Tuesday, November 03, 2015
Communication Gap: Using Our Words Wisely
One of the biggest challenges any of us face in our careers, and maybe even personally, is communicating effectively.
Sub-standard communication, or lack of it altogether, can severely damage or hold back an organization or an individual. And I’ve yet to find a problem or awkward situation that can’t be made almost immediately better with good communication.
In the business of live sound reinforcement, there are numerous potential pitfalls in this regard, ranging from old riders to lack of a rider to not being clear with crew members to bad instructions from those above us – and many more.
Communication builds relationships, and all business is about relationships. With that in mind, I thought it might be helpful to put together a short list of “best practices.”
1. Determine a clear sense of logic before starting the communication process. What are the priorities in the message? Who is the intended audience? Is there anything they need to know before the next part of the message? This is helpful in paring away unneeded bits while making sure the important stuff in included and emphasized.
2. Treat vendors like customers. This one is simple, but I don’t see it happening as often as it probably should. Basically, if we can’t treat our vendors the same way we would want to be treated as customers, we’re missing out on a host of benefits.
Personally, I try to put myself in someone’s shoes before picking up the phone or starting an email. How would I like to be addressed? What information would I need if I were them? And, it almost goes without saying that we should do the same thing when communicating with our customers. (Right?)
3. Keep in mind that various forms of communication are better (or worse) for certain purposes. Face-to-face is still the best way to communicate with someone, and some of the reasons are interesting.
For one thing, non-verbal cues like body language and facial expressions are shared and understood. But another, more subtle thing with any technology-based communication method is that humans are extremely sensitive to timing.
Certainly, we’ve all been frustrated by cell phone conversations where there’s a noticeable delay and/or dropouts. It can drive us nuts when we can’t seem to “get in the flow” of the conversation. As it turns out, people can perceive timing discrepancies in a conversation well below 1 millisecond (that’s a thousandth of a second). Maybe it’s because we’ve fine tuned ourselves in trying to get a word in edge-wise with our mother-in-law at the dinner table.
Video conferencing lets us see and hear each other, although the timing might be slightly off due to latency. And there’s no personal handshake or hug at the end that can add affirmation of what’s been discussed. On the phone, we can at least hear the nuances and inflections in each others’ voices.
Way down the list is email, which is devoid of all these subtleties. In other words, we should focus and take care to generate written communications that are straightforward, along with following common grammar and spelling conventions as much as possible. One problem is that folks don’t seem to want to take the time to do this anymore, and on the other side, sometimes they don’t want to take the time to thoroughly read an entire message. Which leads me to:
4. Keep the communication direct and to the point.
We’ve probably experienced times when a carefully written email with 17 important points receives a one-sentence response that only addresses the first point. If you’re like me, you want to reach through your computer screen and strangle someone what that happens.
But is it totally their fault? It’s taught me to be very economical with words and ideas, and prioritize them from most to least important out of the gate.
5. Read the whole doggone email before responding! Maybe read it twice!
Also, if it’s a thread, try reading the whole thing to get valuable context. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve fallen into the trap of just reading the top message and not knowing all of the background before responding. (Oops!) This can be challenging because we’re all pressed for time. But when it comes to communication, taking the time to fully understand the issue and respond accordingly is worth a whole lot.
6. Texting can be a great way to reach someone immediately and (hopefully) get a quick response, but it has drawbacks. There’s no convenient way to store the information offline. Some devices don’t attach dates/times to messages, so it can be difficult to figure out a timeline if needed. It’s also not good for longer messages.
7. With in-person, video conference and phone conversations, be careful not to “listen to reply.” This is a common problem and often makes things worse rather than better. In other words, take the time and put in the effort to listen carefully. An old-school technique is to reply first by summarizing what was said before adding new information. This can sometimes be overdone but the idea is still valid.
8. Conclude the conversation or meeting with a summary of what was decided, and who’s going to do what. We’ve no doubt all been in countless meetings where this doesn’t happen because everyone assumes that everyone else heard what we heard, and plans to act upon the information in the same way we plan to act. Way too often this isn’t the case, and besides, it never hurts to have a five-minute (or less) summary conversation. And don’t forget to take notes!
9. Be timely. No one wants to receive valuable information about the next day’s important gig at midnight. At the same time (pardon the pun), sending a message too early can also be problematic, because the information can easily be forgotten or misplaced.
10. Finally, we need to keep our egos in check and remember that we were all once eager, starry-eyed young people looking up to our elders in the industry and lapping up every utterance. We vividly remember those who treated us well and those who did not. It’s important to treat others with respect and humility, and the best way to do this is with clear, consistent, logical communication in whatever form that makes the most sense for the situation at hand.
Think about the great quotes we see on the Internet from historical figures, and note how few words they used to sum up some really important concepts. We can do this too. Imagine a day in the future when the next generation is quoting your great statements: “Ask not what your system can do for you, ask what you can do for your system.”
Hey – it could happen!
Karl Winkler serves as vice president of sales/service at Lectrosonics and has worked in professional audio for more than 20 years.
NSCA Announces New Technical Assessment Tool
Online tool allows integrators to analyze technician and installer proficiency before hiring.
The National Systems Contractors Association (NSCA) announces the release of a new online tool that saves time, streamlines hiring, identifies current employees with extraordinary technical skills, and finds the best new candidates: the Technical Assessment Tool.
Through a series of basic, intermediate, and advanced questions about the industry and technology, this online tool allows integrators to analyze technician and installer proficiency before hiring.
The test is completely customizable, allowing users to select which categories to test for each candidate.
—Acoustics/Audio/AV (pro sound, unified communications, videoconferencing, etc.)
—Phone, Data, & Networks (cabling, digital signage, networking, nurse call, etc.)
