When working with a noob on a live sound rig

Hey guys, I had a solo singer/guitar player ask about patching an analog dbx compressor to a small mixer via the channel insert slots terminal. Is it typically better to tell a non sound literate person to completely leave it out of the rig until they at least understand compression basics? I was also considering something like having him set a 3:1 medium fast attack / med-fast release and then just explaining how to babysit the threshold. He’s got to run the thing himself. The guy is fairly smart, I’m sure he can figure it out eventually, but the technical end of sound stuff isn’t his strength. He doesn’t have the workload at the moment to justify moving to a digital board.

So leave it out until he knows what he’s doing, or have him make a preset that requires minimal effort to run?

You can always plug the insert into a group, then compress the group in parallel with the channel output.

Thats a neat way of not getting compression (and feedback) in your monitor mixes.

Speaking as a live sound engineer, don’t even go there. His head will be on fire as it is. Forget compression, stick a 100Hz HPF on everything except bass instruments (kick and bass guitar normally) and focus on the individual levels in the mix. Seriously, if he thinks he’s going to have time to learn the finer points of compression during a live a gig he’s sadly mistaken. Just riding the faders on the main board will take up about 80% of his time.

If he’s new at the live sound thing, I’d be pretty worried about him having free reign over a compressor. That’s just asking for feedback issues if he doesn’t know what he’s doing.

Compression is great if you know how to use it. Disastrous if you don’t in a live setting.

For one person who is singing and playing the guitar at the same time? You would use a parallel compression bus for that???

Thanks. Good to run it by you guys. I thought 3:1 med-fast/med-fast would be a pretty harmless setting, but I know I personally have a tendency to forget what its like to have no of audio, or to put myself in the shoes of someone who’s just starting out.

I mean, you could teach him how to use it, and show him the knobs not to touch. If you keep the input gain at unity, and just set the threshold and tell him not to mess with anything really, it would be fine as long as he’s following standard gain staging rules.

It’s bad enough even if you do know what you are doing. In a live scenario, compression walks a very fine line between friend and enemy.

Absolutely… you can then smash it to bits on one channel and leave the other channel fully dynamic.

Especially for solo guitar and vocal, I usually hit both of those quite hard anyway. Way more than 3:1. Dont forget that live backline in the room is effectively ‘parallel processing’ too.

You could also make a tip/ring to tip/sleeve ‘sniff’ cable to patch each input to its adjacent channel on the board if there are no groups or mono output available.

Monitor feeds really should get uncompressed signals, just (aux) send them from the clean/unprocessed channel :slight_smile:

When I teach my live sound course I always have them looking at the GR. No more than 4-6DB until you know what you are doing. Most of the DBX compressors, even the cheap ones, are pretty transparent and smooth so I wouldn’t worry about getting brutal sound. The more confidence you have in him the more ratio I’d recommend:)

Yeah… that’s what I was thinking at first. I think the one he has available is a 266. But after hearing AJ and Boz’s thoughts on it, I see where learning to make meaningful GR judgements on a compressor while you’re singing through a wedge monitor might be a task better left to someone who’s not also trying to sing and play. I’m perfectly comfortable fiddling with the compression settings on my keyboards while I’m playing live. And for me its necessary… And I also have a highly detailed set of in-ear monitors, so when I adjust a compressor I can hear exactly what I’m doing as I’m playing. But it’s probably a little bit of info overload for the singer/guitar player guy I was thinking about doing this for.