Technician

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Church Sound: Planning An Upgrade? Do It Right The First Time

This article is an excerpt from the book, “Basic Training for the Church Audio Technician.”

One thing that often leads to a tech learning about their system quickly is the upgrade or construction process. When gear is replaced or a new system is installed, plenty of opportunities arise to learn quickly.

There are few ways to learn faster, than when you are trying to solve a problem. Something failed. Something changed and requires different equipment. New construction that requires a completely different system than the current one. These situations have forced me to read more manuals, product reviews and user forums than I would ever have volunteered for.

When you have to replace some or all of a system, you are about to get a quick education. It’s tougher in the church than it is in most other production environments. Budget restrictions force you to get the most bang for your buck almost every time. You need gear that will do the job effectively, last forever, be user friendly enough to be operated by volunteers and still fit the budget.

Once you know that an upgrade or installation is necessary, you get to make another decision. Install it yourself or hire someone.

If you do it yourself, make sure you are prepared to deal with the real logistics. Permits, inspections, electrical issues, safety and rigging issues, etc. You also might need to check in with your insurance folks. Just in case.

Even if you have the skills and knowledge to do it yourself, it’s worth getting some quotes. The installers and designers often have access to the latest and greatest that you may not know about. They may see things in your room that you don’t. They may have some very valuable advice to consider before writing that check.

If you find someone that offers great advice with a great attitude, hire them. Even if you are determined to install it yourself, it’s usually worth the expense to have a paid consultant to help with the design and assist with the installation.

I have a sore spot for churches that call techs out, ask thousands of questions, make ridiculous demands and still never pay the tech a dime. It’s wrong. Offer to work out a consulting agreement or hire them to do the whole job. You can’t so that for all of them, but if someone offers truly valuable advice and concern, take care of them.

Some won’t work like that, some will. It shows high integrity on your part and develops relationships that will be far more beneficial than the few dollars you spend. You might even get new members as a result.

If you want it installed by a professional, there’s a few things to consider.

In a hundred or so installations, only one pastor ever told me that he didn’t care what it cost. He just wanted that room to rock. Everyone else wanted me to work miracles. A Ferrari system on a Hyundai budget. Almost every time. It’s normal. Budgets have to be considered.

I strongly recommend most churches get multiple quotes before spending any money. I strongly recommend insisting on itemized quotes that list every single item you are purchasing. I also recommend visiting or at least calling the other churches these installers have worked with before.

I suggest that you prepare to ask the right questions when following up with these references. Like…

— Did they honor their words and warranties?
— Did the system they installed operate as promised?
— Are you happy with the system?
— Has the recommended gear been dependable?
— Did the quote closely resemble the final invoice?
— Is there anything you wish you had done differently?

Before running out and throwing a credit card at the sales staff, you need to ask some very important questions. You need to know what you need.

I have watched other designers and installers meet with church staff. There was one fairly consistent pattern that I noticed. When these guys came in asking questions and becoming familiar with the real needs of the church, the systems were usually wonderful. When they began telling the staff what they recommended, without asking questions, it was usually a disaster. Some installers already know what gear they plan to use without any regard to the needs of the church. I also suggest asking about training the entire tech crew and having the installer agree to run the first service with you.

Be skeptical of anyone who can tell you what gear you need without even knowing what kind of services you run. A church with one piano and one singer does not need the same rig as one with a full band. A two hundred seat room will not get the same system as a two thousand seat room. Those will be completely different systems.
Your new system should be tailored to your needs and budget.

You need to ask a lot of questions, before spending any money.

— What do I love or hate about my current system?
— What changes have I always wanted?
— What is still worth keeping and what needs to go?
— Do I need to replace it or just repair it?
— How many channels am I currently using, how many do I really need?
— Am I mixing the same band at every service?
— Do we need a lot of flexibility for different groups?
— How much of a budget do we have to work with?

Ask a lot of questions. Consider the answers carefully.

This might sound like an endless and complicated process, because it is. You are installing something that will affect every event in that room for years. No church does multiple installations in the same year. Once you put it in, you have to live with it.

You need it to be right the first time.

Senior editor .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) has worked in professional audio for more than 20 years in live, install, and recording. Read more of his random rants and tirades here.

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Posted by House Editor on 03/16 at 05:59 AM
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Tuesday, March 15, 2016

SynAudCon Bringing In-Person Seminars To Australia & New Zealand

Technication’s Matt Vance kicking off program with presentation of Core Principals of Audio seminar in Melbourne, Sydney and Auckland

SynAudCon has announced an arrangement with Australia-based AV training provider Technication to bring its in-person audio education seminars to Australia and New Zealand on a regular basis.

Acting as SynAudCon’s local agent, Technication’s Matt Vance will deliver the seminars, commencing April 2016.

The first seminar offered is the two-day “Core Principles of Audio,” which covers the essential theory of audio and focuses on what practitioners need to know to effectively deploy and operate a sound system.

Topics such as signal flow, component interconnection, grounding, loudspeaker placement, microphone basics and mixer setup are covered in a manner that is applicable to both installation and live production sound systems alike.

The course is open to anyone with an interest in strengthening their audio knowledge, from beginners looking for a solid grounding in audio theory to professionals looking to solidify their fundamental knowledge.

“We’re extremely pleased to be working with Matt at Technication,“ state SynAudCon owners Pat and Brenda Brown. “We’ve enjoyed watching his progress with Technication and are confident that they will represent SynAudCon well.  We’re absolutely delighted that SynAudCon’s Core Principles of Audio will be taught regularly in Australia and New Zealand.”

“Attending a SynAudCon seminar in 2013 was a light bulb moment,” Vance adds. “It allowed me to see first-hand how complex audio concepts can be made understandable in an easily accessible way. Technication has given me the perfect vehicle to bring SynAudCon’s unique educational approach to our part of the world, and I’m excited to be able to offer their renowned, high quality, audio training to my peers in our local industry.”

Vance, who holds degrees in physics and electronics engineering, combined his love of music and physics to work as an acoustical consulting engineer specializing in architectural acoustics. He has also worked as a technical trainer for an Australian distributor of professional audio products, providing certification training and technical support for both ClearOne and Symetrix DSP platforms. Along with co-founder Matt Davies, he launched Technication in 2015 with the goal of delivering technical training specifically for the audio visual industry.

The Core Principles of Audio seminar is approved for 16 Infocomm CTS Renewal Units, and will be held in Australia and New Zealand throughout 2016. The first three dates:

May 3-4, 2016 – Melbourne, VIC
May 10-11, 2016 – Sydney, NSW
May 17-18, 2016 – Auckland, NZ

Go here to learn more and register for SynAudCon training provided by Technication.

