Tuesday, January 21, 2014
Biamp Systems & InfoComm Partnering To Train On AV Networking In Mexico
Three-day training sessions scheduled for each quarter of the coming year
Biamp Systems and InfoComm International have announced a partnership to provide networked AV systems training to industry professionals in Mexico.
As host of four quarterly sessions of InfoComm’s “Networking Technology” course in Mexico City, Biamp is extending a discount to its local systems integrators.
The three-day sessions are scheduled for:
• Feb. 27-March 1
• May 29-31
• Aug. 18-20 (during TecnoMultimedia InfoComm Mexico 2014)
• Nov. 27-29
“Biamp is committed to supporting education and training programs that can help increase the number of trained AV professionals in Latin America,” said Ernesto Montañez, area manager, Central America, Biamp Systems. “InfoComm’s foundational ‘Networking Technology’ class is ideal for current integrators who carry Biamp products as well as those who have completed, or are currently completing, our certification program.
“Based on the results of a similar course held by InfoComm in December of last year, which was fully booked, we expect demand to be high for the 2014 series of courses.”
“The AV world has changed and if you’re not up to speed on IT networks, you are at risk of being left behind,” said David Labuskes, CTS, RCDD, Executive Director and CEO, InfoComm International. “InfoComm thanks Biamp Systems for helping to develop the industry globally, and Latin America in particular.”
In “Networking Technology,” students will learn to understand and troubleshoot IT networks that support AV systems. Held at the Mexico City office of Biamp Systems’ Mexican distribution partner, Representaciones de Audio, each session will be limited to 10 attendees and will be presented in Spanish. As the program’s sponsor, Biamp is offering its channel partners and Mexican integrators a 50-percent discount on registration.
Mr. Bonzai Hosting Bold “Producers” Panel At Upcoming 2014 NAMM Show
Some of today's most creative producer/engineers will they reveal the inside story of their success
Award-winning photographer/music journalist Mr. Bonzai hosts the slashing-edge panel “Producers” in the Winter NAMM H.O.T Zone (Hands On Training) on Friday, January 24 at this year’s show in Anaheim.
Some of today’s most creative producer/engineers will they reveal the inside story of their success and the pitfalls they have encountered. Mr. Bonzai moderates, with Michael Bradford, Billy Bush and Ken Jordan.
Day: Friday, January 24, 2014
Start Time: 01:30 pm
Duration: 1 hour 30 min
Room: The Forum (203 A-B)
Presenter: Mr. Bonzai
Michael Bradford lives in L.A., but his heart and soul were made in Detroit, where he was born, and where he first learned to play music. One of the most versatile musicians and producers in music, Bradford has worked with a stunning variety of top artists. He has written, produced and engineered records for Kid Rock, Uncle Kracker, Stevie Nicks, Anita Baker, New Radicals and Beth Hart, in addition to creating dozens of orchestral arrangements for records, film and TV.
Bradford has worked extensively in film and TV, notably with composer Paul Buckmaster (Murder In Mind, The Maker) Terence Trent D’arby (The Fan), Uncle Kracker (Osmosis Jones, American Pie 2), and Miley Cyrus (Hannah Montana). Bradford is the co-writer and producer of Uncle Kracker’s #1 smash “Follow Me,” and the producer of his #1 cover of Dobie Grey’s classic “Drift Away.” He has also coproduced Kid Rock’s triple-platinum LP, “The History of Rock,” and engineered the New Radicals classic “Maybe You’ve Been Brainwashed Too.”
Bradford has recently produced and written songs for Jem, John Mellencamp, Deep Purple and Travis Tritt. He has performed live as the music director for artists Dave Stewart, Kid Rock and Ringo Starr. Another recent highlight for Bradford was Stevie Nicks’ new album “In Your Dreams”, where he played bass on various tracks, and co-produced the song “Cheaper Than Free”. Bradford’s latest work can be heard in the Film “About Time”, where he co-produced a new recording of Ben Folds’ song “The Luckiest”, featuring Folds and a full orchestra. Bradford has also recently produced music for the film “The Getaway”, as well as the upcoming film “Life Of Crime”, based on a novel by the legendary Elmore Leonard. “The Long Night” is the first full-length album, coming soon from Michael Bradford, writer, producer and musician. A mix of rock and ambient, with some trip-hop influences, it is perhaps the missing link between Massive Attack and Pink Floyd.
Record producer, engineer and mixer Billy Bush is well known for his extensive work with multi-platinum rock band Garbage. In addition to producing, engineering and mixing records for Garbage, Bush joins the band on tour to help reconcile their technological needs with their live performance. The result has pushed the boundaries of and blurred the lines between live performance and recorded music. As a mixer, Bush’s credits include The Naked & Famous’s Passive Me, Aggressive You (Fiction), Snow Patrol’s single “In The End” from Fallen Empires (Polydor), and Neon Trees’ Picture Show, including the single “Everybody Talks” which reached #6 on the Billboard 200.
Also an accomplished producer, Bush produced, engineered, and mixed Fink’s Perfect Darkness (Ninja Tune), as well as French band Superbus’s Sunset (Polydor France) and The Boxer Rebellion’s Promises (Absentee). Recently, Bush engineered and mixed The Naked and Famous’s song “Following Morning,” which will appear on the Dallas Buyers Club soundtrack. He also recently completed mixing Los Angeles band NO’s forthcoming album, as well as English singer and songwriter Jake Bugg’s forthcoming Shangri La (Mercury), produced by Rick Rubin. He is currently mixing the forthcoming album from Eastern Conference Champions, and is set to produce the follow up to Fink’s critically acclaimed Perfect Darkness.
Celebrated producer and songwriter Ken Jordan is one of the founding members of the Grammy-nominated, platinum-selling electronic music duo The Crystal Method. Originally formed in 1993 in Las Vegas, NV, The Crystal Method has been heralded by the Village Voice as “one of the best live dance acts on Earth.” Together with production partner Scott Kirkland, The Crystal Method have been known for over a decade for their enduring dance floor anthems (“Now Is The Time,” “Keep Hope Alive”), airwave smashes (“Trip Like I Do”) and a willingness to collaborate with an array of talent-including rock’s elite like Scott Weiland, Matisyahu, New Order’s Peter Hook, Emily Haines of Metric and Filter’s Richard Patrick.
TCM has dominated the remix, film soundtrack, television, gaming and advertising worlds, most recently helping Victoria’s Secret drop jaws with music for a TV commercial campaign and collaborating with soundtrack heavyweight Danny Elfman for several contributions to Hollywood blockbuster Real Steel. Their platinum-status debut album Vegas (released in 1997) is one of the biggest-selling electronic albums of all time, landing them in the top five of best-selling electronic acts in America. TCM scored the film London, as well as the themes for TV shows “Bones” and “Third Watch,” and were the first act to work with Nike for their running soundtrack series.
In his spare time, Jordan serves as a board member of the Electronic Music Alliance (EMA)-a public charity, non-profit organization and global membership alliance uniting the electronic music industry and community to be the “Sound of Change,” cultivating, collaborating and celebrating social responsibility, environmental stewardship, community building and volunteerism-an avid hockey player, environmentalist and electric car driver.
Award-winning photographer, filmmaker and music journalist Mr. Bonzai 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 authored seven books, including “Faces of Music” (Cengage, 2006) “Music Smarts” (Berklee Press, 2009) and “John Lennon’s Tooth” (BookBaby 2012).
Go here for more information.
Monday, January 20, 2014
ANSI Approves InfoComm International AV Systems Performance Verification Standard
Provides a comprehensive, systematic, and practical approach to verifying performance of AV systems
InfoComm International’s latest standard, ANSI/INFOCOMM 10-2013, Audiovisual Systems Performance Verification, has been approved by ANSI, a private, non-profit organization that administers and coordinates the U.S. voluntary standardization and conformity assessment systems.
ANSI/INFOCOMM 10-2013, Audiovisual Systems Performance Verification provides a comprehensive, systematic, and practical approach to verifying performance of AV systems.
This standard will provide practitioners the ability to produce a verifiable evaluation of the audiovisual system based on quality assurance, testing, and acceptance, and will ensure the system conforms to the owners’ operational needs, as established in the system/project documentation. A one-page overview can be found at infocomm.org/standards.
“Through the development of this standard, InfoComm has achieved its goal of establishing verification guidelines to promote effective communication between industry professionals and their clients on issues relating to system performance,” states David Labuskes, CTS, RCDD, executive director and CEO, InfoComm International. “However, in order for this standard to be a true success it must become integrated into the way the AV industry does business. I urge manufacturers to encourage their partners to use this standard, integrators and design consultants to implement the standard and technology managers to ask commercial service providers about it.”
