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  • Another Big Band gig this week

    I'm starting to like these. I do more Big Band work than anything else (except my rock band) as a sound provider, by virtue of both my connections in that community and the general dissatisfaction with with the results from many providers in the area not used to doing this kind of work. (There is one sound company locally that gets all the union jobs in the summer, and they are GREAT).

    This week is as big as it gets for me, I am working with an 18-piece group and playing piano at the same time. Dress-rehearsal including PA on Thursday, show on Sunday. We've previously used the venue, their house guy, and their very nice installed system (QSC + A&H) ...but it was not a good value. The mix was lacking, and I wound up back-stopping the venue guy on knowledge, stands, cables, mics, and troubleshooting ability for free (I didn't have the heart to allow the trainwreck). This time, I am getting paid.

    The venue is a church auditorium which seats about 300. It's wide and shallow. The band sits in a V, sort of like Stan Kenton, with trumpets nearly facing the saxophones, bones behind the saxes, rhythm near the back, and the vocalist out front. The V and wide venue create a challenge, especially for the trumpets, as they are quite directional and pointing away from 1/3 of the audience.

    I see my job here as reinforcement, to even out dispersion, rather than boosting SPLs (although the saxes always need a bit of a bump to keep up with the brass). I also want to provide the illusion that everything is coming from the band (except for the vocalist), and I want the band to be able to effectively self-mix. To that end, I'll be setting two NX55Ps up behind the band, hopefully at a height that keeps the seated band members roughly on-axis while filling the venue. The physical position of the speakers (even with the drum kit) should allow the audience to perceive the source of the sound as the instruments, rather than the PA (precedence effect). If I do it right, I can get away without monitors, although I will bring some, just in case.

    Gear will be interesting. I want to keep the setup simple, as I have one hour to load in and setup. I also need to keep the footprint small, as stage space is limited, and I only have so much stuff to choose from, anyhow. I'll be using my "throw and go PA" 4U bag, which is a Behringer RX1202FX 12-channel mixer (8 mic + 2 stereo with built-in effects and one monitor send) with a dbx DriveRack PX. The DriveRack will be configured for conservative AFS (in case someone points a mic right at the speaker) and will provide GEQ to correct and serious room problems. It's funny, I bought that mixer for my keyboard rig, but it has done a lot of PA work because the form factor is great.

    The mixer has a very limited channel strip, so I might throw a 31-band GEQ on the channel insert for the guest vocalist. I find she has a thin voice (some of the material is a bit high for her) and could probably benefit from a ~200Hz (??) boost. What are your thoughts about doing it that way? Alternatively, I could give her a TC Helicon VoiceCorrect XT (similar to their Mic Mechanic) and turn the magic knob to "more magic". That's about all I can think of to improve her timbre through that PA/mic combination.

    The room is dry. Trumpets, bones, and especially saxes will get a bit of reverb. Singer will get a bit, too. My guideline for reverb is "if you can tell there is reverb, there is too much reverb". There goes Andy whispering "less is more" at me again.

    Mic selection is using up almost my entire bag. Beta 58A for vocalist. No solo-mic, group is page-bound. . Pair of MD421-IIs set one click from M for saxes, positioned in between them and pointing down 45 degrees or so. Soloing saxophonists will stand up for a level boost. Bari sax gets an RE20. Bones get AKG D320B in between them. Unsure if I will give the Bass Bone his own mic, I have another D320B if I do. Trumpets get a pair of SM57s, positioned between trumpets, just forward of the bell and at head height, pointing up about 15 degrees. Standing trumpets should get a bit of a boost this way also. Trumpets playing a Harmon mute solo have been instructed to turn the mic for the solo, and turn it back when done. Drum kit is a small jazz kit, and will get an original Beta 57 "crotch mic", positioned above the kick and pointing roughly at his chest. I don't need a lot of kick. Piano, bass, guitar run direct (unless the guitar player throws a hissy fit like he did last time; in which case he will get a draped Beta 58A. He has a Fishman Loudbox-series combo amp).

    Upright bass player for this group likes to roll his treble all the way off for some reason. Should I do the same, or give him some "point"? I am tempted to do that; walking bass lines are very important in swing music, and I would expect a bit pizzicato pluck attack would help with definition. I work with this guy a lot, usually he fights to stay out of the PA entirely, I wonder if that's why.

    Mic pairs (Bones, Trumpets, Saxes) are run through Y combiners. Not ideal, but I can get away with it given identical mics, and it gets my channel count down. Since I am "section micing", I am basically considering each mic pair as a single mic that's really wide. That means I can move sections up and down with a single slider, but intra-section balance has to be corrected with mic position. Since I am not close micing, and trying to get most of the sound NOT from the PA, I think this will be okay.

