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Using a venue's sound guy & PA at a gig vs using your own - pros and cons

nksoloproject

Member
Messages
372
I was having a discussion with my bandmates about the fact that some venues have their own PA system and sound guy, and they were saying this is a great idea because 'all the band needs to do is turn up, plug in, do their soundcheck and someone else takes care of the sound'. This has to advantage that you don't need to carry round a heavy PA system etc.

However I was thinking, isn't using a venue's PA and sound guy a bit iffy because it's not going to be 'your sound'? When you use your own PA system and have all the settings and effects dialed in (on your digital mixer etc), you get a much more consistent sound from venue to venue. It's not always a good thing to use an unknown sound guy and PA.

What are your thoughts on this? What are some things to remember if using the house PA and sound guy? How can we ensure we get the right sound if he hasn't even heard the band before until soundcheck? What about certain vocal effects that come from our digital mixer - how do we get the right effects on an unknown PA if we don't have access to the mixer and someone else is controlling it?

I dunno, it all seems like it's a recipe for disaster to me and like it could end up giving you a really hit and miss live sound from venue to venue. I think it's better to do the sound yourself and use your own PA where possible if the venue size is right for your PA.

What about taking our digital mixer and plugging that into the venue's PA? Or using our mixer for our monitor mixes and using a split snake to send the instruments to FOH also?
 

Rocco Crocco

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
2,008
If a venue has its own PA and sound guy, my job is to show up, act and play like a professional. Unless you have a reason to not trust the sound guy, you should trust the sound guy. Also, be cool, even if you feel your sound isn't perfect.
 

straightblues

Member
Messages
9,740
I like controlling my own sound as much as possible. However, there are some places where you just can't. We have an agreement as a band to play the same volume at every gig. So even if we have a sound guy, we still stay at the same volume and let the sound guy do his thing. The only comments we give the sound guy is to please limit the subwoofer as much as possible. Big subwoofer sound in blues just kills the dynamics.
 

alex1fly

Member
Messages
58
I like controlling my own sound as much as possible. However, there are some places where you just can't. We have an agreement as a band to play the same volume at every gig. So even if we have a sound guy, we still stay at the same volume and let the sound guy do his thing. The only comments we give the sound guy is to please limit the subwoofer as much as possible. Big subwoofer sound in blues just kills the dynamics.

Con: My last band was reggae/dub and we would request that bass guitar go in the subs, kick drum be eliminated from the subs, and the subs be cranked. That's how classic reggae/dub is mixed live. They never, ever, ever did it, and our sound never, ever sounded right in those venues.

Pro: Easier and faster. Tho our PA almost always had some weird issue going on, and we had a freaky digital mixer that only band member could run so we were dependent on him for everything.
 

sants

Member
Messages
2,481
If the venue has a good sound guy it should be a big relief for nearly any band coming through.

The best thing to do is communicate ahead of time. Don’t show up and all the sudden throw a ton of stuff at them.

I have bands give me a set list with notes for effects on certain songs. It’s not hard for a competent sound person to handle and most guys are pretty cool when they are prepared for it.

Remember, these people have a system and know their room or at least should. Any tuning for the room should already be handled. Just because your pa sounds great in this room or that, doesn’t mean it will sound good here or there.

you could do a split or ask to use your mixer and have them mix off that. There have been times I’ve loved when a band rolls in and says they will take care of their mix and hand me two lines. I just bring things up or down in the pa. This usually has best results with the real pro bluegrass bands. There have also been times where it’s been terrible. If I’m on stage I want someone actively mixing me though. I don’t want to hope it sounds good.

I see it from both sides. The band is paranoid and has a chip on their shoulder because they know what they are doing and they don’t like the “disgruntled sound guy” but on the other hand the competent sound guys can’t stand the pretentious bands that know it all and makes things more difficult than it has to be.
I’ve found a simple conversation can take care of all the uneasiness. Just lay out expectations and be reasonable.