InfoComm thanks the following subject matter experts for their leadership in developing this standard:
Matthew Silverman, CTS, PMP, George Mason University, Moderator
John Bailey, CTS-D, CTS-I, Whitlock
Jason Brameld, BSc (Hons) ARCS, MInstSCE, PTS Consulting
Greg Bronson, CTS-D, Cornell University
Paul Depperschmidt, CTS, Cisco
Richard Derbyshire, CTS, Shen Milsom & Wilke
Dan Doolen, MS, ISF-C, CQT, University of Illinois
Tristan Gfrerer, Google, CTS, BEng (Hons)
Mike Izatt, CTS-D, Spectrum Engineers
Thomas Kopin, CTS, ISF-C, Kramer Electronics USA
Richard Morrison, CTS, Prince2, CPEng, BE (Computer Systems), Norman Disney & Young
Mike Quinn, BEng, CEng, MIET, CTS-D
The standard is available at the IHS standards store at global.ihs.com or from ANSI at webstore.ansi.org. InfoComm members can download a free copy of the standard.
InfoComm will also be offering an education session, Audiovisual Systems Performance Verification: Deliver What you Promise, on February 5, at Integrated Systems Europe. Visit infocomm.org/ISE for more information.
Friday, January 17, 2014
A Teachable Desire To Improve: Sorting Out The Stuff That Really Matters
What would you say is the most valuable skill in our industry? I recall a top mix engineer saying that he wants to work with sound team members that have an innate understanding of signal flow and a good attitude. I agree. Absolutely. But, I’d like to add another highly valuable skill: simply, a teachable desire to improve.
The definition of insanity? Doing the same thing over and over while expecting a different result. A mentor long ago taught me these three laws of knowledge:
1) All you know is all you have learned.
2) All you know is not all there is to know.
3) Some of what you know is wrong.
It’s bad to not know. It’s even worse to not know that you don’t know. It’s tragic to pretend you know when you don’t. Arrogant and unteachable is a fatal combination in this business. Admit when you don’t know. Everyone else already knows if you don’t.
We all make mistakes. That’s how we learn. Good judgment comes from experience, experience comes from bad judgment. No problem. Just don’t have the same problems week after week. Learn and move on.
The first real PA system I ever installed (with the help of some fellow neophytes) was comprised of mostly used gear. That’s probably a very generous way of saying it. It was actually gear that had been retired after a long and meaningful life. Some of it was older than me. But, miraculously, it was functional. Even though we managed to make noises come out of it, we didn’t really know what we were doing.
We pieced that pile of junk together with ancient, unbalanced cables. Hung big loudspeakers from ceiling joists by eye hooks and cheap chains. Stabbed the channels randomly with no idea about what made sense. Moved knobs and faders until something made a sound. We were quite proud of ourselves.
We were also lucky we didn’t kill anyone or burn that place down. We didn’t even know that we didn’t know what we were doing.
I’d love to tell you I learned all of this without making any horrible or expensive mistakes. Yeah. That would be nice. But I did. I would love to tell you that I was one of those smart guys who listens and learns the first time. I wish I could speak only of my successes instead of my failures. But I can’t.
I learned most of it the hard way. I found out the value of a properly installed and adjusted crossover by destroying a pair 18-inch subs. That was a $1,900 education.
Here’s some other stuff I figured out along the way. Perhaps, for those of you just beginning in the business, it will save you some grief as you make your way in the world of pro audio.
All equipment operates on magic smoke. If you let the magic smoke escape, nothing works. When you make a fatal error during installation or operation, the gear will let you know by blowing out a magic smoke cloud. Fortunately, most gear has fuses somewhere. Unfortunately, it’s often inside the box or a specific type of fuse that no one has in their kit. Make sure you know what fuses you need and where they are. Keep extras.
The main reason I don’t like to use 1/4-inch plugs is because they enable fatal errors. I once saw a (relatively new) guy who plugged the output of one amp into the input of another amp because of a mix-up on those cables. The result was a hole larger than my wedding ring through the circuit board. Poof. Magic smoke.
Then there’s the story of a another relatively new guy who pushed a system too hard without first making sure the crossover was in line. Full-range music running wide open. For about five minutes, it was magnificent. Then it stopped. Then he smelled magic smoke. Then $2,000 magically disappeared from his wallet.
Flipper, the screaming dolphin, lives in your monitors. Point a microphone at the front side of a monitor, and Flipper will probably scream dolphin curses at you. Turn the mic up until the monitor is louder than the source being amplified, he screams again. Keep doing it and he’ll scream until the monitor gets permanently quiet.
If I told you that the majority of churches are running stage monitors without EQ, would you believe me? But I’ve worked in a whole lot of churches and have found it to be true. So many churches suffer through horrible stage mixes week after week because nobody knows better. Even the cheapest EQ from the local music store will make life better.
Stabbing a live channel will kill a system. Surges destroy gear. So turn off the channel, and turn down everything in its path, before plugging or unplugging anything.
One time I was at a church to repair a system we’d recently installed because some of the high-frequency drivers had stopped working. It was Vacation Bible School week, and about 300 kids were on hand for the festivities.
Facing a barrage of hostile questions and defensive statements, I was trying to inform the church staff as to the reasons why drivers blow up. While talking, I watched a guy unrolling a mic cable toward the house mixer. As someone was declaring how it was impossible for anyone at the church to have damaged the system, the guy stabbed that cable into a live channel.
Boom! The whole building shook, every light in the room flickered, and 300 kids hit the floor. Yeah. Stuff like that will do it. Turn off those channels before changing connections. Manufacturers are funny about honoring warranties on this type of damage.
If you want unlimited power, you better have unlimited budget. My guess is that for 99.9 percent of all systems installed, there’s at least one person waiting to blow it up. Someone, hiding in the shadows, can’t wait to get that new system all to themselves so they can play their favorite music at ear-bleed level.
It doesn’t matter if the client spent $500 or $50,000 on the rig, someone will have to find the breaking point. The assumption is that because it’s new and better than the last one, it has unlimited headroom. Find this person and lock him in a closet.
Once. Only once in all of my years in designing and installing church systems did a pastor tell me that he didn’t care what it cost. He wanted the ability to have concerts in his main room every weekend. He wanted enough power to make everyone listen to his services for miles. Well alrighty then!
That system had virtually unlimited power. You couldn’t make it distort or clip without getting to the pain threshold. Really enjoyed that one.
But opportunties like that are rare. We usually end up compromising somewhere, and that’s exactly where our training becomes important. What do they really need versus what they think they need? What is really critical to their needs? What is absolutely necessary and fits the budget?
We can’t guess about that stuff. We better know before gambling with someone else’s money. We must learn to ask the right questions. And the same questions apply to all of our applications, whether it’s a church, theatre, live gig or whatever.
Another mentor once noted that the only difference between who we are and who we will become are the books we read and the people we spend time with. If we want to be good at something, we have to put in the time to learn it.
So…do you have a teachable desire to improve? That’s the type of person that gets hired and steadily climbs the ladder of success.
M. Erik Matlock is a 20-plus-year veteran of pro audio, working in live sound, install, and studios over the course of his career, as well as owning Soundmind Production Services. He provides advice for younger folks working in professional audio at The Art Of The Soundcheck.
Church Sound: Thriving In A Portable Church Setting
I’ll admit I’m no expert on portable church. I’ve done it in the past, but the system was pretty simple.
I have, however, spent 10 years on and off the road doing live production. Currently, we set up and take down almost our entire system at Upper Room, so I have some thoughts on making it easier.
I believe this is important in any production setting, but it’s vital in a portable church setting. You simply don’t have time to be looking for things when you have an hour or two to set the whole system up. Everything needs a place, and must be returned there every week.
It’s also important that everyone knows the system, so they can be both efficient during set up and put things back properly afterward. Take some time to analyze the needs of the system and come up with a way to pack, unpack, store and transport the gear in a way that makes sense. Refine if for a few weeks in actual use, then lock it down.
This is the other side of the organization coin. It’s important to develop a process and stick to it. Set the system up the same way, week after week.
How you do it will vary based on the setting, but work it out so that it is both efficient and repeatable. Figure out a way to minimize the trips between FOH and the stage. Place cases and equipment where they will be needed and don’t waste motion.
Again, refine it for a few weeks and lock it down. Teach everyone who will be involved the process and make sure they follow it. Eventually, you’ll be able to do it in your sleep.
Pre-Cable As Much As Possible
When I started at Upper Room, the only cables we had to work with were 25-foot and 50-foot mic cords. Each week, we would pull out eight 25-foot cables to wire the drum kit—which was 3 feet from the snake. So that was 200 feet of cable to go 3 feet.
We also ran between five and seven 50-foot cables from one side of the stage to the other. So every week we laid and picked up nearly 500 feet of mic cord.
After observing this for a while, I built a 12-channel sub snake to run from one side of the stage to the other, and a bunch of 1- to 3-foot cables. Now we drop the sub snake right where we need it and use a few 1-foot cables to patch in DIs. I also built some 12-foot cables for mics on that side.
