Need advice on mic'ing my amp / live sound in general....

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Need advice on mic'ing my amp / live sound in general....

Postby lunasparks » Thu Aug 12, 2010 5:46 pm

Gents,

Any tips appreciated. Here's my dilemma: I recently started getting out of my house to play with a band. At the same time, I've been putting more and more love into my PRRI to get a sound I like. Problem is that I dig the tone at about 4 (max that's still pretty clean), but the band gets damn loud -- at times we've got 3 guitars, keys, drums, bass & multiple vocalists. By the end of the night I'm dimed and dirty. Not terrible but not ideal.

Does it make sense for me to get some kind of high-watt powered monitor that I can set up, say, next to the amp behind me that gets a feed from the mic'd amp -- and as the night wears on and everything gets louder, I can just reach back and slowly increase the volume on the monitor to stay in the mix, all the while leaving the PRRI clean and untouched? And this monitor would not just be for me but would need to be kind of part of the PA, projecting into the audience much like my amp does currently un-mic'd...a problem?

Finally, it could be useful if this hypothetical monitor/PA could also take my vocals at the same time or maybe another instrument (even a feed from the main mixer?) to help us out in a struggle where we don't have much in the way of PA equipment. Am I asking for too much?

Apologies if this is all very basic, but I googled around and didn't seem to find much useful. Any thoughts would be great.

Best to all,

Vince
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Re: Need advice on mic'ing my amp / live sound in general...

Postby Stone » Thu Aug 12, 2010 7:43 pm

Out of control on stage volume can really kill a mix fast. Is your amp on a stand or tilted back so that you are really hearing your amp ? Its not uncommon to have some of your own guitar (keys ,rhythm guitar etc) in your monitor wedge. I only find this only typical of large rooms or outdoor stages. It sounded like everyone else could stand to turn down little and getting your amp up head height or tilting it back should cure your problem. Where u stand on stage could change this also. I found when i was on the same side as the keys I was fighting his Leslie all he time for vol. I moved to he other side of the stage and now occasionally ask for a lil keys in my wedge , problem solved.
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Re: Need advice on mic'ing my amp / live sound in general...

Postby Stevo123 » Thu Aug 12, 2010 9:04 pm

I've done quite a bit of playing with 3 guitars on stage (at an open mic I frequent) and I'm pretty much finished with that. With that many instruments it usually hits a point where no one feels like they can be heard, even though they may in reality be blaringly loud, and volume wars ensue. At a certain loudness your ears really can't distinguish anything very well anymore. Whoever has the biggest amp "wins" and everyone listening loses. That's usually the point I stop playing and sit down. When a band plays too loud and people can't even have conversation, even people that would normally like the music will leave.
Guitarists, especially, are awful when it comes to overplaying. Even with just two guitars, each guitarist has to know and understand their speficic role in the overall sound. 3 is a major challenge. I struggle all the time with the lead guitarist I play with because he often tries to play everything including mashing out all the chords and also ends up being 2-3x as loud as everyone else on stage.
If you're having to dime your amp out, chances are the band is way too loud. Try to get the amps angled upward or off the ground if possible, spread out and get everyone spaced further apart, especially from the drummer. Having the bass player EQ out some of the bottom end out can help too. Work on a more balanced, reasonable sound. If your guitar is still too low after all that, then and only then should you consider mic'ing your amp, IMO.
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Re: Need advice on mic'ing my amp / live sound in general...

Postby SarnoMusicSolutions » Thu Aug 12, 2010 9:43 pm

The whole loudness thing is really insane. I get the need for clean headroom if you're going for certain types of sounds, but personally I've been able to get away with 12 and 24 watt tube amps (Princeton, Tweed, and Deluxe Reverbs) with JBL's for years. A fairly famous St. Louis band, the Bottlerockets is a great example of how it can and often should be done. They're a pretty rockin 4 piece band with two guitarists. Each guy has a 24 watt tube amp, and even sometimes the lead guitarist will power-soak that 24 watts down a bit. Actually more recently, Brian the singer/guitarist is using a 15 watt Fender Blues Deluxe. The drummer rocks, but has control. The bass player also rocks out and has a big full sound. They can fill a bar with a lot of sound, even when they only mic the vocals. It just goes to show that it really doesn't take much to make rock and roll.