I can give you one example where I became a little frustrated. It was a festival. Bands had very short sets (35 minutes) to make the schedule work for national headliner. It was at a large community festival. The monitors were set and dialed in perfectly. The band had to use their IEM which was handed to us right when their setup started. We had 15 min changeovers. I told them given the time constraints they should go up and play. It was a big stage and plenty clear. Two insisted. By the time we got them happy with their IEM they had about 20 minutes to play.

Some of members of that band played in a different band the next year. Guess what, they bagged the IEM and were really happy with the stage sound. Amazing. I wasn’t as concerned with the IEM being a pain as much as I was with them stealing their own set time to get the IEM mix dialed in. I’ll e when bands use IEM btw. Not saying I don’t and I’d prefer all bands would do that. There are just things that decent and experienced people know on both the love sound and band front.

There always needs to be communication and compromise.
 

stevel

Member
Messages
15,286
What about taking our digital mixer and plugging that into the venue's PA? Or using our mixer for our monitor mixes and using a split snake to send the instruments to FOH also?

Yep, do this.

However, to be fair: You didn't really describe what "level" you're at.

There's a HUGE difference between a venue with a built in PA that's two old Peaveys on sticks and a Mackie Mixer from 1992 with only 2 auxes and the bartender hops over the part and turns on the power for you, and a Midas system and Arrays with a separate mix for everyone with a dedicated professional soundperson.

A PRO soundperson is going to make you sound as good or better than any less-than-pro person in your own band can.

Also, a pro is going to be willing to talk to you and discuss options and give you best info like if a particular venue has an issue that you bringing your own gear and just using your own settings might cause issue with.

Question is, whether you get a pro or not...
 

walterw

Platinum Supporting Member
Messages
39,783
However I was thinking, isn't using a venue's PA and sound guy a bit iffy because it's not going to be 'your sound'? When you use your own PA system and have all the settings and effects dialed in (on your digital mixer etc), you get a much more consistent sound from venue to venue. It's not always a good thing to use an unknown sound guy and PA.
yeah, but who is mixing "your own PA"?

it's pretty much guaranteed that unless you (i mean "you" as the guy trying to mix from stage while also playing) are really really good while the house guy is really really not good, the basic fact is having a "real" soundguy who stands out in the room and just mixes will win every time over a band guy trying to adjust settings in between guitar licks with no idea how it sounds out front

judging by the various questions you've been asking, it's cool that you're trying to get the band system together and be self-sufficient but you'll need to be a whole lot more experienced at live mixing before you can imagine that you'd do a better job from the stage than a house soundguy can do from out front

besides, the whole point of performing is to put on a good show, and that gets compromised if the one player has to keep futzing with the mixer instead of focusing on the music. it's also way more fun to just get up there and play music (trust me :))

(and this doesn't even begin to address @stevel's point about the quality of the PA itself; you better have good gear well-organized if you're gonna try to convince a club to go through the hassle of letting you load it all in and set it up instead of using the house system)
 

nksoloproject

Member
Messages
372
yeah, but who is mixing "your own PA"?

it's pretty much guaranteed that unless you (i mean "you" as the guy trying to mix from stage while also playing) are really really good while the house guy is really really not good, the basic fact is having a "real" soundguy who stands out in the room and just mixes will win every time over a band guy trying to adjust settings in between guitar licks with no idea how it sounds out front

judging by the various questions you've been asking, it's cool that you're trying to get the band system together and be self-sufficient but you'll need to be a whole lot more experienced at live mixing before you can imagine that you'd do a better job from the stage than a house soundguy can do from out front

besides, the whole point of performing is to put on a good show, and that gets compromised if the one player has to keep futzing with the mixer instead of focusing on the music. it's also way more fun to just get up there and play music (trust me :))

(and this doesn't even begin to address @stevel's point about the quality of the PA itself; you better have good gear well-organized if you're gonna try to convince a club to go through the hassle of letting you load it all in and set it up instead of using the house system)

We have a digital mixer (Zoom L-12), so we won't be messing about with it during the gig. All the mixes (FOH and in ear monitors) will be saved on it, having been set up in rehearsals, so we'll just load them up at the gig, do a good soundcheck and make any tweaks to the FOH mix as need then just 'set and forget'. Simple.

