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One of my articles featured on www.musicgearreview.com

I enjoy writing and blogging and just recently, I was given the opportunity to write for www.musicgearreview.com.  I wrote a review on the Shure SE115 and SE215 in-ear monitors.  My post is now on the front page of the website or available at this link:  http://www.musicgearreview.com/article-display/4114.html

Enjoy!!  Check it out and let me know what you think!

When the production leader steps into the worship leader’s shoes

This past Sunday, I lead worship at National Community Church’s Potomac Yard and Gala locations.  I was given the opportunity to do that because one of our staff worship leaders and campus pastors were sick.  As a result, I was given the opportunity to jump in a lead worship for a Sunday AM service as well as Sunday PM service and two different worship teams.

It was a great opportunity, but it was also a weird flip-flop of roles and responsibility.  I am on staff at National Community Church as the Production Coordinator and I oversee production at all six locations and I’m always the guy standing in the back of the room with the production crew.  Usually, I am only on stage when something is broken or not working!

My degree is in Music Performance from Valley Forge Christian College but about half way through my degree, I took a detour and went down a different path and started getting more and more into production.

It was a great thing for me because I was able to get perspective from the other side of the mic and better assess issues that need to be worked on or improved in the technical aspect of our services.  Also, there are things that I can tighten up with coordination of making sure technical gear is where it needs to be and is functioning properly.

It also takes the things I say to another level.  For example, as a production tech, I would ask the worship leader and worship team to trust the production crew and trust that what they were doing was for their benefit.  Now, as the worship leader behind the mic, I had to trust that my production guys were doing the right thing.  That was not a time for me to try to coach them through production, it was a time for me to firmly put my trust in them and back them on their decisions and their methods for making everything happen.  If I had decided to coach the production crew through everything while still in the worship leader role, I would have been sending a bad vibe for how a worship leader should treat the production crew.  While everyone does need to work together, there is a level of trust that needs to happen.  So, this was my time to practice what I had been preaching.

Our job every Sunday morning, whether it is on the production team or the worship team is to create beautiful music and also an atmosphere of worship.  As a worship leader, I felt like it was helpful to the production team to ask them for suggestions in what I could do differently.  Sometimes, it can be awkward for a production tech to ask the worship leader to do something different publicly because he is afraid that maybe his request isn’t important enough or isn’t a big enough deal.  Opening that door of communication on both sides is a great way to help improve both the production team as well as the worship team and the relationships between each other.

So, for you church media guys out there, I guess my point with this whole post, is practice what you preach.  Don’t say anything you can’t back up.  If you want to make the rules a certain way, then you are going to have to play by those same rules too if the tables get turned.

Potomac Yard Location:

Behringer reinvents the Aviom – The New Behringer P16 Personal Monitor System

Check out my website at www.jasoncastellente.com.

Well, maybe not quite.  But Behringer has been in the business of taking successful items from other manufacturers and making something very similar to it at a much lower price tag.  Behringer has also been trying to bump up their quality.  In fact, now so long ago, “The Music Group” which is the company that owns Behringer (CEO is Uli Behringer) purchased Midas and Klark Technik.  That was a huge deal because Midas and Klark Technik are two highly respected companies in the audio industry and…well…Behringer, not so much.

Just recently, Behringer announced their new lines of products for 2011 and it included a new version of their “Powerplay” series.  Up until now, the model powerplay had been associated with a knock around headphone amp used for budget studios or ones that were on a tight budget and were only used as a quick reference headphone amp because they introduced so much noise into the signal.  Now, it is a personal in ear monitor mixing system similar to what Aviom introduced years ago.

First, lets compare how they look:

Aviom A-16II

 

 

 

 

 

 

Behringer P-16


 

 

 

 

There is a striking resemblance isn’t there?  Very similar to what Behringer has done in the past with their pedals, mixers and amplifiers that has resulted in numerous lawsuits.  I’m not saying that there will be a lawsuit over this, but I certainly wouldn’t be surprised.

Let’s compare the two interfaces.  They have very similar buttons on the bottom that are used to select the channels and they even have two lights on them probably one for selection and one to indicate if the channel is muted or not.  In some videos I have seen, the button lights potentially may blink with signal being sent to them but I don’t see any solid documentation of that anywhere.

