Monday, September 21, 2015

Church Sound: Your House Volume And My Grandmother’s Cooking

This article is provided by Behind The Mixer.

A sound tech from Washington writes regarding finding the right house volume levels, “It’s either too loud for the elderly or too soft for the youth, or too much electric or not enough bass, it’s just impossible to please everyone.”

My grandmother’s cooking immediately comes to mind.

My grandmother was a good cook. I’m not talking “Paula Dean with butter in everything” or “Bobby Flay with everything jazzed up.“ I’m talking about good simple food. Cooked ham, vegetable soup, you know; simple foods. It was not food that was full of a lot of spices or secret ingredients. But for her and her husband, it’s what they liked.

What would I cook for my grandmother?

Would I cook her a spicy pot of jalapeño-based chili or spicy Thai-shrimp? No. Not because she wouldn’t appreciate it, but because it’s not the type of food that brings her enjoyment. It would bring pain, if anything.

But what if she was one of many people at a family gathering? Then how much do I cater to her? Do her needs take precedent over other people’s dining preferences? Yes! No! Maybe?!?

For whom are you cooking?

It’s a family gathering…you are in charge of the food for the event…your in-laws are hosting the event and your father-in-law just gave your $1000 to cover all your food expenses.  Now answer this question…who gives the final O.K. for the menu? Your father-in-law, of course!  No question. He’s fronted the money and you want him to be happy. He’s also in a position of leadership (eldership) over everyone else.

For whom are you mixing?

The short answer is…the pastor. Depending on your church structure, it might be the worship leader or an elder board or a creative arts pastor. As much as I’d love to tell you that you are mixing for the congregation, when it comes to who ultimately has the final word; it’s someone in church leadership. In cases such as this, you can talk with them about comments you are receiving but whatever they say, that’s what you do.

The drums rule…the drums are low key…the electric guitar solo’s rock out…the electric guitar sits back in the mix…it’s up to them.

What if there is no direction?

You might be in a situation where they say “whatever you think sounds good.“ [Gulp] Now what? I could come up with five different scenarios and none would be like your situation. Therefore, I’ll tell you what I’d do…

Review the mix by overall volume. How loud does it need to be to be worshipful?

Review the mix by volume of individual instruments. Are they set in good relation to each other? Do I have a good solid mix?

Watch the audience. If the youth kids are singing with their hands raised but the rest of the congregation just stands there, then lower the volumes.

Look for a common ground. This is the hard part. You can’t please everyone all the time. You want to please a majority of the people most of the time. You can look at the ratio of demographics. Twenty senior citizens and three youth kids? You mix for the older crowd.

Ask for pastor-approval and recommendations. There comes a point where you can create a balanced mix that’s good for the majority but you might still get criticism. Talk with the pastor and explain the situation.  Somewhere along the lines, someone has to compromise. The pastor might say, “Mix so the oldest lady in the congregation likes it” or “mix for the majority and send people with complaints to me.“

I never wanted to cook super-spicy food for my grandmother. I wanted to cook food she’d love. But in cooking for a larger audience with varying tastes, I have to recognize that she would be sitting and eating dinner with everyone. Maybe I’d drop the spicy-shrimp and swap in something more savory.

It’s not about what we eat together, it’s about dining together. That’s how you and the church leadership should look at the music mix.

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.

Posted by Keith Clark on 09/21 at 06:02 AM
Church SoundFeatureEngineerMixerSound ReinforcementTechnicianPermalink

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Larry Estrin: A Life Of Innovation And Leadership

Involved with countless landmark events and created numerous "firsts" in a career that spanned well over 50 years

Noted innovator and leader Larry Estrin has passed away following a battle with illness, leaving an indelible mark on professional audio and broadcast in numerous impactful ways.

Larry was involved with countless landmark events in a career that spanned well over 50 years, such as the first multi-satellite global broadcast of a major concert, live stereo broadcast of the Olympic Opening Ceremonies, stereo broadcasts of the Grammys and Academy Awards, as well as numerous other high-profile projects for the White House, NFL and Disney.

He was the co-founder of Hollywood Sound Systems in 1960, and went on to serve as the road manager for legendary Hawaiian performer Don Ho at the height of his popularity. He also served as director and CEO of The Filmways Audio Group, which included Wally Heider Recording (16 studios in Los Angeles and San Francisco).

In 1980, he co-founded BEST AUDIO, which continues to this day. Along the way came numerous “firsts,” including:

—Member of the creative design team that developed the Main Street Electrical Parade at Disneyland, specifically responsible for conceiving the synchronized sound system design.

—Conceived and implemented the first use of wireless microphones for referees of National Football League (NFL) games. (As he said, “I don’t always know what the hand signals mean. Let’s let the referee explain it.”)

—Provided production management, broadcast, media and stadium audio and production communications for 19 consecutive Super Bowls.

—Engineered and implemented the first stereo recording and broadcast of the Academy Awards.

—Engineered and implemented the first stereo simulcast of the Grammy Awards.

—Developed and implemented the first remote audio mobile unit designed exclusively for television.

—Audio design consultant for the first two years of the iconic Saturday Night Live on NBC (1975-1976).

—And much more. See Larry’s resume here.

Larry where he loved to be: working at a large-scale event.

Long-time friend and colleague Mac Kerr adds, “Larry was the person who conceived of the method of using carts to get the sideline PA on the field for Super Bowls. Prior to that we set up truss towers and flew a PA on the sideline in the 7-minute commercial break. He was the audio director for many Super Bowls, political conventions and all the televised political debates prior to his illness this year. He was the audio director for the last two papal visits to the U.S., overseeing locations at every appearance by the Pope, and the audio director for the opening ceremonies of most of the Olympics since LA.

“Larry was a loyal friend, and he will be greatly missed. Go in peace old friend.”

Friend and colleague Henry Cohen: “A one-of-a-kind character for whom there are countless stories, anecdotes, accolades, and a bit of awe. I’ve had the privilege of knowing Larry for over 15 years and wouldn’t have missed any of it. The logistics and operations of large scale special event sound and communications are rooted in many of Larry’s innovations.

“I’ll miss him. Rest in peace.”

Friend and business partner Pete Erskine notes that there are lots of great stories involving Larry, and he shares this anecdote: “My favorite was during the Republican convention in Dallas. All the sound crew had gone out to lunch except Andrew Waterman. When we came back, the Dallas Police Department had sealed the center for “their” security sweep. Not only were we locked out, but most of the Secret Service was too. In those days the Dallas Police were the absolute authority in that town.

“Larry radioed Andrew and had him turn on pink noise at max volume and then go hide. We could hear it outside. After about 10 minutes the police came out to the loading dock, looking for the audio department. Larry, the crew, and the locked-out SS members entered and “fixed” the problem.

“Please share your stories about Larry and yourself here. Larry had been working on a book about his life and would love to have them included.”


Posted by Keith Clark on 09/20 at 10:19 AM
Live SoundNewsStudy HallAVConcertEngineerSound ReinforcementTechnicianPermalink

Friday, September 18, 2015

Rate Your Audio Skills, Knowledge & Personality Type

As technology accelerates at a dizzying rate and increases in processing power are only rivaled by the size of knobs on “retro analog” gear, we find ourselves navigating between magical-designer patch cables and legitimate advances in audio.

We know digital must always be “better” because CDs sound better than cassette tapes.

Everything is processed, as often as possible, and just as the hot dog is the perfect meal of processed meat, sound will be perfect and consistent any day now, as soon as we buy that magic black box with sufficient DSP power.

In order to help understand where you are in this overwhelming audio maze, I have put together a quiz to help rate your knowledge and personality type.

Modeled after the timeless and successful “Rate Your Love Life!” or “Is He Faithful?” types of quizzes in women’s magazines, it only seems appropriate that we “audiots” should share in the fun.

Your “audio horoscope” should provide some valuable insight into your mixing “character”. To properly score, you must answer every question, and be sure to keep score as you go.

So take your time, read carefully, good luck and enjoy!

1) You are mixing FOH at a venue that has a 90 dB A weighted limit, averaged over 10 minute intervals, maximum 20 dB peaks, measured from the FOH mix position. Which of the following would be a valid approach for achieving the best sounding show?
—Make a point of introducing yourself to the sound monitoring person, find out the rules and show interest in their job - 1 point
—Radio to production for a case of beer and a bottle of Jack - 2 points
—Yell obscenities and stomp around like a little kid - 4 points
—Ignore the irritating sound cop and crank it up - 3 points
—Go back to the bus - 6 points

2) Really old sound gear does not actually sound that great…
—Unless it has tubes, which means that it sounds amazing - 4 points
—Unless it looks cool, which means it sounds amazing - 2 points
—Age is not as relevant as the quality of the design - 5 points
—True - 1 point

3) Huge mics are better because they capture more sound…
—Of course - 4 points
—Especially if they have a tube - 3 points
—No, but they definitely fall over easier on a tripod stand - 6 points
—Yikes - 0 points

4) A large-scale digital console is best suited for…
—Replacing a smaller, lighter, less expensive analog console on a tour that ships worldwide and only one engineer uses it - 7 points
—A rental company to put on festivals so all the engineers can share one console and learn to use it at the same time - 4 points
—Award shows with multiple acts and cues and the producers won’t let the band engineers touch the consoles anyway - 1 point
—All of the above because it will make the band sound better - 4 points

5) When mixing a show you
—Lean over the console constantly turning knobs and must not be disturbed - 5 points
—Dial up the mix, hit your cues and make minor adjustments during the show - 1 point
—Drink beer and hang out with your friends - 6 points
—Watch the band intently because you are a monitor engineer - 0 points

6) A friend once told me “when mixing, never face an audience of 10,000 people without a beer and a cigarette”, his advice means…
—You should take up smoking and drinking while you work - 2 points
—Mix with your feet - 4 points
—Never panic, a relaxed and confident engineer will mix a better show - 1 point
—May as well enjoy yourself because the band can’t hear your mix or see you anyway - 6 points

7) Before your show starts you…
—Hang with your friends and drink beer - 6 points
—Do a quick check to make sure all is in order - 1 point
—Change into your “show clothes” - 2 points
—Turn everything up a bit, just in case - 7 points
—All of the above - 0 points

