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 -
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.
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.”
Vintage King Names Four New Los Angeles Sales Reps
Matt Knobel, Bill Learned, Dylan Wood and Thomas O'Conor join the LA team.
In an unprecedented staff increase, Vintage King Audio has added four talented sales reps to its Los Angeles team: Matt Knobel, Bill Learned, Dylan Wood and Thomas O’Conor.
Born in Florida and raised in Queens, Matt Knobel started out as a rock drummer, but soon chose engineering as his career path.
After studying at The Center for Media Art, he began working at studios around New York, including Media Sound, Platinum Island and Power Station. He next took to the road and toured the world with Billy Joel as his keyboard tech, followed by 18 years working with Lenny Kravitz building studios and serving as his chief engineer.
“Working with Lenny on building studios was always an adventure. He takes the greatest of pride and respect in using vintage technology from all eras,” Knobel says of outfitting the Kravitz-owned studios before joining Vintage King.
Newly appointed sales rep Bill Learned’s sense of dedication can be directly linked to his decade of service in the pro audio industry as senior logistics manager and senior account manager position at his previous company.
“I learned the importance of really listening to what people need and helping them find a solution,” says Learned. “Vintage King is dominating the E-commerce platform as a marketing leader with global brand recognition. We have the best gear in the world and the most knowledgeable staff in the industry.”
Dylan Wood, born to a punk rock father and folk singer mother, became involved with music at an early age as a drummer, then started recording bands and spent years working with local artists before his stint as a recording engineer at The Compound Studio in Signal Hill, California.
His dedication to music resulted in the young engineer/drummer amassing an impressive knowledge base of studio gear. “I’ve never stopped playing music, touring or recording and I love it,” says Wood. Now on staff as a salesman at Vintage King Los Angeles, Wood brings a wealth of practical knowledge and extensive real-life recording experience.
Vintage King has also hired new sales support staff member Thomas O’Conor, who will be specializing in the world of post-production and EDU.
Houston-bred O’Conor got started as a turntablist/DJ at an early age, learning the tricks of the trade at Scratch and SAE: Los Angeles, followed by studies at the school’s London, England campus and then working at Deanland Studios in Malibu, California.
Vintage King Audio
Posted by House Editor on 09/01 at 06:35 AM
When The Show Hits The Fan
In the midst of a fairly frantic load-in for a show in San Antonio, we made a horrible discovery. The lighting rig, the sound system, the entire show was dead.
Because the trunk full of feeder cable was missing.
We were (literally) about a thousand miles from the shop. Not a good situation, especially when the clock was ticking and there was less than six hours to showtime.
For those who don’t know, feeder cable is that stuff that defies several laws of physics. It weighs more than any other known substance and jumps up to trip us when we’re sneaking around the stage. On the good side, it carries all of that fancy electricity from the panel to those doo-hickeys we make our living with. Well, at least it does if it actually makes it to the venue.
I was just a hired gun, but because I was running this circus, and these were my monkeys, I had to make some decisions. It was not my rig, but it was my problem. After several years with this crew, I already knew what I wanted to communicate. But really, this discussion applies to any crew, and it applies whether you’re in charge or not. The key is for everyone to stay calm and work through the steps that lead to survival.
First. Bring the crew in and explain the situation. All work ceases until we’ve opened every case and are absolutely positive the feeder is missing.
Second. Send the crew back to work. Keep them on schedule as much as possible and work around the missing gear.
Third. Find the venue manager or someone who knows the area to get help in finding a local rental house. Then start making calls to track down a replacement. Stay calm on the phone – panic seems to cause the rates to go up. They can smell your fear, so best to keep it under control.
Fourth. Arrange for the missing gear to arrive ASAP. Pay them, tip them, send them Christmas cards and a chunk of grandma’s best chocolate cake. Anything to express your extreme gratitude.
Fifth. Now… call the boss. Not before the other steps are covered.
In this case, the boss was a thousand miles away. It was around 5 am. There was absolutely nothing he could have done for us under those conditions. All he could do was panic and spew colorful expletives. Honestly, what would you do if woken from a dead sleep to find out how much money you were about to lose?
When I told him that the feeder was missing, he lost it. Yep. Saw that coming.
Once he stopped to breathe, I finally got the opportunity to tell him the rest of the story, that the situation was already resolved. He eventually calmed down. And, after driving down to the shop, he called back and told me it was sitting right where the shop guys left it – on the loading dock. I went back to work, knowing that they were about to have a really bad day.
It would be great to say that I knew how to handle these problems from the beginning of my career, but I didn’t. The right solution was learned by doing it wrong a few times.
Every step in that process is critical. Don’t freak out. Verify before reacting. Take control and find an answer. Keep moving forward. Avoid dropping bombs on people who are essentially helpless.
Your situation may be different. There may be a better strategy for fixing stupid where you live. Regardless of how you do it, just have one.
By the way, that show went perfectly, but San Antonio was notorious for crazy problems. In fact, the next year the entire truck went missing.
But that’s another story.
Monday, August 31, 2015
Working At Success: Why Do Some - But Not Others - Rise Above In The Studio?
What I've noticed about people in the studio, and how you can plan for success.
Have you ever wondered why some recording artists and producers are more successful in the studio at accomplishing their goals than other people who are equally or more musically talented?
As a recording engineer, here’s what I’ve noticed about successful people in the studio.
I’ve found successful people come in all personality types from the very shy and soft-spoken to the boisterous extrovert but they all share a common trait: they have a very specific “vision” of their songs and what they communicate and emote to the listener.
An artist’s middle-of-the-night epiphany about a lyric or melody or the concert audience’s reactions to a song all contribute to the formation of that vision.
Besides good songwriting and performance, the practical side of the vision for the producer and artist includes the process of getting the song finished and recorded in the studio hopefully communicating and emoting the vision to a CD-buying audience.
Part of the vision is a game plan—anything from a very strict production schedule to a more typical simple list of realistic goals to attain in the studio in a given day.
Sometimes an artist obsesses over the vision and the plan—is it any good or how can it be better?
I’ve never worked with anybody who had all the pieces of the “vision puzzle” in place when they came into the studio—it’s impossible. Besides, it’s generally good to leave room for experimentation and modification. A good vision is a strong musical outline written in pencil.
When I worked with Daryl Hall and John Oates, they had a very specific vision of the entire album and every individual song. They called it a “concept album” and wanted each song to pay ‘homage’ to their favorite R&B songs they grew up with.
Confident in their vision, they had the temerity to announce on the very first day of tracking that we would be recording the first hit single during that session! The song was fully arranged—all instrumental parts and every drum hit and hi-hat accent carefully notated.
All of the guitar and keyboard sounds were carefully worked out beforehand and they played a couple of old records for me as prototypes to follow when shaping the track’s overall sound.
They had this certain vision and never lost it through all the overdubs and final mix! That song we ended up recording three times to get it “right” and it turned out not to be a hit.
Nonetheless, their vision was for the whole album and another song, the third single released and a total surprise to us all, ended up a winning success for them.
The fact that Daryl and John went through re-recording their vision of the first hit single three times showed they were not afraid of a lot of hard work. Super hard work by everyone involved is one of the common denominators for all the great records I’ve worked on.
Great recordings of great performances come at the price of physical and mental labor—and for me anyway, there is not much luck involved except for my good fortune to be there and in record mode capturing it all.
