How does your sound tech practice?
Your vocalists practice, your guitar player practices, your drummer well he may practice, but how does your sound guy or lady, practice?
Assuming that you have a 5-piece band - there are at least 15 hours of practice that the entire band has put in. This is assuming a 2-hour band rehearsal and that each musician practiced 1 hour on their own during the week.
I believe that is an extremely conservative estimate. Those 15+ hours can be wasted by a bad mix during the worship service.
So how does your sound guy practice?
Some would argue that in the above scenario, the sound guy did get in 2 hourw of practice with the band.
But really was it practice?
Sure, the sound guy was able to mess with the faders, play with some eq, maybe dial in a little compression.
More than likely, this was mixed with taking care of the band's needs. It was also pretty fragmented. He could have been in the middle of trying to set the gate on the kick drum and the band stops.
A friend of mine jokingly refers to the stop button. You are right in the middle of dialing in something and the band stops and leaves your hanging. So, what is the solution?
Enter Virtual sound check.
Record, Practice, Perfect your mix.
Today most digital boards have a multitrack digital out. The most common form is USB.
With inexpensive, or free software, you can record 32 or more tracks of live audio to a computer. Waves Tracks Live, for example, offers a free version that is fully functional (you can pay $99 and get phone support and priority updates).
Once you have recorded the band, then you can flip the inputs on your console to digital in and playback the multi-track recording.
It is just like the band is there live.
Now you can take your time, mute everything but the kick drum, and really hear the changes that your compression settings are making on that input.
You can also replay a section as many times as you would like and listen to how it sounds as you change your settings. You can do this with all of the channels.
You can turn everything back on and play with your overall mix.
No more having the musicians wait around or play individually as you tweak the sound.
There are also devices on the market that are stand alone, purpose-built. They do not need a computer to operate and you do not have to mess with any software. The advantage of a stand-alone device is that you have little to no set up and no computer to lug around.
There are many multitrack recorders that can do a virtual sound check.
The following are three of the best fit units for the worship market:
- JoeCo has Blackbox
- Cymatic has Utrack 32
- NemoSyn has Ndrive
JoeCo blackbox comes in 3 flavors, Analog, Madi and Dante.
You hook up a hard drive to the usb on the blackbox and you can record full uncompressed wav files. Physically a single rack mount unit, the Black box is geared towards the professional user and requires an interface if you only have usb out on your console. Being rack mounted It is the most "pro version" and is great if you are on tour and want to capture audio from the show. Your recording length in limited by the hard drive size that you connect to it. Cost for the Madi version $3995,00 plus hard drive http://www.joeco.co.uk/BBR_models.html
The Utrack 32 by Cymatic is a purpose built card that fits in to the popular Behringer X32 digital mixing console.
Once inserted in to the board you simply hook up a usb hard drive, download the app, connect the Ethernet port on the card to a wireless network and then you the app to control the recording and playback of your files. Cost $499.00 plus hard drive http://cymaticaudio.com/products/recorders-players/utrack-x32
Nemosyn has the Ndrive a portable usb recorded that can connect to any mixer that has a usb multitrack out.
(Behringer, Yamaha, Soundcraft, Allen and heath and others have mixers with usb connectivity for multi-track). There is a large record button, a large play button and a touch screen to control playback and recording. The unit records to an onboard SD- card. Nemosyn ships the Ndrive with a 64 gig SD card. Cost $599.00 (includes everything needed) www.nemosyn.com
Virtual sound check is the by far the best tool a sound guy can have to hone his craft. One of the really beautiful things is that now the sound guy and worship leader can sit together and work on the mix together.
It is well worth the investment; with practice you can perfect your mix!