Live Sound Basics - A Practical Beginners Guide To Doing Live Sound For Small Gigs/Events/Church | Rob Pember | Skillshare

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Live Sound Basics - A Practical Beginners Guide To Doing Live Sound For Small Gigs/Events/Church

teacher avatar Rob Pember, Multi-Instrumentalist and Music Educator

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

9 Lessons (31m)
    • 1. Introduction

    • 2. Session1 - Cables and Mixer Overview

    • 3. Session2 - Connecting Microphones

    • 4. Session3 - Connecting Instruments

    • 5. Session4 - Connecting Laptops/Devices

    • 6. Session5 - Foldback/Monitoring

    • 7. Session6 - EQ (Equalisation)

    • 8. Session7 - Recording In A Live Setting

    • 9. Session8 - Conclusion

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About This Class

This course provides practical lessons in the basics of live sound engineering. Whether you are a solo musician, in a band, or need to do sound for live events (such as seminars, meetings or in church), this course is intended to give you a starting point for doing live sound, at a basic level, should the need arise.

Rob teaches this course on an analogue mixing desk, but the underlying principles could also be applied in operating a digital mixing desk.

Meet Your Teacher

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Rob Pember

Multi-Instrumentalist and Music Educator


Hi, my name's Rob and I'm a multi-instrumentalist, music enthusiast and educator.

