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jazzyvee
Senior Member
Username: jazzyvee

Post Number: 1971
Registered: 6-2002
Posted on Monday, June 07, 2010 - 6:19 am:   Edit Post

What I'm describing here is only related to my experience of sound at large venues and outdoor festivals. It's not that it spoils the event but for me it is extremely frustrating. But I imagine others here have experienced similar thoughts.

I have over the years played at and attended many large festivals with large stages and large concerts indoors in big arena's in the USA, Europe including the world renown Symphony hall in Birmingham which is claimed to be one of the best sounding indoor venues in the world. ( and that still has the problem... .as I hear it).

Anyway, my observation is that all of the large concerts I've attended, bar an isolated few, the sound coming off the bass guitar is always lacking in definition and clarity? Why is this? Regardless of genre of the bands I've seen there is always masses of bottom end but nothing on the top to give clarity to the notes being played by the bass player. Other instruments always have a better sound.

I have this weekend been to another music festival and it was exactly the same. There was no clear definition of the notes played even though most of the bands were either acoustic folk, light rock, popular music and reggae ( DreadZone). I was watching the bass players playing some interesting lines and what I heard was the notes he was playing but very woolly and no clear articulation of the notes being played. I can hear everything else fine even when the keyboards were playing the bass lines the sound of that had better clarity than the bass guitar. It just seems to me that regardless of the bass, the engineer is looking for is making the bottom end heavy and ignoring the other end of the sound spectrum which would give the overall sound of the band more definition.

Now I've heard many engineers over the years talk about adding a little bit of higher frequency content to the bass drum to lift it and give it some definition but why don't they do this for the bass? The bass player could have been playing a 30 bargain basement bass and it would have sounded the same as the guy who had a sadowsky.

I know from experience that reggae bands want a heavy deep bass line but I don't see why a little bit of crisp edge to the tone would ruin the sound. I'm not expecting it to sound thin just heavy but with a little lift to aid in the clarity. The only bass players I've heard live in large venues or festivals where their sound was both deep and clear so that every note is distinguished from the next are Stanley Clarke and John Entwhistle. Yes I know they are alembic players but I saw third world with a Ken Smith 5 and that sounded dreadful and also Herbie Hancock's bass player had a Fodera which was better sounding but still not clear enough.

Most times the bass sounds like they are playing the same NOTES as the bass drum. I am working on bass with a vocalist in her new band at the moment and they are planning to do some festival gigs and touring in the near future subject to things working out well with her recording deal. I'm really looking forward to getting on a big stage again and use my alembic bass but what I dread is that the sound will end up like the rest all mushy.

I know there are a good few pro's here and recording and sound engineers. Any advice?
I plan to use my Elan for touring and that has a good bright and heavy sound. I do use different sounds on it for different tracks and I just wonder if the FOH engineer be able to counter all the eq settings that I make so that I am unable to get the tonal variation I want at the ears of the listener.


Jazzyvee
terryc
Senior Member
Username: terryc

Post Number: 1233
Registered: 11-2004
Posted on Monday, June 07, 2010 - 6:34 am:   Edit Post

Without demising every soundman as I have worked with some of them who do listen to your suggestions some of them who either lack experience or don't listen to bass just push up the low pot in the channel and 'that will do!'
Once I asked to have the high boosted and his answer was ' but it's a bass not a guitar!' and that said it all. So to teach him a lesson I turned the filters off and put the Q's in, selected post EQ on the DI output and turned the low control up on my amp(this was at sound check of course)..he then relented and give me a little top end and I re adjusted everything and my MK sounded really sweet.
crobbins
Senior Member
Username: crobbins

Post Number: 633
Registered: 6-2004
Posted on Monday, June 07, 2010 - 6:49 am:   Edit Post

Quite often in reggae music there is a guitar shadowing the bass line. That does help to give the bass some edge.
sonicus
Senior Member
Username: sonicus

Post Number: 1035
Registered: 5-2009
Posted on Monday, June 07, 2010 - 7:35 am:   Edit Post

OK, having been on both sides of the table so to speak doing both FOH work and as a performer I can tell you that the acoustic phenomenon that are present inside of a room are vastly different then a large outside festival setting. I know you all know this . In side of a large room or hall one can try to compensate for the terrible back slap delay with a piece gear such as a TC electronics 1280. Out side is another "critter " with hit's own host of obstacles such as the demands for much more Watts needed and low frequency cabinets. I have not done any FOH work in a while and technology has vastly changed since I have. What I can suggest is if the setting is inside that the FOH person runs all of the calibration standards such as White and pink noise and calibrates their system accordingly with a "Real Time Analyser". Sweeps to find resonant frequencies of the "room" and other tricks in the bag of FOH system calibration.

