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Jul 23, 2019 - 12:51:14 PM
1096 posts since 6/25/2007

Hi, all. I've been asked to play a square dance in a few weeks. We will be a four piece band with fiddle, banjo, guitar, and bass. The organizer asked if we would bring our own sound equipment. I initially said no, but our bass player has a small PA system that we are considering using. I don't know the details of his system, but he says he has a 200W PA system and a small bass amp. I have no idea what we'll get if we ask the organizer to provide a sound system.

The dance will be outdoors, but under a carport, about 25 X 25 foot area. They are expecting 75-100 people, but it's not an experienced dance group, so I'm guessing the number of dancers will be much smaller.

Back in the spring, I played a small outdoor dance with a small PA system (don't know the specs). We had a single condenser mic for the instruments and a vocal mic for the caller, and it worked fine. For this dance, I have a good condenser mic, and I thought the fiddle, banjo, and guitar could gather around that with a separate mic for the bass and a vocal mic for the caller.

Thoughts?

Jul 23, 2019 - 1:28:29 PM
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DougD

USA

9233 posts since 12/2/2007

I think I'd give it a try. The worst that can happen is that it will be a disaster (which I doubt) and you can file it away under "disasters to avoid in future."
If you have a small bass amp I'd use that and not worry about a separate mic into the PA. Just gather around the condenser mic and give a mic to the caller.
The power ratings of sound systems isn't very reliable, due to different measuring standards and marketing pressures. It would be better to know the brand and what the speakers are. I have a couple JBL two way powered speakers that are only 60 watts each, and I wouldn't hesitate to use them for something like this, but those are "real"watts in a serious design.
Not sure how you can get 75-100 people dancing under a 25x25 carport, so that might be a consideration.
I've always thought it was easier to have the promoter provide the sound system and just concentrate on the music, but then you're at their mercy.

Edited by - DougD on 07/23/2019 13:29:39

Jul 23, 2019 - 2:29:43 PM

2147 posts since 10/1/2008

Hmmm... The bass amp may have a line out that you can run directly to the PA and skip using that mic. It is importand that both players and dancers can hear the bass line beat. Otherwise if the mic on the three instruments is getting good sound from the banjo guitar and fiddle you are good to go. Guitars just don't put out as much sound as a banjo or a fiddle. You can adjust this either by having the fiddle an banjo stand slightly further from the mic or have a separate guitar mic. Yes the caller needs their own mic. Have fun. R/

Jul 23, 2019 - 2:37:55 PM
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4262 posts since 9/26/2008

What Doug said. I play plenty of Dances with small PA you don't need much.

Jul 23, 2019 - 3:48:35 PM

RobBob

USA

2644 posts since 6/26/2007

We use a 600 watt but used a 200 and 400 watt in previous incarnations of our sound system. They all worked for those small dances. We tend to use Bartlett mics on our instruments (if you have phantom power on your board) to good end and have a mic for the caller. You could use a large diaphragm mic but you can't use any monitors then. If you do use individual mics and use a monitor, keep the caller out of the monitor to help hear each other. You don't need to hear the caller. They will signal you if they need you

Jul 23, 2019 - 4:24:08 PM
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2351 posts since 9/13/2009

Doug has a point about just running the bass thru it's own amp...  bass is very non-directional and usually just fills whatever space; and second is that it takes a lot more energy to pump out bass, which can cause a bit of problem on an under powered PA. 

I've always thought it was easier to have the promoter provide the sound system and just concentrate on the music, but then you're at their mercy.

Often I find it's easier and get better results setting up and being in control of our own sound. Advantage of single mic, ease of set up and control. 

The single mic balance can be tough to just guesstimate, (guitar is not necessarily quieter). Two things help; 1. Experimenting  at home; with mic going straight into recorder, or thru PA with trustworthy person to give feedback. 2. at the gig with trustworthy person to give feedback (...more cowbell).

BTW, it's reasonable to negotiate a little additional $$ if you provide the sound.

Jul 23, 2019 - 4:33:27 PM
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2351 posts since 9/13/2009

quote:
Originally posted by RobBob

You could use a large diaphragm mic but you can't use any monitors then. 


Diaphragm size is not the factor for monitor; nor for being a good single mic. 

It's mostly about understanding the pattern and sensitivity plot. 

I've used these mics http://www.eartrumpetlabs.com/shop-microphones (Edwina; Louise; and Josephine) are awesome for live single mic; with monitors.

Edited by - alaskafiddler on 07/23/2019 16:47:00

Jul 23, 2019 - 4:43:52 PM
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DougD

USA

9233 posts since 12/2/2007

That's right, but under a 25x25 carport I don't think I'd need monitors. I think they're overrated for acoustic music, except in large scale situations.

