Shielding the Sax

Since last week was pretty crazy—and to be honest, I’m pretty thrashed—this is going to be a short, practical post. For our Good Friday/Easter stage set up, we really change things up from our normal set up. Instead of the band being clustered in the middle of the stage, we open them way up, and spread them out on varied height platforms all across the stage. We do this because a key point of our Good Friday service centers around a very powerful dance during Lead Me To The Cross. It’s a good look, but it does create some problems. 

We normally don’t have both woodwinds and percussion together on a normal weekend, but we do for Good Friday. Logistics dictate that perc be right next to winds. In this past, we’ve gotten away with it, but this year our winds player has changed up his micing, and with the addition of three toms at percussion, we had some issues. When the percussionist laid into the toms, it actually started clipping the input on the winds player’s rig; and he was supposed to be playing sax at that point! This problem was aggravated by the fact that the percussion platform is a foot higher than the winds platform, putting the toms right at mic level.

This problem came up during rehearsal the night before the service, so we couldn’t re-configure. So we had to improvise. We have a giant, 6’ high drum shield that we don’t use that often (though we were using it around the Leslie cabinet), as well as some other, shorter shields. We pulled two sections of the 6’ shield and found that they fit perfectly in place between the two platforms. However, since we didn’t have enough room to Z-fold it, it wouldn’t stay up. We tried one of our stage stands, but we didn’t have room for that either. 

As seen from the Sax platformAs seen from the Perc platform

Someone hit on the idea of pulling a few panels off the short stands and using them as “wings.” Since the shields are made by the same manufacturer, the hinges are compatible. As you can see from the picture, we used two short sections to fold onto the perc platform, which added enough stability to hold it in place. Some quick testing showed it seemed to work pretty well, so we went with it. 

I spoke to our winds player between rehearsal and the first service and asked him if it was better. His answer surprised me; he said, “It’s not better, it completely solved it!” So I guess that was a win.

We did find that it effected the toms a little bit, since we were not close-mic’ing them. We wanted those to sound a little more distant, so I had an X-Y mic set up about a foot over the toms. The shield created a bit of phasing and slightly effected the tone, but it was a trade off worth making. If we had more time, I may have added some absorption to try to tame that, but we were under the gun. Like many things in live sound, it was a compromise, but I think the end result was better than had we done nothing.

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