DR blog -Amstredam 1

Hopped in the merch van after Antwerp for a short drive to Amsterdam. I was planning on buying a new Brompton, taking a train to The Hague and Clint Vicky and I riding 40 miles back to Amsterdam. Unfortunately, most bike shops are closed on Mondays. Would be nice to upgrade as the one I have now I bought used and for the amount of riding I am doing, really needs an overhaul. Plus I’d like to switch from a 3 to 6 speed version.

Touring with Chili Peppers is pretty good stuff as far as touring goes. Never more than 2 shows in a row and lots of back to back shows in the same city. So we are here for 4 days before heading to Luxembourg. 

Ya know, doing sound is easy, getting a good sound is harder, getting a good sound consistently in a wide variety of big echoey venues is a real challenge. And making everyone always happy is a pipe dream.

My methods to attempt happiness success is all about triangulating numerous factors. First I am looking for even coverage throughout the venue and honestly I entrust that to long time FOH tech Jim Lockyer currently working with Radek from Highlite, our Euro sound vendor. 

Second I am looking a smooth frequency response as measured by a spectrum analyzer as well as my ears. Probably the most overlooked but critical factor that ruins mixes in big venues is room resonance. Find it and EQ the shit out of it to get rid of it. Usually for the 18,000 to 25,000 capacity arenas, room resonance is in the 120hz to 180hz range.

I use a headphone reference as well, by listening to the mix in headphone and the the hearing the room, its fairly easy to pick out frequencies that the room or system is reproducing unevenly.

Meanwhile I pay close attention to room temperature while Narci, our production manager works with each venues to try and thermal consistancy from show to show.one thing we shoot for is to turn of all temperature control and air handlers 30 mins before Peppers. This allows the room to stabilize. Then once we have some songs in, narci adjusts as needed to keep people from overheating.

For the Antwerp gig we started out with a warm room with a bit of a dull overall sound. As it got hotter from all the humans, the air conditioning ran for a bit and the sound got more crisp and clearer. As the outside temp dropped it seemed to hold the cooler temp and reached a stable balance. The general rule is that the more stable and consistent the temp is, the more stable and consultant the sound will be.  Also tracking these temp changes and making sure to compensate on the house EQ rather than destroying the channel EQs is important.

Simultaneously, of course I am paying attention to make sure all the instrument levels are balanced so everyone can hear everything as clearly as possible. With Chili Peppers, every sound you hear is being created in real time by either someone on stage on an occasional effect from me.

Over the longer term I pay attention to comments from friends of the band, band managers, personal friends, concert reviews and occasionally even sound from YouTube videos of people holding up their iPhone at various locations within the venue.I know I will never get perfect sound, what I shoot for is great sound, or at minimum, better sound than anyone else is getting in that venue.

Ok, picture time: awkwardly low human to case on ramp ratio

Sometimes we experience catastrophic to failures that can have severe impacts on our ability to rock a gig.  Here you can see monitor Mark and power Tom fixing the wall wart adapter for the dressing room stereo


Touring would be a bit more challenging is we moved sound systems using the bike trailer option. 

Ok well, woke up this morning and as I read the news my life slippes backwards to high school. The lunch table cliches of people I neither like nor talk to, the jocks versus nerds versus hippies versus punkers. Surrounded by the feeling dread at the thought of my future life sitting behind a desk and following the presupposed paths of acceptable success. 

And I realize the collapsing illusion that anything has changed is purely a result of successfully isolating myself from the same people I dreaded back then. 

I don’t know a simple word to describe how I feel. Some combination of sad and numb yet a familiar head shaking comfort and resolve.

Oh well, it could be worse, it can always be worse.

Antwerp

As with most things in my life I try not to fret about things beyond my control while doing my best to optimize the outcome. SPL limitations come in a wide variety of flavors. a weighted rules tend to protect people’s hearing while C weighted limits are more effective at monitoring the low frequency sounds neighbors complain about.

Today we have a 100db A weighted over 60 minutes as described in the letter below:

______________________________

Name : …………………………………….

Declare that I have read the dB limit regulations at the           SPORTPALEIS ANTWERP

And, I declare, in my capacity as : 

(jobtitle) …………………………………………..to 

RED HOT CHILI PEPPERS

that the artist and soundcrew I respresent, will comply to these rules :

dB Limits :

To prevent hearing damage, the maximum sound level is set to maximum:

Leq = 100 dB(A), measured over a period of 60 minutes at FOH.

This will be monitored closely, and logged.  All bands must stay within those limits.  

