Effects rig for live vocal mixing

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Koekepan
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Effects rig for live vocal mixing

Post by Koekepan » Sun Oct 06, 2019 8:41 pm

So obviously one can buy vocal processors in pedal/desktop format that will do all sorts of cute things like pitch correction, harmonies and so on. Boss, TC Helicon and more all fill that niche.

What I have been unable to find is a solid parametric compression tool, to help things sit better in the mix. I even looked at lunchbox modules to do the job, and couldn't find anything built for the purpose.

The obvious next option is: build a eurorack setup to do the parametric compression. Sure, use whatever desktop tools to do the bits and bobs that they do, but evidently this effects job is too specialised.

The question, therefore: what modules to best achieve this? Scenario is, live vocals in live performance with many synths including fat analogue sounds. The vocals need to be able to nudge the synths aside in relevant bands, without squashing everything like an over-eager trance producer.

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sutekina bipu-on
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Post by sutekina bipu-on » Sun Oct 06, 2019 8:58 pm

There are not a ton of parametric EQ options in Eurorack, most of which I can think of being resonant as well.

I guess a couple of those, a basic mixer and a WMD MSCL can do that. Maybe a nice Doepfer allpass filter too.

I hate to say it but this may be an application where a laptop is preferable. Not hating if you are set on doing it analog though.
Last edited by sutekina bipu-on on Sun Oct 06, 2019 10:54 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Post by Sinamsis » Sun Oct 06, 2019 9:36 pm

Fraptools Fumana might work for this combined with some attenuverters and VCAs. Maybe I'm not thinking about it right though haha.

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Post by Stab Frenzy » Sun Oct 06, 2019 11:20 pm

Live engineer for 15+ years here, my advice is leave compression to your FoH engineer, doing it on stage is gonna cause you more trouble than it’s worth.

If you compress on stage you’re gonna dramatically increase your chance of feedback through the monitors, if it’s done at FoH you can have less or no compression on stage, which will give you maximum volume before feedback.

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Post by bkbirge » Mon Oct 07, 2019 10:28 am

If you need multiband compression just to pull intelligibility of vocals out in front of synths then my first advice would be to work on your arrangements and sounds first. It is always better to fix at the source rather than applying a bandaid IMO.

Sure you can do all this in euro if you really want to, but it's kind of the wrong tool for the job. Multiple vca's, multiple bandpass filters, inverse envelope follower on the voice patched to whatever band you want to duck, etc. Probably fun to patch up but not going to be very practical.

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Post by Koekepan » Mon Oct 07, 2019 8:04 pm

Thanks for the responses folks.

I like sutekina bipu-on's suggestion of an EQ to do the compression duties. An EQ that can be CV-automated, combined with bkbirge's approach by envelope followers should get the job done.

Stab Frenzy: I'm not sure why compression would increase the chance of feedback. I'm not suggesting any expansion or make-up gain or anything like that; just compression. The only adjustment to any volume levels of anything should be downward. Could you run that by me in more detail, please?

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Post by Sinamsis » Mon Oct 07, 2019 8:14 pm

Koekepan wrote:Thanks for the responses folks.

I like sutekina bipu-on's suggestion of an EQ to do the compression duties. An EQ that can be CV-automated, combined with bkbirge's approach by envelope followers should get the job done.

Stab Frenzy: I'm not sure why compression would increase the chance of feedback. I'm not suggesting any expansion or make-up gain or anything like that; just compression. The only adjustment to any volume levels of anything should be downward. Could you run that by me in more detail, please?
Dude, look at Fumana... it is both a very nice EQ, multiple band pass filters, a ton of envelope followers based on those bands.... you need an attenuverter to invert the envelopes... and then a VCA with adjustable bias so you can open it and use the inverted envelope to duck it downward.

As others have mentioned this is an interesting mental exercise but might be quite costly and inefficient. But Fumana is awesome all around. And a great vocoder too!

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Post by Trebbers » Mon Oct 07, 2019 8:31 pm

Not as immediate as something like Fumana, and you will tie up modules if you want hands on control, but you can easily build what you want in the ER-301.

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Post by Koekepan » Mon Oct 07, 2019 8:32 pm

Looking at it right now, in fact. It actually seems to be purpose-built for this mission.

Someone, somewhere, was reading my mind. Thanks for the pointer!