If the the FOH person has enough time and willingness to work with and please the artist( Bass Player) he can take a WET direct feed & a Dry direct feed and then do A&B comparisons between both running through the FOH system. There are a few different approaches on how to do this; methods will vary from various individuals . Stress to the FOH person that you want the sound of your wet signal to be" at the ears of the listener" . Jazzyvee & terryc I am completely sympathetic to your concerns because I too have had my intended sound ruined by uncontentious FOH work.
terryc
Senior Member
Username: terryc

Post Number: 1234
Registered: 11-2004
Posted on Monday, June 07, 2010 - 8:02 am:   Edit Post

sonicus..it must really p**s you off when that happens since you are an engineer and you know what to do!
bigredbass
Senior Member
Username: bigredbass

Post Number: 1402
Registered: 9-2002
Posted on Monday, June 07, 2010 - 8:34 am:   Edit Post

FOH guys (and the side-of-the-stage monitor guys) are artists in their own right. They can make or break you.

I'll only say that this (plus my own sound off my own amp just feet away) has driven me nuts after all of these years. You never really get to hear what you sound like, and what with acoustic/archtectural vagaries built into the equation, I've never been the least bit sure that the way I sound in my own sweet spot ever sounds anything like that out front: In fact, I'm sure it doesn't. Frustrating . . .

I once read an interview where Joe Osborne said he disliked live playing as he had little control over his tone vs. the studio. It's very interesting that Jimmy J uses no amp at all, prefers to hear himself through stage wedges, partly as he dosn't want a big stage rig bleeding through every mic on stage.

I've always said if I could get my living room sound everywhere I'd be happy. Never gonna happen. One big reason I never play out any more, I don't trust what I'm hearing. You can spend a fortune on basses and amps, but whatever room you're in is a big piece of the puzzle.

J o e y
bigredbass
Senior Member
Username: bigredbass

Post Number: 1403
Registered: 9-2002
Posted on Monday, June 07, 2010 - 8:36 am:   Edit Post

PS

Having said that, tomorrow I could go to the biggest dump in town, see some guy with a junk bass and an amp that I wouldn't buy a dog to play through, and he'll sound great. Anybody seen my Tylenol?

J o e y
sonicus
Senior Member
Username: sonicus

Post Number: 1038
Registered: 5-2009
Posted on Monday, June 07, 2010 - 8:44 am:   Edit Post

Yes , terryc ! Quite frustrating .
I remember when I was Playing Bass and was in the opening act at a venue called the "Keystone" in Palo Alto California back in the mid 1970's and I could not hear the vocals because we were not given enough monitors and I was being "beat up "by my own Bass "back slap" off the back the hall going through the FOH system and my Bass sounded like flatulent boomy MUD !. I had just attended Audio School (College for Recording Arts) and Everything that I had learned was fresh in my mind but still had little practical experience in the field. No one would take me seriously so and was told by the leader of the band " I know this is a rough scenario , but I do not want you to step on any toes ____ so just behave your self!" I felt helpless but latter was rewarded by being allowed to hang out in a large remote recording truck where the recording engineers agreed with me in the dilemma ,but they were there only for the " Main Head Line Act" and were not associated with the FOH persons.

(Message edited by sonicus on June 07, 2010)
terryc
Senior Member
Username: terryc

Post Number: 1236
Registered: 11-2004
Posted on Monday, June 07, 2010 - 11:24 am:   Edit Post

ever noticed that the sound ALWAYS improves when the support act go off and the main act come on!
sonicus
Senior Member
Username: sonicus

Post Number: 1042
Registered: 5-2009
Posted on Monday, June 07, 2010 - 11:50 am:   Edit Post

That happens far too often. As part a support act I have at times felt like just another Pigeon standing around for crumbs ! LOL !_____
88persuader
Advanced Member
Username: 88persuader

Post Number: 394
Registered: 5-2004
Posted on Monday, June 07, 2010 - 8:43 pm:   Edit Post

The dredded "back up band mix" is legendary! In most large concerts they don't even let the back up band use the same mixing board as the main act!!

