Workshops and training courses in live sound engineering for concerts, festivals and events
Left to right: myself and Neville, with trainees John and Nick. Would you trust this motley crew to run your festival?!
Neville and Anthony in action.. The fastest stage changers in the south-west!
Church Sound Continues
During the last part of 2008 and stretching into early 2009 I was asked to assist with the live sound components for two more churches. The first was Destiny International in Southwark, London. The set-up here consisted of a full sound system in a large building, all mixed from the balcony - not ideal especially for beginners! We looked at their procedure for sound checking (or lack of) on the Sunday mornings before worship, and tried to implement something that closer resembled a proper soundcheck session so that the PA team and the singers could focus on getting the sound correct.
Next I paid a visit to Life Spring Church - Wolverhampton. There we spent 2 days implementing some of the good sound engineering basics, from system set-up through fault finding and then sound checking and looking at monitoring issues. The PA team there did really well headed up by Rob Willoughby.
As my experience teaching at these places of worship grows I am quickly discovering that I end up training the musicians as well as training the sound engineers. Most worship groups are formed using people with different levels of musical skill and ability, I am always pleasantly surprised at just how seriously and professionally the musicians conduct themselves given that they may well not perform at any other occasion. To that end, the sound engineer cannot expect for the worship group to necessarily know how to behave in soundcheck. i.e what to ask for, and what not to ask for in the foldback monitors, and how to go about asking for it. There are certain rules and protocols that both the musicians and sound engineer need to adhere to in order to achieve a quick and trouble free soundcheck and I'm happy to implement this into the training sessions.
Bespoke Live Sound Training - Monday 8th Sept 08 & Saturday 20th Sept 08
Recently I have engaged in some bespoke sound training at two places of worship. On Monday 8th Sept I travelled to London to assist at The Darul Ummah Mosque in east London. A sound system had recently been installed to amplify the prayer recitals, and was being put to test during the busy time of Ramadan. Some of the organisers at the mosque had encountered problems with feedback and and finding the correct reverb and delay settings to produce a suitable effect. The set-up was simple - only 3 microphones were required to amplify the recitals. However, because the speakers were dotted around the edges of the room in all directions, it proved difficult to achieve enough gain before feedback. In addition the system was to be set and then left unattended, and so a suitable "compromise" setting had to be achieved in order to encompass a number of different people using the system with varying microphone techniques and loudness of voice. We installed a graphic equaliser on the main outputs to reduce some of the prominent feedback frequencies, and then spent a good while listening to the system to try to achieve a good reverb/delay setting - again that would be suitable for all. The day went really well and highlighted the importance of critically good sound even within the simplest of set-ups.
Next up was The Holy Trinity Church in Aldershot - Here there was a much more comprehensive sound system in place as much of their worship involved performances from various combinations of bands, singers and musicians. There were several problems to address from monitoring and feedback, to room acoustics and general method and approach. It was set to be a busy day and proved to be very productive! We upgraded the monitors to a 4-send system, looked at room equalisation, rewired the stage to make better sense of channel inputs and then proceeded to launch into soundcheck and establish a clear order of events, protocol and chain of command!
Musical director Dave Healey has sent through a letter of thanks:
"I would like to say thank you very much for your technical input and
training on Saturday.
I appreciated your clear, technical focus on what was important, yet
balanced with a very patient approach to helping us to understand the
I think that the addition of the additional 2 foldback channels is a big
improvement, and will help us to control much better the sound we, as
Peter Genari the technical manager added:
"Sound balance and depth was best ever!!"
Combined Sound System Evaluation and Training - 13th 14th August 07
Following on from meeting Dylan at Cromer, we established two days to evaluate his new PA system and audio skills. So off to North Wales I headed. Dylan managed to purchase a rather hefty PA system for not very much money (comparatively) on Ebay! A few years ago this would have been an absolute "no-no" but following the recent improvements made by overseas unfamiliar manufacturers, you can end up with quite a reasonable standard of equipment for your bucks. The rule still stands that you get what you pay for, but it was a relief to see that Dylan had become the proud owner of some very useable gear, which certainly measures up to the type of concerts he demands of it.
