We’re continuing our discussions with veteran independent touring engineer Dave Natale, this time focusing on pre-production. (See the first article here.)
Dave’s prepared for band rehearsals, production rehearsals, and tours countless times, with pre-production rehearsals a critical process, where many important issues can be resolved before an act hits the road.
Here are a few thoughts from Dave to consider when getting ready for a tour and transitioning to shows.
Talk To Everyone
“When planning for band rehearsals, if it’s an act I’ve not mixed before, I start by talking with the production manager, who will usually have a copy of the stage and mic info from the previous tour. This is usually an excellent source of information.
“Next I usually talk with the backline crew. These are folks you spend a lot of time with, and they’re critical to your success. They understand their artists and can offer a lot of insight. Finally, I speak with the artists directly to make sure I have all of their preferences covered.
“Always provide a copy of all documentation you generate—mic chart, console files if you’re mixing digital, etc.—to the production manager. There are circumstances where an engineer may get sick or self-implode, and having a complete set of documentation in the production office can be helpful in maintaining continuity.
“Once your research is complete, it’s time to start on a shop order. The front of house engineer generally picks the mics, so talk with the sound company, review gear requirements, and usually you can get what you want. When I started with a number of clients, there was already a mic chart from the previous engineer.
“I have rather simple tastes in mics, so typically it’s out with the Neumann U87s and in with models from Shure, Sennheiser, and Electro-Voice. Dedicating the necessary time at this stage is essential to insuring you have the gear you need when arriving at rehearsals.
“One other important note: you must fit in with the backline crew. They were there before you, and will probably be there after you’re gone. They can make life easy or miserable, so make friends and keep them. They have an even more direct path to the artists than most engineers. A mutual respect here will go a long way to your success.”