Empowering the Next Generation of Women in Audio

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Part Five: Did I Make the Right Choice?

Did I make the right choice to return live sound?! I have contemplated for a very long time. Did I still had the energy that it takes? Was I strong enough, mentally and physically? Could I deal with my insecurity? Would anybody give me a job? I knew this would turn my life upside down. (more…)

Karen Kane – Woodstock Inspires A Life in Music

Woodstock is the iconic music festival that continues to influence the music industry today. Woodstock brought over 350,000 rock n roll fans to a six-acre farm in Bethel, New York to celebrate three days of peace and music. Woodstock inspired countless attendees to pursue careers in the music industry, one of them was a young woman by the name of Karen Kane. Woodstock would inspire and put her on a journey that would start by learning to play music and wind up forty years later as a well-respected audio engineer with countless awards to her name, owning a professional studio, and teaching the next generation of audio engineers.

One of Karen’s earliest jobs was managing 6 West Recording, a New York jingle house. Even though she was working in a studio, Karen says she still did not think about a career as an engineer. Karen explains “When I worked at 6 West Recording, there was an unspoken rule that women did not touch the equipment”. Thankfully, there were a few engineers that took Karen under their wings and trained her, and most importantly taught her that she could be a recording engineer regardless of her gender.

Karen would move to Boston and enroll in Berklee College of Music, where she studied guitar and bass performance. She then landed a job at Intermedia Sound in Boston, starting as an assistant studio manager but soon after starting work there; she received two diplomas from the Recording Institute of America. (The first audio classes in the U.S. were held at Intermedia). She learned the basics of audio, as it applied to analog recording in a studio environment While there, Karen would pull all-nighters with one of the engineers, learning everything she could, including how to ride a motorcycle. Eventually, Karen would become one of the studio’s engineers.

Once in a blue moon is a woman does work in our favor, although I admit very rarely. For Karen it was beneficial as she explains “I hooked up with a community of musicians who were “folky/leftists” and when they wanted to record their songs, they wanted to use a woman because it was a male-dominated occupation and they wanted to make a statement by using a woman engineer. So even though I was a beginner and not very good yet, I got the job because I WAS a woman. I ended up making albums with them for the next 12 years and got better and better”. Karen learned everything hands-on, after graduating from RIA. Karen credits Barry Ober, R. Berred Ouellette, and Bob Stoughton as being her early mentors at Intermedia.

Intermedia 1977

Through the years Karen spent in Boston she continued to work as an independent recording engineer, music producer, and live sound engineer. You can check out all her recording and live sound credits on her website mixmama.com.

One of Karen’s favorite live gigs was the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival, where she was the live sound engineer for the acoustic stage for 19 years (she retired in 2010). The Michigan Womyn’s Festival often called the Womyn’s Woodstock was an international feminist music festival. It started in 1976 and was put on every year (until 2015) in August with attendance ranging from 3,000 to 10,000.

The event is unique in that women built all of the stages, ran the lighting and sound systems, provided electricians, security, and medical services. They facilitated workshops covering various topics of interest to the attendees. Hundreds of women spent upwards of a month out on the land building the festival from the ground up because every year the festival was torn down, leaving the land as close to how it was found as possible. You can read more about this unique festival here Michigan Womyn’s Festival

A Move to Toronto

Love brought Karen to Toronto where she continued to work as an independent engineer/ producer. During her time in Toronto, she developed courses in Audio Engineering for the Learning Annex and Centennial College. She also was hired to teach at Toronto’s Harris Institute for the Arts which Karen says “was a big highlight in my life, getting to teach at such a great school.” “I learned how to be a teacher at Harris. I realized I was good at it and the students really liked me. I spent four years teaching there”.

The desire for a warmer climate would bring Karen to Wilmington, North Carolina, where she is now based. In Wilmington, she owns her own professional home recording/mixing studio. She also runs her own audio courses, which take place in the Fall, Winter, and Spring. There are five courses offered, including, Intro to Audio Engineering, Learning Pro Tools, and the “hands-on” only Advanced Course. You can check out her courses here mixmama.com.