Jul 23, 2019 - 4:53:43 PM
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2351 posts since 9/13/2009

I agree... I prefer sitting (or standing) very close to each other; to hear each other naturally... the old knee to knee... I feel we play tighter. Single mic, no monitor, kind of forces you to do that. As does playing a noisy party with no sound system.

Jul 23, 2019 - 6:00:16 PM

1613 posts since 10/22/2007

How many channels does the PA have? (200w okay)
Bass to the bass amp.
1. Caller
2. Fiddler
3. Banjer
4. Guitar
That's my answer: 4 mikes.
Gathering around a mike, i dislike, personally. A fiddle and vocalist are at one height. Banjer and guitar are at another. Fiddle and vocalist will probably need to be set at different sound & EQ levels for it to be right. Same for banjer and guitar. That's why my vote is for individual mikes. Monitors are nice but not nessesary.

Personally, i run through an amp with a fiddle bridge pickup. But that's a lot of cost, and it's only for one guy.

Jul 23, 2019 - 6:50:29 PM

140 posts since 1/3/2019

If in good working order, those speakers will do just fine for that small place . Here is a good tip I learned from a sound pro on using a single mic set up... Turn the EQs (bass-mid-treb) all the way down (to the left). This will give you room to adjust the volume. In rare instances a person could bring some EQ into the mix, but that's just usually just playing with fire (feedback/booming).

Jul 23, 2019 - 7:15:04 PM
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DougD

USA

9233 posts since 12/2/2007

As an audio engineer who has worked with single mics, multiple mics, and many configurations in between, in many venues, I'd say that's silly advice. It always depends on the situatiion - the microphone, the performers, their positioning, the speakers and their placement, and the acoustic environment itself. There is no one solution.

Edited by - DougD on 07/23/2019 19:26:26

Jul 23, 2019 - 7:51:32 PM

bsed

USA

3965 posts since 6/23/2007

I just saw Foghorn perform, and I know they like gathering around a single mic. But farmer jones got me remembering that even they did use at least one additional mic for a guitar, and possibly a second low-set mic for the banjo.

Jul 23, 2019 - 8:17:04 PM
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DougD

USA

9233 posts since 12/2/2007

Yes, I've done sound for Foghorn (one of my favorite bands) and we used one central mic for vocals and fiddle, plus one instrument mic on either side, and another for the bass (Nadine got a great sound ftom an SM58 in the tailpiece, but now she has her own namesake mic). This was in a large auditorium. That's a pretty common setup for that situation because it preserves a natural sound but still gives the engineer some control over the balance and EQ. You start with the central mic, and only add what you need from the instrument mics.
Here's a variation on that same idea:


Edited by - DougD on 07/23/2019 20:22:10

Jul 23, 2019 - 8:26:46 PM

4262 posts since 9/26/2008

If your condenser mic is an EarTrumpet Labs “Louise” and the bass is a decent upright acoustic, she’ll pick it up fine without extra amplification; you all have to stand close is all. For a dance, I’d center the fiddle near the sweet spot and work the rest around that.

Edited by - ChickenMan on 07/23/2019 20:27:09

Jul 23, 2019 - 8:41:12 PM

DougD

USA

9233 posts since 12/2/2007

I started a post with my opinion of Ear Trumpet Labs microphones, but deleted it for fear of some kind of retribution. Let's just say that IMHO there are much better ways to spend your money. You'll notice that professional audio dealers like Sweetwater and B&H don't sell them, but that might be due to distribution arrangements as much as quality.

Edited by - DougD on 07/23/2019 20:49:27

Jul 24, 2019 - 8:05:39 AM
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robinja

USA

1096 posts since 6/25/2007

Thanks, all! Lots to think about. Although we rarely play amplified gigs, when we do play them, we prefer to play around a single mic (usually with a separate bass mic) without monitors. I have a nice AudioTechnica condenser mic that we have used successfully. We have sometimes used two of these mics (our usual guitar player has an identical mic), and we'll set one at guitar/banjo level, and one at fiddle/vocal level. In this case, we will likely be seated and won't be singing (and our usual guitar player will be MIA), so we'll just go with one. All of the previous gigs have been with the venue providing sound. We have never used this particular PA, so my main concern is about being heard.

I think we'll go for it and see what happens, but anyone has any further input or cautionary tales, feel free to continue the discussion.

Thanks again!
Judy

Jul 24, 2019 - 9:55:17 AM

140 posts since 1/3/2019

In my experience, inexperienced sound people want to put the eq at mid levels and then wrestle with the feedback, honking, and squeals. with all of those factors thrown in such as the room acoustics, quality of mics, quality of board...taking down the eqs is a great starting point that was certainly a life saver for me. it does depend on the equipment of course, but i dont think there is a better starting point when dealing with the unknowns.