8) Feedback from stage…
—Usually builds quicker and more aggressively than feedback from the mains - 5 points
—Is the only place it comes from - 3 points
—Is the only chance for the monitor engineer to get in a “solo” - 2 points

9) Studio gear is better than live sound gear because…
—It usually costs more, does less and takes up more space in the rack - 5 points
—Is better designed because live gear manufacturers do not know the “studio secret design techniques” - 7 points
—Is called studio gear because it is big heavy and wastes space, if it was small, light and compact, it would be “live gear” - 6 points
—All of the above - 0 points

10) Recent breakthroughs in bass DI technology has increased the size and cost of the bass DI five-fold. These advances are…
—New electronics designs and technologies - 4 points
—Utilizing the same technology that makes compressors large - 0 points
—Impossible to actually hear but they look cool - 2 points
—Awesome, who makes them? - 7 points

11) Having a tall sound riser is important because…
—It is my sound stage, baby! - 2 points
—It is easier to scan the audience for a date - 6 points
—It is important to hear the sound way up high above the heads of the people you are mixing for, even if it is totally different that what the audience hears - 4 points
—It is the way it is done - 3 points
—It actually may not be the best idea - 1 point

12) Would you rather have…
—A sound system that sounds amazing at mix position but poor everywhere else - 3 points
—A system that sounds mediocre but its coverage is smooth and consistent throughout the audience of the entire venue - 5 points
—The newest revolutionary PA that you saw in a magazine but have yet to hear - 7 points
—The biggest PA you can get - 2 points

13) The most important characteristics of a world-class sound engineer is…
—Instilling confidence to the band that every show will sound as good as humanly possible - 1 point
—Reinvesting a portion of your salary into paying random people $20 to tell the band it sounded great - 3 points
—Quality sound and show to show consistency regardless of system type, venue size or personal issues - 1 point
—How many companies give you free gear - 2 points
—Hamming it up for pictures in sound magazines - 7 points

14) The common practice of having the back-line techs play all the instruments through the main sound system, full blast, right before the band plays is necessary…
—Because even though the band sound checked four hours ago, having the back-line techs play the instruments may offer totally new and critical info to your mix - 4 points
—Because the audience needs to get mentally prepared for the show by listening to 30 kick drum beats and the beginning of “Freebird” half a dozen times - 3 points
—For engineers who can’t afford headphones and have no idea of how to acoustically compensate for the audience arriving, using house music - 5 points
—Because it is truly your only chance to demonstrate your amazing sound prowess before the band steals your spotlight - 2 points

15) When mixing a show and you really have to take a “whiz”,  you…

—Go take a whiz - “when you gotta go, you gotta go” - 3 points
—Act nonchalant as you fill up every empty container in sight - 6 points
—Try and make the mad dash between songs - 5 points

16) While mixing the show, do you make the time to listen to the sound outside of the mix area?
—No, you’re always too busy turning all those knobs - 5 points
—Never thought of it - 4 points
—Every time you’re in a new venue - 1 point
—You play hide and seek with the band ducking down in the crowd and popping up in various places - 6 points
—Only when you have to take a whiz - 3 points

17) Your mix sounds amazing because…
—You use a lot of expensive outboard gear - 7 points
—You use a really huge mixing board - 6 points
—You have lots and lots of inputs from stage - 7 points
—All of the above - 0 points

18) There was an imaginary concert that sounded really, really bad. The most probable cause was…
—Lack of fancy tube compressors with big knobs - 3 points
—A $10,000 studio effect that was needed was not available on this continent - 7 points
—One of the seven high hat mics stopped working right before the show started - 0 points
—The human surrounded by all those lights and knobs - 1 point

19) It is important to “limit” those support acts because…
—Just in case the support engineer can mix better, at least he/she will not be as loud - 7 points
—It is easier than asking them to mix at a reasonable level - 5 points
—Support engineers look cute when they are angry - 4 points
—Only when they suffer from CFC (Chronic Fader Creep) disease - 1 point

20) Running pink noise through the sound system is important for…
—Helping to find some of the hot spots and holes when EQ’ing the sound system - 1 point
—Its calming effect on the lamps in the truss - 3 points
—Letting the air out of the sound system and avoiding over-pressurization - 4 points
—All of the above - 0 points

21) The best music to tune a sound system to is…
—Steely Dan - 7 points
—Dire Straights, “Money for Nothing” - 3 points.
—Your side project band - 2 points
—Some music that sounds even remotely similar tonally to the show you are mixing - 0 points
—Tenacious D - 6 points

22) When an audience member takes it upon himself/herself to critique your mix and tell you they can’t hear the vocals, you…
—Have them thrown out by security - 3 points
—Make excuses blaming the system, the techs, the band and where the audience member is sitting - 7 points
—Listen, smile and say thank you - 5 points
—Go ahead and un-mute the lead vocal mic and turn it up slowly - 6 points

23) You are mixing the largest show of a band’s (and your own) career. The PA company hired for the show, in an attempt to get a jump on load out, inadvertently unplugs your console from the main system after you tested everything, and just as your band walks on stage. To your horror, you see what looks like (and is) one of the band members jumping around but no sound is coming out of the PA. Who is ultimately responsible for the screw up?
—You, because you’re responsible for the sound no matter what - 0 points
—The PA tech that unplugged the console - 5 points
—The PA company department head for letting it happen - 3 points
—Not sure but that sucks! - 6 points
—The real issue is “who is gonna pay for the console” that you accidentally flipped and began jumping on top of after it happened - 7 points

24) As a sound “engineer” you share a common title with many other professionals in the highly advanced society we live in. Which of the following engineering jobs do you feel most qualified to perform, given the experience and knowledge you acquired to earn you the impressive title ‘engineer’?
—Design a cost-effective five-foot wide wooden bridge that will safely support up to 32 oxen, spanning a 30-foot wide river - 5 points
—Design a simple eight-bit microprocessor capable of doing basic mathematical functions - 4 points
—Do a structural analysis and determine the maximum safe wind velocity upon a 62-story building - 5 points
—Drive a train - 6 points
—Describe the method of grafting DNA strains to help increase disease tolerance of soybeans - 5 points

25) The show was flawless, the audience mesmerized, spontaneous cheers and standing ovations. You’re standing at the sound board and the thought running through your mind is:
—Man, my job sucks, can’t wait to get to the bus - 3 points
—Wish I had a nine-to-five desk job with a suit and tie - 5 points
—Man, if my mom had only bought me guitar, I could be up there - 2 points
—Wonder if McDonalds is hiring? - 4 points
—If only I had five more inputs! - 7 points
—Well, maybe this sound thing ain’t so bad after all - 1 point

Congratulations, you’re done!

Now, tally up the total score, and here’s how you rate:

50 - 55 total points: Congratulations, you’re a Mix Master! Somehow your keen sense of the obvioius combined with an in depth awareness of the nuances of the auditory profession has allowed you to navigate your way to being a Mix Master. You are on the right track and somehow figured out that all you hear is not to be believed. Good luck and congratulations!

56 - 65: Oh you Rock Star. The shiny lights, the cheering crowds, if only the sound board was center stage. Darn - if only mom had put you in guitar lessons instead of Little League. Well, at least this sound gig lets you wear a bunch of cool laminates and rock out to the hits!

66 - 75: So you’re from the Old School. Been there and done that ,and it’s not how we did it on Floyd tour. Well you can always turn it up a bit and go for a glory pose. These dang new PA’s are getting really tiny though - what happened to the good old days when it took six guys to lift a real speaker cab?

76 - 95: There are worse things than being Engineerically Challenged (see below). We can’t all be the brightest mic in the road case, and we’re all bound to get a little confused every once in a while. You may want to touch up a bit on the technical side, especially if you’ve been at this sound thing for more than a year or so.

96 - 115: As a Techno Nerd, you’ve gotta love those spec sheets and owners manuals. The complexities of striving for the perfect sound is a challenge that can keep you occupied forever, and sometimes, it can be overdone a bit. This is a highly technical field. but no amount of technology will overcome the subjective aspect of sound. Never forget that in the sound world, perfection is only an opinion.

116 - 130: Hey Cool Dude.
Chicks, beer, tunes and a paycheck - what more could you want? You most likely didn’t choose this line of work to be bored and get to have some fun… Or you may as well get a real job. Hopefully you’ve got some crazy good mixing skills as a balance, or you’re gonna wind up working clubs when you’re 50. But at least you’re having fun!

131-plus: Ahhhh, the elusive Small “Male Unit” award.
You need the newest, the biggest, the most expensive of everything you can get, regardless if you know how it works (or not). Whether it’s a certain personal deficiency that causes you to try too hard in other ways, or you’re just having fun burning someone else’s cash, be aware of what you really look like when Small “Male Unit” calls the shots.

Dave Rat heads up Rat Sound, based in Southern California, and has also been a mix engineer for more than 30 years.

Posted by Keith Clark on 09/18 at 03:37 PM
Live SoundFeatureBlogConcertEducationEngineerSound ReinforcementTechnicianPermalink

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Church Sound: When System Failure Is Not An Option….

Noisy mic cables can happen to anyone almost anytime. No matter how careful you are XLR cables are prone to being stepped on, run over and pulled too hard by musicians, singers and, well, you. The result of all this abuse can be intermittent shorts, open circuits and noise issues.

Of course, your cable problems will often turn up in the most audible and important signal path, such as your Minister’s microphone or signal feed to your radio station, so here’s how to find and fix problems before they get out of hand.

First, identify the source of the noise. If you hear a crackling sound during your service, grab your headphones and start soloing individual microphones and instruments until you hear the noise in your own ears. You can now mute that channel — if you can get away with it for a song — or perhaps get your preacher to step over to his backup microphone.

At this point you’ve identified the signal path with the noise, but not the particular cable. So mark every cable in this signal path with a piece of gaff tape and pull them out of the sound system after the service for later testing and repair.

Next, test the cables! If you don’t have a cable tester, buy one now. For example, the Swizz Army Tester from Ebtech costs around $100 and is a great option.