    What would you do differently? (Aside from not running sound from stage) ... I thought about bringing my snake, so I could sound-check from out front, but decided I would rather have the mixer at my fingertips in case something happens mid-show. Anybody have some neat ideas or insights on sectional mic positioning? It has occurred to me, for example, that the bones would be more comfortable with mic stands behind them, but I don't know if a shoulder mic will give me the sound I want.

    Thanks,
    Wes
    Do daemons dream of electric sleep()?

  • #2
    I wouldn't mic the drumkit. If the dude is a big band drummer, he will be heard. 1 switched mic for trombone soloist, 1 switched mic for trpt soloist. Instruct the trpt/tbn soloists to switch the mic on/off when needed. 5 sax mics left "on" approximately 3' above their 'big-band" stands to give them more presence. When a sax player has a solo, tell him/her to stand and play into the mic. Mic the bass and and feed its monitor mix "behind the trumpets, behind the trombones, and in front of the saxes. The soloists need to hear the bass plus having the bass "spread around" will lock things together.
    My experience with big bands is that sometimes a leader wants a certain "look" which may not lend itself to balance.

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    • #3
      Bring some help to allow you some breathing room.
      -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
      Former product development engineer: Genz Benz, a KMC Music/FMIC/JAM Industries Company, continuing factory level product support and service for Genz Benz

      Currently product development engineer: Mesa Boogie

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      • #4
        Mike - interesting observation re. band leaders making things difficult! If it wasn't for the seating arrangement, I could get away with far, far fewer microphones, since the musicians would be facing the audience! With a "normal" layout, I could indeed throw mics on all the saxes and get everything I need save brass solos.

        By the way, you ever have problems with the switched mics giving you surprising results? I have always figured it was better to have an open mic that you had accounted for rather than one somebody forgot to turn off. Also, they move the mic around to the next soloist, I guess? They always remember to switch off so no stand clunking? I've seen Ray Anthony's band do that; worked better than I expected, but those guys are multi-decade pros. Not pro-am. Or am-pro. Whatever you call the level I'm at. Lots of music degrees and day jobs.

        The room extends about 20 feet on either side of the band in this photo. If I were the guy in charge, we would lay out like a normal band - and use the 5 "big band" music stands! Oh well. I'm just a side man and a hired provider, I only get to make suggestions, doesn't mean anybody will take 'em.

        Andy - good suggestion. I finished testing and packing everything last night and realized my schedule is tighter than I thought. It's a good thing I wasn't asked to do lighting. I'm going to see if my regular helper is available.....

        Wes
        Last edited by wesg; 12-07-2016, 01:21 PM.
        Do daemons dream of electric sleep()?

        Comment


        • #5
          This photo makes me think I could stick an omni dead-center and not bother with anything else.

          I bet that would yield a lot of arm-chair quarterbacking!

          Wes
          Do daemons dream of electric sleep()?

          Comment


          • #6
            The picture tells all. It looks good from an audience stand point but it does not seem to make sense (to me).
            The brass choir (trumpets/trombones) should be on the same side....as the brass section in big band writing (Nestico, etc.) usually has the brass voiced together (4 or 5 part close) in most arrangements.
            Switched mics are great - I have used them as a sax player in big band scenarios. (Look at my picture...I am soloing with a big band..on a "switched" mic).

            If you leave the mic'ing control to a "non-muso" tech, they usually miss the first several measures of a solo which bothers me quite a bit...

            In most community-based big bands there is usually only one soloist in each brass section (trumpet and trombone). If the soloists "move around" the mic can move with them or they can have their own switched mic.

            With community players it is important for the soloists to practice their mic technique. Yes, rehearse their positioning.

            Big bands are fun...Kenton/Basie arrangements are great to play.

            M

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            • #7
              I will be playing piano with a 17 piece jazz band on Sunday in Kerrville, TX (I really need to practice that Christmas music). It's funny, but I couldn't hardly read a damn thing for piano when I started with them earlier this year (I'm just a honytonk player and play by ear and knowing some theory) but now I can actually keep up with them. It's been a great learning experience and I'm starting to feel comfortable with the parts.

              We do different kinds of setups depending on how loud and the situation. Outdoors for a 100 folks, we just end up with vocals, keys, bass, and kick in the mixer and sidefills for the band, a monitor for the bass player, and IEMs for the vocalists, keys, bass.

              If we are doing a dance, there will be mics on the kit plus section mics added, usually favoring the soloists (as noted above, there's usually just one per section).

