6 Person A Capella Group - Help with Sound Systems

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6 Person A Capella Group - Help with Sound Systems

Postby Songbirds2 » Wed Aug 28, 2013 8:05 am


I sing with a 6 person amateur a capella group (no vocal percussion either) and we have recently started performing with microphones. Unfortunately, we do not have our own sound system and use what is provided at festivals, etc. We recently performed on a large stage as part of an all day music festival and our performance was recorded. We were horrified to hear what was recorded from the audience. It was not what we were hearing on stage. The sound engineers were used to working with large rock groups... not small a capella groups and the mixing was terrible. It is clear we were not hearing each other well. When we perform in settings without sound equipment, our sound and blend with each other is usually very good.

How do you best hear each other/blend when on a large stage? Is there some piece of equipment we should be bringing with us? Should we simply be wearing ear plugs? Should we not be using the on stage monitors?

Any insights would be much appreciated.
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Re: 6 Person A Capella Group - Help with Sound Systems

Postby LiaMack » Sun Sep 01, 2013 4:12 am

For sure get in-ears - vented or non-vented, depends what you individually prefer. Shure and Sennheiser have good ones. See how you go with that, if there's still an issue I'll suggest getting your own sound engineer as the 7th member of your group. Depends how far you want to invest/ go with it.

Lia Mack [@MissLiaMack] National Education Co-ordinator, Vocal Australia.

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Re: 6 Person A Capella Group - Help with Sound Systems

Postby VoiceofDuum » Mon Sep 09, 2013 10:38 am

Hello, and welcome! It probably will be cold comfort, but your harsh introduction to the world of sound reinforcement is not unusual. The rough reality is that you have grown accustomed to listening to/ balancing your blend acoustically. That's the perfect technique for smaller performance spaces and many types of music. However if you want to perform in larger spaces/outdoors - or to incorporate sounds that really benefit from reinforcement such as bass and VP - you need individual mics and PA equipment. Using mics requires two additional skills: mic technique, and balancing your ensemble based on the sound coming from a monitor system (typically one or more speakers aimed back at you) rather than listening directly to the singers next to you. As someone who has sung for many years in both acoustic-only ensembles and professional touring groups with mics, I can tell you it's possible to make the transition. But it takes practice.

[If you only rehearse acoustically, hoping for a good performance with individual mics and a PA system is like hoping to win a NASCAR race because you ride a bicycle really well. You need to practice using the same type of equipment you plan to perform with.]

If you feel your group has the patience to work on close-mic performance skills, get a PA system. Unless you just won a lottery, in-ear monitors like the kind Lia mentioned are beyond what you need initially. You can get by for now with a rehearsal setup consisting of an 8-channel powered mixer and one or two monitor speakers, plus mics and cables. Sing a song you know well already, but into individual mics while listening to yourselves in the monitor. That's the trick - you have to direct all your audio attention to the monitor. Experiment with individual singer mic levels and the placement of the mic near each singer's mouth in order to arrive at good consistent balance and absence of artifacts like popped Ps. Record the song directly off the mixer (via line-out jacks to some kind of recording device - cassette recorder, laptop, smartphone, whatever) and then play it back and listen to it. Your goal is to get that recording (the board output) sounding as good as you can make it, because that's the material that will get amplified and sent to the audience. The closer to perfection you can get that sound, the less likely a sound engineer will mess it up!

Speaking of sound engineers, when you know what you like in terms of each singer's mic level, communicate that to the venue's engineer and (assuming you get a sound check) verify that what you hear in the stage monitors is as close as possible to what you've been practicing with.

Switching to a mic routine, do plan for a period of stress - some singers will latch on to this new skill-set quicker than others and there could be frustration for a few weeks/months.

[I haven't gone into differentiating between house sound and monitor sound ... you'll have your hands full with just the above for awhile.]

There's also an intermediate direction you could take. If you don't want to change how you are hearing yourselves, don't need to add bass/VP, don't need to play outdoors or large venues, and don't move around much on stage, you could use an area mic. My wife has an acoustic quartet and I've had good success amplifying them with a studio condenser mic (Rode NT1000) running directly to powered speakers (QSC K12s). Very simple, no mixing other than figuring out where each singer needs to stand inside the mic’s polarity pattern, and the resulting sound easily fills churches and small auditoriums. A venue is unlikely to have this kind of mic available so you'd need to acquire one, but you wouldn't necessarily need to buy speakers or mixers under this scenario. As with the multi-mic setup, you can use this as a rehearsal recording tool and fill yourselves with wonder at how much work you still might want to put into a song you thought sounded tighter as you sang it. :-)

Remember sound equipment is not an expense; it's an investment. As long as you take good care of it, you should be able to get a good percentage back when you either upgrade or disband. In the meantime it will have helped you hone skills you'll be able to take to the next level.

Good luck! Clay
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Re: 6 Person A Capella Group - Help with Sound Systems

Postby alison3492 » Wed Dec 24, 2014 4:45 am

very nice and informative post,thanks for sharing
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