Old Production Takes From an Old Guy

Asking for Help

I made a conscious decision some years ago that I was not going to be able to know everything. This may seem like an incredibly obvious conclusion to come to, but up until that time I was on a all-out quest for knowledge of all things audio/visual. But one day, I was reading about Albert Einstein, who remarked once that true intelligence was not knowing all the answers, but knowing where to find all the answers. I figured if that was good enough for Al, it would be good enough for me. Part of that revelation was the realization that there simply wasn’t enough time in my day to mix on every sound desk out there, through every available speaker in every kind of venue. And that doesn’t even get to mics, DIs, and other outboard gear, let alone the myriad of options available for video, lighting and projection.

So now I’m good with not knowing everything. I still have a thirst for knowledge, and continue to learn as much as I can about the equipment and techniques I have at my disposal. But now rather than being on an all-out quest for knowledge, I have learned to learn where to learn. Go back and read that sentence again. Just as important as knowing what you know, is knowing what you don’t know, and knowing where to fill in gaps in your knowledge base as you need to. The good part of all this is that there is always someone who knows more about a given topic than you or I do. The really good news is that most of the time those folks are happy to share their knowledge.

I learned this when I was between jobs a few years back. I began talking to people I didn’t know, and was amazed at how willing they were to help me. I’ve found this to be true in the church tech community as well. I regularly ask others for their opinion about a piece of gear I’m not familiar with, or about a technique that I’m a little fuzzy on, or how to handle a personnel issue. Every time I ask for help, I gain some valuable knowledge. My network grows, and often I end up making a new friend in the process. It’s what Michael Scott likes to call a “win-win-win.”

While it’s often said there are no stupid questions, there are good, better and best ways to go about asking for help. Consider the following scenarios for asking for advice on a kick drum mic.

Option 1: Which kick drum mic should I buy?

Option 2: We’d like to upgrade from our existing Beta 52, and we have a budget of around $350. Any suggestions?

Option 3: We’d like to upgrade from our existing Beta 52, which we don’t like because it just sounds like mush, to a new mic that will give us a little more snap and definition. We’ve tried the D4, and while we liked the tightness, it lacked oomph; and when we tried the ATM250DE, we liked the condenser element and the snap and definition it provided but weren’t impressed with the dynamic capsule as it overloaded often. Our drummers are really good, and the kits are in excellent shape. Our style is pretty progressive, Crowder, Brewster, Tomlin, as well as modernized versions of hymns. Our budget is around $350. Suggestions?

You can see the difference in the three approaches. The first option is so broad, that it’s almost impossible to answer. And if someone give you an answer, it’s not likely to be a good one as you have not provided enough information to give an intelligent response. Option 2 gives some more parameters, which helps narrow the choices. By stating the mic we’re upgrading from, the person being asked knows what we don’t like. Putting a budget in also helps narrow the field. Option three really qualifies what the desired result is, and it’s far easier to formulate a good response.

So who should you be asking for help? That depends. When it comes to equipment related questions, I like to ask disinterested third parties. That is, people who have no financial incentive in the outcome. I’d much rather ask a fellow church sound guy about kick mics than the salesman at the store. This is not to say that you can’t, over time, develop a trusting relationship with a vendor, but you have to be careful and take it slow. Local vendors tend to get asked a lot for advice, then the customer goes out to the internet and buys the suggested product from someone else. This makes it hard to get good advice, and for good reason. On the other hand, the vendor wants to sell you a product, and they want to sell you what they sell, not something they don’t. Nothing wrong with that per se, unless what they’re trying to sell doesn’t really fit your need.

That’s where a third party can come in helpful. When people ask me for advice on something, I’m not invested in what they end up doing in the end, because I gain nothing from the transaction except good will. I have no incentive to steer anyone toward anything. On the other hand, I and other church tech guys may have a more limited pool of experience with a given set of equipment. I’ve worked with a lot of mics, but not all of them. I’ve mixed on quite a few desks, but not all. So I’m likely to be biased toward what I do know. Again, nothing wrong with that, as long as you realize that going in.

As I said before, most church tech people I’ve met are more than happy to offer their advice on a given topic. I get requests a few times a week for help, and I’m sure the other guys whose blogs I follow do to (see the blogroll list to the right). Read the blogs, and see who has a passion for your area of need and ask for help. It also never hurts to get to know fellow church techies in your area. Remember, we’re not competitors; we’re all in this together. The more we realize that, and work together, the smarter we become collectively.

