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Okay I need some help...I'm going to be performing a song at my brothers wedding for an audience of about 400-500. Here's the deal... I produced the track which is a electronic, pop love thing. For the performance its going to be my cousin rapping, me on vocals and playing a little bit of lead electric guitar (through an eleven rack) and the backing track.

Now here's where things get dicey, I'm almost 100% sure..the DJ's PA system is going to be BEHIND us during the performance. Which raises all kinds of questions...

  1. MIX: Assuming we don't bring our own mixer (2 mics, 1 guitar via the eleven rack and 1 backing track probably coming from an ipod), would it be crazy to rely on the DJ for the audience mix....he'll probably have to do the entire mix through headphones because of his position..which I know is not ideal. I'm contemplating bringing my own mixer and positioning closer to the audience (and have a friend standing in as a "sound guy"). I'd then send the DJ the master out from my mixer. It seems better but it makes the setup much more complicated (see the time constraints issue below).

  2. MONITORING: Will we (most importantly me because I'll be singing) be able to hear ourselves. I'm wondering if I can get by with out any monitoring other than mains behind us? Ideally I know we should have it, but I'm wondering if we can skate by because of the speaker placement. If we go the route of bringing our own mixer, than I will try and send a wired IEM to my ear from that.

  3. FEEDBACK: I'm assuming we'll be at a minimum of 15-20 feet in front of the mains using dynamic mics (probably sm58s). How worried should I be about this??

  4. TIME CONSTRAINTS: What makes this difficult is that the wedding is actually in the same hall as the reception (it's an indian wedding) and there will be only a 2 hour window that the DJ will be setting up before the reception starts. In that two hour window I'll be luckily to get 10 minutes at best to do a proper "soundcheck" after we setup our gear. And once we actually get to performance time..there will be a series of speeches/talks and then we're on. We'll only have a couple of minutes to get things in place and then start. Thats why I have a strong preference not to bring my own mixer, it will be much simpler easier if we go through the DJs.

So what do you guys think? How would you approach this performance. Obviously the best thing to do is get into the space and test all this stuff out..but like I said i'll only have that short 10 minute window right before the performance to do that. I'm trying to be as prepared as possible before then. Advice is greatly appreciated!!!

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2 Answers 2

It very much depends on the DJ, I know of some DJs that would just about cope with this, and others that... well I'd rather not think about the results! Also it depends on the mixer and equipment that the DJ uses, they might not have enough spare channels on the mixer to accommodate you. It is definitely worth talking to them about it.

Given your time constraints what I would probably do if possible would be to do a sound check the day before and set up your mixer with the required gains and foldback mix. Then on the day you can get in and set up the equipment, do a basic line check on headphones whilst other stuff is happening around you and then hopefully it won't take more than a few minutes to get the mix sounding right.

Regarding monitoring you might be alright without your IEM, but given the time constraints and not having a chance to try it, given the nature of the day I'd play it safe and set up the IEM.

Although the mics being in front of the speaker stack is less than ideal it should be workable. One thing you might consider is moving towards the gap in the middle of the speakers. As if you think of the sound as a cone coming out from each speaker there will be a triangular bit of floor between them where there is a bit of a dead spot. I've used this in the past to my advantage, although I'd also occasionally surprised by just how close you can get to a speaker 3-4' with a live mic and it won't necessarily feedback.

I've been involved/at a couple of weddings like the one you describe, for one of them it was decided it was easier just to set up a 2nd set of speakers for the band as it can be done at the same time the DJ is setting up, and it means the DJ doesn't have to do anything out of the ordinary.

Hope this has given you some ideas, and proves helpful. Oh and remember to enjoy the day, I know in the past I've been so caught up in organising things I've forgotten that part.

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It sounds like you're stuck with the DJ doing the mix; bringing in your friend as a sound guy only makes sense if he knows his stuff very well, better than the DJ, and you have to time to integrate him with the DJ. If the PA belongs to the DJ, he may well be able to assist you with these issues. Have you voiced your concerns with the DJ yet? If not, please do so now.

While the DJ may be incompetent, perhaps he isn't. If the former, you'll know what you're dealing with; if the latter, you have a resource to help this go smoothly. And, out of all the people involved, who here has played weddings before and has dealt with this situation before? The DJ may not be a pro at live mixing, but at the very least will want to avoid sounding bad.

If this were a concert, I'd say that you should get the DJ off that mixing board without hesitation. But that's not the case; it's a wedding, and you're in the DJ's turf. Learn to live with this constraint instead.


Mix:

When working from headphones, the best thing you can do is to have someone in the audience to send signals to the person at the board--louder, softer (raise or lower hands), vocal too soft (pantomime singing into a mic while giving the "louder" signal), and so on. Your friend offering to stand by for sound might be helpful in this.

I'm assuming that the piece you're doing was chosen (or written) to be appropriate to the event. In that case, the number-one priority here will be that the audience hears the words and understands them. Tell whoever's doing the mixing this priority, and stress that it's even more important than sounding good. A great-sounding mix where the words are a bit hard to understand won't achieve your goal.

(The only exception to this is a piece where people know it so well that they'll pick up on what it's about even without understanding the words.)

Over a decade ago, I was best man at my bandmate's wedding. The groom spent weeks on a song for his bride, polishing the lyrics, and coming up with a very catchy and touching melody. We got almost no response from the audience, and I assumed people don't like the song. It was only later I realized that our volume was far too low for the hall, and nobody heard or understood the song.

This is a one-time event, and you won't get to repeat it. Make sure they can hear you.

Monitoring:

Assume you'll not be able to hear yourselves at all. It sucks, but it happens. Learn the piece well so you can perform it without hearing each other. (If the DJ has a subwoofer, you should be able to feel the beat from that if nothing else.) The guitar player will have more leeway, able to back towards the mains to hear the backing tracks (but leave the vocal mic behind for this).

If you end up being able to hear each other, well, that's a nice bonus. But keep in mind that the more you can hear yourself in the mains, the more likely that you'll have problems with feedback.

(In-ear monitors are a great solution in this case, but aren't really worthwhile for one song unless the DJ has these already. Maybe he can hook you into the board? It doesn't hurt to ask.)

Feedback:

From the description of the setup, it sounds like it's possible to avoid feedback, if the person doing the mixing knows what they're doing. In this situation, I'd spend fully half of your "sound check" time finding the locations where your mics will feed back, so you know to avoid standing there while rapping and playing.

Time constraints:

Prioritize your needs during soundcheck. First: Get rid of feedback. Check. Second: Make sure they can hear us clearly in the back row. Check. Everything else is expendable.


In summary: Prioritize your needs, and you should be okay. The absolute worst situation? If nobody can hear anything, everything is feeding back, the DJ is uncooperative, and the audience hates you, then cut the music, and say "well, that's not working out. Sorry! Here's what I really wanted to say..." and tell the audience what you were trying to say in the music. It's a wedding, not a concert: If the bride and groom leave and are married, mission accomplished.

However, with a little triaging and quick thinking, there's no reason this shouldn't come across well.

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