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Author Topic: Less PA and more guitar amp!!! (A Modern Primer for small to medium size Venues)  (Read 895 times)

Online firemodel55

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Nowadays, it has been taken for granted that you can bring the smallest and most portable tube amp to a gig and have the on-site house P.A. take care of amplification.  Or on the other hand, bring your effects board or digital modelling setup and plug directly to the mixing board and having the in house P.A. carry the music. Well thats a lot of B.S. to me.

After experimenting with some stage setups myself and attending a disappointing (front of house sound wise) Vinnie Moore and Tony MacAlpine Shibuya Club Quattro gig, I have reached the conclusion that PAs are just that.  Public Address systems that are ill suited to  overall amplification of Rock Music.  Don't Get Me wrong.  Shibuya Club Quattro was equipped with a PA system as Extensive and big as Araneta Colliseum at one tenth the size of the Araneta.  The PA could deliver in spades but... in the end solid state amplifiers and PA speakers just don't do well on guitars, bass and drums.  For one because of the mix,  Tony's guitars would crack on the highs that would never happen with guitar amps.  Yet Tony was using two Hughes and Kettner heads into two 1x12s.  Not too mention that Vinnie Moore was using a Marshall stack with two 4x12s.  Clearly, we could have just turn off the PA and the amps would do the trick sufficiently.  Because the only equipment pushing the boundaries of playback are in the realm of HIFI.  The bassist was using an Ashdown head into a 8x10 speaker cabinet.  The drummer was using a Gretsch Custom Kit that was elevated off the ground by about 3 feet.  Clearly something was still wrong with acceptable standards of hearing LIVE music.  They lacked the understanding of HIFI. The PA and monitors were getting in the way of sounding good.

Some FACTS:

1) Most PA equipment both power amps and speakers are 98% made in China which basically means that cost is the prime consideration more than sound design.  If sound was the driver, a PA system made in Europe or USA would cost close to US100,000 for a small club.  Why?  Because it would follow the costing of HIFI speakers and labor.  My brother in law's brother works for B&W England.  B&W had started contract out to China for the mid end to low end speakers but they have to rework so many of the Chinese speakers in England because of poor workmanship.  Imagine that all this junk degrades your guitar amp and guitar that costs more than the PA system?
2) Using China made PA more or less makes your band sound like the rest of the other bands because lets face it, most of the American or European Brands who make PAs outsource to the same Chinese companies -- maybe about a handful that all sound alike.
3) Contrary to yester years, as digital technology and solid state have advanced, so did tube amps.  Gone are the days wherein tube amps were only made for large venues.  Today, tube amps specially the boutique ones come in ALL wattages and LOUDNESS levels.  In short there is a tube amp that sounds great AND right for every venue.  From your 1 watt combos to your 200 watt heads and cabinets.  Guitar preamps and built in attenuators have progresed.  They are now better sounding and guaranteed to sound better than axeFX or Kemper.  So for guitar dudes, I suggest you have several great sounding boutique tube amps for every size venue.  A lot of PAs are loaded with 15 or 18 inch drivers that sound bad at amplifying guitar signal most at home on 12s and 10s. 
4) On the other hand, bass guitars also suffer because the PA speaker cabinets are just not designed for bass guitar notes but more for techno and house music.  What happens is that the bass guitar kinda gets chopped up in front of house.  Its like you separated the bass guitar between highs and lows.
5) Drums also suffer because dynamics and transients are lost -- which are most important for a drumset because drums are not meant to sustain.  The PA speaker is having such a difficult job amplifying everything in the band there buy muddling the attack of the drums.