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Post by Stab Frenzy » Tue Oct 08, 2019 5:59 pm

Koekepan wrote:
Stab Frenzy: I'm not sure why compression would increase the chance of feedback. I'm not suggesting any expansion or make-up gain or anything like that; just compression. The only adjustment to any volume levels of anything should be downward. Could you run that by me in more detail, please?
There’s makeup gain whether you apply it or not, the signal is being amplified to come out the speaker.

Just say you have 12dB of compression on your vocal at the loudest point, you set your levels so that they’re comfortable on stage and you find with the compression you need to run the monitors 6dB louder than you would without the compression, because the compression is making your vocals quieter and you want to hear yourself. So now your bleed into the mic when you’re not singing is 6dB louder than it would be without the compression, and your loud vocals are 6dB quieter. The bleed is what causes feedback.

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Post by Koekepan » Tue Oct 08, 2019 9:18 pm

Stab Frenzy wrote:
Koekepan wrote:
Stab Frenzy: I'm not sure why compression would increase the chance of feedback. I'm not suggesting any expansion or make-up gain or anything like that; just compression. The only adjustment to any volume levels of anything should be downward. Could you run that by me in more detail, please?
There’s makeup gain whether you apply it or not, the signal is being amplified to come out the speaker.

Just say you have 12dB of compression on your vocal at the loudest point, you set your levels so that they’re comfortable on stage and you find with the compression you need to run the monitors 6dB louder than you would without the compression, because the compression is making your vocals quieter and you want to hear yourself. So now your bleed into the mic when you’re not singing is 6dB louder than it would be without the compression, and your loud vocals are 6dB quieter. The bleed is what causes feedback.
OK, I get where you're coming from. I'm a solo artist, so a lot of this doesn't actually apply the way that I do things, but thanks for explaining how it fits - the live mixing aspect isn't something that I'd considered in context.

That said, this is about sidechain driven compression, not about compressing the main signal on its own merits.

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Post by Sandrine » Wed Oct 09, 2019 9:11 am

I thought so also on the ER-301, seems I saw it somewhere
I would give the TC Helicon VoiceLive Touch2 a second look(or the pedal VL3 if you're into that) I use mine under HW MIDI sequencer control and it's amazing! I agree with buddy above on the potential feedback issues but there's all sorts of processing going on that mimics parametric eq+compression like "sound goodizer". A decent CV2MIDI could put those parameters under modular control as well...even though a MIDI controller would do just as good a job.
The VLT2 has a single knob for gain control and hangs on a mic stand, what's simpler than that?
All this and a really decent mic will get you there (not a Shure SM58)
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Post by EATyourGUITAR » Wed Oct 09, 2019 9:52 am

When I was a live sound engineer we would do this in software running on dedicated hardware. We can do way more with software than would ever be possible in a modular. I would not use a laptop since the latency would be worse than the dedicated DSP we use in a live venue. You can however get smallish professional DSP hardware for $2000 that would be underpowered for a venue but perfect for an artist. I will agree with the other live sound engineer that you do not want to do this. You want the foh engineer to do it so that your monitor mix is %100 dry. The foh engineer will also make small adjustments during the live performance that get it sounding just right. You also don't need to do anything when you get there. Just tell them what you want and if they listen, you get it. Personally, I would do this with basic eq on the vocal as always but I would setup ducking for the vocal and the master outs. You can totally do this much simpler version in 500 rack if you are willing to run your vocal and your stereo master through it. Might not be 500. Might be 19 inch racks.
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Post by Koekepan » Wed Oct 09, 2019 2:16 pm

I think that I may not have been quite clear on what the intention was, because it seems to me that some of the comments are trying to answer a different problem.

Input:

Vocal

Synth

Problem:

They occupy large chunks of similar spectrum, in addition to overtones that may or may not overlap.

Solution:

Parametrically compress the synth, NOT the vocals, and add NO makeup gain or expansion to either source. Soundcheck them both to be fine individually, so that the only role that the compression has is to reduce conflict in key spectrum bands by reducing the synth only.

So, any kind of compression or limiting on the vocals isn't under consideration, nor is boosting either one for audibility. The only compression will be based on the sidechain, not on the signal running through it. If necessary to reduce feedback, I'm even open to doing soundcheck without it on, but I still fail to see how reducing volume on one channel without boosting it at any other time is going to induce feedback.