—Life Safety, Fire, & Security (access control, surveillance, fire alarms, etc.)
—Lighting (low-voltage lighting)
The test can also be administered to internal employees who express interest in a role that requires technical knowledge. By asking employees to complete this test, integrators will have a better understanding of where they best fit within the organization. Once testing is complete, both the test administrator and the candidate receive a report explaining performance.
“The new Technical Assessment Tool will save integrators valuable time in the hiring process, as well as help get the right people into the right positions,” says NSCA executive director Chuck Wilson.
“Being able to quickly compare technical skills among viable candidates may be the differentiator in determining who to hire. This tool will also help integrators measure knowledge levels of current employees who are interested in moving into technical roles.”
The Technical Assessment Tool is available exclusively to NSCA members for a fee of $75 per exam. The tool contains 18 modules; testing a candidate in all 18 modules takes approximately three hours.
National Systems Contractors Association
Posted by House Editor on 11/03 at 10:54 AM
Church Sound Boot Camp Class Coming To Oklahoma City In November
Registration open, including early registration discounts, for renowned church sound training
Curt Taipale (Taipale Media Systems) is presenting his renowned Church Sound Boot Camp class in Mustang, OK (just outside of Oklahoma City) on November 13-14.
The class will be held at Chisholm Heights Baptist Church from 5 pm to 10 pm on Friday, November 13, continuing from 9 am to 5 pm on Saturday, November 14. (Go here for more details and for a link to registration.)
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.”
Curt 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. Again, for more details and to register, go here for Webster and here for Mustang.
And, Church Sound Boot Camp is also available in a Stay At Home version, offering the opportunity for self-training as well as to bring this training to the entire tech team. Find out more about it here.
Church Sound Boot Camp
Taipale Media Systems
SynAudCon Hosting Digital Audio Seminar In Washington D.C. This Month
SynAudCon Digital, an educational seminar providing a comprehensive introduction to digital audio, digital signal processing and IP networks, will be held in Washington D.C. on November 16-18, 2015.
The three-day seminar presents the essential theory of networks and provides students with the opportunity to put theory into practice. Hands-on exercises includes students learning how to build and troubleshoot computer networks. The theory and practices learned apply to all computer networks, not just one protocol.
“It is a challenge to keep up with the technology utilized in the digital audio landscape,” explains Brenda Brown of SynAudCon. “Our goal is to reduce the learning curve by providing hands-on training along with detailed instruction.”
Attendees learn the principles of converting analog signals into a bit stream – the basis for understanding all digital audio data formats. The various digital audio formats are also explored along with instruction on how to select the appropriate format for any given application.
Students learn the difference between fixed-point and floating-point processing, and FIR versusIIR filter topologies as well as some practical ways to compare DSP devices in order to sort through the myriad of offerings in the audio marketplace.
Because the tools of the trade for analog audio are not adequate for digital audio, the seminar demonstrates the use of practical instrumentation for examining the digital signal path, including hand-held digital testers and software tools. An understanding of the various digital audio network types and their differences allows students to select the right type of network based on the current and future requirements of the sound system.
Ethernet and its associated hardware is finding its way into all types of audio gear. A confusing landscape of compatibility has emerged. During the seminar students learn concepts that are applicable to office networks as well as audio networks.
As an added bonus, the seminar offers a self-running demo that helps students educate themselves on sample rate and bit depth. A state-of-the-art headphone playback system allows students to see and hear the difference between 24/96 digital audio and 16/44.1 (CD quality).
Find out more about SynAudCon Digital and register to attend here.
Thursday, October 29, 2015
Church Sound: The Benefits Of Being A “Tech Ninja”
A few years ago I was visiting with my friend Chris Walker, the worship leader at Covenant Life Church in Grand Haven, MI, when he dropped the term “tech ninja” on me.
I laughed and thought of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. I imagined a green shell-clad sound guy with an assortment of weapon stashed in his belt. (Not to mention the shell would be nice to be able to hide in when something goes awry.)
Chris went on to give this definition of a tech ninja: the unseen, completely unnoticed, highly trained tactical team of secretive, slightly mysterious warriors that lurk in the booths, catwalks, and backstage areas without anyone knowing who they are or what they’re doing.
I laughed again. But as I reflected on his humorous definition, I saw some real truth that’s both positive and negative.
As we all know, the best tech team is the one you never realize is there. No cues missed, no feedback, and smooth transitions are the mantra of any good technical team. For that matter, the technology is transparent.
The result is an experience where the focus is on the message - not the method.
Marshall McLuhan famously said, “the medium is the message.” While I agree that the medium does shape the context and impact the cultural element, I disagree that it is the message.
The message is the message. The medium just delivers the message, and the more transparent the medium, the clearer the message is received.
So the job of the tech ninja is to use and exploit the medium in a way that allows the message to come thru unfiltered.
I look at it this way.
Most of us are involved in the planning of the worship service.
The worship leader and creative team are also usually involved along with the pastoral staff.
All of us share the goal being to deliver a cohesive worship service, where each element builds upon the previous.
To keep the message building on itself, there must be a flow to the service, the elements must all tie together, intertwine is some way – and for this to happen, distractions and disruptions must be absent from the experience.
When feedback occurs or cues are dropped, the flow of the entire service is interrupted.
My good friend Marty O’Connor (original technical director at Willow Creek) passed this thought on to me: it only takes a moment to ruin the moment.
This statement is so true.
A powerful, deeply moving song can lose its punch when there is screaming feedback in the middle of it.
A prayer can lose its meaningful reflection when it is interrupted by the acoustic guitar player plugging his guitar back in (and the sound guy not having the channel muted), causing a loud cracking sound to come out of the sound system.
