How well do you hear yourself on the stage?

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How well do you hear yourself on the stage?

Post by set » Sat May 25, 2019 1:21 am

We just had our first concert together this week with my wife on a scout festival for two thousand people (not all of them were of course at our show). I had played some concerts before myself, but this was first time us playing together.

We had played on a quite a big stage, with great sound system and lights and pair of monitors which were just in front of us. However - what we heard on the stage was quite terrible - it was very muddy, sounds were all blend together, with a lot of bass frequencies (sub-bass speakers were few meters from us on the stage, so maybe because of that). I had a difficult time setting appropriate levels for different voices - I was mostly doing it by memory from the rehearsals.

We enjoyed the show nonetheless - and when I asked people who were attending they liked the music and quite a few came to us to tell us it was great. So I hope they got some very different sound then us on the stage.

Is it normal? How do you cope with this? Do you play with headphones? (we did not, because we wanted to be able to communicate with each other)

Thanks for all the tips!

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Post by Idunno » Sat May 25, 2019 1:51 am

I haven't played any synth gigs, but I've done hundreds of gigs with bands in all sorts of venues, and it's really pot luck as to whether you get a good onstage sound. Even with a fairly long sound check it can be quite different when the room is full of people.

If it's really bad onstage you can have a word with the sound engineer or the monitor engineer if there is a separate one. Whether it will improve or not is another matter.

It usually sounds good from the audience's perspective though, unless something is horribly amiss.


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Post by Dennis » Sat May 25, 2019 5:29 pm

yesterday i just had a very long session in front of 70-90 people. it was in a big loft apartment and the room was stuffed with people talking, not monitoring was the biggest mistake that i ever did :-D

but now i learned to make sure a monitoring option is available

usually i play at ambient shows so there is mostly no talking at all. But big house parties with people yelling around etc. are new territory for me and i was always afraid of turning the PA louder than necessary so i could hear myself.

but all went better then expected 8-)

personally i wouldn't use headphones because im always afraid of damaging my hearing (i know even if its save Blabla....) so im happy if there are (even crappy ones) monitor speakers standing beside me

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Post by c0rpse » Sun May 26, 2019 8:21 pm

I've been having similar experiences lately.

I played a show on Friday that had good monitoring, but the system was so loud that I could barely get a sense of my sound. I do improv techno. I played over 2 hours at home before the show, but I couldn't write material at the show. I had to fall back on very simple things I knew would work no matter what.

It was kind of a bummer because I played the same place on Monday and had the best set I've ever played. That show had no monitoring, but the system was much quieter.

I've been thinking about a couple solutions.

In ear monitors: I know nothing about them, but I'm worried I'd feel too disconnected from the sound of the room.

More prepared material: Start prepping things that require more attention and play things that I know will work live.

Db Meter: This is obviously not a solution for most events, but the ones I've been playing are put on by me and my friends.
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Post by set » Mon May 27, 2019 1:29 am

Thanks for all the tips and observations!

I take a few things out of that:

- we are not alone and it might happen anytime again, so better be prepared for it

- prepare and memorize more things so that I can do them even when I do not hear myself well (audience still can hear them)

- maybe have a headphones at hand for occasional check of sound and levels (I do not want to use them all the time as I think they disconnect me from the audience)

Very helpful!
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Post by dubonaire » Mon May 27, 2019 8:46 am

It probably was the subs interfering, and also possibly reverberation from the back of the room which arrives late. In such cases you need to have the monitors up quite loud, louder than you might normally be comfortable with.

But always expect to be stumbling around in more auditory murkiness than normal. Not sure if you had someone on mixing desk duties, but it's good to have someone in front that you can communicate with who knows what you are intending to sound like.

Also crowds are in the most part very forgiving of almost everything except it being too quiet (unless of course you are performing something meant to be quiet).

Another tip is that most setups, unless on really good systems and setup by a good engineer, end up a bit harsh in the highs, so a bit of EQing in that area and people will love you for it.

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Post by versipellis » Wed May 29, 2019 1:37 am

Headphones and self-monitor - best way to ensure you have good audio on stage, even if all you're doing is multing your output ;)
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Post by johny_gtr » Mon Jun 03, 2019 3:57 pm

headphones and headphones modules are cheap and stable solution.

