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Strength In Smaller Numbers: Setting The Stage For Sara Bareilles On Tour

"We all work together - band and crew - with a level of honesty and efficiency that really adds value to our every move." -- Trey Smith, front of house engineer

There’s A Balance
Concurring with Twist, Smith subscribes to the notion that there’s a need to adjust accordingly to the needs of every room, especially since the tour carries no stacks ‘n’ racks of its own, relying instead upon “whatever the venue is kind enough to provide,” and a console package from Spectrum Sound that places a Midas PRO9 at front-of-house and a VENUE Profile from Avid for monitors.

“Honestly, the band provides really great input,” Smith notes. “Everything is really awesome before it even gets to me. We’ve worked hard to get the tones just right onstage across the board, and a lot of our success stems from our relationship with the musicians. We can go to them with suggestions for any room, and they’ll work with us to obtain the best possible results. There are no egos anywhere.”

Smith has spent a lot of time with Bareilles’ vocal mic (a wireless Shure KSM9) to keep her voice right on top and in the pocket. “She doesn’t sing as loud as I’d like her to all the time,” he confides. “So I have to turn to a few tricks.

“A good deal of effort is put into ringing out her mic. It’s pretty hot and picks up a lot of things, and she likes to run the stage – walking back-and-forth, sometimes right in front of the PA. She loves the openness that the KSM9 naturally has, but in turn I have to combat cymbal bleed into the mic, or a guitar amp that may be getting picked up. There’s a balance, and sometimes I walk a thin line.”

Twist at his monitor position, joined by an Avid VENUE Profile console and numerous wireless units. (click to enlarge)

Once lead vocal is properly placed on top, Smith builds the rest of his mix around big, fat, drum-heavy sounds that openly display his love for percussion with a natural, focused flair sans a lot of gating.

“I love a large, looming drum presence,” he admits. “Kick drum with real depth; big, deep, heavy snare… Yet I keep everything operating with pinpoint precision. High-pass filters are my best friends in the world. I roll everything up, even if it’s a kick drum. If I’m in a big arena or a shed, I like to have less around 44 to 50 Hz, even 60 Hz. You can roll that up and keep your mix cleaner. The first thing I focus upon each day going through our line check is just cleaning up the low-end.”

Sharing Resources
As a complement to the sonic options available to him within the 48 channels on his Midas PRO9, Smith was quick to raid Spectrum Sound’s remaining inventory of vintage outboard gear to complete his aural palette.

Smith’s house effects rack, with a Lake processor also on hand to help dial in house systems. (click to enlarge)

A TC 2290 dynamic digital delay found its way into his outboard rack, along with a Yamaha SPX990 that serves as his drum plate, and an old school Rev100 (also from Yamaha) used as the effects engine on Bareilles’ vocal. To better complete his outboard view of the world, a dbx 160A comp/limiter climbed aboard for electric bass, because, Smith reasons rhetorically, “Why not?”

Read More
In The Studio: Go Direct Or Deploy Mics For Electric Bass?

In keeping with a production theme that finds strength in smaller numbers and efficiency, the show’s input scheme was designed to be shared. Eschewing a traditional split system that places one set of preamps in the front-of-house console and another separate set of preamps in the monitor desk, Smith and Twist called upon a pair of DL431 input splitters from Midas and charted a different course.

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