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1. Introduction: Hi, My name's Rob and welcome to this course on the basics of life sound. Whether you're a solo musician in a band or just need to do sound for life events, maybe a church or seminars, this course will give you what you need to get started. I'll be covering on a very practical level, the principles of operating a mixing desk, such as this analog mixing desk in front of me, connecting up microphones, instruments, laptops and also some of the issues you may encounter along the way. You don't have to be particularly technical to do this course, nor do you even have to be a musician. It's really intended for anyone to be able to do live sound at a basic level should the need arise. So I'd love to welcome you to this course, and I do hope that you'll sign up. Thank you for watching 2. Session1 - Cables and Mixer Overview: many thanks for joining the course. We're going to start off by looking at the main types of connectors and features that you'll find on most mixing desks. And this applies to whether it's an analog mixing desk, such as the one in front of me or a digital desk, where the interface is very different but the underlying principles of the same. So there are two types of connector and cable that we typically come across their standard jack between years. Instruments such as guitars and this XLR that's designed for microphones on also for connecting your mixer to your speakers. Jack cables are 30 common, but one of the issues that they have is the pickup noise a lot easier, so you don't really want to use jack cables over six meters long. Where is Exelon's will cover for much longer distances? And this is one of the things that will cover later on using the I boxes for connecting instruments where you have got those longer distances to deal with. Now we're going to look at the main connectors and features off the mixer. This is an eight channel mixer, but there's only four XLR inputs, so in reality, if you only intend to use Excel ours. There's only four usable channels to play with. Channels are laid out as vertical strips. They start off with over the XLR or Jack input. Onda. You're only supposed to use one or the other. This mixer has then an insert, which is designed for external effects. There's game, and this adjusts how much signal is coming in for that channel. So you can I reduce it or amplify it, and we'll cover that more later. There's then e que, which helps to shape the channel by adjusting over the high theme ed order lows. There's eggs Ilary. In this case, we have the option of sending the signal to a monitor channel or an effects channel because this actually has an effect unity. Then there's PAN, which, if you're running stereo, if you're running left and right speakers, you can set the direction of where the sound is coming from. So if you have someone standing to the left of the stage, someone at the right, you can actually set the pan to kind of give a sense of direction. So if they're standing to the left, you want to move the pan to the left or if they're standing to the right, then you want to turn it to the right on. Certainly running, say, a stereo keyboard on two channels. You want to pan them hard left and right, because in that instance it's designed to do that. We then have a mute button, and then we have the fader for the channel. Andi, generally, you want this to be at unity, which is signified by the you on. That basically means that it's not reducing the amount of signal because the fader, as you bring it down is actually reducing the signal that has come all the way down. You can boost it. You can go above unity. But you do need to be careful that you don't actually stop causing the signal to distort. Generally we we want the fate isn't unity, although certainly when you're trying to balance the sound over the channels, you may have some of them lower, some of them slightly higher. We also have the main fader on this adjusts the sound going to the speakers from all the channels. Generally again, you want to try and have it unity But there may be times I'm thinking, particularly church situation, where you want the sound to be a bit quieter. You might want to bring it down a bit. A few more things to mention before we move on this phantom power, and this is used for powering condenser microphones and also active the I boxes. It sends 48 volts down. The XLR connections appear again enough advantage for using Exel's, but generally you want to leave it switched off unless you need it. So I have in this case. But if you do use a condenser microphone or you have, say, a keyboard that's plugged into a D. I box, you may well need this. There's also next to the gain controls. There's this little button for a low cut, and what this does is it reduces the amount of base that's coming through from your input. So say it's a microphone. Sometimes they can be a bit bumi, so that just helps to control that. So some mixers have an e que section that gives you e que that affects the whole makes 3. Session2 - Connecting Microphones: Okay, so now I've had to know Overview of the connections on main features of the mixer. Let's connect up a microphone and get some sound. I've already connected the mixer up to power and to my speakers via two X ella's from the outputs collectors of the mixer to the inputs off the speakers on just for information that speakers air powered speakers, which means that they have amplifies built in them. And that means it doesn't have to be a separate amplifier between the mixer on the speakers . Also, before you switch anything on, it's worth making sure that the main fader on the mixer is down on the channels, a muted by pressing the meat buns. This ensures that you don't get any nasty surprises when you switch the system on. And it's worse, which you on the mixer before the speakers, as this helps to avoid any loud bangs that can potentially damage your equipment. Right, So let's connect up the microphone. So we take the microphone and we plug in thief email. End of the XLR into the bottom of the mike on this mike is a dynamic mic designed to pick up sound in close proximity. Also, it doesn't require phantom power. We then take the other end of the XLR cable, will connect it into Channel One off the mixer like so next our meet the channel by pressing the meat button service in the up position. I'll move the channel fated to unity, the main faded unity, and then all start to increase the game and talk into the microphone at the same time. So as I