Jul 24, 2019 - 12:54:46 PM
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2351 posts since 9/13/2009

Shawn, eq on mixers don't typically work that way... more common is mid point setting is considered "flat" - simply same as NO eq; or "0 db" - for that frequency band... turning the knob down below 0 is acting as a cut (say to -10 db); above 0 is a boost (say to +10 db). Some have a fixed center frequency setting; some allow you to change the center of frequency to boost or cut (say from 400 hz - 3 khz). 

Starting with arbitrarily cutting db of frequencies? IMO not really a good way to address what frequencies will be problem with GBF. Possibly make it more problematic.

-----------

BTW, I wouldn't be too concerned with feedback, outside under a carport; and not need to blast an audience like a metal concert. Not being in a box or parallel surface reduces a lot of potential problems (like standing waves)... Just make sure mics and mains are reasonably spaced and directed. 

Edited by - alaskafiddler on 07/24/2019 13:09:23

Jul 24, 2019 - 1:23:41 PM

2351 posts since 9/13/2009

quote:
Originally posted by robinja

Although we rarely play amplified gigs, when we do play them, we prefer to play around a single mic (usually with a separate bass mic) without monitors.


I wanted to comment on this...one question that folks sometimes really don't seem to think about is "how loud do we need to be?" - Maybe sign of getting old... but it seems folks are trying to be much louder these days and/or assume they need to be really loud; or saturate the space.

Looking at the past, given the state technology, I don't think it was even possible for bands to be particularly loud. (I recall our Shure VocalSmasher; Unisphere and EV 631 and mics... often playing in bars)

I've been trying advocate going back to quieter; I found acoustic still works pretty well some situations... and in others just needs a slight bump.

Given DougD's past (Highwoods days) - curious what changes have you noticed?

Edited by - alaskafiddler on 07/24/2019 13:28:21

Jul 24, 2019 - 1:36:01 PM

4262 posts since 9/26/2008

What I come across most is sound engineers that only know rock and roll and PUMP THAT BASS. Then you fight guitar feedback because the guitar is vibrating bass notes etc. I frequently walk away from gigs lamenting the lack of engineers educated in acoustic music.

Jul 24, 2019 - 1:40:57 PM

robinja

USA

1096 posts since 6/25/2007

I generally agree. We go out to a lot of brew pubs and will often choose to freeze or roast outside to escape the over-amplified music. I wouldn't be concerned at all if this were a wallpaper music gig where we were just playing music during a reception or something. In those situations, the louder the band gets, the louder the talkers get, so it is a losing battle. But dancers may make some noise themselves, and we want them to be able to hear the music.

Jul 24, 2019 - 6:35:25 PM

140 posts since 1/3/2019

i see there's some disagreement. But I understand how eq works and stand by my advice. it's served me well for hundreds of shows at a myriad of venues. here on the southern plains, venues are loud. for maximizing volume and eliminating feedback, booms, and problems, I have found no better starting point.

Jul 24, 2019 - 7:17:29 PM

140 posts since 1/3/2019

not to belabor the discussion because to each his own of course, but here's maybe a better description of where I'm coming from with starting with the eq cut (what i menat when i said "down)... soundonsound.com/sound-advice/...to-cut-eq

in my experience cutting the eq has never caused new feedback problems since cutting is also reducing gain

maybe it's time for bowing pattern discussions? ;)

Jul 24, 2019 - 9:15:41 PM
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DougD

USA

9233 posts since 12/2/2007

Shawn, that article really has nothing to do with what you suggested. Any live sound engineer knows that its risky to boost certain frequencies too much - its safer to reduce the frequencies that might be too dominant.
But that assumes that you are starting with a relatively flat response. Any sound system has a maximum "gain before feedback." To maximize this you want every element to be as flat as possible - this includes the microphones, electronics, speakers, and the room itself, which is the hardest (often impossible) to control.
If you turn down ALL the eqs as you suggest, you are really just reducing the gain, but in a very ragged, uneven way. Much better just to turn down the channel fader and then bring it up slowly and address whatever problems occur.
Nothing personal, but saying that "inexperienced" sound engineers might set their EQs flat is just wrong. I don't know anyone who wouldn't do exactly that, and I'm talking about people that do sound reinforcement at major festivals, including those who work for me at the National Storytelling Festival, as an example.

Jul 24, 2019 - 9:46:58 PM

140 posts since 1/3/2019

I see your point, but disagree that the article doesn't relate. Festival sound would be a different mix, I'm sure. I can't say I ever had a problem until I began playing through a single mic in confined places with a lot of noise, which the carport made me think of. A professional engineer might not need such a suggestion either. As for inexperienced, I didn't say inexperienced engineers, but people like me in bands trying to run their own sound and having problems. The technique saved me many headaches and I've passed it on to others wrestling with their sound with similar good results.

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