Posts Tagged ‘#Liveband’

CRASH LANDING

I posted another you-tube segment of Crash Landing playing cover tunes at a gig in Cincinnati back in 2002. This is the last segment of the 1st set. I tried to break them up into chunks so they are not huge files.

I ran a straight line out from the mixing board. Few live recordings are perfect, and over the years I tried a number of ways to get a good mix. Keep in mind I record all the time so this was not a special occasion and I don’t even think I told the band members we were recording.

I am still collecting new photos from friends and relatives and will add them to future posts. So sit down and grab your favorite beverage and listen to a great live band!

Here is the 2nd installment of my live recording of Crash Landing back in 2002. I played with them for a number of years. First as a sound guy. I knew the singer Gary Jefferson and he pulled me into the group. Gary and I go back a few years. He knows everyone and has played all over town. I have helped him with outside projects and you can hear his vocals on a lot of my original songs. Great people are hard to come by, but they will be there for you when you need.

I wish I had more video to share. I have a call out to other band members and friends to send me copies of anything they have. I have created videos for years but never really did much during this time. Again, I wish I had. Here is the next section of an evening with Crash Landing. This is still the first set and we are getting warmed up. Settling into the sound. That is the toughest thing about one-night-gigs; everything sounds so strange for the first 3 or four songs at the minimum. Depending on the sound guy/gal, this could take up to an entire first set to get comfortable.

I don’t have records of who was running sound this night. With this band I USED to run sound from the audience, then became a band member and ran sound and played/sang from out in the crowd using our own equipment! In many ways that was very cool. After a while we hired sound companies and I just don’t know who was at the board.

I hope you enjoy a night out – to hear a live band – without leaving your home. It’s like you are at the show, but you can still have one more drink and not have to drive home!

Here is the you-tube link for part two: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5vHdxs6z-Qg

Recently I went to see some of my old band-mates playing out. I have always been the ‘senior’ member of the bands I have been fortunate to be associated with. NOT that I was with the band from the beginning but that I am usually the oldest member of the bands. Usually by ten years or so. As a result a few of my friends from old bands are still playing out in the city. It is always a pleasure to see what they are up to and catch up on life.

My drummer in Crash Landing was playing with one of his current bands and we got a chance to talk. His son is also taking up the drums and thought it would be cool if he could share some of the old recordings with him. He asked me if I could get him copies of what I have.

For you new to this blog I record a lot. Practice sessions, private parties, small gigs, writing songs in the late evening. I started with reel-to-reel tape machines since the 1970’s or so. The recordings sound and look as old as I feel, but they preserve the events and people involved.

I am a Singer Song-Writer. I write my lyrics and melody, decide the chord arrangement and structure of the song. That is what got me started singing. Then percussion. Then guitar and recording and working at music stores and learning sound reinforcement and recording techniques and….. In some ways playing with a cover band was torture. The bands members were really talented and experienced. I kept thinking they could do great things with my originals or create new amazing songs.

The thing about cover bands is that the good ones can do anything. Think about it. They can sound like so many other bands from one song to the next. They make the instruments and effects sound like the original. The solos are dead on and more often than not; improved. No over dubs: no guest artists. All this while they cannot hear themselves, people are yelling and drinking right in front of them and the sound guy is either drunk or deaf in both ears.

The audio recording was from a live performance. According to the DAT case it was 11-16-2002. This was a small club and I decided to record on my Panasonic two-track digital DAT machine. I was not mixing at this time so the recording success was limited. I grabbed a stereo feed from two subs and hoped for the best. I have a number of examples of live recording techniques in my LSR Series linked at the top if you have an interest.

I will get into more details on this particular recording and show other examples of recording results in later posts. For now, let me just say that the recordings are from one night. This is what we sounded like if you were in the audience. There are no cuts and if you put this series back to back when all are posted it will be the entire evening minus a few technical disasters. Here is the YOUTUBE link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B3NTGTnemF8

CRASH LANDING live 2002

The band members did not know I was recording. I just set it up in ten minutes and left it alone. Unfortunately, I did not shoot videos of Crash Landing. I wish I had for kicks and giggles.

Most of the connectors used for outputs will be 1/4″ male jacks.  These can be for ‘grounded’ (three-wire) or two-wire cables.  To make this part confusing, the cables can be made or changed with adapters to almost any connector type.  For long distances we prefer grounded or three conductor-wire cables as the third wire is used to take common signals from the other two wires, and ‘dump them to ground’.  Common signals would be interference and noise as the plus and negative wires are carrying the signal from the board.  The result is good signal with low noise introduced.  Guitar and keyboard cables typically go shorter distances and typically have a higher or stronger output signal than a microphone for example.  The cables in the snake will use three wire grounded shielded cables even if they are 1/4″ male connectors.

