I chose to take a trip to one of the most popular music venue in Greenwich Village called Cafe Wha. Also, this is where I work over the weekends. While I was training to be a manager, I remember them teaching me about all the different task I had to do; one of the task that I had to do that I thought was so hard and took a couple messing up to get, is turning everything on in the sound booth. Here is a video of me going through everything in the booth. In the video you will see me pointing to something called the Rack, the tall thing, which is the main power for everything. It turns on the mixing board, speakers, amps and everything else on stage. Also, you will see the guitar players amps on stage. These amps are located right behind them while they are performing.
While in the booth the sound-man and I spoke about a couple things. The first thing he said to me was that sound is all about signal flow. Audio Signal Flow is the path an audio signal takes from the source to the output. Also, during this path it includes all the processes involved in generating audible sound from electronic impulses or recorded media. The next thing we spoke about is the Analog Console, also known as the Mixing Board. This is where the audio signals are sent into various outputs. The board allows the audio signals to be controlled, split and filtered. This is the central piece of equipment in a recording studio or live sound venue like in this case. In the process of the Signal Flow Chain there has to be a microphone line. This line is directly where the audible sound is sent to the Mixing Board. Microphones as we know from sound class, work as a transducer and converts the audio into an electrical current.
While in the sound-booth I heard one of the guitar players say into the mic, “Chris more reverb!”. Then I saw Chris hand reach for the Aux section on the mixer and began turning knobs. The Auxiliary Send provides a space for plug-ins to be activated. The plug-ins send the audio signals here and this is where he is able to do special effects on the singers voice such as reverb, delay or a loud distortion on the lead guitar’s riff. Moving down the mixing board he also showed me the Fader, this is where you see knobs going from the left to the right of the board. This is where the sound-man plays around with the volume of all the instruments until there is satisfaction with how each performer is heard.
I was a little confused about the Sub buttons and what they are for but I did a little research and what I have learned is that sub groups are assigned, this is a way to adjust sound levels easier, and to explain more on this, a group of microphone lines can be synchronized together so that only one knob controls them all. For example, the drums has microphones that are close to every drum and can be very hard to adjust each drum head individually. Also, in my video above, I showed the guitar-players amps on stage which also had microphones set up in front of them. This helps make the sound clearer and easier for the sound-man to manage sound levels from the booth.
Here is a video that I thought was helpful. This makes you see a mixing board in a simple way. Also, helps explain somethings you might of wanted to learn more about. The second video goes into detail about how equipments are connected and explains how the audio signal is being sent to the mixing board.
Overall, this trip was very helpful for me to have an idea of the Job of a sound engineer. It is truly a tough job because you have to understand everything on the mixing board to be able to make sure that the musicians are satisfied and the sound is perfect for the show. One thing about live music is when there is a mess-up its happening right in front of the audience and its the sound-man’s responsibility to fix it. Other responsibilities are having to make sure all the XLR cords are connected into the right inputs to make sure signals don’t get messed up. Moreover, labeling is very helpful so that the sound-man could remember which knob is for what. Finally, this job also has to deal with keen hearing or should I say close listening; have to be able to hear feedback during performances and getting rid of it. Also, know when to use special effects on singers voices or guitar riffs.
Below are pictures I took of the mixing board. I have circled areas on the board that I was talking about above, and a couple pictures of the musicians on stage.