Wednesday, February 04, 2015
Early Registration Deadline Approaches (Feb 5) For AES 57th International Conference In Hollywood
Pre-registration discount for attendees ends this Thursday for Future of Audio Entertainment Technology
The early registration deadline is rapidly approaching for the AES 57th International Conference, taking place on Friday, March 6 through Sunday, March 8, 2015, in Hollywood, CA.
Attendees have until end of day Thursday, February 5, to take advantage of both AES member and non-member discounts on this conference dedicated to the Future of Audio Entertainment Technology.
Taking place at the TCL Chinese 6 Theatres on Hollywood Boulevard, the program of events will bring together professionals from all aspects of the audio entertainment industry to cover a variety of relevant topics and issues, including audio design for cinema, low-frequency management, immersive and 3-D audio, object-based workflow and more.
Co-chairs Brian McCarty and Dr. Sean Olive have put together the array of papers and workshops to be presented by leaders in the professional audio industry.
Leaders from top entertainment and technology providers set to appear include Auro3D, Avid, BBC, Bose, Dolby Labs, DTS, European Broadcast Union (EBU), NASA, ORF – Australian TV, Sony Pictures, Starz Entertainment, Telos Alliance, and more.
Additionally, SMPTE – the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers – will serve as the Conference co-sponsor, and Louis Hernandez Jr. (Avid Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer) will give the keynote speech on the opening day.
Topics slated to be covered at the AES 57th International Conference include:
- Acoustical design and performance of the modern motion picture theater
- Testing and alignment practices for cinemas
- Dialog intelligibility
- Playback of film as well as live event broadcasts in a cinema
- Immersive sound and psychoacoustics
- Reproduction of immersive sound in home theater applications
- Reproduction of multi-channel audio using lesser numbers of speaker locations
- Speech intelligibility and microphone design
- Production sound immersive audio recording
- Loudness control and OSHA/European Standards
- Lossless coding of immersive sound for low-bandwidth channels
- Immersive sound using headphone technologies
- Loudspeaker performance from all-in-one television receivers and sound bars
Go here for more information on the AES 57th Conference on The Future of Audio Entertainment Technology, as well as further registration, travel and technical program information.
Audio Engineering Society (AES)
Church Sound: The Keys To Improving The Mix Prior To Sunday
Great worship audio mixes start well before the first service of the week...
The worship audio mixer’s job is executed in the mix position during services, but success is mostly established outside the mix position prior to worship.
1) Rehearsal Music. Get whatever rehearsal music media is available to the worship team for review (legally). Learn the arrangements by listening during the week.
Not only will your mixes come together quicker for each song, you’ll also anticipate things like guitar solos or false endings before they happen – not just after they’ve already begun. Does it really make sense when everyone on the stage knows the songs and arrangements thoroughly, but the sound tech does not?
2) Pre-Production Meeting. Meet with the music/worship and production teams well in advance of each planned service. Reviewing plans and expectations can ensure an appropriate audio set up, and can avoid potentially tough sound reinforcement surprises.
Example: The worship department requests three wireless lavalier or headworn systems for a worship service. At sound check, they are placed on three actors and the tech quickly finds they’re not actors at all…they’re singers, and they’re asking for their vocals in the monitors!
If the mics omnidirectional it’s a tough situation at best, and practically impossible in many environments. Now, the worship department may have requested the drama style mics because the presentation or mood doesn’t suit the normal handheld vocal miking approach. But they didn’t anticipate the technical disaster that comes with their request. (Is it really their job to understand all of the tech stuff?)
Heading off this surprise at an advance meeting allows the audio tech to suggest a better miking technique, such as normal handheld vocal mics or possibly cardioid headworn mics. But the point here is not about which mic technique is right for this application, it’s that regardless of the chosen solution or compromise, it should be sorted out in advance – not at sound check.
3) RF Performance Check. If any wireless microphones, wireless in-ear monitoring systems, wireless assistive listening systems, or any other RF devices are used in the worship space, they must be properly installed and their frequencies coordinated for compatibility. Assuming proper installation, antenna orientation, and frequency coordination have been accomplished, it remains wise to periodically check RF performance. New sources of interference and other surprises are better found during testing – without an audience!
To properly check the systems, turn on all RF devices that will be on during worship, and turn on any equipment in close proximity to the RF devices. Portable transmitters and receivers should not be clustered together for the test—piling them together on a desk or other surface at the sound booth is convenient but a common mistake! They should be at least several feet apart, and located on stage or in a general area where they will be used. The outputs of all devices should be auditioned over the PA or with headphones (RF mics), on headphones or earphones (IEM receivers), or the receiver/transducer that will be used by the worshipper (assistive listening device).
4) System Checks. Verify that the house system is in working order before Sunday morning. A brief walk/listen check a day (or a few) in advance can confirm that all PA zones/loudspeakers are working with no failures, and it’s wise to check other output zones too, like lobby, overflow, and monitor sends. A blown driver in the main PA cluster is not easy to resolve at 7:45 am on Sunday!
5) Optimize Mic Technique. Review microphone selection and placements on stage. Choosing appropriate mics and optimizing placement can influence the PA mix notably by reducing leakage, increasing gain-before-feedback, and capturing better sounding sources.
6) Cue Sheets. Get a copy of whatever cue/tech sheet or order of service outline is available, or draw one up if not. Clearly mark mic and roll-in cues, and any other important audio notes, in advance of sound check. Mixing notes can be added during sound check.
If mixing on a suitable digital platform, it may be possible to pre-program some or all of the cues and mix changes. But manual control should always be available, and the cue sheet should always be visible, whether in paper or electronic form. For very busy events, such as dramatic pageants, enlist an assistant to manage and announce the cues.
7) Sound Check Is Not Set Up. Clearly distinguish between setup and sound check. Sound check is the time for audio personnel to dial in the mixes, with the elements (gear and musicians, etc.) working exactly as they will be during the worship service. Complete all audio setup work in advance of sound check so that sound check really is just that – sound check!
8) I/O Checks. Some worship audio techs add an input/output check procedure prior to sound check. This is highly recommended. I/O check takes a sound source (such as a CD), one person on stage, and one person at each mix position (two people in many church applications).
Every input and output is briefly tested over the PA system (inputs) and over wedges or earphones (outputs). It’s a 5- or 10-minute effort at most, and this procedure verifies the entire signal paths from sources to worshippers (front of house) and sources to artists (monitors). And the occasional I/O that doesn’t work is identified and hopefully resolved before the worship team hits the stage – preserving sound check.
9) Review Mixes. If you record your mixes, review them. If you’re making a classic “board tape” right off the console’s PA mix, listen to it with the knowledge that it is mixed for the house sound and does not include the live acoustic portion of the listening experience (which affects mix balance).