Please work with us on this one, because any violation of this rule can cost us a substantial fine, which we would bill you for,  and can cause us to lose our license to promote shows in this country.  

Earplugs are available in the Production office, and are distributed for free in the foyer.

Thank you very much for your cooperation !

Signature : …………………………………………

______________________________

Seems pretty straight forward, and unfortunately I prefer to mix at 103A weighted. Let’s look a bit deeper into this. 

I believe this limit is a national rule for Belgium not just a local or venue induced restriction. The restriction is annoying but not as unreasonable as it could be, so let’s look at optimizing to deliver the most exciting show possible without violating the rules.

It mentions the the max spl and time frame but does not mention whether the 60 minutes has specific start and end times, resetting every hour or whether it is a rolling 60 minute window. I have encountered both types but unfortunately this is a rolling window.

If it was a resetting window, I would try and get control over the start time. Ideally starting the monitoring 15 mins before show to have some of the quiter set change averaged into the first window. Then the second window would have the encore break averaged in and end like 10 mins after the show is over.

Another option would be to move FOH farther away, which would allow an increase in overall venue level.

This will be a bit tight so and once I see the set list I will figured out a volume strategy. Start the show loud, find some songs to pull back on, some to boost and making sure I have enough headroom left to ramp up for the pre and post encore finale’s.

And beyond gig life a bit of a rainy few miles biking to the gig from the hotel and this truck cluster looked cool. This isn’t all of them as there are a few more near the buses.

Look where they put the follow spot ops.

Ok, so the show went well, I did feel a bit pinched on sound levels as I navigated and did my best to maximise.

Ok, we’ll this is as close as I could get to the 100db limit

So gonna hope a ride in the merch van again, off to Amsterdam day off.

Mics and Bikes

So to start, let’s look at the question I posed last post about choosing between a single mic or 2 mics and a Y cable when acquiring sound from 2 spaced sources.

To unravel this let’s make and a list of things we expect to occur.

Using one mic:

  • Farther from both the sources
  • No interference from two mics
  • Less proximity effect
  • More sound from the room and other instruments
  • Easier
  • Control the level balance between the instruments with placement

Using 2 mics and a Y:

  • Closer to each source
  • Unwanted noise from the mic on the instrument not being played
  • Proximity effect add lows
  • More complex
  • Control the level balance with placement
  • Potential mic impedance interactions with dynamic mics

So those are the main aspects, there may be more but those are the main ones. The question is, which method do we choose for what application and why?

Like everything in Austria there is no simple answer but here are some guidlines: 

If you are mic’ing humans, one mic allows them to work the mic and solo and add human interaction. If they can hear that mic in their ears or wedge, this can be optimum as you get all the advantages of close mic’ing when you need it and balanced sound when they step back.

If you are in a reverberant room or there are other loud sources nearby, the Y cable offers strong advantages. Reducing the amount of room sound reapplied by the PA is one of the most important things you can do to clean up your mix. Also, the proximity effect and up close and personal sound of close mic’ing adds energy and power to your mix.

But

If you are mic’ing two drums and they tend to resonate and gating is not effectively working, the Y mic’ing allows that resonance to be loud,up close and personal as well, and proximity effect enhances the issue.

As far as mic impedance interaction, I have yet to notice an issue.  Also, with Y’ing 2 mics works with all but the largest condenser mics, which eliminates interaction between the mics. Theoretically, with a dynamic mic, since it is just a coil, a magnet and a transformer, the output of one mic would actually create sound from the other mic. As a dynamic mic us just a tiny speaker. That said, the output is low and the contribution of this theoretical inference is the least of your issues when mixing a rock show.

I use Y’ed mics, single mics for multiple similar instruments and single mics for disparate instruments. I will use a mic with a figure 8 patern between cowbell and ride or Y 2 mics on roto toms. 

It’s really about trying to make decisions that give you the highest probability of getting the outcome you desire. Then try, then listen, and repeat till your happy.

Alright, beyond the sound world here are some pics, so on the first day of I took 8 hours of trains from Berlin to Brussels. I love the trains, I get work done, I enjoy the world whizzing by at 100+ miles an hour, the soothing sound and all around relaxed sensation. And out of the train station a short bike ride away my hotel was next to this

And also next to these

And in my next day morning wander I liked these tiny trees

And this is how you solvee grabbing the wrong battery charger for point and shoot camera

While in Brussels on the 2nd day off, Clint and Leif took a train to meet me and the the three of us rode to Antwerp.  I was originally going to do a Cologne to Antwerp adventure but they switched to Brussels as I’ve spent a bunch of time in Cologne already this year.

