Posts Tagged ‘#livesoundreinforement’

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.

Live_Stage_New2

Think of the stage as a speaker sitting in front of the audience….. sometimes the club or venue actually looks like a box where the performers are positioned. You have the low-end Bass Guitar, Kick Drum and Floor Tom and maybe keyboard sounds or textures. You have the Guitar and Vocals in a mid-rangy area and at the upper end you have symbols and higher range Guitar and Keyboard sounds. All inside the same box just a blasting away at different levels and pointed in all directions.

Now you have a better understanding of the challenge of making these various chunks into a tasty audio stew!

For the best way to present music to the savvy listeners of today, we do what has been done for decades. In the stereo image, you want to create a “room” or “place” for the listener. We have become comfortable with the very low end sounds coming from both speakers at about the same volume. This places the sound to the center of the listener’s field.

We like the vocals or in most cases the melody line to be in both sides equally, again placing the singer in the middle of the left-right field. We are fine if other instruments or singers are more to the left or right as long as the main sounds are where we expect them. We usually place big speakers on either side of the stage facing the audience…… usually in front of the stage and performers…. But as mentioned above this is not a finely tuned speaker cabinet by any means. The components are not necessarily proportionally balanced in volume or location. Setting up the Stage and PA system with this in mind can help reinforce the natural stereo image out in the audience.

Now that I have made a connection that is awkward if not confusing, even though the PA system in all likely hood is a Mono mix coming from both sides or columns of speakers, the listener still hears this as a stereo field. They want the low-end sounds or tones from the center of the stage. Typically the drum – the Kick Drum to be specific for this example – is the most used and most amplified instrument in band situations or where you have audio media. The Bass Guitar player is usually next to the drummer. This helps them keep tighter timing and solid beat, but also supports the stereo image of the listener.

Guitar and other amplified instruments on stage can be heard more from their side of the stage than from the other as an easy example, even if the volume through each side of the Main is sent the same level signal. If keyboards are on the opposite side of the stage from the guitar and also uses a monitor or amp, standing closer to them in front row can make it seem like the keyboards are too loud and those on the other side of the stage think the guitars are somewhat overbearing. It won’t stop them from standing there though! As you get further away from the front of the stage or if the venue is very large, this stereo effect has less and less meaning to the listener. Still, as a rule, most sound systems do not place low-end PA cabinets (or dumps) on one side of the stage and the mid or hi-end cabinets on the other side. It can be however, advantageous to place the low-end dumps in the center of the stage or along the front-center stage area. To make this more inclusive, it is also more comfortable to hear low-end tones coming from an elevation point lower (on the floor, for example) and the higher tones or frequencies coming from higher points (mounted above the stage or on tall poles).

If the volume on stage becomes to strong a level it will negatively affect all the above and more. To reinforce another post of mine, musicians just need to worry about performing great – we sound geeks will make them sound good and loud! I keep dreaming.

I spent a lot of time in smaller clubs with crowded stages and audience sizes varying from handfuls to standing room only capacity. The challenges come from each of them and have different resolutions. In some ways, I think the large clubs and outdoor events are the easiest to set up and run sound for. If it is a big stage or large arena, you turn everything up so it is in the main mix or no one will hear it. The smaller clubs you don’t necessarily put a microphone on every instrument. You cannot out-power a guitar player with a stack of cabinets. You might not be able to set up independent or multiple Monitor Mixes (stage mix for performers) and many times you have to share monitors (the cabinets or speakers themselves in this case…) between performers with various needs. Add keyboard player(s) or a horn section and it quickly over burdens the PA or sound system.

Setting up the stage with a few solutions in mind can help in each of these situations. In smaller clubs you might not have many options for the arrangement of musicians on stage. Some restraints may be obvious at first. Some will catch you off guard. Knowing what you are up against though can trigger steps to prevent problems.

These are basic but can avoid a lot of small-headache issues:

Place snake closest to center of stage if that is closest to where instruments/vocalists are positioned. Shorter cables are better if they allow performers needed mobility.

Make sure you know where the AC power outlets are. It is a drag to set everything up and not be able to plug in your power amps. (I also recommend bringing long heavy-duty extension cords for versatility)

Try to plug all stage instruments and PA gear along with the mixing board and external sound gear to the same AC breaker box.

