Dude, Nice Third Rack Tom Sound… Getting Our Priorities Straight

A simple, straightforward gig-saving approach

By Kevin Bridges October 22, 2012

The drone went on forever. They came to rock, but that was not in the cards.

It might be 400 Hz, that’s got to be it; nope not that… Maybe it’s the attack time; nope… Release time… that’s gotta be it.

The sweat that previously had been but a mere annoyance is now a puddle on the brow of the well meaning engineer, dripping directly on the bane of his existence. The trusty DS 201 had always previously done the job. Two swats on the tom, twist a couple of knobs and voila—the perfect tom sound.

Today there would be none of that. The drummer says it is the sound he is “going for,” so he will not re-tune the drum. Maybe some gaffer on the head? Nope, might leave sticky stuff on the rim… WE CANNOT HAVE THAT!

All right, back to the gate. Is it possible the insert return is not enabled? For the love of all that is holy, how was that overlooked? OK, that’s it, the tom sounds pretty close to awesome, and… the doors are open. People are flowing in via every orifice the building has to offer, which is causing the doomed soul to clench one of his own a little more than he would like.

This is not good. The tom rocks, no doubt, but the “Rock Diva’s” mic has not been put into the PA yet. Please, sweet Jesus … hold the doors. The ratio of 30 minutes of sound check time and 20 minutes of third rack tom has not worked out. The perfectly mixed half a drum kit will not wow those who have come to rock. Somebody is getting fired tonight.

You can insert a scenario into this story line for whatever part of the business you’re in. Maybe you spent most of your tweak time making the transition between the mains and the center fill seamless, only to overlook a trivial detail like listening to the CEO’s lavalier. The center fill covered nothing but an aisle and the lavalier fed back incessantly. This is not exactly your best use of time.

The examples detailed here are not necessarily exclusive to card-carrying dolts. We as humans are very susceptible to unreasonably focusing on trivial details only to overlook what is much more important. The trick is to realize that we’re all capable of this unreasonable level of focus.

Maybe you were distracted by what you will face during your work day, only to forget to apply deodorant. You know you’ve done it, we all have. The trick is to recognize when this is happening and have a plan of action in place. This plan should take care of all of the important things first, and leave the bells and whistles until last.

Pilots have a check list to go over before each flight ,and another that is used for emergency situations. When the list is not checked, there is a chance people will die. Fortunately, as engineers, we are limited in our life-taking capacity. Sure, we’ve all heard mixes we thought would kill us, but we can benefit from the same life saving, or better put, gig-saving approach.

If you have a tried and true method that you use regularly, chances are that important things like the vocal mic or the CEO’s lavalier will not be overlooked. They will be high on the list of priorities. It will seem weird when they’re overlooked, and that will be your first indication you’re focusing on something that really might not be that important.

The first time this weirdness overwhelms you, commit the feeling to memory, and use it in the future. Then, each time the feeling creeps in, take step back and look at the job as a whole. Go through your list of priorities, whether they are committed to memory or actually written down, and make sure all of the important stuff is covered.

If you’ve covered all of your bases, by all means, focus away.

If not, get your head out of the tightly clinched region of the aforementioned engineer and complete the list.

Kevin Bridges is the audio systems manager at LMG Inc., a national provider of audio, video and lighting support based in Orlando.


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