It was the worst mix that I have heard in a church in a long time. And I have heard some bad mixes. But this one was loud and not in a good way. The harsh, distorted mid-range penetrated the ear drums like a sharp knife. So, so unpleasant.
I’m on a bit of a hiatus from church production and worship. The pace of the past two years took a toll and with no shortage of other audio work coming up in the next few months, I needed to take my foot off the gas and take a break.
Quality of sound has always been a thing for me. What I have noticed in those churches that are following the current trend of full bands on stage — drums, bass, electric guitars, keys — is that they seem to place more emphasis on the visuals and lighting and not always on the quality of the sound.
Livestreams have made it pretty easy to hear whether there is an emphasis on good quality audio. In the city where I live, most of the large churches provide very poor audio quality. In-person venues are often hit and miss.
Yesterday we were at a church where the house level was very much on the high side for a church. Peaks approached rock concert levels. Except that the mix was all over the place in terms of balance. It was harsh. Very harsh.
The human ear is particularly sensitive to audio in the 2 – 5 kHz region. Strident levels in that range hurt. When a mix is not balanced properly, loud sound is not a proxy for good sound.
This was a church that had clearly invested in its audio, lighting and visual system. The room was well treated and acoustically tight. More like a movie theatre than the all too typical highly reverberant church auditorium.
Why did it sound so bad?
There are three core elements to getting good sound in a live situation: the equipment, the room, the sound person. For most churches it can be a combination of the three that causes the sound to be off.
Often it is in the hands of an inexperienced volunteer to do the best they can under very challenging circumstances. At that point, even good equipment and a treated space may not help produce a good sound.
Took the COVID shot on Thursday and definitely feeling the side effects from the injection. Headaches, fatigue, lightheaded. Should pass in a day or two.
On my job jar is to integrate my new monitoring system into my production workflow but I’m not feeling well enough to go at it full throttle.
The Audeze LCD-X phones arrived on Thursday.
I use Canopener and SoundID and I was able to get SoundID calibrated for the new phones — very quick and easy. Although the LCD-X phones seem very flat and revealing out of the box, SoundID pushed them just a bit further along.
Canopener is a crossfeed plugin which I have used before when mixing through headphones. It is a neutral plugin and the combination of the two plugins seems to be the way to go. I haven’t had a chance to work up some sessions yet using that combination.
Once I get back to feeling normal I will give it a try.
How to mix loud and proud in a condo suite? That is a bit of an issue.
I sold off most of my studio gear when I retired a few years back. We now live in a condo. It is a very nice space but certainly not the ideal location for building out a critical listening room.
I have a 10×14 room with some panels on the wall and a pair of Focal Solo6 Be monitors.
The rig looks like this:
I have zero issues with most of the usual mix activities: prepping and organizing session files, editing tracks and cutting rough mixes. I make pretty heavy use of reference tracks for testing portability and for that I have to jump into headphones for balance especially in the low end. The Focals claim to get down as far as 40Hz but in the listening space I don’t get much below 70Hz. And when I say I don’t get much, I am down somewhere around 10-15 dB by the time 60Hz rolls around.
Likely the room. I’m probably in some kind of null. It’s like someone turned off the bass.
Headphones are the only way for me to check the low end.
But now I am getting asked to deliver Atmos mixes.
What to do?
I can’t readily fit a 7.1.4 system in this space and I certainly don’t want to invest the capital needed to treat the room to an acceptable level. I’m not even sure that I could.
More and more mixers are using headphones not only for the Quality Control but to do most of their mix activities particularly for Atmos.
I have been using a pair of AKG K702 Reference Headphones and they have been okay. With new projects on the go I decided not to spend the money to update the room and add a bunch of speakers.
Rather I will update the headphone monitoring system.
After a lot of research I decided to go with the Audeze LCD-X phones along with the software to provide cross feed for the stereo mixes. For Atmos I am using the Dolby Renderer which doesn’t require the cross feed processing.
I’ll still be checking the mixes on a variety of playback devices but looking forward to mixing with the Audeze phones.
My touring rig pictured above. Yes. I used to go around with a massive 4×12 Mesa Boogie monster. Nothing quite like the feel of all that sound smashing against the body at high volume.
My bandmates might disagree though. That rig was so, so loud.
I generally spend a few hours a day on guitar. Over the past few years I was spending that time on prepping for performance which included learning parts and memorizing parts.