As a tech ninja, your calling and best performance is when you truly are totally invisible, and to be invisible you must be highly trained.
So take time this week to raise the level of your ninja skills and enhance your invisible qualities!
Gary Zandstra has worked in church production and as an AV systems integrator for more than 35 years.
DirectOut Introduces MADI.MONI Compact MADI Testing And Monitoring Device
Specifically designed with a small footprint for MADI testing and monitoring in the field.
DirectOut introduces MADI.MONI, an ergonomic MADI tester and mobile MADI monitoring tool.
MADI.MONI has been specifically designed with a small footprint for MADI testing and monitoring in the field.
MADI.MONI offers a simple, uncluttered interface enabling users to see at a glance all format parameters as well as the signal quality of a MADI stream.
Operation is straightforward via four push buttons on the UI including a volume/channel selection to monitor individual channels of a MADI signal via the 3.5mm headphone jack.
The device is battery powered and provides one coaxial and one SFP MADI port.
A traffic light like display delivers immediate information about the physical signal condition (amplitude/jitter). The state of the incoming MADI signal is displayed with dedicated LEDs for each parameter (sample rate, frame mode, channel format).
As a result, MADI.MONI is the perfect match for engineers in the field who need a handy, easy-to-use mobile device that offers comprehensive audio monitoring combined with instant, reliable information about the link quality.
For those who require a more sophisticated analysis tool, DirectOut’s compact MADI analyzer, ANNA-LISA, is the ideal choice. Furthermore, the device’s capabilities have just been expanded with the recent release of a remote control app for Android devices.
You can check out both devices at the AES convention in New York on booth #547. Orders for MADI.MONI can be taken from now with delivery scheduled from December 1st 2015.
Posted by House Editor on 10/29 at 08:52 AM
Tuesday, October 27, 2015
Why Do AV Systems Integrators Work for Free?
You walk into the office of a local architect and say, “Hi, I would like to tell you about the house I want to build, and I would like for you to design it and create drawings so I can have a contractor build it, and I want you to do this for free.”
What do you suppose the architect would say?
A while back, a well-known property development group called us (United Visual) to design a system for its executive board room. It was a rush project and had to be done in just a few weeks. Of course our willingness to help with their tight deadline would yield us the deal, right?
We scrambled to create a design, provide a thorough scope of work, set aside man power and check product availability. Dozens of hours later, no purchase order and only a “sorry, but we received a lower price from another vendor.” WHAT?!
As AV systems integrators, we face situations like this on an incredibly regular basis, if not daily. A customer calls, perhaps someone you know or have done business with before, and they ask, “Could you please provide me with a quote for unnamed project.” Of course when they ask for the quote, they are looking for an itemized equipment list, a basic line diagram, specification sheets, and much more. (The additional requirements trickle in one after another).
Essentially, you are giving the customer a set of plans to bid against.
Now, if any other integrator has gone through this fire drill only to see their work become supporting documents to be bid against, you know where I am going with this. (I hope) It begs the question: Why do we do this to ourselves?
I have no room to talk, I can’t tell you the countless number of times we have worked as the engineering arm of a project under the hope we will win the job, spending countless time with highly-paid resources designing systems for free.
I’ve spoken before about the price/quality/service triangle. Let’s think about this one a bit more. How about giving up your highest margin product for free?
So in the theme of learning from our mistakes, in business it isn’t whether or not errors are made, it is how we respond to them. Do we define insanity and repeat the mistakes until it destroys our profits and good spirit? Or, do we make the decision that something needs to be done about this and act upon it?
I think the latter is the only option and I want to make some suggestions on how we rectify this age old dilemma.
Time is Money: A business has to recognize this immediately and make sure that resources are working on things that pay.
Create an Engagement: When the customer asks you to do a design, suggest a design engagement (flat fee or hourly)
Real Buyers Get This: Before you tell me that the customer will say no, I suggest a REAL buyer understands the time/money relationship. They will also see the value in ascertaining the information that at very least allows an apple to apple bid.
Closing Incentives: Why not offer the customer an incentive if they buy from you? Deduct or reduce design charges if you get the build out portion?
Perhaps some integrators are already doing this, if for no other reason than to see who is truly serious. But in a plethora of conversations I’ve had with integrator principles around the world, I still hear far more often than not the aforementioned fire drill is just a “cost of doing business.”
Now together let’s repeat, “my knowledge has value, let’s not give it away.” Perhaps if we all stand together on this, our customer community will finally understand that.
Daniel L. Newman currently serves as CEO of EOS, a new company focused on offering cloud-based management solutions for IT and A/V integrators. He has spent his entire career in various integration industry roles. Most recently, Newman was CEO of United Visual where he led all day to day operations for the 60-plus-year-old integrator.
Go to Commercial Integrator for more content on A/V, installed and commercial systems.
Monday, October 26, 2015
QSC Offers Insight Into How To Strengthen AV-IT Relationships
New white paper with strategic insights on customer relations, gathered from a collaboration with Spiceworks.
QSC has released a new white paper with an analysis of what AV professionals can do to create and nurture relationships with IT pros that are ultimately more profitable.
QSC teamed with Spiceworks to question IT buyers and professionals to learn more about their conceptions of AV integrators.
The results demonstrate what audiovisual professionals can do to strengthen communication and do business that is mutually beneficial.
“AV Integrators are going to find it more and more difficult to land new corporate AV installations unless they fully understand the IT arena. Learning to interface with IT decision makers and personnel—and understand their requirements and concerns—is going to be the key to this puzzle going forward,” says Patrick Heyn, systems marketing manager.
“QSC wants to help AV professionals to bridge this learning gap, starting with this white paper.”
