Pre-Fade or Post-Fade, That is the Question!

Introduction

Recently, I was involved in a debate (more like a series of text messages) with someone over the proper monitor setting for the pastor’s microphone.  Thinking that there may have been some bit of information that I was missing, I sent out a message to some of my social network contacts that are also audio engineers.  It got passed on a few times and I got responses from people I know and people that I don’t know.  I ended up with a good, broad set of knowledgeable engineers.  Not only did I get their settings, they told me WHY they set it that way.

My results were quite interesting and a bit surprising.  It wasn’t the actual answer that surprised me (the results will come later), it was that everyone had an answer and no one said, “It depends.”  Yes, even though I have a setting that I use and feel its the right one, I believe that the correct answer is “it depends” because my setting now may not be the correct setting somewhere else with another pastor or speaker.

The reason I say that it depends, is that there are four factors that need to be taken into consideration:

  1. Your Room.
  2. Your Equipment.
  3. Your Operators.
  4. Your Pastor.

The Factors

1. Your Room.  This is the big factor in the use of any monitors.  If you have a room that is small and/or reverberates a lot, your use of monitors will be different that a larger room with acoustic dampening materials in use.  In an active room, the pastor/speaker may not need any monitor feed at all because they will probably get enough feedback from the mains.  If your room doesn’t allow this, you’re going to need to provide some feedback in the monitors.

2. Your Equipment.  Some systems that I have worked on in the past did not allow for different monitor/auxiliary send settings.  Many of the older systems were hard-wired at pre-fader and the only way to get post-fader was to utilized an effects channel.  Unfortunately, using such a method meant that ALL channels were either pre-fader or post-fader.  In this case, you had to pick one method for every channel. 

A church I used to work at had a Peavey 1621.  The auxiliary sends were pre-fader and there was no on/mute button for the channels.  If the pastor failed to hit his mute button on the belt pack, we had to turn down the volume on the receiver to keep him from coming through the monitors.  If you work with equipment such as this it will greatly affect what you can do.

3. Your Operators.  Yes, even your operators that run your systems have an effect on whether to use pre-fader or post-fader.  Every operator will have a slightly different level that they feel the pastor/speaker should be at.  The variance of those levels between the operators will determine what setting your use.  Also, be aware that other settings on the board that the individual operators use can effect the monitor level even if the house level is the same.  This can become a big issue with today’s digital boards and church’s having different styles of worship services all within the same weekend.

4. Your Pastor.  This is probably the biggest factor that will determine what setting you will use.  You may get a rare circumstance in which the pastor/speaker doesn’t want to hear themselves through the monitors, but don’t count on this.  Usually they will want to hear something, the only determination is how attuned they are to it and any changes that occur.  If you have a pastor that is very particular about his monitor level, you’re best to set it to pre-fader to keep his level constant no matter what the house level is set to.

As you can see, there are a lot of factors that will go into your decision.  Many operators have a setting that they use and will probably always use that setting, regardless of any other extenuating circumstances. Unfortunately, that isn’t the way it should be.  There have been times in the past that I have set the pastor/speaker to pre-fader and some times that I have set it to post-fader.  If you asked me what you should set it to, I would say “It depends.”

Query Results

The results from my query came back 60% to 40% in favor of a pre-fader setting.  That really didn’t surprise me.  I wasn’t expecting everyone to be using the same setting.  I was expecting that a pre-fader setting would be preferred based on my past experience and conversations I’ve had with other audio engineers. 

Those that responded pre-fader stated they did it for the same reason as other vocal microphones: so that the monitor level remained constant regardless of any house level changes.  Those that responded post-fader stated that they did it to prevent the pastor/speaker from coming through the monitors when he/she went off-stage.  That surprised me because every one of them that stated that have newer consoles that have an on/mute button, which is designed to prevent such an occurrence.

My Settings

Most of my past setups have had the pastor/speaker on a post fader setup.  This was mostly due to the equipment that was being used.  The rooms were small and the pastors weren’t too concerned about the monitor level, so this type of setup worked out just fine.