This versatile tester will check any combination of XLR, Phone, RCA and MIDI cables for shorts, opens, cross-circuits and grounded shields. It also checks for intermittent open circuits with a “Reset” button function.

After you plug in the cable, momentarily press the Reset button you’ll see the “Intermittent” lights go out. Then when you wiggle the cable around, any momentary break in the connection will cause the appropriate light to lock to the “on” position. Sure beats trying to watch for a light to blink off while you’re attempting to make a cable fail.

In our shop, we test every single XLR cable that’s going out on a gig, especially if it was used by someone else on another system. That way we’re not surprised by a bad cable at the worst possible time. If your cables stay “home” then at least a yearly verification of every cable is a good idea.

For cables that get moved around a lot, say if you’re a mobile ministry, once a month testing is indicated. However, not testing your cables regularly is just a failure waiting to happen during your worship service.

How many of you have tested your mic cables in the last month? Let me see a raise of hands… Hmmmm…

Hector La Torre and Mike Sokol run the HOW-TO Church Sound Workshops, dedicated to growing ministries through audio education and applied technology through the national, 36-city, annual HOW-TO Church Sound Workshop tour. Find out more here.

Posted by Keith Clark on 09/17 at 12:19 PM
Church SoundFeatureBlogStudy HallAnalogInstallationInterconnectMeasurementSound ReinforcementSystemTechnicianPermalink

Prism Sound’s Mic To Monitor Educational Seminars Coming To AES New York

Primary goal is to dispel many myths surrounding the recording process, as well as address hot topics, with a slate of noted presenters scheduled

Prism Sound will be hosting Mic to Monitor educational seminars as part of the AES Project Studio Expo at the upcoming AES Convention in New York.

To be held November 1, the series of seminars will run throughout the day, targeted at all levels of music production and engineering attendees.

The primary goal is to dispel many myths surrounding the recording process, as well as address topics such as what makes great gear “great,” what it takes to become a successful engineer, and how professionals tackle different aspects of their productions to create hit records.

Among the speakers lined up for the event are Prism Sound technical director Ian Dennis, Maselec founder Leif Masses, ATC technical sales and applications engineer Ben Lilly, and Gik Acoustics president Glenn Kuras.

The 200-seat Project Studio Expo will be located on the AES trade show floor next to the exhibits, and is open to the public.The seminars, which last approximately 45 minutes each, are free and will be delivered via headphones so prevent interference from show floor noise. There will also be opportunities to ask questions and demo recording equipment.

Graham Boswell, sales director of Prism Sound, states, “We’re very excited about bringing Mic to Monitor to the AES show. The music recording industry is constantly evolving and there are always new tricks and techniques to be learned, even by people who are already making a successful living in this field.”

Prism Sound

Posted by Keith Clark on 09/17 at 10:58 AM
Live SoundRecordingNewsTrainingAnalogDigitalEducationEngineerStudioTechnicianPermalink

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Church Sound Boot Camp Class Coming To Lake Charles, Louisiana This Month

Registration open, including early registration discounts, for renowned church sound training at University United Methodist Church in Lake Charles on September 25-26

Curt Taipale (Taipale Media Systems) is presenting his renowned Church Sound Boot Camp class in Lake Charles, Louisiana on September 25-26.

Specifically, the class will be held at University United Methodist Church (UMC) in Lake Charles from 5 pm to 10 pm on Friday, September 25 and continues from 9 am to 5 pm on Saturday, September 26. (Go here for more details and to register.)

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, author of “The Heart of Technical Excellence,” and a contributing author to Yamaha’s “Guide to Sound Systems for Worship.”

Curt Taipale

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. Go here for more details and to register for the Lake Charles class. Early registration discounts are offered.

Upcoming Church Sound Boot Camp classes include:

—San Diego area, to be held at Unity Way Church in Vista, CA from 5 pm to 10 pm on Friday, October 2 and continuing from 9 am to 5 pm on October 3. Go here for more details and to register.

—Oklahoma City area, to be held at Chisholm Heights Baptist Church in Mustang 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.)

Early registration discounts are offered for both of these dates as well.

Also note that Church Sound Boot Camp is 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

Posted by Keith Clark on 09/16 at 03:36 PM
AVLive SoundChurch SoundNewsTrainingAVEducationEngineerSound ReinforcementTechnicianPermalink

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Church Sound: Remember, Practice Makes Permanent

This article is provided by Church

A while ago, I mentioned to my MoM (Minister of Music) that our backing vocals were sounding pretty rough on a regular basis.

Their intonation was so bad at times that we often had to use the “shoot it before it multiplies” approach to mixing.

You know - if it doesn’t sound good, don’t turn it up!

So over the summer he scheduled regular rehearsals just with the backing vocalists, and he stopped me in the hall recently to tell me about how well things were going.

Not only were the vocals sounding better, but the singers were encouraged and really enjoying the process.

We rejoiced together over the results of their renewed faith in practice, but I couldn’t help wondering why they hadn’t been practicing like that on a regular basis for years.

I guess sometimes we get used to how things have been done in the past, and it’s not easy to see, or hear, the need for improvement.

As Chris Beatty is known for saying, practice doesn’t make perfect - it makes permanent.

We Need Practice Too
By the same token, if you’re responsible for the sound in your church each week, you need to be attending those rehearsals as well. The single most effective thing any church sound mixer could do to improve his/her contribution to the worship service is to practice with the worship team on a regular basis.

We are called to excellence in the technical support ministry. God gave us His best, and our service through the tech ministry should offer no less than our best pursuit of excellence for Him. Audio, lighting, and video are all crafts that require our diligent study to learn.

We can learn by finding someone to mentor us, by reading and studying books on the subject, by participating in online discussion groups (like the ProSoundWeb Church Sound Forum or the Church Soundcheck Discussion Group ) by attending trade shows and workshops, and so on.

If anything, the majority of people who serve in a technical support ministry of their local church are way behind the curve on learning that craft. Let me explain.

In most churches, the musicians and vocalists who lead worship each week are accomplished musicians. They have studied music and how to deliver an excellent performance with their instrument for many, many years.

During those years of learning they immersed themselves in the learning process by taking lessons, practicing for hours on end at home, playing in recitals, practicing some more, and attending concerts to hear others perform.

It wasn’t easy, but they finally got there. Some are just farther down that road than others.

Yet the majority of individuals who find themselves serving in the tech support ministry of their local church don’t have years of study at that craft like the musicians and singers do.

Many of them are just starting to learn how the gear works, often struggling with well-meaning people teaching them the wrong way to do stuff, filling their heads with audio mythology instead of truth.

Being good at any one of those crafts also requires an element of performance during a worship service. A worship leader doesn’t walk on stage to perform. He/she goes out there to lead others into worship of God.

But there is an element of performance in what they do. Knowing the right words to the song, knowing how the melody and harmony parts go, developing the ability to sing well and in key - all of those are elements of performance. I think you would agree that we’re thankful for the time they’ve invested to develop the abilities God gave them.

God has given us unique abilities to shape and control the sound, or the lights, or the video equipment, to capture and even enhance the gifts of the worship team. But you didn’t wake up one day with the ability to deliver a great mix. You had to work on it.

Artfully lighting a dramatic presentation on stage, or even lighting the stage evenly so that the video team will have a smooth picture to broadcast takes an investment of our time and a decision to learn and develop those unique abilities that God has given us.

Stay on Task
Delivering a flawless worship service requires focus and sensitivity on our part.

First, we need to be focused on the task at hand.

As much as I want to close my eyes and lift my hands in worship during an especially moving song, I can’t.

It’s not that I can’t get anything out of a worship service, because I do.

But I tend to look at my part of the service as a sacrificial offering to God so that others can enter in.

If I allow myself to get distracted, if I’m not fully focused on the task at the moment, then I can easily miss a mic cue, allow a bit of feedback to get out of hand, miss a lighting cue, forget to put the right song lyric graphic on the projection screens, and so on.

Those kinds of mistakes are understandable, but inexcusable.

We need to put ourselves in the congregation’s shoes. The congregation should simply hear exactly what they need to hear, at the moment they need to hear it, at the exact level they need to hear it, and not know how it happened. They should never even know that we’re there.

We do this by paying attention to the little things. For example, if your worship leader is anything like 99.9% of the worship leaders I’ve worked with, they sing a whole lot louder than they talk. So let’s say that you have their input fader at “0” (unity gain) while they’re singing.

You know from experience that if you don’t push their fader up to +10 dB between songs, that there’s no way your congregation is going to hear what’s being said.

So when they finish the song, and you know or suspect that your worship leader is going to talk before the next song starts, you should have already started moving their fader up to a position that you know will be loud enough for them to talk with the congregation.

No compressor is going to make up for that difference. You - yes, you - have to push the fader up while they’re talking so everyone hears what they need to hear. You also have to pull the fader back down when they start to sing or they’re going to blast everyone out of their seats. That takes some work on your part to learn the worship leader.

Every worship leader I’ve worked with has a certain style all to their own, including how they interact with the congregation. Once you’ve worked with them for a while, and that may take a few years, you’ll begin to sense when they’re going to do this or that.

“How did you know to push the fader up at that moment?” “I don’t know. I just sensed that he was going to do that, so I pushed it up.”

You’ll also sense in advance when they’re going to sing a couple of words too loud, and you’ll instinctively pull the fader back the right amount without thinking about it. It will eventually become so automatic you won’t realize you’re doing it.

It’s like a piano player who can make the piano do anything they want it to do without even looking at the keyboard. They could probably explain the mechanics of what they do, but they’re such a part of the instrument that it would be difficult to explain the thought process and emotions that go into creating the sounds that they create.

So that’s one of your goals - to get so comfortable with the gear that you operate it instead of the other way around. To listen so analytically that you can discern even the slightest imperfection in the mix and deal with it before someone else notices it. If it fits your style of worship service, to make moves with the house and stage lighting systems that allow them to have a life and breath that matches the worship service.

Excellence requires study and practice. Lots of it. It’s a never-ending assignment, so get used to it.

Sensitivity to the Holy Spirit
We also need to be sensitive to the Holy Spirit’s leading at the moment.

This can be as simple as knowing that the guitar player is about to take a solo, without anyone having told you about it.