If you multi-track services, you’ve got a great practice and training tool – play the tracks back through the front of house console. And if you’re fortunate enough to own a digital mixing platform that offers “virtual sound check” technology, you’ve got the ultimate tool for practicing, training, and fine tuning the sound reinforcement mix.
10) Ear Training. Good mixing requires good listening skills, which require training and practice. Listen to great mixes that are relevant to your worship style, and “take them apart” mentally.
Discover the details that make good blends and mixes. Train your ears to identify frequency ranges. This skill is critical for sound reinforcement mixing, and there are a number of useful training tools on the market—opractice with a tone generator and RTA (real time analyzer). Some worship audio techs add an input/output check procedure prior to sound check. This is highly recommended. I/O check takes a sound source (such as a CD), one person on stage, and one person at each mix position (two people in many church applications).
Every input and output is briefly tested over the PA system (inputs) and over wedges or earphones (outputs). It’s a 5- or 10-minute effort at most, and this procedure verifies the entire signal paths from sources to worshippers (front of house) and sources to artists (monitors). And the occasional I/O that doesn’t work is identified and hopefully resolved before the worship team hits the stage – preserving sound check.
Kent Margraves began with a B.S. in Music Business and soon migrated to the other end of the spectrum with a serious passion for audio engineering. Over the past 25 years he has spent time as a staff audio director at two mega churches, worked as worship applications specialist at Sennheiser and Digidesign, and toured the world as a concert front of house engineer. Margraves currently serves the worship technology market at WAVE (wave.us) and continues to mix heavily in several notable worship environments including his home church, Elevation Church, in Charlotte, NC. His mission is simply to lead ministries in achieving their best and most un-distracted worship experience through technical excellence. His specialties are mixing techniques, teaching, and RF system optimization.
In The Studio: Did Einstein Do Audio Post?
There are some pithy quotes from uber-genius Albert Einstein where I swear he was talking about the trials and tribulations of audio post-production.
And whether you are building the DM&E to an indie feature or mixing your latest musical opus, ponder these thoughts.
“Three Rules of Work: Out of clutter find simplicity; From discord find harmony; In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity.”
There is always a tendency to throw everything into the soundtrack. I call it the kitchen sink approach. But as a consequence there can be too much going on and too much fighting for attention.
That’s when it’s important to step back and strip away all the unnecessary sound elements and find the root of the soundtrack, to find the message (and emotion!) of the piece that you are trying to convey via sound. And this is not an easy process.
As audio professionals, we often become enamored of our own work. And it’s painful to cut out the bits we worked so hard to include. But that is the creative process – working and reworking the audio until the story is best supported.
“We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.”
When you’ve acquired a significant amount of knowledge in a particular area, there is a tendency to rest on your laurels and take a similar approach to any new work that comes your way. This is a dangerous notion. You suffocate your creativity when you resort to the same old fixes for the same old problems.
For example, students and other would-be pros often ask me what EQ settings and such I use. And my reply is simple: whatever makes the track work. I never want to resort to ‘canned’ settings and instead rely on my ears to make the right choices to drive and support the story.
In fact, I don’t care what anything sounds like on its own as long as the mix as a whole works. Individual sounds can be rather thorny when soloed, but in the context of the entire DM&E mix, this thorny sound may fit in perfectly. In short, every problem is unique and every solution to said problem is equally distinctive.
“Logic will get you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere.”
This is a corollary to the above mentioned approach. Don’t rely too much on the way things should be, or worse “the way we’ve always done it ’round here’.”
Instead use your tools to make the sound come together as it should in the service of the project. It’s the soundtrack as a whole that must work, and only when expanding your approach (and your creativity) can you discover the right way.
“You have to learn the rules of the game. And then you have to play better than anyone else.”
I think what Einstein was saying here is that there are no shortcuts, no easy fixes. I have a client who is always looking for the easy fix: What ____fill in the blank___ will make my audio better, less noisier, and perfect? And the answer to that blank is simply this: hard work and even harder won skill.
Acquire good sound to begin with and then use your post audio tools to make it shine. There is no magic button for fixing audio—it takes effort to craft a seamless soundtrack that makes an impact on your audience. It is the raw skill that really matters and not the tools.
“Sometimes one pays most for the things one gets for nothing.”
This applies to all those free VST plug-ins you find on the web. Stick to the tried and true technology and you will have fewer issues. And never upgrade your DAW software in the middle of a project.
“Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand.”
There is nothing I could say that could enhance this quote. Thanks A.E. for dabbling in audio post. You make the work easier.
Of course, there are dozens and dozens of quotes from the venerable Mr. E., so do yourself a favor and read up on the man. You just might discover he had far more insight into art than you might have thought.
Jeffrey P. Fisher provides audio, video, music, writing, consulting, training, and media production and post-production services for individuals, corporate, and commercial clients through his own company, Fisher Creative Group. He also writes extensively about music, sound, and video for print and the web and has authored numerous books and training DVDs.
Tuesday, February 03, 2015
The Conundrum Of “Ears Versus Education”
For the best results in audio mixing, context is vital. But can it be taught?
I’ve been thinking quite a bit about the role musical education plays in audio mixing. There have been numerous threads about the subject in several on-line forums, and the responses seem evenly divided between “not needed but it doesn’t hurt” and “it’s actually a hindrance” and “it certainly helps.”
Because I earned a degree in music performance, I’m biased on the subject, with my opinion leaning toward the “it helps” camp. Still, I can’t help but wonder if it really does…
When evaluating the handiwork of mix engineers, there are plenty of guys and gals that indeed do not have formal musical training. An obvious example is Al Schmitt, who’s earned a stockpile of Grammy Awards for efforts with artists such as Frank Sinatra, Toto, Diana Krall and numerous others.
Even though he’s a studio engineer, I think his example can still be applied to sound reinforcement. One thing’s for sure – Mr. Schmitt has never been called “unmusical,” or at least I’ve never heard it said.
My hunch is although he doesn’t have “formal” musical training, he still has listening skills quite sensitive to musical aesthetics, an amazing sense not only for the technical but also for how all of the sounds relate to one another in context.
This leads us to a key point: for the best results in audio mixing, context is vital. But can it be taught?
Matter Of Style
With any art form, there are those who specialize in a particular style and then those who seem to be able to transcend their particular era and become “timeless.” Relating this to audio, I’ve heard mix engineers who seem to meld their style of mixing to the music itself, while others try to force the music into their mixing style.
Back when I was touring as a mix engineer for the Airmen of Note (U.S. Air Force Jazz Band), I found it was important to spend time with the band in rehearsal to get a sense of the issues at hand: arrangement, internal balance within sections and between sections, and the general “feel” produced by the music.