In regard to bass BOOM and lack of definition in large venues I think the venue itself often contributes to that. Basketball and Hockey arenas were not made for music! One way to combat it I think is to add mids. Most bass players i know including me SCOOP their mids out but mids will cut through a mix when you need definition, not trebble. Too much top end on a bass just sounds clanky and harsh, you're better off with high mids. ..... Just my opinion, I'm no engineer.
sonicus
Senior Member
Username: sonicus

Post Number: 1045
Registered: 5-2009
Posted on Monday, June 07, 2010 - 9:00 pm:   Edit Post

The Architectural aspects of a Hall Versus the needs that are conducive for acoustic design are always an issue , standing waves and such ; etc ... ... ... . As a performer ; Yes , I agree I like high mids for definition and low mids for GROWL in my Bass sound, it works to cut through a mix _ but not everyone might agree on the timbral aspects . I like it however in my own Bass sound. Good call ______
sonicus
Senior Member
Username: sonicus

Post Number: 1046
Registered: 5-2009
Posted on Monday, June 07, 2010 - 9:10 pm:   Edit Post

One of the aspects that are also an issue is phase cancellation .

As far as Mids in Bass goes _ all is relative in each particular scenerio . It will not work for all examples. Total spectral content of the program material must be taken into account .
88persuader
Advanced Member
Username: 88persuader

Post Number: 395
Registered: 5-2004
Posted on Monday, June 07, 2010 - 9:48 pm:   Edit Post

With live sound there are so many factors to deal with it's almost a crap shoot! The mix could be PERFECT at the sound board and sound like total crap everyplace else. I saw Kansas in the very early 80s at the old Boston Gardens, probably the worse sounding "concert hall" in existance. Their back up band was Molly Hatchet and they suffered from the "expected" back up band sound. Unballanced, not loud enough for the venue and muddy! They weren't even allowed to go through the main sound board, they used a small seperate sound board. When Kansas came on they uncovered a HUGE sound board, turned on SEVERAL power amps and effects units that weren't on for Molly Hatchet and when Kansas started playing it sounded like a studio recording IN THE BOSTON GARDEN!!! I was almost more impressed by their live sound as I was by their awesome performance. The clearity and punch of the sound and the perfection of balance and tone was breath taking. Their sound man was a master!!! I guess my point is when you have a sound man at a big venue it doesn't matter if you're playing a Series II through the most expensive amp in the world or a MIM Fender P bass through a small Peavey bass combo amp. In those situations how you sound is totally out of your hands and you'd better just hope the sound man actually knows his craft and has EARS!
sonicus
Senior Member
Username: sonicus

Post Number: 1047
Registered: 5-2009
Posted on Monday, June 07, 2010 - 10:06 pm:   Edit Post

Ok yes , Kansas! When I worked for Bill Graham back in day . I worked at a Kansas show at Winterland . I almost caught on fire from one of those Flash Pots ! I was standing too close ! I think the tune was "Carry On My Wayward Son ".
sonicus
Senior Member
Username: sonicus

Post Number: 1048
Registered: 5-2009
Posted on Monday, June 07, 2010 - 10:32 pm:   Edit Post

Most " head line " band have their own FOH and Monitor mix person and their own" Boards' It might be it be a Midas, Rupert Neve, Euphonics Audio or what ever their preference is. Not just any one is allowed to touch it .
When I worked with Genesis there was caravan of seven "Consolidated Freight Lines" (company name) Simi- Trucks of Genesis Owned equipment on the the Tour.
88persuader
Advanced Member
Username: 88persuader

Post Number: 396
Registered: 5-2004
Posted on Monday, June 07, 2010 - 11:04 pm:   Edit Post

Sounds like you've had some very good big act experiences. I've "backed up" a few big name bands who were "on their way DOWN in popularity" but always at big clubs, never major events. I would have loved to have seen the behind the sene inner workings of bands like Genesis and Kansas in their prime! What exactly was your role if you don't mind me asking?
sonicus
Senior Member
Username: sonicus

