Waiting for our turn

•March 15, 2012 • Leave a Comment

Sometimes waiting to go on is the hardest part.  Will we get the gear on in enough time to do a quality line check? Wil we all be in tune?  Will I remember that one section I think I might forget?  ugh.  Will the monitor levels work?  Oh yeah,…..

Thank goodness for in-ears!


Out On The Road Again…

•February 18, 2012 • Leave a Comment

(click on middle picture for full size)



Bass Players vs In Ear Monitors (IEM) (part 3)

•February 7, 2012 • Leave a Comment

Now, on to the In Ear Monitor transmitters and receivers themselves.  What is the difference between the high dollar and low dollar models?  A few things.  First, there is the amount of drop-outs.  Especially if you play in a busy frequency area, i.e. Fair Grounds, busy club street with other bands playing maybe using wireless units,  and near cell phone towers, radio towers, a building with a lot of exposed metal, etc.  Noise Factor.  Are you hearing everything but your instrument, cleanly?  Then there is the rugged-ness factor. Will it stand up to your roadie? you being tired at the end of a gig? or your drunk friend who just has to help?

So what do the cheaper ones have/ don’t have….

They usually won’t let you scan or change different frequencies and /or channels.  If you travel around the state or country you should not look at these.  You might get a frequency choice between two presets but that’s about it.  They will probably have weak or non-existent limiters.  So it may let in a distorted sound also due to a limited frequency response. You  will more than likely experience a hissing underlying in the sound (artifacts) and you might get static in yours ears during quite moments.  And of course certain features will be missing.  Mono/ Stereo, (Note – On Stereo vs. Mono, I always run mono.  Signal seems to stay stronger, less background interference.) LED operation lights, battery strength, on/off operation switch, mute switch and control knobs will be missing.  Maybe a flimsy plastic housing, fragile antenna.  Input jacks might be flimsy and solder connections can break if handled roughly.  Remember, you will be wearing the receiver (body pack) and things get bumped, dropped and…knobs fall off.  In general, Stuff Happens.

Now, if you are performing in worship services, house band for local club and aren’t moving from one vicinity to another and the environment is fairly consistent, some of the cheaper ones can work just fine.  Just upgrade to good ear buds.

So what can the more expensive models do for you?

You can (and this is really important to multiple users and traveling bands) Select/Scan/Sync different frequencies/channels.  Get  a better sound to noise ratio, get a better reference for the companding of the sound,  a larger frequency response, mute switch (important), removable and/or adjustable antenna (small thing but makes a difference).  And easy front panel and body pack adjusting.  User Friendly!  Signals will stay strong.  And what I feel is the most important…Battery level lights/indicator!!

** Do Not Get Anything That Operates In The 700mhz Spectrum.**   You will be violating the new FCC laws and they will frown heavily upon this!   I had a Sennhieser IEM in the 740mhz range and it is worthless now,  you can’t modify these.

Here is my opinion on some of the brands out there.  I have used some and have had other band members use some of these brands.

The inexpensive brands:  Could be used for rehearsals where you can’t get too loud and aren’t moving the unit around a whole lot.  Nady and Galaxy.  Lots of plastic not many features, but not many $$.

Medium priced:  Audio Technica, MiPro, Carvin.  I had a band mate using Audio Technica and the sound was not so good.  A lot of artifacts (underlying hiss and static) came along with his music in his ears.  Also wasn’t as user-friendly, in my opinion.  A lot of plastic.  Carvin?  Good quality, metal housing for belt pack and good frequency range.  I have used these for 6 months and now have them as a back up and I rate them just a notch under Sennheiser.  (Note* – I have used and am currently using some Carvin products and they work without fail).  They do stand behind their gear.  MiPRO?  Don’t know much about these guys but they have the right specs and the units look sturdy enough.  The price seems to be right in line for these as well.  There are some reviews, albeit older ones, on MIPRO.  These I believe are made in Taiwan, not China, worth looking into.

I think the units in the category above with some outboard gear and good ear buds would do just about anybody fine.  You would have to do the same for the top shelf units as well, so maybe save some money.

Top Shelf:  Shure – They have a few different models, ones I have used are the PSM  600’s and 700’s and the PT 9’s.  The PT 9’s are the way to go with traveling bands who will be scanning for the frequencies.  But Pricey.  The PSM 200’s and 400’s would be in the cheaper catagory above.  I personally don’t like their belt packs.  There are cheap feeling.  