Now I am working in a whole different set of circumstances.  I have a very “dry” room that doesn’t allow the pastor to hear himself through the house system, so the monitors are his only source of vocal feedback.  We also have three different audio engineers that all use different board settings on two different types of services.  The pastor’s microphone and monitor channels are on recall safe, so any changes are propagated across all scenes.  Since the pastor relies heavily on his monitor level, the only way to make sure he gets what he wants and needs is to use a pre-fade setting.

Conclusion

Whenever you are setting up for a pastor or speaker, take all of the factors into consideration.  Make sure you know how those factors affect what is required by the pastor/speaker.  Make sure you understand how your system works and work with your crew to ensure that your pastor/speaker has the proper levels that he wants and needs. 

Be open to input from your crew and remember that you are always learning!  Avoid getting into the mindset that “I do it this way because that’s what I’ve always done.”  As time, equipment and room conditions change, your methods will need to change with it.  Know your equipment and utilize its features to provide the best possible audio levels for not only those in the seats, but for those on the stage as well.

Feedback Control and Room Tuning Video

The following was originally posted in the Church Soundguy blog:

Some time ago, I posted an article on how to ring out a sound system: how to use your ears and an equalizer to minimize feedback and maximize system gain. If you’re not using an automated EQ, then this is one of the most important things you can learn.

This video explains the process, and shows how to use a spectrum analyzer in the process. If you set up portable systems, you probably need this video. The information is from Bill Gibson’s book, The Ultimate Church Sound Operator’s Handbook.

Mr. Soundman

Mr. Soundman

Lyrics by: Pat Donohue

Sung to the tune of: Mr. Sandman

Lyrics:

Mr. Soundman, Turn up the sound
So they can hear me for miles around
Use all the volume that you can manage,
I wanna do a little hearing damage.
Mr. Soundman, you know what I need
Keep on a-crankin’ till their eardrums bleed.
I’m gonna terrorize this crowd,
Mr. Soundman turn me up loud.

Mr. Soundman, I’d like there to be
Lots less of everyone and lots more of me.
If you could take me up a little higher
To just before you blow your amplifier.
Mr. Soundman, cause me some pain
I don’t need earplugs or novacaine
I ain’t too good, but I ain’t proud.
Mr. Soundman, turn me up loud.

Mr. Soundman, what did you say?
I must have blacked out. I think I’m okay.
You really got me with that high pitched squealin’
I can’t hear nothin’ but I like the feelin’.
Mr. Soundman, you got it right
My ears are ringin’ for the rest of the night
It’s always up and never down
Mr. Soundman turn up…
I wanna crash and burn up…
Mr. Soundman, turn up the sound!

Song History / Background:

Pat Donohue is guitarist for the Guys All-Star Shoe Band of Minnesota Public Radio’s A Prairie Home Companion (prairiehome.org). You can also visit his website at (patdonohue.com).

EQ’ing Monitors

By Schoon Published: June 3, 2009

Now we’ve all been there… Ringing out monitors and you can’t quite get hold of a frequency that is feeding back, or when you do, the monitor just sounds dull and dead….

Here are a few quick tips to help you out…

To Start

  • Two people makes things EASY
    • One person on the mic/wedge and one at the console/EQ makes the whole process go much faster.
  • Graphic Equalizers are a must. Or in Digital World, a 5+ Band Parametric EQ
  • Make any corrections to the tone of the Microphone on the channel, the rest on the Graphic EQ
    • Example: High Pass Filters, The Annoying 200-250 Hz “Woof” of a SM58 or the 400-500 Hz Bump on a Sennheiser Vocal Mic
  • Bring up the Vocal Slowly, to Avoid Hurting Your Ears. No one Likes the Sound of Feedback

Prepare for the Evening

  • Working with one artist you know always remember
    • EQ to their Mic Handling, and their Taste (IE, liking it Crispy or with a little Extra “oomph” in the low mids)
  • Working with multiple Arists, IE a House Gig
    • Prepare for the Genre (Singer Songwriters are quiet, Rock Acts are Loud and Cup the Mic, Ect)
  • Always attempt to Emulate what the artist will be doing (IE Cupping the Mic when ringing if thats most likely, take off your hat/glasses if the artist doesn’t wear them)