In the process, I came to the conclusion that the drums, along with the bass, generate a certain rhythmic element that actually drove the way the horn players stayed “in the groove.” It was an actual physical thing, where the acoustic wave from the kick drum had an impact on the diaphragms of the horn players. Stand close enough to this type of group while they’re playing, and you can pick up this sensation.
So I set about trying to bring some of that feel to the audience while I mixed, but without making it too overpowering or “rock ‘n’ roll” – which I felt would not be representative of the big band style. The approach involved how I mic’d the drums (three mics – kick, and two overheads), use of EQ (not much, except to bring out certain things and make sure other elements didn’t become overbearing) and setting the drum levels relative to the rest of the mix (supporting the sound).
I felt that the result was a convincing live portrayal of the band, bringing out the dynamics and impact they worked so hard to do attain, but without too much power from the rhythm section. But did my music education help me attain this, or was it some innate musical sense that can’t be taught?
The Inner Voices
Another aspect of mixing, and it was clearly important in big band work, is the inner voices. No, I don’t mean the little voices in my head saying, “check out that woman in the third row.” Rather, I’m referring to the relationships of all the instruments between the bass and cymbals.
Any arrangement - rock, jazz, classical, or whatever - relies on specific voicings. I’m talking about the order of notes from the lowest to the highest within a chord. As a mixer, if you’re not aware of this, then you likely don’t realize that the third of a chord determines whether it’s major or minor, that the fifth along with the root make up the “frame” of the chord, and that everything above the fifth is harmonic embellishment but nevertheless important in terms of leading notes, harmony, and what kinds of scales might be used for melodic material.
And perhaps the mixer might miss (or not know) that inversions (chords where the root, third, etc. are stacked out of order) are extremely important to musical harmony, and thus are a critical element of a musical style like jazz. An example is the horn section for a swing band (think Brian Setzer’s Dirty Boogie), where if one of the horn mics is turned up too “hot,” then the wrong note in some chords may be emphasized. The difference might be subtle, but it may also throw a certain amount of “aural sand” into the musical experience for at least a portion of the audience. And let’s face it – it’s just not right.
But these are “rules of thumb” taught by the educational process. Another way to figure out “who’s playing what” might be to listen and think, without cluttering up the works with confusing terminology. In other words, how do you think it sounds?
The New Response
“The most important tool in audio is… ?” I ask this question often when giving presentations. It used to be that the answer I wanted to hear was “our ears.” Recently, however, I’ve preferred the response of “our brains.”
Of course, good ears are a critical component in mixing, and without them, there wouldn’t be much of a purpose for audio systems. (Although I’m sure that marketing departments would find a way to put a spin on that!)
But my thinking began to change as I realized that without the brain, what the ears are telling us can’t be interpreted and no plan of action can be developed. In other words, we may hear a problem, but if we can’t produce a solution, then what’s the point?
For example, if there’s a buzz in the system, is it at 60 Hz? 120 Hz? 180 Hz? And if it’s indeed at 60 Hz, where to start in looking for a solution?
On the flip side, those without the sense to apply their knowledge in order to generate an aesthetically pleasing mix lead me to question the value of any understanding of things like gain structure and signal flow, let alone voicing and spatial relationships. In other words, it may be technically “right” but does it sound good?
Perhaps their mixes are “good enough,” and certainly any situation involving art and technology must by nature be a form of compromise. However, if you knew of a way to improve your mixes, wouldn’t you want to employ it?
My resolution to these conundrums has been to settle on the theory that both musical ears and musical education have relatively equal value, and therefore, for better mixes, the focus should be on both. My theory guidelines track along these lines:
- If considering attending an audio school, see if the curriculum includes courses in musical training (ear training, theory, etc.). Purely technical audio training can result in a set of skills, but musical training allows you to “speak the language” with musicians and within your own mind.
- Spend a lot of time listening to a wide variety of music, and try to determine the common elements between them as well as those things that distinguish between different styles. It’s also vital to listen to acoustic music as much as possible – if you don’t know what instruments sound like un-amplified, where is your frame of reference?
- Come to terms with your own mix style and types of music. There are even differences between punk music from New York and L.A., right? (I suppose I’m showing my age with that one.)
- If the music you’re mixing was developed before amplification (classical, big band jazz, etc.), understand the context, both musically and in terms of acoustics. For example, what types of rooms originally hosted these types of performances? In other words, why put major amounts of reverb on a baritone sax solo in a big band performance? It just doesn’t fit. Not only that, but the players and the audience will expect to hear it as it is supposed to sound.
The track record of many successful folks working as mixers in pro audio without a formal musical education makes a persuasive argument that such an education may be largely irrelevant towards enhancing mix skills. Perhaps their abilities and success are a matter of an innate, natural musical sense, along with great ears and a lot of real-world experience.
Yet it also begs the question: would they be even better at what they do with further learning? Aren’t we all usually better for having learned more?
Karl Winkler is director of business development for Lectrosonics and has worked in professional audio for more than 20 years.
Monday, February 02, 2015
AKG K553PRO Studio Headphones Combine Closed-Back Performance And Open-Back Sound Quality
The KAG K553 PRO provides an optimal balance of noise-isolating qualities of closed-back headphones and the spacious, multi-dimensional sound of an open-back design.
Offering closed-back performance and open-back sound for monitoring, mixing and mastering, Harman’s AKG today introduced its K553 PRO closed-back studio headphones.
The K553 PRO provides an optimal balance of noise-isolating qualities of closed-back headphones and the spacious, multi-dimensional sound of an open-back design.
The K553 PRO headphones feature 50mm drivers for a strong, yet accurate and distinguished bass response as needed for monitoring and mastering contemporary music. The extra-large soft ear pads and lightweight over-ear design ensure stress-free listening over several hours, while the 2D-axis mechanism enables full flat folding for easy storage and handling on the road.
With its low-impedance drivers, the K553 PRO is sensitive enough to also be used on laptops and mobile devices, so the soft high-quality cable is equipped with a 3.5mm (1/8”) plug. A screw-on adapter to 6.3mm (1/4”) is included.
“Regardless of environment, requirements for headphones remain constant: realistic, sophisticated sound reproduction and comfort,” said Philipp Schuster, Product Line Manager, Headphones, AKG. “The new K553 PRO offers these qualities and more, while also being extremely affordable!”
Posted by Julie Clark on 02/02 at 03:11 PM
Golf Central News Show Stays In Swing with Lectrosonics
Digital Hybrid Technology plays a central role in location sound recording for the news show's production.
As part of the Comcast Programming Group, Golf Channel operates in partnership with the PGA Tour and showcases the biggest and the best of everything related to the sport for the television news show, Golf Central.
Because capturing the magic of this sport must be done efficiently and without distracting the competitors, Digital Hybrid Wireless technology from Lectrosonics plays a central role in location sound recording for the show’s production.