talk into it, you should hopefully be able to hear that. So they turn out beyond unity. It starts to boost the signal and you'll see on the right hand side there's this for you. Meter on bond. There's green lights that show up as their signal on the more signal them or white to show up on. If that was to go into the yellow, all the bread that would indicate there's too much signal going fruit and you'll probably get distortion. So you want to avoid that. It's also worth mentioning that wireless mikes would work the same. So instead of connecting the XLR into this microphone, I would connect that into the receiver for the wireless mic and then the worst Mike would talk to the receiver on the receiver would just send the signal into the mixer in just the same way. This obviously things to consider, like back trees on the wireless signal being strong enough so that you get a good clear signal. There's also condensed some Mike's, which I did mention Hermia. They have a wider sensitivity to sound there, look directional, so they will pick up a lot more of the sound of room. So you might use that for an acoustic guitar, for instance. But for people talking where they're holding a microphone, you really want dynamic Mike's. They're more durable, Andi. They pick up less background noise, so it will get you a clearer sound. 4. Session3 - Connecting Instruments: in this session, we're going to turn our attention to connecting up instruments, namely acoustic guitar, on digital keyboard or piano. This is quite minimalistic approach, but the reason for this is that these instruments generally don't have their own amplification. Where it's electric guitar on bass guitar usually go through amps and drums allowed enough in small to medium size venues. They don't really require going for the system, although you may decide to mic up the bass drum, for instance, your first look at connecting up the acoustic guitar. So what we need is a D I box that will convince the jack output from the acoustic guitar to an XLR that can then go into our mixing desk on. The purpose of this is to keep the signal strong, particularly when you're going over distances longer than six meters. And it also reduces the likelihood of noise, which is something that jack cables, particularly when they're longer, are susceptible to. There are two types of D I boxes. There were active the I boxes that require phantom power or batteries, but keep the signal's strong and offer other features. And there's also passive the I boxes, the passage I boxes don't require phantom power on. I found that as long as the secret going into the most is strong, then they're perfectly acceptable. We'll take the female end of the X Ella and plug that into the D. I box. Well, then plunged the male end of the XLR into Channel two off our mixer and you'll notice that the fader is down on the channel and it's also muted. So Lost were connecting things up. We're not going to get any lost Eve hops, bangs or anything like that. Well, then, need to connect up the guitar connect. One end of the jack came in T the D I box on the other end into the guitar, as this is an active D I box, we need to enable phantom power. What's the guidebooks? Does have a nine volt battery compartment. Nine dot batteries have a limited lifespan, and it can also be very fiddly to change. As you can see in the compartment is on the back and there's a little screen, so you don't really want that going off join your event so will enable phantom power. But before we do, we want to put the main faded down just to ensure that we don't get any pops or bangs as we switch phantom power on. So we'll put the main faded down will enable phantom power. And now there's a little light on the desk to indicate that Phantom Paris on on the d I box also has a light to indicate that power is coming through. So we'll put the main Fader backup, and we can now turn our attention to Channel two off the mixer where the guitarist plugged in. So you wanna UNM eat the channel, put the channel fader up, and then we can stop to increase the game. I played the guitar at the moment. There's nothing coming from the desk. You can hear the guitar because it's coming through the microphone I'm speaking into, but it's not actually coming for the system. So I stopped turned the game up on. You should be able to hear on see no lights on the meter indicating that signal is coming from. We can also, if we want to put the low cut switch in, which just reduces the base, which can be particularly helpful if safer. It's a bass guitar on it allows the bass guitar to be heard a little bit clearer because it's not fighting against the acoustic guitar before we move on. I just want to show you what happens if we put the fader is below unity and turn again much further. So if I put the fade er's down and then turn the game up and I'm actually gonna put it right up just to demonstrate the point, you will have heard that the sound was quite distorted. The channel has a little red light for overload, so the signal was overloading. It was distorting, and also the EU meter was a lot higher on the main mix. So what's coming through is quite a distorted sound and not critically pleasant sound, so we don't really want to boost the signal unless we absolutely have to. Connecting a keyboard or digital piano is a fairly similar process, and again, we needed the I box on. This time you need a stereo, D I box that weaken connecting channels one and two left and right from the keyboard. The reason for this is that the sounds on keyboards and digital pianos are typically produced in stereo, and that's especially important. The things like piano or it sounds far more natural. So I've connected the people to the D I box and that the i box to the to spare XLR channels on the mixer. Now it's worth noting that these channels are actually enabled free and 45 6 And the reason for this is that if you were using Jack Imports, you can actually connecting left and Mike Jacks on the free and four on the same again on five and six a stereo pairs. But as we're using excel ours, which is what recommended. In reality, this is just channel free, and this is just channel four. So as with the acoustic guitar, what we can do is, um, meet these channels move. The fade is to unity has set the gain on into these in 12 position on then, most importantly, because we're working in stereo reset Channel three, which is the left to panel the way to the left. And then we do the same thing for the right. So for Channel four, we set that panel The way to