SynAudCon

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Posted by Keith Clark on 03/15 at 04:14 PM
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Monday, March 14, 2016

Behind The Glass: Producer/Engineer Joe Chiccarelli On Being A Sonic “Chameleon”

Editor’s note: This originally ran in 2011 as an excerpt from Howard Massey’s “Behind The Glass Volume II,” which features more than 40 all-new, exclusive in-depth interviews with many of the world’s top producers and engineers.

Joe Chiccarelli is a chameleon.

Not literally, of course. But unlike many producers whose sonic stamp is immediately recognizable (a Roy Thomas Baker or a John Shanks, for example), you’d be hard pressed to identify a Joe Chiccarelli “sound.”

It’s hard to believe that the same individual who produced the rough-and-ready White Stripes’ Icky Thump was also responsible for the ephemeral, moody ambience of the Shins’ Wincing the Night Away or the smooth, slick jazz tones of Kurt Elling’s Night Moves.

But not only was it the same guy, it was a body of work that netted him a 2008 Grammy nomination for Producer of the Year.

Chat with the soft-spoken, self-effacing Chiccarelli for just a few minutes and it becomes apparent why artists in so many different genres gravitate to him.

“Honestly, I don’t think I’m confident enough in my abilities to have a sound and a strong direction,” he admits disarmingly. “It’s more important to me to study the song and the artist and figure out what’s strong about them and then help the record be the best it can be.”

Originally from Boston, Chiccarelli relocated to Los Angeles in the late 1970s after playing in a series of rock bands. Always interested in the technical aspects of music-making, he landed a job as an assistant engineer at Cherokee studios, but his big break didn’t come until the day that Frank Zappa’s regular engineer was held up in London with visa difficulties.

As low man on the totem pole, the 20-year-old Chiccarelli was given the assignment to work with the notoriously difficult and demanding artist. Seven albums later, he had a career.

Since then, Chiccarelli has worked with an astonishingly diversified group of artists, including Tori Amos, Oingo Boingo, Black Watch, American Music Club, and My Morning Jacket. And every album he works on, it seems, sounds totally different from every other album he’s ever worked on.

“When people ask me, ‘What’s your approach to producing records?’” Chiccarelli says laughingly, “my answer is, ‘Well, what day is this?’ But on a creative level I think I would be dead if I just made the same record over and over again. The personal challenge for me is to try to make something that’s unique to that artist.” Clearly, he’s succeeding.

What do you think it was that Frank Zappa saw in you that made him want to continue to work with you?

I think it was because I was very much an open book. At the time, my only experience was in making good, clean contemporary pop records, while Frank’s whole thing was to try the most outrageous things possible in order to make the music interesting and dynamic and over the top.

It was a new place for me, but I was very willing to go there. Perhaps he just viewed me as someone who hadn’t done a lot of records and so wouldn’t be as set in his ways or closed to new ideas.

Frank was all about breaking rules and challenging the norm. I learned pretty quickly during my first few days with him that you just didn’t say no. [laughs] He really had a great sense of the big picture.

Before I even had a chance to make a statement or try to do things my way, I realized that this was a guy who could see five steps down the line, so I had to learn to trust him and know that in the end it would be okay.

A lot of producers and engineers I’ve talked to have stressed how important it is to be ready when your big break comes. Looking back with hindsight, what preparations had you made to be ready for that moment?

To be honest, I didn’t know where the Frank thing would lead. I was fortunate in that I fell in with an artist who was a workaholic and went from one album to the next.

But I didn’t know at the time that this was going to be a break; I thought it would be a very transitory thing, that I would work with Frank for however many weeks and then go back to Cherokee and resume my assisting gig.

In terms of preparation, I’m not so sure that I did anything specific, but the one thing I tell people who want to become an engineer or producer is, “learn everything.” Not just engineering and music, but also learn about art, poetry, literature, psychology. The job really involves a lot of things, and it changes from project to project.

image

As someone who appreciates good sound, do you ever find it frustrating to work with an artist like Jack White, someone who’s into rough edges? Do you ever find yourself thinking, “if only we could work on this mix a little more we could get it sounding so much better?”

Yes, and there are many times where I will say something just like that: “Give me another half hour and let me fix this and fix that.” But the thing that makes rough mixes good is that you just kind of go for it, as opposed to laboring over it and making sure that every corner is polished and every little detail is in place.

That’s why they often find their way onto records, and that’s one of the things I respect about Jack: he’s so much about spontaneity and honesty - the reality of something - that he doesn’t want to spend a lot of time on sounds, on mixes, on anything.

Jack is a big fan of old-school recording; he’s the kind of guy who thinks that nothing’s sounded good since 1972. [laughs]

But if you go back and listen to a lot of the music from the ’60s and ’70s, the thing that it’s got more than anything else is a feel and an emotion. So I actually think Jack is correct in that things sometimes just get polished to death.

With the White Stripes, my basic role is to capture the performance and protect the energy and the magic that Jack and Meg have. And they’re a pretty powerful combination, I have to tell you.

I’ve recorded Jack now with three or four different drummers, but there’s a chemistry between him and Meg that’s unique. They’re so respectful with one another, and they work hard, and they push each other. Whatever people say about her abilities, it’s immaterial, because there’s something that she does that lets him do something very special.

Do you prefer to record digitally or to tape?

It really depends on the project. When I feel confident that the band has got it down in terms of performances and things will probably be just a matter of a few takes, then I’ll do it in analog.

With the White Stripes, we recorded to 16-track analog, which was Jack’s preference. But if it’s a situation where there’s still some uncertainty as to arrangements and structures, then I would choose the digital approach.

Having the Shins project done in Pro Tools was a godsend, because I was able to say to [singer/songwriter] James [Mercer] something like, “You know, it would be wonderful if the chorus happened again at the end,” or “Let’s put a whole new section in the middle with different textures, and let me show you real quickly how it could go.” Working digitally gave him lots of options.

For example, there’s a track on the album called Sea Legs where the chorus only happens twice in the song, and that was slated for release as a single. But for radio, sometimes that doesn’t really work.

So we tried doing the song with a more traditional pop structure, where there are three choruses and it ends on the chorus, and it worked, but we all felt that it was a little too normal-sounding. So we opted to go off on this crazy, quirky, almost Latin jam thing because it sounded really exciting when the song took a big left turn, and that’s the version we used for the album.

But when it came time to prepare the track for a single release, we went back and used the file that had a shortened jam section and a third chorus at the end.

Both analog and digital work fine, and they each have their strengths and weaknesses, and their own distinctive tonality. To me, it’s like having another microphone or compressor to choose from.

But even when I record digitally, my goal is still to get the sounds the way I want them on the way in. I’ve always taken that approach, and everyone I ever learned from back when I was just starting out took that approach.

In those days, you were limited track-wise, so my attitude was, every time you put up the faders to do a rough mix, that was your record, or at least it was 90 percent the way you wanted it. I viewed mixing as a process of balancing and refining, not reinventing, and that’s still my attitude.