The white paper, “4 Strategies to Successfully Sell to Corporate IT,” details:
—How to become a strategic partner for a company’s IT department
—The key players and how to prepare for their needs
—What true IT integration means
—Ways to earn the trust of technology buyers
4 Strategies to Successfully Sell to Corporate IT
Church Sound: Building Mix Consistency Across The Team
Can the congregation tell who’s mixing? The question is not for reasons of pride but for consistency.
The congregation should hear a predictable mix each week, and when a new audio tech joins the team, this can be a problem. The new tech could be experienced or fresh off the street.
Either way, the mix needs to conform to the standard sound set forth by the audio team. It can be achieved by following five points.
1) Microphone selection and placement. We all have our favorite mikes for various applications, from vocals to drums, but obtaining a standard sound starts with using an established microphone setup. Yes, there could be three good snare mikes backstage but one needs to be the standard.
Placement is also key. Whether it’s drum miking or amp miking, everyone has their preferred method. Establish a standard drum miking setup, amp miking setup, and anything else that could vary based on personal preference.
2) Monitor placement. Monitor placement doesn’t determine the sound as much as it helps the band. Musicians should expect floor monitors to be in the same place each week. They know how much room they have to move around and where they can move. By changing monitor locations, they have to figure that out again. And when lighting fixture placement is considered, monitor location is even more important.
3) Volume balance and average volume. This is where personal mixing preferences start to come in. Some folks like to bury the electric guitar or boost the bass or push up one of the backup singers because it’s their girlfriend. Yes, these things do happen.
What they need is a design to follow. Such a model could be described on paper with notes as to how the musicians are layered. However, in doing so, there must be examples of how this sounds. Worship set recordings can be used as long as the recording quality represents what’s heard in the room. This isn’t always the case.
A better method is having the tech shadow the on-duty tech for a few weeks to hear how it should sound. This process will also help in the later steps.
The overall average volume of the service, such as the average band volume and the average volume of the spoken word, should be tracked, with those numbers provided to new techs so they know the right range.
Make sure to include the weight and speed so measurements are equally compared, because 94 dB could mean dBA or dBC, and those would be two different sound pressure levels. Use a slow time measurement to cut down on small volume spike readings.
4) General EQ settings. This is a bit more difficult as I’ve got singers who have different vocal EQ settings depending on the arrangement.
For the most part, singers will have a relatively standard EQ curve. This can be altered from one song to the next, but for the most part, there’s a standard curve that cuts the bad and promotes the good. With digital consoles, these can often be saved as presets.
This isn’t saying that they can’t adjust channel EQs. They should as that’s part of the job. However, if a singer or instrument sounds noticeably different from one week to the next, then a discussion needs to occur. Maybe the new tech found a better sounding EQ curve—or maybe they need some one-on-one instruction time.
5) Effects. This one has bitten me before. A long-time tech, who I took at his word, turned out to have good EQ skills but used effects to excess. For instance, heavy reverb on the pastor in a room that seats 200. Wow.
Have a general game plan with how effects are used and to what degree. This isn’t to limit creativity but to establish boundaries in which the team can work. Band practices are a great time to listen to their mixes and work with them.
Audio production provides a lot of room for creativity in stage work and console work. But when it comes to weekly audio production for the same audience, they should expect some consistency. By establishing a general sound standard, all techs will know how much room they have to be creative and where the canvas ends.
Ready to learn and laugh? Chris Huff writes about the world of church audio at Behind The Mixer. He covers everything from audio fundamentals to dealing with musicians, and can even tell you the signs the sound guy is having a mental breakdown.
Friday, October 23, 2015
SynAudCon Offers “Making Wireless Work” Seminar
James Stoffo, Karl Winkler, Tim Vear and Eric Reese will share their vast knowledge about wireless audio and avoiding roadblocks in the future.
SynAudCon’s “Making Wireless Work: Losing the Wires Without Losing Your Mind” is designed to answer the variety of questions that surround the use of wireless technology in today’s changing wireless landscape.
The seminar will take place at the Tuscany Suites & Casino located in Las Vegas, December 3-4, 2015.
Every day audio professionals are challenged with fitting more channels into less spectrum, handling interference from lighting and video walls, evaluating new wireless microphone systems and components, increasing the reliability of existing wireless microphones systems and more.
With the upcoming FCC reverse auction in March 2016, those challenges will be even greater.
“Making Wireless Work” is a two-day seminar that is being presented by some of the most respected audio professionals in the wireless marketplace.
James Stoffo (Radio Active Designs), Karl Winkler (Lectrosonics), Tim Vear (Shure), and Eric Reese (Sennheiser) will share with attendees their vast knowledge about how to use wireless audio products and how to avoid some of the roadblocks in the future.
This seminar will build on the training that end-users receive from microphone manufacturers.
The instructors from the manufacturing side have “under the hood” expertise on how products function, information that is vital to understanding how a system works. Instructors from the non-manufacturer side offer an objective perspective and show how to implement the best wireless solutions.
It is the combination of manufacturer and non-manufacturer staff that make this seminar different than any other wireless training seminar.
The major topics will include wireless microphone technologies, frequency coordination, band planning, RF fundamentals, FCC and spectrum allocation issues and site survey commissioning procedures. This seminar has been approved for 16 Renewal Units.
More information about the seminar can be found on the SynAudCon website. Registration for this event is available through the link below or by contacting SynAudCon at 812-923-0174.
“Making Wireless Work: Losing the Wires Without Losing Your Mind”
Thursday, October 22, 2015
Church Sound: Raising Your Credibility As A Sound Engineer/Tech
This post grew out of a breakout session at a Willow Creek Arts Conference a few years ago.
The session was titled “Thriving at Front of House,” and speakers included Robert Scovill, Chris Gille and Scott Ragsdale. I give Scovi credit in advance for much of the content herein.
