Tour Profile: One Man Band

Mar 1, 2008 12:00 PM, By Nick Russell

A SINGULAR SOUND FOR JAMES TAYLOR

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Front-of-house engineer Dave Morgan at the Digidesign VENUE D-Show Profile board, which he has found perfect for Taylor’s theater tour.

Front-of-house engineer Dave Morgan at the Digidesign VENUE D-Show Profile board, which he has found perfect for Taylor’s theater tour.

NEXT UP, PIANO

Morgan faces a similar dilemma every time he mikes the tour's 7.5-foot Yamaha C7 grand piano, which is played with the lid closed. To deal with this issue, Morgan devised a system based around a pair of Shure KSM44s, an Applied Microphone Technology M40 piano mic and a Barcus-Berry piano pickup.

“One KSM44 is placed on the low-end side just above the area where the strings cross,” Morgan explains. “The other is on the high end, miking the smallest hole on the soundboard slightly off-center so that you hear a little ambience, too. The Barcus-Berry goes in the second largest hole in the soundboard, and the M40 goes all the way down to the nose of the piano, facing back at the hammers.”

At the bottom end, the KSM44 favors a good, strong left hand, and in turn the Barcus-Berry adds high-frequency sparkle. Morgan predominantly bandpasses the M40 for low-mid warmth, while the second KSM44 over the small soundboard hole brings out high-mids. Atlas clamps hold the latter in place, along with gaffer's tape; a piece of Ozite carpet protects the piano from the clamps' setscrews.

“Each of the transducers adds its own unique component to the sound,” Morgan adds. “It's like having a four-way crossover inside the piano. If you think about it, a closed-lid piano is somewhat of a contradiction, but is often a fact of life in a sound reinforcement situation. The instrument was meant to be played open. Add up the characteristics of these components, though, and it sounds real again.”

IN THE HOUSE

With input from the stage taken care of, Morgan's choice for bringing sound to the audience fell upon Clair Bros.' i3 line arrays. The enclosures are three-way in configuration and pack a pair of 12-inch LF transducers topped-off by twin 6-inch compression drivers. Morgan calls the enclosures “sweet-sounding boxes — the vocal sound that comes out of them, as well as that of the acoustic guitar, is absolutely perfect for the format we are representing and the venues in which we are performing.”

Morgan mixes on a Digidesign VENUE D-Show Profile console, a compact board he's found well suited to the smaller theater aisles he's constantly negotiating. Describing the VENUE plug-ins as sounding like “equipment that could only exist in a dream a few years ago,” he feels as if he's in a toy land, where he can pick from a full range of vintage compressors, reverbs and more. “All the wonderful stuff we used to see in studios in days gone by, equipment that would cost you a mint in rentals, are not pieces of gear you want to take on the road and break anyway. The whole VENUE console concept is geared around running a live show. You don't have to divert your attention or think too much to use it as a mixing platform.”

Morgan's mix takes aim at trying to give the audience the impression that they're sitting in their own living room listening to a personalized concert. While quite a few effects are used in the show to obtain the realism for which Morgan is constantly striving, he stresses their judicious use.

“I was fortunate early on to have a mentor who gave me the greatest advice I ever got,” Morgan confides. “Whenever you use an effect, bring it up to where you can hear it, then back it down a little. Along with that bit of shared insight, also remember that equalization usually isn't about adding what you want, but rather taking away what you don't need. All the artistry and subtlety of audio engineering really revolves around those two tips, and they serve me well as guideposts on this show, too.”


Nick Russell is a freelance writer in Chicago.






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