A NEW APPROACH:
1) Give us back our great sounding tube amps.  Yeah it sounds obvious but this is something that sounds against the flow -- LET YOUR BOUTIQUE GUITAR AMP fill the venue with the correct volume level.  It sounds better to you and the audience.  Believe me, its less fatigue.  Do not have it MICed.  Let the other band members hear it and adjust and so should you.  You do not need to hear anything other than vocals thru the monitors if needed at all.
2) For bass, the number one priority is to get a bass guitar cabinet that sounds great.  Its more important than the bass your using from the sound point of view.  Again let the cabinet do the trick to fill the venue with volume.  White at it, use a mosfet or tube amp and ditch the portable Class D.  Class D just cannot cope up with great sounding tube amps and loud drums.  Again, do not mic your bass amp.  Listen to the other members of the band and adjust the volume of your bass amp without monitors.
3) For drums, the only thing you need to MIC is the bass drum.  Thats it.  Cymbals, snare drums and toms are loud enough to amplify themselves.  It is the kick drum that needs help and please use the best kick drum mics available from Europe.  They really sound much better.  Again, if the drummer cannot hear the bass amp and guitar amp without a wedge monitor then he is playing too loud.  Tell him to bring down the volume to let the drums and cymbals breathe.  In fact, if I had my way, instead of drummers bringing in snare drums and cymbals, I would rather have them bring in a loud but musical kick drum.  I mean how dumb is that?  You bring in snare drums and cymbals but leave the toms and the kick drum to sound like crap.  The logic goes like at least 50% does not sound like crap because I brought in something better.  Yeah but most of the time the stuff you bring in is not that much different from the basic set.  The better way would be to reduce the volume of the way you hit the drums so they open up and let cymbals breath by using less than powerful strikes.  A good rule of thumb IS: If you cannot hear your kick drum, lower the volume of the snare and cymbals until you hear your kick.  Why?  The Kick sets the beat of the whole band and if you cannot hear it then your whole band is not in proper time.
4) Vocals should get 90% of the PA with 10% going to the kick drum.  Thats it.  To an extreme, I even bring a separate PA designed for vocals without the meddlesome 15 and 18 inch PA drivers which makes vocals sound 'tunog jeep'.  Vocals should be warm and always have the highest volume which means that all the other band members should bring down their volume to make the vocals audible.  If your band cannot do that even for metal, you have a lousy group. 

GUIDING PRINCIPLES for small and medium venues:

1) Use as little sound reinforcement as possible because nothing sounds as good as amps designed for your instrument.  In the same way, nothing sounds as good your drum shell except a better made drum shell.  Believe it or NOT cymbals are meant to explode so volume adjustment is really a function of sticking technique.
2) Reduce the number of monitors to close to zero.  This lessens the conflicting sound waves on stage. 
3) Musicians should listen to each other's instruments in the context of the soundstage -- that is how volume is projected and mixed on stage (do not leave this to the lousy engineer because he is NOT inside the band's sound bubble).  After all, you interact as a band and amplification is one way to interact.
4) Sound quality first before volume.
5) Always buy the most expensive equipment you can afford.  90% of the time they deliver.  Buy boutique tube amps that sound great.  Buy the best sounding bass guitar cabinets. 
6) Vocals comes first -- nothing beats hearing a great sounding singer because thats a gift from God.  AND there are better vocal mics out there other than Shure!!!
7) The Less soundwaves on stage the better to contribution of a more solid and clear sound which means monitors mess with the soundstage.  If you cannot hear each other, either you are deaf or you are too loud -- in either case I suggest you quit as a musician.
8) OPTIONAL: I know I can get flak from drummers but nobody does Crashes better than PAISTE - they have the most musically and smoothest sounding crashes.  Also, sa pinas -- to discipline mga drummers na sobrang lakas at walang awareness sa banda, I arm the drum set with PAISTE RUDES.  Why?  Because the cymbals are so thick that it tires the most overly enthusiastic drummer and eventually a tired drummer creates the correct soundstage and cut for cymbals.  Believe it or Not!
« Last Edit: June 06, 2018, 07:08:34 AM by firemodel55 »



Offline Crisul

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very very informative sir. if I may ask, what guitar amp for small to medium venues would you suggest that will tick all, if not most, of these boxes: tube (or the best sounding SS if you may), max 50W, lightweight probably around 15-20lbs.?, stompbox-friendly, 1x10 or 12 speakers, and of course affordable but not cheap, yung the best bang for buck. I'm looking at the katana or tube laneys or peaveys

and ano kaya max dimensions nung medium venue na kaya ng lets say a 50W SS amp or a tube equivalent?

Offline dewberry

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Great read! Me I always prefer playing small Venues so that I can use my Boss Katana without mic. Syempre not as good as those tube boutique amps but much better sa mga bar amps that we usually play  :-D .

