From the Booth: Episode 10 – Night of Worship 2020

Welcome to the 10th episode of “From the Booth.” This time around I’m featuring a recording from our Night of Worship that I recorded earlier this year. My hope is that not only can you enjoy what I think is a pretty good mix but also maybe pick up a few things you can do to improve yours. I don’t think this mix was perfect but I do know that I do a few things I don’t see many others doing. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to ask questions below or drop me a message on Facebook, I’d love to chat and help any way that I can.

  1. We use all Shure wireless for our performers (Axient digital for mics and PSM900 transmitters with PSM1000 receivers for IEM systems). The audio you hear is from the broadcast mix of the FOH console. This mix is built from my master bus with the FX turned down just a bit to help them sit better in a studio environment with some room mics added in and that’s it. It’s not a perfect mix for broadcast but it does a good job at translating a mix designed for an auditorium down to a mix suitable for personal viewing.
  2. I did edit out the speaking during the performance to help shorten the video, if you have any questions about how we mic up speakers, be sure to check a series I wrote on this topic recently (find it at this link).
  3. I’ve added a few more video inputs. Here is a quick summary of what you see in the video. Across the top row you’ll see our side screen program feed, a lockoff camera of our stage, and lastly my Smaart instance (audio analyzer). On the left side of the screen (just below the program feed) you’ll see two feeds from my SuperRack setup. I automated the visible plugins to help give more information for you guys. In the middle there you’ll see my console’s meter bridge. Lastly, you’ll see a camera pointed at me on the lower right side of the video. I’ve also uploaded this in 4k so you get plenty of detail even when it’s full screen on large monitors. (PS – there are a few sync issues that I was just unable to fix because of some equipment issues that were happening)
  4. Here is the general layout of the SSL L500+ that I’m operating.  Top left bank of faders generally sits on my drum inputs and drum FX feeds and can access my mixed outputs if need be.  The Left bank at my waist (left hand) is used for instruments and tracks and access my main outputs and groups if I need to check on something or make an adjustment.  The bank in front of me (right hand) is almost always on the VOX page of the console which also has my VCAs which allows me to quickly make larger mix changes. Please don’t hesitate to ask questions in the comments if you’d like to know more.
  5. There is a Waves SoundGrid running and awhile ago I wrote up a 9 week series outlining my basic template for that system. You can find that here. That series is a bit dated as it highlights Multirack but I’m still using most of the same plugins for the same sources today. 
  6. Song names are listed on the Youtube page and all credit goes to the band for the performance, the song authors, and to God for allowing me to work with such a great team.

If you like what you see and would like to receive an email when new content is released please feel free to subscribe at this link! Also, if you have any questions about what you see, please feel free to reach out to me in an email at daniel@studiostagelive.com and I’ll do my best to answer your question.

Gear Talk: Vocal Capsules Part 5

Welcome back to the last part of our vocal capsule series. Over the last 4 weeks we’ve discussed the SM58, the KSM8, the KSM9, and the SEv7. We started with the SM58 because it is an easy standard to hold. Over the last several decades it has been the most reliable, recognizable, and useful microphones in our industry. From there we talked about the KSM8 and it’s older sibling, the KSM9. The KSM9 offers a smoothed out sound that helps to tame sources that are perhaps a bit brighter than others. The KSM8, serves to bring presence and clarity back to sources that perhaps don’t hold a mic consistently all the while offering better off-axis rejection. Then, last week, we talked about the SEv7 which seems to me like an improvement on the qualities we love about the SM58. It gives the same build quality and range of uses as the SM58 but with some better rejection and I think a little more warmth as well. 

This week I wanted to talk about the Beta 87A. I think it is really the darkhorse of the capsule world, at least in my opinion. For the longest time I just avoided it for live worship because it just seemed to never help the vocal I wanted to use it on. Then, I discovered it’s perfect for a handheld when used for speech. Because the pickup pattern is quite directional and it does a decent job rejecting non-source material because it is a narrower supercardioid pattern than most. This mic also has a much more averaged and smooth low end drop off which helps to reduce the proximity effect. I’ve also included the polar pattern and response curves so that you can see for yourself (feel free to check back on the other posts to compare curves; links above). Here is a link to the full spec sheet from Shure as well. Lastly, something to think about when handing this out is to make sure you go over proper mic technique with your artist. Because the pattern is so tight, it’s important to make sure to use it correctly in order to get the maximum performance out of the capsule. 

