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Viewing topic "signal levels - how can stage artist and FOH mix artist both find happiness"

     
Posted on: February 17, 2018 @ 07:12 PM
bluesharp
Total Posts:  47
Joined  05-23-2004
status: Regular

I joined a church where the mix artist and the synth artist are laboring when setting levels for input to the FOH mixer. I am a sound team volunteer, owner of a MOTIF ES and have a degree in electrical engineering, but I am not the mix artist or the synth artist. Rather I am trying to find how to get nice consistent performance outcomes.

Background:
On stage the praise team has 3 floor monitors to cover 6 handheld singers, electric piano monitor, Roland electric drums monitor, electric lead guitar monitor, two acoustic guitarists each with their own monitor, bass guitar with monitor.

Suggestions needed for synths:
Our most challenging task is getting a good outcome at a station with two synths (top and bottom). This station has a talented artist who’s role is providing synth sounds from a Yamaha MM8 and a Yamaha moXF6. We run L/MONO from Top Synth and also Bottom synth thru 2 DI boxes to 2 mixer channel strips (line input level) on the FOH mix console. There is no compressor/limiter inserted anywhere in the synth signal chain. Whatever the synths send to the console channels is what we use to mix FOH. Monitors are mixed FOH too. Each synth channel contributes to an aux send for a mono powered near field monitor on the stage.

I think I know how to solve one problem which is synth monitoring on stage. I want to give the synth artist a line mixer on stage (not now present) so they can dial in more/less me and more/less band without changing the levels sent to the mix console.

Getting good mixable levels to FOH is where we need suggestions. The synth artist does not have anything to visually inform what levels are being sent from either synth to the console input. Instead we try to set levels by talking back and forth during rehearsal. The synth artist is using master volume dial on each synth plus a foot controller to attenuate/unattenuate master volume output on each synth. Also the artist will sometimes change patches and/or control parameters and/or master volume and/or foot controller during performance.

The mix artist has not firmly stated we need a separate level check for each and every different synth patch. Rather the mixer is trying to get some close enough average gain trim and work with what comes in by riding the faders. You know the dynamic range of various patches varies and that can sometimes be difficult - it does not work too well when we have much level variation between patches. We find it easier to mix the synth when we know and are prepared for a louder lead part than when providing pad sounds. Pads are softer and if the mix console has to reduce gain somewhere for louder patches it can happen that the artist can feel the synth pads are too soft and send more volume to compensate. At the next loud patch the console may turn down trim again, so we can go into a rotational increase or decrease of gain structure as both the console and the artist do what comes naturally to provide performable and mixable levels.

I am thinking the mix artist has to ask the synth artist not to change the incoming gain once we set it, and ask artist rather to tweek monitor levels suitable to hearing but not the incoming gain level. Does this sound correct or overly restrictive?

You can see we are trying to think thru this common problem but there has to be many best current practices in use by the readers that we have not even considered. I have not engaged this forum for years but It has the most experienced keyboard players I have ever seen.

Suggestions?

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Posted on: February 17, 2018 @ 08:41 PM
philwoodmusic
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Total Posts:  960
Joined  07-01-2013
status: Guru

Thanks for such a detailed overview of your situation.

Nothing is ever ideal in this situation, but it’s a hardy perennial.

In a good situation, this all starts onboard the keyboards themselves and later involves a FOH Mixer and a Monitor Mixer (people, not hardware)

Because I’d expect someone else to ride the faders in such an expansive set up, the first thing I’d do is balance out all the voices I use and get them all fairly close level wise. This could mean editing them and storing them to user banks at my desired levels. I’d also find myself some good metering to help with that, but rely on my ears more than anything.

One particular difficulty with this can be if the musicians are using Performances instead of individual Voices on their keyboards, or Song Mixings.  The Voices within them would also need to be levelled out as well.

Whoever is doing the mixing can’t control the individual levels within a Performance or Song Mixing, so there’s that to consider too.  That would probably be the only exception I’d make in allowing the musicians to adjust their own levels either during the gig or when setting it before a gig.

I know that this concept isn’t in keeping with mixing music at all and feels inside out, but with both a FOH mixer and Monitor mixer, it’s then none of my responsibility to balance anything, so once my sounds are set, I shouldn’t be touching my master volume at all, unless it’s an emergency. 

Once my sounds have been levelled out, whoever is riding the faders for both FOH and Monitors won’t have to make big adjustments and will start to feel where the optimum levels are for most things.  It won’t apply to everything, but the key is that they won’t have to guess what’s going to happen, and as I’m sure you already know, surprises can be scary at times.

So, your idea about putting a mixer on stage is good, but probably let someone else (not keyboard players) balance the monitor mix via headphones or something.

Depending on the personalities involved, you may have a tough time getting the keyboard players to do what I’ve suggested and refrain from moving their master volume sliders.

The opposite of my suggestion would be having dedicated keyboard amplification which is running as both FOH for keys and keyboard monitors for all the musicians, located behind them, so they can hear it and balance it themselves.  That’s far from perfect and can be just as problematic.

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Posted on: February 19, 2018 @ 08:11 PM
bluesharp
Total Posts:  47
Joined  05-23-2004
status: Regular

Well I thank you for the thoughtful reply. The team involved needs to develop confidence in working together. I know the synth artist is saving some levels in user memory and trying to level some things out. I also know the mix person was steadily reducing trim level to synth channels over time without discussing that with synth. So synth may be trying to level to a moving target. I need to get my relationship up to where I can discuss how the synth artist is approaching the saved sounds without the artist thinking I am seeing some fault in behavior.

I will keep working it and thinking over your points as I go.

Thanks and blessings upon you.

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Posted on: February 19, 2018 @ 08:24 PM
philwoodmusic
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Total Posts:  960
Joined  07-01-2013
status: Guru

Not a problem.

Ultimately, it’s all about trust, communication and learning the songs together. 

Presumably, whoever is mixing is there because of their ability to listen to and balance sounds, rather than just knowing the equipment as an operator.

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