Now, frankly, if they’re already planning on it, I’d prefer that someone in the band tell me that the guitar is going to take a solo during the third verse.

But I’m sure you understand what I mean. Trust your intuition.

Another reason for our staying focused on the task at the moment is so that we don’t do something really stupid during a service.

For example, we generally dim the house lights to a preset value at a couple of strategic moments during our worship services. The dimming system we use has a fader that determines how fast that fade up or fade down is.

On occasion, one of our tech team members will hit the preset without checking to see where that dimming speed fader is positioned, and the lights will snap to the next setting.

Now, that’s going to be obvious to any congregation member. Instead of a slow dimmer move from one setting to another, it’s a sudden change that could be a distraction to some.

If it happens often enough, it could even have some members thinking “There go those idiots in the tech booth again. Why can’t they get that right?” If it distracts even one person from the worship service, it shouldn’t have happened.

My Most Embarrassing Moment
Bet you can’t top this one. Several years ago, we were in the middle of the offertory special music one service when I offered what will hopefully be the worst mistake of my entire mixing career. The choir was singing with a live band.

To improve our chances for gain-before-feedback in those days, we had gotten into the habit of pre-tracking the choir. That gave me a click track on one channel to feed to the band, and all of the choir I ever needed on the other channel.

So imagine this. We’re in the middle of the song. The band is playing with the click track fed over their headphones. The choir is singing live. I have mics on the choir, and I’m using the prerecorded choir to fill out the sound and give me some extra choir volume to use as needed.

As this is going on, I’ve allowed myself to get distracted. I’m thinking about the transition from this song into the sermon. And I’m looking around the sound booth, checking for things that I might have overlooked, like forgetting to turn off the CD player that I’d used for walk-in music before the service.

I look over and discover the cassette deck rolling, and I say to myself “Well, what’s that rolling for?” The moment I hit the stop button I realized what a stupid mistake I’d just made. You guessed it. I stopped the track that the band and choir were singing along with.

Now, fortunately for me, my Bachelor of Music degree and many years of making my living as a musician kicked into gear at that moment. I realized that I’d stopped the track on the downbeat of a bar.

So I somehow counted four bars and hit the play button on the next downbeat. I’d be willing to bet that 99 percent of the congregation never knew what happened.

Bless their hearts, the band and choir director caught it, and gracefully adjusted for the extra four bars. But my goodness did I feel stupid. You can bet that I’ve never made that mistake since. It also taught me to stay focused.

In a sense, it taught me to keep from being too focused as well. It may sound odd to say this, but I was trying so hard to be focused that that in itself allowed me to get distracted.

My List of Pet Peeves
Here’s my list of pet peeves regarding stuff that just shouldn’t happen in a worship service.

Some of these may seem so silly, so expected, so taken for granted that they’re not worth saying.

But you’d be surprised how many times I’ve seen these mistakes made in other churches, or even by my own volunteers.

If you’ve got some to add to the list, please send them to me and we’ll compile a list.

Don’t miss mic cues. We can’t afford to not have a mic turned on when it needs to be on. But if you come to one of my workshops, you’ll hear me talk about keeping the number of open microphones to a minimum.

That is to say, if the choir’s not singing, don’t have their mics open. If the pastor’s not talking, don’t have his mic on. And so on. But we also need to stay focused so that the pastor doesn’t have to say stuff to the congregation like “Is this thing on?” What an embarrassment.

Turn off the mics before they hit the stand. It’s purely unprofessional to let a singer put a mic in the clip on a stand without having first muted that channel. If you don’t, the congregation is going to hear a loud thump over the system, or at least over the monitors.

Hopefully the channel mutes on your console also mute the monitor mixes. That way all you have to do is mute each vocal mic channel, and they’ll be muted both in the house and in the monitors simultaneously.

Mute the guitar channels. Don’t you just hate the loud “buzzzt” that goes with a guitar cable being plugged in or unplugged with the channel open? If we can equate the word professional with excellence, then it’s unprofessional to not mute those channels in time to save the congregation from that moment.

It’s a two way street though. The sound guys aren’t mind readers, nor have they been assimilated and become one with the automation of the console.

All that to say, the guitar and bass player in your worship team should give you a moment to mute their channels before unplugging. It’s just common courtesy, a recognition that we’re a team, that the tech support guys and the musicians are equal members of the worship team.

Leave the sudden light changes to drama. Unless it’s for dramatic effect, the light changes both on stage and in the house should be slow. If possible, they should be so slow that the audience really isn’t aware that a change is being made.

Dim the house and stage lights for video presentations. If your church sometimes uses videotaped segments to underscore part of the pastor’s message, or for other things, you can really help the congregation see the screens better if you’ll dim the house lights a bit during that presentation, then bring them back up afterwards.

Teach your backing vocalists where to stand, and how to use a microphone. Would someone please tell me why most backing vocalists stand so far away from their stage monitors? I don’t get it.

In one church I used to work at, our vocalists were very compliant and stood where we told them to stand - so they could see down the throat of the HF horn in their stage monitor. Yet I’ve seen so many vocalists who run away from their monitor.

You ask them if it’s too loud and they’ll say no. But they refuse to stand where it will do them the most good.

Those vocalists I used to work with were also careful not to hold their mic to their sides facing down between songs. They simply held it about at their waist, still pointed up.

Think about it. If your vocalists drop the mic to their sides between songs, the zero degrees on-axis point of the mic is going to be aimed at the monitor, which is likely going to make it feedback.

There’s nothing worse than 2,002 eyes from the congregation looking at you when you did nothing to cause the problem.

Don’t create a visual distraction during a worship service. Investing your time and God-given talents in the tech support ministry is great. But remember that it’s an unseen, helps ministry.

Do your best to keep it that way. If you need to walk out into the auditorium during a worship service, plan your route to offer the least possible distraction to the congregation.

If you need to talk on the intercom, do so quietly so that others around you won’t be distracted. If you need to get a message to one of the musicians or singers on stage during a worship service, see if there’s a way to talk to them quietly over the monitors rather than sending someone on stage with a note. That’s another perfect reason for headphones instead of monitors.

Tighten up the fittings on boom stands. One day in college, I was helping set up for a jazz concert. As music engineering students, we were responsible both for sound reinforcement and for recording such events at the music school.

And I had been given the responsibility of setting the mic stand with a boom arm and a rather heavy mic on the end of it for a guest saxophone soloist. At one point during the performance, of course during a saxophone solo, that boom arm started to slowly drop lower and lower.

Guess who was sent out to fix the problem!?! That’s another mistake I’ve not made since. I’d encourage you to learn from my mistake. Hey, get your own ones instead!

Don’t stop mixing between songs. Remember the technique of bringing the worship leader’s fader up between songs so the congregation can hear what’s being said?

Well, if your pianist or keyboardist continues playing between songs, go ahead and pull their faders or submaster down about -20 dB or so. They don’t know how loud they are in the house mix. Even if they’re playing softer, it may not be soft enough. It’s your job to maintain a great musical mix, even between the songs.

Don’t forget to practice. It’s just amazing to me that musicians and vocalists - people who are used to practicing on their own - have to be reminded of the need to practice as a group. I’ve seen the same scenario repeated countless times around the world.

Stay plugged in! This is a given, but I’ve seen this happen to too many tech support volunteers - myself included. This constant commitment to pursue excellence requires vigilance on our part, but it cannot replace our relationship with God.

If we get lost in the fun of twiddling knobs and playing with the gear, and in so doing forget why we’re doing this in the first place, then God won’t honor our service.

All that to say, don’t work every service. You and your family need time to immerse yourselves in the worship services as well.

If it needs to be mic’d, then put a mic on it. I once watched a sound guy at a church realize that he had forgotten to put a mic on an instrument on stage, and then decide that it was just too much trouble to bother going all the way back downstairs to add the mic. Hmm, not worth the bother?

Keep Up the Good Work
I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t always want to bother with the details it takes to deliver excellence in every worship service. But I can’t get away from the fact that we’re called to excellence in this ministry.

We don’t have a choice but to give God our best. It honors Him. It’s a way to say we love Him. It’s not brain surgery, but it’s important. So keep studying. Join our discussion group so you can learn daily as well as share your knowledge with others. And keep giving it your best.

Curt Taipale heads up Church, 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.

More articles by Curt Taipale on PSW:
Staying Focused - A Path To Excellence In Operating Your Church Sound System
Choosing The Right Console For Your Church Sound System
The Powerful Affect Of Digital Effects In Your System
Who Defines “Good” Sound At Your Church?
Install Your Own Church Sound System? Here Are Some Cautionary Tales
Humor Files: Unintended Amendments To The Laws Of Physics

Posted by admin on 09/15 at 06:16 AM
Church SoundFeatureStudy HallProductionAudioLightingEducationSound ReinforcementTechnicianPermalink

Friday, September 11, 2015

Church Sound: Can A Change Of Mindset Revolutionize Your Technical Ministry?

This article is provided by Gary

Sometimes the best lessons we learn throughout our careers are those which we draw from parallel situations.

Having said that, I’d like to tell you a little story. Stay with me, because I promise this all comes full circle in the end.

Several years ago as I was planning a city-wide event to honor World War II veterans, the Mayor at the time shared with me a concept which has been rumbling around in my head ever since.

Of course, there’s a lot of room for it to rumble…so take that for what it’s worth…

The concept is simple, but significantly changed the planning for the event and made a tremendous impact on its success

This event was being held because the company I work for opened right after WWII.  To commemorate the 60th anniversary the owner of our parent company asked me to throw a party for the city as a celebration. 

It didn’t take but a few seconds for me to start planning a VJ (Victory in Japan) Day celebration to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the ending of the war and to honor those of the “greatest generation” that served our country.

As I began planning…in one of my rare moments of brilliance I asked the Mayor to be on an informal committee I was putting together.  The Mayor was a retired high school history teacher so I knew he would be not only a great advocate for the event, but would also have a great historical perspective of how VJ day was originally celebrated back in 1945.

The Mayor not only contributed his historical perspective but also suggested and recruited some WWII veterans and local people who experienced VJ Day here in town. 

Those “eye witnesses” helped shape the three-day event that we put together which included many of the same elements of the original celebration. 

