Episode 008: When Sound Goes Sideways

You’re at the gig and your sound isn’t grooving. How do you react? How can you guard against it?

Music: Jahzzar, Please Listen Carefully; spinningmerkaba, Urbana-Metronica (wooh-yeah mix)

Show notes

  • Backdrop: The inevitable
    • Dave: most recent experience with this issue – why I recommended this topic
      • That day after the gig call to Paul…
    • Paul: does this ever happen to Paul (probably not)
      • A lot of times, sure! The big nightmare for me is where someone (me) has tripped over equipment and something came unplugged… and I don’t realize it by the time we’re coming to the downbeat
  • Your sound at home vs. at sound check vs. against all other instruments
    • Dave: Paul, talk me through what you experience in these different sound spaces-
    • Paul: What works in one space may not work in another
      • At home my amp is backed up against a wall, which accentuates bass
      • So at a gig, I’m going to treat the low end differently… let the EQ do more work
      • When everyone’s playing, have to be careful not to have the bark or twang of the bass obscure the guitar or keys
    • Dave: The epic bass tone in my studio ≠ stage tone, ever
      • While it sounds bigger, it’s more a surprise than a comfortable place
      • Maybe because I simply cannot crank it in my bass room
  • What are some common issues:
    • Paul:
      • The hollow stage! It’s a bass trap that will make even moderate low end sound boomy on the stage. If you don’t bring the low end up in the PA, you’ll sound weak to the audience
      • Not having enough of your sound hitting you in the ear means your EQ sense will be off. Your knees are not good at telling when you sound good
      • NO SOUND. forgot to turn something on, or something came unplugged
    • Dave:
      • The mid level drown-out
      • Boomy lows
      • That frequency storm – Paul, you have a real term for this I’m sure
      • Hums
  • First: What NOT to do
    • Paul:
      • Don’t ignore your bandmates. If they are not digging it, care about them first. You can’t do a good show if you’re not getting along on stage.
      • Don’t panic. It’s just music, not heart surgery. No one’s going to die.
    • Dave: Don’t double down (driving through spin out example)
      • No obsessing – mind games
      • Poker face! You’re being paid to perform. Do you let the crowd know your gassy when you have to public speak at work?
  • What are appropriate steps
    • Paul:
      • This is one of the main reasons I am in love with having a sweepable midrange on an active bass… tune it to the room
      • Try to identify what part of the sound is causing you grief…
        • Check amp position before EQ, point at your ears
        • Use stage monitors to your advantage
        • If you are missing sound, just trace everything starting with your axe and moving through the signal chain… reset patches, check volume pedal, tuner circuit, connections, amp mute/defeat, etc.
      • Have agreement with the drummer to keep a beat going in emergency
    • Dave:
      • I Breathe, then ask, “what would Paul do?”
        • Not true, I freak out
      • Ask your bandmates their feedback
      • Zero out tone controls/EQ
      • Drop volume a bit
      • If it’s a hum, change cables/power source etc.
  • Obsessing over your sound
    • Dave: Most times I’ve experienced this torturous experience, no one ever even noticed
      • I think obsessing over sound is good, but in the right time and and at a moderate level (or maybe just a notch above moderate)
      • But, that being said, zero tolerance on any obvious sound issues
        • What’s your threshold
    • Paul:
      • I don’t like to obsess, but I also like to make sure I present a sound that I can live with
      • Honestly, a decent bass and an OK amp with flat EQ will usually work well for me… I tend to control from the bass
      • I obsess more over recording than a show, because shows are ephemeral

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.