Finally, we built what we call our drum loom. It’s a bundle of cables wrapped up in loom material. Cables come out at various points for the drum mics. It’s just the right length to go from the snake to the drum mics, and takes literally 30 seconds to deploy and less than a minute to pick up.
Because everything is labeled on both ends, it’s easy to troubleshoot a mis-patch. We now lay out and pick up less than 50 lineal feet of cable each week. And because it’s all labeled, it’s easy to train new volunteers to do it.
I’ve used this same technique with video systems as well. Rather than running 10 BNC cables from one rack to another each time, I bundled them together and built bulkheads to patch them into. Set up time dropped from 20 minutes to two.
Document, Document, Document
Develop input lists, cue sheets, packing lists and inventory sheets. Make sure every thing is spelled out. Even though our set up doesn’t vary much from week to week, I make an input list anyway.
We use Google Docs to post it online where our entire team can view it. It’s easy to update and even new volunteers can follow the patching. We use cue sheets to organize our service, and set up and take down checklists to make sure everything happens the right way each week.
It might seem like it gets old hat, but there will (hopefully) come a day when you are adding new people to the team, and a checklist or input sheet make it much easier to train them.
Don’t Skimp On Cases
I’ve seen churches (and some bands) try to do pack their entire audio system into a bunch of Rubbermaid bins they bought at Walmart. Now, I love Rubbermaid bins as much as the next guy, but they are not the right way to transport thousands of dollars of A/V gear.
Cases that the gear fits into properly are not a luxury. If your cases are designed correctly, they will fit in the back of the truck or trailer evenly and fully, will stack better and be easier to load in and load out. Use wheels. Nothing tires people out faster than carrying hundreds of pounds of equipment in each week. Roll it.
Organize things into cases by where it’s used. Don’t put mics and the CD player in the same case. If you do, you create unnecessary footsteps. I’ve seen some churches very successfully build their own cases for durable things like light poles and mic stands. But for the expensive stuff, have a case built. Your gear will last longer and not fail you when you can least afford it.
It’s tough getting to church at 6:30 am, loading equipment in, setting it up, doing church, then reversing the process. Doing it every week is a recipe for burnout. You need to enough people for at least two teams to do the job. Three would be even better.
It means more people to train and organize, but in the long run, you’ll go through fewer people. And when one person does leave, it doesn’t shut the whole program down. I would make this a priority if I were in Christie’s shoes (which come to think of it, I will be in a few weeks…).
Right now we have two teams of four each for presentation and lights. That means each person is on once per month. We have two FOH engineers and two guys for audio set up that we’ll be training to engineer as well. My goal is to have four engineers and four audio set up guys. This keeps everyone fresh, yet gives them enough time on the job to get good at it.
So there you go. Like I said at the outset, I’m no expert on doing portable church. However, the same principles that make a touring concert production run smoothly apply to moving a church in and out. We have to adapt for volunteers, but over time, I think we can develop systems that would make the best roadies envious.
Mike Sessler is the Technical Director at Coast Hills Community Church in Aliso Viejo, CA. He has been involved in live production for over 20 years and is the author of the blog, Church Tech Arts . He also hosts a weekly podcast called Church Tech Weekly on the TechArtsNetwork.
Thursday, January 16, 2014
See The Upcoming NAMM Show Webcast Live By PreSonus
Company sending "ninja team" to the show looking for fun, music, and new products to present to viewers
PreSonus is presenting three full days of the upcoming NAMM show in Anahaim—Webcast live for view.
The webcast will run Thursday, Friday, and Saturday (January 23—25), from 10 am to 6 pm Pacific time, and then it will be immediately repeated each evening for overseas viewers (and insomniacs in North America).
PreSonus is sending it’s “ninja team” of social media manager Ryan Roullard and associate creative director Cave Daughdrill to the show looking for fun, music, and new products to present to viewers.
So if you’re snowed in, stuck in the office, can’t get a pass, or are otherwise unable to make it to Anaheim, visit www.presonus.com/videos/presonuslive to follow the NAMM show live.
Once Upon A Dream: Bridging The Tech Gap With The Rascals
Imagine a wildly successful blue-eyed soul group of the 1960s, pushing back against the British Invasion with many chart-topping hits including “Good Lovin’” and “Groovin.”
They became household names thanks to Top 40 radio, The Ed Sullivan Show, and the power of television. They performed to sold-out audiences across North America and Europe, and would eventually be inducted into the Songwriters Hall and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Yet they were unable to escape the disillusionment that came with all this success; the principals simply disbanded by 1970 and did not play together as the original foursome for another 40-plus years.
This is the story of the Rascals, aka the Young Rascals, who placed their careers on hold in the midst of a technological revolution, our revolution, only to return after the performance audio industry was born, developed, and matured. Now imagine the original members, who began their careers using primitive PA systems, reuniting after four decades of technological innovation had occurred, including developments by professional audio equipment manufacturers, solutions by touring sound companies, and the combined expertise of 40 years of house and monitor engineers. The contrast would be profound.
It may surprise some that high-impedance microphones plugged directly into guitar amps were the sound reinforcement systems of the day. Mark Prentice is musical director and bass player for the recent “Once Upon A Dream” tour, and has played with Rascals organist Felix Cavaliere for many years. He personally witnessed a Rascals show as a teenager, and recalled a system typical of the period.
Not so young but still kickin’—the Rascals in concert presenting “Once Upon A Dream.”
“I’m a fan as well as a guy in the band,” he told me when I met up with the tour in Toronto. “When I saw them in 1967 at Watertown (NY) High School, and the only reason I know this is because a friend of mine recently showed me a photo from that show, I think they were singing through a couple of Fender Bandmaster cabinets. Maybe a 4-channel Shure mic mixer running into a dual Showman head. No individual EQ on mics or anything, only on the guitar amp head. Possibly high impedance Shure microphones. There was certainly nothing resembling a monitor, and absolutely no one was running sound from offstage. I don’t think anyone conceived of that until Woodstock.”
Unlike many Broadway pop music revivals, these musicians are playing as a foursome with all of the original members—Eddie Brigati, Dino Danelli, Gene Cornish and the aforementioned Cavaliere. Assisted only by two sidemen and three backing vocalists, “Once Upon A Dream” is combination musical retrospective and 60s counterculture multimedia extravaganza.
The marquee for tour dates at Chicago’s Cadillace Palace Theater.
Miles And Miles
Directed by Bruce Springsteen guitarist Steven Van Zandt, with concert design by veteran Marc Brickman, the show leverages technology in a manner that simply could not have been imagined when the band cut their teeth playing tiny clubs in New Jersey. Almost every piece of equipment we take for granted would look foreign to these four when they released their first record in 1965.
No parametric EQs, no solid-state power amplifiers, no condenser mics built to survive the road, no networked system control, no in-ear monitors, no hanging loudspeakers, no digital…well, anything. Shure hadn’t even released the Vocal Master system when these guys started out.
“There was nothing in those days, oh no,” notes Danelli, the band’s drummer. “It’s come miles and miles, that’s for sure. I never sit down and think about it too much, because you just get caught up in the trip of it all.”
Fortunately, the tour is made possible by generations of sound system improvements, improvements we use and take for granted every day, guided by a fine 4-person audio staff charged with reinforcing a musical tour-de-force consisting of 30 songs and Brickman’s first-class video retrospective.
Monitor engineer Mark Hutchins pre-show at an Avid VENUE console, with Avalon 737 compressors applied to vocals mounted below.
Mark Hutchins serves as monitor engineer, and the technology he uses provides an ideal contrast between the stage of today and the performing environment of 1965. He keeps the band comfortably ensconced in an all in-ear environment essential to creating the right performing conditions, managing stage levels and facilitating timing with video content.
Mixes are done on an Avid VENUE digital console with every source miked. The deck is wedge-less save one tiny back-up monitor on the drum riser. Guitars and Leslies are isolated offstage in sound absorptive enclosures. Bass and keyboards are taken direct on DIs. A significant departure from their 60s upbringing, the Rascals stage is almost silent except for drums and percussion.
“This is not a simple monitor gig,” Hutchins states. “It’s taken some time to get them comfortable. We’re talking about musicians that haven’t been on ears their whole lives, they don’t want to be on ears. Gene looked at me the first week we worked together and said, ‘I want a monitor, I want a monitor.’ Eventually we got everybody happy.”
Musical director Prentice explains that the challenge of transitioning a band that used no vocal reinforcement beyond guitar amps to the highly devised performance environment they enjoy today was a seminal task. “In-ear monitoring is really the only way to do these shows.
Leaping from a zero monitor situation throughout their successful career to a potentially sterile laboratory environment with ears, and having to figure out how to get them feeling the music, and enjoying themselves and believing they are part of it, is the job and I think we’ve got there.”
