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Sound Advice

Don’t Shout Before You Speak by Jim Yakabuski

The lights go down. The dry ice creeps over the front of the stage. The crowd is frantic as a low rumble builds and builds until the ceiling tiles are falling out of the roof and people are ready to run from the building. Just as you think you can’t take it any more, the rumble builds to a deafening, throbbing crescendo and then is abruptly cut off by blinding light and a band on stage that sounds as if it is playing through a transistor radio.

Sound familiar? Hey, it has happened to me. The darned intro tape can kill you every time. And why is it that bands always want to use something that has 4 Hz in it to open the show? Go figure.

The problem that causes this discrepancy in level is usually SPL reference. During the afternoon when you soundchecked the band in an empty room the volume of the intro tape seemed quite substantial. But after an opening act and the roar of the audience as the house lights go off, you find yourself pushing the level of that intro tape higher and higher, leaving the band to come out sounding less than impressive.

You need to establish the maximum level that the intro “rumble” DAT can go before it upstages your band’s first song power level, and not be freaked out if it doesn’t sound loud enough as it’s rolling. It’s better to start out with the intro sounding a bit low and the band sounding a little loud than the other way around. I refuse to let all the frequency bands through when this type of tape is handed to me. If the bottom end of the band doesn’t usually live in the 30-40 Hz region for most of the show, then I’m going to high-pass my DAT intro tape to at least 40 or 50 Hz. You want the audience to remember the first note the band plays with an overwhelmed feeling, so let it be good and powerful. Don’t let a silly tape that was produced and mixed at Skywalker Ranch give your sub-bass speakers too much of a workout before the real deal comes on stage. Save the best for last and lighten up on intro overload.

This article is taken from Jim Yakabuski’s book entitled Professional Sound Reinforcement Techniques. The book is published by MixBooks, an imprint of artistpro.com.

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