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On the road again, for the first time

FOH Center Of Life

FOH Center Of Life

We made it through our first show on the road!  We successfully completed two shows on Jan 25 and 26 at Center of Life Baptist Church and I would say everything went pretty smoothly.  We did have a few hiccups here and there, but as far as sound goes, I felt pretty good about the show.  What did it take for me to feel good about it?  Well here’s what it took.


For the most part, we travel with a lot of our own sound equipment.  We carry our own mics, cables, snakes, mixer, and in-ear monitors (wired).  We also make use of a digital mixing system, which can recall saved settings and mixes for each song.  Not  a lot changes from show to show, or even when we do a practice.  This allows us to have very consistent monitor mixes and a very consistent sound for every show.  It also allows us to improve things as we go and keep the changes for future shows.


Since things are pretty consistent all the way to the mixer, the main thing that changes from show to show is the house PA.  At our home venue, we have  a fairly nice little SLS line array system that I have used to build my mixes.  My biggest issue when I walk into a new venue is that I need to tweak the output of that PA to match the one at our home venue. On this trip I started by using some pink noise and measuring the output of the system to get it pretty close.  Then, I used various songs while playing around with the EQ on my  main outputs until I was able to match pretty closely what I hear at home.  So now my saved mixes can translate to our new venue!


Of course there is always room for improvement.  The first night, we had some complaints that the front few rows couldn’t hear the lyrics.  Now, back in the main part of the audience the vocals were quite clear.  After a bit of examination, we found that the high end for the main PA clusters overshot the first few rows.  What can we do to fix this?  The main PA is hung from the ceiling, so that can’t change, but we can add some more speakers down in front of the stage to fill in the gap.

On Saturday, before our second show, I found some powered speakers in the back room that the local church used for monitors.  I set up one speaker for each of the three sections in the front of the stage (left, center, right) and fed them from an extra matrix output on my mixer.  I fed my matrix with a post-fade copy of my master mix and tried to match the main PAs volume so I wouldn’t blow away the first few rows.  I also knew that higher frequencies are more directional than lower frequencies, so the lows and low-mids were actually already pretty loud from the main PA clusters in those first few rows.  The combined lows and low-mids from the front fills and the mains could then be a bit too much and give a very imbalanced mix.  In order to fix that, I used an EQ on my matrix-out for my front fills to cut the low and low-mid frequencies.  What resulted was a boost in the higher frequencies that were missing from the main PA in the front few rows, and the experience down in front matched the rest of the room pretty closely.


Honestly I did not think up most of this stuff myself, there is nothing new under the sun, and I totally stole this concept from Dave Rat.  Check out some of his videos, he’s got a real knack for explaining sound concepts in a very down-to-earth manner that’s easy to understand.  I’ve spent a lot of time studying what the pros and the big guys are doing to get a good idea of the main concepts and how things should be done.  I’ve also spent a bit of time trying things out myself and learning how to make things work.  This first road-show was a prime example of trying some things out for the first time.  I had never tuned a PA to match my mix before, never setup front-fills before, and I was pretty freaked out that it wasn’t going to work.  But I managed to apply that knowledge that I had gained to a real life situation, and now I can be confident that I can handle that situation again somewhere down the road at the next venue.