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Author Topic:  "Tone" change when band starts playing
Glenn Demichele


From:
(20mi N of) Chicago Illinois, USA
Post  Posted 17 Dec 2017 1:04 am    
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This might be a stupid question, but I want to hear some opinions. I've got lots of experience playing live, and I played tonight with a loud 'bro-country" band. Everything went great, but I was not happy with my sound when the band was playing. I was using a Peavey MiniMax and a TT-12 in a closed-back cabinet, however I'd bet this effect doesn't depend on equipment: When I was on the bandstand playing alone, I was really happy with the tone - low and high end with a scoop in the mids -"fat and sugar". When the band got going, I cranked my volume to stay in the mix, and I sounded really midrangey - almost honky. Maybe the band was blowing away my low and high, and all I heard was the piece of me in the sonic space that was left. What is the best way to deal with this? I played Thursday with my classic country honky-tonk band, and my good solo tone was preserved when the band was playing. Maybe it's just the song choice (ha ha).
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Peter Leavenworth

 

From:
Madbury, New Hampshire, USA
Post  Posted 17 Dec 2017 6:11 am     "Tone"
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Glenn, I experience the same thing any time I play with a loud band and there's several ways I've dealt with it. First, you can always play with quiet bands (ha, ha). I play through a custom Milkman head with a separate speaker cab and I have my speaker pointing at me from about 5 or 6 feet away so I can keep track of my sound - and tuning. I mike my speaker, and often have a soundman, but having the steel in the house mix, especially with someone controlling it, really makes a difference. I also have my own monitor mix which is the icing on the cake. I also play lap steel with a little bit of distortion, but since solos often consist of single string noting it appears to be much easier to maitain the original lap steel tone. It's a always a shame to have the wonderful subtleties of the pedal steel tone disappear in loud music, even if the players are the only ones noticing
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Tony Prior


From:
Charlotte NC..
Post  Posted 17 Dec 2017 7:50 am    
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your amp tone probably didn't change at all but your ears are now hearing a full spectrum of stuff from the bandstand and wedges.

Where are you sitting in relationship to other amps ? Are there floor wedges in front of you that are competing with your speaker cab behind you ? An entire band coming thru one floor wedge in front of you, at volume, can be quite fun !

I stopped using floor wedges in front of me years back, I always found that they were a distraction and a false representation of what my amps sounded like. Mid range city...

t
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Georg Sørtun


From:
Mandal, VA, Norway & Weeki Wachee, FL, USA
Post  Posted 17 Dec 2017 7:56 am    
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Pick hard and peak (raise) the frequency range around 800 to 1200Hz - maybe by adding a tad distortion, as that's the range that will cut through loud bands. Interestingly, that's pretty much the same frequency range that many steel players lower in order to make the steel sound better balanced and sweeter all by itself.
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Pete Bailey


From:
Seattle, WA
Post  Posted 17 Dec 2017 8:14 am    
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[Mixing Engineer hat on]

What sounds good soloed is very often not what is needed in the mix.

[ME hat off]
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Len Amaral

 

From:
Rehoboth,MA 02769
Post  Posted 17 Dec 2017 9:03 am    
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I use to think the sound I had in my home studio was all dialed in and only be dissatisfied when I played with a band. Over time, I started decreasing the bass and upping the mids. I find it’s a delicate balance between the mid range and treble.
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Glenn Demichele


From:
(20mi N of) Chicago Illinois, USA
Post  Posted 17 Dec 2017 9:04 am    
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I understand the mix-tone concept. For me, my playing is affected by my perceived tone, so a good mix tone might make me play badly (uninspired or cheesy), or well. Actually for most of the music we played last night, steel is not needed in the mix - ha! (I must write a letter to Luke Bryan).
My classic country band stage volume is really quiet - I love that. Last night's band however was pretty loud, but this time I was set up off to the side with no wedges in front of me and my head was in line with only my speaker. I was mic'ed by a sound guy for the house and monitors, but I couldn't hear strongly the house or monitor mix from my position. Because I was off to the side, I wasn't getting blasted so I didn't wear my ear plugs. I always turn on a tape recorder sitting next to me so I can beat myself up the next day. Interestingly on that recording, my tone sounds closer to my solo tone even though the mix is exactly what I was hearing last night. Maybe that's another reason to wear ear plugs at even moderate volumes.
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Tony Prior