In addition to her independent recording work and audio courses, she joined the faculty at the University of North Carolina Wilmington as the instructor for the Recording Technology program there. Karen says the University job is “one of the best things to EVER happen to me.”) Getting to teach Audio Engineering and Pro Tools in a University setting is my dream part-time job! I plan on it being my retirement job!” The 2nd “best” thing to ever happen to her is WINNING the “Producer of the Year 2013” Award last summer at the Carolina Music Awards in Raleigh, NC. AND, she just found out that she is nominated again for Producer of the Year at the Carolina Music Awards for 2014.

Karen on Live Sound

I never had any trouble with how I was perceived as a woman in a live sound position. I THINK mostly because I was not doing big shows with mainstream artists. At the time in Boston, there were not a lot of engineers studio, or live. Because of that, I was able to hook up with a few rock bands and started doing local/regional gigs with them. Later, I went on several U.S. tours (on a converted school bus) with a political folk band named Bright Morning Star. That started in 1980, and I did gigs with them for several years. I also did a lot of local acoustic shows with other singer/songwriters.

On the Evolution of Gear

The studio gear today blows my mind compared to the studio gear in the ’70s and ’80s. There are things I can do today that I NEVER DREAMED possible. I do miss, some things about analog recording (especially the smell of 2″ tape) and the simplicity of it all compared with today’s gear. I cannot speak to live sound, but I can say that as I am learning how to use live digital boards, I love some of the features like calling up monitor mixes and FOH mixes (as many times I do both).

Advice to Women Starting Out

Learn to play a musical instrument…for fun or seriously. It helps with audio engineering in many ways.

Go to a good audio school. Research them and find out all you can about the teachers! That is what makes an audio school GREAT, the teachers! The best audio schools have teachers that are ACTIVE professionals in the music industry.

If you are interested in studio work, TRY to get an internship at a local studio.

If you are interested in live sound, go to as many live shows as you can…stand by the soundboard and watch and listen to what the engineer is doing. This will start to train your ears. And by the way; ANYONE can learn to use equipment, what separates the good from the great are your EARS!

You can also begin training your ears by analyzing recordings…. on a good pair of speakers, describe the tone of each instrument, describe what you hear more in the left speaker or in the right speaker, describe the overall balance of the instruments, and then the instruments with the vocals. It’s a good way to get you to listen more intensely.


evening mix

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Profiles of Women in Audio

The Ones That Make it Have a Gift- Melissa Britton


Melissa Britton started in live sound 20 years ago mixing in a classic rock biker bar.   “My friend Casey knew I was interested in learning how to do sound. He was mixing at a club and told me I could come in on Sunday and mix the “Ladies Afternoon Stripper Party” Which was great! I rolled some cd cues and watched hot guys strip. I started working on the weekends mixing local bands. Eventually, Casey left to go work at the sister club, and I was hired on full time.”

While mixing five nights a week, Melissa was also going to school and working a regular job.  She moved on from the club to work for Dowlen Sound in Denver, CO, where she worked festivals, graduations, corporate gigs, plays, comedy, and a large variety of music.  “I worked really hard. I was determined to succeed. I would run circles around the guys. Bret Dowlen taught me a lot. He built his whole sound company from scratch, and even though I came into it 10 or so years after he’d started, I learned a lot from him. Watching him take apart consoles and fix them (analog consoles), watching him build crossover’s, wedges, Subs, and PA stacks and then take it all out and put it all up and analyze it, figure out how it could be better, throw farther, etc.… I learned priceless info from being around all that. “

Melissa with Bret Dowlen

Melissa mixed in every club she could get a gig in doing Monitors or FOH. “I worked every day, seven days a week. I learned by watching others and implementing their style, their technique, their flavor, into my own style, when it was my turn to mix.”  “I learned to work with older analog consoles. Gamble EX56, ATI Paragon, Soundcraft Series 4, 800B, 800, Midas H3000, XL4, Bret even had a couple of Harrison’s.”