So we might expect to have an XLR connector for the Main Outs to the Main House power amps, but this is not a guarantee.  If 1/4″ jacks are provided it is recommended to use grounded three wire cables.

Most cables will provide a male connector on one end and a similar but female connector on the other end.  Male connectors are often used to connect to In-Puts and Female connectors are often used to connect to the Out-Put.  The male connector of the microphone cable connects to the mixing board In-Put and on the other end the female connector will connect to the microphone out.  Generally speaking there is little advantage plugging an in to an in or an out to another out.   I like to state the obvious LOL!

The mixing board will give us a Main Left and Right out, and probably a Mono Main Out.  These will be connected to the Main or House power amps.  During an event, the amps are usually turned all the way up and the House volume is ultimately controlled by the Main L-R faders on the mixing board.  This is why it is important to turn the Master Volume Faders on the mixing board all the way down whenever connecting or disconnecting equipment or making dramatic changes.

Depending on the board size and configuration you may also have a 1/4″ Direct-Out for many if not all input channels. (this is REALLY cool for recording and a lot of other creative uses…)   These can be really handy for independent channel recording, triggers, audio effects and alternate mixes to name a few.  Basically connect these to external recorder, processor or triggering gear as needed.  I will give some examples as the series expands to other main topics.  You will also have a number of Sends that are used for a variety of tasks and have different names, but with a few configuration details are for the most part the same thing.  Effect Sends, Monitor Sends, Auxiliary Sends, Sub Sends are splitters; they split the signal – keeping the one going to the House or recorder – and allowing you to send a lot or a little of that signal to the Send of your choice using the Send knob. As in the Monitor amps and House amps, the volume knob will ultimately be used to send the proper signal level to the external (and internal) devices or effects.  If you ‘send’ this to a digital delay, it may also have its own input and out put level knobs.

You may also have a two-track input and/or out put.  This is for playing stereo audio devices and for a straight stereo record out option.  Handy to listen to practice tapes, intermission music, PA system tests and other performance related media.

The sound board or audio mixer represents the hub in most audio mixing and mastering functions.  everything connects to the board.  Even the lighting system will use channels in the snake to connect from stage to console.  Things get plugged into and things get plugged out of the mixer as needed.  Today’s mixers are blue tooth USB WiFi fire-wired and light-piped together and will connect to an amazing array of devices.  So far we have focused on what gets plugged to the Inputs of the sound board.  There are a number of connection possibilities for the Outputs as well. We have already discussed some of them earlier, so this can be brief as you already know a lot of this in general.

On most sound boards you have a number of analog-out options.  In earlier discussions we talked about XLR and 1/4″ cables and connectors.  These will continue to be the main ones used for outputs.  On the front or face of most mixing boards you will see a stereo headphone out.  It will usually have its own volume knob and probably a selector to pick the options to Monitor including Stereo Out, Solo, Effects Sends, Effects Returns, Sub or Groups, Auxiliary Returns, and other options.  On the back or the top of the mixing board you will see the panel for Out-put connections in different sections.  There are some rules to determine what type of Audio Cable is used and whether it is a male end or female end and whether it has two connectors or three (or more).

In the early days of mixing boards, microphones and keyboards, it was important which brand you purchased.  If you wanted to get ‘that sound’ you had to have this mixing board channel strip or that particular keyboard.  Later on the computer industry similarly shot through their early days and you had the Macintosh or the Windows PC.  If you were brought up with one you could not be talked into the other.  Most modern equipment from PC’s to Automobiles can do everything.  They all have similar platforms and emulators.  There is style and quality as there always will be, but you can get software mixing programs and microphone/guitar emulator plugins that will make your audio tracks sound like anything you want —-THEY CAN EVEN MAKE YOU SOUND LIKE YOU ARE SINGING IN TUNE!!

So if you like Pepsi, no problem.  Want Coke?  Press this button……  More comfortable using a Mac?  Go for it.

All it takes is cash, a thorough understanding of what all the terms mean and a good idea where all the buttons are?!!?

Enjoy!

