Band-in-a-box run down and lessons learned

Discussion in 'Live Performance & Stage Sound' started by meowfaceman, Oct 29, 2017.

  1. meowfaceman

    meowfaceman SS.org Regular

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    Hey all. So I figured I'd post this as an informative thread, a request for feedback, and a point to some gotchas that have dinged us in the past. I wanted to go over and see if there were any obvious optimization points here.

    The reason for this rig stems from problems that the bands I'm in, Isenmor and Recently Vacated Graves, have in regards to monitoring.

    Isenmor: This band has 7 members, 4 on vocals, 2 violins. The violins, being fretless, are very sensitive to monitoring issues. The vocals are similarly sensitive. Additionally, with 7 members, a click is extremely convenient to keeping us all on time.

    Recently Vacated Graves: This band has no drummer and uses backing tracks. Prior to using some sort of in ears, we basically were never able to hear our own backing tracks live, leading to very spotty performances. This is where the in ear rig started, and we've been iterating on it through the years.

    Both bands play original music, mostly small bars with poor monitoring situations. The in ear rigs have dramatically improved our live performances.

    Our goal: To do our own in ears while impacting FOH as minimally as humanly possible.

    Summary of the rig:
    6 individual stereo mixes (2 hardwired, 4 wireless), controllable by individual band members
    2 guitar sims, 1 bass DI
    Backing tracks and MIDI automation
    Automated light shows
    Ability to do our own mixes for PAs

    I'll go over the rig and then go over some of the gotchas we've hit.

    Main rig:
    [​IMG]
    On the front, from top to bottom, this is:
    4x MIPRO 909s (love these)
    2x Digitech GSP1101s (smallest form factor for best sound quality IMO)
    1x SansAmp RPM
    1x Behringer iNuke NU4-6000
    1x Behringer X32 Rack
    1x Ubiquiti Wireless AP (running on 5 GHz spectrum) + Ubiquiti Edge-X router
    1x Tascam MH-8 (for stationary performers -- keys/drums)

    [​IMG]
    On the back, from top to bottom:
    2x Furman M-8x2 power conditioners (these are shallow, which allows for easier rear mounting)
    1x Cymatic uTrack24 (clicks, backing tracks, cues, MIDI automation)
    1x Art S8 (with XLR snake going to FOH)
    Allll sorts of cables
    Custom made wireless momentary switch that allows for triggering of backing tracks
    2x Redco EA-4M (for small cat snakes)
    1x MIDI Solutions Quadra (for MIDI automation, used for GSPs and lighting)

    [​IMG]
    8 channel 30 foot labeled XLR snake: 2x guitars, 1x bass, 2x violins, 1x keys, 2x backing tracks (stereo)

    [​IMG]
    2x Redco EA-4F small cat snakes. Ethercon is GLS Audio, which seems to be best bang for the buck. We use this to hook up 4 vocals, violin and key DIs.

    Extension rig:

    We've got a small extension rig specifically for Recently Vacated Graves for vocal processing and light shows. This is hooked into the main rack by one ethernet cable and one MIDI cable.
    [​IMG]
    From top to bottom:
    1x Music Gear Power Conditioner (I had it lying around)
    1x shelf for lighting rig (more detail in a moment)
    1x Digitech Vocalist Live Pro
    1x Behringer S16 (RVG vocal input, backing track output for our own PA speakers)

    [​IMG]
    Lighting shelf (sorry for the mess) consists of a Decabox MIDI-to-DMX bridge and a 2.4 GHz Donner wireless DMX transmitter. This box effectively allows you to code DMX lighting commands as RGB values using MIDI. Pretty neat.

    Other info: We've got no drum monitoring, mostly relying on both the clicks and vocal mic bleed. For vocal mics, we use passive XLR splitters and whatever mics FOH has. Overall we're able to get set up quickly, though sound check is another beast.

    Gotchas that we've hit over time and their solutions:

    Babysitting a laptop. We originally ran clicks from a laptop. Since I'm the tech guy in addition to playing an instrument, I would basically be tethered in one place at most shows making sure that the laptop didn't screw up somehow. I replaced it with the Cymatic uTrack24, which (from my perspective) allows most of the functionality we were using laptops for but is much less stressful.

    FOH doesn't have enough cables. Originally our XLR snake was just a few short XLR tails, relying on FOH to provide the actual cables. We added in the 30 foot XLR snake for this reason.

    Starting the wrong click track. This has happened very few times, but it's happened and it's visibly off putting -- playing the song at the wrong speed. We added in cues that announce the track in our ears so that we'll absolutely know something is off.

    Too few mixes. So this is probably one of the more frequently talked about things, but we found that one (or even two) mixes wasn't really doing it for us. We really weren't able to satisfy everyone this way, so adding in more transmitters helped tremendously.