Los Angeles-based Stef Butler serves as the show’s camera operator and high-definition engineer and selects and specifies equipment. He relies on an arsenal of Lectrosonics UM400 beltpack transmitters, SRb5P slot mount ENG receivers, and IFBR1a beltpack IFB receivers to capture the activity without holding up production.
“For my work with the Golf Channel, I’m using eight UM400s, four SRb5P receivers, plus four of the IFBR1a beltpack IFB receivers,” says Butler. “Much of my work for the Golf Channel show, Golf Central is news related, so it’s fast paced. The Lectrosonics SRb receivers are an essential part of my kit in such an environment. It really makes a tremendous difference having the receivers mounted in the slot inside the camera’s body, as it increases both ease of use and efficiency.”
A matter of vital concern to someone in Butler’s field is the equipment’s ease of use. “The very nature of news gathering is demanding,” says Butler. “Having a wireless system that is intuitive is a tremendous help.
“I constantly encounter situations where the RF frequencies need to be changed in order to avoid RF interference and optimize sound quality. Lectrosonics equipment makes it very easy to scan for open frequencies and then lock them down with a single button press.”
Sound quality is, of course, central to Butler’s work.“Lectrosonics’ Digital Hybrid Wireless technology sounds terrific and makes for a strong signal with very low power consumption,” adds Butler. “I experience great range with this equipment and the sound never exhibits any of the sonic artifacts that are common with wireless systems using a compandor.”
“My Lectrosonics gear delivers excellent sound quality, bulletproof reliability, along with great tech support and customer service,” Butler concludes. “I wouldn’t trust my business to any other manufacturer.”
Posted by Julie Clark on 02/02 at 02:20 PM
Monday, January 26, 2015
Mic Techniques For Taming The Live Stage
Approaches for controlling feedback and leakage as well as fostering delivery of clean, natural sound
Let’s face it—the live sound reinforcement realm presents some microphone challenges that regularly threaten sound quality.
Look at the conditions. The monitors feed back. They leak into the vocal microphones and color the sound. The bass sound leaks into the drum mics, and the drums leak into the piano microphones.
And then there are the other mic-related gremlins breath pops, lighting buzzes, wireless-mic glitches, and even electric shocks.
So let’s have a look at solving at least some of these problems. Based on the experiences of live sound mixers and technicians, these suggestions will help control feedback and leakage while also fostering a clean, natural sound to the audience.
Get In Close
The first tip is to try to get in close to sources with directional mics. To start, place each mic within a few inches of its sound source. Close miking increases the sound level at the microphone and makes the sound system louder.
Use unidirectional mics to reduce feedback and leakage. They reject sounds to the sides and rear of the mic, such as floor monitors. Some examples of unidirectional patterns are cardioid, supercardioid, and hypercardioid.
Sometimes locating a mic right at the source can help. (By the way, that’s a SP25B condenser from Applied Microphone Technologies.)
Most directional mics boost the bass when you mic close. This is called the proximity effect. At low frequencies, it provides free gain (extra volume without feedback). If you want to roll off this excess bass with your mixer EQ, you also reduce any low-frequency leakage picked up by the mic.
Next, here’s an extreme way to get plenty of level into the mic: place the mic near the loudest part of the musical instrument. Some typical positions are near the sound hole of an acoustic guitar, in the bell of a sax, or inside the shell of a tom-tom.
Use this method as a last resort because close miking tends to color the tone quality, giving an unnatural sound. Here’s why: most musical instruments are designed to sound best at a distance (say, 1.5 feet or more away). So a flat-response mic placed there tends to pick up a natural or well-balanced timbre.
But when you get close, you emphasize the part of the instrument that the mic is near. The tone quality that is picked up very close may not reflect the tone quality of the entire instrument.
For example, the sound hole of an acoustic guitar resonates strongly around 80 Hz to 100 Hz. A mic placed close to the sound hole hears and emphasizes this low-frequency resonance, producing a bassy, boomy timbre that does not exist at a greater micing distance.
This placement likely emphasizes low-end resonance.
The close-miked sound is harsh, too. To make the guitar sound more natural when mic’d close to the sound hole, you need to roll off the excess bass on your mixer, or use a mic with a bass roll-off in its frequency response. Also dip out some 3 kHz to reduce harshness.
A sax miked in the bell sounds like a kazoo. To mellow it out, cut around 3 kHz and boost around 300 Hz. And if you can get adequate gain-before-feedback with mic positions that sound more natural, by all means do so.
Another approach is to use contact pickups in tandem with the mics, which can help solve feedback problems because it’s sensitive to mechanical vibrations, not sound waves.
A pickup for an acoustic guitar usually sounds good near or under the bridge. Unfortunately, the guitar sounds electric with a pickup because it misses the acoustic string sounds.
Many engineers have had success with a hybrid method that combines a pickup with a mini mic. A pickup mounted under the bridge picks up the lows and provides volume and punch. A mini hypercardioid mic is mounted just inside the sound hole facing in. It provides the treble and the clean acoustic string sound.
The pickup and microphone are mixed in a small two-input mixer provided as part of the system. The combination of the pickup and microphone provides a loud, punchy, yet natural sound with all the crispness of a real acoustic guitar.
It often helps to send the pickup signal just to the stage wedges (where feedback is worst), and send the mic signal just to the house speakers. Using as few mics as possible can also be helpful.
The more mics in use, the more likely you are to run into feedback. The gain-before-feedback ratio decreases 3 dB each time the number of open mics doubles. Two mics at equal levels have 3 dB less gain than one mic; four mics have 3 dB less gain than two mics, and so on.
To reduce the number of open mics, turn off any mics not in use at the moment. You might prefer to turn them down about 12 dB, rather than off, so you don’t miss cues. Instead of using 10 mics on a drum set, try using a single miniature omni mic in the center of the set. A mini mic is recommended because it has excellent high-frequency response in all directions unlike a larger microphone.
Clip the mic to the right side of the snare drum rim, about 4 inches above the drum, and centered in the set. It will pick up the toms and cymbals all around it. You’ll be amazed how good that single mic can sound. Boost the bass to add fullness. If the cymbals are too weak, lower them a few inches. You can hang another mini mic in the kick drum, and it will sound full because omni condenser mics have deep bass response, no matter what their size.
A drawback of this system is that you can’t control the balance among the toms and snare except by mic placement. On electric guitar and bass, try using direct boxes instead of mics. Direct boxes pick up no feedback or leakage. You can plug the direct box into a connector following the musician’s effects boxes. This method, however, misses the distortion of the guitar amplifier, which is often an essential part of the sound.
Could a DI box be a better approach than what’s being done here?
Cancel At Distance
Finally, try noise-canceling mics. A noise-canceling (or differential) mic for vocals is designed to cancel sounds at a distance, such as instruments on stage or monitor loudspeakers. Such a mic provides outstanding gain-before-feedback, and almost total isolation.
