each and every member of the band to be truly effective. That is, one tower for one member.
electronicstud
Junior
Username: electronicstud

Post Number: 17
Registered: 9-2008
Posted on Monday, March 22, 2010 - 7:21 pm:   Edit Post

After reading all of that I must say, What did you expect :-) ?????? and Eligilam... good luck with the vocal processing adventure. I am fairly new to equipment but I have never heard or experienced anything good about digitec. My processor stinks and my buddies broke.
sonicus
Senior Member
Username: sonicus

Post Number: 795
Registered: 5-2009
Posted on Monday, March 22, 2010 - 10:46 pm:   Edit Post

I like my Digitech JamMan with 1 gig compact flash card .

Topics | Last Day | Last Week | Tree View | Search | Help/Instructions | Program Credits Administration