Try to plug all lighting or other powered systems to a separate AC breaker box. (If it does not connect to the mixing board to make noise; plug it into another breaker box)

Use balanced (three wire cables) whenever possible. (I have been caught by 1/4″ audio jacks without locks getting knocked out in the middle of a gig more than once and hate anything that does not lock into position. rant now over)

Keep stage volume as low as possible (this is a couple posts all by itself!)

Consider cross-firing stage instrument amps like guitars and bass – rather than pointing at audience.

Make sure sound board is in the best sounding location and also close enough to the stage to connect snake and all gear – especially if you have to route the snake around the outside of the event area for safety or other reasons.

Cables are the first thing to go wrong even when properly handled and maintained. Bring a lot of SPARES.

Turn all power amps (including ones that are built into the speakers OFF or all the way DOWN when connecting or disconnecting gear. (there are shortcuts and general exception practices we will detail later).

Turn all recording gear OFF or down all the way until all devices and channels are connected and tested.

Make sure speaker cables (Mains and Monitors) are long enough to reach the power amps. I bring two long length sets of speaker cables and two short length sets (no matter how many total speakers I have, I will have two full sets….). If one side of the stage is where the power amps are, I use the short cable and the other one might require the longer cable. Sometimes you need both long cables. If I need a spare, I have two!

Drum risers could need low end cuts and even gates to reduce unwanted tones and resonances.

Color Code anything you can. Cables, Mic stands, Monitors, In-Put Channel labels or External gear/boxes. Make it easy to identify in low light. Green microphone goes with green cable goes to green snake plugs into green channel….. I also add a number to make larger sessions manageable. Vocal green 1, 2, 3…. Drum blue 1, 2, 3….. Brass white 1, 2, 3……

Not rocket science, just some thoughts. But if you get in the habit of considering these and other tips each time before you start hauling in equipment into a new venue, your set-ups will become quick and routine, even if the environment is new. If you keep all your gear in one place there are short cut power-up and power-down sequences I will detail soon.

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.

I want to give you an idea of perspective on some of the articles I have posted and will continue to post going forward.  This is the first video I have posted and while it is rather BORING, it is so informative at the same time.  I guess I have recorded original tunes since the very late 1960’s.  I recorded everything.  I deleted a lot!  But I recorded everything I could.  I experimented and adjusted and re-did and failed a few more times than I succeeded in the early days to be sure!  I also got into photography and then into video recording.  I practiced the mundane over and over until I got the exposure right, then with video until I could zoom and focus manually.  I joined the photography club in high school and learned to develop and enlarge my own pictures – something I thought was close to magic back in the day!

I shared earlier that I used (and still own!!!) what I think was the first personal computer to come out with built in MIDI ports – The Atari ST!  I used a software program back then to record the MIDI tracks and I could generate SMPTE time code and send a signal from the Atari to sync it up with recording machines (I had the Yamaha 4 track CASSETTE recorder during most of this).  When I talk about old technologies and how we used to record songs (or develop pictures…) It is hard for some to understand the challenges we had and the lo-fi quality of the final mix or product.

I want to use this video as an example of many things I refer to in this blog.  In this video, you will see what I saw when looking at the Atari computer monitor when I was playing or recording tracks.  Keep in mind this is all MIDI equipment available years ago.  The song I posted earlier will now be stripped of all guitars, vocals, effects and additional live sounds you heard on the full mix.  As you watch the video you will hear the sequences being played back live into the VCR input.  I took the monitor video out and connected to video in of the video recorder so this is a straight feed for both.  In the recording software, each “instrument” has a separate track.  Drums are all on one track with additional percussion sounds on different tracks, and as a reminder, each note (as triggered from my DX7 keyboard) represented a different drum/percussion sound coming from a drum machine.  You can hear the metronome from the Atari ticking away in the back ground as it is set to record.  As each track plays you can see the musical notes light up depending on the intensity of the track information.  You can also see the tempo of the song, the names of the tracks and the measures and beats as they click by.

The main piano sound is probably familiar to many of you even if you are quite young. It is the classic Piano Tine sound from the Yamaha DX7 synthesizers.  This video should also give you a sense of quality and resolution available at the time.  It might be difficult to hear the difference in song recording quality today, but we are all familiar with video resolution and HD cameras and large screen TV and computer standards available now.  Just think how this applied to the audio quality back then and then play some really old songs you grew up listening to.   It gives a better appreciation and perspective for some of the classic songs that seem to live forever.

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 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%