    Being unable to address mixes on the fly. We originally used a MOTU 16A for our in ear mixes. It has the ability to produce several mixes, but no native Android client options. The web interface was clunky, so adjusting in ear mixes at a show were basically impossible. We moved to the X32 for this reason.

    Things I haven't been able to nail down:

    While a few sound guys have been overjoyed at the setup ("I basically don't have to do anything!"), most small club/bar sound guys seem to have difficultly with the XLR snake, as they either don't have the inputs to handle it or are used to just micing everything and moving mic stands around between acts. We added in the power amps for this reason -- so that they can just mic cabs instead -- but it seems like most sound guys will take the XLR snake given the option, though they fumble around with it and things just take a while. In these situations, we're debating having a stereo mix that we handle ourselves and just give two XLRs to FOH, or perhaps making a value judgment on whether to give them the XLR snake. Of course, there's always the option of getting our own sound guy. This is painful given that we basically don't get paid (or paid very little) for most gigs.

    What to do if our tech conflicts with FOH. This is a new one for me, actually, and I posted another thread lamenting this. While it wasn't specifically this gear that nuked the sound guy's ability to mix, a 2.4 GHz guitar wireless system (accompanied with the lights above) paralyzed him completely due to the fact that he was mixing wirelessly with an iPad, which was difficult to debug on the fly. I'm not sure what contingency plan to have here other than to recognize the situation if it occurs again.

    Final thoughts:

    If you've got any questions for me, feel free to ask. I've been iterating on this for a while. It works really well for the band, just not so well for small club/bar sound guys.

    Some questions I have for everyone: any ideas on what (if anything) I could simplify here? I've been trying to take various bits and pieces of advice I've seen through the years to streamline everything. I'm fairly convinced I've got this about as simple/easy for sound folks as I can, but I'd always love some feedback.

    I'm loathe to give up the in ears if that's what it takes to get everything back to simplicity, but maybe in ears are just a bigger band's game.
     
  2. meowfaceman

    meowfaceman SS.org Regular

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  3. drjeffreyodweyer

    drjeffreyodweyer SS.org Regular

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    Thanks for the interesting post! I'm running a somewhat similar but smaller set up for my band. I just love hitting play on the cymatic and everyone can concentrate on playing.

    We are currently looking into light automation right now, could you please elaborate how you handle that? Do you bring your own lights and put them on stage? Do you connect to the local system? I'm an audio nerd but totally new to the light thing. Thanks!
     
  4. meowfaceman

    meowfaceman SS.org Regular

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    Thanks for the kind words! I wouldn't say we're lighting pros, but we've got the basics now. The Decabox basically allows for you to code DMX as MIDI straight from the Cymatic, so for example if you've got a light that uses DMX channels 1-4 for R, G, B and Alpha and you wanted to make a red light, you could just write some MIDI that has velocities 127, 0, 0, 127 for MIDI notes 0-3. Those values get doubled so that the ending RGBA value is what the lights are expecting. Hopefully that makes sense -- it's fairly intuitive. I'm away from home right now or I'd take some screenshots and post them here.

    As far as actually connecting the lights, in the past we've brought our own lights and placed them on stage, all with pre-determined DMX channels. Then we hooked them up to some sort of DMX interface, whether that's the Decabox or the some sort of USB->DMX connector. We've never connected to the local system, unfortunately. Some of Devin Townsend's tour videos give a bit of insight as to what (I think) that consists of, e.g. it looks like Mike St. Jean adjusts the lighting prior to each show. The implication here, and somebody please correct me if I'm wrong, is that he gets the DMX mapping from FOH at some point and then adjusts their preprogrammed set for those channels. That's sheer speculation, though, and if you figure it out, I'd love to hear what you needed to do.

    The lights are definitely a complicating factor for setup. Connecting the DMX cables and whatnot is a PITA, so last time we brought that 2.4 GHz wireless DMX transmitter. At home it worked well, at the venue the sound guy's router screwed it up (and our transmitters screwed him up) resulting in disaster, so unfortunately, at least with respect to lighting, the current setup hasn't actually seen success in a show context. Ideally, what I'd want to do is have battery powered, wireless lights to reduce setup time along with the Decabox -- no cabling, no laptop to babysit, nothing. But that's a whole new investment, heh. :-D
     
  5. Winry Ember

    Winry Ember SS.org Regular

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    Thank you so much for posting about this! My band just started using inner-ears and running our own sound, and it seems like every time we set up there is a new problem to troubleshoot. Running backing and click tracks turned out to be a lot more complicated than I anticipated! It's helpful to read about what other bands are doing, too.

    I use a laptop, but I don't mind. I used it before I started messing with backing tracks because I play synthesizer and use a computer live to generate sounds. I use a MIDI footswitch to change patches and stuff, so the laptop stays out of the way.
     
  6. Zombie13

    Zombie13 XIII

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    Awesome stuff, being someone that performs a lot as a one man band, all of this is highly informative to me. Also, was listening to Legions Of Decay, liked it!
     

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