I have been very fortunate over the years in a number of ways.  As I look back on my history and the events I have been involved in, this rule became obvious to me.  I have always performed or created music with people that are much better than I am.  I did not do this by design, it just seemed to happen over and over.  One of my favorite bands I have been involved with for many years is Euphoria.  Think of all the adjectives you know to describe excellence and you can use them all for the members of the band.  They invited me to run sound for them and that is how I got the nerve to be a sound guy.  As they played out and I ran sound and helped with musical toys as a music store manager, we became great friends and shared a real passion for great music.  When the keyboard player decided to work on other projects, they found out I played keyboards and asked me if I wanted to take his place.  I cannot tell you how much courage it took to say yes.  I had never really played out before and we were into progressive rock and really complicated songs – many you heard clips from the studio demo posted earlier.

I knew I was not ready for prime time, but I got my keyboard gear together – practiced on my own every spare minute I had and forced myself to show up for practice.  I had big shoes to fill.  To their credit each of the band members were extremely patient!  The knew it would take me some time to get to their level.  Some songs on our set list were replaced with songs that had less emphasis on the keyboard until I could get my chops up to speed.  Some we had to drop altogether.  But they all worked with me and did not make me feel like I was slowing them down or not up to par.  Had it not been for their great attitude and flexibility, I may have thrown in the towel and called it quits before it got started.

The only better piece of advice in this area I think is just as important is to always play with great people!  Band life can be hard work, physically challenging and demanding and at the same time can be disastrous

I am famous for doing things the easy way and if I can, as cheap as possible.  Now that does not mean forget quality and versatility.  It means I won’t spend money on gadgets that I don’t need.  I try to run as clean a mix as possible, and making sure everyone gets heard.  If they are up there ‘playin it‘, I want the audience to hear it.  In reality, it doesn’t take a lot of gadgets to accomplish those two major things; make it sound good and loud enough for the venue, and put all instruments/vocals/strings/spoons or tambourines, I don’t care what it is….  in the mix.   As a band member, hiring sound guys and their rigs, a number of times after sound check and a few songs of the first set, my microphone was turned down so low, no one could hear me even in-between songs.  I could not get the sound man’s attention, or anyone else’s for that matter because no one could hear me (and as a keyboard player I was usually in the back corner of the stage in the shadows Ha!).  So eventually I just adjusted the microphone stand down toward the floor in front of me.  It is easy to hit the wrong button or turn the wrong knob; happens all the time.

Remember that the sound guy cannot hear what is really happening up on stage.  Sometimes you THINK you can.  But you as the sound engineer should be the first person to know what is going wrong when it does.  Keep an eye on all performers – they will look to you first.  As a performer and studio guy, I could tell when the guitar player broke a string, or if the drum head split and when or if the drummer had too much to drink on his birthday gig.  Things will go wrong but a lot of the time it is the sound guy.  You make an adjustment and grab the wrong knob.  They all look alike in the dark part of the venue or room.  The consequences can be anything from a non-event to a full blown crisis, depending on which knob you grab.  Obviously for the extreme crisis, you will know right away what happened and will probably be able to correct quickly.

It is the slow creepy ones that will get you.  Two songs later something changes on stage and chaos begins.

I suggested we set up the mixing board so the FX Returns are plugged into open channels so you can control their volume with the faders rather than the FX Return knobs.  I always turn the effects down in-between songs.  (you also get EQ and other benefits)  This makes it SOOO much easier to see in the dark clubs. I also use the sub-groups to assign drums, vocals, and other groups of mics their own fader that feeds directly to the Main Out or house out.  If there is a problem with one group, you can quickly test by adjusting that sub-group fader and see if problem goes away.  If not, return it to where it was and go to the next sub-group.  This way you do not have to go through fader after fader searching for a bad signal or feedback loop.   Once you narrow down the offending group, you will have a much better idea what the source is!

I would say most live performances the sound board is mixed to a Mono output.  In smaller rooms or clubs, I loved running in stereo.  I mixed for keyboard progressive bands a lot and the stereo keyboards and samplers consumed the rooms when mixed right.  Not in volume——– The vocals (sometimes three sometimes five in the band) panned as well.  Overkill in a way, but not much work and easy to arrange with equipment versatility.  Most boards have stereo FX that can add lot to the imaging.  But again, that is not the norm.  So you can either set board up in stereo and have the Main Output plugged into the MONO OUT to your system, or you can mix to mono and use one Main fader or the other.  That’s about it.  We have covered the entire mixing board, in its basic format.  Headphone outs, Tape or other inputs, on-board effects, Solo or Audition functions as well as digital features make new sections.

