making the band sound great
It takes more than great equipment, or a good set of ears. It involves patience, perseverance, and a willingness to serve.
Benjamin Rockwell – Sound Technician
At 13 years of age, I started mixing sound at church. It was a mega-church by the standards of the day, with 1200-1300 in attendance at each service. I’ve been an integral part of the sound team at each church I’ve attended since. This year represents 20 years at the same church, as the Director of Sound, and I’m not stepping down yet.
Today, I usually mix sound for just our own facility, but occassionally will operate as a hired gun behind the board. My approach is not that you need X, Y, or Z (but I might make a purchase suggestion here or there). Instead, my approach is working with the gifts that God has provided, with people, and equipment, to ensure a beautiful sound, a joyful noise.
I do put some of those same talents to good usage in my radio broadcast (see elsewhere on the site), where I setup my studio, record the weekly broadcast, edit it, and prepare it for download. So many different things came together to make this happen, and I count myself blessed to have such a great hobby that I can use in so many areas of my life.
pair of headphones
“I’ve never mic’d a briefcase before, but I’ll give it a try.” – Benjamin Rockwell
I feel it only fair, that I explain the one quote above. It was one of my more interesting experiences mixing sound.
As a sound technician, one frequently gets new an unique instruments provided. I’ve had the occassion to try to control the sound of rock bands, jazz bands, choirs, orchestras and more. I’ve mixed hip-hop, swing, rap-core, a DJ (yes, he spun the vinyl, while I layered the vocals of the rappers), swing, ska, and many more.
There have been a host of names, some who I remember well, like “Two or More“, Phil Wickham, Kevin Max (of DC Talk), and more. There are others who I don’t remember the names, and I apologize for those who were not named here. This isn’t so much about me, but this one occassion.
For a few years, I was the hired gun for a group that rented space at our church, and they brought in a number of different groups. One week, I arrived, and the guest was someone I had listened to their recordings before arriving, but when I showed up, they were travelling very light. It was a singer playing a guitar, who had a voice like Freddie Mercury, and the percussionist. They travelled in a VW Beetle, and I’m not talking the newer versions, so they only had so much space, so everything had to fit into what little space they had available. There was the cymbal stand, the snare, a cowbell, and drumsticks, and most of this was in a brown leather briefcase that looked straight out of 1983. And there was a kick pedal.
Most of this fit well, but I dind’t understand the kick pedal. I was trying to figure it all out, when the drummer just putting it all in the proper spots, placed the kick pedal right up to the briefcase, and said “oh, it’ll be fine”. I realized quickly that this was it for the low end sound, but they were playing on a carpet over cement stage. This was going to travel about as far as a lead balloon after you let go of the string. I said the above quote, and grabbed my kick drum microphone, set it up, and headed for the sound board.
In under a minute, I had it all dialed in.
It needed little help, other than the microphone itself. It was the tightest, punchiest, cleanest, dreamiest sounding kick I’d ever heard. This was both like a digital drum machine, but yet it held it’s organic and crisp sound. It represented something that I’d never before expected out of something a lawyer might carry around. It just sounded right, and I was completely amazed.
I don’t remember who those two were, and I don’t suppose I’ll ever find them again. I’ve had so many different experiences with audio, at so many concerts, recording so many different pieces of life, of music, and of more. To this day, that was one of the most surprising and memorable audio experiences I’ve ever had.