What do you think it is that makes a song great?

In any kind of pop song, you want to be able to tune in and tune out at the same time. In other words, you want it to engulf you and captivate you every second of the way, but you also want it to take over your body in the sense that you don’t want to have to work too hard; you want to be able to turn off and just kind of sing along.

I think great songs work that way, in that you can view them from afar or be really inside them, just like a great painting or a great movie.

What do you think is the most important quality in a successful producer?

I think the more you are a fan of the music and are moved by it, the better the job you will do with it. And if you are really in love with the music, you will protect the artist’s integrity at all costs, and that’s all-important.

Of course, you do need to know a little of the technical side of making records as well as the musical side of it, but mostly you need to be well-rounded as a person. I’m always inspired by people that create works that are long-lasting, in any art form.

I think that what we do can sometimes be a very ephemeral thing, and I’m always awestruck by the Bob Ezrins and the George Martins in this business - people who have made records that will indeed last for a long, long time.

But I often try to gain my inspiration from art forms other than pop music - painting, or filmmaking, or novels, or great architecture: something that’s been around a hundred years, created by some guy who really broke all the rules.

If I go to a museum on a Sunday and I get motivated by some new young painter or sculptor, that’s more fuel for me to go into my medium and try to do the best that I can do.

Suggested Listening:
Frank Zappa: Joe’s Garage, Zappa, 1979
My Morning Jacket: Evil Urges, ATO, 2008
The White Stripes: Icky Thump, Warner Bros., 2007
The Shins: Wincing the Night Away, Sub Pop, 2007
Kurt Elling: Night Moves, Concord, 2007
American Music Club: San Francisco, Reprise, 1994

To acquire “Behind The Glass: Volume II” from Backbeat Books, click over to www.musicdispatch.com.

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Posted by Keith Clark on 03/14 at 04:23 PM
RecordingFeatureProductionAudioAnalogDigitalDigital Audio WorkstationsEngineerMixerStudioTechnicianPermalink

Thursday, March 10, 2016

PSW Top 5 Articles For February 2016

ProSoundWeb presents at least two feature articles every day of the working week, meaning that there are 40-plus long-form articles highlighted each and every month.

That’s a lot. In fact, so much so that we got to thinking that it would be handy to present a round-up of the most-read articles for those who might have missed at least some of them the first time around.

What follows is the top 5 most-read articles on PSW for the month of February 2016. Note that since the articles aren’t all posted at the same time, we apply the same timeframe (length of time) for each when measuring total readership.

Also note that immediately following the top 5, PSW editor Keith Clark offers some additional suggestions of recently published articles worth checking out. These articles also scored quite well in terms of readership but were just outside the head of the list.

Without further adieu, here are the top 5 articles on PSW in February.

1. Taking The Direct Route
A “master class” from a veteran live engineer on DI (direct box) design principles, approaches and applications. By Mark Frink

2. It’s All About The Bass
Evolution, facts and theories about the low end of the spectrum—how we got here, and making it even better. By Andy Coules

3. Cheap Trick: Touring With Abandon
No gig too big, no hall to small for a truly iconic rock band (and the sound team) on its latest concert tour. By Greg DeTogne

4. Creating Mood In The Studio Mix
Ideas and approaches to building the “sonic illusions” that can help take a song to the next level. By Bruce A. Miller

5. To Upgrade Systems & Technology… Or Not?
A detailed five-step process for thinking through and evaluating technology upgrade options and purchases. By Mike Sessler

Editor Recommendations

Shocking Situations
Exposing failures in AC outlet testing that can be hazardous (and more) on both live stages and in recording studios. By Mike Sokol

Press Conference Audio Distribution
Meeting the increased demand for providing quality feeds for myriad users as the political season gears up. By Al Keltz

The Way Forward On The Front Lines
A long-time independent audio pro talks about getting (and keeping) the gig, earning repeat business, building a career and more. By Nicholas Radina

Great-Sounding Drums Using Only Four Tracks
If you’re looking for an earthy, realistic kit sound that can easily be manipulated, try this out… By Ward Lionel Kremer

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Posted by Keith Clark on 03/10 at 02:18 PM
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Wednesday, March 09, 2016

d&b audiotechnik To Host Electroacoustics Seminar In London

Oran Burns of d&b Education and Application Support will present the seminar at the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama.

On Tuesday 22nd March, Oran Burns of d&b audiotechnik Education and Application Support will present the d&b Electroacoustics seminar at the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, in London.

The focus of the session is ‘achieving intelligibility’ and the day is pitched at anyone wishing to broaden their knowledge and understanding of the principles of electroacoustics for sound system design and engineering.

“The seminar covers the basics in an accessible and fun way through practical demonstrations,” explains Burns. “It’s been evolved over the last fifteen years and has become something of an industry standard.”

The Electroacoustics seminar is suitable for all levels of experience, for anyone wanting to know more about how loudspeakers interact with their environment and how that affects what the listener hears. Spaces are limited so please book as soon as possible.

To register or to find out more about the seminar, visit the link below.

d&b audiotechnik

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Posted by House Editor on 03/09 at 02:38 PM
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Ceasing All Forward Progress With Only Two Words

After repeatedly retraining a young apprentice on the same task, I discovered myself rapidly losing the grasp of whatever social skills I had retained.

We had been working together for weeks, yet he still refused to follow my simple directions. He insisted on doing a routine task in any way other than the one I had shown him.

Nearing the end of my rope, I attempted to redirect his efforts one last time. However, he interrupted my coaching with two words that aggravate me beyond reason…

“I know.”

As you might guess, I lost touch with my inner cherub and snapped.

“No. No you don’t. You don’t know anything. I hired you to assist me. I have tried to teach you the same job over and over since day one and you refuse to do it. We are done here. I am not wasting any more time with you.”

That was essentially the last conversation we had. He had some decent ideas about other ways to do things, but that was not the issue. The issue was that certain things had to be done in certain ways or we risked not getting paid. Another issue was that he absolutely refused to follow instructions. My biggest issue was the disrespect.

To back up a little. The guy was more than fifteen years my junior. Just a kid really. He was a friend of a friend who needed a job. I agreed to give him a shot. However, he was so arrogant and difficult, I just couldn’t take it after a few weeks.

For you younger guys, the ones volunteering or just coming into this industry, pay attention. The older and grayer among us generally have substantially more knowledge than someone just starting out. We have already learned quite a bit by trial and error. The ones who survived a full career will probably even admit that someone mentored them. Being older doesn’t always mean smarter or wiser, but it does mean we have had more time and opportunities to learn our lessons.

It usually means we have done more stupid stuff, too.