A Matter Of Balance
After watching Hutchins mix a couple of tunes, and solo a couple of mixes, I learned that fundamentally, the primary issue is balancing Danelli’s drum kit, as the only non-isolated source onstage, with everything else. Hutchins hails from an extensive live television background, and was brought into rehearsals already underway when the band was not satisfied.
RF coordinator Brian Kingman in his world adjacent to the monitor mix position.
“I came in to observe what was going wrong, initially (under the guise of being) a video guy,” he notes. “The band wasn’t happy. It’s the old story of (balancing) a loud drummer and vocalists. I’m a drummer, and I wanted to get it right for Dino initially, so I spent a whole day playing his kit, with Brian Kingman (RF coordinator for the tour) mixing, to get the drum sound in Dino’s ears the way I thought he would like it. He came in the next day, sat down and played for 20 minutes by himself, and then looked at me and said, ‘that sounds fantastic.’ We had started to build some trust.
“Then it was a matter of understanding each of their ears,” he continues. “Gene (lead guitar) likes lots of top end, and Felix likes a midrange-scooped Steely Dan-type of sound. Very little low mids. Gene and Dino both have pretty aggressive rock mixes lots of kick and snare. Eddie doesn’t want to have any drums at all. He prefers to hear himself, some keyboard, and the background vocalists, leaning to a very unique, isolated blend of what is almost like folk music. Not like the other guys, but it works for him.”
Sennheiser ew300 IEM receivers for all performers, staged and ready to go.
Brigati is the lead singer of the Rascals and composer with Cavaliere of many of the group’s hit records. “Vocals, in my humble opinion, are supposed to be a glaze on the surface of the instruments,” Brigati states. “In rock and roll, you start with the bass drum and then build on that. I’m trying to get used to ears. You don’t hear the ambiance in the room in the same way (as) the earphones block out the ambiance in the room. An individual is feeding you a blend, but when it’s right, (IEM technology) helps me be a better singer.”
A Sennheiser A5000CP passive circulary polarized antenna for the wireless systems.
Hutchins describes the vocal treatments developed for the tour. “The only thing I’ve got going on gear-wise is two Avalon 737 compressors on Felix and Eddie’s vocals. We went through a lot of vocal mics initially, and settled on Telefunken M81s. Felix sounded best on a Neumann KMS 105, but it just brought in too much off-axis stuff to be practical.
“Eddie needs something with a lot of rejection, but also has crooner elegance to it. A full range mic that is warm and inviting. The M81 is a good compromise, they can work around it but it also has a tight pattern. Those Telefunken mics are pretty cool.”
Chris Edwards mixes front of house for “Once Upon A Dream.” Originally the engineer at the Capitol Theater in Port Chester, NY, he joined the tour after working the initial out-of-town tryout at the Capitol to the satisfaction of director Van Zandt.
“I walked in and the theatre’s production manager said, ‘it looks like you’re going to be mixing the Rascals’,” Edwards recounts. “Steven sat with me every single night. He knows every note of every one of their records. He understood that I was a musical mixer and not just another dude in a bad Hawaiian shirt. Steven definitely had input. Trying to grasp 30 songs of new material, I didn’t hit it on the head every time, but as soon as we were cool, we were cool.”
As noted, Edwards is a music mixer by training, and has had to adapt to the realities of managing a highly-cued, theatrical type show. “The show has extensive narration that accompanies the video portions between songs,” he explains. “Many of the initial narration came from different sources with inconsistent levels and EQs, adding that getting various pieces of narration to sound right through the system was challenging: “I had never used any kind of snapshots, but (initially) I just dove right in using them to manage dialog levels and EQ.”
Later, Geoff Sanoff from Van Zandt’s Renegade Studios re-worked the narrative post-production audio to make it more consistent. Edwards: “The first time I heard the remixed dialog I hugged him. I later chose to abandon using snapshots altogether. I have a lot of experience working in old analog studios with no automation or Pro Tools, and these skills have been very useful to me in this production.
Self-described “musical mixer” Chris Edwards at his Midas PRO6 at front of house.
“I always approach the mix to honor the music,” he adds. “I’m a musician and deeply rooted in music, and have a great respect for these artists. I spent eight years as a stage tech with Levon Helm and recorded the Rambles at his barn. For me, it’s an honor to mix this show; I’m just trying to place all the parts where they should be dynamically, and pay homage to all the nuances.”
Edwards mixes on a Midas PRO6 digital desk supplied by Firehouse Productions, using loudspeaker systems provided locally by the venue in order to manage production costs. I had the pleasure of hearing two performances at Royal Alexandra Theatre during my visit to Toronto, and can testify first-hand that Edwards provides mixes with great vocal and instrumental clarity, while enhancing subtleties in the arrangements resulting in a believable, entertaining presentation.
The tour had “racks and stacks” provided locally, including Martin Audio MLA in Chicago, supplied by On Stage Audio.
Jeff Child is an independent systems tech provided by Firehouse Productions, managing another pile of gear no one could have imagined 40 years ago. Child usually tours with technology-savvy Ultrasound accounts including Dave Matthews, Further, and Phil Lesh and Friends. He struck me as very comfortable in this setting, managing adjustments for the house-supplied d&b audiotechnik Q Series line arrays with two B2 subs left and right. Q7s handled in fill and front fill duties.
“Stacks and racks are what we usually pick up. The balance is provided by Firehouse or owned by the band. Both Mark and Chris have extensive house engineer, broadcast, and studio backgrounds, so I bring a touring rock sensibility to this,” Child explains.
As noted earlier, Kingman is responsible for RF equipment and frequency coordination, and also handles earpieces and beltpacks for the artists. He uses Intermodulation Analysis Software from Professional Wireless Systems and a WinRadio spectrum analyzer to coordinate frequencies.
The audio crew at the drum riser, left to right: Hutchins, Kingman, Edwards and system tech Jeff Child.
“Frequency coordination here in Toronto has been easy,” he tells me. “I was informed that no licenses were required. To date, I’ve only had to change one frequency. The loudest thing onstage is Dino’s drums, and keeping drums, shakers, and tambourines out of vocal mics is the greatest challenge. Being older guys, the in-ear environment is very different. Our main role is to let them know ‘we are here to make you comfortable’.” In-ear electronics are Sennheiser ew300 IEM G3 systems with a Sennheiser combiner and helical antenna. All artists are on Ultimate Ears UE-11 earpieces.
Prentice notes that fortunately, the Rascals have adapted well to the profound changes in performance technology. “They’ve all become really, really comfortable in that environment. Now we just stick these little things in our ears and do a show, and I think you miss all the technological magic that has to exist to make that happen.” Fortunately for the Rascals, that technological magic happens every day because of innovation and a talented crew offering them a supportive musical environment in sharp contrast to when they first began.
“This whole phenomenon that we’re enjoying now, this re-visitation of almost 50 years ago, is about young guys that got together and cooperated and protected each other, and created together, and it was like a chance at peace,” concludes Brigati.
Danny Abelson is a consultant that specializes in the design and construction of technology systems in professional and collegiate sports facilities.
Wednesday, January 15, 2014
In The Studio: An Interview With “The Drum Doctor”
We all know that the drums are the heartbeat of a song, and a wimpy drum sound will make the engineer work so much harder during the mix. That’s why it’s so important to get the drums to sound great acoustically before the mics are even placed. That said, it’s surprising how little many engineers actually know about making a drum kit sound great acoustically.
Following is an excerpt from The Recording Engineer’s Handbook, Third Edition that features an interview with the famous “Drum Doctor,” Ross Garfield, who’s been responsible for the actual drum sound on a multitude of huge records by some giant artists. Ross gives some hints on how to take almost any kit and make it ready to record.
Anyone recording in Los Angeles certainly knows about The Drum Doctors, the place in town to either rent a great sounding kit or have your kit fine-tuned. Ross Garfield is the “Drum Doctor” and his knowledge of what it takes to make drums sound great under the microphones may be unlike any other on the planet. Having made the drums sound great on platinum selling recordings for the likes of Bruce Springsteen, Rod Stewart, Mettalica, Marilyn Manson, Dwight Yokum, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Foo Fighters, Lenny Kravitiz, Michael Jackson, Sheryl Crow, and many more than what can comfortably fit on this page, Ross agreed to share his insights on drum tuning.
What’s the one thing that you find wrong with most drum kits that you run into?
I think most guys don’t know how to tune their drums, to be blunt. I can usually take even a cheap starter set and get it sounding good under the microphones if I have the time. It’s really a matter of people getting in there and changing their heads a lot. Not for the fact of putting fresh heads on as much as the fact that they’re taking their drums apart and putting them back together and tuning them each time. The repetition is a big part of it. Most people are afraid to take the heads off their drums.
When I get called into a session that can’t afford to use my drums and they just want me to tune theirs, the first thing I’ll do is put a fresh set of heads on.
