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Sound Advice

Practical Production Solutions

Here are six helpful tips to get you out of some of the most common situations.

— Say the direct feed from the guitar amp is horribly buzzy and noisy – it sounds like an earthing problem, but there’s no time to trace and fix it. And the precious VIP guitarist won’t allow any backline cabs to be miked up … So what do you do? One answer is to use a spare backline amp, fed with the guitar signal, placed under or beside the stage, and mike this one. A noise gate, properly set up, can also quieten the guitar buzzes between notes.

— A safety official (with crinkly yellow jacket and clipboard) has condemned the tall stack of out-front PA cabs as unsafe. Solution: ask the venue management where the rigging points are in the ceiling. Rigging straps or suitably rated ropes are then used to secure the stack to the rigging points.

— To avoid the clutter and visual obstruction caused by bulky floor monitors, one (high-budget) solution – as used by Pink Floyd, among others – is to use under-stage monitoring, with the monitor cabs pointing up from beneath open grids fitted flush into the stage floor.

— When the PA is flown, it’s possible that the front rows of the audience might miss out on some of the signal – the sound can travel over their heads and they only hear the monitors and backline. This can be overcome by using ‘groundfills’ – full-range PA cabs placed under or beside the stage.

— Miking an orchestra that’s seated underneath a flown PA can be a problem – strings are fairly quiet, so the mike level needs to be high, increasing the risk of picking up spill from the PA, and even feedback. If it’s not feasible either to move the players or re-position the PA away from them, one solution is to alternate the polarity of neighbouring players’ mikes, to reduce (partly cancel out) the ambient soundfield. Alternatively you could use lapel (tie-clip) omni mikes taped to the rear of the string instruments’ bridges, which helps reduce spill on individual mikes.

— When using a revolving stage (not common, but used in some big-name productions) it is normal to reverse the stage’s direction after every two acts, to avoid twisting the multicore cable/snake. Multicore lines have been lost in this way before – effectively by strangulation.

This article is reprinted with permission from The Live Sound Manual, published by Backbeat Books, www.backbeatbooks.com. All information is copyrighted and cannot be reprinted without the permission of the publisher.

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