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Jeri Palumbo – Sports and Entertainment Broadcast Mixer

Jeri Palumbo is a Broadcast Sports and Entertainment Mixer based in Los Angeles. Jeri has been working in audio for over 30 years, first as a trained musician and arranger before going into post-production and then moving into live broadcast. Working mainly within sports broadcasting, her clients include the NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL, NASCAR, The Super Bowl, World Series, Stanley Cup, and The Oscars. Jeri is also part of the RF Coordination team each year for the Rose Bowl. She has worked with entertainment shows including The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, Conan O’Brien, and American Idol. She has won a Telly Award for her mixing work on “Songs of the Mountains”, a live bluegrass show.

Jeri’s family background is made up of four generations of musicians and her grandmother and mother were both professional jazz musicians. Her great-grandfather was a musician and violin maker, and Jeri’s father was a folk guitar player. Jeri started piano at age three and by the time Jeri was in high school she was arranging and writing scores. Jeri attended The Juilliard School of Music majoring in composition and orchestration, landing her a contract as a musical director which led to her interest in sound engineering. She worked side by side with the sound engineer and was introduced to the Fairlight CMI, the first digital synthesizer and wave manipulator, she was fascinated by how the engineer was able to change pitch and EQ. This was a game-changer and inspired Jeri to learn more about engineering and the potential possibilities of sound manipulation with digital audio tools.

Her Parents

Jeri’s parents would warn her that a career in music was unpredictable and urged her to obtain skills needed for steady employment and the possibility of retirement. Jeri studied computer science and IT (for two semesters) and then landed a job working in IT/LAN platform trouble-shooting at First Union Bank. While Jeri loved working and learning the technical aspects of the job, she still craved the creativity music provided. She wanted to blend her technical skills with her creative skills and looked toward Post-Production.

Post-Production

Jeri enrolled at Winthrop University in Rock Hill, SC, and hit the streets knocking on doors of all the post-production houses in nearby Charlotte, NC. She offered to intern for free and most did not return her calls. One that did was Media-Comm where she interned for a semester and learned to use the video editor from AVID and AVID’S AUDIO VISION, their pre-cursor to ProTools. Eventually, Media-Comm hired Jeri where she focused on enhancing audio for TV shows. One show that broadcast out of Media-Comm was RaceDay, a live show that preceded NASCAR on Sundays. Eventually, RaceDay came knocking and asked Jeri to mix the show. While Jeri had never mixed a live show and she had her doubts, the director of the show said “Audio is Audio and you will be fine”. Jeri did her homework and was told by a former mixer that he would not touch it as it was live and found that several people had turned it down because of the live elements and fast pace. Jeri took the gig and pulled it off.

Sports Community Radar

RaceDay was a big, complicated national show, and Jeri ended up on the list of live sports mixers because of it. Within a week CBS Sports called and asked Jeri to work on the NCAA Final Four. Jeri caught the attention of CBS Sports, Fox Sports, and ESPN. All of this led to a career working across the country on high-profile sports events, primarily serving as an A1 working in the broadcast truck. She was also asked to A2 for a friend in need one day and eventually wore all the hats in broadcast audio; A1 mixer, A2, RF Tech and Comms. As an A1 mixer, Jeri is in charge of everything you hear in the final broadcast. Jeri has been particularly embedded in RF technology and coordination, which has numerous technical challenges, particularly with the shrinking RF UHF spectrum. She worked alongside major RF manufacturers and colleagues of RF gear and technology in the recent RF Spectrum auction and lobbying to save a portion of the RF Spectrum for production. One of Jeri’s close partnerships with regard to saving these RF changes was with the late, great Mark Brunner of Shure. Jeri’s in-depth tech articles on the RF spectrum and the impact of the changes have appeared in several trade magazines.

Her most recent stint in sports was as A1 mixer for eSports and Gaming. In an unusual and unprecedented move, (and to much debate from many of her colleagues), Jeri mixed a live broadcast in stereo while simultaneously mixing an embedded object-oriented surround to the HOUSE – with no FOH – from the same console (Calrec Artimis see article https://calrec.com/blog/craft-profile-jeri-palumbo/). What Jeri tried to convey, and what those on the outside didn’t know, was that the network launch for this major event was three weeks short of having their studio finished for audio. So she did what any professional would do, tried to make it work with what she had, from the broadcast truck.

