Friday, 9 December 2016

Don't Go Cheap on Audio

In my spare time I am also a pianist/organist and last night I, along with other musicians and a large choir, were rehearsing for an opening performance for a new church. The church has beautiful acoustics but is extremely reverberant. It is so much so that the sound designers for the building took out all of the low frequencies for the sound system that serves the altar.

As for those of us in the choir loft, we were on a separate mixer that feeds into the same main speaker system. Since the building is so reverberant this means that balancing the output is going to be a very critical matter. This is not the time to use cheap equipment (main speakers, microphones, mixer, monitors, etc) OR people who do not know how to mix properly. In a room that is so alive, it is very easy to go from low volume intelligible but barely audible speech, to a high volume ugly wish-mash of music. I know, because it has happened to me in many special events. Usually the reason is that the equipment (often the speakers) is incapable of handling the load or the audio tech is not knowledgeable enough to know how to fix equalization problems or how to set up main speakers, not to mention which types of mics to use in certain situations.

For example, in our rehearsal last night, we had to "make do" with a single vocal mic for a 30-voice choir. Of course, it sounded terrible. What should have been used was at least two or three choir mics (condenser overhead mics with unidirectional pickup) placed up high and just in front of the first row of singers. What happened? There was not enough of the right equipment (e.g. mics) available and we had minimal time to check and gain experience with the system.

So what is my point? It is that if you have an event that has a critical audio component (i.e. speeches, stage show, even a dance band), then you would be well served to not always go for the least expensive company to supply the audio. Do your homework and make sure you get techs who have lots of experience in running audio for your kind of event and that the company uses only the highest quality equipment. You will save money and your reputation in the end.

Thursday, 1 September 2016

Getting in the Creative "Zone"

In this industry creativity is a much-revered talent. Not only that, but it must be almost instantaneous creativity, thanks to short lead times for proposals.

I have practiced and taught creativity for many years, but only recently have I discovered what for me is the best scenario for coming up with good ideas. It is not a gimmick but it does involve getting up from your desk and doing a little exercise.

Basically it is walking at a steady but not too strenuous a pace and it must be done for at least 30 minutes and not up an incline. Personally if I do this on a nice level walking trail, particularly away from traffic, I find that after about 20 to 30 minutes, my mind starts to de-clutter. At this point once I feel relaxed and able to move smoothly, I begin to think about a problem or proposal or whatever needs solving. I find that very quickly I will begin to develop related ideas that are creative, logical, and ultimately workable. I then continue to concentrate on this generation of ideas and try not to think about the physical walking or about my surroundings. In reality, this seems to be a form of hypnotism if one can call it that. By the end, if it has been a productive walk and lots of ideas have come forth. I often think back and realize I have no idea how I got from the start to the finish of the walk as I was so involved with the great ideas.

This seems to beat many other techniques for generating ideas, at least for me. But why? Here is what I think. When we walk at a steady pace, it has been proven that most people tend to fall into a regular pace of 120 steps per minute. This coincidentally is the almost universal pace that armies march at because it literally makes their minds numb and susceptible to taking orders and it also fosters togetherness. Not only that, but recent studies have also analyzed top musical hits over the years and found that the majority of songs are at a tempo of - you guessed it - 120 beats per minute. Finally, this number corresponds to an actual frequency of 60 cycles per second, a "mesmerizing" frequency in our brains. 

Think about this as a way to come up with new ideas. If you try it, let me know if it works.

Friday, 11 March 2016

Lighting for Houses of Worship

I am not an expert in this type of event technology but my son, the lighting genius, certainly is. The images below, taken by me, show some of his recent handiwork on a local installation. Seems to me it would certainly enhance any service.