Using Vocal Effects at a Venue

Emma Hewitt in performance in Honolulu
Emma Hewitt describes how she controls her own sound - in any venue.

How do I actually use an effects box when I show up to a venue?

Answered by Emma Hewitt, top of the charts singer-songwriter, videos have reached over 25 million views. This is an excerpt from The Ultimate Guide to Singing, the most comprehensive book on the market for covering on all aspects of singing.

It’s really simple and easy to use: plug your mic into your vocal effects processor and run a cord to the sound desk. That’s it. 

I usually ask the sound engineer to patch my effects unit in direct line with the mic signal as you would with a guitar pedal. The tone button is always engaged to provide some crispness and a touch of “mastering” to the vocals and just makes everything sound brighter and better.

For me, performing live vocals to a mastered dance track, there is the issue of bridging the separation between the mastered track and the live vocal, and the tone function is essential for that.

When There’s a Sound Engineer

Quite often sound engineers want me to use the effects on their desks, but I like to control the effects I use — which are the same as on my recordings. I understand their effects may be amazing, but if I can control my own delay, reverb and modulation it allows me to experiment on the fly and make that part of the performance and I also know exactly where I want the long delay to trail over and when I want the vocal to flange … I can tap the tempo and switch effects off when I am speaking to the audience, that type of thing. 

Most of the time engineers are actually grateful that their job is made easier once they hear how the unit sounds during sound check.

Avoiding the “Muddy” Tone

I’ve performed in some clubs that aren’t set up specifically for live vocals — when you introduce a microphone into these types of acoustic environments, the feedback can be horrendous!

You hope there’s a capable sound engineer at the desk who can remove the EQ on the problem frequencies — which are usually the high ones. But once this happens, my tone can sound muddy. This is when I take control with my unit, making things sound brighter — there’s even an adaptive gate on my VoiceLive 2 that reduces feedback. 

My unit has been a lifesaver more times than I can remember; once I turned up for a show in Egypt and the sound guy came over and asked ME how to turn the sound system on! It turns out that he was in charge of the lighting and the venue thought he could also manage the sound as well! So, I just turned the system on, plugged in my effects box into my mic channel and my mic into my box. I was able to manage the sound myself. 

—from The Ultimate Guide to Singing: All aspects of a singer’s life are covered in this ultimate companion to your singing with Top Actions for Moving Ahead with Your Singing, Sound and Career. Contributed to by Over 100 professional contributors with 94 Grammys and Grammy nominations, 193 Books, 1,772 Albums and 280 million YouTube hits!

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