Mixing Live Vocals Help

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Member Since: Jul 21, 2007

I've been playing with a band and I've been having trouble getting the vocals to a good place. It seems like most of the time the band is drowning out the vocals.

The vocals are coming from an SM58 which is also plugged into a pre amp. I'm just having trouble keeping the vocals clear and loud and I'm finding myself at a loss. I can't mix the instruments too low because then the drums drown them out, and when the instruments are all at a good level, the vocals are drowned out. Any suggestions?

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Since: Nov 27, 2007

May 15, 2011 12:00 am

ive been in bands a while myself, ive never known any real trick to getting them out there any more so than just turning them up and eq.

It would really have alot to do with, the room, speaker placement, and the eq of the other instruments.

Try tweaking the bass guitar freq so its not drowing out eveything else, get the amps up off the floor, and try positioning them in dif areas in the room, thats what i do with new rooms anyway until we find a nice spot.

I always found the drums just back out of the a corner and pulled to one side of that corner so its not actually in the corner, and amps especially not backed up against the walls which creates a real droning muddy sound as it reverberates out from behind.

Have the amps pointing at the drummer and have your PA speakers pointing back at the band and yerself.

You can always try getting a fold back speaker. that would help.

Rob Stemple here is PA/ live sound guy, he'll have some more tips for ya i would say eventually.

hope some of that helps.

For me though i just got used to being drowned out to a degree at rehearsals.

The Czar of BS
Since: Dec 31, 2007

May 15, 2011 01:47 am

One of the hardest things to accomplish with a smaller PA, is finding headroom for your vocals. This is due to the drums eating all of the gain out of your PA and leaving nowhere left to go with your vocals.

The only thing that you can do is compromise. You have to dial back some on the kick, in order to be able to hear the vocals. If you have this nice big thunderous kick, take a look at the meters. I think that you'll find that the meters are close to the red or even in the red.

You'll probably need to reduce some of the low end on your kick, and increase some of the highs. So, more click, less boom. Same thing with your bass. The biggest killer of headroom is low end. By making the sound brighter, will allow you to bring back some room for the vocals.

Now this is just for some of the headroom. The other thing that you need to adjust is your gain structure. By trying to never exceed 0 dB or unity gain. By lowering your gain structure, and running the outputs just a touch hotter, should also leave just a little more room for your vocals.

The last thing to remember is that EQ is mightier then gain. By carving out room for your instruments and vocals to live will also increase headroom for your PA.

Hope all of this advice helps you in your pursuit of sound engineering.

Since: May 14, 2011

May 15, 2011 03:50 am

Are you recording or Live?
A compressor or 2 may help. If you have one try parralel comp on a send. Keep foldback as low as possible and keep the vocalist away from direct sound from amps and the drummer as much as possible. Separate vocal PA might help if you have spare gear and outs from the desk and like experimentation.
Just ideas

Since: Nov 27, 2007

May 15, 2011 05:18 am

was just reading back thru my reply, just to be clear i was assuming you were talking about a room or rehearsal room.

If youre talking about a live situation on stage, with everything thru the PA then with the probs youre describing, Rob said it.

especially, gain structure and eq, mainly bass freq and mud.
But be careful of top end on guitars too, they take all the edge off the vox which makes them disappear, or makes you feel the need to drive them harder or sing louder to get over them.
As ya know once you start trying to scream over volume youre gonna strip your range in minutes

As Rob said, there's no point trying to get the vox over the top of frequencies that dont belong there in the first place, guitar freq's IME, are notorious for this, 1k, 3k, and look at anything approaching 7 to 10k thats exceedingly cranked.

Or alternatively keep the presence and treble on the amp down to a respectable level.

like any other instrument, guitars have their main working frequencies, alot of guitarists dont know them, and crank the bass, and all the top end freq's which just kills everything else in the room, including your ears. again, around 1k is one of the main little bastards there.

Do your guitarists use any pedals?
Compression is something you might wanna take a look at too if they have that cranked...get rid of it on distorted guitars for sure. Clean up the mess to make more room ya know?

heaps of compression on guitars is not a good thing unless you really notch out the correct freq's. Dist guitar is naturally compressed to start with anyway.

Anyway dude, apart from all that, i know where yer coming from, im a guitarist vocalist myself, to be honest i gave up giving a **** years ago if im struggling onstage to hear myself, i just pick my volume threshold in my mind, and i just dont even attemp to sing over that.

That bit i can control, and i go home with my voice still there.

Get yerself a nice foldback man, things will improve alot for you then.

Since: Apr 07, 2011

Sep 01, 2011 03:33 pm

I have to agree with Dematrix. Try to keep freq competition to a minimum. When you mix live, you have to think about what is competing with what. If the guitar player were to listen to his "sound" as it came out of the PA, he would hate it. As would the other members of the band. But in order to keep the vocals out front, I have learned that I have to EQ all the vocal freqs out of the guitar. The same goes for the kick drum and bass guitar etc.

The Czar of BS
Since: Dec 31, 2007

Sep 01, 2011 09:26 pm

Um, if the musicians on stage are hating the sound out at FOH, then your carving way to much out. You don't need to be heavy handed to be able to bring the vocals to the foreground.

Notching frequencies out by -3dB in the right spot will make the world of difference. And shouldn't change the tone of the instruments so dramatically that the person playing would hate it.

Proper gain structure, and notching competing frequencies should be all you need to have the headroom, and clarity of sound.

Since: Apr 03, 2002

Sep 01, 2011 09:27 pm

Unless it's a bagpipe, then notch the hell out of it at every frequency...with the only exception being if it's a Shriner parade.

The Czar of BS
Since: Dec 31, 2007

Sep 01, 2011 10:32 pm

Sure there is a thing you can do with a bagpiper.

It's called the Mute button! :)

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