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Contributor - Level 2

Keyboard mono or stereo to FOH?

I would appreciate some input on this subject:

Usualy musicians insist on having their keyboard, synth, electric piano, etc. run stereo to FOH.
I (the soundguy) always want to run them mono to FOH.
(most of the time the left Jack provides a full range signal, if nothing is inserted in the right Jack)

How do you guys work on this subject? And why?
AnthonieHunter Contributor - Level 2 08-05-2017

08-05-2017

Keyboard mono or stereo to FOH?

I would appreciate some input on this subject:

Usualy musicians insist on having their keyboard, synth, electric piano, etc. run stereo to FOH.
I (the soundguy) always want to run them mono to FOH.
(most of the time the left Jack provides a full range signal, if nothing is inserted in the right Jack)

How do you guys work on this subject? And why?

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Contributor - Level 3

Re: Keyboard mono or stereo to FOH?

(Providing I've got the spare channels) I generally run two channels to keep the musician happy. Generally if they're happy and confident in themselves and in what their sound engineer is doing they perform better, and improving the signal quality at the source is a good thing for everyone.

Running the two channels gives me the option of stereo IEMs if I need. Some keyboard patches aren't stereo, but rather dual-mono, eg the bottom couple of octaves on the synth do a string pad, and above that is a piano sound, or perhaps it's brass and strings. Having the 2 channels there means I get one sound on each channel and I can mix them separately.

That said, just because I run 2 channels doesn't necessarily mean when I put them in FOH I'll hard-pan them. I might keep them both panned centre. How far they're panned off centre (if at all) will come down to the venue shape\size, the PA, and its placement. If it's a solo pianist and a vocal I'll probably pan them fairly wide (assuming the speaker coverage is such that people on the left can still hear the right speaker and vice-versa so no one misses out,) so as to give some space for the vocal and have it coming straight up the middle. With a bigger band on the stage I might pan both piano channels the same direction, away from the guitars (they're usually on opposite sides of the stage anyway.) I find this can help separate the instruments a bit. One piano channel might be panned slightly harder than the other to give a little bit of a spread, so it's still kind-of-stereo, but it's not hard-panned. Having a bit of space between both channels also make glissandos sound cool.

Bottom line is "it depends," but running 2 channels gives you more flexibility. It's not like you can't crunch it to mono later via a subgroup or panning. The only downside is you have to remember to put both sides in the monitors, remember to operate both the faders\mutes together. Stereo-linking can help here. The only reason I'd only run one channel is if the keyboardist asked for it, or I'd run out of channels\cables\DIs etc.

Edit: Another option is to run mono out of the keyboard and then y-split later on onto two channels, and eq each separately. If you're liberal with your eq filters you can get the low piano sound on one channel and the high piano sound on the other channel, and pan accordingly. So yeah, lots of options, but running 2 channels directly out of the keyboard gives you the most flexibility later on, so I'd do that.
Contributor - Level 3

We Organists are the Worst...

Anthonie Hunter;128851 wrote:
Usualy musicians insist on having their keyboard, synth, electric piano, etc. run stereo to FOH.
I (the soundguy) always want to run them mono to FOH.
First of all, I want to affirm your desire to let everyone in FOH hear everything that is playing.

The main reason I sometimes ask the FOH guy for stereo is that the organ's Leslie rotating speaker system (or a simulation thereof) is full of motion, different for each ear, and loses some of its impact in monaural. I am happy to have my other sounds in mono.
-Tom Williams
Volunteer Moderator

Re: Keyboard mono or stereo to FOH?

Most keyboard players relies heavily on factory presets or slight variations of them. The problem is that most patches are programmed to be stereo and will sound different/weak due to phasing if they are mono summed (inserting only one cable in most synths will create a summed mono signal). This is also true for some guitar rigs running modeling amps/fx.

Because of this I always route a synth as a stereo signal and will fully pan both channels in the FoH. My FoH is always wired so that I can run a stereo signal.
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Contributor - Level 2

Re: Keyboard mono or stereo to FOH?

Guys, thanks for your input.

I agree on both the split keyboard and the Leslie speaker.
But most of the time I am dealing with synth and electric piano.

Most electric pianos have the outputs designed to have the Bass part on Left and Treble on Right. That is fine if you play at home, because the Bass strings are Left in front of you and the Treble strings on the right. Sounds natural in your living room.
But if you are in a concert room with an orchestra on stage, that has a grand piano on the right of that stage, the audience hears that complete piano coming from the right part of the stage.
If I have a stereo electric piano through FOH the sound dances through the room from left to right, depending on where the musician plays, which sounds unnatural to me.
And if you have a wide room, the left part of the audience hears only the Bass part of the piano and vice versa.

If I have that same piano mono through FOH than I am able to give that full range pianosound a perfect place (panned) in the mix, which sounds more natural to me.

And most pianists that insist to have their piano in stereo use a single wedge on stage (in mono) and are perfectly happy with that Smiley Wink
Contributor - Level 2

Re: Keyboard mono or stereo to FOH?

Instead of thinking stereo, think two channels.. My rig sounds far better using both channels (L/R) than it does using just one.. For me, its a requirement specified in the stage plot/ IO list.


Pan it where you want to make the sound field correct.. I wouldn't hard pan a Leslie.. Like running true stereo, where the audience is in the room determines what they hear.. A Leslie is going to be an empty sound half the time.. There is only one working horn, the other is merely for balance.