Showing posts with label venues. Show all posts
Showing posts with label venues. Show all posts

Thursday

A Beginner’s Guide to Stage Sound – Part 1: The Equipment


The first article by our resident sound man-
Tim Burris: Lead singer of the local supergroup 'FailTrain'

Introduction


So your band has been working hard to build enough material to get out gigging. You’ve finally polished off a nice set list and booked a gig at the local bar. But the bar doesn’t have a PA or sound man, so you’ve got to acquire, set up, and configure your own PA. This is an opportunity to make or break your band’s reputation since all the practice in the world won’t improve the sound of feedback or a bad mix. Great bands have stumbled due to the lack of a quality sound system or trained sound man.
PA equipment can be a relatively simple set-up or a logistical nightmare. So to keep it simple, I am going to highlight 2 basic set-ups: An all-in-one PA and a traditional mixing board and Amplifier modular PA system. We will touch on 'powered' (also known as 'active') speakers in another article.
when you see speakers referenced in this article, we are referring to 'passive' speakers.
An all-in-one system will have your mixer, equalizer, effects, and amplifier in one convenient, easy to use, piece of hardware. You simply plug your microphones into the inputs, plug your speakers into the outputs, and voila, you’ve got sound. Well, it’s not exactly that easy, but that’s the general idea. A modular PA will require a lot more individual equipment, but it allows for versatility, flexibility, and growth.

Microphones


Before you get started you have to get all of your hardware. Let’s start with inputs. You will need vocal microphones, instrument microphones, and in some cases drum microphones (which we won’t discuss here). Not just any microphone makes a good vocal microphone.
For vocal microphones, you should start by finding a microphone that is “Dynamic”, and “Cardioid.” Dynamic refers to the fact that the microphone doesn’t require any external power and that the microphone responds well to varying volumes. Cardioid is another word for unidirectional which means that it will pick up sound that is directed primarily at the front of the microphone. This is an important thing to note when we get to talking about feedback. (A couple quality vocal microphones include the Shure SM-58 and EV N/D267A.)
Instrument microphones should be dynamic and either Super-cardioid or Ultra-cardioid. This will help prevent the microphone from boosting any other sounds from the stage. How often are your guitar cabinets within just a few feet of the drums? A good instrument mic will prevent sound from bleeding over, and give the sound man good control of what is being amplified. (A quality instrument microphone is the Shure SM-57 or the Sennheiser e609)

Microphone Cables

Microphones will need cables to plug into the mixer. Here, you should get low impedance XLR microphone cables with quality connectors. I cannot stress the importance of quality connectors enough. Many great musicians have had headaches during their sound checks due to bad cable connectors. A good rule of thumb is “You get what you pay for.” Another good rule of thumb - If the XLR connector doesn’t say ‘Neutrik’ on it, don’t’ buy it. (Yes, I’m biased)

Mixer Inputs

Next, the microphones will plug into a mixer. Each microphone will be designated a channel. It is important to note, at the mixer, which microphone belongs to which channel. I like to group my vocals next to each other (1-4), and then instruments (5-6), and then drums (7-12), labeling each on a piece of masking tape. These labels will greatly assist the sound tech while they are making adjustments during your performance.

Mixer Outputs (All-In-One Mixer/Amplifier)

All-in-one mixers include everything you need in one box. They are portable, easy to set-up, and generally less expensive than traditional modular set-ups. If your mixer is an all-in-one unit, then you simply need to connect your mixer/amplifier outputs to your speakers. In this case, you will have two groups of outputs: Mains and Monitors. For simplicity sake, we will have a “Mono” output and daisy-chain our mains and daisy-chain our monitors. When considering what kind of cable to use, consider both the output type of the Mixer/amplifier and the input type of the speaker. Some use 1/4 inch connectors, while newer models are using locking “Speakon” connectors. Make sure your cables are long enough to allow you to position your mixer in a safe, comfortable position while allowing for flexibility in positioning your main speaker and monitors.
Speakers should always be inspected to make sure that they are compatible with the impedance (4 Ohm or 8 Ohm) and output power (x Watts) of the amplifier. Incompatible hardware could result in damage to your speakers or amplifier.
*Please note that connectors should never be connected or disconnected while there is power running to the PA.

Traditional Modular Mixer Amplifier Set-ups

Modular set-ups require a lot more equipment than all-in-one units, but allow for greater flexibility and growth. To get a good sound quality, reduce feedback, and protect your equipment, the following hardware will be needed: Mixer, Effects Processor, 2 channel equalizer for mains and monitors, Crossover, Amplifier for mains, subs and Monitors.



Effects Processor

The mixer will send an auxillary signal to the effects processor. This is usually sent over a ¼ inch cable. The effects processor can modify the sound by adding chorus or reverb effects, then send them back to the mixer. Most mixers let you manipulate which channels get sent to the aux and which bypass it. So you may want effects on your vocal channels, but not your instruments.