When stages get loud with busy, overpowered guitar players, loud bass amps, and drummers get bombastic with the cymbals, and the monitors are cranked too loud, it's really a hopeless situation. A Princeton reverb with its 12 watts is really gonna struggle to keep up and be heard in a loud context. It probably takes an amp at least twice as powerful as a Princeton if you want to hear it and not overdrive it to the point of losing all its dynamics and punch. Again, the trick for any guitar player struggling to hear himself is to simply stand VERY close to the amp. Blast it right at your back, stand a foot or 2 or maybe 3 in front of it. Then you'll feel it and probably hear it too. Monitors help, but it's nice to hear an amp by itself.

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Re: Need advice on mic'ing my amp / live sound in general...

Postby Chuckles » Fri Aug 13, 2010 1:14 am

The flip side of this is that I had been standing right next to my rig with speakers at head-level and kept getting complaints that I was way too low in the mix - I was too loud for myself and couldn't hear the rest of the guys if I turned up any more. Moved the cab about ten feet away and everything leveled out. Our bass player, on who's rack I perched my cab, now hates me for blowing out his hearing, but such is the sacrifice we must make! :lol:

I agree that stage volume can get completely out of control, but it also sounds like rather than a monitor solution you should consider stepping up to a more powerful amp - if repositioning the PRRI doesn't do it for you and you can't get the others to turn down. I don't see the benefit of spending the $$ on a monitor when you could be putting in into your rig, unless you think it may go into the greater good of the band's PA someday...
Seems like I've been here before...

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Re: Need advice on mic'ing my amp / live sound in general...

Postby tcsned » Fri Aug 13, 2010 4:15 am

Yeah, I would start with repositioning. I use a TRRI and if it's placed in the wrong place I even have trouble hearing that if we we're in a packed place with a loud crowd. Setting an amp flat on the floor usually blast right in your rear end and unless your parents are also brother and sister and you have some mutation and have ears in your ass then it's not optimal placement for an amp. Does your amp have a kick stand to tilt it back? That might work. I did a handful of gigs with a couple of country bands and those guys put their amps in front with the monitors and tilt them back - of course mics become very important and it might also require guitars in the monitors. I usually tilt back the TRRI and put it on the side of the stage facing across so the others can hear without having to pump it through the monitors. We've worked at keeping stage volume reasonable but some folks get pretty defensive about their volume levels.
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Re: Need advice on mic'ing my amp / live sound in general...

Postby strumminsix » Fri Aug 13, 2010 5:37 am

Again, +1 to Brad. Brother we think very much alike! I gig most times with 22W with plenty of room left.

Here is the bottom line, if your band is volume wars it will only end in disaster. Say you get a bigger amp, they will turn up. Say you turn up so you can hear over them, they will get bigger amps. Then you'll realize the PA can't handle it so you'll buy a bigger PA. Then you'll realize your audience is plastered against the back wall and won't get up and dance.

This summer I've played both the quietest and loudest shows of my life. At the quietest I had a room full of people dancing in front of me and others packed behind them. At the loudest nobody was closer than 20 feet from the stage, folks were dancing in the open area next to the stage, and others were dancing outside. (it was the venue's soundman at this one)

You've gotta have a good chat with the band and get the to realize volume and amp placement has only 2 but essential components:
1 - can you hear yourself (90% placement)
2 - what does the band mix need (70% volume)

This is an opportunity for growth.
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Re: Need advice on mic'ing my amp / live sound in general...

Postby tcsned » Fri Aug 13, 2010 6:00 am

strumminsix wrote:Again, +1 to Brad. Brother we think very much alike! I gig most times with 22W with plenty of room left.

Here is the bottom line, if your band is volume wars it will only end in disaster. Say you get a bigger amp, they will turn up. Say you turn up so you can hear over them, they will get bigger amps. Then you'll realize the PA can't handle it so you'll buy a bigger PA. Then you'll realize your audience is plastered against the back wall and won't get up and dance.