How long does it take you to tune a set that needs some help?
Usually well under an hour. If I have to change all the heads and tune them up it’ll take about an hour before we can start listening through the mics. I try to tune them to what I think they should be, then when we open up the mics and hear all the little things magnified, I’ll modify it. Once the drummer starts playing, I like to go into the control room and listen to how they sound when he plays, then once the band starts I’ll see how the drum sound fits with the other instruments.
What makes a drum kit sound great?
I always look for a richness in tone. Even when a snare drum is tuned high, I look for that richness. For example, on a snare drum I like the ring of the drum to last and decay with the snares. I don’t like the ring to go past the snares. And I like the toms to have a nice even decay. Usually I’ll tune the drums so that the smallest drums have a shorter decay and the decay gets longer as the drums get bigger. I think that’s pleasing.
What’s the next step to making drums sound good after you change the heads?
I tune the drums on the high side for starters. For tuning, you’ve got to keep all of the tension rods even so they have the same tension at each lug. You hit the head an inch in front of the lug, and if you do it enough times you’ll hear which ones are higher and which are lower. The pitch should be the same at each lug, then when you hit it in the center you should have a nice even decay. I do that at the top and the bottom head.
Are they both tuned to the same pitch?
I start it that way, and then take the bottom head down a third to a fifth below the top head.
I’ve been in awe of the way you can get each drum to sound so separate without any sympathetic vibrations from the other drums. Even when the other drums do vibrate, it’s still pleasing. How do you do that?
Part of that is having good drums and that’s the reason why I have so many; so I can cherry-pick the ones that sound really good together. The other thing is to have the edges of the shells cut properly. If you take the heads off, the edges should be flat. I check it with a piece of granite that I had cut that’s perfectly flat and about two inches thick. I’ll put the shell on the granite and have a light over the top of the shell. Then I’ll get down at where the edge of the drum hits the granite. If you see light at any point then you have a low spot. So that’s the first thing; to make sure that your drums are “true.”
The edges should be looked at anyway because you don’t want to have a flat drum with a square edge; you want it to have a bevel to it. If you have a problem with a drum, you should just send it in to the manufacturer. I don’t recommend anyone trying to cut the edges of their drums themselves. It doesn’t cost that much and it’s something that should be looked at by someone who knows what to look for.
Once you get those factors in play, then tuning is a lot easier. I tend to tune each drum as far apart as the song will permit. It’s easy to get the right spread between a 13 and a 16 inch tom, but it’s more difficult to get it between a 12 and a 13. What I try to do is to take the 12 up to a higher register and the 13 down a little. The trick to all that is the snare drum because the biggest problem that people have is when they hit the snare drum there’s a sympathetic vibration with the toms.
The way I look at that is to get the snare drum where you want it first because it’s way more important than the way the toms are tuned. You hear that snare on at least every two and four.
The kick and snare are the two most important drums and I tune the toms around that and make sure that the rack toms aren’t being set off by the snare. The snare is probably the most important drum in the set because for me it’s the voice of the song. I try to pick the right snare drum for the song because that’s where you get the character.
Do you tune to the key of a song?
Not intentionally. I have people who ask me to do that, and I will if that’s what they want, but usually I just tune it so it sounds good with the key of the song. If there’s a ring in the snare, I try to get it to ring in the key of the song, but sometimes I want the kit just to stand on its own because if it is tuned in the key of the song and one of the players hit the note that the snare or kick is tuned to, then the drum kind of gets covered up, so I tend to make it sound good with the song rather than in-pitch with the song.
Would you tune things differently if you have a heavy hitter as opposed to someone with a light touch?
Yeah, a heavy hitter will get more low end out of a drum that’s tuned higher just because of the way he hits, so I usually tune a drum a little tighter. I might move into different heads as well, like an Emperor or something thicker.
How about the kick drum? It’s the drum that engineers spend the most time on.
It’s weird for me because I always find them to be pretty easy because you muffle the kick drum on almost every session and when you do, it makes tuning easier. On the other hand, a tom has as much life as possible with no muffling.
What I would recommend is to take a down pillow and set it up so that it’s sitting inside the drum touching both heads. From there you can experiment, so if you want a deader, drier sound then you push more pillow against the batter head, and if you want it livelier, then you push it against the front head. That’s one way to go.
Another way to go is to take 3 or 4 bath towels and fold one of them so it’s touching both heads. If that’s not enough then put another one in against both heads on top of the first one. If that’s not enough then put another one in. Just fold it neatly so that they’re touching both heads. That’s a good place to start, then experiment from there.
Do you prefer a hole in the front head?
It makes it easier. I do some things without holes in the front head, but having it really makes it easy to adjust anything on the inside. No front head is good too. It’s usually a drier sound and you’re usually just packing the towels against the batter head. Just put a sandbag in front to hold the towels against the head.
How about cymbals?
One thing for recording is that you probably want a heavier ride but you don’t want that heavy of a cymbal for the crashes. You also have to be careful when you mix weights. For example, if you’re using Zildjian A Custom crashes you don’t want to use a medium. You want to stay with the thins rather than try to mix in a Rock Crash with that because the thicker cymbals are made for more of a live situation. They’re made to be loud and made to cut and sometimes they can sound a little gong-like to the mics. On the other side of the coin, if you playing all Rock Crashes and the engineer can deal with the level, that’s not so bad either because the volume is even, but a thinner cymbal mixed in with those would probably disappear.
What records better; big drums or smaller ones?
I depends what you want your track to sound like. When I started my company, people would always say to me “Why would someone want to rent your drums when they have their own set?” For one simple reason; most drummers have a single set of drums. If they’re going for a John Bonham drum sound, they’re not going to get it with say a “Ringo” set.
A lot of times when they go into the studio, the producer says, “You know, I really heard a 24” kick drum for this song. I hear that extra low end,” but the drummer’s playing a 22, so it’s important to have the right size drums for the song. If you’re going for that big double headed Bonham sound, you really should have a 26. If you’re going for a Jeff Porcaro punchy track like “Rosanna,” then you should probably have a 22. That’s my whole approach; you bring in the right instrument for the sound you’re going for. You don’t try to push a square peg into a round hole.
How much does the type of music determine your approach?
The drums that I bring for a hip-hop session are actually very close to what I bring for a jazz session. Usually the hip-hop guys want a little bass drum like an 18 and that’s what’s common for a jazz session, to have an 18 or a 20. Then maybe a 12 or a 14 inch rack tom, which is also similar to the jazz setup. The big difference is in the snare and hi-hats and the tuning of the kick drum and the snare.
On a jazz session I would keep the kick drum tuned high and probably not muffled. On a hip-hop record I would tune the kick probably as low as it would go and definitely not have any muffling so it has that big “boom” as much as possible. I would also have a selection of snares from like a 4 by 12 inch snare, 3 by 13 and maybe a 3 by 14. On a jazz record, I’d probably send them a 5 by 14 and a 6 1/2 by 14. The hi-hats on a jazz record would almost definitely be 14’s where a hip-hop record you’d want a pair of 10’s or 12’s, or maybe 13’s.
Obviously it’s open to interpretation because I’m sure a lot of hip-hop records have been made with bigger sets, but when I’ve delivered what I just said, it usually rocks their boat.
Go here for more on The Drum Doctors.
Bobby Owsinski is an author, producer, music industry veteran and technical consultant who has written numerous books covering all aspects of audio recording. Get the The Recording Engineer’s Handbook, Third Edition here.
Church Sound: Stopping Hums, Buzzes And Shocks On Stage — Volts
Most musicians really don’t want to learn about electrical engineering, or even how basic electricity works. Everyone, however, should learn how to test for and avoid electric shocks on stage.
Guitar amps and mixing boards as wired from the factory are inherently safe, but they can become silent-but-deadly killers if plugged into an extension cord or wall outlet that’s improperly grounded. This is because guitars are held in moist hands while wet lips are touching another electrical circuit, the microphone.
It’s up to you, the sound tech and musician, to make sure a guitar or microphone is never electrified due to poor maintenance, bad connections or a broken-off ground plug.
The so-called “Hot-Chassis” problem is what causes a tingle or shock when you touch the mic with one hand or your lips while holding a guitar with your other hand. The cause is that a chassis has become “hot” through a wiring fault.
What Is This Volts Thing?
What’s so hard to understand about electrical shocks in general is that they don’t seem to happen for any obvious reason. For instance, you can watch a pigeon on a power line that’s not being shocked, yet sometimes just holding a guitar while standing on wet ground can bring you to your knees. Why is that?
The first thing to understand about electricity is the concept of voltage. Think of voltage as electrical pressure, just like the pressure in a tank of water.
Now in a tank of water we measure pressure in something called PSI (pounds per square inch), which will, of course, increase if we get a deeper tank. This pressure is caused by the pull of gravity from the Earth and if you hook up a hose to the tank, the water will flow toward the ground.
