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Author Topic: Outdoor Vocal EQ Challenges/Problems  (Read 3480 times)

Diminished Triad

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Outdoor Vocal EQ Challenges/Problems
« on: March 13, 2015, 11:59:53 pm »

It's been a long while since i mixed in an outdoor performance.  The band's EQ for every instrument seemed very good, but for the life of us we couldn't figure out why the vocals seemed cheap and over compressed/processed even when dramatically reducing any compression on vocals.  It was a windy evening, but not too bad and nothing at levels that would really affect vocals.

When in distress, are there a few "go to" techniques to restore vocals to the forefront of the live band mix?  We tried about everything and every mix we knew, but couldn't get them to pierce through at sufficient levels and most importantly our quality of vocal sound just wasn't there.  Thanks for any tips and techniques you can share! 
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Fletcher

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Re: Outdoor Vocal EQ Challenges/Problems
« Reply #1 on: March 14, 2015, 11:11:06 am »

Well, its pretty difficult to say without knowing anything about the system you were using.  Analog?  Digital?  Line array system, or "PA on a stick"?  What was running through the system besides vocals?

That said... we'd be happy to try and be of assistance but greater detail is required.  You might be better served if you check out the Sound Reinforcement board on this site.  We're pretty much recording geeks around here though I'm sure most of have done some SR work in our time.

...and that said, welcome to the forum.  I saw its your first post.  If you have a chance, please check out the "rules" at the top of the board.  We used our real names [and state our professional relationships] here -- so, if you wouldn't mind updating your profile [at your earliest convenience], it will be greatly appreciated.

Peace
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CN Fletcher

mwagener wrote on Sat, 11 September 2004 14:33
We are selling emotions, there are no emotions in a grid


"Recording engineers are an arrogant bunch
If you've spent most of your life with a few thousand dollars worth of musicians in the studio, making a decision every second and a half... and you and  they are going to have to live with it for the rest of your lives, you'll get pretty arrogant too.  It takes a certain amount of balls to do that... something around three"
Malcolm Chisholm

Diminished Triad

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Re: Outdoor Vocal EQ Challenges/Problems
« Reply #2 on: March 14, 2015, 03:45:43 pm »

Thanks Fletcher!

We are running a Mackie system with HD1531 3-way mains (x4...on sticks) and HD1801 subwoofers (x4).........analogue board...5 or 6 monitors on stage mostly for vocals.

All the other inputs seemed to come out great in the mains/subs, but the vocals just fell apart when reaching the necessary volume.  Even when running at relatively lower volumes, the vocals would just not cut through clearly and with any boost in volume began to sound as if they had reached the compression cap and would break up.  We were at a beach side gig but with very little wind that night. 

Thanks for the recommendations so far, and any more you can share.  Mike
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Fletcher

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Re: Outdoor Vocal EQ Challenges/Problems
« Reply #3 on: March 14, 2015, 05:34:43 pm »

I haven't done a lot of sound reinforcement audio in the last few years but I've done a fair bit over the years.  Around about 2002 I was hanging with Dave Natale who was mixing the Rolling Stones at the time and noticed he had NO compression or limiting anywhere on the system.  For that matter, he only had 1 delay which was used for a specific cue on a specific song [Sympathy for the Devil].  I asked him about that at dinner that night and he said [something to the effect of] "these guys know what they're doing, the only thing additional knobs can do is screw it up".  Thinking about it, I took that piece of advice to heart and haven't looked back.

Compression in live applications can often be your enemy [especially on vocals]... between pulling up additional stage noise/sound when open microphones and nobody is singing to [obviously] turning down the vocal level when somebody is singing -- it can lead to an kinda unnecessary struggle.  While I know a bunch of guys that love to use compressors and gates and artificial reverbs [I've been quite guilty of "additional reverb" -- but not so much since like the mid-90's].

I don't know if you were using any outboard devices, but if you were, that might be a place to look.  Sometimes a "system limiter" [which is indeed often a good idea] can get in your way if its set up for anything other than catching "peak program material" [as opposed to RMS limiting that has been all the rage in recorded product for way too long!!].  If you're doing RMS limiting on your system limiter it too can give you some serious heartache if its clamping down sooner than it should be.

Don't know if this was of any assistance or not... hope it was.