Tomorrow, in honor of Thanksgiving, I’ll talk about what to do after you ask for help. Any takers on the subject of that post?

15 Comments

  1. landofthelulus@hotmail.co.uk

    I’ve been pulled up on this just recently by my training mentor – knowing when to ask for help is what helps us learn. I guess Einstein was right 🙂

    x

  2. landofthelulus@hotmail.co.uk

    I’ve been pulled up on this just recently by my training mentor – knowing when to ask for help is what helps us learn. I guess Einstein was right 🙂

    x

  3. mikeeiseman@gmail.com

    check out the Audix D6 – i’ve found it to be a good all-purpose mic — very versatile.

    also – going back to a classic — the AKG D112….

    with any of these placement is always a bigger factor.

  4. mikeeiseman@gmail.com

    check out the Audix D6 – i’ve found it to be a good all-purpose mic — very versatile.

    also – going back to a classic — the AKG D112….

    with any of these placement is always a bigger factor.

  5. neilmac@mac.com

    This is a little OT, but kudos for the, rare, correct use of the word ‘disinterested’. 🙂

  6. neilmac@mac.com

    This is a little OT, but kudos for the, rare, correct use of the word ‘disinterested’. 🙂

  7. richard@mycrossroads.org

    Have you tried the AKG D112? That’s a pretty widely used mic for kick. I’m partial to the BETA 52, although I’ve had success with the D112.

    I’ve seen the Sennheiser 421 used in that application also. It’s a great tom mic, too. Might be worth a shot.

  8. richard@mycrossroads.org

    Have you tried the AKG D112? That’s a pretty widely used mic for kick. I’m partial to the BETA 52, although I’ve had success with the D112.

    I’ve seen the Sennheiser 421 used in that application also. It’s a great tom mic, too. Might be worth a shot.

  9. richard@mycrossroads.org

    Duh. I just REALLY read your post. Forgive stupid me for offering my advice. I’ll be in the corner with a sheet over my head. Hopefully you’ll delete my two comments before anyone else reads them.

    Happy Thanksgiving!

  10. richard@mycrossroads.org

    Duh. I just REALLY read your post. Forgive stupid me for offering my advice. I’ll be in the corner with a sheet over my head. Hopefully you’ll delete my two comments before anyone else reads them.

    Happy Thanksgiving!

  11. patrick.sprague@mac.com

    I cannot believe anyone has not mentioned the Beta91. What a champ this mic is, High def and still carries the low-end. It’s punchy because of the snap. We use it when we were in the exact same decision point you were at. If you ever really feel like you need to beef it up even more (I doubt you will), throw the 52 on with it.

  12. patrick.sprague@mac.com

    I cannot believe anyone has not mentioned the Beta91. What a champ this mic is, High def and still carries the low-end. It’s punchy because of the snap. We use it when we were in the exact same decision point you were at. If you ever really feel like you need to beef it up even more (I doubt you will), throw the 52 on with it.

  13. mike@churchtecharts.org

    Thanks to everyone who offered suggestions for new kick drum mics. Actually, we recently bought a kick mic; the Heil PR-40. It’s a bit pricey, but it sounds great and doubles as a fantastic narration mic. It’s like getting 2 mics for the price of one. And it looks cool. As soon as I finish a voice-over project with it, I’ll write a full review.

    I know some of you feel silly for offering suggestions based on my example questions, but really, I’m greatly encouraged by it. Audience participation is so cool to see, not matter what form it takes. I’m just happy to know someone’s actually reading!

    Thanks again, all!

  14. mike@churchtecharts.org

    Thanks to everyone who offered suggestions for new kick drum mics. Actually, we recently bought a kick mic; the Heil PR-40. It’s a bit pricey, but it sounds great and doubles as a fantastic narration mic. It’s like getting 2 mics for the price of one. And it looks cool. As soon as I finish a voice-over project with it, I’ll write a full review.

    I know some of you feel silly for offering suggestions based on my example questions, but really, I’m greatly encouraged by it. Audience participation is so cool to see, not matter what form it takes. I’m just happy to know someone’s actually reading!

    Thanks again, all!

  15. Church Tech Arts » What

    […] it because just the night before, I had used the exact same illustration. As I talked about in Asking for Help, I get several requests for advice on equipment a month (sometimes several a week). I’m cool […]

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