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Mark Cookney

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Mark Cookney contacted Base Sound because he needed to learn to sound engineer fast! Being an adventurous sort of chap and a lover of live music, Mark decided to organise a live band event but also allocated himself the task of sound engineering the gig even though he had never sat behind a mixing desk in his life before! No worries he thought I'll just book myself in for some training with Base Sound and it will be fine and sure enough a week after spending a day with us he had triumphed with his first live sound engineering gig and below is his email to us on how he got on.

Hi Howard:

I hope this email finds you well.  I’d like to say a huge thanks once again for the one to one training I received at Base Sound last month. I fully enjoyed the day, obtained a grasp of sound on a mathematical scale and more importantly was instilled with the confidence and basic technical skills I needed in order for me to sound engineer at my own live event which took place this past weekend.  The gig was almost perfect – after learning more about DI boxes at your studio, I had purchased my own and brought it with me in order to link the bass and an acoustic guitar to the PA.  Because the room was acoustically sprung and narrow, following our discussions beforehand I took the decision to not mic up the guitars as these carried through the room and were very clear from all angles.  Unfortunately, the venue did not have the right microphone equipment for the drums (their kick drum mic had been stolen too) so I decided to just put a dynamic mic inside the bass drum (not ideal I know, but it did the trick) and I put a condenser mic on a stand next facing down close to the snare to pick up a little more general kit sound.  The drum-kit itself was quite loud, so I was able to get away with not mic-ing much up and it sounded very ‘natural’, rather than the ‘digital’ sound that some venues produce with their mics and digital sound-desks through the PA.

With a little EQ adjustment on the soundboard (again, using my understanding of EQing that you showed me) I was able to produce a really nice warm, acoustic sound which complimented the vocals perfectly for the first  band.  The second band had trouble with the lead vocal mic which was crackling and producing a “Dalek” type sound through the speakers as they were preparing to start.  This was quite concerning, and without us having run over this scenario at your studio I probably would have panicked and started twisting knobs like a madman, but after briefly checking all was OK on the desk I knew that the cause was likely the connection or cable to the mic.  As everyone was watching this it would have been very embarrassing if I couldn’t have fixed it.  Luckily, the connection into the mic was slightly lose and potential catastrophe was averted!

The third band’s set went without a hitch – the sound was excellent, without me really having to do too much (which I knew was a good sign!) – I was controlling the main vocals, backing vocals, bass, drum kick and  snare.  Every now and then I would tweak the bass up or down depending on the bassist’s pedal effects switching on or off and I had also already padded it down on the DI box to ensure I had complete control (I really sounded like I knew what I was talking about when I announced to the band that I was going to “pad down the dB input on the DI box to create a voltage gap to allow me to lift up the overall level”.. haha!).  The band came off saying how much they’d enjoyed it and everyone was saying how great they sounded – which made them feel good, and of course made me look good as well!

With the final band, there was an issue with a little feedback coming from the main mic before they began.  Unlike the previous bands, the female lead vocalist did not use a stand and walked the stage from left to right.  The monitors were overhanging the stage *(which we talked about during the one to one)* so I was quite weary of feeding too much of the mix into them.  The vocalist asked me if I could get rid of the feedback, so once again the spotlight was on me so to speak – now, without having had the sound training this definitely would have been panic time *(if I’d even made it that far by then without having had the bands walk out on me)* – I know that my first instinct would have been to start tweaking the gain and EQ controls like hell, with no idea what I was doing.  Fortunately though, we had already prepared for this and I kept my cool - I reduced the master output of the monitors and then gradually increased the output to them from the auxiliary controls on the mixer.  The feedback was gone but I did have to keep my eye on her the whole time as she got near the monitors, and it was certainly the most tense period of the evening as during the first few songs she motioned that she wanted more in the monitors.  I really didn’t want to take the risk of increasing the monitor output too much when she was all over the stage,but I managed to get them up to about 12 o’clock by dipping out all other instruments and leaving solely the vocals and she must have been happy with it as she didn’t look at me to increase them any more during the remainder of their set *(and trust me, she’s the sort of front person who wouldn’t hesitate to do so if she needed it).*  The only scare I had was their feedback-happy guitarist, who was constantly allowing his amp to feedback in between songs *(which my friend thought was my doing!)* but fortunately being a guitarist myself I was able to decipher that it was his amp and not my PA doing it.

The evening ended with a *PHWWWWWWWWWSSSSSSSSSSSSSSZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ! *when I was packing away. I was playing music through through the PA via the line in, and I thought I’d blown the amp or something.  In actual fact, it was my laptop that was blown – it crashed itself.  Due to overheating or some other technical issue?  Who knows.  All I do know is I have to send it away to be fixed as its completely knackered – and only a month old!  I think I need to buy myself one of those Y leads that you use as the music was also coming out mono through the speakers, and certain songs sounded a bit weird. Fortunately, this whole thing happened when no-one else was around – if there’d been people dancing along to it, it would have been VERY embarrassing!

So, blown laptop apart, I had a great time and I feel confident and excited about sound engineering again in the near future. Many thanks once again for all your help, I couldn’t have pulled it off without the knowledge I gained at Bass Sound.  Of course, I am not the Sound Engineering King now by any means but my whole objective was to feel confident enough behind the desk to produce a decent mix and for the event to go as smoothly as possible without making a fool of myself.  The night exceeded my  expectations!  Amazing what you can do after a 7 hour crash course...

Thanks again!