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Post by neil_kerr » Thu Jun 06, 2019 6:52 pm


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Post by The Grump » Sun Jun 16, 2019 8:20 pm

Yeah, you were probably getting a backwash from the subs. There are ways to undo this in very large or outdoor venues, but your sound system engineer has to REALLY know his shit, and it does take some calculation and repositioning of bass cabinets. The technique I'm referring to is often called "Endfire" or "cardioid" bass management, and without getting too heavily into the physics of it, if you are behind the bass array when this technique is employed correctly, you hear almost no bass at, but in front of it, the bass is booming.

The down side is that unless you have a sub onstage with the monitors, you don't hear any bass. You could get your hands on an amp and an Eich Bassboard, which is actually VERY effective for giving you low frequency feedback without producing much if any sound. VERY effective when used in conjunction with in ear monitors, allowing for very low stage volumes and very low probability of system feedback.

A couple of other things: trust your FOH engineer to give you good sound out front, and also, I suggest you rethink how you are presenting sounds. By that, I mean that you should basically have all of your levels and gains set so that you are not doing any actual mixing that you have to adjust live.

In the States, we call it "dummy-proofing", meaning you want to either set or somehow mark your gear so that there is no guess-work when it comes to your mix or any other aspect of your performance. You have your parts, you already know where the gains need to be, if you have to adjust levels of some sort, you only adjust to the marks you have made, because you have tested them over and over and they work. The reason being, as you so unpleasantly discovered, is that there will ALWAYS be variation and error in live monitoring situations, unless you are using in-ears, and even then, you're not trying to build a mix, live, you're trying to present ideas in an expressive manner.

I hope this helps.

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Post by ersatzplanet » Mon Jun 17, 2019 5:57 pm

I did a recent show and was placed in a odd position that seemed to be in a node where all I got was pronounced bass and not much else. Totally threw me off for a while. Recordings of the show were not bad co it was just where I was sitting.

"Back in the day" I played a lot of shows Around the Seattle area with a three-piece synthesizer group called Young Scientist. We put on the majority of the shows we played so had control over the PA system. Typically we had the PA (in stereo) on stage with us and behind us, the group on stage between the PA and the audience. Basically we heard exactly what they heard. THAT is the best way to do it if you can. Of course this relies on no live microphones (unless they are near field) but that was never a problem for us.

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Post by teleport » Mon Jul 08, 2019 1:25 am

Definitely sympathize with your experience. From my experience it's unfortunately impossible to rely on stage monitors to reflect anything resembling the spectral presentation of live electronic music as it is being received by the audience.

Headphones are probably the only viable solution - (depending on the degree of real-time sonic adjust-ability involved in your material) - using them to balance the sonic content will at least guarantee that your sends contain the intended sound. After that it's pretty much at the mercy of the sound techs running the show as to whether it gets faithfully projected.

Am personally of the opinion (admittedly this is very likely a minority view in live sound circles) - that live electronic music is best performed when the musicians are in front of the soundsystem within the same general soundfield as the audience. Ideally they are positioned in the "sweet-spot" - (where the mixing booth is typically located in a theater).

The idea being that for electronic music (where the musician has a high degree of control over the spectral content and overall mix) - it's critically important that they exist within the primary feedback loop, otherwise the balance inevitably veers towards some twisted, reflected version (due to perceptual distortion of the mismatched mix), unless the monitoring situation is an extremely accurate replica of the main soundfield (which it almost never is).

Typical stage setups cater to traditional instrumental and rock band priorities - (where monitoring is less critical because the instruments have some real-world presence prior to the main mix). For musical material where everything is electronic and the mix itself is a major part of the composition putting the producers directly in feedback loop is a powerful step towards a cohesive result.

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Post by mikeyip » Thu Jul 25, 2019 5:48 am

I've experienced venues without any stage monitor at all, so have to guess what it sounds like in the audience... (I'm playing in a duet). I think one of the possible way is to get a headphone amp with 2 headphone outputs so both musicians can listen to the balance from mixer.

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