The Judds Tour Profile

Mar 1, 2011 9:00 AM, By Sarah Benzuly

MIXING FOR COUNTRY ROYALTY

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When mother/daughter team Naomi and Wynonna Judd decided to join forces onstage for their The Last Encore tour, the duo looked within their road family to bring their vocal harmonies to adoring fans. Front-of-house engineer Curtis Flatt has been mixing for Wynonna on and off since 2002, while monitor engineer Pete Parenteau has toured with her since 2005. Both have done a few Judds dates in the interim and so were able to create this tour’s sound design relatively quickly.

Naomi (left) and Wynonna Judd performing at the Oracle Arena (Oakland, Calif.)

Naomi (left) and Wynonna Judd performing at the Oracle Arena (Oakland, Calif.)

“We started designing the show first because it’s real different from the Wynonna show,” Flatt says. “The band’s a little bit bigger, with the Palmetto State Quartet added to it; a little bit different instrumentation. The nice part was that one of the key players in the band is the Judds’ producer, Don Potter. So during rehearsals, I recorded everything in Pro Tools and I could set up my mixes and have [Potter] come back, and we could say ‘This works,’ ‘This doesn’t work,’ ‘Can we change what they’re playing?’ ‘Can I use more EQ?’ It’s really nice to have somebody in the band who fluently speaks audio.”

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Enriching the sound design was Flatt’s experience with a d&b system; he’s been with Spectrum Sound (Nashville) for the past 25 years and found that it was a no-brainer to go with the sound company’s J Series system. “I sat down with Jeremy Seawell, who is my assistant on this tour, and we talked about what we thought would be the best for coverage in the arenas so that we could get things as even and as smooth as possible,” Flatt says. “We’re both fans of the d&b J Series; it was pretty easy to lay out exactly what we wanted and tailor it around the thrust—we didn’t find out about the thrust until after we had made the design.”

The system includes 14 J8s over two J12s for the front hang. “They pull down pretty hard,” Flatt describes. “We had to take it up pretty high. Trim was 30 to 35 feet to the bottom of the P.A. every night so that the sightlines weren’t obscuring the big video wall behind it.” Side system included 14 J12s, five J-subs for side hang and a dozen B2s distributed evenly across the front of the stage to even out the ground-fill. The pockets saw Q10s, while E3s were at the edge of the thrust. Two Q-subs (one SL and one SR) helped warm up Parenteau’s ear mixes. “We had a few different settings or macros brought up so that when [The Judds] went out on the thrust, we would pull down the lower part of the P.A. a little more and bring up the thrust fills a little more so that you felt like they were right there,” Flatt says.

Performing in so many different types of arenas made it key to ensure that the engineers could create an accurate-sounding system each night,.And because there are, at any time, up to eight vocalists in front of the thrust of the P.A., the system must be perfectly tuned. Flatt uses a combination of his ears and Smaart, the latter for time-alignment issues and to “look and see if there was anything strange. I’d also use a couple of tracks that were shown to me by d&b—the ones they used when they were designing the boxes—that really fill out well. The only difference [in the system hang] was the angles depending on the room. Outside of that, the coverage was fine every night and we just tried to keep it off the walls.

“We’re trying to keep as much energy in the show as we can, but, literally, they pulled somebody out of the audience last night who was four, [and] we know there was a man in the audience celebrating his 92nd birthday—so it’s a pretty broad age range. We find a nice, comfortable level that still has the energy in it; it’s very dynamic. The parts of the show that are quiet, they’re really quiet. The songs that are more pop or R&B-oriented we tend to push a little bit more, but not to the point where the people who don’t want that are going to get up and leave; they’re going to enjoy it as well. We want to make sure the coverage is as even as we can get across the room. While we may have as many boxes as they have on shows that are louder than this one, we want to make sure it’s tapered and tailored to the room.”






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