Concert audio complexities

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Some of you have no interest in the topic I am going to discuss today but others of you really get into the technical side of recording.  For that reason, I want to talk about the audio set up for my concert next week.

As it turns out, doing what we are doing is a complicated business and there are three different groups that will be managing the sound:
1) Recording – responsible for getting all audio recorded and archived for the CD/DVD/TV products.
2) Monitor – responsible for all the mixes that the musicians need so that they can hear each other.
3) House – responsible for the mix that the concert attendees will hear.
All three of these groups have their own sound (mixing) boards and a lead engineer.  The audio will pass through the recording station first and then will be split off to the monitor sound board and the house sound boards.
In terms of expense and importance, you will probably not be surprised to learn that the recording group is easily at the top of the list.  But you might be surprised to know that the monitor sound is more expensive and considered more important that the house sound.
The reason for this is simple.  On a big stage with musicians spread far apart, everyone needs a lot of help to hear each other, and if musicians don’t hear each other, the results are catastrophic.
Helping the musicians to hear each other is not as simple as throwing a few monitors in front of them. Different groups of musicians like to hear different things.  Sometimes, they want different things on different songs.
For example, I will be wearing an earbud in my left ear that on some songs, will be feeding me a count/click that syncs everyone together.  I will have a wedge monitor on my right that will be providing me something similar to what everyone else in the venue is hear except it won’t have the piano in it.  On other songs, I won’t be hearing a count but will want to hear the bass player louder than the other musicians.
Other people will different needs.  For example, practically every musician will need to be able to hear the piano except for me.  And, Steve (the conductor) will have a click/count in one ear with some additional helps that no one will hear but him.  Also, the band will not need the orchestra but will need to hear each other well.
All in all, it is very complicated and that is why we are bringing a monitor engineer in that has a lot of experience in that area.  My experience tells me that if anything is going to go wrong, it is highly likely to be the result of musicians not hearing each other.
The house sound team actually has the easiest job.  They will run a typical sound board and will have to do a live mix so that everything is pleasant and even for the attendees.  But mistakes are not as likely to be disastrous at that level.  If an instrument gets left out in the house, most people won’t notice, but if that happened on stage in the monitors, it might destroy a song.
Setup for audio takes many hours before the first rehearsal ever takes place.  The audio teams will be working next Wednesday afternoon until well into the night in order to be ready to roll with rehearsals on Thursday.

One thought on “Concert audio complexities

  1. Daniel says:

    Wow. This is a really interesting post. I never realized all the work that goes into that. I play for the church here and my college and they broadcast everything on television. I now have a new found appreciation for them everytime they yell at us.

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