Tuesday, September 23, 2008

My Kingdom for a monitor!

This week I played the electric bass for the Sinclair College "Welcome Back" festival held in the Sinclair Campus Courtyard. the event was nicely attended and the weather was perfect. The balance of the band and Gospel choir, however, was not.

Allow me to explain.......

The Choir consisted of 16 singers all on wireless handheld mics on separate channels to a master soundboard in the crowd. The piano was playing quietly through a small amp behind the singers but also through the board and very loudly out through the main speakers. The guitar and bass were using amps but NOT through the board. They were sitting directly next to the Choir and their director. I was standing in front of the main speakers and there were no monitors for the Choir or Director. (big mistake)

Since I was out near the crowd, I turned my amp up to blend with the main front speakers playing the choir and piano sounds. From my vantage point, the sound the crowd was hearing was well balanced. I must say however that the main speakers were deafeningly loud and hurt my ears whenever I got within 20 feet of them.

From the vantage point of the choir & director, however, it sounded understandably as if the bass was entirely too loud. If the choir had monitors, they would have all heard that the vocals and piano were projecting very well. (Maybe too well).

As a result of this, the director proceeded to the bass amp and turned it down so that he and the choir could hear themselves better. From where I was in the crowd, the bass guitar line ceased to be heard from me (the bass guitar player). The pianist is young and rather "set in his ways". He insists on playing the bass keys of the electric piano loudly which clashes with the bass guitar lines I play anyway.

So what did we learn?

Here are two options.....

1.  Run the bass guitar directly from the board



If there are no choir monitors, the bass amp should be abeam with the mains and I out in front manually balancing the bass and choir mix. With the bas amp in front of the choir by the main speakers, the bass guitar sound will not be too prominent for the choir or their directors ears.

One final comment abut the keyboard player...

When there is an acoustic piano being used, the low keys surprisingly do not conflict with the bass guitar lines. This is due to the pronounced difference in their timbres. When an electric piano is used, the sound is muddled and conflicted.

I know that, even when I play acoustic piano with the Hauer Swing Band, I never play a key below middle C as to keep the keyboard and bass guitar lines separate.

Of course, this stylistic decision came after lots of experience hearing recordings of live performances I've done on both acoustic and electric pianos over the past 40 years. 

It is my sincerest wish that the Choir director educate his talented, but very young, keyboardist on this technique. If not, I will chose to play bass on only those venues that provide an acoustic piano such as their quarterly concerts and various church services.

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