Behringer’s setup buttons are the first thing on the top left while Aviom’s are closer to the actual buttons.  Behringer does have the option to link buttons together in the case of things like stereo inputs that are patched into two mono inputs and two P-16 buttons. Although, both units feature groups which to me seems like it will do the same thing as linking them on Behringer’s model.  Maybe it has a different function that we don’t yet know about.

I am intrigued by the fact that Behringer has included not only a mid EQ control but also a sweepable frequency control to go with it.  Amateur musicians may not understand exactly how that works but I think you can figure it out once you play with it.  That flex room in the middle of the tonal range of the mix is pretty key in my opinion.  It is an option that has been lacking on the Avioms for years and I think it’s a great addition to personal monitor mix set up.

Next up, the Behringer P-16 features a Limiter control that the Aviom A-16 does not.  Whether this is useful or not depends on what it actually does and what it actually controls.  If it is simply a hard limiter, then it is basically worthless because it will basically do the same thing as if you were to just turn the volume down.  But, I would assume it works more like a compressor and the “limiter” control is effectively a compressor threshold which is tied to a preset internal ratio, attack, and release setting.  This could potentially be helpful or a hinderance depending on how it works.  The only way I could be sure of something like that is if I tried it myself.

The second row of controls for the most part mirrors the Aviom controls with solo, mute, pan and channel volume controls.

Now, for the most important part that everyone is probably wondering about: price point.  The Behringer P-16 has yet to be released to the American market yet so there are no definite prices but there were list prices announced at NAMM that I’ll use here.

Aviom AN-16/i Input module List price: $1285

Behringer P-16i Input module List price: $199

Aviom A-16D A-Net Distribution Hub List Price: $505

Behringer Powerplay 16 Distribution Hub P16-D List Price: $149

Aviom A-16II List Price: $675

Behringer P-16 List Price $249

So, if you have a worship band, what are the two price comparisons here.  Let’s figure it out.  First, before you read this, I decided to use the list prices for both since the official street prices of the Behringer series has not be released for the US.  If I do a list price comparison, that will at least be a fair comparison.

If you want a whole Aviom system with 8 monitor mixes, you are looking at spending $7,190 LIST.  With the Behringer setup, you are looking at spending $2390 LIST.

Okay, so what does this mean for the end user.  Well, especially for church media, it will be very interesting to see how many churches decide to make the jump to the Behringer Powerplay system because of price point.  Avioms can be pricey for some churches and I’ve talked to alot of churches who would love it, but simply can’t afford it.  If this system works well, then maybe that is their ticket into personal monitor mixing.

But, the downside is that Behringer gear is notorious for not being dependable and for introducing noise into signal chains.  So, if that is a major issue, then maybe it won’t be worth it.  Although, considering that the list price of an Aviom system is 3 times more then the Behringer, I’d certainly say, its worth a shot.  We’ll see how well they work when they are released to the American market.

Check out some of my other reviews:

Presonus StudioLive 24.4.2 Digital Mixing Console

Audio Technica AT4080 Active Ribbon Mic

Audio Technica ATM650 Dynamic Mic

One of my articles featured on www.musicgearreview.com

Questions?  Comments?  Feel free to make YOUR voice heard.  Comment below or email me at jason@jasoncastellente.com.

National Community Church – All Church Celebration

Last night, National Community Church held their All Church Celebration in the Lincoln Theater in Washington, DC.  It was a great time of joining a church that meets in 6 different locations, during 9 different service times, all together as one body and one church.

As for the tech sides of things, we used Big Sky Audio who we rented the audio system from.  Performance systems provided the screen for us and we ran our typical Mac mini video set up through the Lincoln Theater house projection system.

Our audio system consisted of a Midas Venice at the FOH with Avioms for onstage IEM mixing.  The mains were 2 Meyer Sound MSL-4′s per side with 2 Meyer Sound 650-P’s on each side as well.  The EQ was a Klark Technic DN370 which had some of the sweetest EQ filters I’ve ever hear.  Unfortunately, I figured out very quickly that the sound company had underestimated the amount of sub power that we needed for the theater so we were out of luck there.  There was no way the subs could keep up with the low frequency content of my mix.

Overall, the main reason that we do what we do is to communicate the gospel and to draw the church together in unity and in love for one another.  This event was also intended to get our whole congregation up to speed on everything that God has been doing with NCC over the past year or so and where the church as a whole is going.

