Kemper-o-phobic sound guys

  • My old band are doing a couple of farewell shows after 25 years and some of us past members got up on stage to play a few songs on Saturday. The gig was at a decent venue with in house PA and sound guy provided. It's a decent sized venue but with a smallish stage and the band (without us extras) is a 10 piece so it was always going to be tight. As it wasn't my gig and I was only playing 4 songs I wanted to cause minimum hassle and didn't want to be a primadona. I thought, no problem I'll just take my powered toaster; DI and a little bit through the monitors to hear myslef - job done. I won't even need the remote taking up stage space as I can run a single profile and control clean/dirt rhythm/solo from the guitar's volume - proper old skool! However, I'll take the remote anyway and I'll throw in a cab just in case (always best to be prepared).

    So, I get to the soundcheck after the band have done most of their checking and say to the sound guy (SG) "I'm playing a few songs in the second set. I've brought a Kemper so it'll make everyone's life super easy though"

    SG - "Sigh" "you should have been here at the beginning and be set up already"

    Me - "No problem I literally just need to plug in. If you give me a a single XLR and little bit through the monitors and we're good to go"

    SG - rummages around for an extra DI Box. Ferrets around, making a bit of a show of the inconvenience, for an XLR cable and a space on the stage box for me. "There's your DI"

    Me - "Thanks" quietly unplugs the DI and sticks the cable in the KPA main out Left (already set the outputs to Master Mono) guitar plugged in ready to line check.

    SG - appears at the front of the stage carrying the opening band's Line 6 combo. "Plug your Kemper into this!"

    Me - "Why?"

    SG - "So you can hear yourself on stage............ Once the band start you won't hear enough through the monitors" Biting my tongue thinking, "I only played with these guys for 23 years and many gigs in this venue so I know how loud they are on stage" :huh:

    Me - "No problem I brought a speaker cab just in case you needed it." (Mesa EVM12L Thiele ported cab)

    SG - "Sigh"

    Moment later, cab plugged in power amp on ticked. Ready to go.

    SG "Sigh" rummaging around the stage looking for the cable in the back of his already unplugged DI Box. Finally finds it in the back of my toaster. Unplugs it and makes a thing about setting up an SM57 in front of my cab.

    Me - "Why are you doing that?"

    SG - " 'cause it sounds better!"

    Me - biting tongue and almost tasting blood "Whatever"

    So we soundcheck.

    The Kemper with a guitar cab sounded immense. More hassle than necessary but bloody hell it sounded great on stage.

    We go off and the other band come on stage and sound check. All of the mics are moved to their amps so the sound check was pretty pointless and the guitar sound out front is pretty much a lottery when they are put back for the gig; wheres it would have been totally consistent and made SG's life super easy if he had just left the KPA DI plugged in but Hey Ho.

    Get back on stage during the gig and the mic gets bumped several times (didn't get moved much but it did move) so who knows what front of house sounded like. Audience members say great but variable is probably more accurate ;)

    All I know is the only bit I had control over is onstage sound and it was awesome :D

    Funny thing is, the other guitarist was using a custom made 2x12 cab and a BluGuitar Amp1. He was "trying something different tonight" by trying to run it "old skool, like a single channel Plexi and just riding the volume on the guitar" but he had problems at sound check before I arrived as the Amp 1 wasn't compressing the way a Plexi would so the cleans were too quiet, thin and brittle and the crunch was WAY too loud. He ended up going back to normal multi channel mode for the gig. When he was playing alone the AMP 1 sounded pretty good but when we played together the difference way startling. The KPA just sounded and felt like a real amp and worked a treat in single channel ride the volume mode.

    Still think the front of house sound would have been better/more consistent/less work if SG had just been less Kemper-O-phobic and taken an XLR from the Main Out. It also reminded me why after 30 years of gigging I still carry stuff I don't expect to need for those just in case moments!

  • Funny thing, I should suspect every soundguy does a little dance once for every sound-producing item left at home: floormonitors, acoustic pianos, hammonds, real drums, guitar amps. Makes life a lot less complicated.

    But I suspect you got off on the wrong foot with that guy if I read the first response he made. And honestly, the thing that would get me angry the most is bands not sticking to their rider, and asking for extra mikes during soundcheck. Offcourse, I wasn't there, but let me share some of my experiences:

    Once I mixed a latin band. A rider was provided, and all microphones were put ready on the side of the stage. Instruments are set up, and in no time I begin placing microphones. I soundcheck, and suddenly there seem to be some musicians running late (the fact that they all spoke spanish didn't help with me getting notified about that). And I get asked: can you provide a mic for this guy. I place the mic, soundcheck, and in the middle of that, I get asked for another mic. And another. At one time I looked into the microphone case and had to say: sorry guys, this is all I have, can't provide extra mics. And then those guys start to look angry at me? Well, maybe provide a good rider...