Offline david_leyson

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Small to medium venues? I've had Peavey ValveKing 112(the red stripes version) to use on these type of venues and it may not be as good as compare to the other expensive tube amps but it well pleases the listeners and encourage them to try tube amps instead of staying on SS amps for life. though it is still a matter of taste, this one is more of a people-pleaser. thanks also for the great info sir firemodel55!
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Offline david_leyson

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BTW:

i'm a road PA for my friend's bands and has been with them for years(though i'm not always there because of my work sched and there gigs doesn't really need as much help due to the venue limits), and to what've i've seen and experienced is most of the venues from small(50-100pax)to large(700-1000), the PA Engineers doesn't really care about the music of the artists. they don't care to ask what they need or what type of music they have. From tuning the drum heads, to mic placing, to how each individual is placed on the mix, or even the level oF the monitors and FOH. Even though we are limited to the equipment we have, I,  as a PA Engineer who cares so much of the music and art, makes the most out of what is present and try to reach the nearest(if not exact) possible result as I could hear on the record. There will always be factors(number of people, venue setup, etc.) that would hinder to achieve it but at least you can adjust things according to what fits. Frankly, most of the productions doesn't invest in great microphones so i have to compensate(for guitar amps) by moving its place to another spot to find what suits the player and for bass players i'll let him mix his sound thru the amp first(because he uses an MXR preamp) and tweak the mix for the FOH and monitors. for the drums, we bring our own snare and cymbals and just tweak a little of the rest to fit the overall sound of the band. too much work? yes! worth it? of course, no matter how good an artist, the man behind the PA is crap, then you're gonna sound crap. yet again, a bad input is always a bad output. just sayin'
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Don't f*ckin mic my Trainwreck Express!   :-D
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Online firemodel55

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Crisul and Dewberry,

I think a Katana will do as long as the drummer keeps the volume really low.  In fact, you should open up the power amp of the katana if its the 1x12 version.  Of course, if you have a lot of effects on the signal, that makes your amp less punchier and less heard above the drums.  If its a 3 piece with vocalist baka pwede na as long as bassist and drummer bring down the volume while you are soloing.  What you don't want is for the audience to hear both your Katana and the lousy PA kung panget talaga.  Go for the Katana on its own.  The less sound waves on the stage, the better for your ears and the better the tone to you and the audience.


Offline dewberry

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Thanks for the info!

Online firemodel55

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BTW:

i'm a road PA for my friend's bands and has been with them for years(though i'm not always there because of my work sched and there gigs doesn't really need as much help due to the venue limits), and to what've i've seen and experienced is most of the venues from small(50-100pax)to large(700-1000), the PA Engineers doesn't really care about the music of the artists. they don't care to ask what they need or what type of music they have. From tuning the drum heads, to mic placing, to how each individual is placed on the mix, or even the level oF the monitors and FOH. Even though we are limited to the equipment we have, I,  as a PA Engineer who cares so much of the music and art, makes the most out of what is present and try to reach the nearest(if not exact) possible result as I could hear on the record. There will always be factors(number of people, venue setup, etc.) that would hinder to achieve it but at least you can adjust things according to what fits. Frankly, most of the productions doesn't invest in great microphones so i have to compensate(for guitar amps) by moving its place to another spot to find what suits the player and for bass players i'll let him mix his sound thru the amp first(because he uses an MXR preamp) and tweak the mix for the FOH and monitors. for the drums, we bring our own snare and cymbals and just tweak a little of the rest to fit the overall sound of the band. too much work? yes! worth it? of course, no matter how good an artist, the man behind the PA is crap, then you're gonna sound crap. yet again, a bad input is always a bad output. just sayin'

A lot of the manongs in these venues don't know any better.  And its hard to explain to them specially if they only see and get used to the commercial amps available at the Perfect Pitch, Audiophiles, and JB marts of this world.  Like any other brand is like, whoah whats this?  I will just mix it like some stereo input.
I agree with you on the tweaking specially if it gets people to come back because HINDI MASAKIT SA TENGA.  But in my case, I don't any more MIC the cymbals and the snare drum because there good to go as is and are capable of being heard even in medium size venues on their own.   So if you have a crap PA man, I suggest you tell him to just work on the vocals and NOT mic anything else -- assuming you have the equipment.

