Hello everybody. I’ve been asked to be a sound enginneer for a small live band who have a very limited budget and not much equipment. I’ve been repairing amps and equipment for them so because of that they think I can be a sound engineer too.
They have a powered mixer with 16 channels. Each channel has 2 prefade auxes and 2 post fade auxes. Each channel equalizer has low cut/boost, high cut/boost and a sweepable mid but no Q control.
I’ve been reading about it as much as I can and it seems that the cheapest way is to use my computer for live mixing and simultaneosus recording.
I’d like to use my computer to mix for the PA and another mix for the stage monitors and to record it at the same time too.
I’ve been playing around with the demo version of Ntrack and I’m not sure if that’s what I need.
I need another sound card too. The band needs 8 channels at once. But they change instruments sometimes so 12 channels would be better so I don’t have to plug and unplug.
Can I do this on a computer? Is a computer reliable enough for a live gig? Will a computer let me mix for the PA and record too?
And can you please tell me what hardware and software I need to make this work. I hope you can help me. Thank you.
It’s not a good idea to try to use a computer as the mixer for a live gig.
Hopefully their powered mixer has insert jacks. If so, you’ll use their mixer for PA and the computer for recording only.
If you watch ebay ads closely you can find inexpensive 8-channel soundcards. Under $200 is easy; around $100 is possible but takes patience and persistence. Let me know if you’re interested in the list of cheap soundcards I searched for on ebay, for a similar purpose (for my son). These include 16- and 20-bit cards, but I feel you can do excellent recording that way. Pros wouldn’t bother, but on a budget it’s a good place to save quite a few C-notes.
If the soundcards have ADAT or S/PDIF (digital) I/O in addition to the audio inputs (and most do), and you can use that for clocking the audio inputs (and most can), then you can easily use two inexpensive soundcards together to get 16 channels.
A computer isn’t generally reliable enough for a “do or die” recording. For a really important gig to be recorded, something that can never be repeated, you’d want plenty of backup gear, or to use an ADAT or HD recorder and transfer to PC later for mixing. But plenty of folks do use computers for live recording and have no problems at all.
I recommend against using the PC for live mixing for a number of reasons:
1) PC DAW programs are optimized for recording and mixing, not for live sound reinforcement. You can do it, but you’d be doing a bit of upstream swimming in terms of convenience.
2) PC DAWs have latency, which causes problems when used live. If the latency is high, it sounds like an echo. With a fair amount of tuning of your system (sometimes it’s easy and works right away, sometimes you have to do quite a bit of work to get the kinks ironed out) you can usually configure a system for low latency, but I wouldn’t advise this for beginners.
3) You already have a mixer which is well suited for the purpose.
4) You want to allow the computer to focus on recording, and allow the mixer to focus on live PA. This helps you keep from going crazy from confusion.
Live mixing is simple in principle but can be rather confusing and frustrating until you get a bit of practice at it. So, it’s best to get TWO people to do the job, one focusing on the live sound and the other focusing on recording. With enough experience under the belt, it’s not hard to do both. Trying to do both at the same time is a recipe for disaster, unless you’re the kind of guy who can very quickly master a number of simple chores all at the same time – someone who thinks very fast on their feet and has a reasonably well trained ear. For example, when mixing live and you hear feedback starting to (very quickly) grow into a howl – QUICK – what do you do? Is it feeding back due to the mains or the monitors? Which channel is feeding back – and how do you figure that out? QUICK, QUICK!
Live mixing is mostly just handling a fairly large number of simple facts & interactions, all at the same time.
Let me know if the board has Insert jacks – better yet, let us know just what board it is and we can give you more advice. Furthermore, there’s a pretty long and detailed thread about just this subject; I’ll see if I can dig it up. Posted by “John”, which should make it easy to find.
Here’s the way cool part. It used to cost big bux to set up a rig for multi-track live recording. These days, even poor hand-to-mouth musicians with ordinary day jobs can do it, if they can scam a hal-decent computer somehow. Doesn’t need to be a fancy one, either. 1 GHz is plenty fast enough CPU.