Equalizer

The equalizer lets you help dial in your sound, and also eliminate any frequencies that are feeding back. Configuring the equalizer is a time consuming process that will require a lot of experimentation, but the benefits are well worth it. The mixer’s outbound signal will go to the equalizer. The equalizer will then send the modified signal to the crossover to be split.

Crossover

The crossover will separate your signal into High frequencies and Low frequencies. This is primarily used to send the low frequencies to their own subwoofers, while sending the high frequencies to speakers and horns. By separating the signals, you take a lot of strain off of your speakers and gain greater control over how each element of your sound is presented. If you don’t plan on using a subwoofer, a crossover is not necessary, but bear in mind that your mains will have to process a lot of sound. The crossover generally receives the signal from the equalizer and passes it to the amplifiers.

Amplifiers

The amplifiers will boost the “cold” signal into a powerful, amplified signal ready to go to the speakers. This is one of the most dangerous elements of the set-up, as misconfigured or mis-wired amplifiers can result in permanent damage to your equipment. Make sure your output impedance and wattage match what your speakers are capable of handling.

Speakers - Mains (FOH)

The most important speakers in your set-up will be your mains. This is what delivers your final mix to the audience. They are also referred to as FOH (Front of House) Speakers. A rule of thumb – Never place your FOH speakers behind your performers and their mics. This is a recipe for feedback.

Speakers - Monitors

These speakers are placed on the stage and aimed at the performers so that you can hear yourself. Many All-In-One PA systems will only allow for one monitor signal. This means that you get to create a single mix of instruments and vocals and play them back to the performers. More advanced set-ups will allow for separate monitor mixes. So the guitarists can have more guitar and singer can have more vocals.

Speakers – Subs

Most All-in-one units don’t’ allow for the additional of subwoofers without some creative engineering. So these will generally be used more with modular PA systems. They will produce your deep low sounds, and when used in coordination with a good crossover, will remove the low sounds from your main FOH speakers, giving them more clear and crisp highs.

More on Cables

You will need microphone cables, speaker cables, power cables, connectors to bridge equipment, and extension cords. It is important to inspect your cables regularly and take good care of them as a single cable can be the difference between a great sounding show and a night of headaches. In general, you get what you pay for, so if there’s one place to avoid the bargain shopping, it’s on your cables.

…In our next article we’ll talk about how to use this equipment together and configure it before a performance to help control and enhance your sound.

Saturday

Secret to Booking- 20's Pubs and Subs

The trick to booking 20's is all in the Monday night audition....Here's how it works:
First of all- DON'T bother trying to call to book it. Teresa is the one you want to talk to, and she will not talk to you about it over the phone. So the best time to catch her is 3-6 on Mondays. Or between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. Tuesdays Thursdays and Fridays. She takes off Wednesdays (when she takes off). Any other time could still be good, but there is just a better chance of her being busy or short of time.

If you are playing somewhere else nearby, let her know and if she can slip away, she'll go to see you. She will be judging whether or not you play the music the crowd likes but also HOW you do it. She is not being critical of your talent or performance. She is judging your "fit" with her patrons.

Teresa will not book you until she has heard you play. If you are not playing anywhere nearby; she will ask you to play an 'audition gig' on a Monday night. Talk to her, book it, show up, and play your best stuff. Their crowd likes to dance and if you play the stuff that she believes their crowd will like, she will put you on the calendar for a weekend spot.

Granted , you may not be playing to a big crowd on that Monday, but at least you are being judged on your performance, and not your salesmanship. Also, What else are you doing on the average Monday night?

I like this because it puts things back into the perspective that we all want: We are paid to entertain their crowd- Although bringing a crowd is encouraged; we are NOT expected to kidnap people and drag them in.

Another plus: they pay all bands a flat fee. That's right; everyone who plays there gets paid the same thing.

 There is no bargaining or trying to sell yourself. No competing with fee. Which means the only way that you could compete with another band is by making the crowd happier, which COULD result in playing more often.

I really like this way of doing things. It puts the focus on pleasing the crowd; and I think that is VERY important. Thoughts?

Friday

Why don’t we all just work for free?

There is definitely, a divide among musicians regarding the subject of fees. Seasoned musicians, usually, understand this part of the business better than the newbies; so here is my attempt to inform. All you veterans feel free to straighten us all out.
Some argue the “business” side of things and try to “compete” with the more established acts by charging less. This goes directly against all business sense. Here’s why:
By undercutting the competition; you are ruining YOUR future business.
First, you don’t know what I get paid, so you will probably guess.  Now if you are trying to undercut me by guessing what I charge, you’ll likely go too low.

Then again, you could just ask the bar owner. Now, the bar owner has a vested interest in telling you that I play for less than I actually do, doesn’t he? So, he’ll know whatever my normal fee is, and subtract $50, and tell you, that he only pays THIS much. You are just DYING to play out so you’ll take it; AND THE BAR OWNER EQUATES YOU WITH THAT PRICE. While the economy is down, he may hire you often. But when the economy picks up, you won’t get called for the weekends- If he calls you at all. If you’re a full band charging the same thing I am, (as a solo act) then, in the bar owners mind you look like chumps. No talent chumps.


