stomping out the stomp boxesAre you sure you need that effects box? For your voice? In a rock band? Also, if you play a multi-band gig is it appropriate to leave before the entire evening comes to a close? And lastly, how clever are your setlists? And how clever should they be? Paul and Dave answer these important questions for you. Maybe. You’ll just have to press play to find out.

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George · November 19, 2018 at 7:18 pm EST

I like our TC-Helicon Mic Mechanics (all our singers have one), but this applies to any vocal “stomp effect”. You have to set them right for sure (correct gain, not too much effect, etc.), but they can add a nice subtle general effect, with “adaptive tone” EQ – or for certain songs add more color (delay, distortion, etc.). That said, we don’t use the pitch correction, for what I think are obvious reasons, and we use extra harmonies so subtly, you wouldn’t be able to pick them out. Mostly, I like the fact that I’m in control of how my vocal instrument sounds; when I talk to the audience, I can turn it off, I can switch to more/different effects for ballads, etc., or even get creative using multiple effects within a single song. Would you want some sound guy you hardly know adjusting the effects/tone on your guitar? Why wouldn’t the same be true for vocals? As vocalists, it seems to me we should care what the end result sounds like, and take at least some ownership over it, IMHO. The same applies to owning your own mic, and using (good) in-ears – it all equates to applying craft to your performance.

    dave · November 20, 2018 at 11:35 am EST

    Thanks for this, George! I’ve asked our bass player in FLING to leave his unit with me so I can learn more.

    After reading the manual (but not yet having some “alone time” with the unit), I began thinking that the “Adaptive Tone” may be the issue, especially if it’s trying to use the onboard mics to adapt on a loud rock stage. I’m curious to hear that you’re using the adaptive tone with this. Maybe there’s hope for it.

    I’m also curious: is everyone in your band on in-ears? I think that might make a huge difference with this. Whatever those processors were doing (presumably multi-band compression) was making it very difficult to get any sort of gain out of the monitors without having gobs of feedback. But if you’re all on in-ears, that mitigates that problem.

    I guess the real question is: can your audience truly hear any difference when using these units? (I.e. is the added complexity worth it?)

    As to whether I would want some sound guy adjusting tone on guitar? Well, that’s part of what we use them for, right? They need to take the noise we make on stage and make it sound like good noise in the room/hall/house/arena. They need to mix it all together. There’s a rant here about how some guitar players don’t adjust their amp EQ for the room, which is the result of a lack of awareness of how it all works, which makes the sound engineers’ jobs that much harder. As a drummer I trust the engineer to help me decide which snare drum to use on any given gig, etc. So, yeah, it’s gotta be a two-way street, I think.

    But I’m curious to see if these vocal processors can be used in a beneficial way in a full band scenario. After all, the geek in me likes tech! 😉

      George · November 20, 2018 at 1:30 pm EST

      Hi Dave – we both share the same geeky open mind when it comes to tech (one of the many reasons I love being in a band AND why I love your podcast) 🙂

      Yes, the adaptive tone will be different depending on the unit – I know some units will even ID feedback frequencies and eliminate them, ostensibly giving you more headroom (not what ours do).

      Yes, all our singers use in-ears, but we also have wedges for the other players (and sometimes don’t use the in-ears). Unless the gain structure is wrong (which is easy to forget to check), we hardly ever have issues with feedback – I don’t think our units add that much EQ to make a difference – if anything, I think they help. Granted, the in-ears practically eliminate feedback, but we’ve gone without them, and we’re still OK, so not sure why you had that problem.

      You’re absolutely right – and to me where this gets interesting – the real question is whether the audience can hear it. I think this also ties into the relationship (and roles) that the band has with the sound person, which largely depends on the complexity of the sound that the band is after. It also depends on how often a band uses new sound people, or if they have a relationship with the same people (or don’t use them at all – God forbid!). If a band does their own sound, or uses varying (inexperienced) sound people, then these units might be an especially good fit.

      In my mind, each musician makes “big” choices about their sound (clean guitar vs distortion) and the sound person makes sure those choices translate well to the audience – you wouldn’t want the sound person changing your clean guitar tone to a distorted one because they thought it sounded cool – that’s more what I meant (I wasn’t very clear). As a vocalist, you may not have any “big” choices (just clean & dry for the whole gig), in which case it wouldn’t make sense to use one of these units. In my band however, I do make “big” vocal choices per song (delay vs reverb vs doubling vs special effects, etc.), just as a guitar player might change their settings for each song – and I think (hope) they’re big enough to hear. So although I agree it’s a two way street, there may be some decisions that go beyond what I’d expect (or want) a sound person to make – and I want control over those decisions.

        dave · November 20, 2018 at 1:38 pm EST

        Ah! Right. So I definitely grok the artistic desire for “delay on this tune, reverb on that one, chorus on this one” etc. And if there is a way to make one of these stomp boxes do that (and only that) I can’t imagine I’d have a problem with them.

        The problem, as we’ve both now highlighted, is the impact it has on gain structure. And now that I think about it, that’s where Dave-the-de-facto-sound-guy has the hairs on the back of his neck stand up. I’ve learned how to work gain structure such that things sound freaking awesome, both on-stage and off. And these wicky-wacky boxes introduce an element that changes that entirely. Gain is very different when it’s coming post-processed with effects and compression, etc. I’d like to tweak how the gain happens in that compression, etc.

        I can easily do that in a mixer, of course, especially the new digital ones that have per-channel compression and all that. So now I’m really glad we had this interchange here. Because instead of going into messing with my bass player’s voxbox with the goal of “ensuring I find a way to say that this thing is awful,” I can now go into with “how can I shift some of my gain structure control from the mixer to this thing?”

        Because the reality is that I don’t tweak gain structure at the gigs anymore. Thank goodness. Digital mixers let me dial that in ahead of time and save it. As long as it’s the same singer on the same mic, I know I’m pretty much right where I need to be, and therefore can employ per-channel compression at a bar gig… something I never would’ve done even 10 years ago.

        So yes, ok, now you’ve perhaps unleashed the monster here. Because I have a feeling I’m going to be experimenting with a bunch of these to find the “best” (a.k.a. “right” one) for folks to use.

        And, of course, the big part is that I think Saturday night was frustrating because the singers who arrived with these boxes didn’t really know how to use them… and of course I had no working knowledge of them, so… disaster. 😉 But perhaps that’s quite avoidable.

        Thanks, man! Rock on! And, you know, always be performing. 😉

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