Believe it or not, you don’t have to be the dumb kid starting out. A little humility goes a long way. Nobody knows everything. The old guys are much more open to teaching you the tricks of the trade when you offer some respect. We want this industry to grow and progress forward. That requires fresh blood to jump in and learn the business. We won’t be around forever.

When you say to me, “I know,” you are telling me that you are a complete expert on this particular subject and cannot conceive of the need to obtain an additional information or training. You have essentially cut me off and told me to shut up. You have rejected whatever value I am attempting to add to your life or career.

More than one great engineer has told me that their early days involved a refusal to say “no” to any project or assignment. They jumped at any chance to learn or work with professional audio. They searched for mentors to help them make better decisions and create opportunities. They learned to keep their mouth closed, their ears open and their hands busy.

My suggestion for the new folks out there… please, eliminate the “I know” phrase from your vocabulary. Develop some humility and admit that you don’t know everything and allow someone to coach you. Quit resisting the folks who care enough to share their hard-earned wisdom and show them enough respect to listen. Save yourself many, many years of learning things the hard way.

After all, why would we bother trying to teach anything to anyone who already knows everything?

Senior editor .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) has worked in professional audio for more than 20 years in live, install, and recording. Read more of his random rants and tirades here.

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Posted by House Editor on 03/09 at 01:23 PM
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Tuesday, March 08, 2016

Radio Active Designs Supports Communications During Super Bowl 50

CP Communications provides UV-1G base stations and 30 RAD packs in a difficult environment with over 1300 carriers in the air.

Communication during sporting extravaganzas like Super Bowl 50 is always difficult – the area is typically “RF challenged”, making the use of wireless particularly trying.

Fortunately, eleven Radio Active Designs (RAD) UV-1G wireless intercom systems were on site during numerous events leading up to, during and after the Super Bowl to ensure all lines of communication were kept open. 

CP Communications, located in Elmsford, New York, was responsible for wireless audio transmission for pre- and post-game events as well as during the game itself (except for the half-time show). The company provided six UV-1G base stations along with 30 RAD packs to ensure production went off without a hitch. 

To hear Loren Sherman, RF coordinator for CP Communications explain it, his job during the Super Bowl is to “work with the logistics folks and make sure we bring gear that can be coordinated with all of the other gear on site – and there is a LOT of other RF gear on site. We brought along six UV-1G wireless intercom systems because I never have any problems getting it coordinated. San Francisco has very little space open for RF and I knew deploying six base stations wouldn’t be an issue, and that meant communication wouldn’t be an issue, either.”

Radio Active Designs UV-1G features Enhanced Narrow Band technology, which is 10 times more spectrally efficient than current FM technology. As a result, the UV-1G offers RF channels possessing an occupied bandwidth of a mere 25 kHz the audio characteristics one would expect from a traditional FM system. In addition, the system utilizes the relatively unused VHF range for all belt pack portable devices, leaving more room for operation of other wireless devices, such as wireless microphones and in-ear monitors – exactly what was required during the Special Olympics World Games.

“Another advantage to the RAD gear is that you can move it around and not anticipate any problems,” Sherman adds. “We had units in use throughout the week leading up to the game and I had no concerns about other RF in the area.”

Brian Ready, account manager and systems engineer for CP Communications, was RF technician for the NFL pre-game events as well as during the game itself. Prior to the game he deployed one UV-1G unit at Super Bowl City in downtown San Francisco and another during the NFL Red Carpet Honors show held the night before the game. On game day he had one unit situated at the fan plaza outside of the stadium and two more in the stadium.

“The RAD gear was incredibly useful from an RF perspective,” Ready adds. “Without having band splits makes coordination much easier. The only UHF you have to worry about is for the base station, and that is minimal. The software provides options not available on standard BTR units which provides a lot of flexibility. I’ve used them consistently since the day we received them – it’s a great product.”

Jeff Watson was ATK Versacom’s RF PL engineer for Super Bowl 50’s pre-game, anthem, halftime show and Lombardi Award presentation. He utilized five UV-1G base stations with 30 RAD bodypacks to make sure everything went smoothly.

“Because of the UV-1Gs bandwidth efficiency as well as open RF spectrum in the VHF range, I was able to give each user of the RAD systems their own Receive frequency to give them full duplex communication, unlike the 24 users of my other UHF FM systems – which were all simplex,” Watson explains. “Due to the UHF spectrum being so saturated, we had to use a 2 to 1 ratio for frequencies on those systems. This means we get two transmit frequencies and one receive frequency per system. In simpler terms, all four users of each UHF FM system are “stacked” on the same frequency, so only one person can speak at a time or they cancel each other out – like a 2-Way Radio.  We didn’t have to do this with the RAD units. I also had a decent amount of spare frequencies for the RAD’s, which are hard to come by in an environment with over 1300 carriers in the air. Fortunately, I never had to use them as the VHF Spectrum remained very clean throughout the event.”

Watson, who had also used RAD systems during last year’s Super Bowl, adds, “Since the audio board upgrades, as well as some new firmware, there were significant improvements in audio quality of the RAD’s since last year’s Super Bowl. When using proper gain structure, everybody sounded really good and balanced. With our radio spectrum being continually auctioned off, RAD UV-1G’s are going to be the only system that is going to work on events of this size in the future.  I could see a rack of 10 x 6 Drop Systems on Super Bowl 51—or LI if the NFL returns to Roman Numerals.”
 
ATK Versacom also provided RAD TX-8’s for Transmit Combining and the new UHF/VHF DB-IC for Receivers along with an ATK Versacom proprietary RF over fiber system. “I had a “Hot Rod” of a system,” Watson concludes. “That is what is necessary for the scope of a project like The Super Bowl.”

ATK Audiotek provided sound reinforcement for Super Bowl 50’s pre-game, anthem, half-time and Lombardi Award events. James Stoffo was on site as ATK Audiotek’s entertainment RF engineer. His responsibilities included managing all of the wireless microphones, in-ear and intercom operations for the pregame show, anthem, referee, half time “Extravaganza” and post-game Lombardi Award presentation. Five UV-1G base stations were on site for communications throughout the day.

In addition, Radio Active Designs VF-1 VHF paddle antennas were also in use making is possible to cover the entire stadium with just one receiver antenna. A remote antenna was used in the tunnels for continuous coverage throughout the entire venue.

“This was probably the most difficult RF environment of any of the 17 Super Bowls I’ve ever done,” Stoffo notes. “Between the stadiums proximity to Silicon Valley, the abundance of white-space devices and an already crowded UHF spectrum, finding available bandwidth is a challenge. We used more RADs than UHF FM systems to keep RF as open as possible. As a matter of fact, we replaced a UHF FM system on site with a RAD because UHF was too congested. Communication is key at these events, it definitely saved the day.”

