Sound guy says I use my sustain pedal too much

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Re: Sound guy says I use my sustain pedal too m

Post by Schorsch »

Well, how do you play the sustain pedal exactly and do you use it just when playing piano sounds or also with others like synth? Extensive use is for sure not good, and if the sound guy has good knowledge and is known for doing a good job it would of course be worth to check with others in the room, but if that means that you would have to play in a way you would feel too uncomfortable or think it’s not what it should be I would challenge the sound guy to get the sound right on his side
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Re: Sound guy says I use my sustain pedal too much

Post by harmonizer »

It seems you are playing in a band that was mostly complete before you joined.
Here's an alternate point of view:

Many years ago, when I was just playing sax and doing backup vocals, and I was not yet pretending to know how the play a keyboard, we had a keys player whose main problem was that he never lifted his fingers from the keyboard - there was no space in his playing.
And we had a GREAT rhythm guitarist, so this keys player drove him crazy. (we also had a really good solo guitarist, so the chords were always well covered by our rhythm guitarist).
The final step in making our a band a good one was to eject that keys player from our band, such that we played with no keys player (we reduced from 7 to 6 musicians, including our lead singer).

Unless you are playing a song that features keys (i.e. like many Billy Joel songs), there needs to be substantial spaces where there is no keyboard sound.
If you are playing in a 6 or 7 piece covers band, playing acoustic piano sounds, sustain of AP sounds is death.
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Re: Sound guy says I use my sustain pedal too much

Post by ajstan »

playsabadguitar wrote:We are a five piece: drums, bass, two guitars, and me on keys. We are a Grateful Dead cover band.
Here are some thoughts in the hope one or two may be helpful:

1. It's not an EQ issue, it's a placement in the mix issue. Unless both guitars are playing lead lines, you are likely clashing with the rhythm guitar and occupying the same frequency space. With two guitars, there won't be a lot of room for you to let things ring out and wash over the band.

2. Here is an isolated piano track for a Dead song. I don't hear a lot of sustain. I'm probably the least knowledgeable person around here about their music, but I would guess as a jam band, they depend upon a mix of multiple melodies and rhythms, and a wash would kill the clarity needed to hear everyone.

3. Do you have control over your own monitor mix? You should be able to hear everyone else in your IEMs for frequency and parts. It's the sound guy's job to mix to the room, not to deal with whatever you give him.

4. I'm only playing with one guitarist in my band, so when he solos, I use the sustain more to fill out the place in the mix where the rhythm guitar would be. Otherwise, I keep my sounds pretty dry, and it works great. Usually, the room adds natural reverb beyond what you put on your program.

5. Camera phones are pretty good, but I use a Zoom Q2n 4K to record all of our gigs and send it out afterwards.

6. Here's hoping that this is part of your process in learning techniques for playing with a band vs. playing solo and you have the control in making things better. Plus, if your sound guy is right and he hears you taking his advice to heart, he will look out for you and will be a great asset. (It's also a good way of making sure he keeps you up in the mix.) If it's a case of having a sound guy who has an axe to grind, things probably won't end up well regardless of what you do, so the best path is to treat the sound guy as if he is an ally, and record FOH so you can hear yourself in the main mix.

Good luck.
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Re: Sound guy says I use my sustain pedal too much

Post by Hlaalu »

I have personally adapted my style over time to use the sostenuto in place of the sustain, and use sustain very sparingly only when really needed, and rarely pushed all the way down anyway.

It can be said it's a matter of taste, and it is, but especially in piano solo, I have the feeling most people who like to use the sustain pedal a lot would benefit from substituting it with sostenuto. One or two bass notes to be sustained is way enough. Of course playing style has to change a bit. But the kind of ringing muddiness that comes from over using the sustain pedal often cases serves very little to the music and, to me, means that I'm not doing very good if I need all that sustain to sound good. It's almost as if it were masking some other problems in my playing.

This is not to take the side of your sound man. He may or may not be right, I don't know, but for what it's worth, try experimenting a bit with the sostenuto and see what you can make out of it.

By the way on Nords, to use the sostenuto you have to use the Triple Pedal, which can be a bit expensive.
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Re: Sound guy says I use my sustain pedal too much

Post by Spider »

Without knowing much about how your band plays and sounds, I would tend to agree with the sound guy.
First of all, because he's the sound guy. Unless he's really bad at his job, by definition he knows better than you. Not about your piano playing, but about how the whole band's sound should be.
Second, you seem to have a rather hostile approach to him ("he's being a d*ck", etc). The first rule of playing in a band is "NEVER ANNOY THE SOUND GUY". Even better: it should be your best friend and colleague in the band. Because HE decides how you sound. If you can't produce a sound that is good for the band, or you are not collaborative and think you can do his job better than him, he will simply close your channel in the mixer. Problem solved.

As others have said, the fact that your in-ear isolated sound is great doesn't have anything to do with the band sound: actually, it probably makes things worse, because it makes you think you should play like you were alone in your practice room, instead of having to correctly blend in with a full band.
Many times when I was preparing songs for my bands, I came up with something that sounded really great on its own, exactly like the record...only to discover that in the band mix it sounded absolutely crap. Very often, to blend well with the band the keyboard parts will not sound very good on their own: thin, with lots of mid-highs and no bass, etc.