A lot of the hard work does not pay off directly. Sometimes weeks of work go by on songs that end up being left off the album.
However, in the middle of all that seemingly waste of time and energy there was a take or a germ of an idea uncovered and recorded that ends up becoming something special.
Succeeding, at times, means frustration and digging a lot before you find a gem and sometimes, hard work is the only way you’ll do it.
Focus is the mental part of hard work. I have found the ability to focus for long time periods and avoiding distractions (that waste time) day after day on the pile of work in front of them is common amongst the successful people I’ve worked for.
Successful producers focus more on the most important parts of the recording process and a lot less on other areas. Delegation of less important jobs to others allows space and time for better focus by the core production team.
A good focusing ability is a real asset when doing final mixes. Good focus keeps the vision alive and on time and on budget.
Respect is easy. Treat everyone, from the studio gofer, the pizza man, the engineer, the producer, musicians, backing singers, the A&R guy, the manager, and the artist all the same—with the utmost of respect.
When I met Mick Jagger at the beginning of a tracking session I did for one of his solo albums, he repeated my first and last name as if to memorize it—at least for the duration of the day. I found him very respectful to me.
The whole level and vibe of the session was elevated from that point onward and we all had a great time.
Givers Not Takers
Another personality trait I’ve notice with a lot of successful people in the studio is that they are mostly givers and not takers. A giver gives of him/herself fully to the recording process and is willing to do and give almost anything to achieve his/hers and the artist’s vision.
So working long hours, being patient and helpful are all attributes of the giver. A giver contributes to the whole without necessarily expecting anything in return except a better record.
Givers love music and love working on it.
Barry Rudolph is a veteran L.A.-based recording engineer as well as a noted writer on recording topics. Be sure to visit his website
More Reviews & Articles By Barry Rudolph
The “Daryl Hall and John Oates” Album And The $300 Drum Sound
Five Creative Uses Of Loudspeakers That Can Enhance Recordings
The Tradecraft Of Recording Vocals, Part 3: Singer/Mic Positioning & Monitor Mixing
Studio Techniques To Get Great Sounding Vocals, Part 2: In The Control Room
Studio Techniques To Get Great Sounding Vocals
Studio Microphone Techniques To Get A Great Electric Guitar Sound
In-Depth Primer: A Wide Variety Of Microphone Techniques For Drums
Mounting The Insurmountable: The Tale Of A Project-Saving Monitoring Technique
Capturing The Right Feel & Sound: Rhythm Section Tracking In The Studio
Working At Success: Why Do Some - But Not Others - Rise Above In The Studio?
Working At Recording Success: Taking Elemental Steps Can Make All The Difference
Recording Tip: Successfully Dealing With A Dead Room
Thursday, August 27, 2015
The Big Ministry Inside The Big Shows
Many years ago, we hosted a three day worship arts conference.
Not like the conferences I was paid to do, traveling around the country with large budgets and excessive amounts of gear.
This one confined me to my home church, with no budget and no warehouse full of touring grade audio toys.
It would prove to be a challenge to my maniacal, control-freak nature which served promoters and bands so well during my career.
Basically, this conference was about various forms of dancing, music and choreography. We used the main sanctuary stage for the opening night. It was also used for the group events to begin and end the two day event. We used classrooms in three different buildings on our property. We used classroom and sanctuaries at two other churches in our area. We ran shuttle vans all day.
It ended up being a very complex event.
I agreed to assume responsible for the tech side of the entire event. I knew that I had to relax my psychotic, death grip on productions and get help.
At the time, there were only four people on my crew. Since thy were volunteers, I couldn’t get more than one of them at a time. You know, they had jobs and families. I had to create another team.
I went through the youth group. There were a few that I already knew would do fine. But, I needed eight more techs and one runner to make it happen. It was going to mean training a few who had never done it before. I talked to the ones I was hoping to get and asked them for some suggestions. We got our team together and did some quick training.
Each tech was responsible for one room. Each room had a basic sound system, a wireless headset, a CD player, a direct box and line up front for another input. The larger rooms also had an audience response mic for questions. Every room was also set up to record the class, some by video. The tech was given a written routine for things to do during and between classes.
We had one kid who was our runner. She went to each room and harvested the recordings, dropped off batteries and made sure they had everything they needed. She also carried a two way radio to call me if there was an issue that they couldn’t handle. She was a lifesaver on several occasions. We made sure she got the same training as the others, in case there was a problem and she had to fill in.
The only problem we really had was one kid who may have had narcolepsy. Either that, or the class was just painfully boring to him. He fell asleep several times the first day. It seems like we resolved that with threats or coffee or something.
Another thing that helped us tremendously, was our relationship with a local music store; something all churches need to develop.
In Macon, Georgia, there’s a store called Bill Hardin Music that went out of their way to help us out. They have always been a huge supporter of local churches. We ended up being short on wireless headsets, small speakers and speaker stands. They saved our hide on that one. I will continue to promote them as much as possible. Thanks, Chuck.
In the end, the conference was a huge success. The attendees were very complimentary of my crew. The whole event actually went very smooth. Looking back, we accomplished much more than we planned to.
Several of those kids ended up staying with us as regular volunteers. Two of them went on to full time careers in audio and video production. Some of the others are career musicians now, still involved in production. We also developed an even better relationship with that music store. Half of those kids worked there at one time or another. I ended up working with that store for a while, eventually creating a pro audio division for design and installation.
Creating that team of volunteers opened career doors for those kids. Asking them for help was also giving them opportunities that they might not have ever gotten.
The crazed megalomaniac within me will always want to be in complete control. It is still not natural for me to ask for help. I resist it whenever possible. But, asking for help will often benefit others more than yourself. You never know what kind of opportunities you are creating for someone else. You never know how much they need to be involved in something. If you are determined to do it all yourself, you are missing out on developing relationships that may not happen any other way.
I think that’s the big ministry within tech. Creating connections, relationships and opportunities. Stuff that the control freaks tend to overlook. Don’t miss those opportunities because you won’t ask for help.
Tuesday, August 25, 2015
You’re Fired! Knowing When To Call It Quits With Clients
“You’re fired!” A phrase made famous by Donald Trump on the popular TV show The Apprentice, but also one of the more difficult tasks that a business owner has to perform.
One of the popular mantras of today’s business world is effective company culture.
How to build that perfect environment that allows all of your employees to work in a nirvana-like state of satisfaction is a question that many business owners wrestle with.
But have you ever asked that question with the perspective turned outward towards your customers?
As my partner and I have been growing our business over the last 11 years, there have been times, especially in the beginning, where we would take on clients who would turn into time-sucking vortexes of frustration. They would bring stress into the office whether in the service department, sales department or accounting department. Wherever it was, it was a chronic problem.
So, how does one deal with this today and avoid it in the future? Here are three methods that worked for us:
1. Have a clear vision and direction for your company and communicate that to your staff, clients and potential clients.
This needs to be on everyone’s mind; your staff’s as they serve your client base, and your clients’ minds as they measure your service against your vision and goals. When staff is servicing your clients’ needs, they need to have the right perspective and be able to effectively communicate that to the client when setting expectations.
When you ask clients for referrals, explain that they should look, feel, and smell just like them. Part of that is knowing why they are a good fit with your company and vice versa. Sales staff needs to know what makes someone a good fit, target those companies, and then further screen them during the sales process. Not every business will be a good fit for your solution, which leads us to our next point.