 Sennhiser – I use these as well, in my rig.  Strong signal, sturdy build and a cheaper than the Shure PT 9.  To my ears maybe not as warm as the Shure’s but I run these through the out board gear and mic my cabinet anyway, so I get just what I want.  I also like the fact the belt pack runs on AA batteries.  Much longer life.  Both brands accomodate muliple users and freq’s very well and are easy to scan and change frequencies.

So you get what you pay for,  is definitely the rule in the In Ear Monitor world.  The cheaper ones are good starters for anybody not sure or not use to having something in their ears besides their fingers.  They will just be a bit more fragile and missing some bells and whistles that you might require in your playing situations.   There is a learning/adjustment curve to playing with IEM’s.

With some outboard gear and/or mic-ing your cabinet(s), getting some good quality ear buds, you can really acheive a good sound that will have you playing better, enjoying your music and protecting what your maker gave ya.

Bass Players vs. In Ear Monitors (IEM’s) Part 2 of 3

•January 20, 2012 • Leave a Comment

So, to continue from part one, to get the most out of your In Ear Monitors (IEM) you will need some outboard gear.  It doesn’t have to be a 30 band EQ, but that does give you a broader spectrum to operate within.  Especially if you have keys, fiddle, woodwind or brass instruments.  The extra bands let you dial out unwanted hums, buzzes and hiss.

Getting decent ear buds can be a relief to the ears as well.  Unfortunately, there isn’t really a way to try them before you buy them.  You can find an occasional store that will let you try them for size and comfort but the sound factor might be up for grabs.  That’s why I purchased a couple of different ones.  I use the Ultimate Ear brand. I have three pair, now.  2 triple drivers and 1 single.  You never know when they will stop working.  They are susceptible to sweat and dirt so clean them after every couple of shows at least.  Some brands that other musician friends have used were Shure and Westone.  One important thing to remember is that the more isolating the earbud is, the lower the volume you must have in your ear.  Protect those ears!  You can then rely on the side-fills or floor monitor wedges for the overall sound without them being too loud as well.

Next step is to run your sound into a monitor mixing console.  There doesn’t seem to be too many of these around but there are a few.  Remember, you will need a bus (individual channel mix) for each musician using IEM’s.  (Playing at larger venues, they will more than likely have a console to run your sound to).  Usually a 16 channel board works out just fine.  We used a Mackie 16/5 for a long time and then a SoundCraft 24/7.  The more inputs, the more instruments and drums that can be mic’d and added to the mix.  In my larger venue set up, I use 3 channels for my bass sound.  Two for the mics on the cabinets and one  from the EQ. Once you have your IEM in place and the floor monitors on,  you will really enjoy the experience of performing live music and you save your ears.

Now you can also just use your IEM set-up without floor monitors.  That’s where the extra microphones and EQ really come into play.  It might depend on your budget, trailer size and stage size.  We play quite a few shows without any floor monitors.  We might be short on time to set-up or just lazy.  It just takes away some fullness and depth of your sound but is definitely pass-able.

on to part 3…..

Bass Guitar vs. In- Ear Monitors (IEM) Part 1 of 3

•January 16, 2012 • Leave a Comment

First off, let me say I’m a big fan of this technology but,  there are somethings to learn and get used to if you ever have used them.

“To be able to play a 90 minute show at a pretty good volume and be able to have a conversation in the dressing room afterwards without yelling or a buzzing in the ears….[these] are well worth their weight in gold.”

What I hear most from other players is the expense.  Yes, they can be pricey but the price is starting to come down.  The next is, they don’t want to play with “ear plugs”.  Well, there are a lot of different ear buds that can be used and that’s the trick.  Finding the right one for You so that it does not feel/sound like ear plugs. With the technology break thru’s and a product that is becoming readily available a player shouldn’t have much of an issue  in applying these to your shows.  But, you can be disappointed as a bass player with the lack of bottom end in your ears.  To me it seems the most crucial part is the ear buds.  They can make a cheaper unit sound very useful and you don’t have to order custom designed models.

When I got my first unit and ear buds,  the sound was so Plinky  and thin I was disappointed.  I had the ear buds that came with the unit (Sennheiser), but they were pretty much worthless.  They were designed more for a personal music player than sound isolating  monitors.  I tried a more expensive single driver  (Ultimate Ears $199.00) and the sound improved a bit but not like I wanted.  Still a lot of high-end.  I wanted to hear a thump.

I bought a dual driver design (Ultimate Ears for $299.00).  They were white and quite large.  It looked like I had stuffed marshmallows in my ears.  The sound improved by about 50% and this is what I settled for, for a year.  ( I used some fingernail polish and painted the drivers a dark blue so they wouldn’t stick out so obviously).