Ringing Out

  • Get to know your Frequencies (download test tones to practice, get your 1k 2k whistle down)
  • Don’t cut too much (start with 3dB cuts, and cut more as needed to avoid dull-ness)
  • Always remember, feedback can be between Frequencies
    • Try cutting a little of two frequencies next to eachother, rather than gouging one frequency
  • Know your Limits
    • When you’ve made some decent cuts, and the Volume gets to 11, you’ll have 3-5 different frequencies take off at once. That’s the point of no return. You COULD cut these frequencies and continue, but at the cost any clarity in the wedge.
  • Most Importantly, 90% of the time the rule is…
    • QUALITY OVER QUANTITY
    • A performer will be able to hear a wedge much better over their band/amp if the high mid range (1k-6.3k) is fairly present. You can add all the volume in the world if these are lacking, the monitors still won’t cut through.

Final Touches

  • Get your Vocal Stable (No Feedback) at a max volume, then bring back the send some to give you some headroom if the artist needs more (some artists ask for more vocals my default, no matter how loud it is)
  • Always use a Cue wedge without an EQ on it to listen to your Lead vocal during the show. It’ll allow you to hear feedback that is about to go off before the artist, hopefully letting you solve the problem before it manifests.

Producer/Engineers Talk Vocal Treatment

By Janice Brown

From the Pro Sound News June ’07 issue: While microphones and mic pres may be the most influential tools on a lead vocal sound, today’s engineers also rely on processing plug-ins to help in the basic editing, tuning and shaping of the recorded vocal. Pro Sound News recently spoke with some producer/engineers about the software tools they employ in vocal processing.

Mark Kondracki of New York City’s Outloud Audio (Jenny Bruce, Stretcher) has a recent project that illustrates his vocal treatment: “I recently completed a short EP of standards featuring the incomparable Lucy Woodward on vocals. First, I comp’d the best parts of the vocal performance to create the final main vocal I wanted to work with. Lucy has an amazing voice, and her pitch is almost perfect. I needed only a few cents of adjustment here and there. Since these were standards with a small backing group, the focus was on the vocal, so I wanted it perfect. I found that Waves Tune, when used for subtle adjustment, is nearly transparent, and I love the interface and the ease of use. For more extreme processing, I use Melodyne–as it imparts fewer artifacts–but Waves Tune really got it right with the interface and real-time correction and is perfect for minor tune-ups.

“I prefer to compress first then EQ–especially with the vocal sound I was going for with Lucy. For compression on this particular track, I used the Waves Renaissance compressor for a touch of compression with a moderate attack at 2:1 compression (maybe touching 1-2 dB of compression) making her voice come forward ever so slightly and enhancing her breath and mouth noises to give it a more intimate experience. Typically, I use either Sony Oxford or Waves Renaissance EQs. For this vocal track (cut with a Neumann U67 into an API 312), I used the Renaissance EQ to provide a high-pass filter at 80 Hz to get rid of any low end that I didn’t want in the vocal track, then I cut maybe 1-2 dB in a wide Q at 250 Hz where there was a touch too much of thickness in the voice (augmented by the API). I boosted a touch in the 2-3k range and then gave it some air with a shelf at 16k. Every voice is different, but these settings are good starting points for me. The final and most important step is the vocal fader rides–even 1 or .5 dB here and there can really add to an already compelling performance.”

Otto D’Angelo (Soulfly, DMX, Waylon Jennings) recently finished two projects requiring drastically different levels of vocal processing. On the one hand, he recorded and mixed the band, Vanity Tweak, featuring a 17-year-old female singing heavy pop metal, and on the other, an “ego project” for a self-made millionaire who has never sung, performed or played an instrument. To the latter, D’Angelo offers, “As a facility owner and producer/engineer, you get all kinds of invitations to work on all kinds of strange projects. This one is no exception–I had to use every tool in the box!”

