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What’s in my work bag?

22 Aug

As an Eagle Scout, I take great pride in being prepared for whatever comes my way. I take this notion very seriously, especially when it comes to my professional endeavours. Today I present some of my secrets to being prepared as an audio engineer out on a gig.

I present to you: What’s In My Work Bag

Big Bag Packed

On the outside it looks like your average backpack. I prefer the discrete styling of this Dakine commuter bag. It features lots of pockets, padding and is easy on the eyes without screaming “steal me” to the sticky fingers that could be lingering around the job site (though I still always tuck it away somewhere for safe keeping). And now for what’s inside:

Big Bag Contents

  • Top row from left to right
    • Radial JDI – My favorite DI box–durable, transparent, versatile and a “merge” button that allows you to convert a stereo source to mono using the “input” and “thru” jacks (great for laptops!).
    • Audix D6 – The microphone I can’t live without–kick drums, floor toms, bass cabs, low brass–in my opinion nothing compares.
    • Business cards – Never know when you’ll meet your next client or need to enter a free-lunch raffle.
    • Pocket knife
    • Lanyard/laminate access pass
    • Electrical tape
    • Drum key – Handy to have in case the drummer forgot/lost/doesn’t have one.
    • Various Sharpies and ink pens
  • Middle row from left to right
    • “Eudaly’s Magic Bag of Tricks” – Description later in this post.
    • Laser range-finder – Great for measuring stages, figuring delay times, setting trim heights, etc. as long as you’re indoors–the sun greatly outshines the laser; will eventually upgrade to a more versatile option.
    • Multi-tool – This usually lives on my hip while on site, but stays in my backpack between gigs to ensure it’s always on call.
    • Snark clip-on acoustic tuner – Like the drum key, this is a cheap, easy lender for the absent minded guitar player.
    • Foam earplugs – Always good to keep “freebie” earplugs around for when that friend/co-worker/etc. has no ear protection.
    • Etymotic earplugs – At $10 a set, these are the most comfortable, best sounding earplugs I’ve found without costing so much you’re always afraid of losing them.
    • USB flash drive – Full of various console configurations/show scenes, stage plots, and audio files.
    • Petzl Zipka headlamp – This little guy is bright, fits in your pocket and the retractable headband fits around all kinds of stuff–wrap it around your hand, a ladder, clip it to a curtain–wherever you need light.
    • Magnetic hook light – These are cheap (~$5) lights with a magnet and a hook on the back–again, it goes just about wherever you need light. Great for slapping on the back of an amp rack.
    • Work gloves – Gotta protect those digits!
  • Bottom row from left to right
    • Apple MacBook Pro w/ charger – Loaded with both OSX and Windows 7, as well as all your favorite audio system control software (Lake Controller, Wireless Workbench, System Architect, Line Array Calculator, etc.).
    • Apple iPad w/ USB charger and both 30-pin and Lightning cables for cross compatibility – Like the laptop it’s loaded with console controllers, audio calculators, Grand Theft Auto III (for when you’re waiting on the truck) and of course, pre-show music.
    • Shure SRH440 headphones – These cans run around $100, sound great and have survived a few hundred shows at this point–great value.

Now let’s dive inside the affectionately named black mystery pouch, “Eudaly’s Magic Bag of Tricks.”

Little Bag Contents

  • Top row from left to right
    • Pair of F-MM XLR Y-adapters – In case you need to split a couple of channels. Ideally I would also have some M-FF, but the XLR gender changers also seen in the photo help keep my options open.
  • Middle row from left to right
    • 1/8″ TRS to dual XLR adapter – For getting that super awesome pre-show music, audio from a presentation laptop, or audio from just about any modern handheld device into your desk.
    • 1/”8 TRS to dual RCA with added 1/4″ TS adapters – For the same as above, in case you’ve got a desk with RCA or 1/4″ stereo inputs–also works great with the JDI’s merge function mentioned in the big bag.
    • Business cards – Again, for free lunch raffles, potential clients and a little added security if you misplace your bag and someone needs help returning it to you, the owner.
    • Assorted batteries – Without batteries, your meters, lasers, wireless microphones, etc. are useless.
    • Sound Tools XLR sniffer/sender w/ indicator cheat sheet – This handy little tool is great for testing snake channels, patch bays and XLR cables that are already stretched out across the stage. Can also help indicate if phantom power is present and even act as a battery phantom power supply when you stick it in line using the above Y-cable in the chance you get a console without supply.
    • Etymotic earplugs – Yes, I carry a spare set. Gotta protect my babies.
    • SPL meter – This cheap A-weighted meter helps keep things at the appropriate loudness after long days of festival mixing/system tech-ing.
  • Bottom row from left to right
    • The bag this all lives in, duh.
    • Male-male XLR turnarounds – Sometimes you’ve got to get weird and run a send through a return, combine some com systems–you really never know when these will come in handy, but they always do.
    • Female-female XLR turnarounds – <see “Male-male XLR turnarounds> …only these are the girl ones.
    • Female-female NL4 coupler – For when you’re out of long cables, but you’ve got two short ones. 
    • Yellow electrical tape – Always handy to have a bright color for labels, console tape, etc.
    • Sharpie – For writing on your yellow electrical tape among other things.
    • Pen-style clip-on magnetic LED light – A very bright, very compact light that fits well in your pocket and has multiple ways of attaching to your dimly lit work area.

