Backing tracks and vocals through the same PA system

Here’s a question I was asked about whether you should put your vocals through the same PA as your backing tracks…

Kenny,
Just recently purchased NUMARK Ipod Mixer. its awsome. I do have A QUESTION REGARDING VOCALS AND PA SYSTEM. Should I be singing out of the same speaker that the music (The backing Track) is coming out of, or do i have to spend more money, get another amp and another set of speakers and seperate the vocals from the music for live shows? I would prefer to sing out of the 2 main speakers and also use those main speakers for the backing trax as well. Your help is appreciated.
Thanks.

Hi

Yes, the Numark iPod mixer has been getting some great reviews.

If your PA system is big enough and powerful enough to handle both your vocals and the music for the size of venue your playing, then there is no need to have seperate vocal PA and a seperate music PA.

I recommend you put everything through the one system. Just make sure it’s a big enough system to handle all the music and vocals and make sure it’s full range (ie your PA contains bass speakers as well as mid-range, horns or tweeters).

The idea of seperating vocals and instruments has its roots in the old “band” days when a band would be made up of, say, a couple of guitarists, a drummer, and maybe keyboard player. Each individual musician would have his own individual amp/speaker combo beside him on stage so a couple of extra speakers would be pushed to the front of the stage for the singer. The singers two speakers were referred to as “the PA”. Any members of the band who could sing would have their microphones plugged in to “the PA” too but the sound of their instrument would remain only coming out of their combo speaker/amp beside them.

However with a “band” style of set up (which is still just as popular today by the way!), there is an obvious problem when the band are called on to play in a really large venue where their individual instrument amp/speaker combos are not loud enough to fill the venue.

So they solve this problem by using an exceptionally large PA system out front and “pipe” some of the sound of their instruments through the PA system (i.e. the musicians will “mic up” their combos). You’ll often see guitarists with their little combo amps beside them on stage and a microphone sitting in front of the speaker part. That microphone is picking up the sound from his combo amp and sending it to the PA to give extra volume. The drummer will usually “mic up” his drum kit and put it through the main PA too.

A sound engineer will normally sit on the PA systems mixing desk and he controls the volumes and balances of all the instruments and vocals that are coming out the big front-of-house PA.

Monitor speakers (sometimes called foldback) are normally be provided for the singer although the musicians can usually monitor (hear) what they are playing from their combo amps on the stage beside them.

This is still the way many bands play today when playing large venues.

Sound systems have come a long way and unless you are working in a band consisting of more than 2 or 3 musicians, then you’ll usually achieve a much nicer, rounded, balanced sound by putting your backing tracks and your vocals all through the one full-range PA system (with perhaps a little monitor on the stage beside you for venues where your PA is out in front of you).

For solo acts playing in small to medium venues, seperating everything through different PA’s or speaker systems rarely works to your advantage.

I remember one musician many years ago who used an old Tascam Portastudio for his backing tracks. He had bass on one track, drums on another, guitar on another, and he played piano and sang live on top. He routed the bass to a Marshall bass amp and speaker , the drums to a full-range Peavy combo and the guitar to a Fender twin-reverb combo. His idea was that his backing tracks would sound ike a real band because all the instruments were coming from the areas on the stage you would expect them to come from if you were listening to a real live band…

Sadly it just sounded like an almighty mess and a mush of sound!

It just goes to show that when it comes to music, what sounds as if it should work in theory, and what really works in practice, are often two different things.

I hope I’ve helped somewhat and not clouded the issue even more!

Best Regards

Kenny