Through the beginning to the end of the last chapter, we have concentrated on the hub or the central nervous system of a Live Sound Reinforcement assignment. I have been focusing a bit on live performance in a typical band or musical event. We now understand how most equipment for the House PA, the stage monitors, effects, and even lighting systems use the mixing board as the central hub. The mixing board’s usefulness does not end there! Once equipment is set up, connected, turned on and confirmed functional, most of the adjustments made for the rest of the evening will happen because of changes to the mixing board. It also becomes the Master Device, and all other connected devices are ultimately controlled by the mixer. The sound engineer is the ONLY person that should touch the mixing board.
The next logical step would be to describe the components of the House PA system and how much power (or how much money do I need to spend….). After all, this is what most people hear, right?
Obviously, I set up as a trap question. The answer seems obvious.
If I said, “I sound like a broken record”, most young readers will not know what that means! But I will repeat myself on certain themes and I feel one a’ comin’! The next important thing is not the House PA and the number of speakers and amplifiers you need. Most small venue mixing engineers go straight for the house and main systems, completely ignoring the most important ingredient guaranteeing a great performance. We will avoid that trap now and focus on the stage and more importantly – the musicians on the stage.
When bands practice, they ultimately find a good use of space and volume so each member can achieve the two primary goals;
1) Hear myself (usually louder than any one else. This is not ego and we will get into that later)
2) Hear the other performers (usually not as loud as the performer wants to hear him/her self!!)
Once they settle in and can accomplish the above – practice is comfortable and productive. Each member can hear themselves and can also hear enough of the other members to blend with them. If you saw a live symphony orchestra and all you could hear were the trombones, it would seem like an awful performance. If you were a musician in the orchestra and all you could hear were the trombones……………
Now we can go back to the band members standing on a stage or venue they have never seen or played in…… and now understand that this is a very real challenge, and the smaller the venue… the smaller the budget. Lack of Resources can be difficult challenge to overcome.
In larger venues it was quite normal to have a smaller mixing board off to the one side of the stage. All the instruments and monitors would connect to this mixer, and it would ‘split’ all channels and send them equally to the House mixing board out in the audience area. (it can also be used to send signals to a recording van parked outside). The sound engineer on stage makes the band members happy by concentrating on the performers but does not affect the signal going to the House board. That way the House Engineer has full control of the unaffected incoming channels from the stage board.
Good enough for now and in the next few sections I will focus on the stage sound and mix.