So while 10 PSI of water pressure from a short tank might give you a trickle of water when hooked up to a hose, 100 PSI of water pressure from a really tall tank gives you a stream that will spray much farther.
Click to enlarge.
Water — and electricity — tries to flow to the side of least pressure. You can imagine that if a pipe is connected between two tanks with exactly the same water level and pressure (say, 100 PSI) there will be no flow of water through the hose. It just sits there and does nothing because the system is equalized.
However, if you connect one tank with 100 PSI of water pressure to another tank with 10 PSI of water pressure, water will flow from the high tank to the low tank. We measure this water flow in gallons per minute.
The same thing happens with electricity. You’ve often heard of “completing an electrical circuit,” but think of it as pipes between different electrical pressures.
Click to enlarge.
Getting back to the pigeon on the power line, if both of the bird’s feet are on the same wire, they’re at exactly the same electrical pressure. Because they’re at the same pressure, there’s no electrical current flowing through the bird.
If, however, the pigeon is unlucky enough to touch one foot on a power line and a wing to the grounded metal power pole, then his foot will be at 1,000 volts (think PSI of water pressure) and his wing at 0 volts (think an empty tank with zero pressure).
This will cause a lot of current to flow through the bird, which we’ll measure in amperes. And indeed, 1,000 volts across a pigeon can cause a bird explosion.
Hot Chassis Shocks
Now, consider your guitar. Sometimes you may feel a shock when you touch one hand on the guitar with the other hand on the mic.
What’s happening is that there could be an electrical voltage (think pressure) on the strings of your guitar, which is waiting for some different electrical voltage level to head towards. If your entire body is at the same voltage, then like the pigeon every part of you is at exactly the same voltage. And like the pigeon, there’s no current flow and you feel no shock.
However, if your one hand is on the mic at essentially zero volts and your other hand is on your guitar at 120 volts due to a wiring problem, you become the pipe and the different electrical pressure (volts) will push current (amps) through your hand, arm and chest cavity, then out through your other hand.
If your hands are dry, there might be so little current flow that you might not even feel it. But put a damp hand on your guitar strings and wet lips on the mic and you’ve made a good connection from the power plug of your guitar amp to the ground of the PA system.
In the case with an ungrounded guitar amp, a lot of current will flow through your body, which you’ll quickly recognize as a shock and potentially an electrocution.
Heart To Heart
The dangerous part of shocks is when this electrical current flow goes through your chest cavity since right in the middle of you is your heart, and hearts don’t like to be shocked. That’s because your heartbeat is controlled by electricity which comes from your own internal pacemaker.
And just like a clock radio can be scrambled by a nearby lightning strike, even a small amount of electricity passing through your heart can cause it to start skipping beats and cause a heart attack. Just how little? I’m glad you asked.
I’m sure by now you’ve seen the 20-amp marking on a circuit breaker. That means it can supply 20 amps of current flow when asked to do so. Again, think of it as gallons per minute of flow, and amps are indeed a count of electrons per second flowing through a wire (think pipe).
Much more on that later, but it takes less than 5 milliamps of current to cause your heart to go into fibrillation mode.
That’s just 5/1000 of an amp or 0.005 amps of alternating current to cause what’s essentially a heart attack. It takes just 30 volts of alternating current (AC) to stop your heart if your hands are wet.
On the strange-but-true side of the coin, while 60 Hz AC is what comes out of your wall outlet) can cause your heart to go into fibrillation and stop pumping blood, the emergency rescue crew will use direct current (DC) of several hundred volts to reboot your heart and get it beating regularly again.
That’s what they’re dumping through the paddles placed on your chest — direct current from big capacitors like you see charging on the TV dramas before they yell “Clear!”
Play It Safe
The first rule of staying safe from electrocution is to keep your heart out of the current flow. You can see that getting shocked from hand to hand or hand to lips or feet is about as bad as it can get.
That means if you’re plugging in your guitar amp with one hand, the last thing you want to do is hold onto the metal rail around the stage with your opposite hand or be kneeling on the wet ground. If you have two points of contact and something goes wrong (like you touch a bare wire), the current will flow to your opposite hand or feet, passing through your heart in the process.
So always use just one hand when plugging or unplugging your power cords for your amps. Not doing so is to invite death by electrocution, and, really, who wants that?
Take a look at a typical 120-volt grounded wall outlet, shown in the image at left. The top half of the illustration shows the sideways slot of a 20-amp outlet, while the bottom half shows a more common 15-amp outlet.
In both versions you’ll see a Hot connection (the short blade), a Neutral connection (the tall blade), and a U-shaped Ground connection (called the safety ground).
Click to enlarge
Those ground blades are on the power outlets and plugs for good reason. If something goes wrong internally with the amp (say a wire shorts to the chassis or a power transformer gets leaky), that ground blade is supposed to divert the voltage from the strings of the guitar through the ground in the power panel, which will then trip the circuit breaker.
If the circuit breaker doesn’t trip because you’ve eliminated the safety ground by breaking off the ground blade of your power cord, then you may have an electrically hot guitar or microphone in your hands. And you may not realize it’s electrically hot until you touch something else that’s grounded with your other hand or lips, just like the bird holding onto the power line with his feet doesn’t get shocked until his wing touches the grounded metal power pole. Then it’s lights out!
So if you circumvent that safety ground by cutting off the ground blade or using an adapter plug like you see on the left in an attempt to stop hums or buzzes in your sound system , you can put your heart in the middle of the ground path and risk your life every time you plug in your amp.
Don’t do it. Always ground your amps and PA system properly.
Make your stage a No~Shock~Zone
By grounding every amp and mixer in your sound system properly you will help create a “No Shock Zone” on stage, making it a safe place to perform without fear of getting shocked or electrocuted.
So take this seriously… if you or anyone in your band is getting shocked by a guitar or mic on stage or even in your practice basement, now is the time for action.
- Use only one hand to plug or unplug any power cables for your amps.
- Don’t cut off the ground blade of your amp or mixer power plug to stop a hum in your PA.
- Never stand or kneel on wet ground while touching a guitar, keyboard or microphone.
- If you feel a shock on stage, avoid further contact until you can determine the source of the problem.
Mike Sokol is the chief instructor for the HOW-TO Sound Workshops and the HOW-TO Church Sound Workshops. He is also an electrical and audio expert with 40 years in the industry. Visit the No Shock Zone Website for more electrical safety tips.
This article is provided as a helpful educational assist with sound system setup and musical performance, and is not intended to have you circumvent an electrician or qualified audio technician. The author and the HOW-TO Sound Workshops will not be held liable or responsible for any injury resulting from reader error or misuse of the information contained in these articles. If you feel you have a dangerous electrical condition in your PA system or instruments, contact a qualified, licensed electrician or audio installer.
Tuesday, January 14, 2014
Church Sound: Eighteen Live Audio Mixing Tips & Tricks
These gold nuggets of mixing/audio production wisdom are insights into doing something small to make a huge impact. My notebook is filled with audio mixing tips and tricks from the Gurus of Tech 2013 conference earlier this year.
That tells you two things; the conference was great, and I still go old school with a paper notebook. If I wasn’t writing down something I thought was useful, I was writing down something I thought you’d find useful.
1. Consider building your mix off of a template.
—Consider all of the instruments and singers in the worship band. Consider a template of presets with the following in mind;
—Engage the HPF (high-pass filter) for channels which usually benefit from a HPF.
—What channels would likely benefit from compression? Set their threshold but don’t engage it yet.
—Start all faders at unity.
—Consider where the vocalist sits in the mix – are they more high, mid, or low-range singers? Now you know where to carve out space for them in the other channels.
This template concept is a great way to build a mix from scratch. You could add to the above points if you think about it.
2. Use compression for producing a well-rounded sound.
Having multiple channels with a wide-range of volume dynamics makes it difficult to produce a well-rounded sound. Use compression to even out many of those volume spikes.
3. Hear what your live microphones hear.
Listen via PFL/SOLO to a vocal microphone and pay attention to all of the other sounds the microphone is picking up. This gives you an idea of other stuff your microphone is picking up and why microphone proximity to the sound source is so important.
4. Know what you COULD be boosting.
Microphones on the stage can pick up a variety of background sounds. In particular, boosting the high-end frequencies of a vocal microphone can pick up drum cymbals and unintentionally accentuate them.
5. Pull your male singers out of the mud.
Cut your male vocals in the 325-350 Hz range to clear up your vocals. Often, the 325-350 Hz range is where the muddiness exists.
6. Use reverb for vocal separation.
Using a lot reverb, you can push a singer into the background. Using a little, you can make it stand out in the mix. Use your ears to find out what’s best for your situation.
7. The kick drum and bass can work together on your low end sound.
Try letting the bass give you the tone of the low-end while letting the kick drum win on the attack.
