Archive for the ‘Live Sound’ Category

Doing a lot of live sound work, ear protection is a major issue, whether its a gig I’m mixing or a gig I’m watching I need to keep my ears protected, and I’ve found that the ear plugs from this site: are very good for the price. The frequency drop is decent across the spectrum, they’re cheap, skin coloured (so people will be less likely to see them and call you a pussy if you’re at a metal concert or something.) They’re easy to put in and pull out and come with a metal cylinder that you can attach to a key change to keep them in, I normally don’t keep them in the entire gig if I’m doing sound, mainly just because I end up turning everything up too loud, but I can still comfortably mix with them in. I highly recommend to anyone in loud sound environments often and don’t have very big budgets get a pair of these.

This is just a quick tip I remembered whilst doing some live sound today that I thought I’d put on here.

If you’re in a live situation where you have to change between different bands/setups quickly, remember, a mic is a mic. This sounds silly but when you’re in a rush don’t worry too much about finding the right mic, if you chuck pretty much any mic on anything it will work. There are of course exceptions if you’re using large diaphragm condensers or ribbon mics or anything too sensitive (in which case just don’t put it on anything too loud) but if you’re using mics like those I would assume you know very well what you’re doing and time probably isn’t an issue. But for people who aren’t as clued up or trying to find ways to speed up changeovers, should you need to a kick drum mic will work on vocals, a piano mic will work on a guitar amp (this one I used today in fact) and the result will still give a useable result.

So today I hung around after a music history exam to do help a friend do all the sound/roadie work for the performance exams, he certainly manages to do a lot of different things at once.

1. The Setup

First we had to get in contact with whoever was performing and asked them what was on stage and what would be miked. We set up 3-4 mics for the first couple of exams even though we knew we probably wouldn’t need them, it was a just in case. Most of the exams just required lugging gear on and off, and some slight monitoring on the piano (which was normally the only thing miked). However, some exams wanted more miked, the most intense being a guy singing/playing piano or playing a leslie organ (alternated between songs), a small choir, a lead vocalist, a guitarist, a bassist and a drummer. The organ, all the vocals (choir of six had 1 mic between 2) and the piano (bass but was muted as it didn’t need any reinforcing) were miked. Everything had 58s on it except the piano which had a dynamic mic I can’t recall on it. 2 foldback wedges were run out the front daisy chained, also. This set up (including the instruments) had to be completed in a little over 30 min. This was the biggest challenge and the reason for not using more interesting mics/setup.

I found during this that the most important part of the speedy setup is to try and neaten mic cables as you’re running them, rather than afterward and ALWAYS try to work from left to right. Because without time to do a labelling system, and without an incredible memory, this will be your saviour. Keep gaffa tape with you if you can, so that you don’t have to go find it when you want to tape something, and you can do some of the taping while you go.

Also, without a sound check or any way for the performers to let you know if theres anything they want in their foldback there isn’t much you can do other than guess, but there are some things you can listen for that may help. If a singer seems to be a little pitchy, especially if they are a singer who is normally very good, chances are it’s because they can’t hear themselves. With all other instruments (and also singers as well), listen to hear how tight the timing is. If they fall behind then catch themselves back up a few times (or push ahead and pull back) then they probably can’t hear either. Drummers in particular have a tendency to push tempo when they can’t hear, however if they aren’t particularly brilliant drummers they may just not really be listening.

As for the actual mixing of this gig, it was mostly level riding, boosts for solos, a little EQ to tidy it up, nothing too fancy, a little bit of reverb as well, all on a basic yamaha mixer.

2. The audio CD and DVD of performance

While all this is going on, a spaced pair of matched cardioid condensers are set up on a high pole in the middle of the audience (everything run neatly so that it only takes up the space of one chair) to record the whole thing, running to the stage multicore and back to a separate digital mixer with a reverb effect on it to enhance the room a little. This signal is then sent to a Tascam CD Burner and a HD video camera running to a DVD burner. This CD and DVD is burnt/ripped/copied/backedup in numerous ways for numerous people and for the Cons achieves.

That’s a little for one person to do for almost 12 hours a day 6 days a week during exam week.

Setup: First step of the setup was placing the 4 AKG C1000 choir mics on boom stands raised up pointing down to the choir rise. They were set to a cardioid polar pattern with a bass roll off. Their XLR cables were run under the choir rises and into the right stage box that ran back to the sound booth and connected to the mixer, plugging into channels 16-20, on the mixer they were then grouped and assigned mute button 1. The wireless headset’s receiver boxes were connected to the right stage box via a cable with 16 XLR connections. The headsets were run to channels 1-13 then grouped on the mixer and assigned mute button 2. The 7 hand held mics were connected to the left stage box and run to channels 25-32. All lines were checked for signal, to reveal one mic was not plugged in, this was quickly fixed. Room was already tuned using a 32 band graphic EQ with a quite a tame curve. The fold backs were connected to aux channels 1-4. The laptop was plugged into the mixer via the tape in using a stereo RCA to stereo 3.5 cable.

Sound check: Played some music through the PA to get a rough mix for the backing track, the got rough fader levels for the choir mics during rehearsals. The backing tracks were run from the laptop into all 4 fold backs at about -3.5dB, as the performers told me that was the level they found most appropriate. All 4 choir mics were compressed slightly to keep dynamics a little more even. Some frequencies around 1-2k were EQed out to reduce some thinness and tininess in the sound.

Set up the fold back levels for headsets at around -1.5dB. Some headsets began experiencing serious interference problems, after changing these for others only to have more begin causing the same problem, and no time to retune, it was decided that the handhelds would be used instead.

Set up fold back levels of handhelds to about -1.5dB. As the number of singers, who was singing, and which mic was where changed each song, little EQing could be performed on these, but some hiss around 16k was pulled down in almost all mics, as many of the younger singers were creating some and all mics were compressed a little to help compensate for children with poorer mic technique and/or difficulty sustaining technique while dancing.

A noise gate was applied to the choir mics to keep them quiet while nobody was singing, however mute buttons were quickly applied during any song without a choir or whilst the presenter/host was on stage.

Once I, the performers and the person putting on the concert was happy with the sound I was able to get a little more creative with the EQ for the choir mics to help them really sit well with the backing track.

Evaluation: Overall the concert went well, despite some problems during sound check, ways around them were found fast enough to get a good sound for the rest of the concert. The sound of the hand held mics was the only thing I wasn’t particularly happy with, and could not do much to fix this, as the mics were not labeled and the singers were constantly changing, so any time a good sound was achieved, it would need fixing in the next song.

If I were to do it over I would be more thorough with making sure all mics were connected during set up, and find a way to label each handheld mic so I know which is which one the channel or arrange a system so that I know which person has which mic for each song (this process would probably work better as it could also be applied should the headsets have been used.) As I was using a mixing desk I had never used before I did not know much about the processing it was capable of and how to apply it, but as I got further into the day I figured more and more out, so if doing over I would also have applied the signal processing much faster to save time and allow me to focus my attention more on creatively mixing.