As I’ve been getting deeper into the wealth of complex kits beyond adding bass - congas, organ sounds, piano, etc it seems the sonic landscape is getting crowded - too many parts of similar freq fighting for the same space. Can I improve the live output?
We make matters worse using our BB to back a trio with lead guitar, and two acoustic guitars (playing more or less as needed allowing us to play harp, bass, etc). I don’t want to bring in a sound engineer with a truck of equipment. Not famous yet.
Maybe since we always run BB stereo into the mixer pan the channels a bit and vary EQ? We do that with guitars and vocals to help clarify things. I’m tinkering with velocities in REAPER and grabbing at straws promoting one part over another and experimenting with different kits. We may have wrung this one out already by putting so much in the stream.
A high quality active DI will make a huge difference. I have a pair of Trenton Blizzard active T48J boxes, and they are amazing at getting separation in the parts of the drum kits. Don’t know if he’s still offering them, but I love mine for the BB. Even a Behringer Active DI will perk stuff up (a pair of the ubiquitous and indestructible DI100s, or the stereo DI20) and they are really affordable.
That said, if you’re running the BB in stereo, the two channels should be hard-panned left and right or you’ll get cross-channel smearing and lose the stereo image.
Back in the earliest days of when users began to add bass and other instrumentation to the BeatBuddy, users mentioned that they wanted to know how to achieve greater separation and fidelity. The suggested range of solutions included using a mixer, compression and other options. Other users have suggested going all mono (not using stereo) and as Joe suggested, hard-panning might lend itself to improved audio quality at volume.
And here’s my 2¢’s: I’ve noticed how muddy the songs might sound once they’ve been transcribed and played previewed through an amplified source. The bass guitar, bass drum and lower range of the keys overlap in the same frequencies. Sometimes it helps to move the octaves of the arrangements around. For example, add an octave to the bass notes and then listen to the amplified song again. If it’s still muddy, I’ll move the bass back down and try moving the keys up an octave, rinse and repeat. Even trying it with a different kit. Sometimes I can deconflict it this way but more often times than not, it may be the limitation of the dynamic quality and range of the instruments used in the kit. Changing velocities as you’ve been experimenting with may help as well however, it’s still a challenge to achieve separation between the instruments.
I like the techniques Joe has shared and the proof in the pudding seems to be validated by the audio quality from the videos he has shared.
Thanks for the advice (still owe you for leading me around to finally creating those videos). I have to re-figure the inputs on the mixer. The 16 channel Yamaha I’ve been using combines two unbal 1/4" mono spots served by only a single slider and pan.
Occurs to me I may have to back up a bit and do some panning in REAPER on the work in question too. Always seems a debate - what would sound good on the recordings off the mixer can be at odds with what the audience hears when they are dealing with a less than ideal acoustic room and ‘panned’ themselves depending on where the sit relative to our L/R speaker output.
Oh and BTW at $28 (Sweetwater) allowing me to go to the mixer with XLR how can I not buy the Di120?
Thanks! Going through a rational process even without practical knowledge there are higher order solutions and I’m coming around to your thinking. Perhaps because I have asked for your help on so many things BB over the years?
Folks on this forum do a great service shaking the circular thinking for those of us who insist on putting way too much time into a better understanding.
First, a quick note on the drums that come with the BB: The parts are already panned in stereo such that a roll that starts at the snare and hits all the toms will sonically start in the middle and then pan right to left, just like a live kit would. Hi-hats are panned right, ride, left, the two crashes on opposite sides, etc. None of them are hard-panned; rather, they are designed to show up in the stereo field in the right place if the outputs are sent to discrete amplifiers (which, in a mixer, means panned hard-left and hard-right). Otherwise, you are collapsing the stereo field onto itself, and things can get muddy(er?).
If you are bringing the BB into a single channel with two unbalanced 1/4" INs, it is already panning hard left and right, so no need to adjust there. I find sometimes that adding a high-pass with a peak at about 60hz, a bump at around 90hz, and a slight drop around 250hz cleans up the kick drum, if you have that kind of control.
And if you have a 1/4" stereo in, you can live without DIs. I very often do.
I also had an issue where I found the toms in the V.1 Standard kit were way too resonant and they just rang and rang, overpowering the mix. I know @GoranGrooves’s new V.2 drum files are designed to address that problem. I haven’t used them yet, because I don’t want to mess with the solution I put in place for myself over a year ago. I found the original drum recordings sounded great if you were after “drums in the room” (to steal a phrase from the modeling world), but they were overpoweringly boomy when you wanted drums in a live mix – especially if you have a sub. So I took the existing recordings, and I re-mixed, gated, and re-EQ’d the toms and kick the way I would if I was mixing a live band. I also adjusted a few base volumes to get a balance I liked.