One thing that Pastor Mark said that really grabbed me was something along the lines of this: ”God doesn’t call us to things that we are ready to do. He calls us to things that require us to fall on our knees in raw dependence of Him.”  It’s a basic statement that all of us know, but need to seriously learn how to live out in our every day lives.  Something else that Pastor Mark mentioned this past weekend that our frustration spiritually comes from the rhythm of our spiritual lives.  We have daily rhythms that we do such as waking up, brushing our teeth, taking a shower and things of that nature.  But, most of us believers are frustrated spiritually because we have a weekly rhythm instead of a daily rhythm.  In order to live a live dedicated to God and following his ways, we need to always make sure we focus on getting the basic things right before we try to build on it to go higher or farther into our spiritual journey.

Anyway, that’s what impacted me spiritually last night.

I just want to throw up some pictures that I took with my mytouch so everyone could can get an idea of what we did last night.

Church Audio – Killing Feedback

As I thought more about my last post which talked about Church Audio Problems, I thought I’d continue my church audio blogging by talking about a problem that has plagued churches across the country regardless of denomination or beliefs.

If you have run sound for any length of time, you have probably heard feedback.  And if you haven’t, I’m sure you will in the future.  It can come in the form of a low rumble, a mid range “yaaaaa” sound, or a hit whistle that makes everyone want to duck for cover.  (Believe me, I’ve seen it!)  Feedback can be difficult to find and control because it can take different forms and be caused by different problems.

First things first, we need to understand what exactly feedback is and by doing so, we can figure out what causes it.

Feedback is the result of sound being cycled and recycled through the sound system.  Let me explain what I mean.  What happens during feedback, is that a microphone receives and amplifies sound that has come out of the speakers.  The microphone sends that sound back through the mixing console to be once again amplified by the speakers creating what is known as a “feedback loop”.  This can increase exponentially and instantaneously resulting in and undesirable sound we know as feedback.

Now that we know what feedback is, we can dive into how it happens and figure out how to prevent it.  The best way to prevent feedback is to stop it before it starts.  Sometimes, it can be from a vocalist cupping a microphone, letting the mic hang at their sides, pointing the microphone towards a speaker or monitor or from improper gain structure, EQ, or processing.  Let’s talk through some steps to prevent these issues.

STEP NUMBER 1: PROPERLY EQ YOUR SYSTEM

First and foremost, your sound system must have a graphic system equalizer.  If you don’t have one, you should probably consider investing in one.  What this allows you to do is equalize, or tune your sound system by using a series of frequency filters to adjust the intensity level of different frequencies.  Spikes in specific frequencies can be caused by speaker positioning, room acoustics, or various other factors so I would seriously recommend hiring a trained professional to take care EQ’ing your system for you.  That way you can be sure you’ve got everything set properly and know nothing will be damaged due to improper system setup.  However, it is possible for you to do this yourself using a spectrum analyzer connected to an RTA mic.  A spectrum analyzer can play reference audio through your system and the RTA mic will sense which frequencies are louder or softer then others and display them on the screen of the spectrum analyzer.  This will tell you what frequencies you need to boost or cut (increase or decrease) on your system graphic equalizer.  Once you get your system equalized, it will give you a good starting place and a “clean plate” to start working with.

STEP NUMBER 2: PROPERLY SET UP YOUR STAGE

When setting up your stage, make sure that your monitors are positioned correctly and that your microphones are set up far enough away from the main speakers that they won’t cause issues when you begin mixing.  Also, talking to your worship team, worship leader, pastor, or anyone else using microphones, and instructing them on proper usage is always very helpful.  Make sure that singers hold microphones close to their mouths when they are singing.  If they are not singing, ask them to hold the microphone, facing upward, in the middle of their chest or stomach.  That way, it will keep the microphone pointed generally in the correct direction.  Politely ask them not to let it hang at their sides or face any stage monitors that are set up in front of them.  If they forget, and chances are, they will, politely and humbly remind them how to properly hold a mic.  Patience and humility is key here.  No one likes a bossy or nagging sound tech.  You have their best interests in mind; communicate it that way! :-)

