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A sound engineering is only as good as his or her ears – but until recently, I’d never actually had mine checked.
At a recent show the audience ranged from kids to octogenarians with twin heading aids. Despite hearing loops and my best efforts, those with hearing devices struggled with the bass sound of the band. It’s not possible to provide a warm, full sound for the majority of the audience without it becoming bass-heavy for the few with hearing difficulty.
In order to understand the problem better, I decided to have a chat with an audiologist – and get my own hearing tested while I’m at it.
Sandy at Specsavers Hearing Centre, Worcester, was able to talk me through the typical process of hearing loss. Hearing loss is typically the degradation of high-frequency sensitivity (that can be assisted with hearing devices), whereas bass response is less affected.
This explains why the older members of the audience found the mix very bass-heavy. Hearing aids are optimised for clarity of speech, but run out of puff if you ask them to fill in the full range of frequencies a band can create.
How about my hearing? Well the news is good – anything between 0 and 20 dB attenuation is considered normal hearing, and I have only small drop-off at 4kHz, typical of someone working in noisy environments. Sandy doesn’t think this would be significant enough to affect my mixing style, but I’ll be getting checks more regularly in the future.
I regularly wear ear-plugs while working, but if you haven’t got any yet, get your hearing checked by a professional and take their advice on the protection available.
There’s only one downside – it’s one less excuse for bad mixing.
Oh, and if the results are bad, you might have to start working the lights instead…
I first worked Winterwell in 2011, and was invited back to run main stage for 2012. I’ve written about this festival before, so it only remains to say that the fancy dress theme for this year was Wild West (A Town Called Winterwell) and the headline acts were Conershop (‘Brim full of Asha…’) and the Casiokids.
PA was KF730, desk were old-skool analogue MH2/3 and wedges were Microwedge 12/15s.
We also had to tow our vans out at 2am on Sunday morning using the team’s 4×4s.
A couple of years ago I was arranging all the stage lighting for Wychwood festival – this year I’m on the main stage running the monitor desk.
Wychwood festival (located at Cheltenham racecourse) had a distinct alternative/folk theme about it this year – and this means lots of performers on stage, and lots on monitor mixes. We’ve moved on a long way from three mixes across the front and a drum fill, and are now providing up to 11 stage mixes, side fills, wireless and wired in-ear-monitors and click tracks.
All this is controlled by a Yamaha M7CL – in fact I was running a brand new desk, along with some brand new EAW MicroWedge 15 monitors.
Several acts came with their own monitor engineers and show files, making it very easy to get complex mixes on-stage as quickly as possible. We also provided an PM5D for James, as the 16 outputs of the M7CL where not sufficient for their set-up.
Front to house was covered with an M7CL and a Soundcraft MH3. PA was 9x EAW KF740 per side with 6x EAW SB1002 subs per side. Power was provided by Lab Gruppen amps.
Main stage was Wango’s saddle-span roof – a big purple affair that managed to keep the rain and wind off us all weekend.
Last night Homebase held a charity dinner for key staff and suppliers, in aid of the Teenage Cancer Trust.
This was a relatively small affair with a simple set, a rear-projected 4:3 screen, 4 ways of radio mics and some lights on stands.
Christopher Biggins (of Celebrity Jungle fame) is an ambassador for the Teenage Cancer Trust, and was on site to host a charity auction, which he carried off with much aplomb – including selling 13 bog-standard plastic buckets for £100 a piece.
Lots of cash for a good cause.
The English Chamber Orchestra don’t normally need a sound engineer – especially when playing in a concert hall.
On the 4th Feb they travelled up the M40 from London to Warwick, and where hosted in Butterworth Hall at the Warwick Arts Centre, as part of their Concert Series 2011/12.
I was on hand to provide some sound reinforcement for a pre-show Q&A session with solo pianist Derek Han. The evening juxtaposed the work of Bach and Glass and the contrasts of this where discussed during the talk, with questions from the audience (who had braved the snow to attend).
The full program for the concert was:
Bach – Brandenburg Concerto No. 3
Glass – Company
Bach – Piano Concerto in G Minor, BWV1058
Glass – Symphony No. 3 (3rd movement)
Bach – Violin Concerto
Glass – Suite from The Hours
Jimmy Carr is a hard working man. This event is the fourth time I worked on his shows – in various roles as lighting engineer, sound engineer and stage hand.
This time round I was working the sound desk as he entertain the students (and locals) at Warwick Arts Centre.