Radio Active Designs

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Posted by House Editor on 03/08 at 08:52 AM
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Monday, March 07, 2016

The Psychology Of Recording

This article is provided by Home Studio Corner.

 
A few years ago my friend Kevin and his wife flew all the way out to Nashville from LA to record vocals for his album in my home studio. We had one week to track vocals for 13 songs.

Of course, we spent a lot of time just hanging out and showing them around Nashville, but 7 days was an ideal amount of time.

It gave us plenty of time to focus intently on each song, and it also gave Kevin time to let his voice rest between sessions.

Many of us are using our home studios to record our own music, right? This has been especially true for me over the last few months, as I finished up recording my own album.

But I had been itching to get some clients in here so I could take off my “artist hat” and put on ONLY my “producer/engineer” hat.

I like that hat. 

After spending a week recording Kevin, I realized how important it is for us as engineers/producers to not forget the psychology behind the recording process. Music is a highly emotional event. When you’re recording a musician, you certainly need to focus on mic placement, gain structure, song arrangement, performance, etc., but a session can quickly go sour if you neglect the emotional side of the process.

Each musician is different, and if you don’t figure out how to create an environment he/she feels comfortable in, the rest of the process is going to be difficult. See Make the Singer Comfortable.

I know what you’re thinking….”Dang…Joe and Kevin must have had some big fights, eh?”

Not at all. In fact, the sessions went extremely well, and I think there are three main reasons for that. I’ll share those reasons with you as 3 tips for working with musicians in your studio.

1. Develop a Relationship with the Musician(s)
If you do this, you’ll most likely bypass a lot of issues later. Kevin and I were already friends before he came to Nashville, so this wasn’t all that difficult.

But we don’t always get to record our friends, right? Sometimes we’re recording complete strangers. In those cases, it’s important to find some “connection points” with the musician. Spend some extra time talking while you’re setting up microphones. Get to know the musician until you both feel comfortable.

THEN start recording. Take as much time as you need. You may feel pressed for time. “We’ve got to get started RIGHT NOW.” Trust me, if you rush into recording and skip over the relationship, it’ll only get awkward, and the music will suffer.

2. Set Goals
The goal with Kevin’s trip to Nashville was simple — record vocals.

Kevin also wanted to work on other things, like keyboard parts, percussion, etc.

However, we didn’t let ourselves work on that stuff until the last day or two.

I knew that if we recorded two or three vocals and started goofing around with percussion, we’d end up rushing through the rest of the vocals at the end of the week…then we’d both be kicking ourselves.

So what happened? We really only got to add percussion to one song. The rest of the time we were recording vocals.

This was fine with us, because the primary goal of these sessions was to get the vocals recorded. Mission accomplished.

3. Set Expectations
This is a bit different from setting goals. What I’m really talking about is setting expectations for how much honesty is allowed in the session.

That may sound strange to you, but a lot of musicians can’t handle honest critique. You tell them that last line was a bit flat, and they just shut down. Musicians are an insecure bunch. (I’m one of them.)

So while you’re working on #1, developing a relationship, you need to have “the conversation.”

Kevin and I had this conversation the first or second day he was here. He simply said, “The number one priority for me is a great-sounding vocal. I need you to be brutally honest with me.”

I love that. He told me he didn’t want his pride to get in the way of the process. So that’s just what we did. If there was a line that didn’t work well – or that I thought he could sing better – we recorded it again until we got it right. “Get it right at the source” was a bit of a theme for the week.

Some musicians will never be comfortable with this approach. If you start stopping them in the middle of takes and making them punch in and out, they’ll just wither and melt. You need to feel this out for yourself and decide the best approach. For someone like this, it may be best to just record 3-5 full takes and comp from there.

This is the part where you also determine if they will be comfortable with using tuning software like AutoTune or Melodyne to fix any pitch issues. If they’re not okay with it, then they need to go back and fix those out-of-tune sections.

So…those are my 3 tips for working with musicians. What do you think?

Read and comment on the original article here.

 
Joe Gilder is a Nashville based engineer, musician, and producer who also provides training and advice at the Home Studio Corner.

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Posted by Keith Clark on 03/07 at 07:08 AM
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Friday, March 04, 2016

SoundGirls.org Announces Upcoming Slate Of Educational Sessions In California

Live Sound Camp for Girls in Modesto, another in Nevada City, plus Tour Managing/FOH Workshop and Introduction to Live Sound Workshop in Modesto

SoundGirls.Org has announced a series of educational events slated for this coming June in Modesto and Nevada City, CA. 

First up is the Live Sound Camp for Girls in Modesto on June 20-24, a one-week camp for girls age 12 to 18 who want to learn about live music production. The camp curriculum was designed by industry veterans and teaches the skills and technology to run live sound. 

Working in small, collaborative and hands-on groups, the girls learn:

—Live Event Safety
—Stage & Audio Terminology
—Signal Flow, Setup & Wire PA Systems
—Input Lists & Stage Plots
—Microphone Techniques & Wiring Stages
—Line Check, Sound Check & Mixing
—Running & Working A Real Show

Live Sound Camp for Girls will be held at the Rock & Roll Warehouse, 501 Bitritto Way in Modesto. Early registration discounts and financial assistance are available. Go here for more information and to register.

Another Live Sound Camp for Girls is slated for Nevada City, CA on June 27-July 1. It will offer the same curriculum as the Modesto camp, and will be held at Miners Foundry, 325 Spring St in Nevada City. Again, early registration discounts and financial assistance are available. Go here for more information and to register.

Next up is a Tour Managing/FOH Workshop on June 21, also to be held at the Rock & Roll Warehouse in Modesto. The primary presenter is Jessica Berg, an audio engineer and tour manager who has toured as a TM/FOH engineer for Quadron as well as tour managing Dr. John and Waka Flocka Flame. There will also be plenty of time for Q&A.

“When starting out as a front-of-house or monitor engineer, many tours require you to wear two hats,” explains Karrie Keyes, a veteran mix engineer and co-founder of SoundGirls.Org. “The tour manager and FOH/ME, or production manager and FOH/ME, are the most common dual roles you will find. Being able to handle both roles effectively makes you more valuable, increases your skill set, and allows you to gain the experience needed to tour solely as a sound engineer or tour manager.”

Go here to find out more and to register for the Tour Managing/FOH Workshop.

The next day (June 22), SoundGirls.org is presenting an Introduction to Live Sound Workshop, also at the Rock & Roll Warehouse in Modesto, slated for 6 pm to 9 pm. It’s for girls age 16 and up, and will cover the basics of running sound for a live performance. This workshop is geared for women interested in live sound, beginners, musicians, and promoters. Specific topics include:

—Basic PA Set Up
—Signal Flow
—Basic Troubleshooting
—Writing & Reading Input Lists & Stage Plots
—Wiring The Stage
—Running Sound Check
—Common Terminology

Go here for more information and to register for the Introduction to Live Sound Workshop.