It’s Not All Sports

Jeri with her mentor Les Paul

Jeri has also been involved in other fields of audio and has worked as an A1 on a bluegrass show called Songs of the Mountains. Songs of the Mountains was a live-to-tape bluegrass show broadcast on PBS. There were tough parameters on this show as the producers did not want to mic the traditional instruments. Instead, they wanted it to be organic and traditional, where the musicians would play around a central microphone and step forward for solos. The show was challenging with the various acoustical instruments and Jeri found herself riding EQ more than faders as the frequencies would often play against each other. They used an AKG C414 because of it’s adaptability in the ever-changing scenario of the different instruments used.  Jeri is proud of the work she did using simple techniques and she was awarded a Telly Award for her work.

New Projects

Recently Jeri has been instrumental in launching Arena Waves, a library of the highest quality music audio for Sports and Television content. Arena Waves kept Jeri extremely busy in 2020, while most live events were canceled due to COVID19, and was launched at the beginning of 2021.

Like so many in our industry, Jeri’s career path has been diverse. Her solid educational background in music and IT allowed Jeri to move into post-production and then into live broadcasts and engineering and again, back to music.  In her own words with Arena Waves, “It’s a perfect meld of everything I know”.

Arena Waves is high-caliber music licensing library for sports, gaming, television and film. With seasoned composers and session musicians on board, (most have played on your favorites records), Arena Waves debuted at launch in the mid-three-quarters to high range when it comes to catalog volume (over 70k+ and adding 50-100 new cuts per week). Several things make this catalog unique, one being its ease of use while also having mobile platform flexibility. But more importantly,  it’s worth noting the efficiency of the ready-made cut-downs for bumpers and highlights in the Producer’s Edge section. Cues are drop-in ready. Arena Waves also writes on-demand theme and cue requests and can provide quick turn arounds. With remarkably catchy themes from hard-driven rock, to dark and broody or moody, there is literally every style for every listener and media requirements and tastes. In fact, the catalog is so eclectic that, even though its intended purpose is sports, television and film, one can create personal playlists (register, it’s free) for their own listening pleasure. The music is that good and that diverse.

For more information, check out www.arenawaves.com and be sure to follow all their socials.

What is a typical day like?

Arrive early, unload the truck, run cables, interconnect with the facility, set up audio, fax if working in the field. In the truck, patch my patch bays, SAPS, routers and fader layouts. Load and set up music cues.

How do you stay organized and focused?

The pressure of live keeps me focused.  Also having a Plan A, Plan B, etc as backup options for live. For complex mixing (i.e. eSports or multiple routers of audio), I’m a big fan of populating my bottom layers to remain static while cloning to upper layers per need of each show.

What do you enjoy the most about your job? 

It’s live, it’s exciting and when it goes well, it’s instant gratification.

What do you like least?

It’s live, it’s exciting and when it goes badly, you SWEAR there’s not enough money in it EVER!

The best part of being on the road?

I’m on the road although I’m not on a bus, I am on planes a lot.  The best part is the road family, exploring new areas of the world and for certain eating local cuisine.

What do you like least? 

The hours, the wear and tear on your body, lack of sleep.

What is your favorite day off activity?

Exploring local cultures

What are your long-term goals? 

To try new things, push my personal limits and continue to follow current and new passions.

What if any obstacles or barriers have you faced? 

For CERTAIN misogyny and sadly, only from certain productions and a small posse of peers.  Also sadly, everyone else –  not just me – has experienced the exact same treatment from the exact same people from the exact same productions.  When a recent interviewer offline told me she encountered these issues WITH THE EXACT SAME PEOPLE 20 YEARS AGO on a sports event (this production travels), I challenge all the networks to wake up and investigate these “hand fuls” that are predictable, unprofessional and putting a black eye unfairly on the entire broadcast community (and is now into its second generation of newcomers being mistreated yet again, by the EXACT same people). I assure that the broadcast community is not what these few bad apples represent, but the network productions ignoring it won’t fix it.

How have you dealt with them? 

I ask questions not only of them but of those around them.  If they all “posse together”, then I move on to a team that is worthy…and good…and healthy.  I don’t stay in places where I know it will be IMPOSSIBLE to change.

The advice you have for other women and young women who wish to enter the field?

1) you have to have thick skin.   Sports and Rock n Roll comes with a lot of testosterone that often “react” in their environments of comfort (ie a football field before a game).  These people are in “game mode” and are not there to think of anything else.

2) production mal-treatment vs real emotions.  Please know the difference.  It’s intense and gets crazy and not every minor thing said is a reason for “HR”.  HOWEVER, abuse should never be tolerated.  Just know the difference and if you don’t know, get educated before entering this environment, hence “thick skin”.

3) know when you are in a toxic team – those that withhold information, constantly throwing their fellow members under the bus, not owning up to errors, etc.  Be aware that even though this exists to some extent everywhere, not EVERY production conducts itself this way and the good ones, with good leaders, will NOT tolerate this from their team.