As we continue down the signal path, we get to a new section.  This is separated from the EQ section and generally uses a different color coding for the associated knobs.  The next group is the Aux Sends.  Each send represents an output jack that will go to external audio sources. One example would be the stage monitor mix(s).  If you have two monitors on each end of the stage serving performers, you can use Aux Send 1 going to the left monitor and use Aux Send 2 going to the right monitor.  If performer 1 wants to hear themselves and a little bit of performer 2 in the same monitor, simply send a lot of performer 1’s channel to Aux Send 1 and a little of the performer 2 to the Aux Send 1.  If performer 2 does not want to hear performer 1 in their respective monitor, simply turn up performer 2’s channel Aux Send 2 up a bunch and do not turn up Aux Send 2 on the channel for performer 1.  That was probably harder to say correctly than actually doing it.

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You can use Auxiliary Sends to route a signal from any channel to external effects boxes like Digital Delays, Reverbs, and even recording devices in a pinch.  You can use it to trigger light boards that have an Audio Input mode.

These Auxiliary Sends can sometimes be switched from Pre to Post.  Some are fixed either way.  This can also get confusing but if the channel Aux Send is in Pre mode it means Pre-Fader.   The volume faders on each channel will affect the level of the signal that is sent to the House or the Main Out of the mixer and when selected, to the headphone out.  It is a good idea to solo instruments in the headphones to pick or change microphone locations and isolate room noise and other performers.  If the Aux is set to Pre-Fader, it means that the Aux Send levels will be determined before the channel fader has any effect.  Turn the channel volume fader all the way down and you will still have plenty of signal going to the Aux Send.   If the Aux Send is in Post Fader mode, the amount of signal sent to the Aux Send for that channel will be directly affected by the level of the channel volume fader.  Fader off = no Aux Send level.  The number of sends will vary widely.  In this case, more is better!

At this point the example starts a new section.  This will affect the Main Out section.  This is where we can set the stereo Pan position, Mute or un-Mute the channel, and Solo the instrument for gain staging and troubleshooting during a performance.  When running in stereo, general rule is very low frequencies get panned to center.  After that, adjust to performance and venue.  Sometimes the stage sound is very loud, and listeners close to the stage will only be able to hear that performer.  Sometimes the shape of the stage or design of venue will require creative solutions using stereo panning.

This strip includes a pair of colored LED’s for signal strength and Peak warning level indicators.  Occasional red for short periods of time are OK, but better to avoid as long as you have a strong signal otherwise.  After we have set the various knobs correctly and have good signal strength, we can use the channel volume fader to set the level of that channel in the House mix.   Channel Mutes can have different affects.  Some boards Muting a channel will stop that audio source from all outs, and some might allow Aux Send 1 & 2 for monitors.  See manuals for lots of details I cannot cover in these articles.

Other examples below with different lay-outs;

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But here is the good news;  we have just learned 75% of the face of the mixing board.  Each channel duplicates what we just went over.  All those knobs are now grouped logically, easily identified explained and we understand what each one is for.  Here on in it is repetition for gain staging and sound check.  Use Pad and 1st Gain Stage to adjust signal strength, add or subtract frequencies using the channel EQ, set amount of Aux Send to monitors and effects and set the stereo field positions as we watch level indicators and set channel volume fader.  Repeat.  Finished!

Next we can go over the benefits of Group Sends and the other 20%

Recently I was asked in comments (The Observer) if a song I posted was recorded at home or in a studio.  I replied but thought I might expand on that a bit and also introduce another version of “The Pleasure Tax”.  As my brother and I got older we kept writing poems that were now almost always designed to be lyrics.  We got better.  Instead of playing the bongos, I played the toy organ I mentioned and everything else from there.  Here is where I get to also blame my parents again.  For Christmas we all got cool toys, but many of mine seemed to be music makers; recorders, tiny piano ‘tinkley’ toys, little ukuleles and eventually guitars with plastic strings and a drum set that was made for a three year old, but you get the point.  So we got better and we played instruments and my brother started playing guitar as well.  We had more toys to create music so when we wanted to record them (I was probably fourteen or fifteen by the time recording was a possibility) we wanted to add the various instruments and record them all together.

Through the years, we met other musicians and became great friend – or as I seem to recall – we met great friends that were also musicians.  Eventually there was a central core of serious song writers.  Sometimes there would be around eight or ten core writing members.  It would seem there was a competition going (and there always was!) to write the coolest or most clever or the most groovy song.  And we would have friends that would stop by and jam once in a while or would write lyrics and were willing to turn them over to a group of people that would fit them , with force if necessary, with a musical arrangement, melody line and harmonies.