The mission of SoundGirls.org is to inspire and empower the next generation of women in audio and music production by creating a supportive community,  providing the tools, knowledge, and support to further their careers.

SoundGirls.Org

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Posted by Keith Clark on 03/04 at 05:37 PM
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Project Runway Steps Up To DPA Microphones, Lectrosonics And Sound Devices

Lifetime Network's "All Stars" spin-off fashion competition series outfitted with new equipment package for fourth season.

When the Lifetime Network’s hit show Project Runway: All Stars hit the catwalk for its fourth season, A1 and lead board mixer Sergio Reyes-Sheehan and audio supervisor Adam Howell turned to DPA Microphones, Lectrosonics and Sound Devices to create an audio equipment package for the show.

Project Runway: All Stars is a spin-off series based on Project Runway. Season 5 featured 14 of the most talented Project Runway designers who returned to compete in the biggest and most competitive season ever. In this cut-throat season, former standout designers came back to New York to compete for runway gold.

Reyes-Sheehan and Howell have completed three seasons of Project Runway: All Stars together, and the two worked closely on the best way to handle a show of this nature.

“Our team was great and was picked specifically for their strengths,” says Reyes-Sheehan. “It started with our supervisor Adam Howell, a veteran location and studio sound mixer/recordist. He worked closely with the post-production team to help keep us all on the same page. This was extremely important given the many sources of audio and daily changes a competition reality show undergoes.”

With a cast of over 26 members, Reyes-Sheehan relied on DPA d:screet 4060 and 4061 miniature and necklace microphones for the production. The mics were used for the shows main hosts and special guests, as well as on the designers. The designers themselves presented some unique miking challenges. Among them were several loud talkers and many wore creative, skin-baring outfits and accessories, which a regular-sized lav mic would have been a distraction.

According to Reyes-Sheehan, “I purchased the DPA mics for specific use on another show. I came to completely rely upon DPA over the general reality show standard mics from other manufacturers. In addition, there are very few lavs on the market with such a small cable that can be hidden on jewelry and otherwise sheer clothing while also sounding natural, making them the obvious choice for the production.”

In addition to the DPA microphones, the team used a selection of Sound Devices mixers and recorders, including a rack-mount 970 recorder, a 664 and two 633 field production mixers, two 788T recorders, two 552 field mixers, and two MM-1 mic preamps.

To that, the team added four Lectrosonics Venue rack receivers housing five different blocks (19, 21, 22, 25 and 26) for the show’s on-camera talent. Reyes-Sheehan mixed the main board and Venue system into the Sound Devices 970. The board and racks were all on the Dante network, which served the teams’ needs very well. 

“When I became audio supervisor for Project Runway: All Stars season 2, the first change I made was to swap out the talent wireless brand to Lectrosonics from the previously used system. Having exclusively owned Lectro for over a decade, I can rely on second to none performance with solid stage coverage and exceptional range for location/field shoots,” adds Howell. “User friendly, well respected and highly dependable, Lectro is integral to each project that I supervise.”

“There was a lot of prep production on location to coordinate the frequencies in play,” adds Reyes-Sheehan. “There were also live frequency scans being done all day while on different locations to offer the most knowledge of what was happening around us. There were always anomalies, but we did very well in making quick decisions with the many years of knowledge between us all.”

The field mixing bags, used to mix and record on the fly, were each designated to a different camera. These signals were captured in IFB mode to simplify the amount of transmitters on site. The alternative was either mono or two-channel hops from each bag and an IFB transmitter for production to monitor the scene.

“The amount of wireless used had greatly entangled an already complicated production in the past,” says Reyes-Sheehan. “These days, a proper post mix is done with the main Sound Devices 970 tracks, not the field recorders. Limiting the amount of wireless has been very helpful, as it has allowed us to achieve clean frequencies for all the talent wireless.”

Reyes-Sheehan says the resulting sound quality throughout the latest season was noticed by all, especially the client. “For Project Runway: All Stars it was a fantastic partnership of DPA mics, Lectrosonics wireless and Sound Devices mixers/recorders that gave us an edge over previous years, which was ultimately recognized by production,” he says. “Having a client notice how much better things are sounding and how easy we were to work with is the best feedback one can aim for in this business. Our decision to use DPA, Lectrosonics and Sound Devices has worked out great and has created an all-star trio of its own.”

DPA Microphones
Lectrosonics
Sound Devices

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Posted by House Editor on 03/04 at 09:17 AM
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EAW Adaptive Systems Training & Product Demo Scheduled For New Jersey

The free training is scheduled for March 15-16 at PRG in Secaucus, New Jersey. Anna and Otto product demonstrations will be held on March 17.

Secaucus, New Jersey-based PRG will be the next locale for Eastern Acoustic Works (EAW) Adaptive Systems product demonstrations and Level 1 Training.

The free training is scheduled for March 15-16. Anna and Otto product demonstrations will be held on March 17.

The two-day training program provides attendees with a comprehensive review of the fundamentals of sound, as well as advanced topics in line array theory, EAW Resolution modeling, Dante, and analysis of the algorithms that drive the Adaptive Systems products.

The training concludes with a hands-on practical demonstration that will provide participants with the knowledge necessary to successfully deploy and use Adaptive Systems in any application.

A complete printed training manual is provided to each attendee. Upon successful completion of Adaptive Systems Level 1 training, participants receive Adaptive Systems Technician Certification and will be added to EAW’s registry of Adaptive Systems Certified Technicians. Space is limited for the free training program. Registration does not guarantee a spot in the program. A confirmation email will be sent by March 7 to accepted attendees. 

March 18 offers a full day of product demonstrations in order for area industry professionals to experience the capabilities and benefits of Anna and Otto. 

Register at the link below.

Eastern Acoustic Works

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Posted by House Editor on 03/04 at 09:05 AM
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Thursday, March 03, 2016

The Law Of Diminishing Return & The 90% Principle

This article is provided by ChurchTechArts.

 
I’ve been working on this article in my head for some time now.

The basic concept for the article is the law of diminishing returns.

This law states that as you continue to put time/energy/money/effort into a project, at some point the return you receive for the increased effort is no longer worth it.

It’s sort of like a compressor; put 2 dB in, get 1 dB out.

Turn up the ratio and put 4 dB in, get 1 dB out. You see, diminishing returns.

Oh, and no makeup gain has been used…

The 90% principle is an attempt to quantify the threshold. That is, at what point does it stop making sense to keep working on or spending money on something.

As you can guess, I suggest that point is 90%. But 90% of what? Let’s say that 100% is perfect, the best something can possibly be, whether it’s a product (like a speaker system), or a project (like a video edit).

My supposition here is that once we get to 90% of perfect, we can generally stop. To the perfectionists out there, this sounds like heresy, but stick with me for a few minutes.