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I have been reading at lot of HIFI stuff recently and the pains the really good HIFI manufacturers go thru to get the sound right is amazing.  Some are snake oil and some are not.  Those that really work costs so much money that its hard for me to believe that the PA stuff which is just a fraction of the HIFI stuff in terms of spending and quality can really reproduce your electric instruments plugged into toneful amplifiers along with cymbals and drums ALL AT THE SAME TIME.

Notice that a public PA sounds better if there is only one voice or instrument playing.  Keep on adding the instruments one by one on a PA and its gets muddled and for some reason grainy (distortion maybe?  Odd harmonic).  The HIFI stuff are NOT suppose to do that but they still do -- specially the cheaper ones.  I have compared CD playback thru a PA and the HIFI system in the house and the Yamaha is way off in terms of sweetness and kindness to the ears.  Most PAs just want to be loud but thats stupid because the more your poorly reproduced sound gets louder, the more painful and fatigue for your ears.

Offline nicoyow

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Hi firemodel55. You see, I've been reading your threads since then. I can't deny most of them are really helpful for musicians like us. Thank you for that. I myself learned a lot as well.

On the other hand, I know someone who's job is a sound engineer for some well known PA system service. They've been providing services since analog days. Countless concerts were given service by them. Even the Michael Jackson 1996 concert. Their name in this kind of business is pretty well-known.
Kuya Sonny (my audiophile friend who's a lot older than me) the mixer guy of this well-known PA system service since analog days have the same thoughts as you. He also hate those Chinese made speakers, boards, cables, etc etc but not that kind of hate he won't use any of them any day. He said that we can't deny it, chinese made products have already conquered the world of eveything. Music, photography, IT, you name it. He also know that the root cause of this is the cost of production. It is a lot cheaper if your products were made by chinese people.

I understand your journey and kuya sonny's POV but, you see not all people in this world of music can afford the cost of an instrument made from the dollar country. We all know that. Let's just be thankful that there are some variants we can go anytime if there's a need of gear that is a lot cheaper. Everyone loves to have the real thing but most of the time, the budget doesn't permit.

Carry on. Wild imagination in the middle of my boring shift schedule.
No thread jacking intention.
 :)
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Offline Bolt Thrower

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Sadly, this will not happen anytime soon. The trend now is manageable stage volume then loud outward volume. Low wattage stage----> High wattage PA system. Gone are the days of big stage volume. The venue won't like it and the vocalist will hate you.  :lol:

I've seen bands do the PA thing all right. Afterall, a mic'd guitar cab is just the same if not better than an impulse response through and out the console.

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I disagree with the drums thing, on the points being that snare drums and toms do need FOH support in medium venues to compensate for loud instruments, especially really loud genres like metal. It's stupid to prioritize an instrument PA-wise (I agree with vocals though) because you will neglect song arrangements. Listen to any rock record and drums are pretty loud in the mix, louder than any guitarist would imagine as desirable if applied onstage. Reference to records because as someone in that is part of that particular industry, I think at least some recorded songs are *the* way some artists like their songs to sound like, and then just try to replicate that onstage. Some of the techniques used in recording are counter-intuitive in live, like tuning snares way low to get that "bursht" snare sound... it does not project on a live situation, so you need to support it in PA. Also, hitting drums soft does not give the same tonal quality as hitting it moderately or softly. I say include drums at least in FOH to support requirements of specific song arrangements.

Re: monitors, I agree on minimizing wedges, but instead of altogether eliminating monitors and relying on ambience, I suggest to try to monitor using headphones/IEMs instead. As a musician, it's important to hear what you want to hear so you can play your parts like how it's supposed to sound.
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Offline titser_marco

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Great and very insightful read, Alex. Question though: given your proposals, does this mean that by definition, large open air shows are bound to sound terrible no?

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Online firemodel55

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Hi firemodel55. You see, I've been reading your threads since then. I can't deny most of them are really helpful for musicians like us. Thank you for that. I myself learned a lot as well.

On the other hand, I know someone who's job is a sound engineer for some well known PA system service. They've been providing services since analog days. Countless concerts were given service by them. Even the Michael Jackson 1996 concert. Their name in this kind of business is pretty well-known.
Kuya Sonny (my audiophile friend who's a lot older than me) the mixer guy of this well-known PA system service since analog days have the same thoughts as you. He also hate those Chinese made speakers, boards, cables, etc etc but not that kind of hate he won't use any of them any day. He said that we can't deny it, chinese made products have already conquered the world of eveything. Music, photography, IT, you name it. He also know that the root cause of this is the cost of production. It is a lot cheaper if your products were made by chinese people.