However, the Mayor shaped the event in other ways as well. You see, in our first meeting he said to me, “Gary, you need to go where the people are”. 

I thought, “Ok, great but where are they?”

It just so happened that our celebration coincided with several other events of which the Mayor suggested we take advantage.

For instance, there was already an event scheduled for downtown on the opening night of out celebration, so we planned a “dancing in the streets” event (just like it happened in 1945) complete with a swing band playing period music which took advantage of the “pre-existing crowd”

Also, on the celebrations closing night the American Legion Band was scheduled to perform their final outdoor concert of the season.

So we asked them to play period music and let us “sponsor” the concert and then provide a fireworks display at the conclusion. This was obviously a big “win-win”.

The event was great fun as thousand people participated in the events over the course of three days, however, had I not received such sage advice early in the planing process, I don’t know the event would have been nearly as successful.

Over the course of the event planning I learned several valuable lessons, which I feel can be applied to your technical ministry.

You see,  I did say this would eventually come full circle…

Here are some key lessons I’d take away from this story:

1) Get the right people involved!
2) Go where the people are!
3) Listen to others around you, drawing upon all ideas. You may be surprised of the results…

Not only did I learn “to go where the people are” I learned that there are outside influences that can make a bigger impact than you alone can create. 

It is easy in retrospect to see the great wisdom in the suggestion “go where the people are”. 

However, that suggestion applies just as much to planning your next worship outreach or searching for new technical staff as it does to planning a celebration.

Most importantly, it’s critical to listen to those people with whom you’ve surrounded yourself. You never know what great idea or solution may come from the most surprising place.

What wisdom are you getting from the people around you that will make your technical ministry successful beyond your highest expectations? Let me know in the comments below!

Gary Zandstra is a professional AV systems integrator with Parkway Electric and has been involved with sound at his church for more than 30 years.

Posted by admin on 09/11 at 06:49 AM
Church SoundFeatureProductionAudioConcertEducationEngineerSound ReinforcementSystemTechnicianPermalink

Wednesday, September 09, 2015

Daring Moments With The Zac Brown Band

From the moment the Zac Brown Band first took the stage at Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena, this year’s Jekyll + Hyde Tour left a large footprint wherever it went.

Bigger, bolder, and just plain brashly beyond anything the group has ever staged before, the tour rolls with stadium-ready production that easily adapts to sheds and arenas.

Consider that the stage is three stories high, and, given the right place to stand, illuminated with enough LED screens to be clearly seen from outer space.

With a set list known to feature no less than 14 of 15 cuts from the new Jekyll + Hyde album, the show has additionally been graced with guest appearances by the likes of Kid Rock, Jewel, and Bela Fleck.

Choirs commonly sit in, and as a demonstration of its genre-bending prowess, the band has been covering The Beatles’ “Let it Be” and Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody,” sauntered casually into EDM, and even co-opted a quasi-show tune.

The tour, which is slated to wrap in December, will have completed nine stadium dates before it ends, including the first show ever at Coors Field in Denver, two shows at New York’s Citi Field, a three-night stand at Fenway Park in Boston, and a stop at Wrigley Field in Chicago.

The Zac Brown Band in concert on the current Jekyll + Hyde Tour. (Credit: Kyle Rippey/Southern Reel)

Perfect Marker
“If you’re trying to get your head around what’s going on out here,” says systems and FOH tech Preston Soper, “the Fenway run makes a perfect marker. When we did that we had just come out of Coors Field, went home for a couple days, came back out and did a arena in Boise, ID, went on to The Gorge Amphitheatre, an iconic, very large venue in Washington that some consider one of the most scenic concert locations in the world, and then right into an amphitheater. To be successful in these diverse kinds of environments, you have to have the right tools to maintain both sonic excellence and consistency.”

Soper, along with fellow audio tech Chris Demonbreun and crew chief Vic Wagner, meet the challenges of these diverse venues with the aid of an L-Acoustics K1/K2 rig supplied by Sound Image. In a typical shed hang, there are a dozen K1s per side on the mains buttressed by six K1-SB cabinets per side.

KARA cabinets spread out at a rate of three per side for the main/underhangs, while a sum total of 20 K2 enclosures join in for aux coverage. In addition, a dozen SB28 subs hug the ground and six more KARA boxes stand-in at front fill.

“You can probably count on one hand how many sound checks we get in a year,” Soper notes. “That’s why the system’s consistency in performance is so important to us. We get a line check in the afternoon with the backline techs and along with virtual playback, we’re able to hit our target curve for each show with relative ease every night. A nice, neutral curve is what we’re going for, not too saturated in the low-end, with a linear slope of about 3 dB per octave from low to high.”

The full system during sound check at Nationals Park in Washington, D.C. (Credit: Kyle Rippey/Southern Reel)

Powerful Tools
L-Acoustics Soundvision allows the crew to render each environment in 3D, place the loudspeakers in that virtual environment, and then view what the EQ is and SPL will be over the entire coverage area.

The system is tuned using an approach employing Rational Acoustics Smaart IO and Focusrite RedNet 4 mic preamps, a half-dozen ISEMcon EMX-7150 measurement mics, a Venue receiver from Lectrosonics, and a Ruckus Zone Flex T300 wireless access point.

“We’re using some powerful tools before we even put anything up,” Soper states. “A big part of being successful every day is being able to do things efficiently. We put out all six of our measurement mics while tuning. We look at everything on-axis and off-axis, and see how it all comes together in real-time with Smaart at the console area. There is no way we could do these shows as fast as we need to without this level of involvement.

“The L-Acoustics curve is really spot-on and very musical right out of the gate, but if you do your homework at each stop quickly and accurately, you’re going to have even better performance over the entire coverage area,” he adds.

For his part, front of house engineer Eric Roderick was one of the primary forces responsible for making the move to L-Acoustics this year.

“These are bigger loudspeakers than we were using before, and I definitely like them in the stadiums,” he explains. “Our previous rig did well, but every time I mixed on an L-Acoustics system, I thought to myself, ‘man, I gotta get back in front of one of these’.” This system provides me with more of the body I want, and I couldn’t be happier with everything we’ve done so far this year.”

Moving Freely
Roderick – just like his counterpart, monitor engineer Andy Hill – orchestrates his mixes from behind a DiGiCo SD7 digital console. With 112 inputs coming in at his desk and a need for the talent to move freely between the three different levels of the stage, the show is wireless-intense, with RF wrangler and monitor tech Jake Bartol given the task of keeping all the frequencies aligned and functioning utilizing tools that include IAS software, Sennheiser WSM software, and Shure Wireless Workbench 6. Frank Sadler is the crew’s stage patch and Pro Tools guru.

Left to right: Systems/FOH tech Preston Soper, FOH engineer Eric Roderick and systems tech Vic Wagner at front of house. (Credit: Kyle Rippey/Southern Reel)

While Zac Brown is indeed a pick-shredding guitar player, Roderick says that his voice is “super-easy to work with, he has great dynamic range and belts it out. The only real trouble spots – if you can call them that – are in the 800 Hz to 2K range. This is where I have to squash things a little bit occasionally. When he gets up high he loses a little bit of low-end body, so I just round it up with an upward lift in the mid-low frequency range.”

Drawing from an acoustical palette residing entirely within his console, Roderick relies heavily on Waves plug-ins, with his favorite go-to tool for Brown’s vocals being the C6 multiband compressor. He also uses the C6 from the master bus on the left/right mains to “kind of squeeze down whatever may be sticking out” as the occasion warrants. Further benefits are realized with Waves CLA-76 compression and some de-essing.

Eric Roderick mixing with his DiGiCo SD7 at Nationals Park. (Credit: Kyle Rippey/Southern Reel)

“I use the CLA-76 on Zac’s acoustic, as well as on the violin,” Roderick says. “And then I’ve really gotten into one Preston turned me onto this year called Center. It’s a stereo enhancer plug-in a lot of people use for final mixes and mastering. I use it on background vocals and it spreads them out really nice with fabulous imaging.”

When it comes to the totality of his mix, Roderick builds his sound with an emphasis on accurately translating that which the band does so well onstage to the crowd. “It’s about the band’s intrinsic energy,” he imparts. “First and foremost are the vocals. This is a very vocal and harmony-oriented group of musicians, so that’s always going to be square one for me, and everything else follows under it.”

Doing Many Things
Monitor engineer Andy Hill subscribes to the notion that less is more in most situations, even as he stands looking at his SD7 that’s just about maxed-out in terms of processing with the 160 inputs he’s dealing with onstage.

“I couldn’t imagine doing this on another platform,” he says with conviction. “I don’t think I could handle all the ins-and-outs and complexities of what we’re doing. My ability to essentially do anything I want with any channel or any button has been invaluable. We have multi-instrumentalists onstage that require different mixes for the different instruments they play. There are a lot of people, guests included. doing so many different things, and certain songs are more complex than others.

“The actual mixing is the most complicated part,” he continues. “Different people sing lead, play lead, there are a multitude of different fills. Just keeping track of that so everyone hears things at the appropriate level and time keeps me on my toes. I don’t go more than a half second without moving a fader of some kind.”

One way Hill keeps things as simple as possible in his complex world is to set up his required input channels in a separate fashion so that he can simply un-mute them when they’re needed. For example, for the band members who play both guitar and keys on different songs, he sets up separate channels that accommodate both instruments. Then he simply un-mutes them when required and mutes them when they’re not.

“This way, I don’t have to make an actual level change,” he explains. “It’s harder to get a level change exactly right on the fly than it is to just mute and un-mute a channel. I do the latter entirely with the automation on the console, I have a snapshot for each song. When I change a snapshot, I know everything is either correctly muted or un-muted for everyone, and then I just concentrate on balancing the mix.”

Andy Hill mixing monitors, with RF/monitor tech Jake Bartol next door at his workstation. (Credit: Kyle Rippey/Southern Reel)

Fairly Quiet
When Brown plays electric guitar, it runs through a pair of 4 x 12 cabinets residing directly behind him onstage. This fact notwithstanding, Hill still describes his workspace as a “fairly quiet stage,” with everyone tuned-in to the proceedings courtesy of 20 channels of Sennheiser SR2050 IEM receivers and transmitters working with Jerry Harvey JH16 in-ear monitors. Outfitted with eight drivers per ear, the JH16s give Hill the low-distortion detail and accuracy he’s after with increased headroom.