STEP NUMBER 3: UNDERSTANDING THE MIXER CONTROLS

Make sure that you understand the correlation between gain, EQ, your auxes, and your fader level.  Always start your sound check with your gain knob turned all the way to the left (counterclockwise position), your EQ filters at 12 o’clock, your auxes turned all the way to the right, and your fader all the way down.  If the mic requires phantom power, this would be a good time to turn it on.  After that, unmute your channel strip and bring the fader up to unity gain or the 0 area on the fader strip.  Then, while a vocalist is either talking or singing into the mic, increase your pre amp gain until you reach your desired loudness.  Using your EQ and ear, EQ the input until it sounds good.  If you hear feedback, determine how high or low it is and then, using your EQ filter and your sweepable control, determine where the exact frequency is and cut it until it stops or goes away.  If you experience reoccurring issues with feedback, you may need to assess mic placement or maybe even the type of mic.  If you have the wrong mic for the job, or the mic is placed too far away, you won’t be getting optimal signal from it and it can cause problems in your mix.  In addition, don’t be afraid to use your mute button.  If a mic is not being used, turn it off.  Open microphones and channels can cause excess noise in the mix and system so remember, if it’s not in use, it shouldn’t be on.

STEP NUMBER 4: GEAR

There is also outboard gear that can help with controlling mics and volume as well.  If you are struggling with maintaining consistent volume of individual mics or inputs, you may need a compressor to limit the dynamic range.  A compressor can usually be inserted into a signal chain at various points on the mixing console whether it is on the channel strip, audio group, mains, or even on an aux.  You can also get a gate, which essentially turns a channel off when the signal drops below a certain threshold and turns back on when signal comes through.  This is especially helpful in isolating individual drums when they are miced in close proximity.

In any case, if you have serious, uncontrolled feedback on a reoccurring basis, you may consider seeking help from a trained professional to see if they can track down what the problem is.  That way, you aren’t spending money on gear that you don’t really need and it can help you pin point the problem so that it can be assessed either by the professional or by a church sound tech.

It’s important to make sure that feedback isn’t part of your worship service.  Don’t let feedback become a distraction to worship or what God is trying to do in your congregation during any given service.  Running sound is a huge part of making sure the message of Jesus Christ is communicated clearly and effectively.  Do the best you can to improve your skills so that you can serve God with all the talents he has blessed you with and continue to invest them back into the furtherance of the Kingdom of God.

Questions?  Comments?  Feel free to comment below or email me at jason@jasoncastellente.com

If my blogs are helpful to you or your church, feel free to link back to my blog, or post links on facebook or twitter.  I’d love to hear back from those of your who are reading my blogs.

Church Audio Problems

 

As many of you know, I am on staff full time at National Community Church in Washington DC as their Production Coordinator.  Part of my job is to help improve production at each of our six locations and help maintain quality across those venues.  I noticed one of the hardest areas to train people in and also an areas that is really hard to “get good at” is in mixing audio.  I’m grateful for all the volunteers that work hard week in and week out at NCC.  They are great and make it happen every week and I appreciate each and every one of them.

Mixing audio is a difficult volunteer position for a number of reasons.  There is alot of organization that goes into making a system work right and making sure that each instrument sounds good.  Having a musical ear is very helpful in situations like this but everyone has to start somewhere.  How do you begin?

Well, if you are reading this, chances are you have already made the plunge and volunteered at your local church and have the opportunity to run sound on at least a fairly regular basis.  Maybe there are issues that you wish you could fix, but struggle with.  Maybe there are problems that you hear, but don’t have the know how to solve.  I am going to go over a few things that you can do step by step to try to improve the audio in your church and more effectively communicate the gospel through technology.

Here are a few common issues that I have seen at various churches over the past few years:

#1 – STAGE VOLUME

Okay, so most churches have a worship band.  The members of that band vary but almost always include drums, bass, guitars (acoustic and electric), keyboards, and of course vocals.  There are certain instruments that are simply louder then others.  For example, drums, electric guitar amps, bass guitar amps and instruments of that nature tend to create what we call high amounts of stage volume.  The problem with this is that when there is alot of stage volume present, it will compete with the sound coming out of the main speakers in frequency response and also time delay which causes phasing.  This forces the audio engineer to attempt to mix the sound from the stage volume with the sound from the speakers.  That becomes impossible when time delay phasing becomes a factor.  If the sound is coming from the back of the stage and from the speakers at the same time, it will reach the listener at two different points in time causing phasing.  This is almost impossible for an audio engineer to fix and creates a muddy and unclear sound.  Guitar amps should be kept to a minimum or moved far enough away so as not to cause issues.  Drummers, in a small room, should play conservatively and the church should consider purchasing a drum cage to contain the volume.  Another issue stage volume causes is high levels of sound from some instruments make it difficult for other people to hear what they need to.  They can’t hear what they need to because they are hearing too much of everything else.  So, be respectful to everyone and think before you crank!

