Playing Synths Live - Mono?

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Playing Synths Live - Mono?

Post by MarkyC »

Hi All,

Well, it’s quite a while since playing live and I’ve dramatically paired down what I intend to use.

Instead of all the gear I used to drag around (and I know you did warn me it would be heavy, and did I listen errrr no and paid for it in Taxis and pulled muscles!)

I’ll just be using a Novation Launchpad and a Peak, key largo and maybe one other module.

This will be electronica as a music style, so sample based is fine with some live manipulation of samples. Using Ableton and Launchpad in custom mode it seems you can do quite a bit.

The “venues” tend not to be that great – halls, pubs, quite small that type of thing.

But like all of us I would like it to sound as good as I can (there won’t be any leaping around, so unfortunately nothing else to distract any punters).

So to get to the point of this rather rambling question – Do I need to play everything in mono or will I be able to get away with stereo as an output?
In the past I did take any backing sounds and convert them a mono file, remixing and balancing as best I could and I think there was some improvement in the overall sound BUT now using samples there is absolutely loads of the things and when playing I tend to go for what feels rite at the moment, so less linear than before.

Just to test out the mono sound I put a mono effect on the output of the Ableton session and it sounded really horrible.

So in summary, to get a decent sound will I have to convert everything to mono (even though the Peak+ will always be stereo) or do you think in such small venues stereo should still work?

Thanks for your thoughts!
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Re: Playing Synths Live - Mono?

Post by bonefixer »

Perhaps I’m missing something here, but why would you choose mono over stereo, unless you’re short of input channels? I almost always play stereo - some samples bounce around (I do Pink Floyd’s money - the cash register samples at the start are all over the stereo field) and I might use some stereo chorus or delay effects to add to the soundscape.

Can’t see any advantages to mono myself.
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Re: Playing Synths Live - Mono?

Post by Wonks »

Stereo is more likely to work in smaller venues where your FOH PA speakers aren't too far apart, than in big venues with a wide stage where wide panned stereo effects will put the sound a long way away from those near the opposite PA stack (unless very loud in comparison to everything else going on).

Best to use stereo outputs and then don't have the mixing panned full hard left and right.
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Re: Playing Synths Live - Mono?

Post by The Elf »

I've played venues large and small and it's never even been a consideration. Pan it wide and proud!
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Re: Playing Synths Live - Mono?

Post by Hugh Robjohns »

I agree, in pubs and small clubs, with electronics, I'd go stereo too.

And a lot of keys /samples /effects really don't play nice in summed mono.
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Re: Playing Synths Live - Mono?

Post by MarkyC »

OK thanks guys, so I was worry about nothing. That's great.
I was remembering an old thread (Three years ago maybe) in the live sound section and it was mentioned that everyone should play in mono.

The venue I was playing at that time seemed to have very wide stereo panning over two internal spaces so people looking at art had one channel the ones drinking and listening to music seemed to hear only the other channel.

I'm guessing this is not normal! :headbang:

Thanks for this I'll get on with practicing and not worry any more!

Cheers as always!
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Re: Playing Synths Live - Mono?

Post by Arpangel »

I play my synths through a mono guitar amp live, we create our own "stereo" on stage, simply from where we are.
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Re: Playing Synths Live - Mono?

Post by BigRedX »

I run a stereo backing track for both the bands I play in, but we tend to make the field quite narrow so that in the larger venues everyone has a decent chance of hearing everything no matter where they are stood.

It can be a problem in small venues too if they are quite full as some of the audience will be stood very close to one or other of the PA speakers getting an uneven "picture" of the mix and blocking the upper frequencies for the rest of the audience.

As has been said some sounds don't work very well when collapsed into mono, but conversely other stereo effects rely on you being able to hear both sides of the stereo image equally well, and can sound equally wrong if your are hearing one channel louder than the other.

Before palying anywhere I would check what happens should you need to run in mono, and also listen to both the left and right channels in isolation to make sure that it doesn't sound weird when you can (mostly) hear only one.
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Re: Playing Synths Live - Mono?

Post by MarkyC »

Thanks all,

Tony, there will only be one of me and there is no way I'm lugging two guitar amps around, but thanks for the thought!

BigRed, I do get where you are coming from and it is those exact examples that stopped me in my tracks and made me actually ask the question.

I did put a mono effect on the output to see what it was like and not good was the answer, but i will try out just having one monitor on L&R and see what the result is.

Thanks for this everyone!
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Re: Playing Synths Live - Mono?

Post by Arpangel »

MarkyC wrote: Wed Mar 29, 2023 12:31 pm
Tony, there will only be one of me and there is no way I'm lugging two guitar amps around, but thanks for the thought!


Just imagine what life would be like if we were drummers.

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Re: Playing Synths Live - Mono?

Post by MarkOne »

Stereo can be difficult in a live situation.

As others have said, in a pub or small hall it probably isn't an issue, but I remember on at least one occasion being in a large theatre type venue where a big name band was all out stereo, and where I was standing every time a pingy swirly synth part flew across the sound stage away from my position it just sounded like it was being turned down a lot. Probably OK for the folks lucky enough to be stood in the middle, for those of us on the edges... Not so much.
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Re: Playing Synths Live - Mono?

Post by Arpangel »

MarkOne wrote: Thu Mar 30, 2023 3:26 pm Stereo can be difficult in a live situation.

As others have said, in a pub or small hall it probably isn't an issue, but I remember on at least one occasion being in a large theatre type venue where a big name band was all out stereo, and where I was standing every time a pingy swirly synth part flew across the sound stage away from my position it just sounded like it was being turned down a lot. Probably OK for the folks lucky enough to be stood in the middle, for those of us on the edges... Not so much.

Yes, that’s why I don’t get involved in stereo stuff anymore.
I used to absolutely insist that I was given a stereo input at gigs, it was so important to me, now, I couldn’t give a damn, most of the stereo subtleties are lost on people anyway, they aren’t even looking to hear them, so now I just use a point source, a mono amp, and it sounds fine to me, in small clubs I’ve never used anything else, but with my type of music it’s sort of de rigueur to use the tattiest old amp you can muster.

:)
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Re: Playing Synths Live - Mono?

Post by adamburgess »

Did a show with tracks on the QE2 a few weeks ago.

Budget doesn't do a 15 piece band anymore - could only manage 4 of us on stage :headbang:

So I sent FOH 6 mono sums of my live Pianos/Pads from my Kronos, plus strings, horns, 808 loops, extra synths, BVs.

Maybe the engineer panned them, maybe not. The place was bouncing, it sounded great. Admittedly a small theatre and not a great stereo width! Did the job very well.

But! If you're doing fast staccato ping-pong delays and stuff, why not pan L/R? If you notice it's moved, it'll only be for a split second. Sounds fun to me.
Slow flanges/chorus FX etc with pads/strs. would also be great…

Think this 'problem' stems from having guitars or pianos panned hard L/R throughout the gig. Esp. with automation - why not make a point of something 'disappearing' then coming loud n proud in the middle? Arrangement and context as always, important :-)

If you 'can' - then try it. Wasn't an option for me and my little XR18 and no rehearsal with the sound guy.
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Re: Playing Synths Live - Mono?

Post by adamburgess »

MarkyC wrote: Tue Mar 28, 2023 8:00 pm The venue I was playing at that time seemed to have very wide stereo panning over two internal spaces so people looking at art had one channel the ones drinking and listening to music seemed to hear only the other channel.

Yes, this is stereo when the house system is so wide, it's in different rooms.

So, having a mono option could help, for sure!
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