What got Melissa into this business in the first place was a love for music. “I am in love with music. I played music growing up. My dad played music while I was growing up. Actually, he still plays, and we are getting ready to cut an album at the end of this month, his lifelong dream I’m very excited about that. “  “I wanted to be involved in music somehow. I knew I wasn’t interested in performing, but I was passionate about music. Mixing was a way to be involved without having to perform on stage. I just wanted to be a part of it. “

Melissa has been working as an independent engineer for ten years now and specializes in monitors but is starting to do more and more FoH. “Dave Koz picked me up in 2001/2002, and I’ve been touring with him ever since. “  “I’ve done several short tours. The longest being about eight weeks, mixing monitors mostly. I was flying PA and teching and mixing monitors on my first tour, which was great a good way to stay in shape.”

europe tour keb mo“I love touring. Especially the way I do it. Which normally is four days on three days off. Almost like a regular job.  Going out on a bus tour is great too! You get into a groove on the road. You connect with new people and develop great relationships. It becomes a family away from your family. I never dreamed when I started that I’d be out on the road touring. It just happened. “

Touring life and the road does come with its own inconveniences. “I started touring when my daughter was five years old. I missed so much of her life over the past 12 years. You can’t get those years back. They are gone forever. I haven’t been home for the Christmas season in 12 years.   You’ve got to make the best of the time you have. Out of all the holidays, birthdays, school events, sports events I’ve missed I make up for the time I have off. Because when I’m off I’m really off and the time is mine to manage. So that’s what I like least. I don’t like missing the things that a 9-5’ver mom gets to experience.  But, I LOVE what I do…and she sees that, and now that she’s older she can appreciate that. How many people can say that about their jobs? I love my job. I wouldn’t change anything.”

Melissa’s favorite day off activities includes DJ’ing. “I have a little turntable rig at home, and sometimes I just hang out and spin. I love house, techno, and dubstep. I’m learning how to work with Ableton and Serato and learning how to remix songs. It’s something I’ve always been interested in.  “I also like playing basketball. I keep working on my shot and being a better player. There’s incredible satisfaction in making a great shot. “ “And I like hanging out with my kids. They are the super special people in my life. I love them so much. “

Kingston Audio Jazz Fest

Kingston Audio Jazz Fest

“One of the highlights of my career was when I was teching/mixing FOH for Rave on the Rocks in 2000, at Red Rocks Amphitheatre. Best show EVER. Paul Oakenfold headlined it was so great. “

Melissa’s long-term goals are to continue learning. “I’m always learning something. If I had to set a goal, it would probably be to take more risks.” “I’d like to tour with some other music genres; pop or rock, but I’m pretty satisfied with where I’m at now…I was just asking myself hmm what’s next

Favorite Gear:

VDOSC and K1 line array systems, Telefunken M80’s, and  Shure Microphones.

“A Midas XL4 is probably still my favorite console, but I hardly see them anymore. I like the Pro9. Lexicon Reverbs, (Best thing about the Vi6). Digital is cool. There’s still something to be said for being able to see all your inputs at once. And analog feels good. For me, there are happy memories associated with it. But in the end, I‘ll take what I can get. There’s always something new to learn on whatever piece of gear you have. “

What does Melissa consider to be must-have skills for working in live sound?

“Patience and a good attitude. The days are long and sometimes roll into the next day. 4 am lobby calls for day of show fly dates requires a good attitude patience and a sense of humor.”

“I believe there’s a certain amount of talent a person has to have to make it this business. It’s not just technical. There’s a feel and an intuition. I don’t know how to describe it. It’s more than just faders and knobs. If you don’t touch the gear with respect and love, it’s not going to work for you.”

“The driver I had on the way to the airport this morning told me that it was a gift that I had. His gift was purifying water for the local water company, and mine was mixing and putting up a show. I had never thought about it like that before.  But he’s right…. the ones that make it have a gift. “

More on Melissa

Monitor Engineer Britton, Earl Klugh Band Give Thumbs Up to NEXO Wedge

The Making of an Original Streaming Concert Series


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Profiles of Women in Audio

Breaking Down Doors in Brazil

Thirteen years ago Fernanda Lemos was a musician in a rock band; today she is the only woman working as a sound engineer for Loudness, the second largest sound company in Brazil. Loudness was founded in 1976 and has become the premier production company in Brazil, providing sound for international touring artists such as Rush and Bon Jovi, Broadway productions and events. How does one go from being a musician to being the only female sound engineer for the one of the largest sound providers in Brazil?