Now, put yourself in the bar owners shoes for a moment. If this Friday night, he has a band of no-talent chumps coming to play, WHY WOULD HE ADVERTISE? He knows that new customers are going to see this no talent band play and assume it is par for the course in this bar. He knows that those new customers won’t be back. He also knows that you NEED this gig, so he’ll make YOU ‘bring a crowd’. His logic is that, anyone you bring will like what they hear from you, so it will give those people (your friends) a favorable perception of his club. “This bar let my friend’s band play here. This bar is cool!”


Now you don’t have to believe me- But think about it- How many times have you played for ‘a little less’ and the bar owner DID NOT PROMOTE THE SHOW AT ALL? OR, if he does any advertising, he will do it the CHEAPEST WAY POSSIBLE…..He’ll put out flyers on colored paper that his 3rd grade daughter threw together before soccer practice. He probably won’t even get a free posting in the Eleventh Hour, or The Telegraph. It is because he understands that you are a ‘shade tree businessman’, and he is going to use your inexperience and your misunderstanding of business to his benefit….Which is a nice way of saying, he looks forward to taking advantage of you.
You see, if you charge less, it means there is no demand for you. Isn’t it simple logic? The supply (you) remains the same, so if the price is low then the demand MUST be. Also, he has no incentive really to promote the show: It won’t take very many of your friends to cover the cost of you. Not that it matters-He will inevitably argue that you didn’t draw enough.

 I know, I know. You’re probably thinking “Well, this is temporary. We are just doing this to build a following.” Wrong, again.

How exactly are you building a “crowd”? The only people who are going to hear you play are the bars regulars (they aren’t going to follow you ANYWHERE) and the people you bring (these fans have been around since you started). You will get to play for the occasional new person, but rarely will they return regularly.
 This is not working, is it?
Here’s an alternative….Be warned. It is a harder sell, but totally worth it.
Charge the bar more than the average band gets.
Yes, it sounds crazy, but here’s why :
The bar owner wants to be sure that the night you play is successful because he has to recoup the expense of hiring you. (You charge a lot so you must be in demand).  So he will be sure to promote it.He knows that success requires investment. This means he will tell everyone how great your band is and how people should come out to see you…Specifically, on the night you’re playing at his club.
 You need to look like someone wants you

You can do this with your promo materials, pics of your gigs on facebook, or by having a presence on Itunes or the like….Promotion is not just tshirts and koozies, but those would be a good start.( I’ll give some tips on this later, but for now just get creative) So, if you want to play to larger crowds; Raise your prices,
and invest that extra money in promotion.

Building a following
Now, we all know that some people are not loyal to one bar. The advertising will get their attention and they’ll show up. If you’re any good, they’ll stay, and if they have a good time, THEY WILL COME OUT WHEN YOU PLAY SOMEWHERE ELSE.

WHO are the most expensive acts in Middle Ga.? Now, are they expensive because they are in demand, or are they in demand because they are expensive? How did they get to be “in demand”  in the first place? We all know how hard it is to raise your price once it has been set, so this is definitely something to think about.
Booking a gig is not the same thing as selling yourself. ANYBODY can book a gig. You need to learn how to get the venues calling YOU. The only way to do that is by looking like you are in demand.

So when they ask the question- “What do you charge?” Maybe you should answer the real question…”What are you worth?”

Wednesday

Macon Music- Listening Room

Silence. The occassional sound of someone shifting in their seat. No glasses clinking together. No one talking about Daytona. No one over-imbibing and trying to hook up with your date. Just silence.

Well, not JUST silence. There's a performer there, too. He'd have to be ridiculously good. But tonight is not the night that he entertains you with his crowd surfing. He won't be destroying his equipment, or cussing out the drummer. There won't be pyro or tshirt cannons.

He has a guitar and a microphone. We are all grownups here. He doesn't play to help you drown out you cares, your problems, your relationships long gone. His songs help you relive them. To help himself relive them. He talks about his past, his friendships and his losses. This is the goal of a songwriter's life-to have a roomful of people stop and absorb all the passion, the heartache, the pain, and love that pours from him. The crowd is made up of musicians and music aficionados- people who appreciate what it takes to put your soul to paper.
 Scott Pallot and Travis Bryant host an experience that has been absent from the 'nightlife' that is the Middle Ga. music scene. Thankfully, they did it right. Every show so far has sold out, and I am sure that will continue, because performers who would normally play 4 hours to a crowded nightclub with out breaking a sweat-walk off this stage in less than half that time visibly drained; and the audience is better for it.In this venue, performers give you all they've got, and more than they ever thought they would have to give.

It's music therapy, and 'intimate' is a word left wanting .

Check 'em out here.

Or view this video of Jason Taylor Hobbs on stage accompanied by Scott Pallot.

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