              At least for our sitatuions, it shouldn't be real active for the sound guy... IMO, the soloists will balance themselves by playing louder and the arrangements do a lot of that work for the players.

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              • #8
                These types of groups are the best gigs. I was notified about three days ago that a well established orchestra from a large city is hiring me for an upcoming event. Beats the heck out of teenage metal heads by leaps and bounds.

                A&H GL2800 console, BagEnd Crystals over D-18's, 12"and 15" BagEnd and EAW wedges powered and processed by QSC, Klark, BSS, Symetrix, Valley, Sabine, Peavey and BagEnd INFRA.

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by wesg View Post
                  The room is dry. Trumpets, bones, and especially saxes will get a bit of reverb. Singer will get a bit, too. My guideline for reverb is "if you can tell there is reverb, there is too much reverb". There goes Andy whispering "less is more" at me again.
                  I work in room that is so live that (except for rock songs that need those long delays), I use no effects at all. All reverb does in this case is kill intelligibility.

                  You could always put an omni mic in the middle AND close mic everything. You don't have to bring up every channel (you could even hide it in the routing of the board so people THOUGHT you were actively mixing. This could also give you options in case you did need a spot of this or a dash of that to complete the recipe. Yea I know it's sort of a cheat but to many uninformed "listeners" the visual aspect can make everything "sound" better . He He.

                  J.R. Previously jrble

                  See my Dog Of The Hair studio at: http://www.dogoth.com/studio/

                  Quote from someone: Flat response? Get out the jack and change the tire.
                  If you think "power is knowledge", you have it backwards.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Dogoth View Post

                    Yea I know it's sort of a cheat but to many uninformed "listeners" the visual aspect can make everything "sound" better . He He.
                    The above is true. Many concert-goers listen with their eyes...

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      MikeM - sounds like are familiar with this band leader. My plan, for now, is to do a good job on this show and then try to convince the band leader to go with Basie's (etc) layout for the next show: http://www.laphil.com/sites/default/...?itok=8S7rOICv

                      Luckenbacher - looks like we're mostly in the same boat. Getting back to this type of music after a 20 year absence (and on a different instrument - I was a tenor sax man) has really helped my proficiency as a piano player and especially chart-reader. The extra bucks in my pocket don't hurt, either.

                      .........

                      We had our dress rehearsal in the venue last night, with the PA, mostly because I wanted the opportunity to actually WORK with the band, rather than just throwing up a bunch of mics and hoping for the best. It was a good call - I solved a few positioning problems, and discovered why this band always has too much bass in the show mixes but not in the rehearsal hall. The bass player moves his amp for shows and turns it up so he can hear it in the new position.......and bleeds into the bones and sax mics so badly that he is too loud even when turned right off.

                      I also learned that mic'ing pairs of altos works great, but not pairs of tenors. Mostly because the altos are girls who get right up to the mic, but the 1st chair tenor is an older fellow who bends over when playing solos. I see why MikeM likes giving each sax their own mic. I'll leave the section mics as-rehearsed for the show, but will give the tenor man a solo mic. Will talk to him about a switched mic. I'm not confident that he can remember to switch it on/off.

                      By the way, I finished line-checks about 55 minutes after pulling into the driveway. I think that's pretty good. I was able to back the van right up to the stairs and extend my ramp like a gangplank. So no stairs, everything heavy was rolled. Pulled out of the driveway 35 minutes after rehearsal ended.

                      Now my next short-term mission is to advocate for something other than white-only out of the PAR 128 RGBW fixtures. *sigh*. Band leader does not want coloured lights on his charts. I am going to beg for light amber. I look like crap under white light.
                      Last edited by wesg; 12-09-2016, 11:17 AM.
                      Do daemons dream of electric sleep()?

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        I used to do a lot of big band audio (provided sound for a huge jazz festival back in the 80s - something crazy like 18 different rooms at once).

                        My ex-business partner still does a fair amount of it. Since most horn players (especially the older guys) seem to oblivious to where the mic is, He hangs the mics (fairly tight patterned) straight down over the sax section (about a meter over their bells on a boom from behind) making it pretty hard for them to get out of the pickup field. They stand up, it gets louder (old school mic/non-mic technique ). Obviously, this is what groups/vcs's/dca's were made for . He gets pretty good results.
                        J.R. Previously jrble

                        See my Dog Of The Hair studio at: http://www.dogoth.com/studio/

                        Quote from someone: Flat response? Get out the jack and change the tire.
                        If you think "power is knowledge", you have it backwards.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by wesg View Post
                          MikeM - sounds like are familiar with this band leader. My plan, for now, is to do a good job on this show and then try to convince the band leader to go with Basie's (etc) layout for the next show: http://www.laphil.com/sites/default/...?itok=8S7rOICv

                          Luckenbacher - looks like we're mostly in the same boat. Getting back to this type of music after a 20 year absence (and on a different instrument - I was a tenor sax man) has really helped my proficiency as a piano player and especially chart-reader. The extra bucks in my pocket don't hurt, either.