The differential mic was designed to cancel sounds beyond a few inches away. As a result, many users have reported that their house mixes have improved because the mic’s isolation is nearly complete. In other words, “Mic 1” is no longer vocals and some drums, guitar and bass; “Mic 1” is vocals only.
Singers must use a differential mic with their lips touching the grille; otherwise, their voice gets canceled. This restriction is not a problem because many singers already kiss the mic. But it can be a drawback if the singer likes to work the mic for effect.
A cardioid differential mic also rejects sound behind the microphone, say, from a floor monitor. Not only does this prevent feedback, it also reduces the sonic coloration caused by monitor sound leaking into the vocal mic.
Give these techniques a try, and you’re likely to find improved results by using one or more of them.
Bruce Bartlett is a recording engineer, live sound engineer, audio journalist and microphone engineer (www.bartlettaudio.com). His latest books are Practical Recording Techniques 6th Edition and Recording Music On Location 2nd Edition.
Thursday, January 22, 2015
Pioneer DJ Unveils New Professional Studio Headphones
Pioneer HRM-7 Studio Headphones Built for Sound and Comfort
Pioneer Electronics (USA) Inc.’s Professional Sound and Visual Division today introduced the HRM-7 studio headphones intended for home and private studio listening, providing excellent audio reproduction with maximum comfort.
Pioneer’s latest headphones incorporate a newly developed HD driver suited for high-resolution audio sources and capable of reproducing frequencies up to 40 kHz. Its “dual chamber” bass reflex enclosure also helps produce lower bass response as well as provide better control for increased audio accuracy. The incorporated hybrid memory-foam ear pads provide a snug fit around the ears and maximum comfort when worn for extended listening sessions.
“We wanted to design studio headphones that feel as good as they sound,” said David Arevalo, director, Professional Sound and Visual Division for Pioneer Electronics (USA) Inc. “The HRM-7 delivers rich and powerful sound ideal for a professional type of listening, whether at home or in a studio. These headphones have a natural response ideal for all types of music listening including high resolution audio. ”
The large 40 millimeter HD driver combined with a copper-clad aluminum wire (CCAW) voice coil and neodymium magnets built into the HRM-7 produce outstanding audio playback and great sound localization. The new HD driver along with its strong magnet structure can reproduce a very wide frequency response from 5 Hz to 40 kHz, ideal for all types of music listening including high-resolution audio files.
Pioneer developed a dual chamber bass reflex enclosure to enable the headphones to generate lower bass frequencies while still maintaining great control of the HD driver for increased audio accuracy. The sound isolating dual chamber (air chamber) prevents outside noise from affecting the enclosure, essentially increasing bass response while the integrated ports enhance the efficiency of the driver. The housing (enclosure) is further reinforced by a 3-layer damping structure, suppressing vibrations and unwanted resonance, resulting in improved audio response out of the HD driver.
The housing of the HRM-7 creates a large listening chamber to produce a wide sound field for better sound localization. Wrapped around the housings are full-sized hybrid memory foam ear pads, that feel extremely comfortable, even when worn for long periods of time. Furthermore, the memory foam ear pads are covered with soft velour that contours around the ears to help reduce exterior sounds entering the listening chamber.
The 3D ergonomic design further optimizes the angled fit of the ear pads around the head while the free adjust head cushion helps produce a snug fit across the entire head without creating uncomfortable force.
Additional Features include a detachable 1.2 m curled and 3 m straight cables using Oxygen-Free Copper (OFC) litz wire, replacement velour ear pads and gold plated 6.3 mm stereo plug adapter.
The Pioneer HRM-7 will be available in March with a suggested retail price of $239.
Pioneer offers a complete line of professional DJ Equipment through its Professional Sound & Visual Division. Its DJ products are industry standards at clubs, studios, mobile rigs and homes around the world, and known for their high quality sound and reliability. For more information,
Posted by Julie Clark on 01/22 at 09:48 AM
Church Sound: Five Ways To Improve Your Sound In 2015
It’s a new year, and now that we’re all rested up from Christmas, it’s time to start looking at how we can improve our systems—specifically audio—this year.
Certainly big-ticket items like new PAs, new consoles or new bands (just kidding) are nice, but sometimes we have to make incremental improvements.
Oddly enough, sometimes these small improvements add up to a big improvement that sometimes negate the need for a big spend.
Here’s a non-exhaustive list of five things you can do this year—without breaking the bank—that will improve your sound.
1) Test & Repair Loudspeaker Components
I once inherited a sound system that had two subs. One driver was completely blown, the other was torn. The main boxes had three bad HF drivers. As you might expect, the sound in that room was not good.
While it did take the better part of a day to diagnose the faulty drivers, and then another half day to replace them, once that was done, we actually had full-range sound again.
Testing your loudspeakers is relatively easy. If you have a bi- or tri-amped system, isolate each loudspeaker either by unplugging the amplifiers or the loudspeakers so that just one cabinet is running at a time. Then play some pink noise through the system. Get right up to the box and listen.
If you have access to an oscillator that can be swept from 60 Hz to 15 KHz, that’s even better. Just be careful with the levels; start low and work up to a comfortable level. If you find one box that produces next to nothing above 3K, you probably have a blown HF driver.
If you’re uncomfortable doing this or are unsure, contact a local dealer. This is a fairly simple process for them, and will likely lead to either a thumbs up or a list of new components to replace (and by components, I mean drivers, not an entirely new PA). Replacing the HF drivers in a system can have a great impact on the sound, and it’s not that expensive.
A test like this can have other benefits. I once was hired to mix in a room with a fairly complex PA layout. After struggling to get a good sound for a few months, I came in to test the drivers. I discovered the processor was wired incorrectly, sending the wrong signals to the wrong drivers. A quick re-patch made it sound like a new PA.
2) Get Your System Tuned
Once your loudspeakers are all producing full-range sound again, it’s a good time to have the system tuned.
A lot of people refer to this as “EQ’ing the room,” but it’s really not. We don’t EQ a room, we EQ a PA to work well in the room.
If you feel competent with using a measurement system, you can do this yourself. If not, hiring someone who is qualified shouldn’t be a huge expense.
Often, people who don’t really know what they are doing will try to “improve” on the sound of a PA by adjusting the system’s EQ. I’ve seen smiley faces, fish and other strange patterns on graphic EQs of systems I’ve worked on. None sounded good. Having someone come in to take measurements, set delays and EQ will often make a less than ideal PA sound decent again.
Once the PA is properly aligned and tuned, lock the processor or EQ either in software or by using vented security covers on the rack. Just remember to write down the passwords and put them somewhere safe—and where at least one other person knows where they are.