That part of my playing is temporarily on hold which provides an opportunity to have some fun learning, or re-learning, classic rock guitar solos.
I’ve built a list of 50 classic rock guitar solos and I am working through them one by one.
Curious to know where I started?
It is the song that cannot be played. Especially in guitar shops. However, it is a great classic rock solo and it was one of the first I learned when the song was released in 1971.
I love this live performance of the song as it was an amazing tribute to the original:
The tough part about learning solos like the one in Stairway to Heaven way back in the 70s? I had to figure it out by ear. I made a copy of the song on cassette tape and had to manually hit play and reverse to pick out the notes. Back then, I had it fairly close. But when I went to relearn it this week, I did miss a few notes here and there.
Fast forward to today and it is so easy, relatively speaking, to learn these songs. There are numerous note-by-note transcriptions like this one:
There are literally hundreds, perhaps thousands of video walkthroughs like this one:
Sean was kind enough to include a half-speed version:
And a backing track for whenever you get the fingering and the speed down:
Granted, I use the YouTube player feature to slow things down. Shift plus comma to reduce playback speed, Shift plus period to speed things up. And YouTube is kind enough to maintain pitch when changing playback speed. Perfect for musicians.
I can’t imagine the amount of time it used to take me to learn parts before the web. One benefit, I suppose, is that I really learned how to listen to music and pick out the notes which, more often than not, were buried in with all of the musical elements.
How is it going with this solo?
Pretty good. I hadn’t played it for over 40 years or so. A few of the riffs had never left my fingers.
Surprising that was.
Wires and connectors. The fundamental elements to connect the pedals together. Often overlooked in terms of the overall cost of building out a new pedalboard.
I worked with Bruno at Tone Design. He was so helpful and he spent several hours with me over the month or so that it took to build out the pedalboard. If you are doing a major pedalboard build I would highly recommend Tone Design.
We looked over what would be needed for the board and the pedals and then I ordered the following items:
- 30 SPS5 1/4 TS Black Connectors
- 25 SP500 1/4 TS Right Angle Black Connectors
- 8 Lightbulb 1/4 TRS Black Connectors
- 4 Minicake 1/4 TRS Right Angle Black Connectors
- 50 feet of Mogami 2319 Cable – for TS Connectors
- 20 feet of Mogami 2528 Cable – for TRS Connectors
- 84 inches of Dual Lock 250/400 Black
The cost to wire up the pedalboard? $620.63
It wasn’t the only cost. I needed the tools to do all of the soldering. Here is a photo of my soldering workstation with the wires and connectors ready to go:
To make all of the cables for the pedalboard took me a week. Yes. One full week to solder and build the cables.
I needed the following tools to make it happen:
- Klein 5-inch Lightweight Flush Cutter
- Eclipse 30-20 AWG Wire Stripper
- Irwin 10-20 AWG Wire Stripper
- Weller Bench Top Smoke Absorber
- Weller Soldering Station
Those tools cost me $376.27 and there would not have been a practical way to do a job this large without them.
Let’s add things up shall we?
Pedalboard and Looper: $1,955.03
Wires, Connectors, Tools: $996.90
Total for this pedalboard build: $9,139.89
Easy enough to think about pedals as a secondary component of the electric guitar sound, particularly in Praise and Worship. Until you start building out pedalboards. And then it hits you. Pedalboards can easily cost more money than a high-end guitar.
How many pedals? How much money?
Whenever I watch pedalboard tours, like this one by David Hislop, it is easy enough to answer the first question.
But what about the second question? How much does it cost to put together a pedalboard like that one? Or, for that matter, the pedalboards we often see being used by local praise and worship guitar players?
Fret no more if you have wandered by this post. I will share the pedals from my latest pedalboard build and the cost of those pedals. Where I used pedals that I already owned, I marked them as “Old” and listed the replacement cost.
All in Canadian dollars. All with taxes and shipping charges (if applicable).
Those costs do not include the pedalboard, the looper/switcher, the wiring and connectors.
Can you really spend $8,000 – 10,000 on a pedalboard build?
I’ll detail the wiring and connectors in another post but for now it is easy enough to understand the appeal of products like the Line 6 Helix Floor and the HX Stomp. You get a lot of mileage for the money with those products.
You have to be really committed to the craft to invest this heavily into the gear.
I have a fly rig with an HX stomp, tuner, overdrive, power supply and pedalboard. Even that rig is close to $1,500 all in.