2. Confirm clients share your direction.
We’re a forward-thinking, growing business; that’s one of the key things we look for when interviewing prospects. It helps to have a certain synergy with management and ownership, so they can easily grasp your perspective.
Their values should also line up with yours. It makes those quarterly business reviews that much more productive as well as more likely to be attended.
However, some existing customers won’t share your vision or be interested in shifting toward it. Although it’s hard, you need to stick to your guns on this one.
3. Be willing and able to fire clients.
Be decisive. Give clients no more chances to course-correct and change behavior than you would an employee.
Have you ever waited too long to fire a member of your staff who poisoned your work environment? I have, and the comments that I received from other staff members were ones of relief, but also questions as to why it took so long.
It’s the best move for them and you. No one wants animosity or frustration to build up in a relationship whether personal or in business. It affects the quality of service as well as the work environment. And let’s be honest, the client can tell.
Read and comment on the original article by clicking here.
Stuart Bryan founded I-M Technology, LLC with his partner in 2003. I-M Technology, LLC is an MSP in CT serving Connecticut, Massachusetts and Rhode Island.
Go to Commercial Integrator for more content on A/V, installed and commercial systems.
Posted by House Editor on 08/25 at 12:25 PM
Church Sound: Two Big Tricks To Mixing Monitors
I hate to admit this, but the thing I dislike most about audio production is mixing monitors. There, I’ve said it.
Sorry to all the musicians out there. In truth, musicians need to learn what they need to hear as that’s where their frustration lies.
It starts with a lack of focus. When the musician can’t hear something, they ask for more of it. Then the monitor mix gets louder. We’ve gone through changes that have taken the pain out of mixing monitors and created mixes the musicians liked.
As practice progressed from our Tuesday night rehearsal through to the Sunday morning run-through, the monitor mixes always got louder. To be fair, I’m not blaming the musician here, or the sound person, it’s just what has happened.
But what happens when seven monitors are on stage, feeding back into mics, and also bleeding into the seats because of their immense volume? It affects the mix, and what happens when the mix gets affected? It’s a downward spiral from there.
My worship pastor and I had a discussion about this and subsequently talked with the band. We needed to reign things back in and to do it, we had to educate musicians and vocalists on what is actually needed in the monitor mixes.
The band was informed monitors aren’t meant to provide a nice, clean full band mix. If that was the case, they’d get the main mix and everything would be good. But no, the monitor is there for them to hear what they need to hear, in order to play as part of the band. So what does this mean for everyone?
First, it means swallowing a little bit of pride, and second, it means thinking critically for what is really needed.
The musicians were asked to consider what’s in their monitor mix and what really needs to be there. For instance, not all four singers need to be in everyone’s monitor. Just the person leading the song needs to be in any of the musician’s monitors. Everyone wants to hear the beautiful harmonies of the backing vocalists, but other than the vocalists themselves, it isn’t needed.
The bass player needs to hear the kick drum and the whole acoustic drum kit as well, but on most stages with live floor monitors, the drums will come through without any additional monitor needs.
The major difference between live monitors and in-ear monitors (IEMs) and drum mixing is that with IEMs, more of the drums need to be in monitors for the sake of keeping time. Every mic on the drum kit does not need to be there though. I put the kick and overheads in the IEMs, sometimes the snare; it depends how well it is coming through the overhead channels. But the tom mics don’t need to be there as the overheads will pick those up.
The keyboards are important for the vocalists, often for finding the note and staying in key for a song. The acoustic guitar can also help with this and keep track of the feel of the song.
What about the electric guitar and the bass guitar? Again, this depends on the song, but they aren’t really needed much in most monitors other than the electric guitarist and the bassist. And if you have live amps on stage (which we do) then you might not need them at all.
Basically, everyone doesn’t need to be heard in everyone’s monitor mix, whether live wedges or IEMs. We don’t want to deafen our musicians, and we want to keep the sound as clean as possible for the congregation on Sunday morning.
The next step was training sound operators and musicians what to do when something can’t be heard.The problem isn’t necessarily solved by turning something up louder, it might be that something else needs to come down. If the guitar players say they can’t hear the lead vocalist, maybe instead of boosting the lead vocalist, try turning down the other instruments in their monitors. If that doesn’t work, consider boosting the vocal.
Using the above processes, we significantly lowered our stage volume while it was still loud enough that all of the musicians and vocalists could hear themselves just fine. All it took was some communication and a little education.
During the next practice, musicians said with the monitors being quieter that they really noticed the room more. The vocalists felt more comfortable as the sound wasn’t blasting their ears, but was loud enough to hear themselves, and it showed in their comfort level onstage.
Comfortable musicians play and sing better than if they’re worrying about their monitor mix. And those comfortable musicians along with a quieter stage means a clearer mix for the congregation.
Derek Sexsmith is the director of technical services at Heritage Park Alliance Church in Windsor, Ontario, Canada. His blog, dereksoundguy.com, chronicles his experience working on the technical aspects of a church. Also follow him on twitter @dereksoundguy.
Riedel Supports The World’s Largest Heavy Metal Event
Wacken Open Air Festival in Germany deploys Riedel's MetroN and STX-200 for 90,000 metalheads.
When tens of thousands of heavy metal fans descended upon the small town of Wacken, Germany, for the Wacken Open Air festival, organizers were ready, having deployed a communications solution built on Riedel Communications’ MediorNet real-time media network and Artist digital matrix intercom system.
The Riedel equipment provided the fiber backbone and communications infrastructure necessary to support security, radio communications, and audio and video transport throughout the expansive festival site.
“The world rocks with Wacken, and Wacken rocks with Riedel,” said Holger Hübner one of the founders and organizers of the Wacken Open Air festival.
“The signal network backbone that Riedel provided in 2015 for the 26th anniversary of the Wacken Open Air festival ensured a safe and unforgettable experience for 90,000 metalheads enjoying the show. We’ve been well-satisfied with Riedel’s state-of-the-art equipment and highly competent crew, and we look forward to rocking on with Riedel into the future.”
Each summer, prior to Wacken Open Air, the small town of Wacken transforms into a festival venue with multiple stages, fields in which festivalgoers can camp, and the infrastructure required to handle thousands of fans. The communications system supplied by Riedel since 2000 plays a key role not only in supporting audio and video distribution during the four-day event, but also in enabling festival organizers to ensure the safety of each and every guest.
This year, two MetroN core routers with a huge total routing capacity of 2 x 640 Gb provided the heart of the MediorNet installation, adding further flexibility to the well-known convenience of the MediorNet installation and providing redundancy for the overall security concept. With its 10-Gb links, the MetroN system supported the interfacing of two MediorNet rings and, in turn, the transport of multiple HD-SDI signals — from the stages to the production compound and back to multiple screens — and several separate IP networks and audio streams.
Each of the nine stages at Wacken Open Air 2015 had a large video wall, and a further five freestanding video walls were scattered throughout the grounds. Video from each stage was sent back to the operations center via the MediorNet network so that any video could then be displayed on any screen as “infotainment” for guests. A Riedel Artist intercom panel and line level audio at each stage allowed security to talk directly to each PA mixer to instruct the band to stop playing for an emergency announcement, such as a weather warning. Voice announcements could then be routed through the PA systems and any other information displayed on screen.
