Dirty-South Blues Harp forum: wail on! > Using Monitors with a band
Using Monitors with a band
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108 posts
Jul 08, 2017
7:27 AM
I've been playing with a loud rock band and having some trouble hearing myself on stage when I've played live with them - which I knew would prob be the case- Practicing it worked micing my small amp but live I'm going to start going ampless through the PA. I'm thinking it would be helpful to have my own dedicated monitor set up near me rather than rely on the front of stage monitors. The few gigs I've had them turn me up in the front of stage monitors didn't do it for me.

Without having to purchase any equip I have a passive mackie 12" I could use as a monitor. The band has great equipment I could run a line out from, and I have a powered mackie mixer if I needed. My setup will be: mic >pedals>DI Box>PA. Any thoughts or experiences with this?
1489 posts
Jul 08, 2017
11:20 AM
Higher end PAs allow for separate monitor mixes, so you could ask for more of you in your mix. If your band's doesn't have separate monitor mixes, then you could use your own monitor as a solution. However, the line out from the band PA might have all the instruments and vocals that are mic'd, and you could still be buried in the mix.

Have you tried tilting your small amp directly in front of you and facing you like a monitor, and mic'ing it to the PA? If it isn't enough volume to use that way, then your monitor option or a bigger amp sounds right.

If you plan to just play through the PA you could use a small mixer and sent one channel to the PA and one to a powered monitor. Or bring your powered mixer and speaker and send a line out to the band PA. Hauling your own powered mixer and a 12" speaker sounds like a hassle, but you have to hear yourself!

Doug S.
4261 posts
Jul 08, 2017
12:21 PM
i went to see my friends play yesterday.... a very loud rock band. i walked in and sat in the back of the room.

i could hear the harp just fine. it could of been a little louder. he was not mic'd up
he was using a blues jr on a stand. both guitar players had the lexan amp shields in front of their amps. i think the shields are what made the biggest difference.

he said he was not having any difficulty hearing himself. i suggested next time perhaps micing the amp. if you can hear yourself no monitor is needed.

also when he solo'd the band would turn down slightly, they are pro's, that is what pro's do.
1491 posts
Jul 08, 2017
12:24 PM
This is why we use amps, which is what your Mackie would be if you ran into it and then to the board. Like Doug said, why not do that? Even easier if it was a powered speaker.

Last Edited by Littoral on Jul 08, 2017 12:26 PM
2005 posts
Jul 08, 2017
11:12 PM
I have been using a line out to the PA. I had thought the line out disabled the amp speaker, but it doesnt. After reading this discussion, I am considering turning my amp up a bit and using it for a monitor. I expect that getting too much in the monitor could lead to a feedback problem, whether it is a real monitor or the amp.
The Iceman
3232 posts
Jul 09, 2017
7:58 AM
I've found separate mix band monitors to be a bad idea...

Example - 4 band members with monitors at their feet. Every one asks sound man to mix them differently, so every one is getting a different idea of the overall sound mix. They end up playing to this individual mix, so you have four different interpretations by the four players, all supposed to be playing as a unit. Then, it's up to the sound man to mix the balance out front and make some sense of it all. Nobody on stage is even aware of what the audience is hearing. Also, quite frequently, the sound man will mix to what his ears want to hear.

A prime example of this I experienced was a Cassandra Wilson show at HOB in Orlando. Those sound guys are ROCK AN ROLL. Cassandra is NOT. Sound men were pushing the acoustic bass through the mix to make is sound like bass player from Metallica. Not a good combo. Out front, it was awful.

I favor a monitor mix being the same as the main one, so musicians on stage get a good idea of how they sound as a unit. Back in the 80's, when I had a touring top 40 band, I used this concept and found that the musicians stopped competing with each other to be heard, turned down over all and quickly started to become responsible and self corrected if they started playing too loud individually.

Fast forward to the 2000's with the advent of BOSE PAS systems, which was based on the same concept I enjoyed back in the day. A sound system set up behind the musicians to act as mains as well as monitors. Buying two of them and using them extensively, they worked the same way - making band members hear the unit as a whole and giving them the responsibility of self-balancing the sound.

As a matter of fact, I used to take my systems with me even to HOB, where that funk band I was in from Orlando opened up for Cassandra Wilson that day. During sound check, when those HOB sound guys came running around with all their separate feeds and monitors, I told them - forget it. No monitors needed. On top of that, when they wanted to mix sound for front of the house, I told them "I will send you ONE LINE OUT FEED of our balanced sound, plug it into your board with no effects and only use your volume pod to turn it up and down". They were not happy, as it took control of our band's sound out of their hands and put it back in ours completely.