Pedalboards and pedals are amazing tone machines.
They are also very expensive to build.
I’ve never had so much drama with a pedal purchase. But here is the story.
When we last left our discussion about the new pedalboard build, we got as far as me buying the new board which was the Creation Music Elevation V2 24×16 along with a case and AC module. Perfect. Love the board.
I wanted a new control hub for the pedalboard. A smart looper with MIDI control capabilities. It did not take long for me to narrow the choice down to the RJM Mastermind PBC/6X.
Being a Canadian does pose its challenges particularly with respect to getting guitar gear. Invariably the products are not readily available or we have to be prepared for delays or additional costs when bringing product across the border. In this case, RJM does not even sell direct. However, they did identify two dealers in Canada.
Unfortunately, I contacted the wrong one: Nice Rack.
It started innocently enough with this online form submission to the dealer in Ontario:
I understand that you act as a dealer for RJM and I would like to purchase a Mastermind PBC/6X. Could you let me know if you have product availability and if you can ship to my address?
To which I received this response:
Yes, we are RJM Music dealers and we can ship a Mastermind PBC/6X to you. The cost including shipping is $1,148.87 CAD total. To proceed with this purchase, please remit payment and provide your shipping address.
And so I proceeded with the order. I was told to expect delivery within two weeks. Simple right?
I kept expecting to receive a tracking number from this dealer and time passed. Slowly it seemed. If you are into guitars and guitar pedals, you will know what I mean. When you are waiting for new gear to arrive, it can never arrive quickly enough.
A week after I paid for the unit I received an update from this dealer.
We were just informed that RJM Music had to increase the price of the PBC/6X to $1,099.00 CAD. Unfortunately, we are required to adjust your invoice, resulting in a balance due of $113.00 ($100+HST).
Hmmm… the order was quoted and placed on the 9th and now, on the 17th, a week later, the price has gone up AFTER I paid for it? Does that seem right to you?
That’s the news we received yesterday, sorry. Parts are becoming more difficult to source and pricing has increased.
Well, I think it is inappropriate. I’ll pay it but it doesn’t seem right to me that I was quoted one price, paid for it, told that it would be here within 14 days and now, a week later, I have to pay an extra hundred. Has the unit been shipped?
At that point, we had a discussion with the dealer. They did not have a tracking number. Nor did they have an expected delivery date. They told me that they did not know when I would receive the Mastermind.
Here I was, out a grand or so, without any indication as to when I might receive the product.
I called another dealer. Not only did they have the unit in stock and ready to go, but at the original price I had been quoted. I received amazing service from them and I did more business with them which I will cover in a later post.
When we called Nice Rack to cancel the order and refund our money, there were fireworks. The person on the phone was ANGRY.
I’ve not had such a bizarre incident over a guitar pedal. Ever.
That said, I received the refund from the original dealer. And I had an awesome experience with Tone Design and I would highly recommend them if you are doing a major pedalboard build.
Let’s add up the costs so far shall we?
Creation Music pedalboard: $802.44
Mastermind PBC/6X: $1,152.59
We have spent $1,955.03 on a pedalboard build. Just the beginning though.
Next up: wiring and connectors.
This would be the platform for the new pedalboard build: a Creation Music Elevation V2 24″ x 16″. Included with that board would be a module with 2 XLR outs on the one side that I would build myself, a module for connecting AC power and a module for the guitar input on the other side. I would build that latter module myself as well.
I wound up purchasing the board new from a Canadian dealer on Reverb as I didn’t want to wait the 4-6 weeks to receive it direct from the company in the states. It came from the Music Room in Dunnville, Ontario. They were very helpful in terms of sourcing the additional components from Creation Music as I added in the AC module and a case for the pedalboard.
How much did it cost?
The pedalboard, including taxes and shipping, set me back $445.22 Canadian.
The case, velcro overlay and AC module added another $357.22 Canadian.
After spending $802.44 I had a pedalboard.
But the cost for this new pedalboard build was just beginning.
Fortunately I was moving from this old pedalboard:
I had most, but not all, of the pedals I would need for the new build. That would save me some money but towards the end of the series on this pedalboard build, I will include all of the costs including the pedals. It may surprise you just how expensive it can be to build out a platform for electric guitar.
Anyway. See the Morningstar MC6 in the bottom left corner of my old pedalboard? That one was going to be replaced with a new looper/MIDI controller.
And there was quite the drama associated with ordering the replacement.