A great opportunity to learn a BUNCH of sound goodies by some of the industries best leaders! The Live Sound Summit Webinar! PLUS you can do this from your couch! I’ll be presenting, too! Mention the code “SUMMIT30” for $30 OFF! Big thanks to Nathan of Sound Design Live!
Big thanks to Nathan Lively of Sound Design Live for the opportunity to share my career, gear and knob turning advice. I address a few of my monitor mixing tips, learning to say no in order to do more of the work you WANT to do, wireless coordination and IEM tips as well as a little history on my career path. Plus some cowbell smacking music interludes on the podcast! Enjoy! Interested in my additional live sound tips and tricks?
Taking the plunge to free yourself of wires and enjoy the freedom of wireless microphones is quite tempting. Although if you’re not careful, the wireless path can bring about challenges not seen before.
The wireless landscape for our entertainment world has some twists and turns. The “chunk” of bandwidth allotted for wireless microphones and wireless in-ear systems shrinks every year. Tip: Be sure to double check the range of the unit. Stay within the 470Mhz – 614Mhz. Avoid anything in the 700 Mhz range.
Although I’ve written more complex articles tacking the wireless beast, this short article aims to recommend some quick wireless microphone best practices and affordable recommendations for the wedding DJ, singer or simple corporate gig.
Static and Drop Outs!
The two most common complaints I hear when helping troubleshoot budget friendly wireless is “static” and “drop outs“.Both problems are closely related to poor reception from transmitter to receiver and channel selection.
How to make it better!
Line Of Sight – keep the receiver off the ground and high enough to “see” over people.
Antenna Orientation – Orient the antennas in a 45 degree “V” shape.
Ensuring In Ear Monitors (IEM’s) are clean, holes unclogged and all drivers are working can save you precious troubleshooting time and gain some confidence in your mix –although not the most glamorous daily task. This quick post will show you how to clean IEM quickly with just a few tools and a bit of time.
My tools and steps to clean in ear monitors:
“Cleaning Solution” This concoction was recommended to me by my audiologist for flushing out ears — equal parts 91% isopropyl alcohol and white vinegar. I dip a lint free rag into this and wipe down each IEM before attempting to clean out any impacted holes.
Tip: Be sure to warm up the solution for 10 seconds in the microwave before flushing out your own ears
IEM Cleaning Tool This tool, often included with your IEM’s, has a small loop and a brush. I dip the looping the cleaning solution and clean out the holes. The brush is good for hard to reach places. I’ll then use the Jodi-Vac to suck out the remaining wax.
Listening Tube Wouldn’t it be great to be able to listen and test each IEM driver? The fine folks at Sensaphonics in Chicago made this wonderful tool for me. Simply a mold just like your IEM’s yet with a long tube that terminates into a metal tube. I simply play pink noise into the IEM in question, then “probe” each hole to listen for proper function. This tool has saved me so much troubleshooting time when an artists says something is “wrong” with her ears. You would be surprised how many IEM drivers are blown and the artist tries to accommodate not knowing the failure.
TIP: Be very careful with the metal probe — only do this once the ears are CLEAN. You don’t want to push a blockage deeper into the IEM canal.
Jodi-Vac Cleaning Pump
Primarily used to keep hearing aids clean, friends at JH Audio recommended Jodi-Vac cleaning pump . I use the “Consumer” model which seems to work just fine yet the pro model is also a great choice. Just be sure to keep the tip and tube clean. I tend to dip the needle in the cleaning solution and then, while the pump is on, plunge the needle into the cleaning tube. Seems to do the trick.
Flashlight This process is best done in the daylight but the take away is you want to have plenty of light to see any other issues BELOW the hole opening. IEM’s come in many different colors— some easier than others to see the “tubes” within the IEM.
I hope sharing my workflow is helpful to you. Please let me know if you have some other tips for cleaning IEM’s.
Other resources for how to clean your in-ear monitors (IEM’s):
This summer I’m headed out again to spend a few months turing knobs for my O.A.R. friends playing a ton of shows here in the U.S. Yet this time around, we will be joining big talents Train as well as Natasha Beddingfield — a great line up!
A bit different this summer
Usually I’m coordinating around 30+ channels of wireless daily. This breaks down to around 20 or so inputs (instruments and vocals) and 12 channels of IEM’s/ears plus spare packs as well as backup frequencies.
When O.A.R. is the headliner, much more control can be realized in regards to wireless. I often will coordinate wireless for the opening/support act also.
One difference this summer and this format is O.A.R. will be performing after Natasha and before Train which means there will be plenty of wireless to navigate each day.
A common courtesy with multiple band bills is acts will turn off their respective wireless when another act is on. This practice is quite helpful, and many times, essential.
Yet time is never on our side and being able to get a jump start on wireless coordination earlier in the day can be a huge help. In addition, often changeover times are brief and much can happen in those sacred minutes leading up to showtime. Being able to confirm your wireless is good ahead of time without stepping on another act is crucial.
Get to work early
I’ve found that being able to scan in realtime during an acts sound check can be quite reveling and helpful for my own coordination. Often my own gear will not be in place quite yet to perform a proper hardware scan. Using a tool such as the the affordable RF Explorer can be quite a powerful compromise.
Using this hardware scanner along with the free (PC only) and very powerful RF Explorer Software gives you the ability to see the RF environment in realtime plus export the data into Wireless Workbench!
If you play multiple keyboards, a common challenge is not having enough control over your monitor levels and the FOH mix. My solution may just help you!
I want control!
It can be quite challenging having to rely on changing your monitor levels at the PA mixer usually on the other side of the stage or relying on your busy sound engineer. (if you even get your own monitor mix!)
The big, heavy keyboard amp
Often multiple keyboards may be going into a keyboard amp such as the Roland KC350. The KC350, and the like, allows you to mix your keyboard levels, provide one “mix” to a line output and speaker in one convenient package. YET, if you would like to have control over the volume of each keyboard in your monitor, you need to find another solution.
Your own tiny mixer!
This solution simply submixes all keyboards using a small, inexpensive mixer, such as the Behringer Xenyx 1002b. This solution would combine each of your keyboards and send one mono (or a stereo) line to the FOH mixer and a separate line to a powered speaker for the your individual mix. This monitor mix is independent of the levels going to FOH — excellent! Just be sure whichever mixer you choose has at least one prefader aux send and as many line-inputs as you need. (tip: depending on your keyboards, you may be able to simply add a little velcro to the mixer and keyboard to keep the mixer handy and secure!)