Brown’s lead vocals are captured via a Sennheiser 5000 Series wireless unit coupled with an MD 5235 capsule, a pattern that repeats itself for the other musicians when they need wireless elsewhere on the elaborate set, and for backing vocals. All instruments, including horns, are spread across 22 channels of instrument wireless. Wired microphones for band members are Sennheiser e 935s.

Drums and percussion utilize an varied collection of mics, with kick sounding forth via a Shure BETA 52, Shure SM57s on snare, Sennheiser e 604s on toms, a Shure SM7 for high-hat, Sennheiser e 604s applied to rack and floor toms, large-diaphragm AT-4050s from Audio-Technica positioned as overheads, and a percussion section served by a phalanx of more SM57s, Sennheiser MK4s for overheads, and other offerings.

Another view of the Zac Brown Band performing on the current tour. (Credit: Kyle Rippey/Southern Reel)

Ready For More
To be sure, there are daring moments to be witnessed on the Jekyll + Hyde Tour, both in a technical sense and among the excursions made by the band into uncharted territories, whether they be with guest artists like Kid Rock leading the crowd in a sing-along of Stephen Stills’ “Love the One Your With” or taking on songs like “Beautiful Drug” with its house-resonating bass loops and club-sounding synths.

“Anything can happen out here,” Hill says on a parting note. “You just have to be ready, otherwise you’ll find yourself quickly chasing your own tail. That’s what has always made this one of modern country’s most compelling acts. Whatever happens going forward no one can truly say with any certainty. Just be ready for more, that’s my advice.”

Gregory A. DeTogne is a writer and editor who has served the pro audio industry for the past 32 years.

Posted by Keith Clark on 09/09 at 11:06 AM
Live SoundFeatureBlogConcertConsolesDigitalEngineerLine ArrayMicrophoneProcessorSoftwareSound ReinforcementSubwooferTechnicianPermalink

SynAudCon SR For Technicians In-Person Training Coming To Chicago In October

Understanding the audio signal chain, establishing proper gain structure, maximizing signal-to-noise ratio, equalizing systems and more...

SynAudCon has announced that registration for the three-day Sound Reinforcement for Technicians (SRT) seminar, held in the Chicago metropolitan area October 5-7, is now open.

SRT utilizes a multi-media presentation that will instruct attendees on how to understand the audio signal chain, establish the proper gain structure, maximize the signal-to-noise ratio, and equalize the system.

During SRT, the measurement of voltage, impedance, polarity, SPL and STIPA will be demonstrated. More importantly, attendees will learn what these measurements mean and how to use them to ensure a system performs optimally. On the third day, Pat will demonstrate an optimized equalization process that brings the system to its fullest potential in the shortest possible time.

Instructor Pat Brown explains the theory by using analogies and demonstrations, then uses the theory to establish a practice that works from system to system. Audio practitioners leave the seminar with the assurance that an optimal level of performance can be reached without endless tweaking.

The in-person training will take place at the Holiday Inn in Rolling Meadows, IL, just outside of Chicago. The seminar is approved for 24 InfoComm RUs and 21 BICSI CECs. Registration and more information is available online by clicking the link below.

Other in-person seminars offered this fall include SynAudCon Digital, November 16-18 in Washington DC, and Making Wireless Work, December 3-4, in Las Vegas, Nevada. 


Posted by House Editor on 09/09 at 08:23 AM
AVNewsTrainingAVBusinessEducationEngineerSound ReinforcementSystemTechnicianPermalink

In The Studio: “Music 101” For Recording Engineers

This article is provided by

If you’re a doctor, you can’t operate if you do not know what you should and should not cut. If you’re a mechanic, you can’t repair a car unless you know how the engine parts work together to move the car.

As an engineer, you are a technician, but one that works with creative material. Yes, you can approach it purely like a technician, but you won’t be able to perform as well as if you know a bit about music. Notice that I used the word “perform” rather than work.

We work with sound. We work with music. We work with feelings. If you don’t know anything about any of these things, you have no business calling yourself an engineer.

If you only know about sound and not music (and more importantly the feelings that music can express) then you may be able to spit out work that looks good on a meter, covers all the requirements, but has no musicality and feeling. In addition, you need someone to translate what the musicians say so you understand what’s happening.

The best engineers are IN THE MUSICAL MOMENT ALONG WITH THE MUSICIANS and can discuss not only things like sound volume but also things like sound dynamics, harmonic or rhythmic support, musical timing, and instrument functions. The best engineers recognize, encourage, and capture musical creativity.


“The main job of the recording engineer is to capture as much musical dynamics as possible. The mixing engineer should utilize those dynamics to enhance the expression of the song.”

Dynamics refers to the interplay and “give and take” between different instruments based on their changes in volume or other characteristics.

Dynamics means change, which can occur on many different levels. Even a single instrument can have dynamics that change over time. 

There is emotion in dynamics. When someone speaks loudly, it impacts you one way, but if they speak softly, you find yourself listening harder and perhaps even leaning in to hear better…this greatly changes how you will perceive what you are listening to. This is an example of dynamics as applied to volume.

Dynamics not only applies to volume but also to any other kind of change or movement such as tonal change, intensity (how hard one plays), rhythmic feel, etc. Sounds can have different dynamics at different frequencies. 

Dynamics can be felt in single instruments, relationships between instruments and even the combined sound of a finished mix.  Although these days everyone seems to want their music as loud as possible with no break, music often has important dynamics between instruments that help to convey the emotions of the song that can be lost when mixes are squashed and pumped for the sake of volume.

You do not have to know how to play an instrument or read music in order to push a fader, but it really does help to know what the musicians on the other side of the glass are going through.


A song is based on a melody (and often lyrics) and occurs through time. Songs have musical chords that support the melody (but may not necessarily be played in full).

Songs also have other parts that can support the melody and chords (such as drums for rhythm, bass to both support the low end and also to provide a low counter melody, guitars to play chords in rhythmic ways, etc).

It’s possible for a single musical element to take the role of others; for example, a song can be sung in a way that gives a strong rhythmic feeling without having drums. Arrangements are maps that indicate not only the song’s sections and their order but also which instruments will play particular parts. Although many people use the term to only mean the sections of the song, it also relates to how the different musical parts interact with each other as they support the main melody.

Typical arrangement sections include:

Intro: Song beginning
Verse: The “story”
Chorus: The repeating part of the “story”
Bridge: The part when everything changes for a short while before returning to the “story”
Tag (Outro): Song ending

In order for recording and mixing engineers to be able to effectively capture, edit and then mix music they must have a basic understanding of music, arrangements and instruments.


Instrumentation refers to the actual instruments that are used in a song.  Musical elements / instruments are both rhythmic and harmonic, as even drums have musical pitch and a violin note has rhythm.

Commonly used instruments include:

Drums (Kick, Snare, Hat, Toms, Cymbals, and also Room Tracks)
Percussion (Conga, Bongo, Timbale, Clave, Maraca, Shaker, Clap, Go-Go, Cowbell, etc)
Bass (Upright, Electric, Synthesizer)
Guitar (Acoustic, 12-String, Electric, Distorted, Wah-Wah, etc)
Strings (Ensembles/Orchestras, Violin, Viola, Cello, Bass)
Horns (Trumpet, Trombone, French Horn, Tuba)
Woodwinds (Flute, Clarinet, Oboe, Bassoon, Saxaphone)
Synthesizers & Drum Machines
Background Vocals
Lead Vocals
Lead Instruments (any of the above)

Certain instruments have particular sounds that make them optimal for specific song functions, such as a percussion instrument to make a beat. However, most instruments can perform the functions of others.

Rhythmic Elements

Rhythmic Elements are accentuated points along a repeating pulse. The pulse itself is a rhythmic element called the BEAT.

A BEAT is a repeated heavy point in time that you can feel with your body. A song’s TEMPO is how fast the beat is going. Tempo is measured in BPM (beats per minute). 

When the rhythm repeats, it is called a MEASURE or BAR. The DOWNBEAT is the first beat when the rhythm repeats (i.e., the “ one” of “one – two – three – four – one – two – three – four”). 

Much music is made of repeating groups of four beats. When a note lasts for a whole measure it is called a WHOLE NOTE. Notes that last for half a measure (two beats of a four-beat measure) are called HALF NOTES. Notes that last only a quarter of a measure (a single beat of a four-beat measure) are called QUARTER NOTES. The “one – two – three – four“ are all each quarter note beats.

An EIGHTH NOTE is half of a quarter-note beat, while a SIXTEENTH NOTE is a quarter of a quarter-note beat (there are 16 sixteenth notes in a measure). And so on…

A TRIPLET is a measure of four beats that have been divided into tjhree beats (actually that is a half-note triplet).

TIME SIGNATURES show how the beats repeat and how fast the beats are. If they feel as if they repeat after every fourth beat, the song is most likely has a time signature of 4/4 (four quarter notes per measure). Waltzes are written with a time signature of 3/4. Some songs are 5/4, 6/8, etc.

Rhythmic Dynamics

Remember that DYNAMICS can occur in rhythms. People will naturally “lay back” or “push” at certain places in a song or a repeating rhythmic groove. Most rhythmic dynamics happen naturally (without notice rather than intentional) and often occurs because a drummer is “leaning” a certain way (or even because they are not yet experienced enough to play with consistency). 

For example, a punk rock drummer will tend to play with more energy than calculated thought, and as a result some of the drum hits may be ahead of the exact place they are intended for. This explains why punk rock snare drums are pushing the beat more often than big rock ballad snare drums.

If a certain rhythmic note is important in a style of music, a drummer may unconsciously emphasize that beat by playing it harder, and unless they begin to play the note earlier than they play other notes the extra effort required to play harder may actually cause the note to be hit slightly later, giving it a laid back feeling that can actually make a beat feel heavier. Remember, the drummer may rush to hit that all-important note.

The end result is that naturally performed drum parts WILL contain certain internal dynamics rather than be precise and exact.