As usual, it will be interspersed with my thoughts and commentary.
I hear from younger sound guys (an occasionally older ones) that they don’t get no respect (with apologies to Mr. Dangerfield) from musicians, their pastor or the church leadership.
Sometimes that’s due to ignorance or egos, but sometimes it’s because the engineer in question (brace yourself for some potentially hard words here) doesn’t deserve the respect he or she things is due.
With the incendiary comments out of the way, let’s unpack that.
Scovill talked a lot about your “Credibility Score.” That looks a lot like credit score and it’s something you should take just as seriously. He talked about some guys who are consistently able to get gigs that they may not be the best qualified for simply because they built up such a reputation for being credible.
Others manage to keep gigs they shouldn’t based strictly on talent because they are credible. Just like a credit score, you earn points for consistently being prepared and staying ahead of the game. The more you do that, the higher your score. Then when you need to speak truth into a situation, people will listen to you. If you come off like a know-it-all punk, well, you know the reaction.
Here’s the deal: We teach people how to treat us. It seems counter-intuitive, right? We all know that we like to be treated with respect. However, we often teach people that we are not worthy of respect because of the way we behave. If we are consistently late, or don’t fix problems quickly or are unprepared, others won’t take us seriously—mainly because we don’t take our own role seriously!
You’ve heard it said, “God is in the details,” so why do we get so lax about doing sound in church because, “It’s only church.” This is entirely the wrong attitude! Our church gigs should be our best gigs because they’re for the King of Kings.
Texting when you should be mixing won’t help win points with the worship team. Making the band wait while you figure out which mic to plug into which channel won’t endear you to the band leader. Updating your Facebook status while the pastors mic is ringing will not set you up as a credible authority on live sound.
Now with this food for thought laid out there for feasting, let’s look at specific ways we can raise our credibility score.
Following even a few of these ideas will go a long way in making your life easier at front of house.
The worship leader and band will respect you more and it may even make you more popular with the ladies (or maybe not…).
Let’s consider a few specific things that you can do to raise your credibility score.
Always be the first one there. If you’re early, you’re on time; if you’re on time, you’re late. Being there early gives you the chance to pre-set the stage, and get as much wired ahead of time as possible.
Doing this will make sure the musicians aren’t waiting around for you to get ready. No one likes having their time wasted, and seeing you prepared and ready for them will deposit some valuable currency in your bank (I’m speaking metaphorically here…).
Strive to be a communicator. Being a front of house engineer is a lot more than just mixing. You need to be able to speak the language of musicians, worship leaders and even administrators.
If you try to tell church leadership that the reason the sound is bad is because “the Rev 60 time is like, 3.5 seconds, and the mains are behind the front fills by 45 milliseconds and the subs are out of phase with respect to the mains,” you’re likely to encounter a glaze thicker than that on a Honey-baked ham.
If the worship leader informs you that there will be a guitar solo four bars into the bridge and you think a bar is where the “sinners” are instead of at church and a bridge gets you across a body of water, you’re in deep weeds.
Sometimes, the best way to fix a musician’s monitor mix is to go up on stage and stand next to him (or her) and engage them, finding out what they are hearing and what they need to hear instead. As you listen to them talk, and to the mix, you should be able to figure out how to fix it. Sometimes simply the act of caring will solve the problem.
Be accountable—own your mistakes. Let’s get this out on the table right now: We all make mistakes. I’ve mixed hundreds of services and I still occasionally hit the wrong button and unmute the wrong channel. At the debrief, the worst thing you can do is pretend the pastor’s mic wasn’t on (because they will likely start fumbling for it when they realize they’re not on).
The best response is to say, “Oh, that was totally my bad. Sorry about that.” That will pay huge dividends; especially when the pastor does walk on stage with their pack off.
Avoid making decisions that are driven purely by criticism. If you have a good mix going, don’t turn the guitar down just because someone walks up and says it’s too loud. Take pride in what you do. We are artists, just as much as everyone on stage is an artist. Listen to the criticism, but you don’t always have to react to it.
Develop into a detail-oriented pro. This is one of my favorites because I’m such a detail freak. Make up stage plots and input lists—ahead of time. Make sure the wireless gear is full of fresh batteries when everyone gets there. Pay attention to the way the worship leader likes their mic stand and set it that way every time. Take notes during rehearsal and hit your cues.
Finally, bringing up the guitar just as he finishes his solo (because you forgot there was a solo and you couldn’t find the right fader fast enough) will not score points. Forgetting to open the video channel for the video roll is not a way to impress the video team (or anyone else). If you take what you’re are doing seriously, people will take you seriously.
Mix like a pro, listen like a fan. I’ve never thought quite in these terms before, but I’m indebted to Scovill for this phrase. Once you get your mix put together, go out in the house and listen. If you were a fan of this band, would you like the mix? Does it make you want to stand up and say “Yeah!” If not, get back to work. Of course, if the band isn’t very good… well, that’s another post.
So there you have a few ideas on how to raise your credibility score. Again props to Robert Scovill for the basic concept of this post. Thank you sir for sharing your wisdom…
Mike Sessler recently joined CCI Solutions and is serving as a project lead, based in Nashville. He’s been involved in live production for more than 25 years and is the author of the blog Church Tech Arts. You can read and comment on the original article here.
Tuesday, October 20, 2015
Church Sound: Gee, Wilbur (A Day In The Life Of The Resident Expert)
Sidney: Gee, Wilbur ... we gotta fix this thing!
Wilbur: Alright, I’ll meet you Saturday morning at nine. I’m really tired of that feedback stuff in the monitors all the time. That sound guy at Myrtle’s Music must not know anything about sound, or else it wouldn’t be howling all the time.
