Monday, December 19, 2005

The View From Behind the Sound Board

For the last week, I’ve been working closely with Brandon Scott Thomas at church on the Christmas concert, King of Glory, King of Love. I worked behind the sound board mixing a 30 voice chorus and a five man band. If that sounds difficult, it was.

Last Sunday, Tuesday, and Wednesday were fine because we were using tracks from a CD. No feedback from the speakers or anything. Wednesday night, the band set up and we did some soundchecking with them until about 9:30. On Thursday night, we mixed the band and chorus together and that’s when the problems started. You know, mixing is hard enough, but one of the issues we run into for this kind of thing is that Otter Creek (Church of Christ, I'll remind you; no instruments on Sunday morning) was simply not designed for this kind of activity. The band (including full drum kit) was right beside the chorus which made it difficult for the chorus to hear themselves, so we had to try and take the monitor level for the chorus up. Also in our setup the main speakers are actually behind where the chorus was, so we had the potential for some feedback issues there. This is actually about the worst place for main speakers to be, but there’s nothing we can do about that at this point.

We fought with all of these issues for three nights, Thursday, Friday, and on the Saturday night performance. One of the challenges of doing sound for something like this is dealing with the different requests that people are having and trying as hard as you can to accommodate them. One person wants more chorus in the monitor, another doesn’t think their instrument is loud enough in the house. Add to this the challenge of avoiding feedback and it makes for some very stressful times.

Well, Saturday night came and things just didn’t go well. For one, the chorus WAS too low in their monitors and they couldn’t hear themselves, so they sang louder to try and hear themselves and it threw off the balance. The band was much too loud and that threw things a little more off kilter trying to find the perfect balance that we hadn’t really been able to achieve in any of our previous rehearsals. The biggest problem Saturday night was a major feedback problem during one of the best songs of the show, a duet between two “ringers” BST brought in the chorus, Reco and Tracye. They are strong, strong singers, creative in adlibs, and brought a soul to the show that just blows me away every time I listen to them. As soon as Tracye started into her part of the duet, feedback. Too strong somewhere, had to take her down and build it back up… Threw the whole thing off and I felt terrible. Add to that whole mess that during the last song, we blew a breaker and lost power to everything up the balcony: sound board, lights, computer, all of it. Saturday night was my sound nightmare and in fact, I dreamed about it that night.

Two saving graces out of this. 1) We had another show Sunday. Try to do it better. 2) I had a great guy, Scott Hernbeck, the father of one of the kids in the kids’ chorus helping out. Scott is a sound expert and he volunteered to help me. During some major issues Friday night, he really helped out and just did some yoeman’s work. After Saturday’s show and talking with Brandon about some of the comments that he got, Scott and I tweaked some more and tried to get it right.

Last night’s show was fabulous. Only one feedback issue. People could hear themselves sing. The band was a good level. People who came to both shows said that Sunday was a drastic improvement and I’m so excited that we got it right. Reco and Tracye’s duet was extraordinary and they closed out the last two songs with some beautiful adlibs. We even kept power throughout the whole show.

I’m grateful to God that things improved to where they were and that people enjoyed the show as much as they did. I also apologize for the length of this post, but I needed to get some of this down. If you’ve ever thought while in a show or at church, “Boy they need to turn that up,” or “Why isn’t it quieter?” just realize that it’s usually not a matter of pushing the volume knob up.

Finally, in other news, the van is fixed again. It was the catalytic converter and Sheryl’s dad and I replaced it on Saturday morning and got out of it spending about $100. Very grateful for dodging a huge financial bullet there.


Rob Cox said...


Just think about how different the Easter concert is going to be. We'll be in the new building with a new sound system. Hopefully band placement and speaker placement will be better there.

Thanks for all of your hard work,

Clarissa said...

Ah, life. We all appreciate you, Phil! Hope the dreams subside!

Phil said...

Actually, I dreamed about it again last night, but it was a very good dream. A lot of laughing.

Dreams, the pressure valve for life.

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