Post Number: 1049
Registered: 5-2009
Posted on Monday, June 07, 2010 - 11:46 pm:   Edit Post

For those shows I was on Staff for" Bill Graham Presents" and "FM Productions" ; often as a stage hand and was asked to do many different tasks within the company. I was able to get a good look at the Pro Audio scene and get hands on experience and exposure to the various political aspects that were part of it. It was a good experience for a young man who was fresh out of "audio school" . I unfortunately missed the boat a few times during that time where opportunities had been offered me that involved extended travel ; some I had to turn down due to family obligations and some because I did not not realise that in order to to clime up the ladder of success in some circles you have to be willing to accept certain dynamics of sacrifice. This was something that I , who was still in my early 20's had not learned yet and had a hard time to accept. I eventually left the company and worked for CBS and other such vocational adventures .

(Message edited by sonicus on June 07, 2010)
88persuader
Advanced Member
Username: 88persuader

Post Number: 397
Registered: 5-2004
Posted on Tuesday, June 08, 2010 - 12:34 am:   Edit Post

Cool ... thanks for the insight!
terryc
Senior Member
Username: terryc

Post Number: 1243
Registered: 11-2004
Posted on Tuesday, June 08, 2010 - 5:42 am:   Edit Post

88persuader..good bit if info on the mids, methinks I will try that at next support gig. Thanks
terryc
Senior Member
Username: terryc

Post Number: 1244
Registered: 11-2004
Posted on Tuesday, June 08, 2010 - 5:47 am:   Edit Post

Sonicus..I know what you mean, the rebel is still in us in our twenties and 'sucking up' to ascend is certainly not my philosphy, maybe that is why I never moved up into management!.
Sounds like good experience though
sonicus
Senior Member
Username: sonicus

Post Number: 1050
Registered: 5-2009
Posted on Tuesday, June 08, 2010 - 7:47 am:   Edit Post

There were a few reasons why I left and an important one to me reason was that
the rate of compensation was not sufficient.
pace
Senior Member
Username: pace

Post Number: 559
Registered: 4-2004
Posted on Tuesday, June 08, 2010 - 11:48 am:   Edit Post

Here's some shots from an outdoor gig last Sunday. Four stages, 50 bands, and the best production staff I've had the pleasure of working with in a long time....

http://www.courant.com/entertainment/music/hc-bomb-fest-durham-pictures,0,5238836.photogallery

I was called in as a stage/backline manager for one of the stages. ATS from Mass. brought in the sound and backline (most of which luckily was shared by the acts). Our stage was as accommodating as possible considering that we only had about 10mins to change over between acts.

As far as bassists go, we only had one upright player, and the rest was Fender J & P's, one Carvin, and one Alverez...... I was surprised that the engineer I was working with didn't mind taking the balanced out off the GK head (which in turn fed our system whatever tweaks each bassist made to that rig).... The GK did add some color to the bass, but at the same time, it might not have been a rig that every bassist was completely comfy with.

All in all, I feel for everyone's disappointment in FOH guy's gear and ears. But, on a day like this one, It was clearly apparent just how much of one's own "sound" comes from the fingers and further within!!!

(Message edited by pace on June 08, 2010)
edwin
Senior Member
Username: edwin

Post Number: 648
Registered: 5-2002
Posted on Tuesday, June 08, 2010 - 3:42 pm:   Edit Post

I've played a lot of outdoor festivals and there a huge number of variables that will affect the sound. One of the biggest problems with bass tone both inside and outside is stage volume. When that low end goes all over the stage and into every mic, there are numerous instances of phase difference, each of which creates a smear in the tone. The other issue that if the bass is super loud, then the FOH person is probably a little less inclined to help the guy get heard out front. So, my strategy is to try to keep my level down to a reasonable one. In ears help a lot.

Another issue is that often the tone that the bass player thinks they are getting may be completely different from the one being sent to the house. If you EQ your bass to sound perfect for an SVT and then they take a direct right off the bass, who knows what it will sound like out front?