8. If you are ever prone to hitting a piece of equipment to make it work…
…once is maintenance, twice is abuse.
9. Keep your headphone volume down by using delay on your solo buses.
Slow down the solo bus with delay to sync your headphones with the PA so you don’t have to run headphones overly loud. If you’re 75 feet from a speaker cluster, try a 75 millisecond delay. Using an analog board, run the headphone out to an external delay unit and then into a headphone amp and then back to the headphones.
10. Don’t let a power outage take out your system.
Use APC units for keeping the power going to your vital audio equipment. Power can go out for a number of reasons, and using an APC unit can keep your system powered and your service going.
11. Plan on equipment failure.
Ask yourself questions like, “what could fail?” “how could we get around it?” and “what’s the least amount of equipment we need to keep the system going?” Make a plan for equipment failure so when it does happen, you’ll be prepared.
12. Use a 911-microphone.
Wireless systems go out. Wireless mic batteries die. And even DI boxes can go bad at the worst time. Set up a wired vocal microphone on a microphone stand, with a long microphone cable. Place it just off-stage. Grab an extra DI box and 1/4-inch cable and place that at the base of the microphone stand.
The next time a microphone or DI goes out during a service, you (or a musician) can pull out the 911-microphone or your emergency setup – whatever you want to call it. And in the case where it seems all the equipment comes crashing down, a church audio system only needs one channel and one microphone.
13. Don’t forget about the HPF and LPF.
The high-pass filter allows high frequencies to pass through while the low-pass filter allows low frequencies to pass through. If you don’t need low frequencies out of a channel, then engage the HPF. If you don’t need high’s from a channel, use the LPF. In the case of HPFs and LPFs that have controllable frequency points, sweep the point until it’s noticeable in the mix, then back off a little.
14. Take control of your house EQ by controlling the Q-value of your cuts and boosts.
On a standard 32-channel rack EQ, the Q value is the same with the exception that it might automatically tighten up if a cut is below 3 dB. Therefore, if you run a digital mixer, use the on-board master EQ to alter the house EQ. This gives you the ability to also control the Q-value of your cuts and boosts.
15. Use a ducker for background music and announcements.
A ducker, on a digital console, will automatically cut the volume of a channel when it detects sound on another channel. Therefore, it’s great for the “one-man operation” when you’re running all over and you have background music and the pastor starts talking when you aren’t in the sound booth.
You can set the delay for the period of time in which the music channel comes back up after they stop talking. This way, if they’re taking a breath before talking again, the background music could say low in volume.
16. Don’t discount frequency bands of an instrument.
For example, try adding a lot of high-end on your toms. Even the bass guitar has usable sounds that aren’t just in the low end.
17. Use meaningful distortion.
Distortion can work on more than a bass or a guitar. It can even work on a snare drum. Distortion can sound different depending on how you use it and set the appropriate parameters. When you do use it, use it because it helps the overall sound of the song.
18. Don’t forget about gating.
Try focusing your gating around a frequency range, if possible. Not only do you benefit from only broadcasting the sound once the input reaches a certain volume level, you can know it’s when you are getting the frequencies you desire. Imagine what you could do with a kick drum or a tom.
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.
SynAudCon Web-Based Training Sales Continue Growth
Success attributed to a variety of factors, including very high information retention rate
SynAudCon announced that its web-based training sales increased 15 percent in 2013.
The web-based training program is headed up by Pat Brown, who uses the educational methods he has found work best after years of teaching popular in-person audio education courses. SynAudCon online courses include animation, graphics and sound, analogies, interactive calculators, and scenarios that enhance the learning process and add a dose of fun as well.
“We attribute the success to four major things: people being more receptive to web-based training, the multi-media presentation, the flexibility, and most importantly, students retaining a high percentage of the information,” explains Brenda Brown of SynAudCon.
SynAudCon offers five web-based training courses, including How Sound Systems Work, Principles Of Audio, Transformer-Distributed Loudspeaker Systems, Audio Applications – System Optimization and Equalization, and Sound Reinforcement For Designers.
Each course includes a series of lessons and quizzes that help insure the materials are processed and understood. Graduates receive a certificate of completion, and courses are approved for Continuing Educations Units (including RUs).
“The convenience of web-based training consistently ranks high on our evaluations,” adds Brenda Brown. “Participants can take the training when it works for them. Students have up to 45 days to complete the course, and they can repeat lessons as often as needed to fully grasp the principles.”
She points out that follow-up evaluations of students shows an 80 percent retention rate on average, with many up to 90 percent. “We’re extremely pleased with these numbers. It’s a higher percentage than most of the research that is published on retention using seeing and hearing,” she notes.
Each course comes with a one-year membership to SynAudCon, providing access to blogs, articles and the organization’s noted online community of audio professionals.
Monday, January 13, 2014
BT To Emcee NAMM Foundation’s 29th Annual Technical Excellence & Creativity (TEC) Awards
Chad Smith of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Everclear’s Art Alexakis, George Clinton and more scheduled as presenters
The “mad scientist of electronic music,” known simply as BT, will host the NAMM Foundation’s 29th Annual TEC Awards (Technical Excellence & Creativity), Friday, Jan. 24, in Anaheim during the upcoming NAMM Show
The accomplished technologist and composer of hit Hollywood films Monster, The Fast and the Furious, Go and others will oversee the evening’s ceremony. He will also perform at the awards, which has become the foremost program recognizing the achievements of audio professionals.
Confirmed presenters include famed drummer and music-education advocate Chad Smith of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, electro-funk icon George Clinton, “Chilli” and “T-Boz” from the band TLC, Everclear’s Art Alexakis, Al Schmitt, who has recorded and mixed more than 150 gold and platinum albums, producers Glen Ballard (Alanis Morissette) and Ed Cherney (Bonnie Raitt, Eric Clapton), as well as four-time Grammy-winning engineer Jimmy Douglass, to name a few.
The NAMM Foundation selects TEC Awards presenters from a field of highly accomplished musicians, recording engineers and songwriters.
A precursor to the Grammy Awards, which are held the same weekend, the TEC Awards recognizes Outstanding Technical Achievement in Product Design across 22 categories and Outstanding Creative Achievement in Sound Production in eight categories.
Recording artist Todd Rundgren will receive the foundation’s highest honor – the Les Paul Award. Two honorees will be inducted to the TEC Awards Hall of Fame - sound enforcement pioneer/audio engineer John Meyer, and the man whose drumming recordings have been heard on 5,000 records, Hal Blaine. Title sponsors include Harman Professional and the Les Paul Foundation. A complete list of nominees can be found here.
In The Studio: Injecting Some Soul Into Your Click Track
Click tracks are like Kryptonite to musicians. There isn’t a lot of enjoyment one gets from recording with them.
Click tracks sound like nails being hammered into a coffin. A coffin you’ll find the remnants of your soul whimpering in. OK, maybe that’s a little harsh, but clicks aren’t fun and can suck the life out of a groove sometimes.
However, click tracks are often vital to a recording session. They’re a necessity, but one that can rob a session of its vibe.
Connoisseur Of 8th Notes
One of the shortcomings of a click track is that it’s impartial to wherever the 8th note may be sitting. Which means, it really has no feel. Anyone who has spent a lot of time cutting records can write a dissertation on how much the 8th note may vary between grooves. It’s a subtle, but hugely important detail.
There is a lot of blank space in between two clicks. A lot can happen in that great canyon of space. A lot of interpretation can be made.
In theory, you could lock to a click and still not have nailed the feel. But how, if it’s in time?! Playing in time is only part of the job. Negotiating the distance in between the clicks is a far more difficult challenge.
This is one of the things that finessed drummers do. They define the space. I work with a great drummer named Doug Yowell on occasion. His sensitivity to the placement of the 8th note is super refined. I would say he’s a connoisseur of 8th notes. He has a masterful control over the what the youngsters call “quantization’ (or what we old types call “feel”). It’s the space between the notes.
My aim is to create a mood while recording. “Click, Click, Click, Click…” may create a mood, but not one of happiness and comfort. A traditional click is often restrictive to an artist’s performance.
This led me to the idea of creating my own loops to use as a click track. I would clap my hands, tap keys on glasses, sweep a broom on the floor, stomp my feet and use whatever was around as percussion.
The goal is to create not only a groove in time, but one with some sort of feel related to the song.
Of course, once you start doing this, it doesn’t give you a lot of flexibility in moving the tempo around. This is why before you even think about recording you should spend some time with a metronome to lock the tempo. Do your homework first!!
This was the technique I used on the Lonely and the Moose record “And All Of The Space In The Whole Wide World.” We recorded the album in a cabin at a horse ranch in Colorado. Take the song “Lonely” as an example: Listen
The homemade click loop worked so well we decided to keep it on the final recording. On occasion, these loops can become part of the ambience of a song.