the right on this ensures the sound comes through as it was intended to be heard. I'll set the main fader up to unity, and now we should be able to hear some piano. As with the acoustic guitar. Earlier, that piano was going free lady, I box free the two channels on the desk and then out to my speakers on and picked up on the microphone. I'm speaking into which is not part of the system. Hopefully will have noticed that the more notes I played all the louder that they played, the more like two movie meter that lit up on that indicated that there was more signal going through. A couple of things to know before we move on is that the low cut switches are in the off position, so there was no bass frequencies being cut. And also the e que, which we haven't actually covered yet, is in the 12 oclock position on both channels, which indicates that no frequencies are being cut. I reduced or beast did, and generally you don't really want to be doing anything with the EQ you unless you have particularly things like piano. If you started boosting the mid frequencies, it may start to sound unnatural 5. Session4 - Connecting Laptops/Devices: in this session, we're going to look at how to connect up a laptop computer or similar device, such as a tablet or phone to the mixer. Now, as long as the device is near to the mixer, the simplest solution is to use the headphone socket on the device, assuming it house one and connected up to the taping that uses phono connections. And I've got a cable here, so this is a mini Jack 22 photos. So we got the mini Jack on one end, a free and 1/2 mil jack, and only over end. It's two photos or R C A connections on That's your left on, right? It's a connect laptop to the mixer. I have planted the mini Jack into the headphone socket on the laptop, and then I'll take the two phone knows and plug them into the tape in sockets on the mixer On, most mixes will have a tape in and a tapout that are phono connections. I'll plug the white plug into the white socket labeled L for Left on Duthie Red plug into the red socket, which is for the right channel, because this is a stereo connection are there moves the main fate of unity because it's currently down. And then, as I increased tape level, I don't say you'll see. V means showing six coming through for devices such as tablets and phones where they have a headphone socket. The procedure would be the same if they don't have headphone socket on. Alternative solution would be to use blue teeth, and you can get a blue T for adapter that goes to to phone knows So you were connected. The booty for adapter to the T phone owes on the mixer, and then your device would connect via Bluetooth to the adapter. A common problem can occur when connecting up laptops and computers is the potential for ground Lee Pum or Ground like noise. So I've connected at one of my other computers that is particularly prone to this issue, and if I turn up the tape level, you'll see what I mean. There are two safe and straightforward ways of resolving this. I must stay to this point. If you look online, you might find suggestions that you can remove the earth pin from an electrical plug. However, this is incredibly dangerous and life threatening so please do not do this. The first method is to use a ground lee isolator, and this has phoner connections on both ends, and it connects between your phone or cable from your device on the mixer. This should now remove the noise. So if I turn up the tape level, the noise is gone. The second on my preferred option is to use a D I box, as this means we can run XLR cables and it doesn't matter if the computer or laptop are close to the mixer. They could be on the stage, for instance. So I've taken the phone or cable from earlier, never added thes phono to standard jack adapters that will enable me to connect them into the D I bought. So I connect the right the Left Channel in team input, one of the Ibrox family Bright channel into input. See, So this is going into free and four on the mixer from earlier for me connected the keyboarding up. Always see now it's this computer. So if I meet the channels and put the main fader up, you'll hear the noise again. If I now put the ground lift on this will disconnect the ground and is effectively doing the same thing as the ground leap isolator. So if I now put the level up, the noise is gone. Clearly, the disadvantage of using at the I box for connecting up laptops, computers and devices is that you're then taken up more XLR inputs, which, if you have a small desk like this, is quite significant. So it's worth considering whether you need to buy a desk with 12 16 or 32 channels. The key thing being how Maney XLR inputs. It has to ensure that you have enough capacity for microphones, instruments and computers and devices because it may be that you need to connect up multiple devices, in which case you need to make sure you have enough spare capacity to cope with that. So that rounds up this section on that's move onto the next one 6. Session5 - Foldback/Monitoring: in this session, we're going to talk about fall back, otherwise known as monitoring, which is especially important for singers and musicians to be able to hear themselves clearly on stage now, often their positions behind the main speakers on. Therefore, what they hear is quite limited. And it's really important, especially for singers throughout, to hear themselves clearly so they know they're singing in tune and also how now they're singing. Monitoring setups ranging complexity from having one speaker with one monitor mix to multiple speakers. Each of a different mix toe having any monitors where each individual on stage has their own mix. Now the problem is, the more complex you get, the more equipment it requires, and time and scale it takes to set up on the complexity doesn't necessarily mean you get a better result now. Our mixer here actually makes the decision very easy for us because it's only one monitor sent. There's only one monitor mix, so what we can do is we can take the Jack two XLR adapter, ejector male XLR and progress into the monitor send. And then from this, we can take an XLR cable to a powered P a speaker for our monitoring, and you could actually daisy chain another speaker onto that if you wanted to. To set the moment to mix, we turn to the eggs Ilary section off the mixer on each channel has its own monitor control on. By setting these weaken set the levels for each channel going to the monitor mix. So we probably want Channel one the microphone to be the most prominent, and