Sometimes, a simple tuning can extend the life of an old PA by a few more years. Often, the system was tuned years ago for one style of worship and the church has moved on. A re-tune can help optimize the system for the current sound you’re going after. It may not be a complete solution, and a new PA may still need to be in the long-term plans, but quite often spending a few hundred to a few thousand dollars on the tuning of the system will give you more time to save for the new one that is needed.
3) Upgrade Mic Package
Microphones are mechanical, and like all things mechanical, they can wear out. They’re also dropped and abused in other ways over time. If you’re using really old, beat up mic’s every week, changing them out is a cost-effective way to improve sound.
Sometimes it’s a matter of matching a mic to the source; a better fit for a vocal is a great example. Other times you may be using a mic on a source because you had it, not because it was the best choice. Finding the right kick drum mic for your drum kit, PA, room and sound can make a big difference.
Outfitting your stage with all-new mics might be cost prohibitive to do in a single year, but perhaps you can start down the road. Pick up a few new vocal mics that will help your singers sound better. Then move on to drum mics, and finally other instruments. Get recommendations from people you trust and try them first if possible.
4) Optimize Gain Structure
System gain structure is one of those things that we don’t talk about enough in audio.
I’ve seen all manner of sins in this area; consoles that are way overdriven with amps turned way down, and others with the amps all the way up and the faders all running at -40.
Optimizing your gain structure is critical to getting the best sound possible from your system.
Start with the source, and make sure your input channels are running at good levels with your faders around unity. Then move onto your mix buses (either groups or main L&R bus). The main output should be running somewhere close to where the green lights start to turn yellow (the exact, optimum point will vary from console to console, so this may take some experimentation).
You will hear it if your console is running too high or too low; it will either be noisy or distorted. Avoid both.
Next, move on to the system processor (or EQ) and the amps. You want healthy levels coming into and leaving the processor, then adjust the amps to achieve the level in the house that you want. If you have to turn the amps way, way down, you may want to drop the level coming out of the processor a little bit and leave the amps up.
Again, if you’re not quite sure how to do all of this, there is no shame in bringing in someone qualified who is. This is another area where big improvements can be made by making some small changes.
We typically expect that the worship leader, vocalists and musicians are practicing their parts throughout the week. But when does the sound guy or gal get to practice? Practice is the only real way to get better, so how do we do that? Unless you have a band that really enjoys playing for hours on end, the best answer is virtual sound check.
There are many systems available now that make it fairly easy to record each input on the board and play it back in place as if the band were still there. With a virtual sound check system, you can mix a song over and over, trying out new things, adjusting EQ, compression, FX and other techniques until you get it just right. And the only person you need in the room is you.
Or, try this one. How about recording the rehearsal, then coming in the next day with the worship leader and work on the mixes? Find out what he wants to hear, and work toward getting there. Sometimes, it will be clear that the problem is not a mix issue, but an arrangement one; in that case, everyone wins when the band gets better.
Virtual sound check might be the most expensive item on this list, but it’s still less than a new PA and will often have greater benefits. Go here for some help on how to get started.
As I said at the outset, this is not an exhaustive list, nor did I try to go into great detail on each topic. Do some research and find out how to implement these steps and you will have better sound at the end of the year than you do now. And you may even have budget left over!
Mike Sessler now works with Visioneering, where he helps churches improve their AVL systems, and encourages and trains the technical artists that run them. He has been involved in live production for over 25 years and is the author of the blog Church Tech Arts.
Tuesday, January 20, 2015
David Myers Heading Up 3G Pro Audio’s New Installation Division
David Myers, a veteran in the field with 25 years in contracting, has been appointed as director of 3G Pro Audio’s new Installation Division.
3G (Las Vegas and Los Angeles) is building on its core strengths in theatrical and festival production and touring to focus on vertical installation markets such as performance venues, houses of worship, nightclubs and hotels that can draw from the company’s expertise in live entertainment. The focus also includes performance spaces in government and educational environments.
Meyers, who holds CTS-I and CTS-D certifications in installation and design, states that he will be “developing consistencies within the division so our key sales team members can sell and support installations while maintaining a commonality in how things are done. Refining our branding so that 3G is perceived as an installation house, growing sales, designing systems, and responsible project management at every stage of the process.”
“We don’t want to be like everyone else,” he adds. “What’s really important is understanding the client’s needs and maintaining a constant connection with them throughout the installation process and after the project has been completed. 3G intends to deliver turnkey solutions that meet all of the customer’s technical requirements including sound, lighting and video. We’re not just a sound company.”
Eli Stearns, president and CEO of 3G, states, “We are really excited to have Dave join our team and lead our new Installation Division. While we have been selling professional audio systems for years, Dave’s expertise as an experienced contractor and designer of full AV systems will catapult our company’s capabilities to full service integration. Moreover, Dave’s work ethic, leadership and ‘can do’ attitude makes him a perfect fit with the company’s commitment to providing the highest quality service to our customers.”
3G Pro Audio
To Chase New Clients Or Tap Into Existing Ones?
The 80/20 rule applies to many, many things in business. One is that 80 percent of your business comes from 20 percent of your clients — so what does this mean for your future business?
Just like your existing business, your future business (read: profits) will also come from a small percentage of clients. But are those future profits going to come from the clients you already have, or the ones you have yet to secure?
Having worked closely with dozens of AV system integrators big and small, I have consistently heard leadership teams call out the need for more business; more new clients, more revenue generation and more diversity in revenue sources.
And while all of these outcomes are ideal, what I don’t hear about nearly enough is more customer retention, more customer satisfaction and more business diversity with the clients already in house. Leaving me to ask two questions:
Why so little talk about the current clientele?
What are you thinking not doing more to grow the business you already have?
If I told you it was six times more expensive to acquire a new customer than it is to keep one you have, would you believe it? The research is in and it supports that data point. Turnover is very expensive!
Furthermore, for most small businesses, the best method of customer acquisition comes from the clients they already have. So when a client walks out the door, not only does the associated revenue vanish, so does the potential connections of a satisfied customer.
Time and again I hear about big accounts changing hands from one integrator to another. This can certainly be a byproduct of another integrator knocking their socks off, but if the experience is anything like the one I know so well, the changeover took place at an inflection point.
You know, one of those moments where the integrator of record dropped the ball and the disappointed client started shopping around. Now, at some point this will happen to every business, but as a whole, the reason this most often happens is because the relationship between the integrator and the client was never cemented.
It was merely too transactional.
For any and all growing businesses, it is important that business development is a focus. But developing business needs to be both of the following things. It should be something that is done in addition to taking care of the customers you have.
Invest in resources to serve your clients before finding people to identify new ones. It can come from the clients you have. Meaning, do you truly believe that the clients you already have are doing all of the business they can with you?
Ask yourself, how many of your current clients do you even consistently make time for when there isn’t an active project? If there aren’t regular meaningful touch points in between sales, then you are further perpetuating low-value sales relationships that will likely cost you down the line.