I get what Stab Frenzy was saying about boosting the channel to make it sound bigger in general and thereby getting a more active sound, risking mic bleed and so on, but that's not the approach to be taken here at all. If there's some magic that is going to take a functional signal, turn it down at times, and then make feedback increase, I'm open to that explanation, but if that's the scenario then I'll just say screw it, deal with a headphone mix that's adequate and pretend none of this ever happened.


Honestly, I've dealt with too many venues where the FoH guy nods thoughtfully when I say words like "parametric compression" and then does nothing like what I described. I've had people twist the compander knob like a lemon on the vocals, and do nothing with the synth, and turn the synth down as if it were the source of all evil, and all sorts of other nonsense, so all I'm really trying to do is solve a problem before it's not just a problem, but a problem being compounded by someone else who doesn't get it, and doesn't want to get it.

Granted, this is a small venue problem, where the FoH guy is the owner's unemployable dopesmoking nephew, not a big venue problem where you have serious sound engineers, but it's a problem nonetheless.

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Post by EATyourGUITAR » Wed Oct 09, 2019 2:31 pm

You keep insisting that this is solved with parametric compression but it is actually easy and cheaper to do it as ducking. You use a copy of the vocal to create an envelope from an envelope follower. Then you invert that envelope. You patch that to a VCA that controls the synth volume. You set the VCA open all the time. Done. The only thing you might want to add is a pre filter on the vocal copy before the env follower. A bandpass might even be good here so it only ducks on a problem frequency.
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Post by Stab Frenzy » Fri Oct 11, 2019 2:49 am

Ah, I see what you want now, sorry for the earlier misunderstanding. What you’re looking for is sidechain compression, not parametric compression. Parametric just means you have control over all the parameters of the compressor. As an artistic device this might be something that you’re better off doing yourself rather than have the FoH engineer do it, as you say it shouldn’t effect the chance of feedback.

You can do this with any compressor that has an external sidechain input, something simple like an FMR Audio RNC will do the job nicely, just make sure you the right cable to feed the sidechain input correctly.

Patch it in like this:

Synth stereo pair -> RNC stereo inputs
Vocal -> mic splitter primary output -> FoH
Mic splitter secondary output -> preamp -> RNC sidechain input

Then use your preamp level and the compressor threshold to get the amount of ducking of the synths you want. Also don’t worry about what preamp you use for this because you’re not gonna hear the signal going through it, it’s just there to boost the vocal signal to line level so it’ll work in the sidechain input.

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Post by Koekepan » Fri Oct 11, 2019 1:31 pm

Thanks, Stab Frenzy!

That makes a lot more sense. The only reason for my including a parametric approach was that ideally I just wanted to compress the conflicting bands in the synth, as opposed to the whole synth. It has fundamentals and overtones that don't conflict with vocals at all.

This is why the Fumana looked as if it might be the right sauce for this pudding.

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Post by Stab Frenzy » Fri Oct 11, 2019 4:57 pm

Koekepan wrote:Thanks, Stab Frenzy!

That makes a lot more sense. The only reason for my including a parametric approach was that ideally I just wanted to compress the conflicting bands in the synth, as opposed to the whole synth. It has fundamentals and overtones that don't conflict with vocals at all.

This is why the Fumana looked as if it might be the right sauce for this pudding.
Ah cool, that’s called multiband compression, not parametric. I think you might be mixing up the terms because parametric EQ is a thing, but parametric EQ is just an EQ where you can control all the parameters; frequency, boost/cut, and Q. That might explain why the engineers you were working with didn’t understand what you meant.

You could try using the Fumana for it, I haven’t used one but I believe there’s a seperate input for the detector and the processing, so if you ran the vocal into the detector and then took the outputs and ran them all to appropriate comparators and offsets then fed them back to the band controls to get them to duck the synth that might work, although it would be a very complicated patch. If I were in your position I’d be looking for a multiband compressor with a sidechain input rather than trying to do it with the Fumana.

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Post by Sinamsis » Fri Oct 11, 2019 7:59 pm

Ha, Fumana is awesome regardless, and like I mentioned before I believe it will work for this application. But it aint cheap and to use it solely for this purpose does seem like overkill. That said I find it such a wonderful sounding module, and the feature set could be use to do so much more. So I can only recommend buying one! Haha.