Sidney: I know what ’ya mean. And Pastor Bob’s really gettin’ upset about it. He even kicked the monitor off the stage last night at the prayer meeting.
Wilbur: Well, I know we can fix it. My brother owns a really good stereo, with forty-seven woofers and everything. I mean he’s got every record that the Galena Lightheads ever recorded. He’s even got one of them equalizers, and he showed me how to tweak it—that’s one of them audio words.
Sidney: Alright. See ’ya in the mornin’.
Saturday morning at 10:30 AM
Wilbur: Sorry I’m late, man.
Sidney: That’s alright. I brought my tools in, and I just pried that cover off the equalizer. I had to use my crowbar to do it though. I don’t know why that sound guy put it on so tight!
Wilbur: Well, he means well. But I just can’t figure why the new minister of music hired those guys in the first place. My brother says that they did everything all wrong.
Sidney: They sure did charge enough. By the time the church paid them their $900, we had barely enough to pay the $30,000 bill for the pews. That’s gotta be enough for a top notch sound system, isn’t it?
Wilbur: Well, it oughta be. After all, we’re just a church. We don’t need anything fancy. We’ve only got ten musicians and eight singers. Hey, did you see the TV broadcast of our service last night? Can you believe the haircut that Pete’s brother got?
Sidney: Naw, I missed it. I was reading the owner’s manual about this EQ thing. It doesn’t say anything about how to set it. Are you sure you know how to work it?
Wilbur: No problem. Let me at that thing. Let’s see here ... first, ’ya push all the controls clear to the bottom, and then you play a tape and listen to it. I brought my favorite Lightheads tape. It’s a few years old, but I love these old songs.
Sidney: Give it here. I’ll put it in the cassette recorder. Hey, it says something about CrO2. What’s that all about?
Wilbur: I don’t know. I think my brother said that means to push in that noise reduction button.
Sidney: Oh, yeah ... I think you’re right.
Wilbur: No, ’ya gotta twiddle those three knobs up there on the console. Yeah, that one. There, I hear it now.
Sidney: Sure sounds funny.
Wilbur: Turn it up.
Sidney: Hey, I remember these guys.
Wilbur: Okay, here goes. Now I’ll push up these sliders on the left. My brother said to push them up a bunch ’cause ’ya get more lows.
Sidney: How come?
Wilbur: Beats me.
Sidney: Sounds too muddy to me.
Wilbur: Well, we’re not finished yet. Now I’ve gotta push up some of these things on the right.
Sidney: Hey, I can hear some of the words now. That used to be one of my favorites too.
Wilbur: Sounds pretty good to me.
Sidney: What about all those sliders in the middle? Shouldn’t they be up there with the others?
Wilbur: Naw. My brother said to leave them down all the way. He said that was one of the things that sound guy from Myrtle’s Music did wrong. They were too close to zero, and that’s why we’ve had so much problem with the feedback. He said it’s supposed to look kinda like a smiley face when you’re done.
Sidney: They oughta fire that guy and hire your brother.
Wilbur: Hey, we fixed it. I can turn the slider on the console all the way up, and no feedback from the cassette.
Sidney: Yeah. Hey, that was fast. Shouldn’t we set these other equalizers too?
Wilbur: What do they say on the front?
Sidney: Uh ... house.
Wilbur: No big deal. The owner’s manual calls them “room equalizers” and they’re all in the same room, right? Let’s just set ’em all the same.
Sidney: Oh, yeah. That’ll work. I remember my friend saying that he’s got an uncle who has a friend who went to one of those TMS sound workshops once, and I think that’s exactly what they did.
Wilbur: Well, that oughta do it.
Sidney: Hey, do you think we oughta hook up some mics or something and try it out?
Wilbur: What for? I set it just like my brother told me to.
Sidney: I guess you’re right. Man, the pastor’s gonna really appreciate us coming in and fixin’ this.
Wilbur: Yeah, and just wait till the new minister of music comes in tomorrow and hears what we did.
Sidney: Yeah, he’ll probably call us up and take us out to lunch next week.
Wilbur: Is there any special music tomorrow?
Sidney: I don’t know. Nobody said anything to me. See ’ya later.
Please don’t be the resident expert!
I have heard so many horror stories about how the work of a well-qualified, experienced consultant, system designer or sound contractor has been thwarted by well meaning volunteers in the audio ministry at a local church.
Typically their motives are properly placed, and applied with a genuine desire to help.
But all too often their lack of thorough knowledge in some technical area causes them to stumble through a procedure with precarious results.
Optimizing the frequency response of a loudspeaker system with an equalizer and other tools is fairly academic to a trained technician who is equipped with the proper test equipment.
Having such a person periodically adjust the house EQ of a sound system is an appropriate maintenance routine, and is worth the few hundred dollars it may cost the church.
Consider it an investment, not a cost. Once properly equalized, the audio ministry should be able to operate the system with a great deal of flexibility and little fear of feedback.
However, the system can be operated improperly, with an attempt to take it beyond what it is capable of. This is generally where the trouble begins.
The next step is to assume that the equalizer or some other peripheral piece of equipment that was called out in the design, properly installed and set, needs further adjustment. The next failure is to reason that the tech shouldn’t be called back in – after all, he’s always too busy to return your calls, and he costs too much money anyway.
Step three in this breakdown is not recognizing that one may know only enough about the procedure to be dangerous, and setting out to fix it oneself anyway. Maybe even with reinforcements, like Sidney.
Several weeks (in some cases months) later, you go ahead and call in that tech or some other consultant to resolve the problem. I have been called in countless times as a consultant to resolve the problems created by Wilbur.