The Audio Team of Loudness

The Audio Team of Loudness

It all started back when she was a keyboard player in a band without anyone to run sound. So Fernanda started mixing their sound checks, and at the same time, she was learning how to record. She read a lot about acoustics, audio, and started following the Brazilian band Paralama do Sucesso. She went to every show she could and tried to get into the sound checks. Paralam do Sucesso had the best audio technology, and she got to be there, watching, listening, and asking about everything. At some point, she decided to leave the stage for backstage.

Fernanda enrolled in an audio course with Brazilian sound engineer Carlos Roberto Pedruzzi. A year later she enrolled at the Estacio de Sa University, in Rio de Janeiro. The university offered a bachelor’s degree in a program called Music Production and Recording, directed by Brazilian music producer Mayrton Bahia. As luck would have it, one of the instructors owned a small sound company and gave Fernanda her first job.

Fernanda started as an assistant sound tech at a small theatre. There she started mixing monitors and FOH. The pay was low, but what Fernanda gained in experience and confidence made up for it. She eventually started working outside shows with Sigmatec and then was referred by her first audio instructor, Mr. Pedruzzi to be a trainee at Loudness.

At Loudness she does a bit of everything depending on the gig, although she works mainly as a monitor engineer or monitor tech. She has been the monitor engineer for Brazilian artist Rita Ribeiro for the last five years. Fernanda is also able to work alongside her husband, a sound engineer at Loudness, he usually takes care of FOH, while Fernanda takes care of the stage. She says they are known as the Audio Couple. She has been able to take part in additional training and certification seminars with Meyer Sound, Digico, Pro Tools, K1 and V-Dosc, and Smaart. She is fluent in English which is an asset when working with international artists.



Fernanda recalls one of the most significant and important shows she has done as a lead tech. The shows were Andrea Bocelli at Belo Horizonte, and São Paulo. Andrea Bocelli concerts are quite challenging as their sound crew is very meticulous. The shows are usually staged in expansive areas, with a significant amount of equipment. The Belo Horizonte concert was especially difficult as they only had one night to set up. It was staged on a busy avenue that had to be closed down. “We had to set up the delay towers in the middle of the traffic! The Bocelli crew are great people and superb professionals, so we were able to pull it off. Every time I work with the Bocelli crew I learn something”.

Andrea Bocelli K1 setup at Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Andrea Bocelli K1 setup at Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Loudness provides live recording services for many of the most prominent artists in Brazil. Fernanda often takes care of the recording unit, setup and operates Pro-Tools when it’s needed. “We have two main live recording sets, one fully digital with Avid D-Show/Profile as preamps, other with Amek Recall by Rupert Neve consoles, which sounds amazing! All were recorded with 2 Pro-Tools 10 (HD 3)”. When she was in school, she worked at the university’s recording studio, and this was the beginning of digital audio in Brazil, with Yamaha’s digital consoles like 02-R. The studio had one, and a Pro-Tools 24 mix plus. Because it wasn’t very reliable at this time, they were still using ADAT recorders. This gave her the opportunity to start and continue using recording systems.

Fernanda has faced obstacles, and some of them are cultural, as her job in Brazil is viewed as man’s work. Some of the artists automatically won’t work with her as they do not believe a woman is capable of doing the job. In the beginning, she thought this would change by showing she was capable of doing the job. She has come to realize it is going to take much more time and societal norms must change. She is proud that she is a part of making the change happen.

Fernanda offers this advice to young women entering the field –

Don’t be afraid and don’t be mad if everybody is watching you and testing you all the time. Do your job the best you can and don’t be scared to make mistakes and ask questions. Do the best you can and do not give up!

Must have Skills:

I believe a musical talent helps a lot when dealing with musicians, I’ve been in their position before, and I know how it feels. It makes it a lot easier to communicate with the artists. Listen to all kinds of music.

Being able to remain calm when dealing with problems is crucial.

Being organized.