Another issue that can cause stage volume is from stage monitors.  When you run your stage monitors at levels that are too loud, you risk having the sound bounce around on stage and ultimately out in to the audience causing the same muddy and time delay issues that a loud instrument causes.  Many musicians on stage think that in order to hear something specifically in their mix, that they need the audio engineer to turn it up more.  In some cases that is true, but you, as a musician, may want to listen more closely to your monitor before asking for something to be turned up.  Is there one or two instruments that are much louder in contrast to the others?  If so, you may want to ask the audio engineer to turn those down before asking him to turn other things up.  Try it!  It works!

#2 – MICROPHONE TECHNIQUE

First, you need the right microphone for the job.  There are a wide array of microphones out there.  But you need the right tool for the job.  Check out the make and model number of your microphone and look it up online.  You don’t need to understand what all the technical jargon means, just understand what the microphone’s intended purpose was and how it should be used.

Once you understand the microphone’s application, then you need to set it up and position it in the right way.  Way to often, I see a Shure SM57 hanging over the top of a guitar amp dangling over speaker.  First of all, that mic is positioned completely wrong and is micing the floor rather then the guitar amp.  You are micing indirect soundwaves which is probably introducing some type of phasing into your mix as well.

Vocalists who cup mics and sing incorrectly to them are also extremely difficult for audio engineers to compensate for.  When you sing, you should never cup the windscreen.  This prevents frequency rejection which the mic was designed to do.  It can also cause more mic pops and other breath related noises that can ruin a good sound.

Also, when you sing, you should maintain a consistent distance from your mouth to the mic.  Vocalists who are far away for one song and then totally eat the mic on the next are a nightmare for an audio engineer to keep up with.  It doesn’t matter how good of a mic you have, it doesn’t matter how good your compressors are, it doesn’t matter how good your preamps are, it’s still going to sound terrible if the vocalist doesn’t know how to properly use a mic.  Sometimes, vocalists will sound check right up on the mic and then move back when they perform because they are nervous.  And then they complain they can’t hear anything.  Consistency is key here.  My biggest suggestion for audio engineers is to humbly and graciously educate your vocalists on how to use a microphone and also patiently remind them when they forget because chances are, your band will forget.  Just keep reminding them without being annoying.  We’re all still learning after all anyway right? :-)

#3 – PROPER GAIN STRUCTURE

When you mix sound check, you must properly set gain structure for each and every input.  You should start with the fader all the way down where the small infinity sign is.  After making sure the gain or trim fader is turned all the way to the left, unmute the channel and bring the fader up to 0 dB.  Then, gradually bring the gain knob up to the desired loudness.  Then, EQ the channel and mix your monitors.

#4 – HOUSE VOLUME

Yes, I know I am treading on an age old delicate topic in some churches.  If your mix is too loud, it is counter productive.  In a worship situation, be sensitive to the Holy Spirit as well as the leadership that is running the event.  Just because you are the audio engineer doesn’t mean you should always run it the way you think it should be run.  Run sound to the best of your ability but also be willing to do whatever the event leadership wants you to do.  You also need to think about what is best in communicating the gospel and mix for your target audience.  If it’s younger people, they probably won’t mind it pretty loud.  But, if it’s a senior citizen event, chances are that they won’t like subs pounding the room! :-)  Be respectful, and be sensitive.  Volume that is too loud can ruin the mood and can hurt the spirit of worship.

In contrast, if it’s not loud enough, it can be a problem too.  While I was in college, I toured as an audio engineer for two years with a school sponsored worship band to churches and youth camps.  I experimented alot with volume levels while I was on tour and it really does effect the worship environment.  If the volume is not loud enough, the worship service can lack enthusiasm and energy.  Like I mentioned above, be sensitive to the environment, the leadership, the people in attendance, and to the type of music.

