It’s been a busy start to the year recording with Bury indie rockers Fortunato, plus mixing and finishing tracks with Bloody Knees, Muertos, Dowsing Sound Collective and Staycations. Have also recently had tracks mastered by Dick Beetham at 360 Degree Mastering and Pete Maher. Both have formidable client lists & incredibly reasonable rates given their calibre. I have been really impressed with the masters.
I also spent quite some time preparing for The Dowsing Sound Collective’s ‘Whisper’ gig that took place on the 30th January at Tattersalls, Newmarket. Tattersall is the horse sales ring. A 750 capacity circular room that provided some interesting hurdles. The Dowsing Sound Collective are a 120-piece choir and rock band that perform a really eclectic repertoire of covers, skillfully rearranged by Andrea Cockerton – founder & MD. This gig was to be staged in the round with the choir encircling the rock band. The space was thankfully quite dry, but the sound would have to reach about 30 metres back to the top seating tiers. Getting an even coverage was vital. Bobby Aiken advised on sound design and we hired equipment from Autograph Sound. We settled on a rig of 8 powered loudspeakers (4 x Meyer Sound UPA-1P’s for the main coverage and 4 x UPM-1P’s as rear fills), all controlled from a Yamaha M7CL console.
Load in on the day was nice & early (9.30am) and after setting up FoH I tuned the system – initially setting the 4 rear fills at around 6dB down from the main loudspeakers level. I made some minor adjustments to the speaker angles to minimize phasing & comb-filtering in the areas where the sound dispersion crossed over, but moving around the venue I felt that we had achieved a very balanced sound. and then we slowly began to sound check.
The original plan was for the choir to have no reinforcement and then balance the rest of the band level to the choir. I started by getting Andrea (MD and keys) to play along with the choir, so that I could get a sense of how loud the choir sounded in the room. The choir level can be incredibly dynamic, but encouraged by Andrea they sounded nice & loud, so we slowly added in the rest of the band. As we began to run some of the louder, full choir and band tracks I found that the direct sound and slight reinforcement achieved a great balance in the first 5 or 6 seating rows. However, although the choir could still be heard further back, the definition of the voices was getting lost. Luckily I had prepared for this issue and had 4 x AKG 414XLS’s and 3 Sennheiser ME-66’s to hand. There was no time or even possibility of flying the microphones in, but I also didn’t want any microphones visible above the choir. I liked the intimacy created by the choir appearing to be singing un-mic’d. The microphones needed to be subtly placed. I decided to spread the mics out evenly on small boom stands around 2 metres back from the front choir row, pointing them up about 45 degrees. This technique would only pick up the first few rows of the choir, but the result meant that it gave just enough definition to the voices for audience members in the rear seating tiers. The speakers were fed from 8 matrices on the M7CL and so I was able to create 2 separate mixes. I sent more choir signal to the 4 UPM-1P rear fills, which achieved a more balanced sound throughout the seating tiers. I also added a delay to the fill speakers of around 3 metres (8.76ms), which seemed to nicely align the FoH & direct sound. An added bonus of the fills being located high at the rear of the seating was to add to the aesthetic of the gig being in the round. It helped fill the space with sound & ‘surround’ the audience, making this quite large venue feel incredibly intimate. I ran the whole show from the M7CL app on my iPad, which meant that I could quietly move around the seating isles, listening from various points all over the venue & making sure that the whole audience experienced the best show possible.