Front Ensemble Amplification

I am looking at amplification for my front ensemble next year, but I have ZERO knowledge and experience with amplifying the front ensemble.  I need a ";Mic your Pit for Dummies"; book, but unfortunately there isn't one.  So starting from ground zero, can someone offer some advice on what I need, and how much I need?  I have been reading up on Mic'ing the pit here on the forum, but it'll help a lot if someone can offer a step by step approach from what to buy, through having it functioning at rehearsal (this could be asking a bit too much).  However, if this has been previously posted, just point me in the right direction. Thanks in advance!

Here is our instrumentation:  Marimbas (2), Vibes (2), Timpani (4), Auxiliary-(basically ";Rack Combo A"; in VD 2.5)

I would love to read a primer on this as well. I am an acoustical consultant at my ";real job"; so I have experience with audio equipment, but not much practical experience using said equipment.
Here is a post I wrote over at, [url=]here is the rest of the thread[/url].  Also, [url=]this thread is very insightful in setting up the pit in general, but some really great tips with amps as well.[/url]

I just wanted to talk a little bit about setting the levels for the soundboard in the pit. It can look kind of scary, but I promise you once you get some basic understanding, you'll be fine.

A common misconception is that if you want a channel to go louder ( 11) you just move the slider up, and call it good. What you want to do, is set all of your channels at ";0"; (this is not the bottom of the fader). Then, you adjust the gain (it's usually the highest nob knob above the slider) of each keyboard, with the player playing as loud as they can until you get feedback. Once you get to feedback, turn the gain back a little bit, this is the maximum amount of sound you will be able to get.

Once you have the maximum volume for each channel, have the ensemble play together at FFF, and turn up the Main Volume, until you get feedback, then turn it down slightly. This is the MAXIMUM volume your system, with your players can put out with out feeding back, put some tape down, and mark a line so that you know where your limit is. After you have your limit, then you can figure out exactly how much sound reinforcement you want to use, but it can't be any higher than your maximum volume.

*It should be noted that the main cause of feedback is mic to speaker placement. Make sure your mic is A) Not pointing at the speaker at all, B) your speakers are in front of your mics, and that C) your speaker and mic are a safe distance apart

After you set the sound levels, it's time to make it sound good. Almost all mixers allow you to adjust at LEAST the High, and Low Frequencies. Most mixers you'll see will also allow you to adjust the middle frequencies. This is where you're going to get the most benefit, in my opinion, from amplifying the pit. Since the higher pitches of a marimba will project, we don't need to worry so much about them. Have your player play something in the low/mid range of the instrument. Slowly turn up the ";Low"; knob to hear more of, the LOW end (duh). This will make the instrument sound much fuller, be careful though, too much low end will make everything sound muddy. With vibes you want to make sure that the ";High"; knob is not turned up
to high, or else it will amplify a lot of the High overtones and it will sound thin and shrill. Go through the same process as the marimba.

Once you have the sound that you like, it's time to pan the instruments. Most pit writing nowadays has at least SOME stereophonic writing. Without panning the mixer, all channels will come out both the left and right speakers equally, killing that stereophonic effect. The pan knob is usually the first knob above the slider of each channel. Start with your middle channel at zero, and then equally pan each channel outside of that a little bit more (or less) than zero.

Once you have the levels set, you really shouldn't have to adjust it much during the show except the main, and even then most of that should fall on the responsibilities of the performer. Although, if it's too loud, or not loud enough, always good to have a signal with whomever is closest to the board to turn the main up or down.

This came out a TON longer than I wanted. It's not meant to be the end all be all in sound mixing, just what I've found to work in our activity, please chime in with what you've found works or doesn't work, I'm always looking to do things better.

Hello to all, and happy holidays!

After a couple weeks of research, I came across an article at that was published by Mike McIntosh.  Here is a link to the article:  ; :  For those of you who don't want to go to the website, here is a list of what the blue coast used for amplifying their front ensemble in 2007. 

The Bluecoats ELECTRONICS Guide

                             Front Ensemble Amplification Set-Up

• Yamaha 01V96 Digital Mixing Console*
• M-Audio Octane 8 Channel Pre-amp and A/D Converter*
• Furman M-8L Power Conditioner*
• dbx Driverack Z60 Complete Equalization and Loudspeaker Management
• Yamaha P5000S Power Amplifier*
• CBL Performer Series 18 Channel Snake
• Yamaha CM15V Speaker System*
• Yamaha CM118V Sub-woofer*
• Planet Waves XLR Mic Cables
• Audio Technica Pro 37 Microphones
• Shure SM57 and 58 Vocal Microphones
• Audio Technica ATM 25 Dynamic Microphone
• Audio Technica Clip Mics (Kit Toms)

“Digital Aerobics” Set-Up

• Apple G4 Powerbook
• Propellerhead Reason Digital Sequencing Program
• M-Audio Firewire Solo
• Samson S-Phone Headphone Mixer/Amp
• Gator BRB-3U 3-Space Portable Soft Rack
• Yamaha Studio Headphones
• Planet Waves Firewire Cable
• 10 ft Planet Waves Stereo Cable
• 10 ft Planet Waves ¼” to ¼” Cable
• Planet Waves Headphone Extension Cable
• 50 ft. Speak-on Speaker Cable

This article is really cool!  It covers everything from drumline technique to front ensemble amplification.  In terms of answering my original post, this article covers what I would need to buy.  Also, I have a really good friend who recently graduated from SAE Institute of Technology- Nashville-Audio Technology Program, and he has sent me a list of recommendations for a cheaper solution to amplifying the front ensemble, kind of a ";budget minded band program"; list.  If anyone would like this list, just let me know. 
Okay, I am starting to get a grip on the whole amplification process, but I have one last question. I am considering only amplifying the mallet percussion (2 marimbas and 2 vibes), if I do it this way, would I need a subwoofer?  Do any of you guys recommend amplifying the non-mallet percussion instruments?  The band isn't very large ( historically speaking the band has been about 90-120 max).  Chime in if you have an suggestions or advice.  Thanks in advance!

Ricky Morrow
Best thing to do is check the frequency range of your planned loudspeakers, and then compare with the lowest notes on your marimbas.
More information now that I'm at work:
A 4-octave marimba will go down to 131 Hz (C3)
A 4.3-octave marimba will go down to 110 Hz (A2)
A 4.5-octave marimba will go down to 87 Hz (F2)
A 5-octave marimba will go down to 65 Hz (C2)
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