Archives For February 2013

Blog - Stage Signals

I was asked to lead the music at a youth conference in Toronto this past Saturday. The band rehearsed a couple of times and felt good coming into the weekend. Long story short, a couple of circumstances left us scrambling to find another drummer on Friday evening … hours before our first set. Eventually, we found someone to fill in, but walking into the building at 6:15am on Saturday morning, I knew, more than ever, my stage signals to my band that day had to be clear.

It’s not always that you’re left playing a service or an event without any rehearsals with your band (I don’t recommend this), but even with rehearsal, the direction of a song can turn on a dime and it’s now on the leader to keep that from becoming a distraction.

We’re going to jump into a series that will occasionally pop up over the next number of weeks relating to on-stage communication. This will relate far beyond the “Good morning everyone!  Stand up and sing with us!” We will talk about that direction of communication, but more importantly, we’re going to talk about communication between the leader and the band both in a rehearsal and during the service or event. Continue Reading…

Part 1 of 3 in the series EQ

On Christmas morning, 1990, I received my first personal cassette player. It was a Sanyo BassXpander with AM/FM radio, auto-reverse and three glorious bands of EQ. I immediately set my nine year-old fingers to work mastering the use of this advanced tool with DC Talk’s “Nu Thang” as my source material. I discovered, naturally, that it sounded best with all three bands of equalization turned all the way up! I’m not sure when it clicked for me, but I eventually realized that I could achieve the same result by simply turning up the volume a bit. This new awareness opened the door to more subtle, artistic tailoring of the equalizer. I memorized different settings for at home vs. in the family van; for Christian Hip-Hop vs. Christian Hair Metal; for listening at low volumes vs. high volumes. This early introduction to equalization served me well when I started into live audio several years later.

EQ is essentially a volume control for a specific frequency. It allows you to tailor the sound of a source to make it fit well in the mix. These adjustments are a big part of the role of a sound engineer, as every source is unique. We make EQ adjustments to compensate for the way sources sound, for microphone placement, for the sound of microphones themselves and, most importantly, to help sources complement each other musically. EQ is one of the most artistic aspects of audio mixing and, like everything we do, it begins with listening. Continue Reading…

  1. Take lengthy pauses between songs. Say nothing for extra effect while staring at the drummer displeasingly!
  2. Modulate, modulate, modulate!
  3. Keep your eyes fixed on the music stand. At all times. Do not look away.
  4. Always emulate Mariah Carey or Christina Aguilera in your singing approach. The more syllables, the better-yeah-yeah-ooooooh-errrr.
  5. Never practice together as a band before Sunday morning. Your collective talent is a gift from God that should not require any human striving.
  6. When in doubt, sing slightly off key. It’s helpful for the congregation.
  7. Clap. Even in slow songs. Yes Lord!
  8. Forget the words – and often. Make up new ones as the Spirit leads. In every song.
  9. Pick a key that is in the perfect range for your voice. Being the worship leader and all, you’ve earned it. Making sure that your voice sounds AWESOME is the most important part of leading people in worship.
  10. Practice your worship face. Make it pleasing to the Lord. (Ok this might be crossing a line, but I think it’s hilarious. Check out #WorshipFaceWednesday on Instagram)

Gain-knob

It’s the knob at the top. The importance of getting the gain right can’t be overstated. It’s the fundamental first setting on each channel that affects every knob, fader and external processor all the way down the chain.

The simplest way to define gain is as a volume control on the way into the console.

Gain is a volume control on the way into the console.

Microphones output a very quiet signal which we call “mic level”. The exact level varies based on the kind of microphone, the source volume and the distance from the source to the microphone, but it’s in the millivolt range. Continue Reading…

Blog - Pads Textures Header

Do you ever feel like even with all the pieces in their place, there’s still something missing from the sound of your band? It happens. You can lock in a rhythm section and know that your lead lines are taking the spotlight, but sometimes you can just feel something missing.

Chances are what you need are Pads or Textures to fill in all of the gaps. At the risk of frustrating Jared Taylor, I’m not going to say that pads are “like the glue that holds it all together,” but I will say it’s like the water that fills in all the cracks.  If it’s a thick sound you’re going for, you’ve come to the right place.

It’s like the water that fills in the cracks.

Before we list some practical tips to remember while playing pads or textures in a band setting, I might need to show an example of what pads are.  Take a listen to this clip, (With Everything – Hillsong (Track 16)) or listen to the intro of any other Hillsong song … you’ll get the point.

A pad or texture is typically found on a synth (or in the patch bank of most keyboards) or a highly processed electric guitar, but could also occasionally come in the form of an orchestra (maybe not in the typical Sunday morning setting), choir, or loop.

Things to remember when playing the pads:

  • Your goal is not to be heard — it’s to be felt and to add thickness to the overall sound.
  • The voicings are crucial when playing chords — typically good voicings are made up of “stack 4” chords (OMITTING 3rds, and with 9ths added — or open 5ths, octaves, or single notes, depending on what the arrangement needs).
  • The attack on most pad patches on keyboards is VERY slow — the means that you’re going to typically play long sustained chords that move slowly. It is not uncommon for a pad player on the keyboard to play one static note or interval for an extended period of time (get a heavy book, put it on the pedal and go grab yourself a coffee).
  • There are a LOT of bad pad sounds on most keyboards. You have to filter through the lists to find one that doesn’t sound like a computerized string quartet — take the time to find the right patches!

Keyboard players, let’s call it like it is, you are most certainly over qualified for this role! But, never underestimate the contribution that a pad can bring to the overall sound.

What is Sound?

Jared Taylor —  February 4, 2013 — Leave a comment
Sound represented in a histogram

Music represented in a histogram

Have you ever seen sound? Unless you’re one of a small percentage who experience chromesthesia, the answer is probably no. But you’ve likely seen sound represented graphically in a histogram. It’s a common and useful way of displaying information about sound, but it is not what sound looks like.

Sound is wave of varying pressure, compressing and decompressing at a rate our ears can detect. If we could see it, it would look more like ripples in water, only they’re in the air and moving right at you! Continue Reading…