Thirty remotely controlled IP-based cameras were installed throughout the grounds for security surveillance. Data transported to and from these cameras was delivered to the Wacken Open Air Security Center through the Riedel MediorNet fiber backbone. Riedel also supplied nearly 700 TETRA radios to ensure that security staff and stewards maintained clear communications throughout Wacken and the festival grounds. The radios were interfaced directly with the Artist system to ensure comprehensive communications. Because the mobile radios of the security vehicles patrolling the vast campsites were GPS-enabled, organizers were able to determine the user’s location immediately in the event of a problem or emergency.
For fast and trouble-free accreditation of the hundreds of working crew members, the organizers arranged a check-in location at the very border of Wacken. To welcome the team members with the right spirit and keep the local staff connected to the live event, Riedel deployed the company’s new STX-200 broadcast-grade professional interface. Capable of bringing any Skype user anywhere into the professional broadcast environment, the STX-200 was used to transfer live feeds from the stages into the check-in via the available public Internet connection and to facilitate a Skype connection between the production compound and the staff check-in area.
“Wacken is a truly spectacular event, and we’ve been privileged to be part of this immense show since 2005,” said Simon Korzen, project manager at Riedel Communications.
“It was a great pleasure and great fun to provide the Wacken organizers with a flexible, reliable solution that met their requirements for onsite media, infotainment, and a sophisticated security concept, in turn helping to make this year’s festival a huge success for everyone involved.”
Monday, August 24, 2015
Randy Jackson And Quincy Jones Join The Roster For Pensado Awards
Second annual event brings industry luminaries out to “recognize the faces behind the sound”
Two names have been added to the roster of co-hosts and presenters for the second annual Pensado Awards, an award show created by the producers of the online video series Pensado’s Place.
Prominent TV personality, producer and musician Randy Jackson (American Idol, Journey, etc.) has joined on as co-host for the ceremony, and producer Quincy Jones has been added as a presenter.
This year’s festivities will take place on Sunday, August 30, 2015, at Sony Pictures Studios, 10202 W. Washington Blvd., Culver City, CA 90232. A video production of the ceremony will follow and be posted on the Pensado’s Place YouTube channel.
Although most recognizable from his long tenure as judge on American Idol, Randy Jackson’s career includes his credits as musician, songwriter, GRAMMY Award-winning producer, record-industry executive, business entrepreneur, best-selling author, talent manager, television producer and television personality.
Named by TIME Magazine as one of the six most influential Jazz artists of the 20th Century, Quincy Jones is an impresario in the broadest and most creative sense of the word.
Over six decades Jones’ career has encompassed the roles of composer, record producer, artist, film producer, arranger, conductor, instrumentalist, TV producer, record company executive, television station owner, magazine founder, multi-media entrepreneur and humanitarian. Among his greatest successes are the three albums he produced with Michael Jackson, including Thriller, one of the most commercially and critically successful albums of all time.
Herb Trawick, co-host/executive producer and creator of Pensado’s Place, as well as the manager and advisor to co-host Dave Pensado, states, “Randy and Quincy are two immediately recognizable figures in our industry, and their candor, expertise and pursuit of quality go hand-in-hand with what the Pensado Awards are all about.”
Randy Jackson joins the previously announced co-hosts – producer-engineers Chris Lord-Alge (Muse, Pink, Foo Fighters, Avril Lavigne, Green Day, Daughtry, Paramore, Black Eyed Peas), Sylvia Massy (Tool, System of a Down, Johnny Cash, Red Hot Chili Peppers), Young Guru (Jay Z, Beyoncé, Mariah Carey) and Justin Meldal-Johnsen (Beck, Nine Inch Nails, others).
Quincy Jones joins the list of previously announced presenters: producer/recording artist Dave Stewart, producer/engineer Al Schmitt, producer-engineer Ed Cherney, producer-engineer Tony Maserati, Capitol Studios executive Paula Salvatore, mix engineer Manny Marroquin, engineer Andrew Scheps, engineer and studio head John McBride, engineer Ann Mincieli, producer/engineer Ross Hogarth, studio executive Rose Mann-Cherney, engineer/producer Joe Barresi, songwriter Nina Woodford-Wells, mastering engineer Maor Appelbaum, Ableton Certified Trainer and electronic musician Yeuda Ben-Atar, EastWest studio manager Candace Stewart, Larrabee studio manager Amy Burr, songwriter/producer/engineer Kuk Harrell, Bobby Lombardi (Market Development, G-Technology), vocalist Patti Austin, AES Executive Director Bob Moses, NAMM President Joe Lamond, The Recording Academy P&E Wing Managing Director Maureen Droney, mix engineer Luca Pretolesi, producer/musician/engineer Greg Wells, songwriter/vocalist Siedah Garrett, Studio at the Palms manager Zoe Thrall, and electronic artist and producer DJ Ali. Music will be curated by acclaimed turntablist and Beastie Boys collaborator Mix Master Mike.
This year’s awards ceremony will be held under the stars in Calley Park, which is located in the center of the Sony Pictures Studios lot. The night will kick off with a VIP reception on the complex’s Main Street area Theatre (aka Capra Park), followed by an afterparty, “Into the Lair,” at the Sony Commissary, which is connected to Calley Park. An “AfterMaster Lounge” in the Rita Hayworth Dining Room will host VIP guests and influencers throughout the evening.
AfterMaster Audio Labs is serving as presenting sponsor for the upcoming ceremony. Title Sponsors are Audio-Technica, AVID, Blackbird Academy, Hal Leonard, iZotope, Recording Radio Film Connection (RRF), Studio 202 and Vintage King Audio. Premium sponsors are Augspurger, Barefoot Sound, Bedrock L.A., NAMM, SAE Institute, SUBPAC and 3DEXCITE.
The Pensado Awards are a natural outgrowth of the ethos behind Pensado’s Place. From the self-taught basement amateur to the seasoned industry producer, all manner of music professionals are discovering new methods of working and novel ways to reach fans and we are here to honor them. At the awards we highlight the brilliance and hard work of all those producers, songwriters, DJ’s, engineers, mixers, live wizards and behind-the-scenes technicians in audio that often go unnoticed. The Pensado Awards unites the best pros, amateurs, brands and press to come together as one community to celebrate the uncelebrated.
Posted by House Editor on 08/24 at 07:46 AM
Friday, August 21, 2015
Church Sound Boot Camp Class Coming To San Diego In October
Registration open, including early registration discounts, for renowned church sound training at Unity Way Church in Vista, CA on October 2-3
Curt Taipale (Taipale Media Systems) is presenting his renowned Church Sound Boot Camp class in the San Diego area on October 2-3.
Specifically, the class will be held at Unity Way Church in Vista, CA from 5 pm to 10 pm on Friday, October 2 and continues from 9 am to 5 pm on October 3.
For well over two decades, Church Sound Boot Camp has helped church sound teams raise the bar of technical excellence—without stress—in equipping them with the knowledge and understanding to make clearly noticeable improvements to the quality of their sound.
Instructor Curt Taipale has more than 30 years of experience in audio as a church tech team leader, recording and live sound engineer, consultant, AVL system designer, design/build contractor, educator, author, and professional musician.
He is also the founder of ChurchSoundcheck.com, author of “The Heart of Technical Excellence,” and a contributing author to Yamaha’s “Guide to Sound Systems for Worship.”
Curt has taught literally thousands of church sound team volunteers, technical staff, worship pastors and musicians. In the classes, he’ll cover all the primary components of every sound system, exactly how they should be connected, how to feel confident in operating that equipment, and how to deliver a pristine, smooth, clear musical mix consistently at every worship service.