The rambling link to all this is when we often played a collection of each other’s songs, we more than likely played with different performers supporting a few core members.   Those were exciting days!  One time you would sing the song and the lead vocalist was not there.  So you let an ‘orbiting member’ do the vocal melody and you sing the harmony part.  Most of us played instruments and sang – especially if we wrote the song as you can guess – so if the lead vocalist also played guitar, we filled in as a ‘core member’.   On one visit or jam session you performed and sang your song all by yourself to the group.  In other visits you were surrounded by full instrumentation and a choir of vocalists!  So here is an example of all that tied into a version of this song by a full band I toured with.  You heard us play live to an audience in Texas when we played the original song “Our Bodies Move” posted earlier.  We also played other original songs and snuck them into our sets.  One of them was “The Pleasure Tax”.  We called ourselves The Personal Touch.  Ric and I were a duo and when we decided to add a female vocalist as recommended by a booking agency they decided to sign us up for out of state gigs.  We got some studio time when signing up and we performed some original tunes and some cover stuff…. done The Personal Touch way.  “TPT” by TPT!

So this is rare original song of mine that was recorded in an actual studio.    We are a trio and there was a studio drummer.   Everything else is The Personal Touch with a very new vocalist.

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We all try to rationalize situations we are not sure of.   We attempt to explain why things happen – or things that happen to us.  We try to understand the world around us.  When I worked at the instrument music store, I rationalized that I got the job because I was a previous customer and that I could program and understand the new digital MIDI keyboards hitting the market.  Very quickly (months, I believe) I was given my own satellite store to manage.  I opened three more chain stores in a few short years.  In reality, I probably bought more in equipment than I got paid to work there!  Almost kidding, but I understood a lot of the toys and had played with a bunch of them, but to get a room full of toys all day long and then get paid to learn all I could about them, well, I won’t get into religion here but that was heaven on Earth.  I would have done it for free.  And do you know how I rationalized being a SALES MAN? (I am pretty anti-establishment from way back………..) I tried to listen to where the customer was coming from and what they needed.  From there I would teach them what I knew about gear that would help get them to the next level.   Everyone needs to get to the next level.  That is what I am doing today.  It is what you are doing right now.

And sometimes we need to explain to ourselves why.   Why do I need to buy that new toy?  Why do they like me?  Why does the sun always shine where I am?  Why aren’t things working as I planned.  Why don’t they understand me?   What did I do right or wrong?  This has bugged me all my life and I hope it does not get to you.  Working in the music store(s) I sold gear to a lot of bands. Some people were regulars.  Always something needed, some new gear.  One of the bands told me that their sound man was on vacation and they needed someone to run sound for them.  It SEEEEEEMED logical to ask me, I knew about the mixing boards and PA systems.  But I had never run sound before ( truth in advertising alert – – – I did run sound for one other band prior to this but that is a funny story I wanted to share with you later.  So I did it once before  ….. technically  …….) What would you do?  These are good customers and by now good friends too.  If I run sound and really suck, the friendship and the work relationships are out the window.  I let them know I do not have a lot of experience but if they don’t have anyone else I would be glad to help.  They decide to go with me for the vacation gigs.  I run through the checklist a thousand times in my head.  I set the stage and house equipment up methodically, I run through the gain staging like riding a bike, I get the monitors working and run CD audio through the mains to test them.  Time to start.   Big crowd.   Lots of people and friends.  As you can imagine I am rapidly cycling through excitement, concern, confusion, fear, panic, and jazzed up one after the other.  The band starts playing and they are soooooo good I just relax.  I think even I can make these guys sound good!  I was lucky.  From what I remember the event was fine.

Their sound man decided to move onto other things and when he came back from vacation I was asked to take his place.  Again I had to rationalize;  well, they only like me cause I can get them a deal at the store. Well, they like me because I can set up the equipment pretty fast.   Well, it went over well because they are really tight and have great equipment.   You have probably done that a bunch of times as well.  It was hard for me to accept all the way down to the point of knowing that they noticed and appreciated the mix.  Their fans did too but most importantly, so did the band wives!  Never forget the power of the spouse!  So now for the first time, I am involved with a real band.  I am the regular sound guy.  The Band understands the power of the PA, and they determine that the sound guy gets equal cut…… as if he is as important to the overall sound as the individual band members were.  Amazing concept and it worked so well over the years.  I could not rationalize my way out of deserving that one; we worked as a team and the band always sounded great.

All this from knowing how to program a digital keyboard.