Here’s how he recorded and processed the totally inexperienced vocalist: “First, I recorded him with an analog 1176 at 8:1 into my Pro Tools HD system. Then, I had to time-stretch each word to fit using plug-ins in Pro Tools. In the cases where Antares Auto-Tune was needed beyond its capacity, I found that Speed by Wave Mechanics could execute the necessary course adjustments with less degradation of the audio file, leaving me with a close approximation that I could then fine-tune with Auto-Tune.”

By contrast, D’Angelo only used slight compression on Vanity Tweak. “With a great singer like Vanity singing over a very dense bed of metal guitars and psychotic drums, I used an LA2A on the way in and then used an interesting combination of three compressors on the way out. First, I used a Focusrite peak limiter followed by Bomb Factory’s BF76 plug-in to moderately level the dynamics. Finally, I used the [Digidesign] Maxim compressor to squeeze her into the picture without ever losing any breath or nuance.”

Mike Major (Sparta, At the Drive-In, Leaf; www.mikemajorproductions.com) shares a general recipe: “When I mix, I set up a group for my vocals to apply a general treatment to the whole vocal package. I use a Digital Fish Phones Blockfish as the first fast comp usually in VCA mode, a UAD LA-2A after that to provide general gain reduction. I then use a UAD Cambridge EQ or a UAD Pultec Pro for general tone shaping, the Pultec if I need more thickness, and then the Digital Fish Phones Spitfish as my de-esser. Once that is set then I only apply channel processing to the stuff that needs help. I like the Nuendo Magneto plug-in to warm up a vocal. Otherwise, I use UAD 1176s, LA-2As or the EX-1 plug-ins to fix the troublesome inputs. I also like the Nuendo dynamics plug-in for a pretty transparent compressor. The Nuendo EQ works well also.”

Blumpy (Filter, Fuel, Vertical Horizon) uses a blend of analog and digital tools: “I track with very soft compression to keep the level uniform. I love my Crane Song Trakkers–I can get just about anything I want out of them. They are the most universal compressor/limiter I’ve ever used. I also like the FMR RNCs (Really Nice Compressor). After it’s recorded, I’ll turn to the Waves Vocal Bundle for processing. The Waves Doubler plug-in works in a pinch. I love using the Doubler on a recorded double.

“Waves RVox is a godsend; it gets the sound to that 90 percent mark. I’d have to chain several compressors together with a de-esser otherwise. That said, I still use additional de-essers and minimal EQ’ing when necessary. Also, Waves Doubler can help make a wider vocal without sounding too ‘effected’ in a dense mix. I also try not to tune vocals. If there is a word here or there, I don’t tweak it beyond the 15 percent mark (using the Waves bundle). Over-tuning blends the vocal too much into the track. It can turn the vocal into a tone instead of a performance. Backgrounds and doubles can be a different story. When adding another’s voice, it’s for the timbre making sure the phrasing and tonality match the lead vocal’s performance is essential. Syncrho Arts VocAlign is also a great tool for doubles and harmonies that need their phrasing to match another track.

Doug McBride (Rachael Yamagata, Augustana, The Walkmen; www.gravitystudios.com) shares: “Once I’ve captured a good number of good performances I’ll make a composite track of the best lines as well as a ‘Mult Comp’ of the second best lines. These I use to fill out the sound on choruses or lines that need to be fuller-sounding. Once the Comp tracks are done, if necessary I’ll use Auto-Tune in the Graphical mode to tune a few words or lines that may sound awkward. I never use ‘Auto’ mode, and never keep an Auto-Tuned word or line where the Auto-Tuning process is audible.

I’ll listen to the comp tracks and find any breaths that lead up to lines that I might want to keep–you have to be careful to make sure they’re musical. I usually pull the bass and drum tracks together before seating the vocal. At that point, I’ll see if any corrective EQ, de-essing or multi-band compression is needed. Often I’ll use the McDSP M3000 multi-band comp to tame the 2-6k region, and if the proximity effect is too strong, I may use this plug to pull down some lows as well.”

Are Your Drums Too Loud?

The following was originally published at Church Soundguy on April 10, 2008.