What you’re hearing in the videos is that kit, and I’ve made it available a few times here on the forum via Dropbox – and I’ll do it again now:
So, to sum up:
- DIs = Good, Active DIs = better. Neither, though, are necessary to get where you’re going.
- Drums as recorded for BB are best panned hard-left and hard-right in a stereo mix, because that’s what they were designed for
- A single channel with stereo INs is already doing the hard-pan thing for you. Note that if there’s a Balance/Pan knob it is just shifting the whole stereo field left or right. More of a bias than a pan, really…
- New V.2 drum recordings = Very probably good, because Goran was specifically going after the problem of the drums taking over the mix. I can’t (yet) vouch for them as I haven’t tried them yet, but Goran is very good at what he does, so I’m inclined to believe he’s succeeded
- if you liked the drums you heard in the videos, you now have them via DropBox
I’m here all week – try the veal.
*(old guy joke)
Another idea, and this relates more to sample creation for kits than any other useful phase, is to vary reverb from instrument to instrument. That essentially helps develop some depth to the sonic space. You don’t have to go crazy and use cathedral on drums and studio on piano, but use some variance that might give the idea that there is some difference in the placement of the instruments within the kit.
Thanks for taking the time to detail this. I DL’d your kit - can’t pass that up. Funny I seemed to have gotten used to the original kits sound, boomy or otherwise, since its all playing live ultimately for me under varying room conditions and the new 1.1s (snare especially) sound thinner. I’ve always been a fan of the way the kits are panned since they don’t disenfranchise the folks way off axis.
I have also gotten used to pegging the BB output at100% into a channel gain on the Yamaha MG16 (which I hear has notoriously weak preamps that get squirrley above 3:00). That sounds like bad gain staging so an active DI is needed.
I’ve been motivated to get better at REAPER so I can adjust .sngs to use kits that suit my ear and it turns out many are c/o Dr. Flood. Bass, piano and organ especially. Some bass samples are clean and punchy, a bit higher and less muddy and the same with organ and piano. They can be fairly rich not shrill and leave space for the vast majority of mud in the middle (like vocals).
Two things I’ve learned in the process - hard labor to understand how to achieve “less is more” and there may be no heaven no matter how hard you try but sonically there sure is a hell. Playing in dive bars too long…
FWIW, I believe the output on the BB is passive – it attenuates rather than amplifies – so 100% is not added gain, just unattenuated signal from the op amps. I run mine at 100% all the time.
Let me know how you get on with my drumkit, I’d m always interested in how it performs for other people in the wild.
I missed this: I really like the original Standard kit as well, which is why I chose to work with it rather than finding a new kit. I just used a couple of little tricks to make it less dominating in a live mix.
I have the Yamaha an found I needed to use the pad or the BB signal was too hot. I’ve switched to a QSC Touchmix 16. The drums have come alive and exposed all of the good and bad. I had to go through every kit and make sure all of the levels were the same across the board for every kit. Then had to make every song file relatively the same. I changed my bass files and eq’d the boom out of them. The old ones would drone. I also added a sub for larger venues and the old bass didn’t sound good. With few exceptions, I use variants of the brushes kit. To me, it just sounds “real” for a one man show. I’m going to give the drums here a listen. Always want to evolve my sound.
Sounds like you have a similar philosophy on sound…and similar history in dive bars.
@JoeInOttawa re your comment on BB output being Passive…is there anyway to confirm this anywhere? I like the idea is simply leaving the BB at 100…
I can’t think of a way to test it without pulling the device apart, but I do run the BB at 100% everywhere unless that trips the clip lights. In the end, use the clip light on your mixer as your guide, and feed the input as much signal as you can before clipping.
But I am almost positive the volume knob in the BB is a 0-100%, attenuating the full output of the final op-amp.
Cooly thanks much! That’s how I’ll run it from now on. I’ll remove the volume CC’s in Unrealbook. And concentrate more on balancing the kits instead!
I’ve come to that solution (with some help) as well. Kits overall are typically at 0 db (with some internal tweaks) and I’m trying to match the kit with the sound I want then balance the kit within the .sng using velocity changes in REAPER.
BTW we’ve used UnRealBook for about 5 years or so. Can’t imagine life without it on my old iPad and Aron is always available via email when you have questions.