Old Production Takes From an Old Guy

Month: May 2009 (Page 3 of 3)

Solder Fest 09 Continues

I love soldering. I love making cables. I’ve even written excessively about it on this site (here, here and here). There is just something satisfying and rewarding about making your own mic cable, or a sub snake, or a patch bay. Perhaps it’s the joy of knowing you just made future set ups a little easier. Or saving a few bucks. Or the contact high you get from breathing vaporized flux. Either way, it’s great fun.

Moreover, I love it when other people “get the fever.” The other night, two of our audio guys and I spent some quality time making sub snakes and cables. After I showed Rob, our newest and youngest sound guy, how to make a mic cable he proclaimed, “I’ll never buy another cable again!” Ah, the sweet smell of victory. Or was that burning flesh? Sorry about your thumb, Rob. I hope it feels better today.

erik-and-rob Erik (left) and Rob making cables at our improvised soldering station. Note the extreme concentration. These guys are serious about soldering!The goal of the evening was to build a couple of subsnakes to simplify set up and neaten up the stage. We would build one snake with 4 XLRs and 2 Ethercons and one with 3 of each. Since we only needed a 6 port boxes, I had to come up with a creative solution. Most factory snake boxes are 12 ports and up, and are a good $60 or more. I didn’t have that in the budget. And they’re way too big. It turns out Middle Atlantic makes a very cool modular rack panel system. You can find them at Markertek by following that link back there. They have all sorts of modules that bolt to a set of rack bars and you can create a custom patch panel. They also make an adapter plate that allows those panels to connect to a standard 4″ square electrical box. Problem solved.

A custom little sub snake box on the cheap. A custom little sub snake box on the cheap.I bought the electrical boxes at Home Depot and shot them with about 5 coats of black spray paint. Minus connectors, the box costs under $20, and at 4″ square by 2 1/8″ deep, it’s small and unobtrusive. I also picked up some loom at our local electronics mega-mart (Electronics Center in Golden Valley, MN), and we settled down for a fun night of soldering.

The box above will live on stage between the keybaord and bass players. We use 2 keyboards, so that’s 2 jacks, the bass is a third and we have a spare. The two Ethercons will feed their Avioms.

The box in place. The box in place.We used heat shrink tubing to cover the end of the loom and keep it from fraying. The hardest part of the night was getting the 4 channel snake cable and Aviom cables down the loom. The stuff works like a Chinese finger, and is quite challenging. The other box will sit next to our worship leader and pick up his mic, his guitar and the background vocal. We threw an extra Ethercon in that one just because. In the future we can always swap it out and put in another XLR if we need to–the audio cable is there.

Combining 3 mic lines and 3 Aviom lines will make set up and tear down go a lot faster. Combining 3 mic lines and 3 Aviom lines will make set up and tear down go a lot faster.I forgot to take picutes at the end, but we also labeled each input on the boxes as well as the cable ends, so it’s really a plug and play set up. We made up a few custom length cables to plug into these boxes (a set of two 1′ mic cables for the keys DI–a Radial ProD2–for example) to further speed set up.

We also shortend up the Aviom cables that go from the boxes to the mixers themselves. I’m a big fan of using as short a cable as possible all the time. It makes clean up go a lot faster when you’re wrapping 100′ of cable instead of 300′.

In the coming weeks, I’ll be marking out lengths for mic cables for the rest of the band and we’ll make those up another evening. This works for us since our set up is pretty static. If you need more flexibility, you’ll have to be more strategic in how you plan your cable lengths. Either way, I’d recommend a few little snakes like this.

Five Things I’d Say to Young Sound Engineers Pt. 5

Today wraps up our series of advice for young sound engineers. I put all this out there, not as someone who has attained perfection, but as a soon-to-be (and maybe is already) “old soundguy,” and as someone who has learned a few things along the way. Moreover, I wish someone had taken the time to share these concepts with me when I was starting out. It would have saved me a lot of grief, and would most likely made the first bands I mixed a lot happier. To recap points one through four…

  1. You Don’t Know As Much As You Think You Do
  2. Attitude Is More Important Than The Mix
  3. Don’t Be Afraid To Say, “I’ve Made A Mistake”
  4. Be Prepared And Know Your Equipment

I should point out that each of these points still apply to those of us who are more, uh, seasoned. The last thing we need to turn into is the “cranky old soundguy.” Hmmm, could be another series. That will have to wait though because now it’s time to finish up this one.

#5: Remember It’s Not All About You

Again, this comes back to a lot of young engineers overestimating how good the really are. The worship service, or club gig for that matter, is not all about you and how awesome your mix is. The picture is a lot bigger than that. If you think that the reason the band sound so great this week is your mad skills on the desk, it’s time for a reality check. In my experience, if the band sounds really good, it’s because they are really good and my job is to not screw it up. I can help them sound better by setting them at ease, and making sure they know I will do everything I can to make them sound great. FOH and the band work well as a team in that way.

I meet a number of people who want to join the tech team and start mixing next week. I intentionally make it hard to join our tech team, especially the sound positions. I find this saves me a lot of wasted effort in weeding out people who just want to be a rock star. I make new people fill out an application. I meet with them one on one during the week and talk with them about why they want to join the team and what experience they have. And long before anyone starts mixing, they start set up the stage and run cable. For a few months. Most wash out in the first 2 phases. A few more wash out during the set up phase. The good ones stick around and become good engineers. Those are the ones we want to keep around.

Back in my student ministry days, we used to try to recruit FAT volunteers–Faithful, Available and Teachable. I’d say those characteristics would serve any sound engineer well to this day. It’s true if you’re working in church, a club, or touring. Perhaps especially the church–don’t ever forget Who you work for.

Newer posts »

© 2021 ChurchTechArts

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