On some projects, I’ve been called in two or three times to fix the same problem that mysteriously keeps reappearing. Wilbur either didn’t understand something about the overall problem, incorrectly analyzed the problem, or he just had an overwhelming need to twiddle the knobs himself.
What that does in the long run is cost the church more money than it needed to spend to keep bringing a consultant back in. It could even be a factor in letting that lost soul who is finally planning to attend your church this weekend slip through your hands.
Please hear my heart. My intent here is to lift and edify my brothers and sisters in the technical support ministries.
If you’re a Wilbur, learn from my gentle reproof. Realize that I’m not talking to the guys/gals who have seriously gone after their study of all things audio. There are many church techs these days who have studied audio very in depth, even at the college level, and they very likely know what they’re doing. Deep down you know if you’re a Wilbur or not. If you’re a Sidney, talk some sense into your Wilbur. And if you’re neither one, you’ll even more clearly understand my heart. God bless you in your service to Him!
There are a myriad of options for training in the basics of audio, and specifically for church techs.
When I first started training church sound techs in 1982, I was one of only two or three individuals in the US who were offering such classes nationwide. Now there are so many options it’s hard to know which ones are worthwhile attending and which ones to stay away from. But do your research and get some quality training. It will only help the techs, and in turn the worship team, pastoral staff and the congregation.
In fact, you can start learning the right way right now by ordering my training materials. Or join us at one of our ChurchSoundBootCamp.com training classes.
Copyright 2011. Original article appeared in the Fall 1987 issue of Clarity Magazine, published by Taipale Media Systems, Inc. Used with permission. All rights reserved. Read the original article here.
Curt Taipale heads up Church Soundcheck.com, a thriving community dedicated to helping technical worship personnel, and he also provides expert systems design and consulting services with Taipale Media Systems.
Note that Curt will be hosting his Church Sound Boot Camp “How to Get the Sounds” workshops in Louisiana and California—learn more here.
Friday, October 16, 2015
In The Studio: How The Sync Head (And The Overdub) Changed Recording Forever
Once upon a time there was no recorded music, and you could only listen to live music. Brilliant musical performances occurred and vanished into the air except for whatever musical memories or emotions were remembered by the listeners.
Early recordings were made with a single microphone cutting direct to vinyl. Then came tape, then stereo tape and so on to 8, 16 and even 24 tracks. As track numbers increased, engineers were able to separate more instruments for finer sound control.
Of all the developments in audio technology, I believe the most profound was the sync head. Sure, the stacking of tracks was important and lead to mixing, but the sync head changed the most about how music was made.
Prior to the advent of the sync head (a record head on a tape recorder that also has playback capabilities), the only way to build upon previously recorded material was to play the material on one tape deck and record a combination of it and new sounds to a second tape deck.
For the most part, recording was a matter of capturing a complete performance. Then along came the sync head and the overdub became possible. Musicians could listen to previously recorded tracks while recording new ones, and the new tracks would be perfectly in sync.
In fact, if you put the machine into record somewhere in the middle of the song and then took it out of record shortly after, you could replace sections of performances.
This led to many changes.
1. Musicians Stopped Playing Together. Now that parts could be added at any time, it was no longer necessary to have an entire band playing a full song along with a singer for every take of the song. The band could perform the song one time and the singer could perform over and over until the take was perfect, each time recording a new track over that one performance by the band.
Granted, that meant that the band could not change how they were playing in response to something the singer was doing since the band was already recorded, but overall it was a major improvement in music production. All you needed to do was get one good take from the band, then you could send them home and not worry about paying them while the singer was getting it right.
Unfortunately as the number of instruments playing together reduced to the point of recording each instrument individually starting with drums, then on another day bass, then piano (etc), the musical communication and variation that would normally occur as musicians responded to each other’s live playing became less a part of the music.
Yes, you could now examine every part under a microscope and make sure each performance was perfect and exactly what was intended…but you no longer have the communal musical interpretation of a particular song. Each part would only be able to interact with what was already recorded, often leaving the drummer nothing to interact with but a click track.
2. Musicians Had Less Pressure To Perform With Consistent Quality. Since you could always go back and re-sing a vocal, there was less pressure to get it right as there was when an expensive band was backing you for every take.
Eventually as it became possible to go in and out of record for very tight periods it became possible to replace individual words or even syllables. Vocal performances became collages from many performances rather than a single vocal interpretation.
3. Producers And Artists Could Get The Performance They Wanted Instead Of Compromising. Although it was always possible for a producer to elicit a performance out of a singer in the same way a director elicits a particular performance out of an actor, now it was possible to save different versions to move and combine as desired for a final, perfect vocal.
4. Volume Dynamics Became Less A Function Of Performance And More A Function Of Mixing. Since the musicians were no longer performing together, they were no longer changing their dynamics according to what each other were playing.
The dynamic interaction that is an important part of communal music had to be created afterwards by the mixing engineer.
5. Individual Musicians Could Play More Of The Parts. This meant artists with a strict understanding of how they wanted their music performed and the ability to play the necessary instruments (such as Stevie Wonder) could really do it all themselves.
I know that some of these points are direct contradictions. But the sync head and the overdub changed recording forever.
For more, look up these names: Tom Edison, Emile Berliner, Les Paul, and Tom Dowd.
Bruce A. Miller is an acclaimed recording engineer who operates an independent recording studio and the BAM Audio School website.
Sven Pro Sound Selects K-array For Historic Plaza Hotel In Milwaukee
Architecturally-sensitive historic hotel retrofitted with small KT2 loudspeakers for background and foreground music
Sven Pro Sound recently tapped into the K-array installation loudspeaker line to fit the requirements of The Plaza Hotel, an architecturally-sensitive historic hotel in downtown Milwaukee, WI.