The more you secure the relationship between projects, the more likely some type of mistake can be overcome without customer attrition. In short, there is nothing wrong with aspiring to grow your business, but it should never come at the expense of the clients you already have.
If you’re seeing too many clients exiting on a year-over-year basis, maybe more sales isn’t the answer; maybe the answer is more customer retention.
Daniel L. Newman currently serves as CEO of EOS, a new company focused on offering cloud-based management solutions for IT and A/V integrators. He has spent his entire career in various integration industry roles. Most recently, Newman was CEO of United Visual where he led all day to day operations for the 60-plus-year-old integrator.
Go to Commercial Integrator for more content on A/V, installed and commercial systems.
Wednesday, January 14, 2015
Don Was & Ed Cherney Joining Mr. Bonzai For “Birth of a Record” At Winter NAMM
Renowned award-winning production team to discuss Bonnie Raitt's "Nick of Time"
On Saturday afternoon at the upcoming Winter NAMM Show in Anaheim, Don Was and Ed Cherney will join moderator Mr. Bonzai in an exploration of the inception and creation of a great record: “Nick of Time,” which is being inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame for 2015.
Specifically, the event will be held on Saturday, January 24 from 2 pm to 3 pm on The Forum (203 A-B), located on level two of the Anaheim Convention Center.
Grammy, Emmy and TEC Award-winners Don Was and Ed Cherney have worked together for 25 years on memorable records by Bonnie Raitt, Bob Dylan, Ringo Star, Elton John, Iggy Pop, Bette Midler, Neil Diamond, Ringo Starr and the Rolling Stones, among many others. Was is recognized as one of the most influential producers of recent decades and Cherney’s recordings are the benchmark of true high fidelity.
In 1989, after many years of critical acclaim, but little commercial success, Bonnie Raitt had a colossal hit with the release of “Nick of Time,” which made her a star, topped the Billboard 200 chart, sold five million copies, and won three Grammy Awards, including 1990 Album of the Year.
On behalf of the NAMM Foundation, Don Was will induct Ed Cherney into the TEC (Technical Excellence & Creativity) Hall of Fame during its 30th annual Awards show, being held Saturday evening, January 24 in Anaheim.
Was is a Grammy Award-winning producer and president of legendary jazz label Blue Note Records. Recognized as one of history’s top producers, he has worked with an cavalcade of top artists in virtually every musical genre. As a bass player and songwriter, Was formed the group Was (Not Was), noted for their success in the 1980s. He has earned a Grammy for Producer of the Year, a BAFTA for Best Original Score and an Emmy for Music Direction of “The Beatles: The Night That Changed America.”
Cherney hails from Chicago and developed his chops under the tutelage of the legendary engineer Bruce Swedien, including working on some of Michael Jackson’s biggest selling records. In the year that Cherney won a Best Engineered Album Grammy Award for Bonnie Raitt’s “Longing In Their Hearts,” he was also the engineer for three of the five nominated albums in that category. Respected by his peers, he’s amassed six Grammy nominations and two wins, in addition to seven TEC Award nominations and five wins and three Emmy nominations.
Mr. Bonzai is an award-winning photographer and music journalist who has written over 1,000 articles for magazines in the U.S., Europe and Asia. His photos and stories have appeared in Rolling Stone, Billboard, Mix, EQ, Pro Sound News, Keyboard, Daily Variety, Hollywood Reporter, Los Angeles Times, and the New York Times. He has also authored seven books, including “Faces of Music” (Cengage, 2006) “Music Smarts” (Berklee Press, 2009), “John Lennon’s Tooth” (BookBaby 2012) and “Studio Life” (30th anniversary eBook, BookBaby 2014).
Winter NAMM Show
NSCA Announces Industry Supporters For Upcoming Business & Leadership Conference
More than 300 from systems industry gathering at end of February to discuss business over the last year, leveraging existing resources to increase profits, and turning threats into opportunities
NSCA has announced its list of industry leaders supporting the upcoming 17th annual Business & Leadership Conference in Tampa.
More than 300 representatives from the electronic systems industry will gather at the end of February (Feb 26-28) to discuss business over the last year, leveraging existing resources to increase profits, and turning threats into opportunities.
Atlas Sound/IED, long-time supporter of BLC, returns as the exclusive host/technology sponsor, in addition to USAV, which has endorsed the event for the past five years. NSCA is also partnering with Commercial Integrator as this year’s media sponsor.
2015 NSCA Business & Leadership Conference sponsors include:
Host/Technology Sponsor: Atlas Sound/IEC
Keynote Sponsor: Synnex Corporation
Platinum Sponsors: Biamp Systems; Chief Manufacturing; Digital Projection; NEC; Shure Incorporated; West Penn Wire
Gold Sponsors: Almo Professional AV; FSR Inc.; Gepco Brand; Herman ProAV; Kramer; Liberty AV Solutions; Media Vision; Panasonic; Rauland-Borg Corporation; Solutions360; SurgeX; Tannoy
Integration Sponsors: Bosch; BTX; ConnectWise
Endorsed By: Commercial Integrator; PSA Security Network; USAV
The 2015 NSCA Education Foundation Industry Charity Golf Outing sponsors include:
Host Sponsor: Accu-Tech
Shirt Sponsor: Chief Manufacturing
Breakfast Sponsor: Atlona
Cart Sponsors: Da-Lite; Listen Technologies
“Thanks to the valuable financial support of these organizations, we’ve been able to provide quality education to our industry for 17 years,” says NSCA executive director Chuck Wilson. “The generosity of this year’s sponsors has allowed us to bring nationally known, sought-after keynotes to BLC who will map out new ways for integrators to address industry-specific business issues.”
To register for the conference go to www.nsca.org/blc or call 800-446-6722.
Monday, January 12, 2015
Church Sound: 10 Tech Tips For Portable Churches
Approaches to foster a faster setup and teardown...and help the sound guy keeps his sanity!
Recently I attended service at a portable church. After the service I helped clear the stage area, which is when the idea for this list started.
Here are 10 tips that will help any portable church with a faster setup and teardown…and help the sound guy keeps his sanity!
1. Mark all cables with colored electrical tape. Venues often have existing equipment available for use so using colored tape on your cables helps separate out your cables from theirs. You might even mark your name with a permanent marker on the tape.
2. Mark any duplicate equipment. For example, if the venue provides music stands, microphone stands, or any other basic equipment (even microphones) that look like yours then mark your equipment with colored electrical tape. This way, you don’t spend 20 minutes trying to figure out what to pack up and what stays at the venue.
3. Record EQ settings. The venue I was at on Sunday had the house mixing unit on the side of the stage. Therefore, the only way to tweak the EQ was to tweak and then run out front, listen, run back. Recording the EQ settings for the next week will save you a lot of running.