Another issue: PAs themselves. We live in the era of the line array. There are lots of things written about it, so you can surf to your heart's content to find out about the implications of it. The bottom line is that it creates a very efficient and controlled way of getting the sound to the audience. It results in a smaller truck pack and less electricity usage. However, there's something about the mids and highs that to my ear create a kind of mp3 effect. I've never heard a line array system create the sort of impact and depth of sound that was available in the old school systems. Maybe it has more to do with the switching power amps of today than speaker technology, all I know is that I find them fatiguing and unsatisfying to listen to. The exception is the line array for the low end. However, this requires a set of subwoofers 1 wide and 40 feet ( at a minimum) tall. The theory is that your stack needs to be taller than the wavelength of the lowest note you want to propagate. With a low B being at 30.87hz, you need a stack 36.417 feet tall. This changes the physics of how the wave propagates. Instead of it propagating as a segment of a sphere and falling off according to the inverse square law, it propagates as a section of a cylinder and falls off linearly. The efficiency, impact and depth of such a low end rig is simply stunning. It sounds like the bass is coming up from under the ground, yet is super quick and has incredible impact. I've only heard this in person once. The rig had two very tall stacks of Meyer subwoofers and it was a profound bass experience where every nuance of the bass guitar had a practically three dimensional clarity to it. However, it probably required almost a whole semi to cart the thing around.

Mike, in the end, is right, though. Not only does the sound primarily come from the fingers, but what you choose to play. A really cool lick with a million sixteenth notes will get lost in the inertia of moving the air along with the other instruments, whereas a really well thought out and relatively sparse line will be perfect.

Of course, if the FOH guy is one those guys who measures his privates by the size of his kick drum sound, all bets are off.
davehouck
Moderator
Username: davehouck

Post Number: 9381
Registered: 5-2002
Posted on Tuesday, June 08, 2010 - 4:04 pm:   Edit Post

What were the two instances of hearing the low end line array?
edwin
Senior Member
Username: edwin

Post Number: 653
Registered: 5-2002
Posted on Tuesday, June 08, 2010 - 4:24 pm:   Edit Post

The Grateful Dead in 1988. I wish I had been able to hear their PA in '74, but I missed it by 2 years, which seemed like a lifetime back then!
davehouck
Moderator
Username: davehouck

Post Number: 9383
Registered: 5-2002
Posted on Tuesday, June 08, 2010 - 5:00 pm:   Edit Post

I saw the Dead sometime around '75 or possibly '76 in DC; I think it may have been the Capital Center. But the only thing I remember was the amazing visual sight of the Wall of Sound.
sonicus
Senior Member
Username: sonicus

Post Number: 1052
Registered: 5-2009
Posted on Tuesday, June 08, 2010 - 5:04 pm:   Edit Post

It was a The Sound of Sounds! I was at the Sound Test shows At the Cow Palace . Phil made the concrete floor resonate ! He sounded clear from his lows to his highs.
pace
Senior Member
Username: pace

Post Number: 561
Registered: 4-2004
Posted on Tuesday, June 08, 2010 - 5:30 pm:   Edit Post

I'm glad Edwin commented on contemporary line arrays.....

The two main stages that we setup were side-by-side. Each one had 6 JBL vertec line-arrays per side (non powered variety), and 4 2x18" JBL SRX subs per side below the height of the stage (good for your solar-plexus only if you're in the first few rows). All the power amps were either Crest or Crowns of assorted switching classes, crossovers were BSS and dbx, management was done at front of house thru a Midas XL88 and each stage had it's own Digidesign Venue board. The line-up alternated back and forth from stage1 to stage2, the empty stage's rig ran a stereo feed attenuated 6db as to not completely mess with the "live" stage's stereo image..... Might sound like a recipe for disaster, but it worked out fine!

The way most FOH engineers tend to manage their work flow (inputs, sub groups, speaker assignment, etc) with this type of rig, almost guarantees that the bass is going to be mainly routed to the subs, and any mids/highs/transients in the line arrays will be disjunct from the image that your ears want to focus on when you think "bass".