What was fun was that Cassandra and her band members were so impressed by our sound check, from the stage sound to front of the house sound, that they were pestering me with questions about how they could do the same thing on their tour.

I know Steve Miller Band used to tour with a similar BOSE set up for his band on stage and used this concept to great success as well. Don't know if he still does, but he did back in the early 2000's.

This is the perfect solution, but since it is a new think vs. "how we've always done it", it's hard to teach the old dogs this new effective trick.
The Iceman

Last Edited by The Iceman on Jul 09, 2017 8:00 AM
1490 posts
Jul 09, 2017
8:47 AM
@The Iceman
You make some good points. Rock bass and kick through subs FOH has ruined so many performances so frequently that I seldom attend big shows anymore, unless I know that the soundman knows how to balance the sound. One guy locally is really good at this. With many sound guys the vocals get buried. There seems to be a belief that since they have X thousand watts to push through subs that they SHOULD max it out so people's intestines vibrate to the kick and bass. This is usually unrelated to the monitor mix on stage, but wrecks the FOH sound. Ultimately, regardless of your amp or monitoring, the soundman can make the music balanced and good, or make it suck.

Years ago when Rick Estrin was touring with Charlie Baty, Rick stopped a show at a local venue to tell them to turn the subs off. He said, "We don't need them for this kind of music."

I have unfortunately been on stages where the guitars, bass, and drums were so loud that the singers couldn't hear themselves, the monitors were ringing, and I couldn't hear my harp in the mix. It is an issue of stage volume being too loud to make good music.

The challenge in the OP is how to hear himself on a loud stage with a small amp. If you are going to play in such an unhealthy (for your ears) environment you need more volume. You MUST hear yourself! A larger amp or your own monitor used as an amp seem to be the only options if you are to play in such a setting. Most bands seem to use more amp and bigger drum sticks than are required by the size of the venue.

I have moved away from playing on stages like this except for occasionally sitting in for a song. Because of these factors I mainly play through the PA with acoustic or semi-acoustic acts without screaming guitars, pounding drums, and gut churning bass.

Personally, when I play through the PA I like one mix so I can manage my dynamics. This requires a reasonable stage volume. I like it when the band members can all hear everything being played and sung.

Doug S.
The Iceman
3233 posts
Jul 09, 2017
9:01 AM
Hey. Great addition to this discussion, dougharps and very astute observations.

Take this sentence from above - "I have unfortunately been on stages where the guitars, bass, and drums were so loud that the singers couldn't hear themselves, the monitors were ringing".

Now, let's analyze the "how come". What causes monitors to feed back and singers unable to hear them themselves? Excessive stage volume, that's what.

On stage, the drummer will set the volume level (in most cases). If he is using heavy sticks and loves smashing his cymbals, oh boy. Trouble starts, unless it is arena rock. Having drummer use light sticks in small venues and become aware of the "cymbal effect" on stage volume does wonders to set up a very doable stage volume.

Drummer is not amplified on stage, so he is kinda responsible for how the rest of the guys treat their volume controls on their amps.

Good rule of thumb example - take a trio - bass player and guitar are on opposite sides of the drummer. They should totally be able to hear each other clearly with the drums between them. Same goes for additional guitar or keys...if you only hear drums on stage, there is no attachment to anyone else besides what you hear from your own amp.

Add vocalists and you have to be even more mindful of what you are producing from the stage.

As a band leader, I've been in a position to force my philosophy on the band members and "beat them into positions of responsibility". Even though a few over the years have initially had a problem with this, after working under these conditions over time, not one musician I've ever worked with in my bands held onto any negative feelings when they experience the benefits.
The Iceman
2006 posts
Jul 09, 2017
9:21 AM
This discussion really makes me appreciate why I enjoy playing in an unamplified brass quintet so much! In fact, I am looking forward to tomorrow where I have set up a meeting with brass players I have found where I work to see if we can pull something together.

The comments here will also help me in stage setup with the band I am playing harmonica with. I am fortunate that they are not focused on loud at all costs. In fact, the drummer just got a smaller kit to bring the volume down to a level appropriate for the small venues we play. This amplification thing is new to me and there is a lot to learn.