Controlling Drums in Church

By David McLain

Any time a band has some of its sound coming through the main PA system (usually vocals and electronic instruments) and some of the sound coming from the stage acoustically (most notably the drums) you have problems. The drummer must play loud enough to keep up with the sound system, which he cannot hear. However, playing loudly enough for the back row of listeners means that the drums are often too loud for the first several rows. It’s even louder on stage, which requires the rest of the band to play louder and turn up the stage monitors.

The result is a stage volume that is overwhelming – too loud for the room, and often louder than the main sound system in the room, and still unclear. People get frustrated and irritable, and some leave to find another church where they can understand the music.

A major part of the solution for this problem is to control the sound of the on-stage instruments, beginning with the drums. There are three steps in controlling drums in church:

  1. Contain the acoustic energy from the drums,
  2. Absorb the acoustic energy from the drums, and
  3. Reinforce the sound that you want from the drums

Containing the acoustic energy from the drums is the easiest part. The sound of the drums travels from the drum head to the ears of the people hearing it. The strongest part of that sound is generally direct line-of-sight.Many churches have installed plexiglass drum shields around the drums for this purpose. It’s cost-effective and it’s a reasonably effective starting point. The plexiglass reflects most sound, preventing the direct line-of-sight sound from reaching the people in the congregation.

This solves one problem and introduces a couple of new ones.

Plexiglass does not absorb sound; virtually all of the sound created by the drums is reflected; that means that the sound is still in the room, it’s just not traveling to the listeners in a direct route. The drummer often feels more confident now that he’s behind the plexiglass, and often times he plays harder, creating even more sound than before. Now that sound is bouncing around the room as reflected sound.

Reflected sound is, by definition, noise: it has the same amount of energy as direct sound, but because it is reflected, it has become “incoherent.” Now instead of hearing the clear “slap” of the snare from a single source, we hear reflections of that slap from various reflective surfaces around the room. The clarity is decreased, but the energy of the snare is still there, rattling around the room, muddying up the rest of the sound.

The second problem with a plexiglass drum cage is that the first reflection of the sound is concentrated back at the drummer’s ears. The potential for hearing damage is greatly increased. That’s one reason some drummers want to play loudly – they can’t hear the sound as well as they used to, so they feel the need to play louder.

The result of plexiglass by itself is that the total energy of sound is not decreased. Instead, it’s just bouncing around the room, making the rest of the sound muddy, and damaging the drummer’s hearing.

After we block the direct sound of the drums with a plexiglass drum shield, the next step is to absorb a good portion of the sound, to keep it from filling the room with incoherent echoes. This is generally accomplished with sound-absorptive foam.

Generally, the foam is installed in three locations: on the wall behind the drummer, on the plexiglass itself, and as sound-absorptive “lid” over the top of the drummer.

How much absorption to install is governed by several factors, some practical and some aesthetic. Since the drummer needs to be able to see the rest of the band, it’s best to not block all of the plexiglass. Rather, install foam along the bottom and sides of the plexiglass. Generally, the foam is not installed above the height of the drumheads themselves, and often only to the top of the kick drum. On the sides, install the foam higher, particularly on the side with the snare and hihat, as these are the greatest sources of sound.

Install a greater amount of sound absorption on the wall behind the drummer. In fact, complete coverage of this wall is often appropriate, up to the height of the plexiglass drum shield. Since the sound from the drums is omnidirectional it will either strike the wall first or it will reflect off of the plexiglass and then strike the wall. Absorption on the wall behind the drummer will be a big help in keeping the reflections around the room under control.

Some of the sound from the drums, of course, goes straight up, where it will bounce off of the ceiling before eventually making its way to peoples’ ears. If you have done an effective job of absorbing the sound inside the drum cage this reduced amount of reflected sound may be acceptable, or even desirable. It may still be too much sound, especially in a low-ceilinged room, or with a large drum kit, or with a particularly physical drummer. In this case, it may be necessary to add a sound absorptive ceiling over the top of the drum kit.

All this absorption sounds expensive, but it is possible to cover all three sections – on the plexiglass, the wall behind the drummer, and the lid – for about the cost of the plexiglass drum shield itself.

