FOH Mix Advice

What's Hot
paulphoenixpaulphoenix Frets: 55
I have recently taken on responsibility for the PA and front of house mix/sound in my band.
I got a roasting from a few of the audience last gig about our front of house mix. I don't want to let it happen again so.. i'm looking for some help/guidance and advice to help me project the right (or better) sound out front.

should i set levels from right in front of the band where everyone dances? or the back of the room?

should our sound check be the heaviest or softest song we play? 

sound check is normally done in a half empty room - acoustics will change as the venue fills? - how do i mix for this change? 

what else should i consider a factor in this crucial part of gigging life? 

I play guitar so cannot be regularly checking out front and making any changes as my hands are pretty full already -  and we cannot afford the luxury of a dedicated sound man. the singer is seemingly unwilling to help and/or useless at this sort of thing, the bass player is even worse and the drummer doesn't stand a chance from his sitting position! 

We play only small to medium pubs and clubs/venues and use:

800W powered mixer with passive bass bins/tops and powered monitors 

9 channels dependant on the venue size:
lead vocals 
3 backing vocals
bass DI (although he's always too feckin loud - why do you need a 4x10 and a 15" stack in a pub no bigger than my bathroom?!)
guitar amp mic'd 
bass drum and 2 x tom mics 

any help much appreciated guys/gals - thanks for your time and any input. 

0reaction image LOL 0reaction image Wow! 0reaction image Wisdom · Share on Facebook Share on Twitter


  • Danny1969Danny1969 Frets: 3561
    It's never an easy thing to do, mixing from the stage. I've been in the same boat recently working with bands who have no dedicated FOH guy after years of not having to worry about it. I've been using an iPad as well on a surfaceless digital desk which is even worse for quick changes between playing guitar

    Most folk are happy enough if they can hear the vocals over everything else and there's no feedback. So you can only "Mix Up" to that if you see what I mean. There's no point setting a precedent volume wise of drums, bass and guitar and then trying to get vocals over that ..... when your playing guitar you won't have the time to make EQ changes. The quieter the band the easier it is to mix the vocals

    Always start with good PA speaker position .... speakers HAVE to be further forward than the vocal mics, otherwise the mic's will pick up the PA sound and it will result in feedback. 

    The PA tops need to be high enough so the horns are higher than the tallest person ... high frequencies are very directional

    Look for hi pass button on mixer, engage that on every channel that isn't a bass drum or bass guitar. If there's no Hi Pass button use the EQ to attenuate as much as possible below 100hz ...... the less unwanted low end the easier it is for the PA to reproduce and the cleaner the mix .... it's all about cutting at this point not boosting

    Try cutting some mud out of the vocals between 250 and 500hz ... and a tiny boost around 2 to 4K ... that helps the vocals cut through more but be careful as too much will result in feedback and shrillness 

    You can then play a song and wander out front but vocal level is entirely dependent on the register the vocalist is singing in ...... the higher the register the more it cuts through and the less gain needed. With this in mind when I'm mixing from the stage I lower the lead vocal fader on songs like Locker Out of Heaven and raise it on lower register songs like Bohemian Like You. I use compression as well to even the vocal but you probably won't have that on a powered mixer

    If you use effects on the vocal make sure you mute them between songs so the singer isn't talking with reverb or delay on .. some mixers have a footswitch option for this or just mute the effect return manually if it doesn't

    As the room fills up the sound will get duller generally as the clothes people wear will absorb a lot of higher frequency energy ... in winter with thick coats this is worse. The further you get from the horns the duller the mix will be as high frequencies lose their energy quicker than low frequencies so all you can do is make sure it's about right in the middle of the room.

    It's all about compromise, your playing guitar so the more help you get from your band members the better. If the backing singer is doing a high harmony then they can back off a bit, if the lead singer is singing low then it needs to be right on the mic .... when you take a solo everyone needs to back off a bit to let you stand out .... in this way a band can help mix themselves to a small degree 
    0reaction image LOL 0reaction image Wow! 4reaction image Wisdom · Share on Facebook Share on Twitter
  • thanks @Danny1969 ;- some excellent advice there. especially about getting the basics right i.e speaker height and positioning, and i will take it all on board. 

    My plan is/was to sound check by setting up a guitar loop on my pedal board that the rest of the band play along/sing with whilst i listen out front (middle of the room as advised) and make required adjustments to get the mix right. we could then increase/decrease (volume wise) on the fly as required and/or fine tune following feedback during our set break? 

    does this sound feasible? or a good/bad idea? 
    0reaction image LOL 0reaction image Wow! 0reaction image Wisdom · Share on Facebook Share on Twitter
  • ESBlondeESBlonde Frets: 2335
    The best mixes tend to be when the band can 'mix themselves' on stage. If someone is constantly twiddling with thier volume or playing thier favorite song too loud you need to address that because you simply can't correct that on the fly while you're playing. Establish ground rules about things like stage volume (the lower the better overall). If you need to mic up the toms and are playing small pubs are you sure it's not overkill? Finally as Danny says the vocals are everything, hard to belive it but the crowd haven't really come to hear the musicians, just the song/singer. So turn the fuc# down and make the vocals shine. Everything else is gravy.

    0reaction image LOL 0reaction image Wow! 1reaction image Wisdom · Share on Facebook Share on Twitter
  • All good advice there and as @ESBlonde says the vocals are the key the rest is gravy. As to your plan of fixing the mix during the break good in theory but feedback needs to be fixed the moment it occurs or it will only get worse. On a purely personal note I would forget about tom micing but mic the hat as that and the kick tend to set the groove, the snare will very rarely need micing
    0reaction image LOL 0reaction image Wow! 1reaction image Wisdom · Share on Facebook Share on Twitter
  • My bad - wasn't talking about audio feedback. I meant feedback from the punters/friends/family/locals etc 

    thanks to all all for their views and help. I'll be mixing out the gravy at the weekend and giving it all for the vocals - oh and my guitar obviously!! 
    0reaction image LOL 0reaction image Wow! 0reaction image Wisdom · Share on Facebook Share on Twitter
  • oktorocktooktorockto Frets: 13
    Some more advice: balance the back line with the kit acoustically first. Then add any extra as needed, normally the kit is loud enough in small venues. Keeping drum mics simple can help, even one overhead high up pointed at snare can get the right balance of cymbals and toms as well and if course you can add kick drum. Again, vocals very important. Just a touch of guitar and bass in pa is sometimes enough to add roundness and reach parts of the room that directional back line can't.
    0reaction image LOL 0reaction image Wow! 0reaction image Wisdom · Share on Facebook Share on Twitter
Sign In or Register to comment.