Peace


PS -- please... pretty please... pretty please with sugar on top -- fix your profile to reflect your real name and professional affiliation.

Thank you!
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CN Fletcher

mwagener wrote on Sat, 11 September 2004 14:33
We are selling emotions, there are no emotions in a grid


"Recording engineers are an arrogant bunch
If you've spent most of your life with a few thousand dollars worth of musicians in the studio, making a decision every second and a half... and you and  they are going to have to live with it for the rest of your lives, you'll get pretty arrogant too.  It takes a certain amount of balls to do that... something around three"
Malcolm Chisholm

Diminished Triad

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Re: Outdoor Vocal EQ Challenges/Problems
« Reply #4 on: March 15, 2015, 02:38:52 pm »

Thanks again, Fletcher!  Yes..gonna fix my profile to reflect names, places, etc.
I had the same concern about compression (it was running on vocals) and turned it down. I think it helped a little.  I was thinking of (in the future) running it on the instruments but not the vocals.  As it was an outside gig, and we needed to turn up the volume more than usual, I was also concerned that the power/electrical sources were not able to sufficiently provide the needed levels of electricity.  I will try your suggestions.

Mike
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Fletcher

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Re: Outdoor Vocal EQ Challenges/Problems
« Reply #5 on: March 15, 2015, 04:32:19 pm »

Hey Michael, thanks for fixing the name -- greatly appreciated.

You might want to forgo the compression all together... but will definitely want to leave it out on vocals.  If you want to add it at the end of soundcheck once you've gotten the vocals to sit where you want them, I've found you can sometimes add compression if you're shooting for unity gain through out the signal path.  Most of the time I find it more of an impediment than a benefit... but your mileage may vary.

Peace
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CN Fletcher

mwagener wrote on Sat, 11 September 2004 14:33
We are selling emotions, there are no emotions in a grid


"Recording engineers are an arrogant bunch
If you've spent most of your life with a few thousand dollars worth of musicians in the studio, making a decision every second and a half... and you and  they are going to have to live with it for the rest of your lives, you'll get pretty arrogant too.  It takes a certain amount of balls to do that... something around three"
Malcolm Chisholm

Randyman...

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Re: Outdoor Vocal EQ Challenges/Problems
« Reply #6 on: March 15, 2015, 07:34:25 pm »

Also remember, most (if not all) pro-sumer powered PA Speakers will also have their own power-amp limiting in the form of "Driver Protection".  This limiting could also be happening in the speaker system processor (Driverack or whatever - also attempting to provide driver protection via limiting).

If you were indeed backing-off the other reinforced elements from the PA Mix yet still had issues getting the Vocals over the resultant stage volume, I'd check the mains for protection limiting kicking in.  If so, likely means you'll need more power/more throw/more coverage in that venue with that level of backline volume (or get the backline volume dealt with accordingly).

Where were your Main Mix levels reading on your mixer during loud vocal parts?  What other processing is in the chain?

Last possible thought - Does your venue have any type of SPL/Noise Ordinance type processing installed?  This can have you chasing your tail to no end...

I'm always shocked how much more power is needed from indoor vs outdoor for similar levels of perceived volume.
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Randy Visentine
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Diminished Triad

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Re: Outdoor Vocal EQ Challenges/Problems
« Reply #7 on: March 15, 2015, 07:59:05 pm »

Interesting I had read an article before that last outdoor gig about ensuring the mains (if powered) were turned up to a decent level to ensure they have enough power when needed.  I usually keep them at about 12:00...straight up.  I am not sure if problem was power source...increasing mains to maybe 1.30 or 2.00 o'clock might backfire if not enough electricity in the house.  If on the other hand electricity not the problem, then maybe good to increase initial power to mains.

As for volume from mixing board.....not even at utility I had to run a little low because I could hear the vocals collapsing as i increased volume to mains. 

Was thinking of compressing the back line and instruments so as to free up some room for vocals during the higher moments.  Also read an article about providing a separate main speaker on each side just for vocals and sending vocals through an aux send isolated just to those mains.

Thanks for the advice...  Mike
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Tim Halligan

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Re: Outdoor Vocal EQ Challenges/Problems
« Reply #8 on: March 15, 2015, 11:08:34 pm »

Mike,

What speakers are you running?