                          .........

                          We had our dress rehearsal in the venue last night, with the PA, mostly because I wanted the opportunity to actually WORK with the band, rather than just throwing up a bunch of mics and hoping for the best. It was a good call - I solved a few positioning problems, and discovered why this band always has too much bass in the show mixes but not in the rehearsal hall. The bass player moves his amp for shows and turns it up so he can hear it in the new position.......and bleeds into the bones and sax mics so badly that he is too loud even when turned right off.

                          I also learned that mic'ing pairs of altos works great, but not pairs of tenors. Mostly because the altos are girls who get right up to the mic, but the 1st chair tenor is an older fellow who bends over when playing solos. I see why MikeM likes giving each sax their own mic. I'll leave the section mics as-rehearsed for the show, but will give the tenor man a solo mic. Will talk to him about a switched mic. I'm not confident that he can remember to switch it on/off.

                          By the way, I finished line-checks about 55 minutes after pulling into the driveway. I think that's pretty good. I was able to back the van right up to the stairs and extend my ramp like a gangplank. So no stairs, everything heavy was rolled. Pulled out of the driveway 35 minutes after rehearsal ended.

                          Now my next short-term mission is to advocate for something other than white-only out of the PAR 128 RGBW fixtures. *sigh*. Band leader does not want coloured lights on his charts. I am going to beg for light amber. I look like crap under white light.
                          One of the big bands I played with (in the early 90's) used a PA consisting of an 8 channel Crate powered mixer, Yorkville M160 (?) (10"woofer x 1"horn) with a Yorkville processor. Two sax solo mics, one trpt solo mic, one tbn solo mic, and one for the leader to chat with the crowd. All of the mics were "switched" and the guys knew how to use them.
                          That PA sounded excellent. (The Yorkville speaker/processor system started my interest in Yorkville gear....which I own a ton of at this point)
                          The PA was easy to set up, did everything that was needed, and was small enough to fit in a VW Bug.

                          Unless someone is getting paid a pretty penny, big bands do not need to to be "over mic'd" as sometimes less is more...

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                          • #14
                            The show on Sunday went fine, I think, but I was sick as a dog. I'm looking forward to reviewing the video so I can see what I did well and what I didn't.

                            MikeM - would sure like to get there with this group. Next step is convincing the band leader to set up "normal" so that I am not trying to fix the sound with the PA. I would also be able to lower the overall level of the band if I didn't have to try fix dispersion problems with the PA. I work with another band, 17+1 pieces also. All I provide is two SM57s out front, an RE20 on bari and an input for the flute mic for when lead alto plays flute. Oh, and a Beta 58 for vocals. That's it!

                            Dogoth - that's roughly the approach I've taken with this group - natural volume boost when standing - although still had some problems with Lead Tenor. Not sure how to solve this one.....I gave him a Beta 58 positioned as close to the sweet spot (when standing) as I could (he had concerns with the mic shadow on his charts). It sounded great when he was playing solos most of the time, but sometimes got really really really thin and edgy. I couldn't look up, but if I were a betting man, I'd bet that he was bending over to read the bottom of his chart, putting the bell too far away from the 58 so that it was picking up mostly reed and tone hole noise.

                            Oh well, live and learn. I am learning. I would actually like to get really good at this at some point.
                            Do daemons dream of electric sleep()?

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                            • #15
                              PS - biggest problem of the day? MC. Could not get him on mic. 2 feet is just too far away for a Beta 58 when you're running mains-behind-band. Finally got him to stay with 12 inches or so, but he kept pointing the mic directly at one speaker, which was exciting a low frequency standing wave, but not enough to get the DriveRack AFS to drop it. Luckily, I had a 31ch GEQ inserted on that channel and was able to find it. I also found the singer's "screechy/brittleness", I pulled about 6dB(!) out of 2.5kHz and 3.15kHz to tame it.

                              I wonder what the heck I will do if I work with that MC again. Am tempted to make him go hand-held. Or maybe use a podium.
                              Last edited by wesg; 12-14-2016, 08:57 AM.
                              Do daemons dream of electric sleep()?

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