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Archive for May 3, 2011

Tech Tuesday: Sound Check

“Crest makes good toothpaste.”

That was the first thing I heard over the mics when I walked into the theatre on Saturday. Dean was nice enough to let me crash the sound check for Sierra Leone’s Refugee All Stars, and I had no idea what to expect. My only experience with setting up a band was in high school, when we jammed cables into outlets and prayed we didn’t set the stage on fire.

However at CCA, things are a little more professional than that. Before the band even got on stage to make sure they sounded right, our sound guys did some run through’s, making sure all the mics were working and the monitors (speakers on stage) were hooked up right. This is a video from the main sound desk that shows the guys making sure the drum kit sounds right. Our sound guys needed to make sure that it was loud enough so that the audience could hear the right sounds, but not too loud that it sounded like a bunch of random banging, and the levels on the audio metering scales told them if they were right on the money, or needed to adjust.

Another thing I learned was that for many of the performances here, and especially those with music, there are actually two soundboards. There’s the main one in the theatre that Dean works, and then there’s one in the wings that Steve manages. Dean’s job is to make sure that the audience hears the music right, and Steve does the same, but for each of the musicians on stage. This clip shows just that. Some of the techs were walking around stage making sure everyone was hearing what they needed to hear to perform, and Steve was adjusting on the go.

See how some of the faders (sliding controls) seem to move on their own? They don’t. I found out that Steve can program different channels to have different frequencies (more bass, treble, etc) and then set that channel with those specifications. If he needs more channels, he can move on to a different one  and do the same thing. The movement happens when he switches between channels and the soundboard adjusts to the frequencies he set.

Just think of it this way. I love watching Real Housewives of NYC (no shame), but my Bravo channel has really bad sound quality, so I always have to turn up my TV’s volume. When I set my DVR to record the newest episode, I adjust the sound so my TV’s volume automatically goes higher to record that particular show, but will go lower for the next show I record on a different channel.

The actual soundcheck with the band on stage took 20 minutes at most, because everything went so well during the set up. I was glad because I got to meet more of the sound and lighting crew, and they’re a blast to hang out with.

If there are any questions that you had that I didn’t answer, please let me know! Dean said he doesn’t mind me asking questions, so I’m going to put that to the test. In the mean time, here are some photos I snagged during the soundcheck. I went through two cameras before I got any pictures that would work in some way, shape or form, so if they’re a tad grainy that’s why.

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