Technically the show is pretty simple – a couple of lightings states, a screen and projector, and a couple of microphones. However, when the show is one bloke and one microphone, it’s important that that one microphone works.
Last week was spent in rural Norfolk at Walsingham, the Christian pilgrimage site. Two large events were running simultaneously – the Roman Catholics were running the New Dawn conference near the Shrine of Our Lady, while the Anglicans staged their Youth Pilgrimage a little closer to the village itself.
While I’ve been working at the Anglican site for a while now, this was the first time providing technical services for New Dawn as well. A weekend of travel, rigging and cabling got both sites ready for Monday morning, and then I was responsible for the sound and lighting at New Dawn for the duration of the event.
Myself and Tim (also working on sound) provided PA reinforcement for 1800 worshippers in a 100m x 30m tent with live bands, pre-recorded sections, daily mass and guest speakers to juggle.
With a single Soundcraft MH3 to mix from we rapidly filled the desk, providing 4 outputs to the PA, 6 monitor mixes, a hard-of hearing induction loop, a separate English feed for a Czech translator, foldback to induction loop for the translation system, record outputs and centre fills.
A simple lighting system was rigged and remained largely static for the duration of the event. A combination of ruched drapes and LED batten uplighters helped create a stately feel to a temporary tent.
PA: 4 stacks of KF730 with 2x SB730 and 4x KF730 per stack. Lab Gruppen amplification and UX880 processing.
Control: Soundcraft MH3 with BSS EQs, Yamaha and TC Electronics effects.
For the second year running I was working at 2000 Trees festival. This event won the ‘Grassroots Festival Award’ winner in 2010 and has expanded to include 4 live venues – ranging from a solar powered greenhouse to the main stage. Capacity has also gone up by a thousand or so.
I was working the main stage, with EAW KF740 PA and Soundcraft MH2/3 desks. Over two days of music myself and colleagues Ollie (on mics) and Pete (running FOH) pushed 18 bands on and off stage.
Highlights included Twin Atlantic, who brought a full in-ear system, and used no on-stage speakers at all, and Dan Le Sac Vs. Scroobius Pip working the crowd into frenzy.
|Dan Le Sac vs. Scroobius Pip
|The King Blues
||The Twilight Sad
|Jim Lockey & the Solemn Sun
||Danny & the Champions of the World
||Zun Zun Egui
||Chewing on Tinfoil
|We The Undersigned
||Ellen & the Escapades
A heatwave last Sunday was perfectly timed for a one day open-air festival at Warwick University. Three days of tailing in generators, running site power, rigging and sound engineering culminated in a stonking set by Feeder, followed buy the ever-popular Chase & Status.
We used a EAW KF 740 line array PA with 6x SB1002 a side. FOH desks by Yamaha (the ubiquitous M7CL), Digidesign (the SC24 venue) and DigiCo. A new DigiCo SD11 out on demo was used to sub-mix the FOH desk and support the DJs.
I was working a M7CL onstage with montors and in-ears a’plenty. Reconfiguring the outputs between bands was a full-time job, and my colleague onstage, Ollie, did a fine job of dealing with inputs while I sorted the outputs.
Feeder is one of those bands where you know a lot more of their material than you realise (or maybe that’s just me) – and they went down a storm.
Festival line up (headliners first):
Chase & Status
Fly By Night
The DigiCo SD11 is a small 19″ rack-mountable mixer that packs the punch of the larger DigiCo desks. Dominated by a large touchscreen, there’s lots of control available as well as powerful dynamics and FX processing.
This is my first introduction to a DigiCo desk, and it took a while to get used to the way of working. The trade-off between power/flexibility and instant user-friendliness is tilted towards the first – I’m not sure you’d want to dry-hire this desk to an untrained operator. There were several moments where I had to refer to the manual – but that may just be that I’m steeped in the procedures of other desks.
There’s no patchbay as such, and all patching is done on the channels themselves. Likewise, there’s a master screen that can be configured to suit the show. All this power is great if you have a chance (and time) to set the desk up to your liking – I’d need to be a lot more familiar with it before I could use it live on a festival stage.
Overall, the pedigree of this desk is obvious in it’s power and control. There’s reams of functions you just don’t see on other desks of this size, and there’s the define feel of a premium audio product for professional use about it.
Oh, and that big touchscreen means it looks spookily like a MagicQ. Beware of confused lighting engineers!