Attendees are advised to register as soon as possible. Go here for more details and to register. Early registration discounts are offered.
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
Illuminating The Audience With Beautiful, Consistent Audio Coverage
When it comes to room acoustics, definitions of “correct” or “appropriate” can be largely dependent upon the musical tastes of the listeners, often making it a sensitive subject. The decisions made are significant in terms of cost as well as the listening experience.
Fortunately, not all of the aspects of auditorium sound are so subjective. Large rooms require a sound system, and the criteria for performance are more universally accepted. All successful sound systems must:
1) Provide even sound coverage of all audience areas
2) Provide adequate loudness before distortion
3) Provide adequate loudness before acoustic feedback
4) Be easy to understand
5) Reproduce musical sources with adequate clarity and fidelity
I call these the “Big 5.” While there are numerous other criteria that can be used to judge a sound system, these are the ones that aren’t negotiable. Regardless of the proposed design of the system, if the system doesn’t fulfill the Big 5, there will be ongoing problems with sound reproduction.
For an existing system, the best instrument for determining if the sound system meets these criteria is the audience. Listen to them. Complaints such as: “I can’t hear when I sit over there” or “Why does the system squeal so much?” or “I can’t understand the words” often mean that a system is in violation of one or more of the Big 5.
Most of these problems can ultimately be traced back to the system’s transducers. A transducer is a device that converts energy from one form to another. The two types of transducers in a sound system are microphones and loudspeakers.
The microphone converts acoustical energy into electrical energy. The electrical signal flows through the system’s electronics on its way to the loudspeaker, which converts the electrical signal back into an acoustical signal. The acoustical signal flows through the air to the listeners’ ears.
Both electrical and acoustical signals are vital to the operation of the system. It should be pretty obvious that deficiencies in one will bring out the worst in the other. The transducers are always its weakest links. Never forget that.
Between the two, the loudspeakers get priority with regard to investment dollars. They are second in importance only to room acoustics in determining the sonic performance of the space, and therefore, it’s vital to understand some basic principles regarding the selection and placement of loudspeakers in a room.
The goal is to help you sort through the sundry opinions that are often expressed by those around you. The principles are general, but physically defensible and time-proven.
Limits Of Performance
There are two critical factors regarding loudspeaker deployment into an auditorium - selection and placement. They are of equal importance – when loudspeakers are selected and placed, the limits of performance have been established for the sound system in terms of the Big 5.
Further, the majority of common sound system ailments can be traced back to loudspeaker issues. Unfortunately there is relatively little that can be done with electronics to remedy the problems caused by the improper selection and placement of loudspeakers.
If someone walks into your church and asks “Where should I sit for the best sound?” the answer should ideally be “It doesn’t matter, sit anywhere you like.” In a permanently installed sound system, the sound coverage should be as uniform as possible over all seating areas – no overpowering the audience members in the front to achieve adequate level for those in the back.
Coverage is best checked by listening to speech over the system. Don’t waste time wandering around with a sound level meter in an evaluation of this type. Sound level meters display the total sound field level present at a given position, but the information needed by the listener is the early sound energy, with special instrumentation required to measure it.
Therefore, the best way to check coverage is to play speech tracks (usually from a CD) that is unfamiliar with and simply walk around and listen.
The requirements for a good loudspeaker are not unlike those for good stage lighting - but in reverse. Because light is more tangible than sound, let’s use it as an example.
A stage lighting fixture is selected and placed to illuminate a certain area of the stage. The two variables that determine its coverage are distance and coverage angle (which we will call directivity). Higher directivity means more confined coverage.
The directivity of a loudspeaker is related to its physical size; therefore, physically large loudspeakers will have more directivity than smaller ones. This general principle is independent of brand name and price tag - and it’s very important.
In general, the farther a loudspeaker is from the audience, the more directivity it must have.
Observe The Trade-Offs
For a visual example of directivity, point a flashlight at a wall. Observe what happens as you move it closer and further away. This is how loudspeakers behave with regard to sound.
Better yet, if the flashlight has a focus option, observe the trade-offs between a sharply focused light (high directivity) and a broader coverage (low directivity).
If you want to confine the light to a given area on the wall, and you move it farther from the wall, you must increase the directivity of the light. This is a physical law. Photographers must live by it, lighting designers must live by it, and it even affects how you water your lawn.
A lighting designer makes the appropriate trade-offs between distance and coverage angle to assure that all of the necessary parts of the stage are illuminated while minimizing spill onto the audience.
A loudspeaker must do exactly the same thing, only the goal here is to “illuminate” the audience and not the stage. Sound system designers work with the same two variables as lighting designers - directivity and distance.
The farther the loudspeaker is placed from the audience, the more directional it must be to avoid illumination of areas with no listeners.
It’s safe to say that in most churches, the loudspeakers are always a considerable distance from the audience, so directional loudspeakers are a must. This also means that they must be physically large, because loudspeaker directivity is generally proportional to physical size.
When an architect or church committee decrees that loudspeaker(s) must be located at a certain place, they are indirectly establishing the required physical characteristics of the loudspeaker. For instance, if the loudspeaker must be mounted very near the ceiling in a large room, it will have to be physically large to have enough directivity to confine the sound to the audience area from such a great distance.
If the loudspeaker can be placed closer, its physical size can generally be reduced, since the required directivity is lower from a closer vantage point. An architect that wants a small loudspeaker placed near the ceiling in a large church is condemning the space to permanent poor sound reproduction. This is engineering in reverse!
It’s the job of the sound system designer to evaluate the possible loudspeaker placements that will produce even and confined audience coverage. This, in turn, determines the required directivity of the loudspeaker(s), which in turn determines their required physical size.
A good system designer will look at achieving coverage from smaller loudspeakers placed closer to the audience, versus larger loudspeakers placed at a greater distance.
The role of the client is to decide which approach will work best with regard to cost, aesthetics, and a host of other issues. Once this decision is made, it is the architect’s job to integrate the loudspeakers aesthetically in a way that does not impair the operation of the loudspeaker (no loudspeakers in cavities, please!).
Complicating The Process
It all seems pretty simple, right? It’s not. Two things complicate the selection and placement of loudspeakers with regard to coverage:
1) Their directivity characteristics tend to differ significantly with frequency. We say that the directivity is “frequency dependent.” So, a placement that works well for the woofer (low frequencies) may not for the tweeter (mid and high frequencies).
2) When two loudspeakers are placed in close proximity, it produces an entirely different directivity that almost never follows the intuitive expectation. For example, it’s common practice to place two loudspeakers side-by-side in an attempt to achieve wider coverage.
In fact, this will actually narrow the coverage for some ranges of the loudspeakers response. It may also cause interference effects that produce “drop outs” in areas of the audience.
The poor performance of many sound systems can be traced directly to loudspeakers placed by intuition with no regard for the physics of the acoustic interaction between multiple sound sources. When loudspeakers are placed in close proximity, they form an array - like it or not. Arrays are very complex in behavior and require careful design to produce an intended result.
As with other engineering problems, loudspeaker selection and placement is a matter of trade-offs. Improvements made in one aspect of performance come at the expense of some other performance benchmark. For instance, adding loudspeakers to cover additional seating areas will likely reduce the sound quality elsewhere in the room.
Using Powerful Tools
The good news is that loudspeaker selection and placement need not be left to chance or trusted to intuition. There are tools available for evaluating performance in advance.