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Post by EATyourGUITAR » Sat Oct 12, 2019 12:17 am

I understood that he was using his knowledge of parametric EQ to ask the salesperson about multiband compression because that is this hip new thing you see in a lot of software VST marketing lies. people think they need multiband compression but most of the situations where they think they need it, they actually don't. this is one of them. however, I do think that you can put some eq or filtering on the audio that will be used only for a control signal on the sidechain. it will help it to get even more fine tuned. this is the typical side chain setup anyway. about %50 of the time there is no EQ on the side chain but sometimes, like for a kick ducking the main mix, it would always be a low pass or a bass boost on the side chain.

I was thinking about this for days actually. if he puts his synth 1v/oct into the 1v/oct of a bandpass filter. then bandpass the vocal. then run through the env follower or the sidechain input on the compressor.... wham. now you will never have a frequency domain collision. it will only trigger the compressor when the synth lines up the bandpass filter with the vocal.

the finishing touch could be some kind of slew with different rise and fall. you can have a VC slew that slews the envelope while it is controlled by the envelope. that way it is less snappy during the silent parts and more dynamic while he is already singing.
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Post by Soy Sos » Sat Oct 12, 2019 5:34 am

bkbirge wrote:If you need multiband compression just to pull intelligibility of vocals out in front of synths then my first advice would be to work on your arrangements and sounds first. It is always better to fix at the source rather than applying a bandaid IMO.

Sure you can do all this in euro if you really want to, but it's kind of the wrong tool for the job. Multiple vca's, multiple bandpass filters, inverse envelope follower on the voice patched to whatever band you want to duck, etc. Probably fun to patch up but not going to be very practical.
Exactly this, it's not the fun, crafty, cool answer, but it's the practical one.
Plus, I'm assuming the synths are in stereo? Now you're talking 2 of everything.
Go ahead and build yourself a $3000 eurorack sidechain thingy that may not even work....
......OR.......
Focus on bkbirge is suggesting, or get a decent mid priced stereo compressor ($300-800)
sidechain your synths with your vocal and nudge them down just a bit. (3-5 db, slow atack, slow release) that will more likely work. Borrow or rent something and try it.

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Post by EATyourGUITAR » Sat Oct 12, 2019 7:33 am

Soy Sos wrote:
bkbirge wrote:If you need multiband compression just to pull intelligibility of vocals out in front of synths then my first advice would be to work on your arrangements and sounds first. It is always better to fix at the source rather than applying a bandaid IMO.

Sure you can do all this in euro if you really want to, but it's kind of the wrong tool for the job. Multiple vca's, multiple bandpass filters, inverse envelope follower on the voice patched to whatever band you want to duck, etc. Probably fun to patch up but not going to be very practical.
Exactly this, it's not the fun, crafty, cool answer, but it's the practical one.
Plus, I'm assuming the synths are in stereo? Now you're talking 2 of everything.
Go ahead and build yourself a $3000 eurorack sidechain thingy that may not even work....
......OR.......
Focus on bkbirge is suggesting, or get a decent mid priced stereo compressor ($300-800)
sidechain your synths with your vocal and nudge them down just a bit. (3-5 db, slow atack, slow release) that will more likely work. Borrow or rent something and try it.
and FOH sound man does it for free!
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Post by MindMachine » Sat Oct 12, 2019 7:37 am

Maths.


(for nostalgia).
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Post by LunaticSound » Sat Oct 12, 2019 8:06 am

I am a working sound engineer and I am sorry to have to second Stab Frenzys comment.

You don't know how you sound outside, but the engineer does, thats why he has the channelstrip in his desk.

And compressing increases your feedback because the make up gain happens, when you ask your engineer for more monitor sound!

I can very much understand your desire here, but Eurorack is not a good choice...

You will need a mic preamp, a compressor, a mod to line level converter and a DI Box...

All for just duplicating what your mixer already has, but he has the option to throw in the compressor in various places in the channel strip.

What you wat, is a nice delay :D

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Post by LunaticSound » Sat Oct 12, 2019 8:17 am

Oh, sorry, I seem to have skipped over stab-frenzys second post and your answer.

What you are describing is a dynamic EQ or a Multiband compressor, which good mixing desks offer, but not all of them. And there are also sidechain compressors with filters in the sidechain path. But really, an eq and someone who knows, how to use it in front of house is what you actually need.

Not, that that is always easy to come by, I know.

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