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Small setup - live vocal side chain compression
MUFF WIGGLER Forum Index -> Production Techniques  
Author Small setup - live vocal side chain compression
Northward
Say you are a solo artist or duo/trio playing a small bar/café shop - without any FOH. Does anyone want to recommend a good quality mixer with EQ/ side chain compression or that will solve the issue of ducking / nicely creating space in the full live mix for the vocals.

Key points are modest(small) form factor, quality sounding and user friendly. (I’m reluctant to using a laptop live for such).

Mixers have always been a bit intimidating to me so I really don’t want gazillions of unnecessary opinions - but rather good decisions already made by the manufacturer if you see what I mean.
BenA718
Why are you using ducking live? That's more used for broadcast/voice over work.
Northward
BenA718 wrote:
Why are you using ducking live? That's more used for broadcast/voice over work.


Well.. Ducking may have been a wrong term to use in the sense of V.O. use but to smoothly carve out space for vocals in those frequencies of a live mix - something’s obviously gotta give. And I’ve been to far too many small club concerts (with FOH!) where vocals got 'buried' and people complaining about it afterwards as ruining a good experience. So it obviously is a challenging issue - especially if one need to solve it oneself from a small setup. I know of plugins that solves this elegantly. But I’d prefer HW I’d trust more.
Joe.
Compression pedal with sidechain input, like the one from Empress?

You can catch them second hand every now and then.
Technologear?
Northward wrote:
.. to smoothly carve out space for vocals in those frequencies of a live mix


Maybe a mixer with a mid sweepable eq on each channel? Cut your main vocal freq from the competing channels? I prefer eqing live rather than compressing, the not-ideal listening context leads me to over-compressing and making things sound too 'hard'.
But if you're confident with side chain compression you could always do that too
Soy Sos
I would stay far away from anything like a sidechain "ducking" effect. I know for sure you'll end up with a lot of weird pumping artifacts in the music. Part of the problem may be that your arrangement and mix elements may be overpowering the space where a vocal needs to sit. Probably not the answer you want to hear, but I would make sure you're closer to the mark on that end before anything else.
Soy Sos
Woops, double post.
Northward
Scoping out possible solutions, I came across this compressor on Kickstarter that both sounds good compared to higher grade gear and has creative side chain possibilities. It may not be ideal for what I want to achieve with live vocals but it’s caught my attention for what it does - for the price. (I have no affiliation).

Check it out. It really seems to tidy things up. Makes me wonder if you could do a full mix without using an EQ -only by using side chain compression and volume...
It’ll certainly work really well for minimal electro.

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/suonobuono/nabc-not-another-borin g-compressor-sidechain-made-fun
Soy Sos
Northward,
what do you think of my suggestion?
I really don't think that thing you linked to is at all a solution to your problem.
Northward
Soy Sos wrote:
Northward,
what do you think of my suggestion?
I really don't think that thing you linked to is at all a solution to your problem.


I totally agree with you that a well balanced equalised starting point is ideal. But we are taking musicians here being our own 'sound guy'. Side chain compression doesn’t need to be full on ducking and pumping. Surly that’s the extreme used fx. If executed super precise it could work with some transparency blending no? Well, maybe I’m off here and this ain’t something people generally do live.
Technologear?
Northward wrote:
But we are taking musicians here being our own 'sound guy'. Side chain compression doesn’t need to be full on ducking and pumping. Surly that’s the extreme used fx. If executed super precise it could work with some transparency blending no? Well, maybe I’m off here and this ain’t something people generally do live.


It won't be the solution you want it to be. I know it would be super convenient if it could, but it's not that simple. Live sound is far from the even and consistent playing ground of a studio or a daw.

If you can't let it go, then try it at rehearsal but record the master stereo mix and listen back to it the following day on your best headphones. I predict you notice either too subtle effect ("damn side chain isn't helping at all!") or too vast ("ugh, my brain feels like it's being sucked in and out of my ears").
Soy Sos
Agreed with Technologear? 100%
Sidechaining is a technique that must be carefully and painstakingly monitored on a per track and per project basis to get usable results.
I understand the frustration of doing your own sound at clubs and having difficulty getting the desired balances. I've been a recording engineer for almost 35 years and have performed live literally 1000's of times from arenas to living rooms. It sounds like you're using some combination of pre-recorded tracks and live elements including vocals. If so, is your music created, composed and mixed to provide the sonic space for vocals? If not, go back and make it more so. Then create your monitor mix to be the same as what goes out to your mains in the performance venue. Adjust balances for the desired mix, what you hear is what they hear.
Northward
Thank you guys.
I feel enlightened by your advice - as I hoped to. In theory it sounds like a convenient solution - and I thought it might be utilised, but I see now that such a mixing technique aren’t useful for live music.

We are on the verge of having AI fully entering the audio industry (in useful ways). Most examples e.g. outside certain features of plug-ins, are still kind of novelties. And while it certainly cannot replace a human sense of hearing - at least for many years still. I’m pretty sure that this will be addressed pretty successfully in an Allan&Heath for dummies pretty soon
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