Real World Example
Let’s take the case of a speaker system. I chose this for two reasons: A) The number of choices in the category make it easy to develop this illustration, and B) I’m in the market for a new PA so this has been on my mind a lot. So, let’s start off defining 100%.

The 100% mark is going to be the absolute best (most musical, most even coverage, flattest frequency and phase response, etc.) PA you can find. For this case, I’m not going to define it further than that. Regardless of what PA you choose as 100%, it’s going to cost you some coin.

What I’ve normally found is that opting for 90% instead of 100% will probably only cost 50-60% of the 100% system. So, you might save nearly half and still get 90% of the performance.

Here’s another one: Consider a video edit. I’ve edited a lot of videos over the years, both when I owned my own company and for various churches. We used to have a saying, “A video is never finished, it’s abandoned.”

When I think of nearly every video I’ve ever cut, I can think of things I would change. Subtle tweaks to edits, minor soundtrack fixes, graphic adjustments, the like. Those changes didn’t get made because we ran out of time or budget.

And honestly, the vast majority of people wouldn’t really notice them anyway. In many of those cases, we probably got 90-95% of “perfect.” The rest we had to let go.

Why 90%?
Now, here’s why I suggest that 90% is a fair stopping point: I believe that most people in the pews can’t resolve any differences above 70%, give or take.

Sure, there may be a few people out there that could see or hear the difference between the absolute best and 80%, but most of the time, it will only be us, the trained professionals, who can discern the critical differences.

Again, this idea may be raising the ire of perfectionists everywhere, and as a recovering perfectionist, I understand.

Here’s the deal; I’m not advocating mediocrity. I’m advocating excellence—but not extravagance.

And, if you stop and think about it, I’m actually suggesting going above and beyond what most people can see and hear by a margin of almost 30% (90 is 28% more than 70…).

Quite often, trying to push your way to the final 10% of perfection will take just as much effort and cash as getting to the first 90%. So what I’m suggesting is that we really stop and evaluate if that is worth it.

Returning To Examples
Now let’s go back to our examples. Take PAs; for our room, we could easily spend nearly $200,000 on a PA to get the absolute best there is. However, I’m pretty confident we can get 90% of that performance for around $100,000.

And the reality is, both of those systems would be a massive upgrade over what we have now. Moreover, I would suggest that almost no one in the congregation would be able to tell much of a difference between the two.

Would I be able to?

I would hope so; that’s what I’m paid for. But Sal and Sally Pewsitter? I doubt it. So is it worth an extra $100,000 for a difference most can’t hear? Perhaps not.

Or how about our video. Let’s say working a full day on the video would get it to 90% of perfection. Now, at this point, we can go home and spend the evening with our family or stick around until midnight and get to 95%.

Is that worth it? Again, I suggest that most people would have thought it was “perfect” at 3 PM.

It’s possible that in some cases it’s worth spending the extra time an energy to get to 100%. However, we have a limited amount of time and resources available, and perhaps it’s a better use of that time and money to wrap it up at 90%.

Consider; saving $100,000 on a PA might buy a really nice console, some great mics and have money left over to do some good in the community. In the big picture, that might be a better option.

This is not a hard and fast rule; but it’s one that I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about. What’s really important? What are we as a church really called to do?

How can we maximize what we’re given to the greatest good? Can we find away to get out from behind our desks and spend more time with volunteers? Or our families?

Give it some thought, see what you think.

Mike Sessler has been involved with church sound and live production for than 25 years, and is the author of the Church Tech Arts blog. Based in Nashville, he serves as project lead for CCI Solutions, which provides design-build production solutions for churches and other facilities.

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Posted by admin on 03/03 at 06:57 AM
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Tuesday, March 01, 2016

This Weekend: Church Sound Boot Camp Class Coming To McKinney, TX

Class also slated for Topeka, KS on April 22-23; registration open and early registration discounts available

Curt Taipale (Taipale Media System) is presenting his renowned Church Sound Boot Camp class in McKinney, TX on March 4-5.

The class will be held at Crosspoint Church (2101 S. Stonebridge Dr.) from 5 pm to 10 pm on Friday, March 4, continuing from 9 am to 5 pm on Saturday, March 5. More details about the class and registration are available online here.

Note that another upcoming session has been announced for Topeka, KS (April 22-23). Registration is open (here) and early registration discounts are available.

For well over two decades, Church Sound Boot Camp has helped church sound teams raise the bar of technical excellence—without stress—in equipping them with the knowledge and understanding to make clearly noticeable improvements to the quality of their sound.

Instructor Curt Taipale has more than 30 years of experience in audio as a church tech team leader, recording and live sound engineer, consultant, AVL system designer, design/build contractor, educator, author, and professional musician. He is also the founder of ChurchSoundCheck.com, author of “The Heart of Technical Excellence,” and a contributing author to Yamaha’s “Guide to Sound Systems for Worship.”

Taipale has taught literally thousands of church sound team volunteers, technical staff, worship pastors and musicians. In the classes, he’ll cover all the primary components of every sound system, exactly how they should be connected, how to feel confident in operating that equipment, and how to deliver a pristine, smooth, clear musical mix consistently at every worship service.

Attendees are advised to register as soon as possible, and early registration discounts are offered. For the McKinney, TX class visit here and for the Topeka, KS class visit here.

For those with scheduling conflicts or who can’t travel to attend a workshop, a stay at home version of the class is also available offering the opportunity for self-training as well as to bring this training home to an entire tech team. Find out more about it here.

Church Sound Boot Camp

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Posted by Keith Clark on 03/01 at 01:54 PM
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Thursday, February 25, 2016

Morris Adds Four New Team Members

Steve Land and Wade Russell join Integration division with Chris Malmgren and Frank Heinrich joining Light & Sound division.

Morris announces the addition of two new team members to its Integration division and two new team members to its Light & Sound division.

The Integration division has named Steve Land, CTS, as director of Business Development & Sales and Wade Russell as Relationship manager. In the Light & Sound division, Chris Malmgren will serve as Audio Department manager and Frank Heinrich as Operations manager. 

“At Morris, we pride ourselves on recruiting and retaining the best possible talent, and growing our team across both divisions allows us to continue offering our clients world-class expertise,” Morris president David Haskell said. “I’m excited to welcome Steve, Wade, Chris and Frank to the Morris family. Their combined decades of industry experience are a valuable addition to our diverse services.”

Land brings over 30 years of integration and A/V/L sales experience to Morris, most recently having worked as an independent A/V/L sales representative for numerous A/V/L brands.

Russell joins Morris from his prior position at Elite Multimedia, where he worked with churches to plan and execute technical production, as well as train clients on audio, video and lighting equipment.