To create the homemade click track for the “Lonely,” I did the following: stomp for 4 bars, find the best bar, cut it and loop. I would tap on the countertop for 4 bars and pick the best bar. Then loop it. Next? A broom on the floor to create a scraping sound… and how bout some crumbling paper? I kept going until it felt “vibey.”
If you’re not good at recording found sounds, you can also use loops. On a recent session for a Christmas song (“XXX Mas Song” by Bryan Dunn and Andi Rae Healy), I didn’t want to use a regular click.
For this session, it was easier for me to just drop in a drum groove using EZ Drummer, especially since live drums were not going to be recorded for the first session. I didn’t use a stock midi pattern, though. I wrote in my own part.
The reason I don’t like a lot of pre-fab midi grooves is they tend to be busy. Since I grew up originally as a drummer, it’s easy for me to program. If that’s not in your skill set and you must use a pre-fab groove (nothing wrong with that), start off with something simple and add slowly.
Click Replacement Therapy
If you don’t have EZ Drummer or BFD, you can program a simple percussion track using a tambourine or shaker. But don’t just set the click track to play a tambourine on the beats. You want to create something with a feel similar to the song.
If you have a sampler like Kontakt or EXS, you can take single hits of sounds you’ve sampled and use them later for other clicks at different tempos. You can build a library of found sounds that make wonderful click tracks.
I’ve also used loops from iTabla, which is an app for the iPad. Within the app, there are rhythms for tablas with good samples. Sometimes, it’s perfect for the song’s vibe.
You should figure out the lowest common denominator of the song and include that in your loop. If it’s an 8th note feel, there should be 8th notes in you’re homemade click. If it’s a 16th note feel, there should be 16th notes in your homemade click.
This is especially important if there isn’t a drummer present as an ambassador to the space between notes which we call “feel.”
All Together Now
If you’re playing with a loop or homemade click track, you can include it in everybody’s cans. That’s another weird thing about click tracks. Some engineers will only feed the click to the drummer.
So you’re following the drummer and the drummer is following the click. Sometimes not everyone is seeing eye to eye and the drummer has to negotiate which direction he leans since he’s the only one hearing both.
What do I mean? Say there is a bridge that has a lot of energy. Naturally, everyone wants to push a little. Perhaps it’s on the verge of rushing, but in a natural, emotional kind of way.
Without a click track it’s easy because everyone is following each other. But when the drummer is chained down, they have the click pulling them one way and the band the other.
Why Ya Gotta Be So Mean To The Drummer?!
By having a cool loop/click track and placing it in everybody’s headphones, everyone will play together. Yes, there is still going to be moments when everyone may push forward or behind the beat feel-wise, but everyone has the same relation to the click. Everybody feels the same push and pull.
It may seem like a major time suck, but it’s worth spending the time to set up. It sets the mood for the feel of the song. Feel is everything! You’re better off spending extra time at the beginning of the session rather than risking the musicians getting frustrated later on.
Your goal is to get great performances. Prep time is your best ally to achieve this goal.
Click forth, my good people!
Mark Marshall is a producer, songwriter, session musician and instructor based in NYC.
Be sure to visit The Pro Audio Files for more great recording content. To comment or ask questions about this article, go here.
Friday, January 10, 2014
Nine Things Systems Integrators Can Count On In 2014
Variables aren’t variables if you count on them, so let’s lay out market factors to consider in strategic planning. Here are nine things that systems integrators can be absolutely certain about in 2014.
1. Technology will continue to advance rapidly, making it more difficult to keep up with change. Integrators will need to be far more “engaged and informed,” and become experts at anticipating the next generation of product offerings they need to incorporate to remain relevant to clients. Industry expertise will become absolutely necessary to become or remain profitable.
2. Numbers and financial metrics will become your best source of information. With no room for error and with eroding margins, it will become a necessity to know the true cost of each and every project. You will have to know your labor utilization ratios and per-employee revenue numbers based on industry average versus actual.
Identify and bid based upon the true cost of labor on projects, as well as what it costs to “roll a truck.” You will learn to determine whether your margins and markups are ahead of or behind industry averages. You will start to compare wages, benefits, and operating expenses with similar companies. (To benchmark yourself against the industry, find NSCA’s Labor Installation Standard on nsca.org.)
3. Health-care reform will not be repealed. Even if Republicans upset the pollsters and win both houses in November, they’ll never get the two-thirds majority in each house needed to overturn the Affordable Care law. They can defund it and chip away at it, but it’s not going away. It’s the law, so plan accordingly this year because the employer mandate will happen on Jan. 1, 2015.
Be sure to consult experts who can not only help with the insurance issues, but also help identify your future cost model. Also, beware that even with the delay of the online SHOP enrollment, there are still avenues for small businesses to participate in Affordable Care if need be.
4. Interest rates will stay low, and then rise slightly. The federal funds rate, which is the rate the Federal Reserve uses to influence interest rates and the economy, is at 0.25 percent, a historic low. The Fed is beginning to taper its easing as the economy heats up. It has promised no rate increases while the U.S. unemployment rate remains above 6.5 percent. The economy will grow this year, which means that rates will not go down.
To minimize inflation, the only effective way for the Fed to try to control the flow of money leaving its $4 trillion balance sheet is using interest rates. Interest rates could go up sooner if it’s not managed effectively. I doubt this will be significant, but it could be costly to business owners who don’t lock in rates soon.
5. There will be no significant tax increases. I see no significant tax increases on the table this year. In 2013, we absorbed increases to capital gains and individual rates (now at 39.6 percent for top earners), decreases in deductions, and added taxes for Medicare and unearned income. And we’ll keep paying those in 2014. But there’s nothing significantly new on the horizon.
6. It should be easier to get financing. The banking industry has recovered from the last crisis. The economy has moderately improved. Rates are low. Banks’ balance sheets look better. Your balance sheet looks better.
The venture-capital industry is flush and looking for more opportunities. There were many initial public offerings in 2013, and many more scheduled for 2014. This will be a good year to look for cash, new financing, or investors. A healthy balance sheet is still key to your banking relationship.
7. You will pay your employees more. The U.S. unemployment rate is down. Economic activity is moderately rising. Wages have been depressed for years. But in 2014 the competition for good people will continue to heat up. Skilled workers will go at a premium. Others will ask, and receive, better increases than in prior years. It’s quickly becoming a seller’s market for employees, and that means business owners will pay a premium this year.
8. Your cost of doing business in the cloud will continue to decrease. Research firm Gartner forecasts that the market for software as a service applications will top $22 billion through 2015, up from more than $14 billion in 2012. Cloud-based applications are proliferating. The number of companies that offer cloud-based managed services is increasing. And so is the number of small companies that are embracing these technologies.
Companies like Amazon Web Services are cutting monthly fees for services that will be popular for small businesses. Costs are declining and will continue to go down in 2014. This year, you move more to the cloud.
9. Your customers will be even more educated. End users, and especially clients and projects with a strong IT influence, will continue to educate themselves on your systems and solutions. Buying decisions will be influenced by this, and more buyers will test your expertise and service capabilities.
We will need to stay ahead of this and continue to become IT-savvy solutions providers. We’ll be discussing this topic in detail at our 16th annual Business & Leadership Conference in Dallas on Feb. 27—March 1. Plan to attend to learn more about what your clients will expect from you in regards to IT.
Chuck Wilson worked as a sound contractor for more than 20 years and is now the director of the National Systems Contractors Association (NSCA).
Go to Commercial Integrator for more content on A/V, installed and commercial systems.
Monday, January 06, 2014
SynAudCon Announces Spring 2014 In-Person Training Schedule
SynAudCon announces 2014 in-person training schedule.
Synergetic Audio Concepts (SynAudCon) has released their in-person seminar schedule for the Spring of 2014.
SynAudCon is renowned for their real-world audio educational offerings through web-based and in-person training offered worldwide.
SynAudCon will offer the three-day “Sound Reinforcement for Technicians” (SRT) in Portland, Oregon on February 24-26, 2014 and again in Cincinnati, Ohio on April 2-4, 2014.
SRT instructor Pat Brown provides hands-on exercises which allow attendees to use a tool kit (that includes meters and other items that are needed) to test and troubleshoot systems. The class also goes into detail on how to use modern dual-channel FFT measurement platforms. On day three, SRT demonstrates the setup of a 3-way triamped loudspeaker, including polarity testing, equalization, crossover selection and signal alignment.
“SynAudCon Digital”, a three-day seminar, will be presented April 28-30, 2014 in North Haven, Connecticut. “SynAudCon Digital” is designed to provide a comprehensive introduction to digital audio, digital signal processing and digital audio networks. The materials presented shorten the learning curve for understanding everything from data formats to networked audio systems with an emphasis on the practical. The seminar is taught by Pat Brown, Steve Macatee and Bradford Benn.
For more specific information about the 2014 schedule, seminar agendas, and online registration, visit the SynAudCon website.