A Long December – Week 2: Light Show
Week 2 of our December programming’s music genre was electronic music inspired by the EDM stuff that’s en vogue right now. Being electronic music, you might think things were simple, although, that was not the case. Instrumentation consisted of two keyboard players, electronic drums, a Moog Sub Phatty, electric guitar, pre-programmed tracks galore, 1 acoustic cymbal, and four vocals.
From a logistics standpoint, this was probably the most technically challenging to get setup. We had about 24 inputs coming from various computers, and I find whenever we start using computers that things get hard. Plugging everything in is easy because you just go TRS to XLR into the house snakes, and it’s a done deal. But getting everything configured on the computers to output properly at consistent levels never seems to go as smooth as it should.
I’m still waiting for–or trying to find–someone with a computer audio interface that doesn’t have a screwy software mixer or goofy mixer built into the box itself that always seems to mess things up. We don’t need any of this. We don’t need a box with a lot of frills. We just need to be able to route things out within the software we’re using. Just give me a good D to A converter and the ability to route to whatever output we want within our software of choice. No level adjustments. No mic pre’s. Just line outs. I’m ready to drive a lift over some of these interfaces. This shouldn’t be so hard.
On the console side, the biggest challenge was just managing the inputs. Most of the electronic instruments and tracks folded down into stereo channels so while there were a fair amount of inputs in use, everything fit on one bank of the desk. The challenge, though, was understanding what everything was. Since a lot of inputs were “tracks” or “synths”, it took a some exploration to understand exactly what parts were coming down what lines and when.
The next big thing I ended up doing was snapshotting a lot of EQ’s and compressors on a song-per-song basis. Since so many sounds were changing from one song to the next, it was the only way to manage the shifting frequency spectrum and dynamics. I had to stop looking at some of the EQ curves because they looked so wrong and sounded so right. Sometimes things had zero EQ or compression and other times things hit hard.
I actually did most of my processing this week using the console’s onboard channel EQ and compression, but there were some plugins in use as well. Waves Renaissance Bass was often liberally spread amongst inputs to help warm and fatten up some of the brighter electronic sounds and fill out the lower-mids. I also employed a few Waves Renaissance Compressors that I side-chained to the kick drum to help make some stuff pump in EDM fashion. All of these plugs were snapshotted and sometimes moved around to completely different inputs on a per-song basis.
One final thing employed was Wave’s Lo-Air plugin. I fed this off an aux and snapshotted what I was sending to it. Not every song featured it, but I felt it was very important to have enough low-end this week to balance against the brighter side of the programmed stuff, and Lo-Air helped extend everything down to the limits of of our subs.
Vocals got my standard treatment of a the Massey Deesser followed by Waves MaxxVolume for compression and finally a Waves C6. Vocal FX were a little more obvious this week, and I basically had everything running: a plate and a hall, a couple delays, and lots of split-harmonizer. It seemed to fit stylistically with the music so I ran them up. Using more FX, though, required a bit more EQ than usual on the returns to keep the low-mids from muddy’ing up the vocals. Instrument FX were very minimal if at all. I think I used some reverb on the electronic drums in a couple of places, but most–if any–FX on the instruments was already coming from the stage so I didn’t need to worry about them.
I guess the bottomline this week was I had to take an almost studio-esque approach to mixing the songs where each song was its own entity instead of dialing in a “band sound” and tweaking small things for each song. While the music was different conceptually, I don’t think it was actually as far off from what we consider our normal fare as some of us thought it would be. There was maybe a little more low-end than usual, and the drum sounds were different but a lot of the same kinds of elements we used this week have been showing up on regular Sundays. It was just fitting this week to make them more prominent and to drive things more instead of support the acoustic stuff on stage.
Two weeks down now. One to go.