Learjeff a great reply and very helpful thank you. The mixer does have insert jacks on each channel and main mix inserts too.
The band’s setup is 4 microphones, 2 vocal, 1 from a bass combo and one on a sax. Acoustic guitar with peizzo going straight into the mixer, Yamaha keyboard with stereo into the mixer and mono lead guitar thru pedals straight into the mixer.
The sax player is also the keyboard player so he doesn’t play both at the same time.
I did my first gig with them last night and the owner of the venue was very happy with the sound and the lead singer when he took a break also liked the sound but I didn’t.
I didn’t even try to do any recording just tried to get the sound good.
The backing singer has a good voice but not much confidence. Sometimes he would sing loud then it seems he realized where he was and would go quiet so I had to ride his fader all evening. The bass player was the same and he couldn’t keep his level constant. He seemed to get into introspective jazzy things and then he went quiet so I had to ride his fader too.
I think I need a compressor on both of them.
I wasn’t happy with the equalization either. I was pretty happy with the separate channels but I didn’t like the overall sound and I’m not sure how to fix that. I think I need an equalizer on the main mix but the band doesn’t have one and they don’t want to spend any money on one.
Sometimes the band played ballads and I didn’t like the sound then. It was too bright and changing the channel equalizers and levels didn’t seem to fix it.
So that is why I was thinking about using a computer to do compression and equalization.
I still want to record them but for now I think I just have to concentrate on making the live sound as best I can.
The next gig is in two hours and I hope I can do better.
I don’t have much of a clue about any of this, but I’ll try and explain what I’m trying to do. I’ve been making recordings of my own music using a karaoke machine and the voice recorder on my mp3 player. So I’ll play the guitar and sing and the karaoke maching records it through a mic onto a TAPE. Then I’ll switch that tape over to the playback deck in it, and put in another tape. I then play the electric guitar and playback at the same time and record both onto another tape. Then I play another guitar and record, and then drums. By the time the drums have recorded, the quality is terrible anyway, but then I play back the whole thing and record it on my mp3 player so I can upload to my computer. The volume is low, and the quality is really bad, so my dad suggested to do this on my computer. Does anybody have any suggestions and is this software I need? Thanks!
Crystaleaglesprings, this is EXACTLY what you need! You’re going to be totally jazzed at how much better you can do with your computer than with your karaoke machine.
Start a new post to find out what you need, and let us know if the karaoke machine has line outputs, and/or if you have a mixer to use. You already have a mike or two, so that and a computer with a basic soundcard (even a built-in) along with n-Track is all you need to get started!
Lemmy, good to hear that the people who count are happy.
I suggest that you avoid riding faders and try to encourage the musicians to work their levels like professionals. Of course, you’ll still need to do it some but the goal should be to avoid it. I feel that the best FOH (“front of house”) guys are relatively hands-free most of the time. The counterexample is a band’s own FOH guy who has a script for all the changes that are planned for each song. Anything inbetween, and the FOH is “catching up”, and so is guaranteed to be running behind – making adjustments AFTER they needed to be made. Of course, you have to play the hand you’re dealt.
You might consider plunking $100 down for a Behringer Feedback Destroyer. You use this device to notch out the frequencies that would feed back – room resonances and stuff due to mike positioning. (It has an automatic mode, but if you leave it in that mode, you have mud by the end of the night.) But once the feedback is handled, you have a lot more lattitude with channel EQ. Also, you’re not going to be able to overcome the ambience of the venue and the overall sound of the sound system (unless it’s a really good system and a well set-up room). In other words, don’t expect perfection.
The problem with compressors is that they’ll encourage feedback. The pros do use them quite a bit, but more to even out the dynamics of the performance rather than to deal with inconsistent musicians – there’s really no cure for that other than a bullet.
Have fun! You clearly have ears and are using them. That’s the first step. You also have an understanding of the equipment. That’s the second. The rest is mostly gaining experience, which you’re starting to get now. See you at Carnegie Hall!