Anyway, hear are some pics of the adventure we have named “Leif ate shit”

First my setup, I am running heavy with a good 40 pounds or more of stuff I needed for work.

It was only 30 miles and for e real biker that nothing but for me it was my longest ride ever.

A mid trip pic from Clint

4 chances to guess what season this is

Nothing to see here, 

The ride was a bit cold, slightly wet and fully wonderful, my only frustrations are with my own self, I wish I was more fit for endurance, working on it.  Wish I spoke more languages and new more world history, working on those as well but nothing happens as fast as my impatient self so desires. 

In the mean time, being that these were days off, I don’t have new sound nerd or show stuff. Over time though I will try to go in depth about just about any subject of interest.

I do read all the comments and if there are things you want me to blog about, let me know. I try and stay in the sound realm so don’t hit me with backline or band questions.

For me, talking about and sharing things helps me see them even more clearly and helps open up new ideas and for that I thank you for showing interest, commenting and asking questions

Cool cool, Antwerp showbtomorrow and then day off in Amsterdam yay!

Berlin

So sound nerds, let me ask you this. Which would result in a a clearer sound with more impact when mic’ing two spaced sources like a pair of rack toms or a pair of saxophones?

1) a single mic 6″ to 24″ away equidistant from both sources or

2) using two mics with each very close to a source and Y’ing the two mics together

Would the ambient noise from the 2nd open mic negate the advantages of getting mics closer or would the ambient sound of having a single mic farther away be more detrimental?

Shifting gears, here is the cover for the new 30″ Rat SuperSubs coming soon, slow but sure and looking to have 16 of them by December at the Rat shop. Pretty excited to get them all fired up.  Just one is adrenaline rush loud, can’t imagine what 16 will do.

And this is what a stage push looks like during load out. The entire stage is on wheels and gets rolled all the way out to the FOH mix position so the lights and video can drop onto the floor.

Here is a shot of the Arcs we use to cover the middle of the audience up close to the stage. Usually I use a flown center fill of Kara but with the moving light array, had to choose a different approach. We also have pairs of Kara on top of the 4 sets of 3 sub clusters across the front of the stage.

Fortunately the PA hang width is much more narrow this tour so the arcs are a feasible solution. Otherwise we were looking at trying to squeeze speakers into the array of 880 nano winches. 

So the buses all rolled at 3 am or so for an overnight to Antwerp while I rolled a chilly bike ride to a hotel a few miles away that I booked while awaiting the encore.

Going to train to Brussels and spend friday night there and on Saturday I think Clint and maybe Leif are going to train to Brussels and all three of us will do a bike ride, Brussels to Antwerp. It will be my first city to city, country to country ride.

and may as well throw in a show pic

And off to Brussels.

DR

Traveling Light

I sure do love avoiding the tour bus.  In fact I love everything about self navigating the world and just showing up for the rock show even if it complicates life. I used to jump in cars and stay at houses of people I just met trading show tickets for a ride to the next gig. I love navigating the unknown and to make getting to the next gig an adventure.

Last night’s mini adventure was to hop a ride from Munich to Berlin with super cool merch human and Brompton fan, Clint. It’s been a while since I’ve done an overnight ride in van and it was a refreshing change. 

Here is a pic with Leif, Clint and I atop a steep Barcelona hill, credits to Clint for the pic and pose

In Berlin now and spent the rainy day sleeping late and catching up on work in the tiny box of a hotel room I booked out near the gig. 

So for today’s tech tidbit here is something we are doing to improve the clarity and sound quality of the vocal inputs. We were having some issues with line noise on the vocal inputs. Partially due to the very low output level of the Audio om7s but also just the amount of gain needed to get the vocal mics on top of the mix makes them overly susceptible to hums and rizz and such.

So in an effort to correct the issue we added the Grace on stage to boost the mics 20db before sending into the snake system. We chose 20 db because that is the same as the input pads on the midas console.  If the Grace were to fail, we could bypass it, take out the input pad and the vocal level will stay gain correct.

The top shiny silver unit is a Grace m801 mic preamp. One of the wonderful advantage of adding the mic pre was an audible improvement in clarity and fidelity. When we tested it, we Y’ed the vocal into two snake channels, one with the Grace, the other direct patched. Then each of the three engineers, me at FOH, Mark on mons and Jason on recording, all listened independently to the Grace and non Grace channels. Unanimously it was apparent the pre-amped vocal was superior sounding.

We have discussed adding a kick, bass and guit line to the open three channels and give a listen. Perhaps when we gear up for the US legs in January.