To this point, we have been reducing the overall volume of the drums. The stage volume is under control, so the musicians can hear themselves, and the sound from the stage doesn’t overwhelm the main speakers. The front several rows of the congregation are no longer being overwhelmed by sound. But now the back part of the sanctuary isn’t being reached.

The third step of controlling the drum sound is to put the drums into the sound system. At the very least, you’ll need to mic the kick drum, the snare drum, and the hihat. With careful placement, a single mic can pick up both the snare and the hihat, for a two-mic minimum.

As far as mic selection goes, my preference is to use a large diaphragm mic on the kick drum – either a dynamic mic like the Shure Beta 52 or the Sennheiser E602II, or a large condenser mic like the CAD E100. Dynamic mics tend to capture the “boom” of a kick drum well, and condensers can capture the “snap” of the sound. Audio Technica makes a mic (AE2500) that has both a condenser capsule and a dynamic capsule in it. Be sure that the mic can handle the high sound pressure levels of a kick drum closely miked.

Your first choice for a snare mic is a simple dynamic microphone, with the ubiquitous Shure SM57 being the most popular. It’ll take a number of accidental whacks from overly-enthusiastic drumsticks and keep working well. Dynamic mics can also be used on the toms, but there are several very nice tiny condenser mics that have become popular, like the AKG C418 or the Audio Technica PRO 35. Sennheiser makes a small dynamic mic for this purpose, the E604. These small, specialized mics generally come with their own mic clips which attach directly to the drum itself, reducing the number of stands and cables sticking out of the drum kit, and allowing the plexiglass drum shield to be brought in nice and tight.

In a large room, you’ll want to add a pair of overhead mics, to capture the overhead cymbals and the overall ambience of the drum kit. Small condenser mics like the entry level AT Pro37R or the higher priced Sennheiser E914 are common choices. Recently, the trend has been moving towards large-diaphragm mics overhead, including the inexpensive CAD GXL2200 or the versatile AKG C3000B. Be sure to experiment with mic placement, listening closely to the sound of each mic, t
o determine best placement on your drum kit.

If you have the room, I prefer using a compressor on both the kick drum and the snare, and an ideal world would call for gates on the toms, the snare and the hihat, to tighten up the sound, but most churches will stop before that point.

The main goal is to prevent the acoustic sound of the drums from either overpowering the rest of the band, or reverberating around the room, by bringing the drums into the sound system with the rest of the band. You’ll be surprised how much cleaner your band sounds, and how much easier it is to keep the volume under control.

David McLain is a church sound system consultant with CCI Solutions in Olympia, WA. He has been working with church sound systems since 1978 and with portable churches since 1988. You may reach David at churchsoundguy@gmail.com

12 Step Program for Sound Technicians in Churches

The following was orignally published at Guitarists Praise and Worship on April 17, 2009.


Over the years I have gotten quite a lot of mail, calls and letters from frustrated church musicians. Browsing any church related forum you will clearly see musicians hit the net to vent their frustration when it comes to the sound people. Either it is too bright, too dull, too loud, too quiet or just a huge ole mess all together.

I have designed a 12 step program that might be able to help some of you sort out these matters before you all are absorbed by holy wrath.

Step 1 Know Sound.

A lot of churches are not blessed with people who actually knows what good live sound is. Actually, often they don’t know what bad sound is either. While most musicians listen to music and try to mimic sounds or styles, a lot of sound technicians don’t seem to pay any attention to sound quality at all. Many sound techs are more volume controllers than anything else.

I usually put together a CD with examples of good live sound and bad live sound. I then bring this to the venue and set up a date with the techs going over the different examples explaining what makes them good or bad. Usually I hand out a copy for each tech with notes. You would be surprised how many techs who never thought about clarity in a mix.

Step 2 Know Instruments

To be able to dial in a decent live sound, the sound technicians need to know the instruments, including the characteristics and diversities of the human voice. At this stage I usually bring in frequency charts as well as suggested EQ-settings as a starting point.