    Another time I mixed a band, and a talkshow before the band. I don't know why, but in the middle of the soundcheck I had to be at the stageblock. Found that the drummer piled his drums bags on top of it. And to makes matters worse: one of the talkshow members, which was a local celebrity, starts to get a big mouth about the soundcheck being lengty... I get stressed, start to take away those bags so a can do my work, and then: BANG: a strap was caught in the saxophone, and that saxophone went down, straight on its mouthpiece.... My insurance luckily took care of this, and my apologies couldnt be more sincere, but the saxophone player could pack up its things. Why? Because of time-stress-factors whichs weren't necessary...

    Last but not least: especially on festivals, were you as a soundtech strongly advise to have 45 minutes between bands for teardown, buildup, and soundcheck, the promotor allways find it necessary to reduce this to 15 minutes. Then you'll have to make sure you can reuse as much of your patch as possible. Thatll probably mean 2 or 3 SM57 mics for guitars, that get reused, without touching the settings on the board, EQ, monitor sends, etc. If suddenly someone asks for a DI out on his kemper, there can be a chance that I'll start to ask previous or following bands to lend out a cab to play through, just to keep my soundcheck shorter.

    Again: I wasn't there, just trying to sketch some of the factors that keep soundguys busy ;)

  • Yeah, one of my darkest moments...

    Since then my #1 rule is: small instruments (guitars, saxophones, violins, etc) are the last to be put on the stage, and the first to be removed. Do not pull cables or other bulky items from the stage with a Gibson Les Paul in its stand, even if Slash says a broken headstock sounds better...

    Oh and the saxophone got straightened and worked again. Though I don't know if that influences playability....

  • I'd have asked the sound guy if he liked his job, making clear that every indication he'd given you was that he'd rather have been doing something else.

    Just to rub it in, you could've offered him a faux job, thereby driving the point home, along with the fact that you "genuinely" had his best interests at heart. :D

  • Yeah, one of my darkest moments...

    Since then my #1 rule is: small instruments (guitars, saxophones, violins, etc) are the last to be put on the stage, and the first to be removed. Do not pull cables or other bulky items from the stage with a Gibson Les Paul in its stand, even if Slash says a broken headstock sounds better...

    Oh and the saxophone got straightened and worked again. Though I don't know if that influences playability.... advice I ever received was to pack up the most precious things first...sometimes it doesn't mean the most expensive - but it always means the hardest to replace!

    PRS Custom 22's - Fender Strats - Diezel VH4 - Carol Ann OD2 - Toneking Imperial MK2 - Colin the Kemper - CLR Neo ii.

  • Some of these guys are wannabe record producers.
    It’s not UP to him.

    I remember once being told by a local club soundtwat that he was “out of mics” so couldn’t mic the bass amp.
    I grabbed the floor Tom mic and said “okay. We will use this one then”
    Amazingly enough another mic was suddenly “found”

  • I keep wondering guys, If so many soundguys are too stubborn to use the kempers main outputs, or are just plain surprised to see a Kemper on their stage, or didn't provide mics for bass amps, etc etc, did they ignore the rider, or just didnt get one? Or wasn't the rider not detailed enough?

    I mean, standard practice is to tap from the bass amps DI out, and to mic a guitar cab. If for some reason, you as a band want it to be done differently, it should be on your tech-rider. The stock of mikes a venue or rental firm hads is not unlimited! A soundguy which does it's job correct reads that stuff, and prepares his kit for the show. Maybe they do 2 events at the same time and have to be carefull with which mikes go to which venue, do they stock enough monitors, or do they have to rent in, all sort of practical stuff..

    If there should be any reason why he cant strictly follow your rider (a busy festival patch could be one), he should call you in advance to have a chat over the problem and find a solution, in advance!

    That's how I've dealt with things in my days as the rental company's tech. I ok, I was kind of stressy when I was on duty, and I can imagine that this didn't always leave friendly first impressions. But I always felt it was my duty to make shure that the band was amplified in a proper way, could hear themselves so they didn't play mistakes (at least couldnt blame the sound :p), etc. If I failed, the whole show would fail! I would make sure every listed instrument was mic'd the way the rider said, all my stands where prepared, etc. By the time the drummer was set-up, the whole stage was mic'd up, and soundcheck would start. And under time-pressure I would get stressy about this. I can assure you, outdated or absent riders DID NOT HELP.

    Ofcourse, we are all people, everyone makes mistakes, both musicians and soundguys, and that should never be a reason for the other party to get bitchy about it. If they do, that's their problem. If they get bitchy about their own mistake, that's even more their problem. But I believe techriders are there just to make good agreements in advance.