In my own personal experience I didn’t use it a lot up until more recently. I had always used an SM58 on my backup mics because of its sheer reliability but about 5 or so years ago I started using the Beta 87A again on handhelds when they are being used for speech exclusively. Why? Because, as I said above, the pattern is really tight. That really helps when your source is holding it down by their belly button. Of course it would work better if it was closer but that same position with an SM58 is far less usable. As far as the reliability goes, I haven’t had any issues yet. But I’ve started checking more often which I suppose I should have been doing all along. Fast forward a few years and we were really struggling to find a capsule that our power female vocalists could use that wouldn’t just implode under heavy load (as in singing really loud). We decided, knowing that the Beta 87A is a little less sensitive than other capsules, we just tried it and it went great! So I tried it on another of our power vocalists and it went great again! We also ended up trying it out on a vocalist that was singing out in our PA coverage (well, she was basically on top of a front fill, much farther forward than I would generally like) a bit for a special element in our Christmas service and because of the tighter pattern feedback was eliminated dramatically from just a capsule change (was previously a KSM8). A little extra work was needed to bring some breadth back into her voice lost from the change but after that was done performance was great and far less feedback chance during that element. This capsule is incredibly situational and while it sounds great in these two situations, for me, in my room, with my PA, with the artists I’m working with, it worked for these two scenarios. 

Well that’s it for the series. I’m hoping you’ve learned a little bit about how I try to match up each artist with a capsule. This sounds trivial, especially because you can EQ things to match up anyway, but if you want to have to do less EQ and play into the strengths of each capsule, thinking through it can make your life so much easier. The last thing I’ll say is that taking a few weeks and finding the right match and sticking to it can also bring some consistency in the in-ear mix for your artist as well. They will start getting used to what things sound like and spend less time critically listening to hear what’s going on and more time performing and responding to each other. If you have any questions about what I’ve been talking about over the last 5 weeks, feel free to reach out to me at daniel@studiostagelive.com. Because of the coronavirus outbreak, I may miss a week or two over the next 8 to 10 weeks but my goal is to continue to keep posting. To make sure you don’t miss out, follow this link and subscribe to this blog and you’ll get an email whenever something new is published. Until next time, happy mixing!

Gear Talk: Vocal Capsules Part 4

Welcome back to week 4 of our vocal capsule series. The coronavirus can’t spread over the interwebs so we will carry on as usual here at Studio.Stage.Live! We’ve been talking about two capsules I generally use with female vocalists but this week I wanted to highlight a favorite of mine for males, the supercardioid microphone, the SEv7. What started with a curiosity about what new capsule Justin Timberlake used at the superbowl halftime show, to some small testing, became the go-to for a few of my worship leaders. I also keep seeing this microphone used in studio recordings as well. Again, I’m not being sponsored here, this whole series is just me uploading information for you guys to digest and think about. But I digress….

As usual, I’ve included a response sheet for your information. As you can see, the response is very flat especially when the higher end is compared to the last two mics that I’ve used. The manufacturer talks about 3 key features that I feel like I need to highlight. The first is the design/durability you are going to get with this microphone. With an all-metal housing, this thing will take a beating. They even beveled the ring around the grille so that it would sit still when put down instead of rolling off like most other microphones (I know right, happens to the best of us). Next, they installed an internal windscreen that seems thicker than most windscreens and proves effective at cutting down on plosives and wind noise if you’re outside (or you like to have a fan blowing on you while you perform). Lastly, is the voice coil made of aluminum with a custom built shock mount which helps to lower handling noise and make it easy to move with the music and help isolate the capsule a bit better in tight studio spaces. 

The thing I’ll say about this mic personally is this. If someone sounds good with an SM58, they’ll sound better with this capsule. In comparison with an SM58 the rejection is more neutral. It’s not like it isn’t there but it’s less impactful towards the source. Typically when I’m using an SM58 I’m doing minimal processing (as in only a few cuts to compensate for the PA) and with the SEv7 it’s exactly the same way. I’m not mixing at the levels that tours get to but on the whole, across my dynamic spectrum, it performs very even keeled and naturally like the SM58 does. No matter if the artist is up on the mic, or maybe even backed away a bit, this mic is amazingly consistent. For the price-point (~$115), you owe it to yourself to at least try it the next time you get a chance. Lastly, because I have other options that work well for females, I don’t often get it out for that reason, but there are several female artists out there that use this regularly so if you have a hard vocal to tame with what you’ve got, snag one of these and see! I know I haven’t used this with that many female vocalists and I plan to see what it can do at the next chance I get. 

That’s it for this week. Hopefully your curiosity has peaked enough that you’ll at least reach out to some friends and see if you can borrow the capsule or spend the small amount of money to pick one up for yourself. I found this video of the guys who make Justin Timberlake sound like Justin Timberlake and because it was with him that my journey with the SEv7 started, I figured that this post should end with JT’s sound guys telling us about their experience. Next week we’ll wrap up this series with my darkhorse capsule, the SM87. I say dark horse because it wasn’t in my playbook for live vocals until more recently when we decided to just throw it in the game. Tune in next week and I’ll tell you all about it. Make sure you sign up at this link to get an email whenever new content is posted and feel free to reach out with any questions via my email, daniel@studiostagelive.com. Be safe, see you next week!