Very powerful computer modeling programs can map the sound coverage onto the audience, allowing the system designer to evaluate the trade-offs. These same programs can model the interaction between loudspeakers to allow for the optimal design of arrays.
The bad news is that you probably don’t own one of these programs. They are rightfully expensive, and once acquired have very long, steep learning curves - their effectiveness is limited by the knowledge of the user. In short, loudspeaker selection and placement is a task for someone who is tooled up to do it AND has a lot of experience in doing it.
The audio system consultant is second in importance only to the acoustical consultant. Successful professionals have made a life-long study of their trade, and the value of what both bring to a project means that they always pay for themselves.
Some sound system projects of a smaller nature can benefit from the services of a design-build contractor. However, make sure that they have the necessary measurement and prediction tools to fully assess your room’s acoustics and provide predictions regarding the response of the proposed sound system.
Further, take the time to check out other church projects that they’ve done in both acoustically live and dead architectural spaces. Listen to the sound systems, and talk to the technical staff. Attend a service or two and evaluate the sound quality , especially with regard to speech intelligibility.
Some churches sound great from day one, while others never sound good. The difference is in the planning, and that should be done under the direction of qualified audio consultant and contractor to determine the appropriate selection and placement of loudspeakers.
After that, it’s a matter of providing them with the latitude and budget that needed to satisfy the “Big 5.”
Pat & Brenda Brown lead SynAudCon, conducting audio seminars and workshops online and around the world. For more information go to www.prosoundtraining.com.
SynAudCon is now offering “Audio Applications – System Optimization & EQ” as web-based training. Click the link to see the related article.
Thursday, August 20, 2015
Top 10 Reasons For Bad Sound (And What You Can Do About It…)
One of my favorite quotes goes something like this: “Let’s take some of these things over which we have no control, and do something about them.” I only wish I knew who originally said this, because that person is my hero.
This article is my attempt at accomplishing this goal, because I tend to think of bad sound as something that I often have no control over, but nevertheless I want to fix it because it’s a crime against the audience.
Sure, there are times when the gear is at fault but let’s be honest – it’s more often not the fault of the operators. That’s right; it’s you and me screwing up the sound. So here’s my list of reasons for bad sound and how these problems might be overcome.
10. Promoters, event coordinators, pastors, principals, and others in charge of events that just don’t know what real is, what it costs, or even how to ask for it.
They’ve done so much with so little for so long, that they don’t have any clue how bad it really is. They hire a DJ with loudspeakers on a stick when they need to cover an event with a PA, including background music, speeches, dancing, etc., for 450 people.
They low-ball all the local vendors and squeeze them for every dime. Unfortunately, some of these folks actually DO know what it would take to do it right and they just don’t care. I’m sure you’ve been involved with events like this. I certainly have.
The solutions are tricky. But first, the only professional way to deal with one of these situations—once it’s too late to turn back— is of course to do everything in the world possible to make it as good as it can be. The down side is that the event will likely succeed as a result of your efforts and the problem is perpetuated (and of course if it fails, you’re likely to be blamed).
My first suggestion is to flat-out turn down any work that you know will be like this, and politely explain that your (and your company’s) goal is to always provide professional sound at hired events, and that for such little money, you simply can’t provide the proper tools and people to get good results.
Yes – there are companies and individuals that will whore themselves out for the bottom dollar. Just don’t be one of them if you can help it.
Failing that (and we have all failed that – often because we don’t realize what kind of a gig it will be until it’s too late), the next step is to very politely explain to the powers that be, after the gig is over, that a lot of problems could have been avoided, and better sound could have been had (meaning more, and happier, customers) if they had budgeted enough money and listened to the right experts about how it should have been done.
They may or may not take any interest. But at least you know to avoid this particular job in the future, and you can warn your friendly and like-minded competitors about it.
9. Bad acoustics. Yes – we all know that there are venues where good sound simply can’t be had. Here in Albuquerque, there is the Tingley Coliseum. Many bands avoid our city and one of the reasons is this venue. It really is that bad, but it can be tamed – at least to a certain extent.
One of the better-sounding shows I’ve ever seen happened to be in Tingley: Sarah McLachlan. I talked to Gary Stokes, her FOH guy, about it, and he admitted that the place wasn’t ideal. But he started running down the list of things he’d considered towards making the best of it.
He did say, “If this was Barbra Streisand, we’d have a huge budget and I would have hung heavy drapes to block off the back third…” In other words, he knew what it would have taken to make it even better, but not within practical means for him at the time. Maybe someday Gary will get to mix Barbra in there, and see if the drapes would really help!
For one thing, really bad rooms do not benefit from blasting the audience with more power than needed. If anything, go light. Cut down the PA and think extra carefully about how to avoid the walls, ceiling, etc. and only have sound reaching the people and nowhere else.
Think of ways to cut down on stage volume – the move to personal monitors has certainly helped our efforts in this regard. It’s simply not good enough to say “the room sucks” and just do business as usual.
8. Inadequate gear. Sometimes, this can be a result of the forces in number 10 above, but often, things can be done to help the problem. If you’re somehow in the position of trying to make good sound and keep making good sound when the loudspeakers just won’t cover the room, be sure to think about getting extra boxes somehow or re-positioning the boxes you have in order to get the best results possible.
I remember one situation where the venue was a hall with three balconies. The local guy pointed out that with the loudspeakers he had, he usually could not reach the top balcony, so he positioned his loudspeakers to cover the floor and the first two balconies with good sound. This is a reasonable compromise.
We augmented what he had with some additional mid-high boxes pointed at the third balcony, and we ended up with a reasonable success.
You may not be so lucky. But like in number 10 above, be sure to stay professional. Also inform the powers that be as to the nature of the problem. They may not listen, or care, but you have done the right thing.
We’ve all spent countless hours fixing cables, snakes, loudspeaker connectors, consoles, amps and racks just to get through the gig. That’s what makes us who we are. It’s always our job to do our best, no matter how crappy the situation.
7. Loud stage. Fortunately, this problem has diminished with the proliferation of personal monitor systems. What a godsend!
But plenty of tours, events and shows still use wedges due to artist demand, budget, or lack of understanding of personal monitor systems and how to make them work. So when you get your wedges, drums, guitar amps and anything else on the stage into all the microphones, your mix will suffer.
I strongly suggest getting familiar with the nuances of running personal monitor systems if you haven’t done so already. Then look for other ways to cut down on stage volume. Is the guitar player pointing his cabinet at the back of his knees? Is the drummer using a shield? Are there other ways you might be able to mic the stage to cut down on picking up the wash?
Working on each one of these elements will gradually clean up the mix and give you more control over how you want to shape the sound.
6. Time of arrival. Most of the PA systems I’ve ever seen do not account for this effect. And, frankly, worrying about it does not make sense in every instance.
That said, now that we have digital delay available in the consoles, drive racks and other devices, there is no excuse for ignoring this effect. What I mean is that if you’ve got a loudspeaker on a stick on each side of the stage, pulpit, lectern or whatever, and you are not delaying the signal appropriately, the sound will appear to the audience to come from the loudspeakers and not the person talking or singing.
Get familiar with sound propagation speed (1,130 feet/second at room temp at sea level) and know that it equates to about 1 mS per foot of distance.
With that in mind, just think about how you might delay the signal just enough so that most people in the audience hear the person’s voice slightly before they hear the sound from the PA. The illusion will be that the source of the sound is the person, not the PA. Look up the Haas effect.