    A good techrider provides (not limitative):
    * contact info of at least the most technical bandmembers or the bands tech
    * some general terms like stage dimensions, who will bring the soundguy (band or venue), soundsystem requirements, minimum sound level requirements, who brings what equipment (some bands tour with their own mixer + in ears) etc
    * A stage plan: who will stand where. Also power outlets, amps and monitors are marked on the stageplan
    * A list of inputs, with for each input suggestions for mics (eg SM57 for guitar cab, SM58 for singers, ...). Also if a mic must not be swapped with a comparable mic, comment on the why: eg. a e906 defeats the need of a stand in front of your amp, you bring a Kemper Profiler without a cab, so you insist in it being tapped from the main out, the singer insists on wireless kit, the bass player likes his amp miked and not DI's. You can also comment on compression/gate or other insert effects, eg 2 lead singers need compression, kickdrum gated, ....
    * On that input list you also list a CD player should you need you
    * A list of aux outputs: You need Reverb, delay, but also your monitor outs: aux 1 is the drummers cab, aux 2 is the bassplayers in-ears which he'll provide himself, aux 3 and 4 are a stereo pair for the in-ears of the singer which much be provided by the venue. And so on...

    You don't have to be a big band to provide a rider, even a beginning punk band of 14 year old youngsters should have this (just dont put hospitality demands on it), just so the soundguy knowns who is coming in with what equipment. He'll thank you for making his life easier... If you haven't, there will be a day that there isn't a mic left, or worse, no wedge left, and that the soundguy is not just pretending!

    Just going to share my own techrider as an example...

  • That’s an excellent post @jpoelmans. All great points and good information for everyone to consider.

    I didn’t mean to come across as one of those primadona guitarists that think they know everything and bitch about useless sound guys screwing with their precious tone. I firmly believe my job is to turn up with my parts learned and my gear in good shape to provide the required tones for the gig on stage. After that I need to trust the sound guy to make that fit in the overall mix and make the whole band sound good. My guitar sound is only a small part of that so the sound guy is crucial to the success or otherwise of the audience experience.

    I was just surprised that a DI from the Kemper would have made his life easier than moving mics around. The thing that really surprised me though was the assertion that a 57 in front of the cab would “sound better” which struck me as a little closed minded. However, as you have eloquently pointed out, he may have had other reasons for wanting a mic in view of his overall setup, available equipment or workflow.


  • I’m all for tech riders.
    And on the level I tour now they obviously matter.
    But in other situations and other ‘levels’ I’ve seen them blatantly ignored.
    Just like other riders.

    But no matter what there was a presumption that the guitar was going to be mic’ed.
    So yanking that XLR out of his beer soaked sm57 and plugging it into the back of a Kemper was not asking for too much
    In fact you’re making his job EASIER, if he isn’t being a dick about it.

  • Well, in the case a rider gets ignored, the sound guy is definitely to blame. Or the promotor which didn't forward the rider... Been there done that... Just be careful not to be a dick about it yourself (I always have to be carefull for this myself! Probably cost me a few gigs in the past...). Boy you have to be careful not to step on each others toes...

    But yes, to be clear, in normal circumstances the Kemper's direct out IS easier to mix, less mic spillover etc.

    Oh, last technical one: Im always cautious about using amps DI outs. Usually we would put our own DI in between, with ground lift features we trusted, padding switches, and no chance accidental Phantom power would destroy the bands equipment. You simply don't know what you are connecting to, and you want to be on top of things when troubleshooting... If you would have asked me before I knew and used the Kemper myself, I would have said no to direct out if my DI's were all occupied for other things... Now, seems the Kemper's output can handle phantom power, but I know a fellow guitarist with an axe FX with it's main outputs dead. We have no clue why, but I do suspect it died of phantom power... Also the Helix manual strongly advises against it. So there is something to say about just yanking the XLR out of an SM57 and plugging it into a balanced out, not knowing what's happening on either end of the cable...

    But hey, you're a guitar player, you are not expected to know this: In the end you should have to know why the engineer doesn't want to connect that way, and try to talk it over. But indeed, more often than not people get defensive when you question their methods... I think thats the bigger problem, which is sad for the people who do this...

  • I have only had that experience once, all other sound guys have been so happy.

    I think the reason there is some resistance is there is some variability of of direct devices. The one I had a problem with ( a venue in Birmingham UK) was very similar to that described by @Wheresthedug- he wanted to mic my monitor! Luckily someone had a 4 x 12 to borrow so I ran it conventionally as it was pointless arguing - nothing worse than an upset Sound enginner!

    He did tell me he had a guitarist run a line 6 direct and it sounded dreadful and a s a result refused to run guitars direct. Once bitten in his case..

    In general I think many people get it and I've had more SG's go "is that a Kemper? Wicked!" than resistance.