I understand your journey and kuya sonny's POV but, you see not all people in this world of music can afford the cost of an instrument made from the dollar country. We all know that. Let's just be thankful that there are some variants we can go anytime if there's a need of gear that is a lot cheaper. Everyone loves to have the real thing but most of the time, the budget doesn't permit.

Carry on. Wild imagination in the middle of my boring shift schedule.
No thread jacking intention.
 :)

Dude, thanks for that comment but... we only think this way because all we see is Chinese made stuff.  I just came from Japan.  Though there are a lot of Chinese made products in Japan. There are way more Japan products, European and American products there.   Just bought a freakin hair dryer for p3000 that is made in japan!!!

Japanese made Toyotas in japan are half the price here.  A toyota land cruiser will cost at least P5million here... In japan it only costs P2.5million.  So the jap made corolla in japan is about P500,000 equivalent.  While here its hovering at around P1million for a Thai made Corolla.

I recently bought a Mitsubishi drill set for my friend Arie.  It is a 19 piece made in Japan set that cost P7000 but the quality of construction and hardness of material was way way way much better than anything made in China -- pati si Arie nabilib.  On the other hand, I went to Kappabashi and bought a japanese made waffle pan -- dito kasi panay electric.  The waffle pan only cost P2000 and made in Japan.  Ang ganda pagka gawa.

I also bought a basting brush for BBQ sauce in kappabashi, gulat ako made in japan with so fine a brush hair.  It was a bit pricey for a basting brush at around p1500 pero I never saw anything so fine for basting and the handle is made of wood.  Walang ganoon na produkto even in American Catalogs.

Lets face it... we get crap in this country because this country is crap.  AND more importantly the average GDP per capita in the Philippines is only US3000 a year compared to US39000 in Japan and US57000 in the USA.  That being said, the high end stuff will always sound better but unfortunately its affordable for Japanese and not Pinoys.

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Great and very insightful read, Alex. Question though: given your proposals, does this mean that by definition, large open air shows are bound to sound terrible no?

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I heard Char in his open park concert and it sounded better than the vinni moore and tony macalpine enclosed concert.  Its just that I do NOT want to comment on large open air shows because I have no experience with setting up for something like that which would be I think volume driven.  By the way, Char sounded great even thru the PA.

Of course, as a guitarist I did feel after awhile -- take note the Char performed straight for 3 hours -- there was a compression effect and it made you feel like your were listening to a stereo after the first few songs.  And since the PA would as usual use some kind of high pass/ low pass speaker network, a lot of the bass notes got passed to the 18 inch baffles which horribly made the bass guitar sound like a disco track.

Parang na seperate sobra ang attack and sustaining note.  Ganoon rin nangyari sa bass drum -- hindi tunog natural.  I think its a given that smaller venues sound better as a rule of thumb for the simple reason that you need less synthetic amplification which really fuks up your hearing.  Now with that being said, I have always considered great tube boutique amps as part of the electric guitar instrument.  And now the bass cab as the extension of the bass guitar.
« Last Edit: June 07, 2018, 07:01:39 AM by firemodel55 »

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Sadly, this will not happen anytime soon. The trend now is manageable stage volume then loud outward volume. Low wattage stage----> High wattage PA system. Gone are the days of big stage volume. The venue won't like it and the vocalist will hate you.  :lol:

I've seen bands do the PA thing all right. Afterall, a mic'd guitar cab is just the same if not better than an impulse response through and out the console.
d

Thats why I wrote the article.  By the way, I bring my own separate amplification for the vocals if needed. 