5. Wireless mics not used properly. Mainly I see this as a combination of planning (or lack thereof) and believing that wireless mics work on voodoo, and thus, “There’s nothing that can be done.”
Frankly, there’s almost always something that can be done. Wireless mics work on math and science, and should be treated as such. The laws of physics apply.
Sure, using really crappy wireless is like playing Chinese, er, Russian Roulette, but as soon as you get to the units costing $400 per channel or more, the problems stem mainly from antenna design and frequency choice.
Read the manuals for these systems and get the good information offered by various reputable manufacturers. You can only gain from knowing more about wireless. Get familiar with frequency coordination software.
4. Hearing loss. I once read a post on a ProSoundWeb Forum describing the same thing I’ve heard many times – a mix that is just too darn bright because the operator has probably lost his or her hearing.
Please, please, please get your hearing tested on an annual basis, and don’t think it’s “not manly” to wear hearing protection when you mow the lawn and use the vacuum cleaner—as well as when your system is being pinked out.
And frankly, if your hearing is significantly degraded, do the right thing and consider changing careers. Run a sound company. Do lights, be the system tech. But consider that if you continue to mix, you’ll continue to damage your hearing further and meanwhile, your mixes will continue to sound worse and worse.
3. Poor wiring, terminations and grounding. This is another one like gain structure that is far more common than it should be. There are times when a single whisker of shield wire can short out a hot connection or cause a ground loop.
You should have a regular maintenance schedule for all of your mic cables, and a procedure in place for checking and cleaning your multi-pin units as well. And if you’re not clear on grounding and ground loops, get clear on it!
I’ve received a number of calls over the years where by simply diagramming the system, I can point out where the ground loop is being created. You should be able to do this as well. Finally, impedance and level matching are important topics to understand as well.
You should know when a DI will be helpful and when it won’t. You should know why it’s a bad idea to connect a 300 ohm guitar pickup directly into a 1K ohm microphone input.
2. Poor gain structure. Yeah, you’ve probably heard this a thousand times before. Yet it’s still true. Here at Lectrosonics, we get calls about sound systems not working properly and at least seven out of 10 times it is a gain-structure related issue.
The main problem we see is not enough gain at the front end – think mic preamps – and then the gain made up somewhere else down the chain. The result is simply too much noise and not enough punch.
The second most common error I see is that the buses are being hit too hard because all the channels are hot and then being summed to a bss amp that can’t take +28 dBu. The resulting sound is squashed, small, and often irritating.
Unlike the old days of recording and hitting the analog tape really hard, it is not always such a good idea to be hitting your channels or your buses hard. Hit them hard enough to get the maximum signal to noise ratio, but not so hard that distortion is evident.
There are book chapters, seminars, training sessions, and manufacturers’ information on this subject. And there is also the advice of your peers. But it is up to you to figure out how to set your gain structure properly for the best results, with the gear that you are using.
1. Lack of mixing skills. This can manifest itself in many different ways, but the most common I’ve encountered include: too loud, too bright, too much distortion, and no definition between elements of the mix.
Folks, there simply isn’t any good excuse for this stuff because when using good, well-set-up gear, these problems can all be avoided. I’ve been at concerts where two different acts played on the same PA.
Artist A sounded like crap, with muddy lows and no extension, mish-mash mids, too much high-mid, distorted highs, and no extension on the top. Instruments blended into each other. The drums were too loud, particularly the kick. The vocals were barely intelligible.
Then artist B took the stage, and it was like a revelation: clean, extended lows, beautiful definition between instruments, no low-mid gunk, beautifully clear vocals, and wonderful, extended highs.
What was the difference? Mainly, it was the operator. Sure, the different artists were part of the story but we’re talking about basically the same sources on stage – drums, bass, guitar, keyboard and vocals.
The real difference happened behind the console and one guy knew what he was doing while the other one did not, period.
What can you do to improve your “Mad Mixing Skilz”?First, lose the ego and realize that you’ve got a lot to learn. Everyone mixes differently, but there are some common threads between great mixers. They know what kind of a sound they want, and they technically know how to get it.
They are self-critical and objective about what they are hearing. They know that hard and fast rules used to mic drums or to EQ guitars don’t often work in the real world. The way they really EQ is to understand how all the instruments and voices fit together, and they come up with a way to make that work by giving each sound its own space in the mix.
Great mix engineers remain open-minded and stay in the present moment so that they can actively listen to what’s happening in front of them. And then they take action. They also know what the artist wants and what the audience expects.
All of these things are skills that can be learned. What are you waiting for?
Karl Winkler is the vice president of sales/service at Lectrosonics and has worked in professional audio for more than 20 years.
Wednesday, August 19, 2015
Maximizing Your Church Sound Mixing Console With A Logical Approach
Let’s take a poll: how many of you use some type of map to find the most efficient route to get where you’re going?
Wow, a couple of folks actually raised a hand! It may seem odd, but one of the best ways to understand how to operate a mixing console is to learn its signal flow.
Figure out a simple road map that illustrates how the signal gets from the input to various outputs.
Without this understanding, then the likely approach is your one of, “Well, if I twiddle these three knobs just so, push this fader up to here, and never ever let the master fader go past this indelibly engraved red mark that someone has carved into the face of the console, then maybe it’ll work today!”
There really is a better way, and it’s the concept of signal flow logic. Let’s get down to work.
Figure 1, below shows the input strip from a hypothetical but typical console. We’ll talk about each of those controls as we make our way through the signal flow.
On the surface, one might think that the sound flows through each control in sequence from top to bottom. Actually, manufacturers have arranged the controls in a way that they think will be the most efficient way to operate the console.
Figure 1: Hypothetical of a typical input strip (click to enlarge)
For example, controls that you would for the most part “set and forget” are placed at the top of the input strip, well out of your reach, such as, say, the microphone trim.
Controls for immediate and frequent access are placed right at the user’s fingertips, like the channel faders.
As we move on to the signal flow diagram later, it’s a good idea refer back to Figure 1 from time to time. It helps tie the signal flow into the related controls.
Applied To All
The signal flow diagram (Figure 2, below) is again from a hypothetical console. This arrangement of the controls is fairly common, and once one understands this concept, it can be applied to all consoles.
The diagram reads from left to right, top to bottom. So we start at the upper left corner at the mic input - a very good thing to have on a console! The first component that the signal sees is the input transformer.
Now, the reality is that on most consoles we work with today, especially on lower cost consoles, the input transformer is actually replaced by a less expensive electronic circuit that accomplishes much the same task.
Figure 2: Signal flow diagram (click to enlarge)
The purpose of this input stage on each channel is to receive the balanced signal from the microphone and to cancel any extraneous noises.
The strength of that mic signal is quite low, and needs to be brought up significantly to operate with a quiet signal-to-noise ratio throughout the rest of the console and beyond. That gain increase is accomplished with the mic preamp.
Note that there is a related control called the mic trim (or mic gain). This is a gain adjustment for the mic preamp that allows you to adjust for differing signal strengths coming into each channel.
If there isn’t a control labeled mic gain, it simply means that the manufacturer has chosen to keep the price of the console down by replacing that variable resistor (called a potentiometer) with a fixed resistor.
The manufacturer figures that you’re going to plug in mic “A” and mic “B”, and you’ll place them on these various instruments or voices; then a ballpark gain setting is chosen that should serve the needs of all of the inputs. (That fixed resistor costs about one-tenth as much as the pot - multiply that times one for each channel.)