And because words are just filler between beautiful pictures for all but a few…

My daughter Maddie for Halloween 

Every morning for years when at home I take the same photo of Ventura C-street, someday I will but them all together.

Me in full glory of travel mode how I get to and from the gigs, train stations and airports when the distances are less than excessive

Upfront I have 3 days of clothes, 2 laptops and all I need to be a businessy, designy and relatively presentable human. On the back I have the bag the bike fits inside so I can check it into flight luggage, on top I have my humanly middle aged questionably fit body. And below the foldy Brompton bike that radiates happiness in its engineering and usefulness. 

Ok, 3 for 3 blog posts and the challenge continues for me against me to carry on

DR

Peppers Euro leg #4 München 

And back to the familiar broken sleepless patterns of tour. I actually kind of like the middle of the night few hours awake and milling about.

Though I can’t remember the last time I have been able to consistently sleep through the night, on tour I actually get up. turn on all the lights and have a little mini day in middle night.  I read that people in the 1800’s and earlier, pre electric power and gas street lamps, used to have two sleeps with a bit of a party time in the middle. 

While up and about I was excited to see the new SoundTools web site is up and running. Back home I got to see the first run of WallCat is done and shipping. I need to grab a few WallCats to take home. Several years back I ran a bunch of Cat 5 to most of the rooms and the WallCat will allow me to connect analog audio lines between the bedroom upstairs with the living room downstairs.

Breakfast and 9am bus #3 call time. Usually I try and ride my bike the the gig but still bag heavy until I can stash big yellow in the bus and live out of my refillable backpack /Brompton combo.

I don’t remember being 10, I do remember the feeling of fears and emotions watching the chaotic updates. I remember my dad repeating with emphasis the word “horrible” and endless stream of bad news unfolding followed by total loss. I have been here many times to Munich for shows and not sure why this time the memory returned so clearly but may as well immerse further rather than ignore it. 

A quick search and short bike ride away brings me to building 31, Olympic Village Munich looking at drab all but forgotten plaque 46 years later. And yet even with near half century of time passed, sadly not much has really changed. The same bloody story of hatred repeats and spreads with the cities and names of the victims and shooters changing. I can’t help but feel the angry fires of hatred being reignited back home by a different asshole. We humans are so good at failing to learn that hate begets hate and the trapped and oppressed will be willing to die to escape.
Ok, enough of that for now and back to the gig to see how things are doing. 

Here is a shot of the amp racks getting set to fly out. Putting the amp racks in the air let’s us keep the speaker cables as short as possible. Last tour we did some listening tests and were able to clearly hear sonic improvements with shorter speaker cables. Also converting the analog console outputs to AES3 at FOH rather than 150 meters of analog return lines converting to digital in the amp, offer an audible improvement in clarity. 

And a few array pictures

That’s enough bloggery for now.

DR

New blog adventure 

LAX tarmac headed to Munich and admiring the closed widow shades, relaxed demeanor of the flight staff and am not being treated like a misbehaving school child.

It must be my 12th transatlantic flight this year and I never cease to be annoyed when airlines scold the passengers as if they are idiots for expecting the plane could possibly navigate a takeoff with even one closed window shade. Yes we already know a seat back tilted makes a plane unflyable.

Probably more importantly I am just being sensitive and annoyed at leaving behind my wife and daughters and little four legged pals all gathering for a Halloween party without me.

Fly away to make invisible sounds and immerse in the energy of giant rock shows. Over 25 years of my life spent traveling the world with so many friends I truly love and respect, torn from one world to the next. 

Going to take a shot at ramping back up on some blog posts as I adventure about. Really looking to consolidate the info I post into a single feed rather than a splattering of disconnected Facebook and Twitter posts. Historically I have had a positive response to my blogs but I have never been fully happy with the format. 

I really need to be able to post from my phone rather than laptop, just cause I move around so much so fast. Also the comments on Facebook posts have always been more active and dynamic than comments on the blogs, so now it should work where comments on the blog are done through Facebook. So, thanks to Dave Knepper at Rat, going to give this a shot.

And arriving in London now and

Let the games begin.  Oh, fun Halloween show at the Fonda Theater on Friday. Finally got a chance to mix on and did a visit of a tuneup on the V-Dosc/Rat Sub rig in there and it was awesome fun.

Forgot to take a PA pic but here are a few other pics from the show

Okey dokey, let’s see how this works and if all goes well, we will have an interactive flow of info where I can post and also answer questions or tailor a bit to requests 

Cool cool,

DR