Further, there is important emotion expressed in rhythmic dynamics, which is why music made with drum machines that play each element exactly on the beat is often considered mechanical and “unnatural.” To compensate, composers often will add repeating loops of live drumming to their machine drums in order to add the missing rhythmic dynamics.

Drum loops can be tricky. A drum loop is a repeated drum phrase (usually one or two bars in length). Many drum loops contain rhythmic dynamics, and certain drum hits will be slightly off time. 

When using several drum loops, it is possible to create moments when drum parts are slightly off time in different directions. This can go beyond a rhythmic “smudge” and sound (or feel) like a mistake.

People who use multiple drum loops often shift their relative positions to minimize blatant problems. Then again, many people just don’t care, and simply throw things together until it kind of sounds cool as their compositional process.

Harmonic Elements

Harmonic Elements are tonal and have pitch.

Sound waves create PITCH (TONE). The faster the sound wave, the higher the pitch. When a sound’s pitch increases until it is a perfect multiple of the starting pitch, the note has a similar but higher sound. This is called an OCTAVE. The pitch differences between octave points are mapped out into different SCALES.

Most cultures around the world use scales that have been made up from specific subdivisions of an octave. Some scales have developed along with regional musical instruments. There are “primitive” tribes that do not use a standard scale system at all (each tribe member tunes their instrument so it plays a note that sounds good compared to the chief’s note even if it clashes with another tribe member).

Western music is based on scales and chords made up from notes along those scales. There is a great amount of musical emotion in different combinations and sequences of musical notes, and in the way instruments approach and trail away from notes. Consider the emotions expressed in a human voice, saxophone, blues harp, violin, guitar or other instruments that play between notes or approach notes from above/below. 

Instruments such as piano get additional expression from dynamics, because the sound changes along with the volume as you play harder.

In Bulgaria there is a choral group that specializes in singing MICROTONES (tones between standard notes). The chords made with microtonal notes have more varied expressiveness than chords made with only western scaled notes.


You will encounter various instruments that you will need to record, and record well. Some will be very easy, such as plugging in a bass or a synth. Some will be difficult, such as recording a quiet singer standing between a loud drummer and a Marshall Stack.

It helps to have an idea what the instrument should sound like in the end (which you learn by listening to “model” songs with specific sounds you want to emulate), but also to have an idea of how the instrument actually makes noise.  You need to know that a flute projects important sound from the top, and that shoving a mic into an instrument’s hole or flared end is not necessarily the right thing to do.

Reseach any instrument before recording it for the first time. Where does the sound come out? What part of the overall sound will it be expected to fill? Is the instrument a solo sound or part of an ensemble?

These things will influence any decisions you make. Remember to use any pictures or descriptions of mic techniques you see as something to try, not something to automatically do (even whatever you read here). 

Talk to the musicians and ask what they usually do to capture “their” sound. Many engineers do not do this, but rather just grunt at the musician while setting up the mic in the same old way. You might be surprised at what you hear, and just the act of asking makes the musician trust you a little bit more. 

Take what they say into consideration, and even set up what they usually do as an alternative to compare to if you have the extra mic and fader. Do not forget you’re capturing their sound, which they sometimes know well. Of course, expect the occasional person who sounds one way in their head and another way out their horn.

Walk around and move your head up and down around the instrument until you find a “sweet spot” (please use caution with drums and Marshall stacks).

Choose a microphone that will optimally capture the tonal characteristics you noticed are important when in the sweet spot, such as a bright sounding mic for cymbals rather than something boomy.

Place the mic where you thought sounded good, and move it if needed or if just curious. You can always go back to where you were, especially considering how easy it is to document with cell phone pics these days.

If you’re dealing with a direct plug such as with a bass, synth, computer (etc), you’ll need to make sure you are getting into your system the right way (often through a direct box). That’s it.

Once you have the instrument (from either mic or direct) in your input channel, you can now process with compression and EQ (if needed), and record the sound.

Bruce A. Miller is an acclaimed recording engineer who operates an independent recording studio and the BAM Audio School website.

Posted by Keith Clark on 09/09 at 05:40 AM
RecordingFeatureBlogStudy HallBusinessEducationEngineerMonitoringSignalStudioTechnicianPermalink

Tuesday, September 08, 2015

Vocal Mixing Basics

In 1878, a room full of people watched Thomas Edison’s new phonograph spin and heard a voice read “Mary Had A Little Lamb.”

Despite the excitement of hearing the first audio recording, I’ll bet someone thought, “That sounds like crap.” Having heard the recording, I agree.

Mixing the spoken word is a task in itself, but to mix singers and blend them with a band is an even more daunting task. Singers produce a range of sounds, good and bad, and no two voices are alike. This means each vocal must be uniquely mixed. What works for one person’s vocal isn’t right for another.

The good news is that I’ve identified seven areas of vocal mixing to focus on that take a lot of the hassle out of the process.

Roll It Off
There’s no reason for low-end frequencies to be in a vocal channel. Unless it’s an acapella group, musical instruments such as the drum kit, bass, and to a lesser extent electric guitar should be the only things that populate the sub-200 Hz frequencies.

A vocal microphone can pick up these sounds, either directly or through stage monitors, as well as any extraneous low end from the singer. Remove these by using a high-pass filter.

The filter can be fixed-point, such as rolling off frequencies below a set point, usually in the 80 to 120 Hz range, or it can be a variable filter. My personal preference is to roll off at as high a point as possible. For example, I regularly work with a singer that needs the filter set at 180 Hz. My process is to roll it higher and higher until hearing a negative impact on the voice, and then pull it back a few hertz.

Male vocals can have excessive low end, so console functionality permitting, also take a 3 to 6 dB cut in the 250 to 350 Hz range. This eliminates the muddiness in most male vocals.

Remove Harshness
There’s no such thing as perfect singing voice. Even the best singers have slight imperfections in the sounds they produce. (Just don’t tell them I said that.) These imperfections are usually in the 2.5 to 4 kHz range. 

Find the sweet spot to remove the harshest frequencies. With an analog console, use it’s sweeping-mid or a graphical EQ frequency selector. Start at the 4 kHz point and apply a 6 dB cut. Then slowly sweep that frequency down until the vocals clear up. Next, decrease or increase the cut as required.

Analog consoles have a fixed bandwidth and therefore the cut will affect frequencies centered on the primary selected frequency, though in lesser amounts, like an upside-down mountain. However, this bandwidth (Q) can be altered on digital consoles. The tighter the bandwidth for cutting the better, because harsh frequencies are best removed with surgical precision – though without the worry of a malpractice lawsuit. 

Turn On The Lights
Add brightness to the vocal with boosts to select high-end frequencies. The boost creates a bright and sometimes airy sound. The amount to add depends on the style of music, the song arrangement, the vocal, and what sounds good in the room. 

Apply a gentle boost of 3 to 4 dB above the 6 kHz point. Sweep this point up until it produces the desired results. This is easy with consoles that have more than one sweeping-mid. In the case of consoles without, use the peaking high-end EQ control to increase that boost for all the high-end frequencies.

Make It Smooth
Despite the previous steps, a vocal mix can still be wanting. The bad stuff’s gone, and it’s got some sparkle, but it’s not quite there. Enter Mr. Smooth. 

There’s a danger zone in the mid-range. One wrong move and the vocals can sound flat and dull or harsh and annoying. Welcome to the 1 to 2 kHz range.

Sweep a tight cut in this range This can be more of a problem area than the 2.5 to 4 kHz range, so when limited to the number of frequency manipulations, opt for which has the greatest impact.

Bring Out The Bass
Some lower-mids might be needed to add substance to the voice. Boost in the 200 to 600 Hz range. As noted earlier, vocal characteristics vary widely, so while some singers might have plenty of energy in this range, others might be in desperate need of it. Don’t make them sound like someone they’re not; rather, the goal is to make them sound like a better version of themselves.

Earlier, I mentioned cutting in the 300 Hz range for male vocals. But doesn’t this contrast with the aforementioned tip on boosting? Yes. No. Maybe.

Mixing is a process of additive and subtractive measures. The difficulty is in deciding what to do first. I’ve found the most success in removing as much of the bad as possible, and then listening to what remains and boosting where appropriate. 

A vocal that’s devoid of much in the 300 Hz range is a vocal that’s not going to have the natural muddiness and therefore might be a prime candidate for such a boost. This doesn’t mean muddiness is added. It just depends on the specific voice characteristics as well as the style of music. 

Other Channels
Time to work on the other channels. Much of the natural voice is in the mid-range frequencies, and so are the fundamental frequencies of most other instruments. Part of mixing a good vocal is making room for it in the mix. The vocal needs to own the primary area where it shines through. This doesn’t come by boosting only the good – it also comes by carving out space from other channels.

Look to vocal and instrument channels that clash with the vocal. Determine which “owns” that primary frequency area, and then adjust the others by applying a slight cut in that area. I’ve gone back and found I had two channels where both had the same frequency boost applied – of course they clashed. 

The One Question
Audio production is part science and part art where too often the scientific mind is allowed to dominate. This happens a lot with EQ work. During any of the above processes, you might ask the question, “Does this sound good?” The question (and it’s answers) come from trial and error. Boost here, evaluate. Boost there, evaluate.

There’s another way. During the vocal mixing process, imagine how the vocalist should sound. Ask these questions: What frequency areas dominate?  What areas are minimal?  How does it fit into the overall mix? 

Then go to those key mix areas, such as using the high-pass filter or adding brightness, and apply those measures so they meet the sound in your head. A great vocal mix can be imagined and then worked towards. It’s much harder and less likely to be obtained through trial and error.

This process isn’t easy for those new to the EQ process and frequency band characteristics. But learning is just a matter of time and practice. The key is asking the one question that matters: “Does it sound like I want it to sound?”

Use the above mixing areas to improve vocal mixes. Once the vocal channel is sounding great, reach for the reverb. Or don’t. It depends on a few things, now doesn’t it?

Chris Huff is a long-time practitioner of church sound and writes at Behind The Mixer, covering topics ranging from audio fundamentals to dealing with musicians – and everything in between.