Malmgren recently relocated to Nashville from Las Vegas, where he worked as a technician for Music Group’s Professional Division. Malmgren provided 24-hour technical support and system design for the brands Midas, Klark Teknik and TurboSound. He has over ten years of experience mixing and systems engineering for concerts, theater and corporate events.

Heinrich joins Morris with two decades of experience in the music industry, both as a musician and technician, and also brings a background as an electrician. Most recently, Heinrich worked in Las Vegas as an engineer technician for Midas, a division of Music Group.

image
(L to R) Chris Malmgren, Frank Heinrich, Steve Land, Wade Russell

Morris

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Posted by House Editor on 02/25 at 07:51 AM
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Want To Develop Golden Ears?

Can you recognize the difference between a major chord, a minor chord, or a 7th chord? Can you identify a song’s chord progression without seeing the sheet music?

Skills of this type are great for musicians who sing or play an instrument, but can they help a sound mixer?

Mixing live and/or recorded sound requires a different set of critical listening skills - skills that are often acquired from many years of experience, by trial and error, or from being mentored. However, can these skills be learned more formally and effectively?

“Listen… Do you want to know a secret?” A lyric from a classic Beatles song, of course, but for audio professionals, perhaps this musical question is asking if we can hear the secrets of the music just by listening - secrets of proper balance, EQ correction, distortion removal, and others.

Do we understand how to really listen - “to discern, measure, analyze, and express the physical qualities of musical sounds accurately.” (Golden Ears User Guide, Dave Moulton, 1995)

Is Something There?
What secrets are we hearing but can’t identify? Compare this situation to the scene in the movie Charade, when Cary Grant dumps the contents of an airline bag on a bed, telling Audrey Hepburn, “I mean, it’s there. If only we could see it. We’re looking at it right now. Something on that bed is worth a quarter of a million dollars.”

How frustrating for them, and how frustrating for audio professionals to hear audio and know something is there, but lack the skills to discern it with their ears and identify what it is.

So many qualities of music are hiding right there in the open, but can we recognize them and make good mixing decisions based on our critical analysis?

Stephan Jenkins, producer, songwriter and vocalist of the band Third Eye Blind, offers his take. “As sound geeks, we can talk about this (how music is recorded and mixed), and think it doesn’t matter to other people. But it does matter; they just don’t know that it’s bothering them. They don’t know why it is that they don’t listen to that album anymore. I think it’s because there are little burrs and jags in the sound that are bothering (them).” (ArtistPro Magazine, Sept/Oct 2003)

I’ve been performing comedic impressions for most of my life. In order to do these impressions, I’ve had to listen critically to the characters in movies, on TV, to my teachers, professors, and many of my current colleagues and students. I really enjoy recreating these “voices’” for comedic effect to add humor and variety to my engineering lectures.

But how do I do this? How do I make my voice sound like that of another person? What goes on in the brain?

I usually see the person in my mind, performing distinctive actions and mannerisms, and I try to copy what I see in my mind. Then I hear with my mind’s ear what the visual image is saying, and copy that with my voice.

While I perform the vocal impression, I monitor what I’m saying to check if the impression is similar to my mind’s impression, and correct my voice parameters (timbre, pitch, inflection, etc.) to achieve better accuracy. Thus, in overview, I’m trying to create an accurate impression based upon my mind’s sensory observations.

Good From Poor
What hearing skills does an audio engineer need to mix live and/or recorded sound?

It may be that many sound mixers do not possess a “golden ears” level of critical listening skill. However, does this directly lead to a lack of audio mixing skills? I don’t believe so.

Many (if not most) mixers know what the live or recorded sound “should” sound like. At least they know “good” sound from “poor” sound, and probably correct many types of problems because of their experience.

This situation is somewhat similar to an electric bass player (like myself) who can read chord charts to a blues song and play a credible bass part, even though I can’t play “by ear” (reproducing anything I hear or think without mistakes and without hesitation).

I can play bass lines of songs and sound decent, and therefore participate as an active viable musician. But if I could play “by ear.” I would have more control over the sound and more freedom to create and improvise music.

In this regard, I firmly believe that a highly developed set of “golden ears”- type critical listening skills would free the sound mixer from many limitations, allowing for greater control over producing high quality sound, as well as fixing many types of audible problems (within the electronic control of the equipment, of course).

So just what is critical listening? A definition found in a glossary at the Foundation For Critical Thinking, “Critical Listening: A mode of monitoring how we are listening so as to maximize our accurate understanding of what another person is saying.”

Perhaps this definition can be modified for sound mixing. “Critical Listening: A mode of monitoring how we’re listening, so as to maximize our accurate discernment and understanding of the physical qualities of the sound we are hearing.”

The sound could be a voice, a musical instrument, acoustical characteristics of a room or space, a musical group, a play, a movie, a worship service, etc.

While “monitoring how we are listening,” we’re not simply listening for enjoyment, but instead we’re focusing our ears and minds to constantly check the physical qualities of the sound. Is the EQ right? Is there distortion? Wait, what’s that instrument behind the lead vocal? And so on.

What Is Right
As we seek to “maximize our accurate discernment and understanding,” we use our ears as a measurement tool—objectively as well as subjectively—to analyze what is right and what is wrong in the sound. This analysis can direct us to make the proper adjustments.

Personally, I don’t possess “golden ears,” the high-level ability to discern and identify, say, octave bands by center frequency. As I mentioned earlier, I also can’t play my electric bass “by ear.”

However, one of my long-term goals has been to develop critical listening audio and musical skills. This quest dates back to 1979 when I first started playing guitar and began mixing live events (worship services and local solo performers), and has continued since 1997 when I switched to playing electric bass.

Similar to a guitar player in search of “ultimate tone,” my ear-training quest has been a long journey involving the study of many books, magazine articles, CDs, computer programs, Internet material, and even completion of two college-level ear-training courses in hopes of being better able to both play “by ear” and hear audio with “golden ears” skill.

My quest has recently become sharply focused, and on parallel paths. First, I’m course for two very motivated students, combining training in critical listening skills, auditory perception concepts, audio mixing skills, engineering science and math, and DSP computer projects in order to blend the art, science and practice of listening to audio.

Second, I’m using two computer programs to develop my electric bass “playing by ear” skills. (For the record, these programs are Guitar and Bass Trainer, and Absolute Fretboard Knowledge.)

I’ll be reporting the results of the course soon in a follow-up article. For those interested a sneak peak, we’re used an EAR Q Reference Hearing Analyzer to establish a baseline reference and the Golden Ears Audio Ear-Training Course for the actual training.

Hopefully through careful study and observation, we’ll all learn something truly useful along the way.

 
Mauro J. Caputi is an associate professor of electrical engineering at Hofstra University, Long Island, New York and has been involved in live performance and production audio for over 25 years.

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Posted by admin on 02/25 at 07:09 AM
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