4. Use a stage plot for quicker setup. You might even simplify this by saying you should set up the singers and musicians in the same place every week. This way, you can drop cables, DI boxes, and stands in the area where they will be performing.
5. Bring your own fresh batteries. Don’t rely on the venue to have new batteries in their wireless equipment, or even to have a box of batteries present. You can save money by having a battery tester so you can re-use your batteries from week to week. You can also go the rechargeable route. Just don’t rely on the venue for fresh batteries.
6. Use small crates for packing cables and small equipment. Yeah, I’ve worked gigs where the cables were tosses in a huge tote that took two people to carry. That’s fine until one person decides they can carry it themselves and next thing you know, they hurt their back or get injured in a nasty fall. Milk crates are a perfect size.
7. Have spare cables handy. In the portable environment, you are putting more wear and tear on your cables so you are more likely to have one go bad. Besides, you should have a few spares in any situation, portable or not.
8. Store microphones in cases. This means do not throw them in a box! Microphones contain sensitive components. You also don’t want to be hauling out a box of unprotected microphones to the car while it’s raining. Ya know what I’m sayin’?
9. Establish a setup crew and a routine.
—Everyone shows up at 8 am for the load in.
—Bob sets up the stage cabling.
—Steve sets up the mics.
—Steve and Carl unroll the snake.
Everyone should know what they need to do. Remember, those musicians are waiting for you so they can practice and you can set their mix right.
10. Have a process so that damaged equipment or cables don’t sneak back into service. I was setting up for a concert gig a few months ago and an electric extension cord started sparking when I plugged something into it. The guy running front of house at the time told me to tie a knot in the end of the electrical cable and toss it in the front of his truck. It’s a simple process that guaranteed that cable would get fixed before the next event.
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. He can even tell you the signs the sound guy is having a mental breakdown.
Wednesday, January 07, 2015
Seven Tips (And More) In The Quest For Focus
As we embark on a new year, I thought it might be a good idea to discuss some ways to stay engaged and focused.
Particularly for those who have been working in pro audio for several years, there are many who probably come to feel (at least occasionally) bored, uninspired or behind the curve, as one month leads to the next, and to the next, and to the next…
So here are seven things I’ve found helpful over the years in the quest to stay sharp and on top of the game. Note that this list isn’t definitive – you may have additional ideas and methods.
1) Learn. There are a plethora of seminars, workshops, trade shows and other ways to stay on to of current technologies and techniques. Take a look at the SynAudCon roster of in-person and online training courses as a starter. Trade shows like InfoComm and AES provide ample educational seminars, papers and panel discussions, usually with industry leaders at the podium.
Then there are the more informal approaches, including books, DVDs and yes, YouTube videos. (Just be sure to read the reviews and comments for the less-vetted sources.) Or, download an operating manual for something like a digital mixing desk and start reading!
2) Humble. This is one of my “broken record” topics (along with gain structure). But throughout my years in this business, I’ve often noticed that the best and brightest show remarkable humility. Even if they’re highly opinionated (and get in trouble for it once in a while), the true “gurus” got where they are by keeping their minds open, realizing that even with their accomplishments, there are still many things to learn.
There are always new ideas, new technologies, and better ways to do almost anything. Being open to these possibilities keeps things interesting.
3) Avoid the rut. You know the saying about doing the same thing over and over while expecting different results, right? Sometimes we forget that this applies to our careers as well. There’s nothing that can make us more bored (and/or jaded) than rote repetition. (See the excellent Bill Murray movie Groundhog Day for more on this subject.) Waiting for something different to happen? Then make it so!
For example, if you’ve been mixing rock ‘n’ roll for years on the same circuit, how about mixing some jazz instead? Or perhaps think about taking on a new role with the same crew just to learn a new skill, like lighting for instance. (Wait – did I just say that?) Or try a new mic technique, or experiment with live recording, or…anyway, you get the idea. Anything to avoid getting stuck in a rut.
4) Volunteer. Donating skills and labor to a church, school, charity event or other worthwhile cause is refreshing. Of course, it can also be frustrating so it’s important to know what and who to avoid in these scenarios. But giving of ourselves to a cause that we respect both feels good and provides a unique experience.
It doesn’t have to be a regularly scheduled activity such as church services every Sunday morning, but perhaps a helping hand at busy times like the Christmas production and Easter pageant. Even a simple role, like loading gear and taping cables, can make a big difference to an organization while providing us with a new perspective.
Further, less responsibility can be a refreshing change while also renewing respect for those working under us in our real jobs.
5) Network. Trade shows and seminars are great for this too, and social media can help as well. Get out there and meet people in our industry to share ideas, techniques, best practices, and of course, war stories. I’m personally always grateful to get new perspectives on our business and ways to do things better.
We all (or at least most of us) know a lot of people, and each one of those people knows a similar number of other people. Even though pro audio is a relatively small market, and there are probably only a couple of degrees of separation between any two of us, the goal should be a direct connection to as many as possible. Then as ideas come up, or a job change is inevitable, we have people to call.
6) Plan. One thing I’ve found to be really effective in getting me off the couch and out into the world is to think about where I want to be in 3 months, 6 months and 12 months. It’s easy to belittle this concept since “things always change and our best laid plans then go down in flames.”
But the truth is, A) not all plans are destroyed, and B) even if they are, at least we’re working toward something, staying motivated and engaged. And who knows, maybe you’ll get lucky and actually achieve your goals! (Crazier things have happened.) Go ahead, make my day and tell me something that feels better than setting a lofty goal and then reaching it. (Just keep your responses clean.)
7) Teach. “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.” Some guy named Albert Einstein said that, and what would he know? I’ve personally found that preparing to teach, or participating in a seminar or panel discussion, clarifies my thinking on the matter at hand. Plus, it feels good to give something back and help the next generation, or even our peers, to learn new things.
It doesn’t have to be calculus, either. Best practices, tips, and road-worn but proven techniques can be a revelation for up-and-coming eager techs looking to get an edge. Plus, teaching can get you noticed by some of the industry associations which may then ask you to, well, teach some more. Embrace it! Who knows, maybe after your back goes out and/or you can’t hear so well any more, you’ll have set yourself up for a whole new career.
Bonus: Get a life. A life outside of pro audio, that is. Hobbies that engage our interests are a great way to get our heads out of the daily challenges of making things sound good. For me personally, music is very important, and I try to play or practice every day when and if possible.
And of course family and other personal relationships outside the business are a key to mental health. Not only having someone to whom we can vent our daily problems, but someone to go on road trips or vacations with and simply enjoy life. After all, that’s a big reason why we’re here, right?
Karl Winkler is director of business development at Lectrosonics and has worked in professional audio for more than 20 years.