Posted by Keith Clark on 09/08 at 10:57 AM
Live SoundChurch SoundFeatureBlogStudy HallAnalogConsolesDigitalEngineerMixerSignalSound ReinforcementTechnicianPermalink

Church Sound: Know Thy Neighbor

This article is provided by ChurchTechArts.

The other day I was having lunch with a good friend of mine. We got to talking about the TD at a church we both know, and some struggles this guy was having with his facility.

My friend asked this TD if he knew that the church that literally shared the parking lot with his had a lift, and would probably let him use it.

The TD’s response was—to me anyway—shocking. He said he didn’t know anyone over there, and didn’t know if they had a lift or not.

Keep in mind, these churches are right next door. And they don’t even know each other. My brothers, this should not be!

We’re On The Same Team
My friend and I discussed what would cause such a situation. Personally, I don’t understand it at all. Maybe it’s because I didn’t grow up in the church, and have spent most of my career in the business world.

In that world, we often made alliances with “competitors” because there were things we couldn’t do. Sometimes they had a piece of equipment we didn’t, and sometimes we could help them out with a job they couldn’t handle. And we never tried to poach another’s clients.

But there’s this weird thing in the church. I see it among pastors sometimes and I think it can trickle down to the staff. They’re afraid to partner with another church because they’re afraid of losing people to the other church. Or maybe it’s because there is a minor doctrinal disagreement. Whatever.

What I love about the technical community is for the most part, we don’t care what church you’re from. You’re a TD, I’m a TD, we all have the same struggles. If I can help you or if you can help me, we both win. And so do our churches. That’s what we should be working towards.

Know Your Neighbor
If you don’t know any tech guys at churches in your area, stop reading this right now, and go find some. Seriously. And if you share a parking lot with another church, or there’s one across the street, walk over there right now and introduce yourself. There is so much to be gained by having relationships with other tech directors in your community it boggles my mind when I talk to guys that don’t know any.

When I moved to SoCal six years ago, I didn’t know anyone. Within a few months, I’d made friends with several churches in the area, and had opportunity to both borrow and lend equipment for different events. If I know the church down the road has something I need for an event, and they’re willing to loan it to me, why on earth would I spend money to rent it? The same goes in reverse.

You Need Technical Relationships
If I’ve said this once, I’ve said it a hundred times; we need to be in relationship with other technical artists. What we do is unique, and most people don’t really understand us. We have problems that don’t really exist in other areas of the church. We need to have someone to talk those issues out; someone who will validate, encourage and support us.

I believe one of the reasons TDs typically only last a few years at a church is because they try to do it solo. I know for a fact that I stayed at my last church 2-3 years longer than I would have otherwise because I have a close friend who talked me off the ledge every 3-4 months. And I did the same for him.

Please, please, please, go find yourself another technical artist in your community and become friends with them. I know it’s scary, I know you’re an introvert and you don’t like calling people you don’t know. Get over it. You, your ministry and your church will be better for it. I promise.

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.

Posted by House Editor on 09/08 at 05:47 AM
Church SoundFeatureNewsBlogOpinionAVBusinessEngineerInstallationSound ReinforcementTechnicianPermalink

Saturday, September 05, 2015

The Old Soundman: Nicknames & Advice For A Youngster

Dear Old Soundman:

I don’t have a nickname. How do I get one? Do I need one?



You absolutely need one! Everybody needs one! How about if I call you “Sco”? That is what aspiring young “yo-cat” fusion musicians at the Berklee School of Music in the 80s called guitarist John Scofield.

These are the same obsessive characters who smugly referred to Charlie Parker as “Bird” and John Coltrane as “Trane,” and sat around discussing “Chick” and “Herbie” as if they actually knew them.

The guy who mixed Primus was known for years as The Shamblin’ Bear. Isn’t that great?! A stage tech for Santana is named Stubby (probably refers to the size of his broccoli, obviously), and their lighting director draws cartoons of characters named Buttface and Tipsy Poodle.

The traveling mixers of the UK rule when it comes to nicknames, like Knobby, Spoon, and the absolute winner, my man Ferret!

C’mon, get on the nickname train!


Hello Old Soundman -

Hi, pal!

My name is Chris, and I live in Little Rock, Arkansas.

You can dream of becoming president of the United States!

I’m currently 14—I know, a young whippersnapper, but I’ve been experimenting with bands and sound stuff for a couple years, and people started telling me it really sounded great.

You’re kicking butt! Many guys live until they retire without ever hearing that it sounded really great… maybe because it never did while they were at the controls!

Well, through many good friends in the industry telling me techniques and approaches to different situations, I’ve worked with a good number of bands, probably 75 in the last six months.

Are you an emancipated minor? Do you never go to school? And are there really 75 bands in Little Rock? (You don’t need to answer these questions, I’m just having fun here.)

I do this because I love music, and I like to make bands sound good, and as a whole I like working with many of the musicians I come in contact with… and just disregard the jerks.

Can you teach me how to do that?

But now I’m interested in $$, not for personal pleasures, but mainly for gear so I can compress, enhance, effect, etc.

What’s wrong with personal pleasures?

Oh… you’re underage. OK—later for those!

I recommend buying the Stereo Aetheric Artifact Enhancer from OSM Audio Industries. It makes the music sweet and low-down, and we offer easy payment plans for any budget!

Whatever you do, don’t buy the Gagger 9000 from Eerie Zombco of Daly City, California—that thing is a rip-off!

I was just wondering how I go about charging for shows? (And when taxes start.)


Chris, the contrast between your youthful sincerity and nasty, cynical, fault-finding smartasses –- it’s almost too much for me. I need to face away from the camera for a moment, and shed a quiet tear…

Taxes usually start when a law-abiding entity pays you, but I’m not an accountant so do your own homework on that one.

Now, about when and how to charge? Each region has its own market realities. My advice to you is to speak to business persons in your area, such as nightclub owners (not that I would ever advocate you working illegally in such an environment), band managers (a simple wash with a hospital disinfectant such as Betadine after meeting with them should suffice to protect you), and sound company people, and ask them how things work in their worlds. Also keep checking out the Live Audio Board for sage counsel.

Learning is good. Working is good. Knowledge is good. (Thank you, Emil Faber.)

Best of luck!

The Old Soundman

There’s simply no denying the love from The Old Soundman. Read more from him here.

Posted by Keith Clark on 09/05 at 11:22 AM
Live SoundFeatureBlogOpinionBusinessEducationEngineerSound ReinforcementTechnicianPermalink

Tuesday, September 01, 2015

Winners Announced For Second Annual Pensado Awards

Over 700 industry professionals and celebrities in attendance as Bruce Swedien receives the Pensado Giant Award.

The live ceremony for the second annual Pensado Awards took place on Sunday, August 30, 2015, at Sony Pictures Studios in Culver City, CA.

The event attendees read like a who’s-who of the audio community, with over 700 in attendance, including prominent TV personality, producer and musician Randy Jackson (American Idol, Journey, etc.), producer Young Guru (Jay Z, Beyoncé, Mariah Carey), producer Quincy Jones, producer/recording artist Dave Stewart, producer/engineer Al Schmitt, vocalist Patti Austin, songwriter and vocalist Siedah Garrett and more.

A video production of the ceremony will be posted soon through Pensado’s Place online channels.

At the ceremony, the following winners were announced:
Live / Front of House: Fred Archambault, for Last Call with Carson Daly
Master of Mastering: Gavin Lurrsen
Outstanding Brand: Focusrite
Outstanding Achievement for Sound in a Visual Medium: Last Call with Carson Daly
Game Changer of the Year: Manny Marroquin
Best Non-English Song: “Ethnik Funk” - Gaurav Dayal
Break Thru Songwriter: DJ Frank E for “See You Again,” and Noel Zancanella for “Maps”
Break Thru Mixer: James Royo
Spin Doctor DJ: Above & Beyond
Tracking Engineer: Josh Gudwin
Unique Project Studio: Jam In The Van
AIR Award (Best Assistant, Intern or Runner): Jake Kiyokane
OMG! Mix of the Year: Dave Reitzas - “Earned It” [mix for The Weeknd]
Pensado Giant Award: Bruce Swedien
Dave Pensado Educator Award: Berklee Colege Of Music & New Look Foundation
Herb Trawick Visionary Award: Native Instruments  

An evening highlight was a taped message from Barbra Streisand congratulating Dave Reitzas on his OMG! Mix of the Year award, where she stated, “I’m so happy you’re [Dave] being recognized by the Pensado Awards this evening. For the past two decades, since 1993, Dave has been on the other side of the glass for so many of my recordings. He’s always willing to go the extra mile with me on my recordings, because, as he said, on more than a few occasions, ‘If it’s gotta be right, it’s gotta be righteous’ … I mean, Reitzas!”

The evening’s culmination was the presentation of the Pensado Giant Award to Bruce Swedien.

Ed Cherney kicked off this segment, introducing a short video that chronicled Swedien’s six-decade-plus career in music. Artists Patti Austin and Siedah Garrett then hit the stage to give their personal Swedien tributes and introduce Quincy Jones. Jones gave a heartfelt speech presenting the award to Swedien.

Jones stated, “I am so thrilled to be here tonight to celebrate one of the greatest engineers to ever walk into a recording studio, my dear friend and brother Bruce ‘Svensk’ Swedien. I look at producing like working with a big band, you have to have the right players in all the chairs. And as the third leg of the stool that is the centerpiece of my musical mafia, my killer Q posse, along with Rod Temperton, I never worried about the sound because I knew Bruce always had us covered.”

“Bruce is the guru of engineers. We’ve recorded more albums together than I can remember from Dinah and Basie in Chicago in the 50’s, to the Brothers Johnson, Michael, right up until today, and I can’t imagine recording one of those albums without him. [Bruce] took the art of recording to a new level and has defined the sound of recorded music, and that is why every engineer and artist today, 30 years later, still go to our music as a reference. Bruce, I am so happy to be able to be here tonight to celebrate you personally and professionally. You deserve every honor and adulation that is bestowed upon you. Congratulations Bruce.”

Pensado Awards

Posted by House Editor on 09/01 at 11:45 AM
Page 11 of 72 pages « First  <  9 10 11 12 13 >  Last »