Post Easter Audio Wrap Up

Choir Mic Shootout
October 11, 2016
Great Concert Plus Bad Sound Equals Disappointing Evening with Chris Botti
October 11, 2016

Post Easter Audio Wrap Up

It has certainly been a while since I have updated this blog.  The last four months have been a bit of a whirlwind – which leads me to say thank you so much to all my terrific clients.  You all have been great to work alongside as we strive together to make the technical arts better and better.

Easter seemed to come early this year.  We had a great Easter at the Thompson household and at Deermeadows Baptist Church where I worked tech on Sunday morning.

Not every Easter service went as well…

Last Friday afternoon, I received a somewhat panicked call from an area church.  It is smallish; probably seats about 250 max.  Their Easter Musical Production was in jeopardy of becoming a disaster.  Choir practices had gone well, and soloists knew their parts.  But – at the Thursday night final rehearsal, what should have been a final run-through turned into a disaster.  All the mics were producing feedback.  No one could get a balanced sound.  They could not even tell if the system problems were coming from the main speakers, monitor speakers or both!!  Nothing seemed to work correctly.

It should have been pretty simple.  The music was a CD accompaniment track.  The choir loft can seat around 18-20.  There were six wired handheld solo and worship team mics including one used by the narrator.  No lapel mics, no wireless mics, no rental equipment added to the mix.  The sound system in the building is fairly new with no “state of the art” gear, but all mid-quality name brand stuff like Yamaha, dbx, Mackie, Community and Sennheiser.  So what could have gone so very wrong?!?

I met the choir director and a couple of the sound system operators on Saturday morning to see what we could figure out.

In just a few minutes, we were able to ID some poor mixing practices that had been going on for some time.  In a typical service, where there may be only a piano and guitar in the system with a few vocal mics, these bad habits did not create any real problems.  The sound no doubt suffered, but since there was no feedback or other noises and “everyone can hear”, everything seemed fine.  When the system was “pushed” for Easter and there were nine open mics at one time…well, the dam burst.

In less than two hours we had tweaked gain structure, re-adjusted some channel EQ, reset monitor mixes and levels to a point where the sound was full and natural, and had every mic working properly and well balanced.  The final judgment on those changes came this morning in the form of an email from the choir director which said in part; “Thank you for all your help with our sound.  The program went off without a hitch.  The sound was tremendous!”

The email continued, “What I’d like, and the guys have asked, is for you to come out and do a 2-3 hour class.”  That is the best thing they can do to improve their sound system.  It will be an invaluable upgrade for them!

The moral of this little tale is not that you should call Vector to fix your system (although that IS perfectly acceptable as well!), but rather that ANY system is only “good” when it is properly setup and operators are properly trained to use the equipment.  The best sound system can be wrecked by poor operation and even very modest systems can ”sound like a million bucks” with a little finesse.

Learn to use what you have and be sure all your operators are well trained and up to date.   The time to discover you need some technical help or training is NOT the week of a big production.  It is right now – the week after Easter. So do a quick review today and be sure you are ready for your NEXT big event.