As for not using a venue's PA, I've been to a some venues before where their PA was sh*t basically, or it was in some really weird position right up on the wall etc. I'd much rather use our own PA UNLESS we're playing in a big venue with a pro level sound guy and a pro level PA. I prefer consistency in our sound and setup as much as possible between gigs.
 

Average Joe

Member
Messages
12,144
The less I have to carry....

Besides, if it's a proper sound guy not just JoeBob the bartender running sound, they usually know the room and its requirements better than I or our sound man could
 

Nebakanezer

World’s Okayest Guitar Player
Gold Supporting Member
Messages
4,484
Some random thoughts:
Not knocking the Zoom (I actually want the smaller one!), but that says y’all are far from mic’ing everything and therefore are probably going into situations that warrant this discussion. Without knowing the details of your band or the venues you are trying to play these are generalized observations from my experiences.
Whoever is running sound better be wireless and in the crowd every set because things change throughout the night.
Band better be tight and on the same page with dynamics.
Singers speaking voice and singer voice needs to be at the same volume (this is a big common issue that has a singer sounding like Charlie Brown’s teacher in between songs or have a strong talking voice and overpower the PA because their singing voice is so low in volume). And turning off the effects while a singer talks is another helpful way to have them heard clearly between songs.
Guitarist(s) better have a good boost pedal for solos.
If not mic’ing the whole drum set, the drums (and drummer) dictate the overall volume, and a lot of drummers get louder as the night goes on…..
 

Mike Monte

Member
Messages
281
When I was younger I would insist on bringing my own PA to gigs...
but
being older and (somewhat?) wiser I would go with the house PA/engineer with someone that knows my band's sound at FOH advising the tech.
That "someone" should be a fellow muso that knows you band's sound, hopefully not a band member's spouse or that band member's sound always will be on-top.
I have heard many house mixes that were kick-drum with vocals/band accompaniment - loud, but a mess.
Tech's, for the most part, mean well, but, every band has a concept (sound) and leaving it up to the whims of someone that has never heard the band is a coin toss at best.
A good tech will accept well-intentioned advice.
 

griggsterr

Gold Supporting Member
Messages
6,956
If the venue has a good sound guy it should be a big relief for nearly any band coming through.

The best thing to do is communicate ahead of time. Don’t show up and all the sudden throw a ton of stuff at them.

I have bands give me a set list with notes for effects on certain songs. It’s not hard for a competent sound person to handle and most guys are pretty cool when they are prepared for it.

Remember, these people have a system and know their room or at least should. Any tuning for the room should already be handled. Just because your pa sounds great in this room or that, doesn’t mean it will sound good here or there.

you could do a split or ask to use your mixer and have them mix off that. There have been times I’ve loved when a band rolls in and says they will take care of their mix and hand me two lines. I just bring things up or down in the pa. This usually has best results with the real pro bluegrass bands. There have also been times where it’s been terrible. If I’m on stage I want someone actively mixing me though. I don’t want to hope it sounds good.

I see it from both sides. The band is paranoid and has a chip on their shoulder because they know what they are doing and they don’t like the “disgruntled sound guy” but on the other hand the competent sound guys can’t stand the pretentious bands that know it all and makes things more difficult than it has to be.
I’ve found a simple conversation can take care of all the uneasiness. Just lay out expectations and be reasonable.

I can give you one example where I became a little frustrated. It was a festival. Bands had very short sets (35 minutes) to make the schedule work for national headliner. It was at a large community festival. The monitors were set and dialed in perfectly. The band had to use their IEM which was handed to us right when their setup started. We had 15 min changeovers. I told them given the time constraints they should go up and play. It was a big stage and plenty clear. Two insisted. By the time we got them happy with their IEM they had about 20 minutes to play.