Needles to say, we spent the time very productively. We managed to make several improvements to the system and extend Dylan's working knowledge and confidence. This all culminated in a gig (18th birthday party to be precise) with 3 bands performing including one 10 piece ska band, with Dylan at the helm mixing the show.
Take a look at Dylan and his PA at his myspace site http://www.myspace.com/bwnpa
Based in North Wales and offers a complete PA service at a competitive price!
Cromer Folk on the Pier
This has been a mainstay festival for the last 7 years - the festival itself reaches the grand old age of 10 this year. For this event I was accompanied by trainee Dylan who travelled from deepest darkest North Wales to join us - a mere 7 hour train journey!
The festival is a pleasant mix of seaside location, 6 acts a day, 5 minute changeovers and luxury accommodation! Dylan fitted in with our crew really well performing stage duties all weekend and being thrown in at the deep end of a mixing desk - which Dylan took in his stride..... myself and the 550 strong sellout audience were very pleased!
The highlight of the weekend had to be Terrafolk. A Slovenian band that combine a masterclass in musicianship of acoustic instruments and classical music with death rock vocals! I guess you had to be there......
GMG Training Events
I have established links with The GMG to provide a two day sound course available with funding for FREE to anyone living in the Gloucestershire region. This new two day course features 1 full day sound engineering training with a live band, and is accompanied by a second day health and safety training. A formal examination is performed at the end of the health and safety training day and students receive a 'Chartered Institute of Environmental Health Certificate - Health and Safety in the Workplace' - provided they pass!
The first of these dates went really well - photos here soon...... A second set of these training opportunities will be run on 10th / 11th September,
GMG training opportunities are now closed. Big thanks to Anna, AC and Dave for assisting me in this venture.
16th - 18th Feb Cheltenham Folk Festival
This years Cheltenham Folk Festival offered a number of demanding pressures from a variety of sources:
Cheltenham is the first outing for myself and Neville Mitchell not operating under the guise of Spadger Sound Services. Since John Eeles retirement, myself and Neville have been approached by a few of the "usual suspects" keen to know if we we're still guns-for-hire as folk sound engineers. Long hours, impossibly short sound checks, impromptu stormings of the stage by fiddle clad musicians............. how could we refuse! So in collaboration with Cheltenham Stage Services we met the season head on!
Secondly, the infamous Cheltenham Town Hall in-house delay speakers. Late 2006 saw myself and Neville removing much of the pre-historic signal processing, and replacing it with the rather well spec'd behringer speaker management system. After a few teething problems, the system seemed to be performing well, with all to prove at the Folk festival (if you can please a folk audience...) Although I do say so myself, the town hall is sounding better than it ever has- line arrays step aside - you cant beat time alligned nearfiled sound sources in such a barn of a building.
And finally, Cheltenham is the first time I have invited trainees to one of our events. Everybody performed really really well both on stage and at FOH. Anthony wins the "Die hard get-out" award, Adam receives the coveted "couldnt-have-happened- to-a-nicer-bloke" award. Meanwhile John sneaks in with the everyday is like Sunday award and congratulations goes to Nick for his new found love of songstress ensembles (or is it a fetish?!)
So it is without hesitation that I congratulate the trainees, and ofcourse Neville for what can only be discribed as a success! Who's up for the next one?!
11th Feb Training course
The first training session at the space went really well.
The four attendees were:
Adam - from Portland - experienced rig technician looking to get a bit more hands on faders.
Anthony - from Bristol AV technician at secondary school (that deserves a medal on its own) looking to become a freelance technician
John - from Coaley - freelance film and television sound recordist, looking to understand why live gigs sound so bad!
Nick - Strouds finest - sent on day trip by the Subscription Rooms to further technical training.
Big thanks to Heelstone - our superb acoustic act all the way from Salisbury. Their willingness to be experimented on is commendable, their comments invaluable, and their spirits immovable! I hope they found it in some way useful, - thanks once again Gareth, Wen and Merv. Thanks also to Cheltenham Stage Services for the excellent PA system. The UPA's FOH speakers are a very nice product, and we all really enjoyed the mains power jigsaw puzzle (me included!) Thanks also to The Space - great venue and really coming together of late - well done Sue B!