From:
Charlotte NC..
Post  Posted 20 Dec 2017 2:36 am    
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Glenn, thru the years, make that decades, I played stages with NO monitors and no mic'ing of amps. Thats how I learned to judge both tone and volume. Pretty much by listening across the stage. By todays standards , if a sound guy wants to mic my amp, fine, go for it, but when he places a wedge in front of me, I tell him to ditch it. I am not one who wants to hear the entire band blasting in front of me thru a 12" speaker and a mid range horn ! I always found it difficult to hear BEHIND me with a monitor in front of me .

Obviously if a pro sound crew has the ability to separate monitor mixes ( multiple sends) then it can be better, but most of the time , I suspect for most of us, we have ONE monitor feed where everyone gets the same feed. Then we hear ourselves in both directions, one from an amp behind us where we love the tone and the other from a floor wedge fed from a solid state sound board where it is not only generic in EQ , but fed to a very mid range wedge. Then the louder you play to hear yourself thru the mix , the louder you get "IN" the mix ! I think we call this "Catch 22"...

It's a war I tell you !

Laughing
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Bill Terry


From:
Bastrop, TX
Post  Posted 20 Dec 2017 5:52 am    
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Quote:
... when he places a wedge in front of me, I tell him to ditch it. I am not one who wants to hear the entire band blasting in front of me thru a 12" speaker and a mid range horn !


Me either, especially if I've never worked the venue and don't know the sound guy. I'd MUCH rather have nothing, than a whole lot of something I hate.
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Bob Hoffnar


From:
Austin, Tx
Post  Posted 20 Dec 2017 6:03 am    
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Do you have the same problem with a different amp and speaker combination?
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Ian Rae


From:
Redditch, England
Post  Posted 20 Dec 2017 7:14 am    
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Pete Bailey wrote:
[Mixing Engineer hat on]

What sounds good soloed is very often not what is needed in the mix.

[ME hat off]

That's true hat or no hat. Also the frequency response of the ear changes with volume, just to add to the confusion.
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Jim Sliff


From:
Lawndale California, USA
Post  Posted 20 Dec 2017 8:55 am    
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As Tony said - your tone never changed. And as discussed your perception of it *is* changing, probably because of progresdive changes in hearing.

Your best bet to be able to “hear” consistent tone on stage is an in-ear monitor system that allows you to set your own mix. They’re pretty common with better sound systems - both wired and wireless. Before I had to stop gigging because of some physical issues I found them present in most places except real small clubs.

But it won’t work very well unless rhe whole band is on such a system. You could tweak it so the sound with the band is acceptable, but as stage volume levels change ( and your own sound level/EQ remain constant) you’ll still hear tonal shifts in your own playing.

I’ve been on both ends - as a player and working sound support - and the only teally effective solution I’m aware of is isolated & individual monitoring, which is only effective with a good in-ear system.

Otherwise players just have to learn to live with hearing changes and how to not let perception affect their playing.
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Richard Sinkler


From:
aka: Rusty Strings -- Missoula, Montana
Post  Posted 20 Dec 2017 9:21 am    
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Tony Prior wrote:
your amp tone probably didn't change at all but your ears are now hearing a full spectrum of stuff from the bandstand and wedges.

Where are you sitting in relationship to other amps ? Are there floor wedges in front of you that are competing with your speaker cab behind you ? An entire band coming thru one floor wedge in front of you, at volume, can be quite fun !

I stopped using floor wedges in front of me years back, I always found that they were a distraction and a false representation of what my amps sounded like. Mid range city...

t


I refuse to play with a monitor near me, especially if my guitar is being fed back through the monitors.
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Jim Sliff


From:
Lawndale California, USA
Post  Posted 20 Dec 2017 10:29 am    
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That's what in-ear systems are for. There's zero feedback and (with decent ones) you control your own monitor mix. As long as the earbuds are good quality (and obviously the general mic setup) it's great for the player because of the sound and level of control.

I don't care for floor monitors either - but there's no reason for those to feed back, ever, if they are set up correctly.