#5 – HOUSE EQ AND CROSSOVER

If for some reason, after you have tried everything and have done your best with mic positioning and setup, you still have issues with poor sound or feedback, your system equalizer may not be set properly for the room or your speakers.  There are ways for the common person to rectify this, but I would highly suggest bringing in a professional.  That way you can be sure that no system components will be misused or damaged.

#6 – SOUNDTECH

Sometimes, the biggest issue is just the tech running the system.  This is not meant to bash anyone or put anyone’s efforts down.  Training helps, practice improves the sound, technique creates better mixes, but if you don’t have at least a basic technical understand and a somewhat musical ear, then maybe this isn’t the best area for you to serve. Also, a great sound tech must have a teachable and humble attitude.  An attitude of servanthood will be a great asset to have behind a mixing console when accompanied by a good technical skill set.  I believe audio techs in churches should be auditioned and someone should assess their skill set before they are turned loose.  God has gifted each of us differently and uniquely.  We are one body with many parts.  If everyone was an eye, where would the sense of smell be?  If everyone was a sound tech, there would be no worship band, no greeters, no pastors or teachers or small group leaders.  So, be honest with yourself.  Do you have the skills to do this?  Or should you be serving somewhere else?  It’s all about effectively communicating the gospel of Jesus Christ.  Find the area where you are strong and pursue it with all your heart.

Feel free to comment and voice your opinion and ideas or email me directly at jason@jasoncastellente.com

Equipped Podcast guest

Many of you who know me, know of my passion for audio and teaching audio.  You all probably know that I really have a burden on my heart for technology in the church and clearly communicating the love and the message of Jesus Christ through technology.  In December, I had the opportunity to speak on a podcast called Equipped which is actually now available on iTunes.  You can check it out here: http://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/equipped-e01-websites/id398466957

Let me know what you think!!  Comment or email me at jason@jasoncastellente.com

Here goes EVERYTHING

This weekend was my last weekend mixing for Chosen 2010.  We were at the second weekend of Penndel Winter Retreats at the Philip Bongiorno Conference Center.  It was a weekend of memories for me.  Memories of Penndel events from the past, people including students I have met and talked with, leaders I have learned from, and media nerds I have been blessed to work with, and great times of music, teaching, worship, and seeking God with everything and through everything.

This weekend, the Youth Alive missionary for Penndel, Jason Lamer, told a story that impacted me.  His story went something like this…  There was a man who got on a plane.  He sat back and thought about where he was going and anticipated where he was going.  Or at least, where he thought it was going.  During the flight, the voice of the pilot came over the loudspeakers saying that the engine of the plane was on fire and that all the passengers of the plane would need to put on their parachutes and prepare to jump in order to save their lives.  The man on the plane was afraid and upset and as he prepared for what he had to do in order to survive, thoughts were running through his head.  He was thinking, “this is not what I had planned”, “this is not what I wanted”, “why does this have to happen?”, “this isn’t my destination”.  And as he stood on the brink of jumping, he took a deep breath and said, “Here goes nothing!”.

On that same plane was another man…another man who was eager and excited simply to be on the plane.  He was prepared for anything and was willing to go wherever.  He wasn’t afraid.  Sure, he had a destination in mind but he wasn’t hesitant to change direction if he was called to.  When the voice of the pilot came over the loudspeaker explaining that the engine of the plane was on fire and that everyone would have to put on their parachutes and prepare to jump, he leapt into action.  He grabbed his parachute and was first in line.  Thoughts were running through his head too, but they were quite different then the other man.  This man knew that this is not what he had planned but he was willing to change and do what was necessary.  No, it was not what he wanted, but it was what had to be done because he was commanded to do it.  I am sure he did not understand why it had to happen, but instead of being afraid of stepping forward and taking that jump, he was excited by it.  No, it was certainly not his destination, but he was thrilled that he was going to jump in spite of circumstances that may have not seemed ideal but ultimately, was the best thing to do.  And without hesitation, that man with the wind blowing in his face, leap out of the plain and shouted, “Here…goes…EVERYTHING!!”

The first man was more concerned about where he was going, then the ride along the way.  He was caught up in his own plans and life and what he was going to do rather then an experience that could change his life forever.  It certainly may not have been what he wanted, but it was necessary for him at that moment in time.  It was necessary for him to jump.  It wasn’t all for nothing; it was all for everything.