With the help from the band, we do instrument by instrument. Listening closely to each instrument finding what frequencies that makes a guitar sound like a guitar and so on, we build familiarity for the technicians. This will help them fix issues in the mix at a later stage.

Step 3 Know gear

For a lot of church sound techs, they have gotten the job because no one else wanted it. In other cases they are good at operating other technical gadgets without really having a clue about sound systems. I usually go over the in-house system and make a simple diagram over the parts and the functions.

In a lot of cases the problem is that the techs don’t really have a clue about what is on a mixer and why it is there. At this stage I usually go over the functions on the mixer and how it can be used. At a minimum you need to explain EQ-settings, AUX, FX and mute. There are a lot of good books on live sound out there, and if you lack the knowledge on how to get there yourself, I am sure the band would be more than happy to contribute with a couple of $’s each to get one for the sound guy or gal.

Step 4 Know the music

Ok so let us say that you are on your way here. The sound tech has understood the concept of good live sound, the difference in instruments and frequencies and has a basic understanding of the gear. The next step is to get the tech to know the songs.

A very helpful tool here is making up a sheet with each song on it. Write in who is doing lead and backing, what instruments are on, if there are any solos and so on. I usually make these sheets very, very clear by using different fonts or colors for each musician/ singer. This way the tech will know what happens and when it happens.

Step 5 Know each other

One of the main problems I see in a lot of churches is that a sound tech more often is that annoying dude who messes up the sound, rather than a friend. I think it is crucial for any band to build a strong relationship with their sound tech. The tech can enhance or destroy what you are doing and should be viewed as a part of the band.

As any musician needs to practice, a sound tech needs to practice as well. Of course you can practice at home by yourself as a musician so you know your part when you are meeting up with the band, that is however not that easy for a sound tech unless her or she has a multi track recording to practice mixing with.

If the band rehearses anywhere with a PA-system, the sound techs should be included at every chance possible to hone their skills. I used to attend a church in Stockholm years ago. The band and the techs hung out, set up and rigged down together. It was great as friendship allows you to be more direct and speak your mind, rather than calling a meeting to sort out differences of opinions.

Step 6 Know the room

Some people might be surprised that I put knowing the room as far down the list as Step 6. However there is a reason for that. Without knowing sound, gear, instruments, the music and the band, knowing the room would be pretty useless to church technicians.

If you have gotten this far, I believe that your sound tech should have some point of interest in making everything sound as good as possible. Why, because he or she is a part of a team doing an important job in the church. Knowing the room will now become pretty essential to make everything smooth and clear all over the room.

With the band playing or with a CD for that matter, I take a tour of the empty room with the tech to listen. I repeat this when the room is filling up and when it is full. People will alter the sound. With basic knowledge of main EQ, most of this can be fixed. It is also a good pointer for all over sound levels.

Step 7 Communicate

Communication is the key to any cooperation. However to communicate, people need to speak the same language. Sometimes it can be necessary to educate each other on what we actually mean by expressions that make perfectly sense to us, but appears meaningless to others.

A little more bass, less boxy, a bit more air in the mix, I lack some definition, a tad more kick in the monitor, are all things that could be easily misunderstood and overdone or even underdone. We need to learn how to be specific and explain what we need in ways the techs actually understand.

The more we communicate the easier it is to understand that the bass player might mean a lot when he says a little, while the acoustic guitarist means a little when she says a little. We all have different scales so let’s sort those things out.

Step 8 Record, record and record.

I am a firm believer of recording live mixes of several reasons. First of all it provides a good tool for the musicians to improve their playing, secondly it can give really good hints on needed changes in the orchestration and thirdly, it will be a tool to improve the quality of the live sound.

By having the mix “documented” you can go back and go over the good and the bad with the tech. By using heir sheets from Step 4 they can make notes on what works and what doesn’t work. I do not care if it is recorded to an old cassette deck or an mp3 player, as long as it is recorded. As the musicians need to evaluate their playing, the sound tech needs to evaluate his or her job.