any instruments set a bit last. And so that means that the vocalist is able to hear themselves clearly on. The musicians were also able to hear themselves. It's also worth mentioning. The monitor mix will be Imano, and so that may have a negative effect on how the stereo sounds come across. And so you may only want to send one other channels for the keyboard to the monitor mix, and that will really depend on how the keyboard player thinks sounds. Andi. What? They're happy with somebody? That's a communication thing. They may decide they want both. It really depends on how it sounds, because as a musician, how you hear yourself is really going to affect how you place, so it's very important to get the monitor mix, Roy 7. Session6 - EQ (Equalisation): in this session, we're going to look at e que, which is how we shaped the sound to use in the mixing desk. Now each of the channels Hasni que section with high med on low frequencies on, we can either cut or boost the amount of high middle low frequencies for each channel. Some mixing desks also have the option of setting the particular frequency bands that were wanting to adjust, though this mixer husband set at 12,000 hertz 2.5 1000 hertz on 80 hertz so high mid and low frequencies to demonstrate. I'm going use the microphone on Channel One and show you how a Justin e que changes the sound. So if I come meet the microphone, this is how it sounds, with no change to the Q. So if I boost the high frequencies, it becomes quite defined. Andi sounds like s become particularly prominent. If I cut the high frequencies, then it becomes quite muffled. So it's a bit about store cloak now, with the mid frequencies, 2.5 kilohertz is a kind of one of the main areas of frequencies for the human voice. So if I'm quiet, reduced like cut those, then. Actually, it loses. A lot of the definition becomes really muffled, whereas if I turn it the other way and beast, they don't. She really improves the definition. But the danger is if I put it away, it starts to rain. And that has a great danger feet, which is something we don't want suit. I'll turn it back a bit, but actually just to demonstrate the low frequencies about the men's back to the middle. So now we're back to having no effect. If I lingered to the low frequencies, I'm reduced them. It becomes a lot less being me. Eventually, that's probably better. It means there's more clarity without actually boosting any frequencies. So it's really considered best practice to cut frequencies rather than boost them. So he want to sound to have mawr midan highs and be more clear than actually, it's better to reduce the low frequencies rather than boost the highs in the mids. And it's not wrong to beast frequencies, but actually you get a more natural sound by reducing what you don't want rather than boosting what you do want 8. Session7 - Recording In A Live Setting: Although this course is focused on life sound, there may be situations. Wade likes a record, and I'm thinking in particular, for when someone speaks at a seminar or in church recording sound off, a live sound desk is not without its issues, as distortion that may not be apparent for the speakers could be very obvious on the recording. Also, if you're recording music and you don't have everything running through the desk, including guitar space Samp on drums, then you only have a partial recording. There are a few options for, according from the Live Sound desk. Firstly, you could use the tape pounds and take a two phone, knows too many Jack Cable and connect it to an audio recorder. But as in the case with this desk, there is no control of the Tapout level. It's not dependent on the main fader, so it just takes whatever signal is going through the mixer. Therefore, if you want to adjust the level off the recording, you need to control that on the audio recorder, and you have to make sure that isn't going into distortion or clipping. But if it's already distorting in the mixer, there is nothing you can actually do about that without affecting the sound that you're actually hearing in the room. Secondly, you could use a USB audio interface into a computer, and this would give you a bit more control and some more options. Competitors in the audio recorder you can I ve is the tape out again, but this time use phoner to jack cables to connect two channels one and two off the audio interface, when you might choose to use the main out. If you've got jack connections separate to the Exelon's for the mixer and you could connect sneezing, Teoh Challenge one and two of your dear interface. But what you need to be aware of if you do that is that changing the main fader would change the level that's going into the interface, which, as you're doing live sound. If you're changing the level and that's the priority, you might find that the recording suffers. As a result, 1/3 option for recording directly from the mixer would be it actually has its own recording facility built in. I've been using a USB memory stick or SD cards to record on. This is a convenient option or there, you're likely to encounter the same issues with distortion and levels that we've previously discussed. My advice from recording a live event is to never rely purely on the sound from the live mixing desk, as recording is not the priority in this case, so you're unlikely to get the best results. By all means is one of the options that we've discussed, but I would suggest that at the very least, you also record completely separately from the mixing desk on a smartphone or a tablet on. Just pick up the sound of the room using that device. If you want a better result again, I would suggest using to condenser mikes that pick up the sound of the room and connect them into a USB or doing to face and into a computer. And hopefully, by using a combination of thes, you should be out to get a reasonable result 9. Session8 - Conclusion: thank you so much for joining me on this course. Whilst what we've covered is by no means exhaustive. I do hope you found it helpful on that. It makes the prospect of doing live sound less daunting. A couple of thoughts to sum up, firstly, that keeping it simple can often yield better results. You don't need the most expensive kit on complex set up to get a good sound and, secondly, being prepared so setting up in good time, making sure that you test the kit regularly on also carrying spares. So cables, Theo boxes and the Raptors because thes things do fail. So it's always good to have replacements. Thank you again on all the best in your endeavors.