I have a sneaking suspicion that you may be asking too much of your powered boxes...also known as "not enough rig for the gig."

Try building your mix the other way around...put the vocals into the PA first and get them sounding good before you try and put anything else in there.

Then only put instruments in there that absolutely need reinforcement: Acoustic guitar...yes, keyboard DI...yeah - but he should have his own amp, Marshall stack or SVT and fridge...hell no! Drums...probably not. Electronic drums...tell your drummer to grow a pair and get proper drums.

HTH

Cheers,
Tim

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An analogue brain in a digital world.

Fletcher

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Re: Outdoor Vocal EQ Challenges/Problems
« Reply #9 on: March 16, 2015, 11:20:59 am »

Indoors you get "help" from the walls of the room... outdoors -- not so much.  FWIW I've found you need about 3X the system outdoors to get the same "coverage" you get inside.  No science there... just "personal rule of thumb". 

Peace
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CN Fletcher

mwagener wrote on Sat, 11 September 2004 14:33
We are selling emotions, there are no emotions in a grid


"Recording engineers are an arrogant bunch
If you've spent most of your life with a few thousand dollars worth of musicians in the studio, making a decision every second and a half... and you and  they are going to have to live with it for the rest of your lives, you'll get pretty arrogant too.  It takes a certain amount of balls to do that... something around three"
Malcolm Chisholm

Diminished Triad

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Re: Outdoor Vocal EQ Challenges/Problems
« Reply #10 on: March 16, 2015, 04:08:10 pm »

Thanks guys.  Yeah, I think I got hooked on the indoor gigs and this one beat the &&& out of me.  LOL.  Looking forward to the next one.....and just may add a set of speakers.   I am running Mackies (1531s)....2 on each side....so a total of 4 mains.   I am thinking of adding 2 JBL's......STX835's......adding 1 on each side. 

Also going back to sound checking the way I used to.....vocals vocals vocals.  My mistake thinking things would be similar and by the time the gig started it was too late to do sound check with the audience already there and having a great time.  Will work on weaning instruments out of mains too a little.   Thanks again....some great stuff here!   Mike
PS   This band just performed with Yvonne Elliman and because it was an indoor concert it was great......so painful to hear my mix outdoors after such a great concert with Yvonne indoors.  She still rocks and brings it and leaves it all on stage....incredible performer!
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Tim Halligan

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Re: Outdoor Vocal EQ Challenges/Problems
« Reply #11 on: March 17, 2015, 05:33:44 am »

I am running Mackies (1531s)....2 on each side....so a total of 4 mains.   I am thinking of adding 2 JBL's......STX835's......adding 1 on each side. 

Oof.

Mixing and matching speakers is fraught with danger.

I'd lean towards either replacing all of the 1531s, or just deploying them better.

The Mackies are a 90 degree box. How did you pack them?

It's entirely possible you had enough comb filtering happening to part your hair...hence the lack of vocal clout.

Cheers,
Tim
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Diminished Triad

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Re: Outdoor Vocal EQ Challenges/Problems
« Reply #12 on: March 17, 2015, 06:21:22 am »

Love the line!  And yeah, my suspicion after reading the advice and recommendations above is I probably had a little or lot of each going on.   I know the mackies have their own limits where they just cut out and before that they act as if they have their own built in compressors.  I ran a light compression off the mackie board that night...another mistake I think.  And I also likely didn't have my mains themselves turned up enough........12 o'clock just might not cut it for outside gigs. 

We also use the mains to amplify just about every instrument on stage.  It makes for great stage sound for the vocalists but as you've all pointed out.....the instruments take lots of needed power and space that could otherwise go to vocals.  The downside to guitar players, for example, holding their own and pumping out at decibels not requiring the mains to enhance is this makes it very hard on the singers.........and so it's real nice when everyone can keep things low on stage and the vocalists can hear themselves (with the help of on stage monitors).  Haven't graduated up to the in-ear monitors yet......maybe one day....seems like the clean way to go....which would also allow for a little more instrument volume on stage and less coming out of the mains.

Thanks for the recommendation regarding not mixing mackies and the JBLs..........I will have to look into that.  Maybe I should just add a 3rd pair of mains and dedicated them exclusively to vocals?

Mike
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