Step 9 Keeping it interesting

I come from a family who has been into music and sound for decades. I wanted to be good at it because it gave me something. Someone managed to keep it interesting. I had my first sound tech job at 12 years old. It was a pretty much straight forward gig, 2 ole ladies with acoustic guitars and one preacher. I had been a volume controller for the pulpit mic for a while under my father’s supervision. Now I got to manage 5 channels as well as the mains.

The thing here is to let people grow with the task, setting realistic goals, keeping it interesting to learn more and handle more. Too much too quick will most of the time discourage people, while too little too slow, will most often bore p
eople to ignorance.

I have been to numerous churches and with very few exceptions I have heard people complain over sound. Funny enough I have never heard someone in a congregation say “Hey let’s send our tech on a weekend sound seminar”. Keeping it interesting is also about actually equipping people to become excellent.

Step 10 Gear up

Everyone loves unwrapping new stuff. A zillion kids can’t be wrong at Christmas. I have gone in and out of churches that get new chairs, new lighting, new décor, new coffee machines and what not, but still run the same ole PA-system year after year after year.

If you manage to get someone to take sound seriously, I think everyone will benefit from the occasional bone throwing. It doesn’t have to be the huge investments, but maybe a decent headset, a new chair for the tech or even a new mic every now and then. Making people feel that what they do is important often starts with small gestures.

What actually works like a charm is to have the tech explore different solutions on the bands needs. I watched one of the most hopeless cases I ever seen turn into quite a decent tech after he was given the possibility to impact decisions on what gear to get. Suddenly he found a trigger to learn more.

Step 11 Recruiting new talents

You might be going wooot, while scratching your head now. If we finally are having a sound tech who actually does a decent job, why go out and bring in someone else?. There are mainly two reasons for this.

First of all teaching someone something often lifts your level of knowledge as well, as you are forced to think about why and how from a new perspective. Secondly, your sound tech could get sick, move away or move on to another church, and you would be left with having to start all over. If you let the sound tech train an assistant, that job will be less stressful on the band.

Step 12 Acknowledge efforts

When I started out as a kid doing those kinds of 2 ole ladies with acoustic guitars and a preacher gigs, I was pretty fast getting credits for my efforts no matter how “easy” the gigs might have been. I felt welcomed and included. I am not saying that I did not get straightened out from time to time, but that always happened in private, while acknowledging happened in public.

The reverend was introduced, the singer, choir or band that was performing was introduced and the sound guy was introduced. That made me really want to do my best not only for the people on the platform or the ones sitting in the pews, but I wanted to do my best for God.

I probably messed up more times than I remember, but I got better, and so will people who are allowed to make mistakes but still receives acknowledgement for their efforts. You would be amazed how little cred most sound techs get at all. If the pastor or the band doesn’t do it either from the platform or after, the chance that the congregation does it, is slim to zero.

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You might find this all to be interesting but a lot of work. Maybe you find this to be utter rubbish. I don’t know. What I do know is that patience, a will to share knowledge, an inclusive friendship and acknowledgement probably will get you a lot further than criticism, ignorance and hostility.

I see the frustration from both sides. I have been on both sides and I still am. I am not saying churches should treat sound techs like superior beings, but they should not be treated like necessary evil either. It is often very easy to praise those on a platform and forget about the ones who clean the church, the ones who prepares the meals, the ones who decorates and yes, the ones who manages the sound system.

Yamaha Software Upgrade: M7CL-v2

From the most recent issue of FOH magazine:

Yamaha Commercial Audio Systems, Inc. has announced M7CL-v2, a software upgrade for its M7CL-32 and 48-channel digital mixing consoles. New features include Global Paste, enabling simultaneous editing of multiple scenes, and Matrix Sends on Fader, providing access to 24 mix busses, Post-Fader Inserts on all inputs and outputs, Post-Fader Direct Outs, Monitor/Cue Level on stereo/mono faders, improved Recall Safe mode and Relative Level Channel Link and User Defined Key Setup on the console’s offline editing software. The M7CLv2 software update will be available by download free of charge during the summer for all existing M7CL users, and new console purchasers will receive the software pre-installed at no additional charge, the company said.

For more information, please visit www.yamahaca.com.