Some of members of that band played in a different band the next year. Guess what, they bagged the IEM and were really happy with the stage sound. Amazing. I wasn’t as concerned with the IEM being a pain as much as I was with them stealing their own set time to get the IEM mix dialed in. I’ll e when bands use IEM btw. Not saying I don’t and I’d prefer all bands would do that. There are just things that decent and experienced people know on both the love sound and band front.

There always needs to be communication and compromise.
Well thought out and articulated/educated response my friend
 

John Quinn

Gold Supporting Member
Messages
3,920
I dunno, it all seems like it's a recipe for disaster to me and like it could end up giving you a really hit and miss live sound from venue to venue. I think it's better to do the sound yourself and use your own PA where possible if the venue size is right for your PA.

What about taking our digital mixer and plugging that into the venue's PA? Or using our mixer for our monitor mixes and using a split snake to send the instruments to FOH also?

The venues with there own FOH and Rig comprise about 90% of our Gigs - usually you can tell what the FOH is about - and who knows how to mix all kinds of bands - and whose just a Pop Head or Metal Head. We have a discussion a week before with the FOH - if we sus out he's got a specific bent - we insist on our own FOH - If he's a good all rounder we let him do his job - sometimes it's average most times it's great. They get into it - figuring out what your focus is - and deliver. Now you have to keep in mind that the System is tuned and there is only so far you can go with the Mix - but even then we are professionals - we deal with what's served.

IEMs are dependent on the Venue - some we bring our own Mixer - some you just have to go with what's provided.
 

Stokely

Member
Messages
1,761
My preference would be: run our own sound, but have a knowledgeable friend in the audience who can lend a hand with tweaking the mix :) Once the mix is good, our singer takes breaks (we have several people who sing) and runs out front with an ipad to check on things. We are good with staying consistent with levels once they are set.

Now, I don't haul the PA, so the couple that does would probably feel more strongly about using a sound person!


When using our PA, I have my in-ear mix completely tweaked using a Behringer p16m mixer. Total control and I always get a great mix. With a sound person, it's a crapshoot. That is the thing I dislike the most about using someone, A) I don't know if I can even use my in-ears, I bring a small analog mixer that helps me make it happen (I take the line level monitor mix if it's using powered wedges) and B) I'm usually dependent on them to tweak my mix unless they are using a digital mixer and have time and are willing to set me up so that I can control my own.
Also, when we run sound I get a stereo monitor mix, otherwise it's almost always mono.


I use my analog submixer to get a pre-FOH mix of my keys because it sounds better (stereo) and also gives me more control. I get all the other instruments in a monitor send and blend them with my keys (while also sending to FOH a keys-only signal). Another reason I do this is that invariably the sound people slap a harsh compressor on my keys (pre-send) and I hate playing while listening to an over-compressed sound. Our band plays dynamically and some of these sound people are looking for a straight line as far as signal.
 
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nksoloproject

Member
Messages
372
Some random thoughts:
Not knocking the Zoom (I actually want the smaller one!), but that says y’all are far from mic’ing everything and therefore are probably going into situations that warrant this discussion. Without knowing the details of your band or the venues you are trying to play these are generalized observations from my experiences.

If not mic’ing the whole drum set, the drums (and drummer) dictate the overall volume, and a lot of drummers get louder as the night goes on…..

Our drummer uses an electronic drum kit, straight into the desk - no mic'ing required! All the guitars and and bass go direct into the desk too - we don't use any amps or backline onstage, we use amp modellers and fully embrace the new technology. The Zoom L-12 has enough inputs for the whole band to DI - i.e. 4 vocal mics, 2 guitars, bass, keyboards and elecronic drums.

Whoever is running sound better be wireless and in the crowd every set because things change throughout the night.

Sure, go wireless for the soundcheck and go out front to test the levels. Once they're set and we're happy, we just 'set and forget' the mixer levels/settings for the rest of the show. The general mix is already set in rehearsals and just loaded up at a gig as a preset anyway.

Singers speaking voice and singer voice needs to be at the same volume (this is a big common issue that has a singer sounding like Charlie Brown’s teacher in between songs or have a strong talking voice and overpower the PA because their singing voice is so low in volume). And turning off the effects while a singer talks is another helpful way to have them heard clearly between songs.