However, the trade-off for lower cost is flexibility. For example, you might decide that you get the best sound if you mic a certain instrument in a certain way. If the incoming signal is too hot or too soft, you could use that sensitivity control to adjust for the difference.
Without that control, creativity is required, i.e., what’s another way to drop the strength of the signal coming into the console on a particular channel? One could move the mic farther from the instrument.
The main path of the signal goes next to the equalizer section of the channel. This is really just a glorified volume control which allows you to turn the sound up or down in various frequency bands. Your intent should be to improve the tonal quality of a particular voice or instrument.
Remember to be subtle with EQ adjustments. A small EQ change can make a huge improvement in the quality of a person’s voice. But there are times when altering EQ is simply not needed. Part of a mixer’s job is to know the difference, and then to not twiddle the EQ knobs just because they’re there.
The signal then flows on to the channel fader. Fader is the hip term - I want all of you to be hip, so stop using the term “slider”.
Here’s where most of the action of the mix happens. The fader provides the means to make adjustments in the balance of each voice or instrument during the song or sketch.
Faders generally have a logarithmic taper; that is to say, the rate that the volume changes will vary along the throw of the fader.
For example, a 1/4 of an inch move of the fader near the top of its travel may account for a 5 dB change in level, whereas the same 1/4 of an inch move of the fader near the bottom of its travel may account for a 20 dB change in level.
As a result, the mix will be smoother and quieter if the faders are operated in the upper one-third of their travel for the most part. This deals with gain structure; hang on, we’ll get to that point soon.
Now our signal path is at the summing point. The Greek Sigma symbol with a circle around it is a common notation for a “summing” or “combining” point.
The signal flow diagram here shows just one channel of the console, but let’s say that we’ve really been talking about a 16-channel console. Each channel is identical up to this point, and then they all combine or sum.
Signal then goes to the master fader where the overall level of all the signals is controlled with one fader. Signal then goes through the output stage of the console circuitry, and then to a connector/cable on the back of the console, where it’s fed to the input of the power amplifier(s), for example.
That’s the main path through any console. No matter how expensive, that’s it. But we still need some more information on how the controls interrelate, so look back at the signal flow diagram and note that right after the mic preamp, but before the EQ, there is a pickoff point. Think of it as a side road on your map.
The path drops down to a control I’ve labeled auxiliary 1. Follow the signal path down, and you’ll see that it comes in contact with the aux 1 bus. This is basically a piece of wire that runs from one side of the console to the other.
Signal then flows on to the right to the aux 1 master control, which controls the overall level of all the signals fed to the aux 1 bus.
The Fade Route
Let’s imagine for a moment that we’re using aux 1 to feed a set of stage monitors. We’re looking at channel 5 that is the lead vocal mic, and aux 1 feeds the lead vocalist’s stage monitors.
If you were to make an adjustment to the EQ on channel 5, would that change be heard in the vocalist’s monitor mix? No, because the feed for the monitor mix is picked off before the EQ.
If making adjustment to the lead vocalist’s channel fader, would that change be heard in the vocal monitors? No. We’re using what is known as a “pre-fade” auxiliary send, because the signal is picked off before the fader. It also happens that the signal is picked off before the EQ as well, but the proper term is “pre-fade”.
But what if we make a change to the mic trim on channel 5? Yes, because it’s upstream in the main path, changing the setting of the mic trim would affect the signal to both the main path and the auxiliary send.
This relationship is usually the preferred setup for mixing monitors. Most vocalists and musicians prefer that once their monitor mix has been established during soundcheck and rehearsal, that their mix not change during the course of the worship set (or show) unless they specifically request it. Unexpected changes in the mix can be very distracting.
Just past the fader is another pickoff point that goes to a control labeled auxiliary 2. As before, this also drops down to an aux #2 bus and its related master control. In this case, let’s imagine that the aux 2 output on the back of the console is patched to the input of a reverb unit sitting in an equipment rack next to the console.
In order to hear the reverb, the output of the reverb device is connected to a line level input on the console called the auxiliary return. We establish our dry-to-wet ratio by adjusting the send on aux 2 of channel 5, and of course the return level of the reverb unit is adjusted with the aux return.
The “dry” sound is the direct signal from, in this case, the vocal mic, and the “wet” sound is the reverb effect.
Draw & Redraw
Now that the reverb sounds the way we like… If an adjustment is made to the lead vocal fader, does this affect the signal fed to the reverb device? Of course it does. What if you make a change to the EQ on channel 5? Yes, that change will also be reflected in the reverb sound.
Does adjusting the master fader affect the feed to the reverb device? No, because the feed to aux 2 is picked off before the master fader. What if the aux 1 send on channel 5 is changed - will that affect the signal fed to the reverb unit?
No. Even though aux 1 is picked off upstream from the aux 2 feed, it’s still just a pickoff point and will not affect the main signal path. Realize that the aux 2 send described here is commonly called a “post-fade” send.
It’s typical to use a post-fade send to feed effects devices because doing so allows us to easily maintain that dry-to-wet ratio. It is generally a more musical sound for the loudness of the reverb to track with the direct sound.
If you push the fader up, the direct sound increases, as does the feed to the reverb unit, so the dry-to-wet ratio is maintained. If you pull the fader down, the reverb sound diminishes as well.
The owner’s manual for your console will include a block diagram. These drawings are often awkward to read, so redraw it! Not only will it be easier to read and simpler to understand, but the point of signal flow is reinforced understanding of its flow.
All you have to do is get past the manufacturer’s silkscreen on the console. For example, what one manufacturer calls “solo” another labels the same control “cue”, and still another labels it “PFL”; what one manufacturer calls “monitor send” another labels “foldback”.
But it doesn’t matter if the console cost $600 or $60,000. The reality is that they both possess the same basic signal flow.
Curt Taipale heads up Church Soundcheck.com, a thriving community dedicated to helping technical worship personnel, and he also provides expert systems design and consulting services with Taipale Media Systems.
Note that Curt will be hosting his Church Sound Boot Camp “How to Get the Sounds” workshops in Louisiana and California—learn more here.
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
Monday, August 17, 2015
Martin Audio Holds MLA Training In Chicago Area
The three day training sessions will be held at the Aloft O’Hare Hotel in the MB Financial Park in Rosemont, Illinois.
Martin Audio will hold three days of special training for its Multi-cellular Array (MLA) technology loudspeaker system in the Chicago area from September 15th through the 17th.
The training sessions will be held at the Aloft O’Hare Hotel in the MB Financial Park in Rosemont, Illinois.
They encompass a 3-day certification program with two days of classroom instruction and one day of practical application covering the concept of MLA, current versions of the MLA including MLA Compact and MLA Mini, Display 2.0 and VU-NET control software.
Instructors for the training will be Jim Jorgensen, UXM and MLA product support specialist for North America, and Andy Davies, Martin Audio product support group leader for UK and Europe.
Classroom sessions will run from 9:00am to 4:00pm with breakfast and lunch included with practical instruction in the field from 10:00am to 3:00pm on day three.
Commenting on the training, Jorgensen said, “These instruction sessions are intended to provide designers, consultants, engineers and system techs with a full understanding of how to design, implement, deploy and maintain an MLA system. We’re fully committed to providing as much education as possible about this breakthrough technology.”