Favorite Gear

I love huge PA systems that sound smooth and great, even at long distances. I love big concerts!!! The first big PA I worked with was a Meyer Sound M3D, and I remember very well how delighted I was. I know it’s heavy and not the easiest to set up, but I still like the way it sounds. The L’Acoustics V-Dosc is kind of a dream sound, you just set up and it’s ready! K1 has made our lives so much easier, it sounds incredible in all situations, from heavy metal to Andrea Bocelli. I love analogue desks; I’m quite sad that I entered the audio world at the “end” of these great-sounding technologies. My preferred one is surely the Midas XL4! I have done a lot of jobs only setting it up for other people ” I did not get to really “put hands on it,” but my first time mixing with one was delicious! I’m not an anti-digital person, nowadays I like a lot to use Digico desks like the SD8, and I think they sound really great! But if I had a choice for touring… big heavy Midas, no doubt”!

Favorite things about touring

I always loved to travel, and I hate routines that never change. Mix it all together, and I found the perfect job. I never get tired because we are always moving and have new challenges. I love to meet people from all over the world. I like planes and airports, and I love hotels too! I get bored when I am at home too long.

Least Favorite

In fact, being a lady in this area has some problems… for me, WC is the major problem! Very often the sites and venues have only WC for men, and they tend to be dirty. When my husband and I are on different gigs, and we keep missing each other.

Favorite Day Off Activity

I sleep and then I like to discover new places -like beaches, excellent restaurants, taste local beers and regional food…

Long-Term Goals:

I’m pleased to be where I am now. I really want to keep learning. My dream is to do at least one big world tour. My husband and I are thinking about moving to the USA for a couple of years to study and work.

Of course, I would love to work with other women. In Brazil, we only have a few women working with sound, especially live sound. We have a group on Facebook, the “Female Pro Audio,” in which we share with other women our experiences, job opportunities, and talk about sound! I hope it will inspire more and more women and girls to join our “sound world,” and help them overcome the barriers all newbies have. Being a woman makes it doubly difficult. We can always help each other.

The best part of my job is at showtime looking at all the people who are so happy and to think I am a part of this. It’s just amazing.



Consoles to Surfaces

By: Karrie Keyes

Mixing Consoles have come a long way, and we are apt to be mixing on a surface now. Here is a look back at the Clair Brothers Console.

clairboard2 (more…)

Audio and Music Production

The Ear Training Guide for Audio Producers

The Art of Mastering

Mastering Q&A with Jett Galindo

Interview with Doug Sax of The Mastering Lab

Producing EDM

Back to Basics: Gain Structure

Gain Staging in your DAW Software

Gain Structuring with Plug-Ins

Intro to Sound Design for Theatre

Details, Details: Setting up Snake Channel 24

True Lies and Digital Audio: Time for a Quick Trip Down the Disinformation Superhighway

The Saturday Gigs

What’s the Difference: Polarity vs. Phase

Dave Rat: Perception and Failed Illusions

The Conundrum Of “Ears Versus Education”

What The Hell Do Sound Mixers Do?  

What Are The Basics Of Mixing? Theory & Practice





First Out of State Gig!


I got word this week that I’ll be working at a corporate conference in Novi, Michigan March 20th-22nd. It’s a two-day conference for a prominent beauty line. I will be working the gig with my fellow co-worker and long-time veteran of live sound, Rod Price. He’ll be showing me the ropes and teaching me to fly my first V-dosc rig. (more…)

Ode to Analog

In my previous blog, Analog vs Digital, I talked about my undying love for old analog consoles and how, after I spent the summer sinking my teeth into the Midas Pro6, it created internal conflict of deciding which console to take on an upcoming European tour. I almost chose digital, just for the sake of making it easier (load ins/outs and space issues) but in the end, went with the tried and true Midas Heritage 3000. (more…)

Analog vs Digital continues

Stupid Wonderful Digital

I have to second Michelle’s thoughts on digital consoles – “Oh digital console, how do I dislike you? Let me count the ways”. I could make a very long list and I have, every time I go to put a spec together. I prefer to use an analog console. I have gone to great lengths to use analog, specing a Midas Venice or even using a Mackie Onyx mixer. Of course these boards do not work for the majority of work I do, but they were the right tools for the shows I was working.

I choose to use an analog over a digital for several reasons – (more…)