Thank you all for sharing your insights.
1492 posts
Jul 09, 2017
11:51 AM
Iceman, I've been working a lot in a duo and our strategy is just as you say, one line to the house and they can turn it up or down. We have an excellent powered speaker with basic PA specs. We run our gear into it and that's our stage sound. Out to the house. Crazy easy. The club doesn't always like it but for anywhere that's not a giant room it's perfect.
The Iceman
3237 posts
Jul 09, 2017
12:38 PM
It works in big rooms, too, but the whole live Sound Engineers/Board mixers business enterprise will fight this philosophy aggressively, as it definitely impacts their job security, even though it results in much better overall sound for shows. (What do they care about better sound when they may be phased out of relevance).
The Iceman
110 posts
Jul 09, 2017
10:06 PM
Thanks all, this is great info. I also believe in a low stage volume and If I have my own band that's what it will be.

Iceman- thanks for the post about the monitor mixes, makes sense.

Dougharps- I have not tried having my amp in front of me pointed at me, I'll need to see how that works out. Generally I've had it behind me and I've had it right near me on the side pointed sideways towards me.(with this particular band)

The particular band I started the post with is definitely a loud rock, zeppelin, rush...and I've been playing on a handful of zeppelin and their trying to work in some bluesy stuff for me. I'll wear earplugs if I'm on stage for more than a couple songs at a time and don't need to lose anymore of my hearing, though the on stage volume isn't as loud as I thought they would be...

The other place I've been dealing with this issue and I know its been discussed a lot, is just at the blues jams and stage volume...way too loud than need be. So in this situation I've been going to a particular jam for a couple months with my small amp (vht sp6) it worked a couple times when particular players kept the volume reasonable. But generally it was too loud for my amp to cut it in the mix, I tried different placement, putting it up on a stand, closer to front of stage and then a couple weeks ago miced it. that worked out ok, but too much time involved for just 3 or 4 tunes. So this past week I decided to just go through the PA. I connected my mic (545sd)directly to an xlr without pedals into the PA and planned to use that and/or the 58 that was already set up for vocals. I ended up using the 58 mostly since my harp mic ended up being too quiet in the monitors. And I really liked it so much better than trying to make the amp work. I had the best experience yet, I played in front of the mic and got to use hand effects. I listened to a recording of it and was much happier than my previous tries with my amp. But I learned a ton along the way.

Thanks again for all the tips/ideas.

Last Edited by ScottK on Jul 09, 2017 10:12 PM
1494 posts
Jul 10, 2017
7:51 AM
When you use a smaller amp as a monitor facing you the sound is way off axis for the mic, so feedback is less likely. Depending on the stage volume and your amp it may or may not be enough to be heard over the band. It does have to be mic'd to the PA, and the volume in the mix FOH is not under your control.

Playing at a jam (unless there is an appropriate amp and mic provided by the hosts) a 58 to the PA is IMHO the best way to go. No point in all the setup and adjustment delays needed when bringing your own amp for just a few songs.

Good luck! Please let us know what you finally do regarding playing with the band and hearing yourself.

Doug S.
111 posts
Jul 10, 2017
10:35 AM
dougharps- Thanks, If I try having the amp facing me I'll try it at a practice first.

And I am totally in agreement now about using the 58 vocal mic at jams. It was so nice to not worry about set up and sound. Just walk up with my harps, so much more relaxed and focus on the music. And as I've heard a lot- Working on my acoustic tone is the most important. And I really enjoyed the clean sound without the amp/crunchy tone also, with more hand effects.

I play with this band Friday night, I'll go direct to PA with pedals and a DI box, or use a 58 if that works better. Fortunately I'll be there early to set up with them, and work on the monitor sound. I'll give an update.

Last Edited by ScottK on Jul 10, 2017 10:37 AM
112 posts
Jul 16, 2017
9:10 AM
Here is my update on hearing myself with a loud band. Well I played with the band I wrote about last night Saturday. (I thought it was Friday but it was last night which worked out as you'll see) I played into the guitar players vocal mic (sm58) on the stand. It was awesome. I could hear myself fine. I wasnt even there for a sound check. It was the best ever. Also it was a rockin big crowd. I played on four Led Zeppelin songs. Wicked fun.

And playing on Saturday worked out great for me cause it was in southern ME which was an hour and a half for me and I drove 2 hours after to continue north to Rockland ME where I am now at a Blues Festival waiting to see Jason Ricci, Billy Branch, and Sugar Blue all together! Oh yeah!
60 posts
Jul 20, 2017
7:50 AM
In my opinion, regardless if you're using amps, or even monitors, having them positioned correctly makes a big difference. I remember reading somewhere that when a band (especially an internationally famous band) is on stage, they actually hear the music at a lower volume rather than the audience. This is because sound waves expand. People in the first few rows actually hear the music louder than the musicians do. So positioning the amps/monitors plays a factor.

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