Sometimes, God changes the course of our lives when we least expect it.  He creates a path for us and points us towards it and then all of the sudden, there is a cliff.  A lot of times, when we see that cliff, we think that God has forgotten us, or he has abandoned us, or he doesn’t care about us anymore.  But, that is just the contrary.  He has NOT forgotten us!  He has NOT abandoned us!  He cares very deeply for us!  He has placed that in our lives so that by faith, we will jump.  He has placed that in our lives so that we can experience a fullness, a fulfillment, and an excitement that we have maybe never felt before.

This just really impacted me deeply and I have been thinking about it all weekend and I am still thinking through it.  My life is at a point like that now.  I am getting ready to jump into something that I have never really done before but I am looking forward to doing.  It’s a step forward that I am super nervous about taking, but it is also a major step forward.  Someone once said that to risk nothing in life is to not live.  I want my life to be worth living.  I want my life to count for something greater then myself.  I want my life to be a building block in the Kingdom of God.  I want my Savior and my God, to be proud of me and how I have invest what He has blessed me with.  I am so incredibly grateful for my salvation and for life.  May the things that I do, may they all be an offering back to the God to saved me and gave me life.

 

“May the word of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.” – Psalm 19:14

 

You mean I can read whatever I want? Mixing in Pro Tools Skill Pack

One great thing I’ve found in the last few weeks now that I’m done college, I have the freedom to read whatever I want.  Crazy right?  I’m not forced to read for a class or for an assignment or paper or whatever.  I have actually really started to enjoy reading again.  One book I am enjoying right now is (nerd alert!!)  Mixing in Pro Tools Second Edition Skill Pack by Brian Smithers.  I have been seriously using Pro Tools LE and HD for the past 3 years and I’ve seen the most recent evolutions from Pro Tools 7 to the new GUI interface and options in Pro Tools 8 and most recently, the “digi-hardware free” version of Pro Tools 9 that hit the public just a month or so back.

This book is pretty cool and helps the reader to understand more of the art and craft of mixing projects in Pro Tools.  It begins with the basics that I was pretty well acquainted with and then got progressively harder and more complex.  I have to say, I was caught a little off guard by how in-depth this book got towards the end.  In fact, I had to go back and review earlier parts of the book that I thought I had down in order to understand little nuances of more complex techniques.  I had assumed this book would be a lot of basic material and tutorials.  And while, it presents it in more of a tutorial method for beginners, the techniques and methods it teaches and the tricks it gives you are very easily applied to your own projects in your day-to-day work, mixing and hobbies.

It starts of explaining equalization and just basically describes what all the GUI knobs and meters do.  It also briefly goes into what equalization is.  Equalization is the adjustment of the timbre of a recorded signal.  It basically dictates the tonal shape of a signal.   Other then that, I thought the chapter would be basic knowledge and a review for me.  Although, when I got farther in the chapter, it gave a few tips that can give better results and can help create a bigger stereo image.  For example, it suggests that while many of your channels are mono when you record them, you can instantly make them stereo by inserting a standard Pro Tools plug-in called “Short Delay II” (mono/stereo).  Pro Tools will then display two meter bars on the processed channel showing that there is a stereo output to wherever the channel is routed.  You can then insert more plug-ins after that to continue your processing although you should use a multi-mono plug-in so that Pro Tools will process each signal individually while still changing the settings uniformly on both the Left and the Right outputs.  Equalization is probably one of the hardest parts of the post production process because you need to make everything sound great in the mix without making thing clash.  That means, you will need to find a unique place in the frequency and dynamic range of the recording.

It continues in the next chapter to talk about dynamics processing.  Obviously, dynamics vary greatly with the style of music but this book talks about the principles you need to be successful in making whatever music your a mixing sound great.  I like how they explain how a compressor works because I think this is something that gets confused very easily in studio mixing as well as live sound reinforcement.  I took the questions they used and modified them a little to better explain how a compressor works.

What gets compressed? – Threshold settings (numeric setting in dBv)

How much gets compressed? – Ratio settings (numeric setting in ratio for i.e. 4:1)

How abruptly will the compression begin? – Knee settings (numeric setting)

How fast will the compressor take before it engages? – Attack settings (us or ms)

How long will the compressor hold the same setting? – Hold settings (us or ms)

How quickly will the compressor release its limiting of signal? – Release settings (us or ms)

Oh, by the way…I used two terms above that I should explain: “us” and “ms”.  ”us” means microsecond which is one thousand of a millisecond (one ten-thousandth of a second) and “ms” means millisecond which is one thousandth of a second.

