Monday, January 26, 2015

Got Yer Ears On, Good Buddy?

I've always sort of bragged that I'm not a "knob tweaker", meaning that when I do anything sonically - playing, recording, listening - I don't spend a lot of time fine tuning with regard to the creation of or consumption of noise.  I more or less just set things to the way I like, then leave them for the duration.  But lately, I've had a strong longing to become more articulate about what I like and don't like.  I've wanted an avenue to explore the range of sounds and how they are captured.  I've wanted more control of the sounds I produce and capture; and I've wanted to broaden my sonic palette. Although this urge has been welling up within me the past few years, it became greatly amplified after reading Glyn Johns' book "Soundman".

I've confessed before that I love hanging out in recording studios.  Love it.*  I like the process of recording - all of it, from setting up the microphones to the final editing.  I've felt of late the almost irresistible urge to jump behind the console; or failing that, bug the crap out of the engineer with my questions.  Of course, neither one of those are viable options for learning how to hone my sound.  How would I learn how to record and manipulate live sound without having to take classes or read a (usually outdated) book?

The answer:  church.  The short version of the story is that I emailed some folks at my wife's church to see if they were in need of a back up sound guy.  I told them I knew nothing of it, but would be a great blank slate or sponge, whichever metaphor you choose to use for someone who'd eagerly take in the knowledge imparted to him.  Turns out a back up sound guy is something they've wanted for a long time, and there may even be a small amount of money in it for me eventually.  Sweet.

This past Sunday, I shadowed the sound guy at the UU church for the first time.  I only hung out with him at the second (11:15) service.  Little did I know, Andy (sound guy - blanking out on his last name) does WAY more than sound.  Andy is also in charge of:

  • managing/distributing devices for hearing assistance to those who need them each service
  • managing all cameras (I believe there are four) for the live feed in the church building and online
  • Lighting
  • projecting slides (usually with hymn words on them) on the front walls
  • Archiving the audio and video of each service
And it was fun to watch him work.  He explained everything to me as he worked, raising and lowering sound and light levels while panning and zooming four cameras mounted throughout the room that he transitioned to once he had the shot he was looking for.  It was all so smooth and fluid.  He would aim camera two via a joystick at the desk, line up the shot he wanted, transition the video feed to that camera, bring down the choir mics, bring up the minster's mic, line up his next shot on camera one, transition to camera one and so on and so on.  It was something to behold.  He was friendly and patient, willingly sharing anything he knew with me.  I think I'm going to have fun learning how to work the console , but it looks like I'll be learning a lot more in the bargain!

The other cool thing is that Andy has connections with local live venues, recording studios, and video production companies (that's Andy, third from left.  I think he looks sorta like David Lowery).  I hope it will lead to many opportunities to really learn my way around a console and work with interesting people.  We'll see.  Right now, I'm just scared shitless of the wide array of knobs and responsibilities.  But you have to start somewhere.  I'm  looking forward to putting on my ears and really listening to the world around me.

*-Some studio adventures recorded here, here, here, and here.

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