I've learned that in a band, less is better. MUCH MUCH LESS:
- if there's a bass player, forget your left hand.
- If there's one or two guitars, don't play dense chords. Open voicings can sound great and really add something to the mix, and/or you can play in the high registers, leaving the mid-low range to the guitars where they usually belong.
- DON'T USE EFFECTS, especially reverb and chorus. Always run your sounds dry, add effects only if the sound guy asks for them, or even better, let him add them from the mixer.
- use equalization to cut lows and mid-lows, so you won't step on the sonic territory of the bass and guitars
- and yes, forget about the sustain pedal too. It adds nothing to the band's sound, and usually just blends everything together creating an unpleasant wall of sound with the bass and guitars.
Unless you're playing a slow ballad where everybody has a lot of space and can be clearly heard, it's best to use the sustain VERY little.
Another option is to have carefully arranged/orchestrated songs, where everybody plays note for note his part, that was written to leave space for the others.
Last edited by Spider on 14 Nov 2022, 12:55, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Sound guy says I use my sustain pedal too much

Post by Elias »

Spider wrote:Without knowing much about how your band plays and sounds, I would tend to agree with the sound guy...
...that was written to leave space for the others.
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Re: Sound guy says I use my sustain pedal too much

Post by wtibbit »

Hey, playsabadguitar, I'm an organist who just within the last 5 years or so became serious about playing piano in live rock and blues bands. When I first started playing the piano more seriously, I rarely used the sustain pedal; it wasn't something that I would do naturally, as a result of many decades playing organ. Practicing at home on a Yamaha AvantGrand (very, very much like playing an acoustic piano) I got familiar with using the sustain pedal and pretty spoiled by its very natural "half" damper function. Now, playing live with an on/off sustain I find that I have to be very careful not to overuse the sustain. On up tempo songs I just stay off of it. I do use it for lyrical songs, especially when there isn't too much going on with any guitar. I also try to not use the sustain much in the bass register to avoid stepping on the bass guitarist's part.

I recommend you listen to the overall stage sound with one of your IEM earphones out (or buy a pair of Westone AM Pro earphones that have ports to allow you to hear the ambient stage sound. Err on the side of less sustain whenever you hear the least bit of muddiness. Consider playing more legato-style, where you control the sustain of each note individually.

Finally, do the other folks in the band, especially the leader, think there's a problem? I would discuss the sound guy's concerns with them and ask for their opinion about how it sounds on stage. Maybe have a band member listen to the audience mix if possible, too.
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Re: Sound guy says I use my sustain pedal too much

Post by MescaL636 »

You've probably got all the advice you need now anyway, but this thread really interested me so thought i'd throw in my 2c and agree with pretty much everything said here. For me it took me a long time playing keys in bands to slowly wean out using the sustain as much, playing sparser chords and dropping the left hand.

For a recent original band it was originally just me on piano, plus one guitarist and a singer. So I was covering the bass and rhythm. Added drums switched up Rhodes/Wurly/Organ and I was covering bass on a Moog. We play rock music mix of heavy QOTSA style things, some softer indie songs, all pretty over the place. Since we expanded to a 5 piece with bass/guitar/keys/drums/vocals, I was originally doubling up the bass lines for something to do with my LH and didn't think it sounded too muddy. Dropped that after hearing phone recordings in the practice room. Then just playing root notes or occasional syncopated one note rhythms within 1 octave of middle C to thicken up the chords, and add movement to my playing. Now we've recorded 10 songs in a studio and i'm going back through them removing the LH keys bass in the majority of songs and also minimising use of sustain. When you have all the stems and really hear what you're doing in a mix, you realise it's often not adding anything and you're just sacrificing clarity.

One song that has piano as the centre piece though has sustain all over it and i'm happy with that as it carries the song. Unfortunately, I didn't realise how squeaky my keyboard sustain pedal was and so now have hours of spectral editing ahead of me to remove that from the drum mics.

Sorry if I missed it if someone already suggested, but as another option is your sound guy able to record your live gigs? Would you be able to get him to bounce out the stems so you could listen to your keys in the whole band context and work collaboratively to adjust your playing?
Last edited by MescaL636 on 25 Nov 2022, 14:45, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Sound guy says I use my sustain pedal too much

Post by DeanOfMuse »

Not sure exactly what you mean by using the sustain pedal too much. Does this soundman think that you are holding down the sustain pedal in-between chord changes too much?
Perhaps you aren't lifting your foot up off of the pedal in between chord changes enough. ???
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Re: Sound guy says I use my sustain pedal too much

Post by StuartR »

playsabadguitar wrote:
PScooter63 wrote:My response is biased, because I never use IEMs - the group I currently play with is 70% acoustic (horns and drummer are unmiked, bass player has his own cabinet). We play ballroom dance gigs, about as nerdy a musical niche as you’ll find.

My school years were spent playing in wind bands, where you HAVE to listen to each other, PLUS the room, and balance yourselves accordingly. Or get kicked out.

I think your sound guy is doing his job, which includes accounting for the room. Keyboard sustain has its place, but a little can go a long way, depending upon your genre.

Try foregoing your “perfect” monitor feed, and start listening to the space, assuming that is practical for your gigs. You don’t want him to resort to gating your feed (shudder).
The IEMs are practical and make a lot of things easier, but I actually don't like them for this exact reason. We actually aren't listening to each other and how we sound in the room. We all have different mixes that we set to our liking. At the next gig, I could try one IEM in and one ear free. Unfortunately, the speakers are in front of us, so I don't know what I could hear.
Well, I'd suggest that all your band members stop using custom mixes and just use the front of house mix. That way you'll know how you sound in relation to everyone else. Takes a bit of getting used to the fact that your instrument isn't as prominent as you're used to but in most cases, it shouldn't be. This advice is particularly relevant if your band doesn't have a dedicated sound person.
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