Yeh, the Zoom L-12 has a controller pedal input, which we use to switch off the effects on the vocal mic(s) while speaking to the crowd in between songs.

Guitarist(s) better have a good boost pedal for solos.

We do - all our guitar tones and effects are set up on our amp modelling floor units, including dedicated rhythm and lead sounds, with gain/volume boost for the lead, so no need to touch anything on the desk for solos etc.
 
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nksoloproject

Member
Messages
372
My preference would be: run our own sound, but have a knowledgeable friend in the audience who can lend a hand with tweaking the mix :) Once the mix is good, our singer takes breaks (we have several people who sing) and runs out front with an ipad to check on things. We are good with staying consistent with levels once they are set.

You shouldn't need to be running out front to check on the levels during a gig once they've already been set. You just do a good soundcheck, then 'set and forget'.

When using our PA, I have my in-ear mix completely tweaked using a Behringer p16m mixer. Total control and I always get a great mix. With a sound person, it's a crapshoot. That is the thing I dislike the most about using someone, A) I don't know if I can even use my in-ears, I bring a small analog mixer that helps me make it happen (I take the line level monitor mix if it's using powered wedges) and B) I'm usually dependent on them to tweak my mix unless they are using a digital mixer and have time and are willing to set me up so that I can control my own.
Also, when we run sound I get a stereo monitor mix, otherwise it's almost always mono.

There is absolutely no need to have to set up your in ear monitor mixes every time you do a gig. All you need to do is set these up during rehearsals, then just turn up and use the same settings at every gig. The Zoom L-12 we use allows us to save individual monitor mixes for each band member, so when we get to the gig we just load those up and go - no tweaking required for the IEM mixes whatsoever. I'm surprise you don't do it this way. Your way is terribly slow and inefficient.
 

Nebakanezer

World’s Okayest Guitar Player
Gold Supporting Member
Messages
4,484
Our drummer uses and electronic drum kit, straight into the desk - no mic'ing required! All the guitars and and bass go direct into the desk too - don't use any amps or backline onstage, we use amp modellers and fully embrace the new technology. The Zoom L-12 has enough inputs for the whole band to DI - i.e. 4 vocal mics, 2 guitars, bass, keyboards and elecronic drums.



Sure, go wireless for the soundcheck and go out front to test the levels. Once they're set and we're happy, we just 'set and forget' the mixer levels/settings for the rest of the show. The general mix is already set in rehearsals and just loaded up at a gig as a preset anyway.



Yeh, the Zoom L-12 has a controller pedal input, which we use to switch off the effects on the vocal mic(s) while speaking to the crowd in between songs.



We do - all our guitar tones and effects are set up on our amp modelling floor units, including dedicated rhythm and lead sounds, with gain/volume boost for the lead, so no need to touch anything on the desk for solos etc.
You shouldn't need to be running out front to check on the levels during a gig once they've already been set. You just do a good soundcheck, then 'set and forget'.



There is absolutely no need to have to set up your in ear monitor mixes every time you do a gig. All you need to do is set these up during rehearsals, then just turn up and use the same settings at every gig. The Zoom L-12 we use allows us to save individual monitor mixes for each band member, so when we get to the gig we just load those up and go - no tweaking required for the IEM mixes whatsoever. I'm surprise you don't do it this way. Your way is terribly slow and inefficient.
Now that you’ve laid out your band’s rig, I’d say the mixer (and IEMs) is the only “extra” equipment you’re contemplating, so it’s not like showing up with a trailer full! So go for it!!! Buy the soundman a drink and tell him that “tonight’s gonna be an easy night for you!” And everyone wins and has fun!!
 

CDP

Member
Messages
958
The sound guy is familiar with the room and the system. Have a very brief conversation with him before and during the sound check. Don't be a pain, just make suggestions if needed. Honestly, just how much different is your sound so that any competent sound engineer simply won't comprehend what your needs are?
It's much less of a hassle using the house engineer.
 




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