We started playing quite often and when we hired a FOH (Front Of House Soundman), he had some great experience with the IEM’s and got us enjoying our IEM’s even more. Now mind you this is 2006/2007 and these IEM’s are starting to catch on in the non-arena circles.

When he heard my complaints about lack of bottom end and thin sounding, crispy bass clinking he went right to work.  It was as simple as running the signal into a 30 band EQ and micing the 1×15 cabinet.  This gave me the low-end and the “breathy”ness from the speaker.  He also had us install and use microphones on the side of the stage so we could capture the ambient sound, get a fuller awareness of our collective sound and hear the audience reaction.  Splendid. Now I had zeroed in on being about 95% happy with the sound.  100% when we have a good side-fill monitor set-up.

Stay tuned for Part 2

Has it been 35 yrs already??

•January 13, 2012 • Leave a Comment

We probably hear this guy once a day on the radio if not more.  I’d even go so far to say that the songs he plays on are played somewhere in the world once every hour.  Who is this shadowy figure?  Well, he is the guy that holds down the bottom end and occupied stage right for Peter Frampton.  Stanley Sheldon.  

He was the bass player on the record ( Frampton Comes Alive) and for some of the tours as well.  So there, so in the pocket, laying down the groove, that we look right on past.  As Peter once said, “It was like going from a smooth 65 mph to a jerky165.”

Stanely only had one guitar with him the whole FCA tour.  A Fretless P-bass.  Must’ve had a lot of faith in that guitar.  I would have never thought that it was a fretless.  Especially for live rock n’ roll.

Amps in those days I’m sure were the standard Ampeg SVT with the 8×10 cab.

He has played with other artists of note, Tommy Bolin, Warren Zevon and Lou Gramm, to name a few.

Now he plays Musicmans and Markbass amp/cabs.

Saw him on the 35th Anniversary FCA tour.  Great show and Great player.

Check him out….Image

Reverb, Delay, Tremolo. On Bass? Oh, Yes.

•May 17, 2011 • 1 Comment

Some of the coolest effects for a bass guitar sound is using reverbs and delays.  And to a lessor degree, tremolo’s.

Why these work is because you are using this effect as a rhythm enhancement more than a tone enhancement.  The undulating, pulsating low frequencies.   And your sound won’t really disappear or another way to say it, won’t get lost in the mix.

There are  some great pedals that I’ve had the pleasure to use both live and in the studio.  We were recording the last few songs for the second JKS CD ‘Theatre’ part II and using effects during the final tracking and mixing and found some cool things.  One brand that I always seem to gravitate to is the Electro-Harmonix brand.  Always consistent with quality and usefulness.  First up, The Holy Stain (Electro-Harmonix).

Holy Moly.  This thing rocks.  With the reverbs you can get Beach Boy clicky sounds to Radiohead emptiness.  The control knobs are very useful.  The reverb and tremolo effects are what really work for bass sounds.  We were able to achieve that hollow-body 60’s bass sound without the 2K price tag.  And this has found a home for itself on my pedal board.  Very stage friendly.  The distortion is a little too nasally for my taste and the pitch shifter, well, I have never found that a useful sound for bass guitar. IMO.

Next up – #1 ECHO (Electro-Harmonix).  Man this was fun.  It is pretty clean, noise free.  I did like how it wasn’t gritty but yet it would  color the sound in a warm type of way. We used This pedal for two things.  To get more of a double tracking sound and a pulsating sound with no noticeable attack.    We were gonna use a tremolo pedal for some sounds but when we messed around with  this we didn’t bother hooking up the tremolo pedal.   With this being a digital delay the sound held together for many repeats and the sound quality didn’t suffer.  Add a little bit of grit and some volume swells and you got a really cool sound bordering on church organ.  And other groovy sounds just twisting the “feedback” knob.  The best thing about Electro-Harmonix pedals for me is that you are NEVER, locked into one type of sound.  A little experimentation yields great results.

Our last find was the DejaVu pedal by Seymour Duncan.  This pedal belonged to the studio and we didn’t find it ’til the 11th hour.  But we did mess around with it in a separate room.  The great thing about this pedal is the Digital/Analog blend knob.  You can get the delay sound coming back so that it seems to come back backwards.  And the tap tempo was a fun feature.  This will take a few hours to really go through the pedal but it seems to be a gold mine already and behaves well with bass guitar frequencies.  And Playing nicely with Bass Frequencies is what we are looking for, right?