Let me reiterate my points:

1) Musicians should each learn to manage THEIR OWN STAGE VOLUME.
2) I agree with you that gone are the days of big stage volume but my message IS: there are quality amps for EVERY stage volume.  This is an improvement/development of amplification that everybody seems to gloss over. 
3) The very act of MICing live is already degradation!  In fact, most stage/live MICs are not even that good at reproducing guitar amps accurately.
4) Most venues have got it wrong and the funny thing is they don't like it.  They manage the band sound as if were a stereo left right with woofer affair.  Parang 2.1 setup.  When in reality they should just pickup up whats going on within the sound bubble.  Kung talaga magaling banda niyo sa rehearsal pa lang nakakarinigan kayo at i-babalance niyo.  Di ba ang tunog parang nasa loob kayo ng isang 3d bubble?  Venues should capture that and NOT mess with that sound bubble.
« Last Edit: June 07, 2018, 07:22:09 AM by firemodel55 »

Online firemodel55

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I disagree with the drums thing, on the points being that snare drums and toms do need FOH support in medium venues to compensate for loud instruments, especially really loud genres like metal. It's stupid to prioritize an instrument PA-wise (I agree with vocals though) because you will neglect song arrangements. Listen to any rock record and drums are pretty loud in the mix, louder than any guitarist would imagine as desirable if applied onstage. Reference to records because as someone in that is part of that particular industry, I think at least some recorded songs are *the* way some artists like their songs to sound like, and then just try to replicate that onstage. Some of the techniques used in recording are counter-intuitive in live, like tuning snares way low to get that "bursht" snare sound... it does not project on a live situation, so you need to support it in PA. Also, hitting drums soft does not give the same tonal quality as hitting it moderately or softly. I say include drums at least in FOH to support requirements of specific song arrangements.

Re: monitors, I agree on minimizing wedges, but instead of altogether eliminating monitors and relying on ambience, I suggest to try to monitor using headphones/IEMs instead. As a musician, it's important to hear what you want to hear so you can play your parts like how it's supposed to sound.

What do you think drives volume?  DRUMS!!!  For metal at loud volume, what do you hear from the drums -- I'll tell you.  Snares that sound like thwacks and nothing else.  Missing Bass Drum.  Nothing but wash on the cymbals with sticking missing.  Toms that sound like carton.  You know why?  Because drummers in metal hit so hard and hold the stick so hard to produce volume that they don't allow the drums to breathe.  And most importantly kaya ganyan dahil BULOK ang drumset nila.
So why penalize the whole band with a BULOK drumset by trying to compensate with an inferior reproducing live PA system?  Just bring down the volume on the drums.  In this situation, you really have no choice but to go after a stereo mix/balance of instruments kung bulok ang drumset.  For snares, I have switched to a VK bronze drum that cuts thru anything and sounds great for anything.  My everyday snare is a DW Kipplinger Black Iron Snare.  These snares if anything in a live context do their job of getting heard live while at the same time being rich and distinct.

For drums, bass drums need some amplification because majority of drummers cannot seem to develop foot strength relative to match the volume of the way they strike their snares and their cymbals.  In fact, if they just practice consciously to bring down the snare and cymbal level to slightly below the volume of their kick drum the band will sound so much better.

Lets us not forget that the more important concept IS: to hear what you want to hear so you can play your parts like how it's supposed to sound IN THE CONTEXT OF THE TOTAL BAND

As far as I can remember, what defines great METAL drummers is their bass drumming right?  Their Kick Drum Fills.  And if your metal drummer cannot seem to make the bass drum louder than the cymbals and snares without amplification, thats one lousy metal drummer.
« Last Edit: June 07, 2018, 07:39:48 AM by firemodel55 »

Offline Bolt Thrower

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Most metal bands trigger their drums now.

Offline titser_marco

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I heard Char in his open park concert and it sounded better than the vinni moore and tony macalpine enclosed concert.  Its just that I do NOT want to comment on large open air shows because I have no experience with setting up for something like that which would be I think volume driven.  By the way, Char sounded great even thru the PA.

Of course, as a guitarist I did feel after awhile -- take note the Char performed straight for 3 hours -- there was a compression effect and it made you feel like your were listening to a stereo after the first few songs.  And since the PA would as usual use some kind of high pass/ low pass speaker network, a lot of the bass notes got passed to the 18 inch baffles which horribly made the bass guitar sound like a disco track.

Parang na seperate sobra ang attack and sustaining note.  Ganoon rin nangyari sa bass drum -- hindi tunog natural.  I think its a given that smaller venues sound better as a rule of thumb for the simple reason that you need less synthetic amplification which really fuks up your hearing.  Now with that being said, I have always considered great tube boutique amps as part of the electric guitar instrument.  And now the bass cab as the extension of the bass guitar.
I see. I kinda felt that's where you were going with it, i.e. treat electric instruments as if they were acoustic ones, only louder. I am reminded of how great chamber music performances often have little to no amplification / sound reinforcement. I guess what you're arguing for is really a tradeoff between sound quality and scale (ie catering to bigger groups of people).

