Desert Island Mixing Tools

Jan 1, 2010 12:00 PM, By Steve La Cerra



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Noel Ford:

Noel Ford: "We always take a Korg KP2 KAOSS pad because [band Boris] has some very specific vocal effects that they use during the show."

Whether it's because of the state of the economy in general or a struggling music industry in particular, more tours are carrying less gear. Reduced trucking and airline baggage expenses are just a few of the reasons why touring engineers are relying on house-provided equipment. Factor in the success and popularity of festival circuits for both the bands and the concertgoers, and it's easy to see why this has become a rising trend in the concert industry.

What would you do if you were about to embark on this type of tour and could only carry one audio toy with you? What item would make your mixing duties easy if you had it, or difficult if you did not? Mix asked several live sound engineers for their answer to the “Desert Island Gear” question.

Essential Mics

Engineer Noel Ford, whose duties include mixing front of house for Dinosaur Jr., says that when he is out with that particular band, he is typically working in good venues and is “comfortable with the processing that the house has to offer. I do like to have certain mics though,” he says. “J Mascis [singer/guitarist] uses a lot of vintage gear, including Marshall and Hiwatt heads, and lots of old effect pedals. This can result in J getting shocks from his microphone, but with a Shure SM57 he won't ever get a shock, so I always make sure to have a Shure SM57 for him [laughs]. We have tried wireless systems as well as some other solutions, but the SM57 has proven to be the workhorse. Sometimes the simplest things are exactly what you need.

Jacob Feinberg on the Sennheiser e 935:

Jacob Feinberg on the Sennheiser e 935: "I have a long-standing history with many of the artists I work with, and I've been able to introduce that mic to them early on so they are familiar with it."

“After a lot of experimentation,” he continues, “I have found that I can get a nice warm sound from J's guitar rig using a combination of Sennheiser e906s and e609s. I have tried many vocal microphones for Lou [Barlow, bassist], but the Beyer M88 suits his voice and I get more clarity from that mic than any other. It works for Lou in his monitors, as well. I carry a Sennheiser e901 for inside kick — the e901 is awesome when you have a closed front head — and an Audix D6 for outside kick. I am a big fan of the D6 because I can get that little bit of top that helps it cut through the mix, as well as a solid low end. I'm just not happy if I don't have a D6!”

Ford is also using the SM57 on hi-hat, saying that the band's stage setup is very tight and he can get a lot of bleed from the bass amp into the hi-hat mic. “The bleed is less ferocious with the 57 than it would be with a condenser microphone. Using the same mics in different rooms provides a nice basic reference point.”

Over a period of more than 35 years, Bob “Nitebob” Czaykowski has worked with artists ranging from Aerosmith, KISS, Ted Nugent and Ace Frehley to Hanoi Rocks and most recently Madeleine Peyroux, New York Dolls and Steely Dan. Nitebob agrees that having the right mic for the lead vocalist is paramount: “I consider that to be the most important element of a live show,” says Czaykowski. “Be it a Neumann, Sennheiser, Shure or something else, I want a mic that has not been overused or damaged. I find more damaged vocal mics than anything else; kick drum mics come a close second. Madeleine prefers the [Neumann] KMS 104 because she feels it suits her voice, and it works for me. David Johansen [formerly of New York Dolls] uses the Beta 58 because it complements his voice and works well when he plays harmonica.”

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