This summer I've played both the quietest and loudest shows of my life. At the quietest I had a room full of people dancing in front of me and others packed behind them. At the loudest nobody was closer than 20 feet from the stage, folks were dancing in the open area next to the stage, and others were dancing outside. (it was the venue's soundman at this one)

You've gotta have a good chat with the band and get the to realize volume and amp placement has only 2 but essential components:
1 - can you hear yourself (90% placement)
2 - what does the band mix need (70% volume)

This is an opportunity for growth.

+1 on this strumminsix - it can be a never ending stage volume battle that will only lead you to having hearing damage. When I use my Mesa Mark IV I use it at the lowest power setting and it's fine. The TRRI I set the volume as low as possible and still get enough voltage in the tubes to get a decent tone. I gigged with a 30 watt Gibson amp and it was more than enough. Your PRRI should be enough - if you can get your bandmates to not engage in volume creep. One thing I've noticed that as the night progresses your hands loosen up and you'll hit harder - especially true with bass players. Doesn't take a trip to the volume knob. I have also found that folks that continuously turn themselves up all night are not listening to anyone else in the band - that it bad news for GD music. I need to hear what everyone else is playing to be able to have musical interaction. It's about controlling your dynamics. When someone else is playing the interesting part don't bang your way through it. We run our own PA about 80% of the time out of frustration with sound guys. We set the PA and generally let it alone once it's reasonable - then everyone is expected to control their dynamics. This is especially important for us lead guitar-types. If your dynamics are the same when your playing a melody as it is when your playing backup to a vocalist then you'll be too loud when you're playing chords and too quiet when you're playing lead. Result - you turn up and make it worse. Our drummer switching to a nice electronic kit has made a world of difference - his volume is more controllable and as a result we play quieter on stage. Though broaching this with bandmates can be a tough row to hoe as they say on the farm.
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Re: Need advice on mic'ing my amp / live sound in general...

Postby strumminsix » Fri Aug 13, 2010 6:04 am

Here are some more tips:
Advise all guitarists to set their rhythm levels with the guitar volume on 10. Require them to have a solo boost.
Do something similar for the keys. Most can accomplish by having heal down being 80% volume, toe down 100%.
Then advise the drummer that as he gets more excited he hits louder. This will be the big fight as he'll deny it but it's true.

Finally you may need a recorder to prove it to folks.
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Re: Need advice on mic'ing my amp / live sound in general...

Postby lunasparks » Fri Aug 13, 2010 6:29 am

Thanks for the input guys! Much to consider that makes a ton of sense. All said, though, I don't think we generally have a volume war going on. It's just that we're playing outdoors this summer and everything seems to be okay (at least for others with 50W amps) being louder to fill up a massive "non-room."

And the mix actually sounds pretty good as I spend time listening and tweaking from the audience when I sit out some songs (and others who sit out sometimes do the same). Having the mix sound tasteful is something we all agree on -- even if we maybe push it a bit during the last set!

I think the primary issue--at least for these outdoor gigs--is that my PRRI staying clean is just at a disadvantage from the get-go in terms of the baseline band volume. And it's not so much that I can't hear myself (amp is a few feet behind me, generally on a tilt-back stand), although it can be a challenge when my amp isn't positioned right relative to the PA speakers. Lesson taken from posters above, I'll pay more attention to this.

I think it's more that if I don't want to take the amp above 4 it's just too little volume to stand out in the overall mix -- and that's with a K110 in it. Thus my question about mic'ing the amp.

Brad, you're able to play your PR in a band without kicking into overdrive? Could you do it outdoors as well? If so, maybe we are just too loud?!
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Re: Need advice on mic'ing my amp / live sound in general...

Postby strumminsix » Fri Aug 13, 2010 6:37 am

Maybe I'm missing something but why not just mic the amp and pump it through the PA?

I know when running sound for your band that doing vocals only is 10x easier as you can run a monitor mix equal to a mains mix.
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Re: Need advice on mic'ing my amp / live sound in general...

Postby SarnoMusicSolutions » Fri Aug 13, 2010 8:31 am

lunasparks wrote:.....
Brad, you're able to play your PR in a band without kicking into overdrive? Could you do it outdoors as well? If so, maybe we are just too loud?!