4) move on when you know it’s not going to work out for you.  Get out earlier and find your tribe sooner

5) hone your skills

6) when you’re wrong, admit it. If you don’t know something, admit it.  When you DO know, help your teammates learn

Must have skills?

1) know your audio or tell those around you you are willing to learn what you don’t know

2) people skills

3) be kind and understanding to those around you

4) everybody has a bad day and everybody has a bad GIG…shake it off, learn from it, get up and do it again

Favorite gear?

OOOOOOoooooh….well, in-studio mixing,  I’m a big fan of Eventide gear.  I’m also a big fan of the AKG414 due to its wide range of patterns,m. I love Sennheiser wireless mics for field and lav needs. I love all Lectrosonics RF wireless IFB/In-ear products. Both Sennheiser and Lectrosonics wireless mics and IFB/IEMs are interchangeable to me in quality and robustness.  Radioactive Audio Designs uses a nice VHF and lower bands for communications that steer clear of broadcast bands….and Clear Comm and Telex have some nice workarounds with their comms systems as well. Shure’s Wireless Workbench is great for some concert venues (although I haven’t really used this on large scale events). I like seeing Studers in the studio broadcast environment while I like seeing a Calrec on  broadcast trucks or remotes.

More on Jeri

Jeri Palumbo | NAMM.org

The Life of an A1, in the Booth and on the Field

Women in Audio: Jeri Palumbo, Broadcast Engineer and Musician

Jeri Palumbo — Roadie Free Radio

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How to Use iPhone Synth Apps in Logic Pro X

 

Synths are one of my favourite things to use when creating a track or soundscape and they can help you experiment with different sounds. However, the downfalls are they’re not cheap and can often take up a lot of space in your studio. Luckily I have found a solution after experimenting with different synth apps designed for smartphones.

When I started playing around with the Minimoog Model D I loved the idea of a Moog Synth being able to fit in the palm of my hand. However, I wanted to record it into the tracks I was making but wasn’t sure how. But, I believe I have found the solution.

For this, I used my iPhone, the lightning to USB charging Cable, and my iMac running Logic.

To start off with I plugged my iPhone into the iMac using the lightning to USB charging cable. I then went into the Audio/Midi settings on the iMac and Enabled my iPhone to be recognised as a device.

I then opened the Minimoog app on the iPhone and configured the input and output settings to IDAM MIDI Host.

I then opened Logic and created an external MIDI track and made sure the Use External Instrument Plug-In was checked and the Audio Input device selected was ‘iPhone’. You also want the MIDI Destination to be the iPhone as well. Then hit Create.

You should now be able to hear and play your iPhone Synth app in Logic.

Using this is a great way to experiment with Synth sounds and is a fantastic solution if you want a portable Synth in your pocket. Happy creating.

 

 

Ethel Gabriel the First of the 5%

 

Ethel Gabriel (1921-2021) may be one of the most prolific recording industry professionals you’ve never heard of. Ethel was the first woman record producer for a major record label, and one of the first women in the world to work in A&R. She had a 4-decade career at RCA starting with an entry-level job and rising up to being an executive in the company.

During her career, Ethel produced over 5,000 records – some original recordings and some repackaged – by nearly every artist on the RCA roster (including Elvis Presley and Dolly Parton). Ethel was the woman in A&R to receive an RIAA Gold Record in 1959, and the first woman to win a Grammy for Best Historical Album (1982).

Ethel was willing to take risks, such as producing the first digitally-remastered album or working with artists who brought new types of music to the mainstream. Her credits include everything from mambo to easy listening to rap.

Ethel’s Background

Ethel was born in 1921 in Pennsylvania. She started her own dance band at age 13 (called “En and Her Royal Men”) where Ethel played trombone. She originally wanted to go to college for forestry (at the encouragement of her father) but women were not allowed into the program. She decided to attend Temple University (Philadelphia, PA) and study music education.

A relative helped Ethel get a job at RCA’s record plant (in Camden, New Jersey) to help pay for tuition and expenses. Ethel’s first job included tasks like putting labels on records. She was promoted to record tester where she had to listen to one out of every 500 records pressed for quality. She learned every note of the big hits since Ethel had to listen to them over and over.

Ethel was allowed to visit the nearby RCA recording studios. She brought her trombone with her, playing with major artists for fun between sessions. She also learned how recording sessions worked. Ethel was secretary to the manager of A&R at the time, Herman Diaz, Jr. Ethel got to produce her first recording session (with bandleader Elliot Laurence) when Diaz called in sick and asked her to do it.

