Archives For Audio

Quiztones-Screenshots

If you mix, recognizing frequencies is probably the most valuable technical skill you can develop. With that in mind, here’s a product I love and have been using for years.

Quiztones is an ear training app for audio engineers. Quiztones scores you on a number of listening tests designed to improve your ability to recognize specific frequency ranges. The simplest is a series of sine wave frequencies, choosing from options at least an octave apart. The most challenging is a +5 dB EQ boost on an audio track you choose from your library, or the built-in instrument samples in the Quiztones library. All quizzes consist of ten multiple choice “questions” and are scored out of 1000. Continue Reading…

DI-box

Seems fairly straightforward, right? A 1/4″ cable connects the instrument to the DI box. Is there really a right and wrong way to do this?

As far as sound quality is concerned, no. There’s nothing more to it than plugging into the correct jack. The difference I’m talking about is whether or not you cause a loud “pop” in the system. There are two connections to be made: one at the guitar and the other at the DI box. And the order in which they are connected determines whether or not you get a “pop”.

HOW TO STOP THE “POP”

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9Vs-processed

Through high school I worked at a music store, mostly in the guitar department. I can’t tell you how many times a client would bring in a relatively new acoustic guitar, complaining that it was distorting or had no sound coming out. A familiar call and answer would then ensue:

Me: “did you check the battery?”

Customer:  “it has a battery?!”

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Qu16-EQ-section-2

We’ve already done a 3-part series on EQ, and we covered the critical listening skills required to use it, instrument by instrument, in our series “Taking It Apart”. These posts are great learning material, and I highly recommend looking back at them.

Our locations are getting new digital sound consoles. This is exciting for a number of reasons, one of which is EQ. Our old consoles were analog and had semi-parametric EQ, which means they had some of the functionality of a parametric EQ, but were missing a few features. In our case, the high and low frequency bands were fixed shelf filters. The high mid and low-mid bands were sweepable filters, but there were no width or Q adjustments.

Okay stop — if that last sentence confused the heck out of you, you really need to go back and read at least the overview post from the original EQ series.

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Qu16-comp

The topic of the day is audio compression. Compression is a common tool found on digital mixers, dedicated outboard units and audio software. Compressors can be tremendously helpful, but they are intimidating at first. This is partly because they seem to be doing lots of math, hidden behind complicated terminology. I’m not going to lie to you: compressors are not simple. They are probably the most advanced tools you will ever use in a mix. But I’m confident you can learn to use them and that’s why we’re here. To start, we need to understand what compressors do:

Compressors reduce the dynamic range of a source to help it sit better in the mix.

“Dynamic range” is the difference between the softest and loudest sounds in a source. A compressor reduces this range, evening out the levels of a performance and often making it sound louder in the end.

How does it accomplish this? Continue Reading…

In-ears-brighter

Over the next six months we will be switching all our sites to in-ear monitors. We made the move at our Production Site a number of years ago and we haven’t looked back. The clean looking stage and the clean sound both for the crowd and the band have been fantastic. But the transition is not always easy. In-ears take some getting used to. This is especially true for vocalists who will hear their voice in a whole different way, and often for more experienced musicians who have grown accustomed to performing with stage monitors.

By some miracle of providence, I’ve been involved in transitioning bands from wedge monitors to in-ears four times in my career. As a musician and a tech, I’ve experienced both the stage and the mixer, big venues and small venues, big bands and small bands. And I am a big fan of in-ear monitors. I have some ideas for easing the transition and getting the most out your monitors.

What are we talking about, here?

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Ian_rocks_out

The best part of my job is visiting all thirteen of our sites. I get to meet great people, make observations, comparisons and recommendations. Then, because of my fancy nametag, people usually do what I suggest. But in the hustle of setting up portable church (twelve of our sites are portable) I don’t always have the time to thoroughly explain the reasons behind my recommendations. And when I’m not at the Meeting House, my rule is “say nothing unless you’re asked”. Words to live by, but it can lead to intense experiences of cringing followed by iPhone photos that make their way onto twitter after a few days (to protect the identities of the perpetrators).

One such issue is speaker placement. “Where do the speakers go?” It ought to be a straightforward question – it’s one of the more purely scientific parts of live production – but I’ve seen some interesting answers. Science-fiction answers. It’s time to set the record straight on a few things.

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EQ Part 3: Going Fishing

Jared Taylor —  March 18, 2013 — 2 Comments
Part 3 of 3 in the series EQ

Grandpa-Taylor-fish-1

Grandpa Taylor was a handy guy to have around. He was as strong as an ox, loyal to the bone and knew the value of good tools. Although he never got into mixing audio, he possessed at least one related skill …

In our first post in this series we established that EQ is a volume control for a specific frequency. Last time I recommended an approach based on cutting frequencies before boosting. But how do you choose which frequency to adjust? How do you identify what you’re hearing in order to make a change?

Training your ears for mixing is a lifelong process. Our series on critical listening is a great overview of what to listen for on most common instruments. If you’re not sure where to start with a particular instrument, go back and read it! If you identify what you’re hearing but can’t quite find it on the console, you can learn to dial in the exact frequency with a process called fishing.

Fishing is like a “try-before-you-buy” for parametric EQ settings. Whether you’re looking to squash a particular sound (cut) or highlight it (boost), you can follow the same simple process:

Step 1 – choose your pond. In most cases, you’ll be fishing in the high-mid or low-mid bands. Remember, you can only fish where you can sweep (sounds a bit like ice fishing doesn’t it?) so high and low shelf filters are not an option on most analog desks.

Step 2 – bait with boost. I know – if you read my last post this will sound like heresy. Don’t worry, it’s only a temporary measure. When fishing for frequencies, the proper bait is a sizeable boost of 9 dB or more (feedback permitting).

Step 3 – sweep it around. Adjust the frequency control until the sound you’re looking for pops out. The big boost makes it easier to hear when you’ve found it. (An analogous fishing term for this would be doodlesocking. I think I’ve said enough)

Step 4 – reel it in. With the target sound dialed in, adjust the gain until the frequency is cut or boosted to your satisfaction.

Remember that fishing sounds pretty strange coming through the speakers. This isn’t a concern during soundcheck, but if you make adjustments during a performance you should go about it in a more subtle way. The more you practice, the more you’ll be able to identify frequencies and make tweaks without having to go fishing every time.

Part 2 of 3 in the series EQ

Saw

If I could only give one tip for working EQ it would be to cut first, boost if you have to. There are a few good reasons I say this, but first I want to make sure we all know what I’m talking about.

Cut first, boost if you have to

Last week we said that EQ is a volume control for a specific frequency. It lets you add or subtract gain at a specific frequency to [hopefully] balance the sound of a source. Boosting turns up a particular frequency, while cutting turns it down. So, if the goal is to make everything heard clearly, why shouldn’t we just turn up the frequencies we want to hear? I’ll give you two reasons: one technical and one artistic.

The technical reason is that, when it comes to EQ, boosts aren’t as clean as cuts. Boosting frequencies soon results in 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…