I also love the way that they go into how to get a rough mix later in the book.  They walk the reader though basic organization and things that not everyone would think of a common sense.  Creating your workflow in a session, is extremely important.  Making sure that tracks are labeled from the get-go is important because Pro Tools names waveform data off of that track name to help with organization in the actual Pro Tools session data.  Then, lining up your tracks in an order where you are comfortable working with it is very important.  Coloring your tracks is an added benefit to help you visually.  The way I work is that I have my drums first colored yellow, bass and guitars next labeled green, keys and midi stuff after that labeled blue and vocals after that labeled orange or red.  I will then route them through busses to make mixing easier and I put those busses at the end of the order of channels so that I have easy access to the “master fader” of each group of instruments.  This is very helpful when I mix in the end.

I don’t want to spoil the book for you though.  There are tons of great mix techniques in this book that I will certainly be implementing in the near future.  The book goes into advanced signal flow and advanced dynamics.  It talks alot about stereo imaging and enhancement to make things sound spacious and open while still creating that tight powerful mix that we have all come to know and love in pop music today.  The really cool stuff happens when it gets into special effects for recording and for mixing.  It has a couple really creative techniques that will help you make you studio mixes pop and pound.  I really enjoyed this book and I’m glad I took the time to read through it because I know it will benefit me in my career in audio and production.  I highly recommend this book.  I’ll be using some of the things I’ve learned when I go back in to the studio to finish up mixing The Interlude tracks.

Does anyone out there have any creative or interesting audio techniques to share?  Feel free to comment or email me at jason@jasoncastellente.com

Audio Technica AT4080 Active Ribbon Mic Review

There are a multitude of microphones that are in the market today and even more applications.  Choosing a mic for whatever purpose you may have dreamed up is not rocket science, but it can be difficult to get the sound you might have in your head.

I have always been more of a Shure fan and then select mics from various other companies.  But, by far the company that I had the least experience with was Audio Technica.  Lately, I have had a lot more exposure to Audio Technica and I have been pleasantly surprised.  Valley Forge Christian College just had their yearly Christmas concert Christmas at Valley Forge this past weekend.  We were able to borrow some microphones from Worship MD CEO, Doug Gould (www.worshipmd.com) who does some promotional marketing for Audio Technica among other leading audio industry companies in the church market.  One of the mics he lent us was the Audio Technica AT4080 Active Ribbon.

First of all, I was interested that it said “active ribbon”.  In my experience, a ribbon mic is in the “dynamic” family of mics, not condenser.  Also, it is usually dangerous to send phantom power to a ribbon mic.  But this ribbon mic required phantom power.

Holding the mic in my hands, the construction is rock solid.  The mic felt very durable and the construction is aesthetically pleasing.  When I plugged it in a tried it, I was actually able to use it live and amplified.  Our application for the Christmas at Valley Forge concert was to lightly reinforce a classical vocal in a dry room as well as live tracking in Protools HD.  My initial impression was that the mic was very warm and smooth and had a clean, clear and crisp ribbon mic tone.  Even though it has a figure 8 polar pick up pattern, was able to get a serious amount of gain and volume for our live reinforcement out of the AT4080.

Like I mentioned earlier, the AT4080 has a figure 8 pick up pattern that responds to 20Hz to 18khz and can take up to 128dB.  Stop…128dB from a ribbon mic?  Yes, actually it can take it.  That really broadens the applications that this mic can handle.  I think in the next few weeks, I’m going to experiment with this mic as an ambient mic on a guitar amp because it can most certainly take the SPL.

This is a serious contender for the future of live sound as well as studio recording because it still allows you to get that classic ribbon sound while allowing the user to practically forget about the issue with lower output and the delicate nature of ribbon mics in the past.  I must admit, this mic is going to be added to the ever growing list of mics that I will be looking to purchase for my own personal mic collection and closet.

As always, I want to hear your comments and feedback.  Feel free to comment or email me at jason@jasoncastellente.com.

Check out the Audio Technica AT4080 here: http://bit.ly/idww3t

Check out Worship MD and Doug Gould here:  www.worshipmd.com

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