In-ear systems are very easy to get used to. I've played with die-hards who wanted No monitor of any kind and after a few set of hearing themselves as loud as they w3anted - and absolutely everyone else clearly - or not at all - they loved it.
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Glenn Demichele


From:
(20mi N of) Chicago Illinois, USA
Post  Posted 20 Dec 2017 12:46 pm    
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Great thread, thanks. Regardless of the amp/speaker combination I use, the louder the band, the bigger the band vs. home difference. Normally we usually just have only our vocals in the monitors, but again if we get louder my tone seems to change. I played a bigger place just before I started this thread, where there was some steel in my monitor mix, but buried under 3 guitars and a keyboard, jeez.
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Dave Mudgett


From:
Central Pennsylvania
Post  Posted 20 Dec 2017 2:31 pm    
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I think there are multiple effects going on with this type of thing. For me, the main issue is what to do when stage levels get loud - I find it pretty easy to deal with a band with a reasonable stage volume. For good or bad, some things I do are quiet, while others are pretty loud. Different styles => different customs.

There is the psycho-acoustic Fletcher-Munson curve (or the ISO 223 rev 2003 standard equal-loudness countours) effect: midrange appears to the ear to be more prominent at low volume, while low/high frequencies appear more prominent at loud volumes) - e.g., https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fletcher%E2%80%93Munson_curves

At the same time, it is my experience that many amps put out more midrange the harder they're pushed. Especially tube amps. I think it's just easier to amplify midrange - negative feedback in the amp circuit helps tame this, but there is a natural tendency to accentuate the midrange frequencies. Also note that changing the volume and/or master-volume knob(s) often affects the EQ curve in many amps.

All of this stuff gets mashed together, and beyond that is pretty nonlinear. But my perception is that, overall, my sound often get more midrangey-muddy as things get pushed more. Add to that the fact that there's the rest of the band in the mix, which if not dealt with properly, clutters everything up. I absolutely want nobody's instruments in a monitor anywhere near me. Just vocals, I can always hear the rest of the band just fine almost no matter the situation.

Nobody I work with uses in-ears. We mostly use old tube amps, that's just the world I live in. So for me, the key is to EQ for expected band volume, ideally with the band. If I turn things up while doing a solo-sound-check with a loud band to where they should be, everybody looks at me funny - why the hell are you so loud? Well, because you are all gonna be loud, no lie. But if I sound-check at the easy-listening volume, I just have to go reset it later anyway, and I'm not going to know what my EQ settings should be - they are frequently different in different situations. So if I'm forced to do a solo-sound-check, I generally set things where they need to be, note my settings, then when they bitch, I turn it down, and then turn it back up as needed when things get going. I can modulate all that with the volume pedal or main volume on the amp.

To complicate this further, Georg's point about needing more 800-1000 Hz to cut through a mix is also my experience. This may seem counter-intuitive, but it's what I notice also.
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Paul Stauskas


From:
DFW, TX
Post  Posted 20 Dec 2017 3:05 pm    
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I have started playing with a group where we are always mic'ed and usually have enough floor wedges for everyone. I have had the best results so far when I sit my amp tilted back on my right side using it as a monitor and not having any steel coming from the wedge. I request lead vocal and acoustic through the wedge.
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Larry Hamilton

 

From:
Lewisville, Texas, USA
Post  Posted 20 Dec 2017 4:07 pm    
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Dang Paul you prett much stole my reply. We have a really good sound man with lots os experience. I also use my amp as my amp monitor and nothing in my nearest monitor except vocals and other necessary instruments. I play pretty much with the tone I like with enough highs to cut through and the sound man does the rest. We are lucky enough to have a six piece band wise band, good equipment and like I said a great sound man. .....When filling in with another band and more raw off the bandstand, less lows on my part does the trick. I’m able to cut through the mix and I’m still happy with my tone. Sound checks beforehand really really help dialing in my tone. My 2 cents.
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Jim Sliff


From:
Lawndale California, USA
Post  Posted 20 Dec 2017 11:18 pm    
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Dave - I've always used old tube amps as well. So do most of the guys I've played with. The in-ear systems are part of the sound system, not the individual amplifiers.