So there you have it! It should be noted this toolset is constantly evolving, but that’s one of the great features. All of this stuff fits in the big bag with room for extra clothes for those outdoor gigs (rain jacket, baseball cap, sunglasses, long sleeve shirt), a solid state recorder, extra microphones–whatever I might need on a show-by-show basis. Top it all off with a litre or two of water in the side pockets and you’re ready for backpacking merit badge, or at least the next show.

As with most things in life, a little pre-planning and preparation for those unforeseen circumstances can be the difference between a not-so-good day and the best day you’ve ever had.

Have a recommendation for what to add to the bag? Hit me up on the Contact Page

Show Season Returns!

23 Apr

As is usual in this industry, the first quarter of the year is a good time to recollect and rejuvenate one’s self in preparation for the always busy Spring and Summer season. Spending much of that time in pre-production for upcoming events has kept me away from the blog (that’s the excuse I’m going with, anyway) but things are back in full swing with shows popping off left and right. It’s been a fantastic year so far and I’ve been thankful to find myself behind a console more often than not.

Time spent honing my craft is always a pleasure, and I’ve got several side projects and experiments which deserve a write-up sooner than later. For now, though, I leave you with a picture from yesterday’s show.

 

Fiesta Rig

Kids and Chemicals

23 Sep

We left off covering some bands I’ve had the pleasure of working with and the microphone choices that made their sound possible.  While I did my best to include video of the musician/microphone combos, a brief lapse in judgement left me omitting one very unique example.  

Kids and Chemicals is gearing up to release an EP on October 8th featuring five new tracks.  “Pale Horse” is currently available for pre-order on CD and limited-edition, purple cassette.  Both options include an immediate download of a single track of your choice and digital copy of the EP (MP3/FLAC/etc) upon release.

In honor of the upcoming release and to provide you with yet another audio/visual sample of microphones at work, I leave you with a clip of Kids and Chemicals playing the track “Out My Window” at the Gillioz Theatre.

 

RAGBRAI XLI

31 Jul

I usually reserve this place to talk about gear, production and all the rest like that, but I must interrupt with a quick shout out and much love to my friends in Team HJ who joined me for seven days last week in the Des Moines Register’s annual great bike ride across Iowa (better known as RAGBRAI).  

I find few things as freeing as waking every morning with nothing to do but ride your bicycle.

Ride on, friends.  

Image

Tracking Again

29 Oct

Those close to me, or at least those who read this blog, should know I consider myself a live sound guy first and recording engineer second.  I’ve got my reasons; the crowd’s contagious energy, working under pressure, the variety of events, earth shaking drums, etc, but as of late I had more or less eliminated multitrack recording from my “things I do” list.  Sure, I record the board mix with a pair of room mics at most shows when I mix front of house for archival purposes, but nothing too complex.

Of course, right around the time I realize this trend, I land three recording gigs in one week.  All live shows to be multitracked for later mixdown and subsequent release.  For two out of three shows I was also mixed FOH, which makes for a rewarding experience upon revisiting the recorded tracks.  It’s almost like a second shot at mixing the show, only this time there’s no audience and I have the stable, predictable acoustic environment of my home studio.  Of course there’s no adding additional channels, messing with mic placement or “do-overs,” but that’s almost freeing in a way–you just have to work with what you’ve got, for better or worse.  Two of the shows are in the bag and I’ve started on mixdown.  Here’s a screenshot of a little prep work on one mix, a local folk band that filled a tiny art gallery stage last Friday:

The third show in this run of gigs goes down this Friday at the Gillioz Theatre as part of a new local music concert series.  The first act in the series is Springfield’s own Delta Sol Revival.  I had the pleasure of mixing the band a month or two ago at an outdoor festival in downtown Springfield, which was my first encounter with their music.  A strong latin/funk/soul vibe left me smiling behind the faders the entire show and I’m excited to not only mix them live this Friday, but also the recording I’ll track simultaneously using the direct outputs on the theatre’s Midas Verona 400 and my Mackie Onyx 1640 for A/D conversion into Logic.

Image

Stay tuned for samples from the show, and maybe even a few from the others I’ve been working on.  By the way, anyone have suggestions for online sharing/playback of tracks?  Should I pay for unlimited tracks on Soundcloud?  Share your thoughts with me on Twitter.  See you at the show!

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David Cook w/ Carolina Liar

29 Nov

David Cook w/ Carolina Liar

Here’s a shot from monitor world during Carolina Liar’s soundcheck before opening for David Cook at the Gillioz Theatre last night. They don’t travel with a monitor engineer, so I gladly wore the hat. Though running in-ear monitors on a Yamaha M7 is akin to babysitting.

I really enjoyed working with Carolina Liar–fun and easy going.

David Cook took the stage around 9:05pm, at which time I got to sit back for a bit before the ever-inevitable load out.

I’m lucky to have a fantastic stage crew that continue to be the unsung heros of the show. Load-in was smooth and efficient while load-out was fast and thorough, all with a laid-back yet professional work atmosphere.