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More Gigs Are Booking Last Minute, And Details Can Be Sketchy… But All’s Well That Ends Well

Micing for success on the frontlines of a big deal in Pennsylvania - high school district jazz

Ever since my most recent steady house gig became not quite so steady, I’ve been banished to a 14-foot straight truck to do gigs that usually come at the last minute.

In fact, last minute gigs have become the rule instead of the exception. I used to consider getting booked for a Saturday gig on the prior Tuesday as a tight timeframe. Lately, Saturday night bookings are arriving on Saturday afternoon.

The gig I’m writing about here, however, was booked well in advance by these standards – the call came on Monday for a gig to take place the following Saturday afternoon. But not to let me get too comfortable, most of the details were kept sketchy.

I was told it would be sound for a high school jazz band. When I arrived at the gig, it turned out to be a district jazz festival.

I don’t know how it is in other areas of the country, but if you’re a high school musician in Pennsylvania, districts in band, chorus and orchestra are a big thing. What they do is pick the best musicians in the region and bring them together for a couple days to put together a performance.

This particular district event was a big band jazz orchestra, 18 players strong. The front line included six saxophones – three tenors, two altos, and a baritone. Behind them were four trombones, followed by a back row of four trumpets. The rhythm section included piano, (both acoustic and electric) guitar, bass, and drums.

Normally for jazz gigs (and also mostly because I care), I automatically break out a selection of microphones to augment the basic rock ‘n’ roll mic package (Shure SM57s, Sennheiser e835s, etc.) already on the truck.

For this gig, I ended up placing seven mics, but actually used only six after being instructed not to use the one above the drums.

A spaced pair of Samson C01 large-diaphragm cardioid condensers served as my primary mics, positioned about eight feet apart and six feet in front of the horn section. I used these two mics to get the “meat” of the entire group of horns. Also, this configuration puts the stage-right mic of the pair at almost exactly center stage.

There was a roving solo mic located in front of the saxes that could be moved around by the band director during the performance.

Two more condensers – Audio-Technica AT813a – resided among the trombonists for the trumpets to use as solo mics, and also, these allow me to sneak a little extra trumpet into the mix if I need it.

The sixth mic, on the grand piano, was a beyerdynamic MC 834 condenser. There was plenty of time before the final rehearsal to tweak this mic, and rehearsal proved short and sweet, with it all sounding great.

Coming up to show time, everyone seems happy, and I’m confident things will work out well. The kids play a great concert, but my own “performance” has a couple rough spots. Some solos start a bit soft, others a bit loud, yet nobody runs screaming from the room holding their ears.

I do the mix on a Midas Venice 32 console, with two Electro-Voice QRx212 loudspeakers per side driven by two QSC RMX5050 power amplifiers. This PA covered the room – a 600-seat high school auditorium – quite well.

Overall, I’m pleased with the way things turn out, and the band director from the host school raved about what a great job we did to the sound company owner.

For me, it’s another satisfied customer, and most importantly, repeat business.

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