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Sound Advice

Television Reverb by Rob Rettberg

May 18th, 2002

“When mixing for television I check all the reverb returns individually for phase. Some reverbs can go as far as 180 degrees out of phase. When a mix is then heard in mono through a television or through some stations’ stereo simulators, instruments can sound almost totally dry because of phase cancellation. Minor alterations of some basic reverb parameters such as delay time, decay or room size can change the phase and bring it closer to 90 degrees or less, which is the safest window for phase in television mixes. (Note: if you do not have a phase meter, always check in mono to see if the effect vanishes.”

Rob Rettberg – producer/composer (CTV, Global, CBS).

Sacrificing Quality for Performance by Robert DiGioia

May 18th, 2002

“When working with singers who are new to the studio, headphones will seem quite foreign to them. With a recent project I experimented with headphones and speakers to try and make the vocalist more comfortable. After some success with speakers, I knew we had not yet reached the full potential of the vocalist. Having done a live show with the band I knew he was capable of more. We took the speaker set-up one step further and set-up the band’s rehearsal P.A. system (two S4 cabinets). The entire mix was fed through the P.A. as it would be in rehearsal or in a club. I gave the vocalist his own hand-held microphone, so he was free to move around.

In a short afternoon we nailed down three vocals that we had spent weeks working on. By using a tight cardioid pattern microphone (such as an SM58), leakage was minimal.

You may sacrifice a bit of quality, but the performance will more than make up for it.”

Robert DiGioia – producer/engineer, Maestro Fresh-Wes, Chocolate Bunnies From Hell, The Box, Kim Mitchell.

Mixing Live by Andi Charal (Stavros)

May 18th, 2002

“Unlike in a recording studio, live sound has a much greater dynamic range compared to a standard recording. A record is processed during mastering so nothing overloads those delicate grooves. Then radio station limiters clamp down on the dynamics via a four-or five-way frequency band limiter. A dynamic range horror story.

Live sound is less processed. This is one of the main advantages of seeing a band live. When done properly, live sound is much more dynamic because you’re hearing all the peaks that are taken away in the record and radio process. That is the one aspect of live sound that has always kept it artistcally creative for me – using dynamics in a way to create a pleasing flow from one section of a song to another, like bringing down certain parts of the rhythm section in the first verse so nothing crowds that precious lead vocal when it is first heard. Then bring the rhythm section back up for the chorus. As well, your standard solos or tags are always featured with a boost in volume. Save something special for the bridge and the out chorus (like a special effect or vocal space).

Your ears get fatigued of hearing the same balances all night. Most engineers get a balance and leave it all night. Little strategic dynamic changes in parts of the mix can be interesting during a live concert for a band like Saga, as well as great big volume changes for David Lee Roth.

This is the area where you can get creative with dynamics during a show. Don’t let your board stagnate.”

Andi Charal (Stavros) – live sound engineer, Saga (1980-1984), David Lee Roth (1986-1987).

You Need Great Songs by Eddie Schwartz

May 18th, 2002

“The most important thing is the song. It’s better to spend six months making sure the songs are right and six hours recording them, than the other way around.”

Eddie Schwartz – songs composed include “All Out Tomorrows” – Joe Cocker; “All The Lovers In The World” – Gowan; “Hit Me With Your Best Shot” – Pat Benatar; producer of Gowan, Rita Cooledge, and The Doobie Brothers.

Equalizing Bass by Carl Harvey

May 18th, 2002

“One of the problems when working with bass, especially when mixing on large room monitors, is that it does not translate to smaller speakers very well. I have discovered over the years, working with rhythm and blues and reggae, that a good way to approach equalization for bass is to start by rolling all the bottom off (from 100Hz. and lower), then use low midrange E.Q. to find the bass sound as close as possible to what you would like to hear. Then slowly dial back in the low frequencies (to taste). You will find that you now have a full bass sound that will not get lost on smaller speakers. Most of the punch in the bass sound comes from the lower midrange.”

Carl Harvey – producer of Messenjah, Leroy Sibbles and Sway.

Achieving Consistent Live Sound by Bruce Drysdale

May 18th, 2002

“One way to solve extreme volume and equalization problems concerning P.A. systems is to disperse the volume in the building more evenly by trimming the volume on each amplifier for individual loudspeaker cabinets.

Each cabinet should have its components – horn, mid, bass – adjusted concerning volume, and aimed/positioned (possibly rigged from ceiling) to suit the audience in that specific direction. For example, if you have a stack of 3 cabinets, the lowest cabinet closest to the audience would be trimmed in volume, the next cabinet higher would be louder so that the audience further back could hear the sound equally like the closer cabinet volume effect on the closer audience, etc… One way to adjust this kind of set-up would be to walk around the arena while a CD or cassette is playing, adjusting the system accordingly.

Please keep in mind that the overall volume could change once the audience is in place. (one way to refine adjustments during the show is to ask the P.A. company assistant to walk around the building confirming earlier adjustments and to relay any changes that may be needed.)

The above process of trimming amplifiers for individual cabinets should be done in combination with mixing and adjusting the E.Q. on instruments. The goal that is achieved in this process is to make the sound consistent at the console (mix position) as it is in the rest of the room, and for the audience.”

Bruce Drysdale – Drysdale Production Services, live sound engineer for Anne Murray and Roberta Flack.

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