Most places I played when I was last gigging (again, except for really small clubs) had started mic'ing everything - not to run signal through the PA necessarily, but for personal monitor mixes. With mixing board "price per channel" costs having dropped by such a huge amount in recent years mic'ing virtually everything on stage isn't that big a deal (and monitor system costs are far less than they were 10 or 15 years ago).

The two biggest problems are normally having bodies manning the mixing board that know what they're doing (rather than just being off-duty bartenders or "friends of the band") and simply getting players to try using new things.
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Dave Mudgett


From:
Central Pennsylvania
Post  Posted 21 Dec 2017 12:30 am    
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Jim - I know in-ears are part of the sound system. Around here, almost all the clubs have in-house sound with traditional fronts and monitor wedges. They almost always mic everything, but electric instruments into amps are almost always loud enough to cover the stage; if the amps are small, the stage volume is low, and it's easy to get acoustic instruments and vocals to cut through; if the amps are large and the stage volume is high (they sometimes are), you sure don't need any additional monitoring, and the main focus is getting acoustic instruments and vocals up in the main/monitor mixes.

Seriously, with smaller amps and lower stage volumes, it's real simple, nothing fancy required. And with large amps and high stage volumes, the main issue is to try to keep those electric instruments as low as possible and OUT OF THE MONITORS. I have had some absolute nightmare gigs where the electric instruments (especially bass) get heavily mixed into the monitors and kill everything else. This is usually the result of someone used to mixing loud rock, which doesn't work well for less agressive styles. In-ears wouldn't fix this.

I don't think the sound system technology really matters that much unless it's a pretty big room and/or you're really trying to obsessively control the volume. A good sound tech can make almost anything sound good. A bad sound tech can make anything sound bad. IMO.
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Peter Leavenworth

 

From:
Madbury, New Hampshire, USA
Post  Posted 21 Dec 2017 5:23 am     "Tone" change
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I agree with Dave, in my "loud" band we have a truly great soundman so my own wedge mix is whatever I ask for and it makes all the difference in being able to hear the tone I set at the amp. I used to use a Music Man HD130 head, with the idea that I could dominate any noise that came my way for soloing - but the sound tech said he lost any control over my part in the mix. So I switched to a Milkman Sideman head with less than half the power, but much better suited to the subleties of good pedal steel tone, and the guy at the board balances it out front as well as on stage. Plus, it sounds fantastic at low volumes when I play with my quieter bands that are all acoustic except for the PS.
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Craig A Davidson


From:
Wisconsin Rapids, Wisconsin USA
Post  Posted 21 Dec 2017 6:43 am    
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In the first place why is is necessary to be so damn loud? It's ridiculous and doesn't make that crappy music sound any better. I left a band because of it. All it was on stage was kick drum, bass, and an obnoxiously loud distorted lead guitar. Oh yeah and the same tri-chord progression.
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Glenn Demichele


From:
(20mi N of) Chicago Illinois, USA
Post  Posted 21 Dec 2017 8:04 am    
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I like my quiet band better, but loud makes the girls dance:

(beat that photo Damir)
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Georg Sørtun


From:
Mandal, VA, Norway & Weeki Wachee, FL, USA
Post  Posted 21 Dec 2017 12:28 pm    
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What you're all after is the effect a passive volume pedal (with no buffer) has on the frequency curve, but adapted to follow the actual audio level on stage instead of the amp/effect settings. Technically not a problem - it's a VCA partly controlled by "ears" (mikes) that listens to all surrounding sounds, but I've never seen such a unit.

What it will give you is a steel that sounds well balanced (with whatever settings you like) when surrounding audio levels are low to moderate, but that will "bite" more and more in the 800 to 1200Hz range and at the same time reduce lower frequencies, when total audio levels on stage start rising.

In addition to help the steel cut through in loud bands, such a unit will make small amps sound louder and reduce tendencies to muddy sound because the lower frequencies get attenuated when they are of little to no use anyway.

Lastly: the entire "tone change" phenomenon does explain in part why many top players prefer passive volume pedals, as although they rely entirely on manual control they do compensate well for the phenomenon when used right.
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Jim Sliff


From:
Lawndale California, USA
Post  Posted 21 Dec 2017 6:36 pm    
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Glenn wins!

Whoa!
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