Tom Lang is determined that these sounds “will be assimilated.”
Have you been all set up at a gig to sing your heart out and then discovered an annoying buzz or hum?
These are sneaky little noises that can undermine your concentration and the focus of your audience.
In the tangle of wires and mounds of equipment, many singers give up on eliminating these noises.
Don’t let your performance be compromised.
There are entire manuals written on this subject, but I’ll focus on the most practical tips for a singing gig at a modest venue with a small PA.
1. Put Your Audio Gear on Same Power Bar.
…and plug this into a single power outlet. You will be surprised how much gear will run without blowing a circuit breaker. Lighting gear usually consumes most of your available power so it should definitely be connected to a separate circuit.
2. Get Ground Connectors In Tact
Ensure that every piece of audio equipment that has a power cable (not an adaptor) with its third ground connector intact.
3. Locate the Hum Inducer
OK, this is a little harder but if everybody’s hooked up and the pa’s buzzing or humming, it may be due to a single input to the mixer such as mics, keyboards, or effects. Successively mute each channel if your mixer has mute buttons; if it doesn’t, just pull out and replace each input (in turn) listening for a reduction in hum. When phantom power is on, lower the main pa volume before physically pulling each input.
4. Fix the Humming Input
For instrument-induced hum: (a) relocate its ac power to the same outlet as the pa, (b) use a direct box [DI] to connect to the mixer, and (c) make sure its power cable has a ground connector if originally equipped with one.
5. Know Your Ground Lift Button
It’s less likely that you have microphone induced hum as many mics are not generally plugged into a power source. It can occur, however, if you are using a voice processor such as a Harmony-G or VoiceLive 2 that has connections to a guitar amp and a pa system simultaneously. Get to know where the ground lift button is on your processor and use it when hum strikes.
6. Check the Lighting Dimmers
Often, lighting dimmers will cause hum so you may have to turn the house lights up full, turn some off, or as a last resort, play loud to drown it out!
7. Bring The Long Extension Cord
You’ve connected all your audio gear to one ac plug. Now you need a separate outlet for your lights –and the outlets on the stage aren’t marked. Short of becoming an electrician, start by asking someone in charge at the venue, as, surely, you’re not the first band to play there. If it’s a house party ask the host. Usually, physical distance between outlets is a good indicator that a circuit is on a separate breaker so bring an extension cord along. (Make sure to string it where no one can trip). Lastly, if you are able to find the main electrical panel, check to see if each outlet is labeled as to its location.
Tom Lang’s career has spanned everything from playing postage-stamp sized stages to international headlining tours for up to 40,000 rabid fans. By day he’s a product manager at TC-Helicon, where his singing experience and extensive use of audio products provides invaluable feedback on performance in diverse environments. Tom regularly sings and plays guitar, keyboards and fiddle in several bands. For examples of Tom’s music and more info, check out www.tomlangmusic.com.