Brady Garrison, chief systems integrator at Sven Pro Sound (based in Milwaukee), was tasked to find a sound system that nearly or fully disappeared in the architecture of the building for not only background but foreground music.
Surface-mount loudspeakers were the only option as the ceiling and walls are both made of solid concrete. Other competitor bids were of more standard rectangle-sized surface-mount loudspeakers that were large, or “planter loudspeakers” to be installed with plants.
These options were unacceptable for the hotel, which was seeking a solution that was elegant and sleek when seen.
“K-array was the only brand that made a product small enough to hide in the hidden crevices of the architecture but also have the ability to output higher sound pressure levels if needed,” Garrison explains. “Wiring and distribution was easier because their products also have an option to use a 32 ohm rating per speaker, which eliminated the need for a 70-volt system.”
Sixteen compact KT2 loudspeakers were chosen in white, hidden in vents and corners throughout all the public spaces of the hotel. A KU36 subwoofer was added for the cafe which was an area with consistently bass-heavy music. The loudspeakers are powered by two KA10-10 four-channel amplifiers, allowing room for the addition of KU36 subwoofers in every zone, not just the cafe.
Additional components of the sound system are four Tannoy DI6DC loudspeakers powered by a Lab.Gruppen IPD2400 amplifier for an outdoor courtyard that hosts live music as well as wedding parties.
The hotel has the ability to broadcast the live music from the courtyard to the entire hotel using an Allen & Heath AB168 digital snake connected via Cat-5e to an Allen & Heath QU-PAC, which provides wireless mixing, zoning and source control for the entire hotel. A Sennheiser XSW35 wireless microphone system is also available for use in the courtyard for announcements.
Sven Pro Sound
Thursday, October 15, 2015
Church Sound: How Do Techs Magically Pinpoint A Problem Frequency?
So there I was, hunkered down in the sound booth with the congregation rioting around me. Two instruments were vying for the same dominant frequencies and I could hear an elder yell, “MAKE THIS NIGHTMARE END!”
Sweat was pouring down my face. “Think man, think,” I told myself. “You’ve trained for this very type of scenario.”
My hand reached for the channel EQ. I moved the mid-range sweep knob to 1,257 Hz. Suddenly, confident of my next move, I applied a 6 dB cut to that frequency…and the congregation went wild!
This story seems outrageous but in the mind of some audio techs, it reflects a question I occasionally get via email: “How do techs pinpoint a frequency so easily?”
There are four ways that techs learn to pinpoint frequencies…but “pinpoint” isn’t the best description. Let’s look at the four and you’ll see what I mean.
1. It’s what I do every day.
It takes 10,000 hours to master a skill. Working weekends and maybe a mid-week practice, it would take 24 years of working 8 hours on live mixing each weekend, every weekend. Professional audio engineers are putting in a lot of more time and thus they have trained their ears to identify frequency areas in relationship to vocals, guitars, drums, etc.
Even with that type of near-every day experience, could they pinpoint a specific frequency? No. They would be able to be very very close in finding the frequency area for their first modification.
2. I trained my ears.
It’s possible to get a jump on mastering frequency area identification if you train your ears. There are a number of products which help with this training. Quiztones is a great one.
Some people have golden ears and it’s easy for them to identify the frequency area they need to change, but for most people, it takes training your ears.
3. I learned the common frequency areas.
Each instrument and vocal has a set of audio frequencies that are known to affect the sound in a certain way. For example, here are two key vocal frequency ranges and their use:
100 Hz – 300 Hz : Clarity/Thin (Good for cutting)
400 Hz – 1,100 Hz : Honky/Nasal (Good for cutting)
Knowing these frequency ranges, you know the frequency area you should first investigate when you have a problem with your audio channel…or you don’t have a problem but you want to improve the sound, such as add presence to a vocal or an acoustic guitar. My guide, Audio Essentials for Church Sound, covers all of these frequency areas for the different instruments and vocals.
4. I learned to sweep.
Looking at the previous three points, you’ll notice I didn’t mention how one learns to “pinpoint” a frequency such as in the 1,257 Hz in the above story. It’s because you can’t. The best you can do is come close on your first attempt and from there, “dial it in.” Let’s look at how you’d do this.
First, it doesn’t matter if you are on an analog or digital board as the concept is the same. Let’s go with an issue where your vocal is a bit on the nasally side (some vocalists are like that, you work with what you’ve got). Focus on the below range:
400 Hz – 1,100 Hz : Honky/Nasal
Go to your mid-range sweep EQ knob and move it to 400 Hz. Next, set the mid-range cut/boost knob at +6 dB. You have now applied a 6 dB boost at 400 Hz.
Using the mid-range sweep knob, slowly sweep your frequency center point up until the nasally characteristic jumps out in the mix. You might find it at 800 Hz or 1,011 Hz or 1,100 Hz.
Once you find the right point, cut the frequency area to the amount you need. +6 dB is used because it’s easier to listen for extremes and adjust once you’ve found the point.
The next time you’re mixing that vocalist and they sound nasally, you have a good idea of the frequency area you should give that initial cut before sweeping a bit to make sure you’ve dialed it in.
The Take Away
I encourage you to focus on the last three points. Start by learning the key frequency areas for instruments and vocals. Then check out Quiztones and train your ear to recognize those frequency areas.
Finally, learn to sweep. Even if you don’t use Quiztones or regularly train your ear, if you know the ranges and learn to sweep to find the right spot, you’ll be doing great!
Ready to learn and laugh? Chris Huff writes about the world of church audio at Behind The Mixer. He covers everything from audio fundamentals to dealing with musicians, and can even tell you the signs the sound guy is having a mental breakdown. To view the original article and to make comments, go here.