Great read, 'lex! I can see that you're well and healthy now to write such a long read!

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What do you think drives volume?  DRUMS!!!  For metal at loud volume, what do you hear from the drums -- I'll tell you.  Snares that sound like thwacks and nothing else.  Missing Bass Drum.  Nothing but wash on the cymbals with sticking missing.  Toms that sound like carton.  You know why?  Because drummers in metal hit so hard and hold the stick so hard to produce volume that they don't allow the drums to breathe.  And most importantly kaya ganyan dahil BULOK ang drumset nila.
So why penalize the whole band with a BULOK drumset by trying to compensate with an inferior reproducing live PA system?  Just bring down the volume on the drums.  In this situation, you really have no choice but to go after a stereo mix/balance of instruments kung bulok ang drumset.  For snares, I have switched to a VK bronze drum that cuts thru anything and sounds great for anything.  My everyday snare is a DW Kipplinger Black Iron Snare.  These snares if anything in a live context do their job of getting heard live while at the same time being rich and distinct.

For drums, bass drums need some amplification because majority of drummers cannot seem to develop foot strength relative to match the volume of the way they strike their snares and their cymbals.  In fact, if they just practice consciously to bring down the snare and cymbal level to slightly below the volume of their kick drum the band will sound so much better.

Lets us not forget that the more important concept IS: to hear what you want to hear so you can play your parts like how it's supposed to sound IN THE CONTEXT OF THE TOTAL BAND

As far as I can remember, what defines great METAL drummers is their bass drumming right?  Their Kick Drum Fills.  And if your metal drummer cannot seem to make the bass drum louder than the cymbals and snares without amplification, thats one lousy metal drummer.

I totally get what you mean, but I'm getting mixed messages. A band member who totally sucks will sound sucky even under the best PA or the best equipment, or maybe the best PA will make him sound a bit better for all we care. Our ideal band member will sound good even when he's sleeping onstage. I mean, OF COURSE. That's well-understood by any decent PA guy. But given a good band member (e.g. drummer, as in my point of disagreement), I present my said point.

Why is this in Guitar Central? Haha
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Online inigo

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One more thing, about Paiste Rudes. In a rock mix, cymbals are at the back of the mix. Using Rudes will throw cymbals out front. Rudes are thick and especially crashes will sound clangy if struck softer than necessary. They are made to project loud and they sound best when you make them project. Totally undesirable in a heavy rock or metal mix, especially if snare and toms are not miked. Blast beat snares will sound like buzz rolls under a pair of Rude hats. If a setup insists an unmiked drum set, I recommend thinner cymbals.
400/hr recording. Banana Rising Recording Studio www.bananarising.com

SOUND SAMPLES: http://www.bananarising.com/p/sound-samples.html

Online firemodel55

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I totally get what you mean, but I'm getting mixed messages. A band member who totally sucks will sound sucky even under the best PA or the best equipment, or maybe the best PA will make him sound a bit better for all we care. Our ideal band member will sound good even when he's sleeping onstage. I mean, OF COURSE. That's well-understood by any decent PA guy. But given a good band member (e.g. drummer, as in my point of disagreement), I present my said point.

Why is this in Guitar Central? Haha

I think my point is just use as little as possible of the PA specially if you have boutique amps and high end drums.  Just dedicate it to the vocals if you cannot afford to bring good amplification for the vocals.

Online firemodel55

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One more thing, about Paiste Rudes. In a rock mix, cymbals are at the back of the mix. Using Rudes will throw cymbals out front. Rudes are thick and especially crashes will sound clangy if struck softer than necessary. They are made to project loud and they sound best when you make them project. Totally undesirable in a heavy rock or metal mix, especially if snare and toms are not miked. Blast beat snares will sound like buzz rolls under a pair of Rude hats. If a setup insists an unmiked drum set, I recommend thinner cymbals.

You will be surprised because they sound just right.  Their thickness make them hard to wash and they don't sound as clangy as you think.  Nope they sound better than other zildjians and sabians even if they are not loud.  And for majority of pinoy drummers who dont know how to use dynamics, rudes put them into place in the mix.