For the bass players, I was thinking how handy a biamped FX-1 would be if the FOH was cool w/ accepting two line inputs from the bass player. (At 6am I was also cursing myself for not bringing my S1 for line checks!!!!) It's been a while since I've been around a system(s) with that much potential, yet the logistics of a dozen bands per stage in a day, kind of made all that thinking "wishful"... :-(

you got a prob w/ the size of my kick drum sound, Edwin?!? :-) lol...
edwin
Senior Member
Username: edwin

Post Number: 654
Registered: 5-2002
Posted on Tuesday, June 08, 2010 - 5:50 pm:   Edit Post

Mike, I'm sure your kick drum size is fine. I'm not hearing any overcompensation over here! I have often run in stereo and most FOH guys have no problem with it. For a while I had 4 lines, stereo mains and stereo loops. When my S I shows up, I fully intend to run it in stereo. I am wondering if an F2B will allow you to use the mono out without disrupting the stereo outs for cases where the house doesn't want a stereo line.

Dave, I think it was a little further back than you remember, the Wall was dismantled at the end of 1974. They did do a few shows in '75, but none on the east coast. In June of '76 they did an east coast run with a rented PA that was more of a standard setup than the Wall was, but still interesting in its own right. A slew of sand filled cabinets with 5" speakers powered by huge Sansui amplifiers (their equivalent of the Mac 2300). I heard it at the Boston Music Hall 35 years and 3 days ago and it sounded great, although at that time I had little to compare it with.

So, Sonicus, when do we get to see photos of your remaining Starfire, or do we have to come out there, camera in hand and do it ourselves? :-)
sonicus
Senior Member
Username: sonicus

Post Number: 1053
Registered: 5-2009
Posted on Tuesday, June 08, 2010 - 6:08 pm:   Edit Post

OK Edwin , I did promise . I will take pics and add them to an an appropriate thread. I recently re- lemon oiled the finger board and acquired some Pyramid Gold Bass strings for it. Soon__ my friend!
cozmik_cowboy
Senior Member
Username: cozmik_cowboy

Post Number: 731
Registered: 10-2006
Posted on Tuesday, June 08, 2010 - 6:58 pm:   Edit Post

I dunno, Mike; I'd love to run the bass player two channels for two pickups, but I don't think high & low freq feeds would be advantageous, as they would just be going into the FOH X-overs anyway.

Peter
pace
Senior Member
Username: pace

Post Number: 563
Registered: 4-2004
Posted on Tuesday, June 08, 2010 - 8:04 pm:   Edit Post

Yeah Pete, I hear ya!
With a bar/club 3-way system, I'd be thinking along those same exact lines. But with this type of system (touring, line-array, outdoors) I think taking two lines w/ different freq. content does make a difference in addressing the problem that Jazzyvee brought to the table.... I'm sure there's a plugin you can buy for the Venue board that does all this ($20 a week), but it's more fun using Alembic equipment.... because.....
.....One can go a step further, and run a SF-2 out of the F1-X (w/ the x-over channel in band or hi pass mode).... this is a nice way of additively tuning your bass to the line array's mf-hf dispersion.

Edwin described the way frequencies "collapse" on themselves when they are conveyed through an inadequate system. None of these modern systems are conducive to a wavelength's travel through the dimensions as we would perceive it naturally. If you surround that wavelength with four walls, forget it! We all might as well quit while we're ahead, because it's never going to be perfect!....
davehouck
Moderator
Username: davehouck

Post Number: 9384
Registered: 5-2002
Posted on Tuesday, June 08, 2010 - 9:13 pm:   Edit Post

Edwin; you're probably right. Looking through a setlist site, they played the Capital Center 7/29/74; so that must have been it. I do remember who I went with, and now that I think about it that summer makes the most sense from that aspect. Thanks!
lbpesq
Senior Member
Username: lbpesq

Post Number: 4462
Registered: 7-2004
Posted on Wednesday, June 09, 2010 - 7:23 am:   Edit Post

I, too, was at the Cow Palace "Sound Test" in, IIRC, March of '74. The sound was, by far, the best I have ever heard in the Cow Palace. (Second best was Neil Young's "Rust Never Sleeps" show). We not only got to listen to the Dead all night, but we even got a free four-song 33 1/3 vinyl record on the way out. $4! Those were the daze!

Bill, tgo
sonicus
Senior Member
Username: sonicus

Post Number: 1056
Registered: 5-2009
Posted on Wednesday, June 09, 2010 - 7:38 am:   Edit Post

OH , yeah I was in a daze for sure _____

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