My main concern is my personal mix where I stand. I like to hear everyone clearly, and myself a bit more. If I keep the amp within 3' or so, I can generally play with the Princeton still fairly clean on a loud stage. If a bar crowd is more than 50 people or so, then it's probably a good idea to mic the amp or add a second 12 watt amp, just for fullness. (I've got a 12 watt Tweed Deluxe-ish thing I'll add). My main project isn't very loud, so I never run out of steam with the Princeton/K110 setup. But when I do the loud jam stuff on pro stages, or double drummer gigs, I'll almost always have a bit of the Princeton added back thru the monitors. But even still, the bulk of what I hear is coming straight off the amp. It's good to also be sure the others can hear you. It's hard to jam if everyone can't hear eachother.

The drummer loud thing is true. So often a drummer will start banging at 100% when things get exciting, and many of them will speed up too. Really good drummers know how to build intensity more musically and less bombastically. Sure there should be some intensification, but not too much. Shawn Colvin came to play in St. Louis at a pretty nice club. During sound check her drummer sat on stage, completely un-miked, and tapped on his snare at about 5 different levels from soft to loud. As soon as he hit the snare where he really heard it fill the room, he calibrated his brain and said "that's the hardest I'm gonna hit tonight". So he put a limit on things musically. He was amazing. Drums and cymbals never overpowered the stage or the system. That's serious musical maturity and made for an amazing stage sound for the others and the house.

One thing also is that the better the music is going, the less people need to overpower. When everyone is listening and fitting together like a well oiled machine, then nobody is trying to fight thru a wall of noise because there is no wall of noise, just well placed musical parts with well placed space for each person to fit. When that space is there, then it's really not hard to hear yourself. It only takes one drummer over-banging on cymbals or cracking the snare too hard or one busy bass player filling the wrong holes or one overplaying or over-loud guitar player to kill the gestalt.

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Re: Need advice on mic'ing my amp / live sound in general...

Postby Tennessee Jedi » Fri Aug 13, 2010 9:30 am

Hearing myself and getting in the " mix " was always a problem for me.
I * really * dislike when I am crammed up against my amp. I feel that being too close to the amp lends to the speaker ' beam ' shooting by. I like my amp up off the ground and want to be 5-6 ft away from it.
In your situation I would keep the amp low ( or wherever you like it )and then Mic the amp and hope the sound guy is on the same page as you.
:D
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Re: Need advice on mic'ing my amp / live sound in general...

Postby Stevo123 » Fri Aug 13, 2010 10:03 am

One thing also is that the better the music is going, the less people need to overpower. When everyone is listening and fitting together like a well oiled machine, then nobody is trying to fight thru a wall of noise because there is no wall of noise, just well placed musical parts with well placed space for each person to fit. When that space is there, then it's really not hard to hear yourself. It only takes one drummer over-banging on cymbals or cracking the snare too hard or one busy bass player filling the wrong holes or one overplaying or over-loud guitar player to kill the gestalt.


Soooooooooo true. Well said!
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Re: Need advice on mic'ing my amp / live sound in general...

Postby SarnoMusicSolutions » Fri Aug 13, 2010 12:09 pm

Tennessee Jedi wrote:....I like my amp up off the ground and want to be 5-6 ft away from it.
:D


I find that 5 to 6 feet away does work but is pretty far actually, and in most rock bands requires at least 30 watts if the stage volume is mild, more likely 40 or 50 watts at a minimum. If the band is loud, 6' away can require 80 watts or more. I find that 3' to 4' lets you get away with the 24 watts of a JBL loaded Deluxe Reverb or similar. 2' to 3' lets a 12 watt Princeton deliver and be felt in the gut, but the height matters a lot there too, like maybe belly to chest height. The math and physics of it all tells us that it's a logarithmically HUGE difference in perceived loudness and SPL between 3' away and 6' away. It's a very critical factor. So many people talk about amp power and needing more or less, when really all they need to do is change the distance by a foot or 2 in either direction to have a profoundly larger effect than changing amp output power.

It appeared to me that Jerry stood roughly 4' to 5' in front of his speakers thru the '80s and '90s. The highest JBL in the 3-12" cab aimed its beam roughly at his mid-chest area, not at his head. I guess the 300 or so watts was just right for him... :shock:

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