In 1955, Ethel convinced her boss, Manie Sacks, to sign Perez Prado to RCA’s label. She produced his record, Cherry Pink and Apple Blossom White, which became a worldwide hit and helped bring the mambo craze to the US.

She was with RCA during the creation of their Nashville studios, the signing of Elvis, and their transition from mono to stereo.

Through Ethel’s career, she was willing to take risks and experiment with new technology or music. In 1959, Ethel launched Living Strings, a series on RCA Camden’s label that ran for 22 years.

In 1961, she produced Ray Martin and his Orchestra Dynamica, the first release using RCA’s “Stereo Action.” In 1976, she was executive producer of Caruso,’s A Legendary Performer, the first digitally-remastered album. The technology used by Soundstream Inc (lead by Thomas Stockham) has gone on to be widely used in audio and photography restoration and Stockham’s work on the Caruso album was the basis for a 1975 scientific paper. In 1975, Ethel gave a chance to then-unknown producer Warren Schatz, who produced RCA’s first disco album, Disco-Soul by The Brothers.

Ethel managed RCA’s Camden label (designed for budget records) starting in 1961. Camden was struggling when she took over and went on to become a multi-million dollar label under Ethel’s watch. Some of RCA’s major artists even asked to be released on the Camden line over the flagship RCA label because of Camden’s success.

Ethel received two RIAA Platinum records and 15 Gold records (over 10 million record sales total) during her career with numbers still growing. Many of these were repackages or re-releases where Ethel put her expert eyes (and ears) on song selection and label redesign. One album she re-packaged, Elvis’ Christmas Album, was the first Elvis record to reach Diamond (10 million sales). Ethel said of creating special packages (in Billboard Magazine Sept 5, 1981), “It’s like second nature to me. The secret is that you know the market you’re trying to reach. You can’t contrive a special record. It has to be genuine and full of integrity because people know the difference.” Ethel re-issued albums for nearly every RCA artist (including the Legendary Performer series, RCA Pure Gold economy line, and the Bluebird Complete series).

Towards the end of her time at RCA, Ethel asked the company to fund a women’s group for lectures and seminars. She wanted to help women learn to become executives. Ethel said she felt like a mother to some of the women she mentored (Ethel was married but did not have children). She wanted to teach skills like how to network, how to dress or behave. Ethel also became involved with Women in Music, one of very few groups available to women in the music industry at the time. In 1990, Ethel publicly spoke out against the “boys club” in a Letter to the Editor of Billboard Magazine (Oct 6). She said, “Yes, there are ‘record women’ in the industry – and they have ears, too!”

Ethel also worked with many artists and ensembles in the studio during her career including Chet Atkins, Caterina Valenti, Marty Gold, Los Indios Tabajaras, Teresa Brewer and hundreds of recordings under the Living series. She said of working with artists, “There are times to ‘harness’ artists and times to ‘push.’” Ethel said her most helpful qualifications to do the job were “her knowledge and love of music and her ability to make difficult decisions and hold to them.” (Cincinnati Enquirer August 18, 1983)

Ethel was not promoted to Vice President at RCA until 1982, over 40 years into her career. Many colleagues said it was long overdue. The following year, she won a Grammy for Best Historical Album (for co-producing The Dorsey/Sinatra Sessions). After leaving RCA, Ethel remained in the industry where she worked as president and vice president to smaller record labels.

Ethel’s story is being captured in a documentary film about her life and career, called LIVING SOUND. Production on the film started in 2019, when Gabriel was 97 years old. The documentary began (with the aide of SoundGirls) through uncovering archival materials and conducting interviews with Ethel.

For more about LIVING SOUND visit livingsoundfilm.com.  SoundGirls also has a scholarship in Ethel’s honor: the Ethel Gabriel Scholarship.

The SoundGirls Podcast – Caroline Losneck and April Tucker: Living Sound the Ethel Gabriel Documentary Team

 

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Copyright in the 21st Century

 

As we know, March 2020 has been a strange time for most of the world due to the outbreak of COVID-19. Subsequently, the music industry at large has been extremely quiet, but before the outbreak and lockdown rules became widespread there were several interesting events and technological advances relating to music copyright law.

The start of March saw the current Led Zeppelin “Stairway to Heaven” legal battle rage on into its sixth year, with the band winning their latest appeal for a new trial – the group Spirit had previously won a case that ruled Zeppelin’s famous opening arpeggio riff had infringed the Spirit 1968 song “Taurus”. While it seems this particular feud may be far from being over, it was closely succeeded by another high-profile case days later.

Stairway to Heaven:

 

Taurus:

Following a previous lawsuit in 2019 that ruled Katy Perry’s song “Dark Horse” had copied the ostinato from Flame’s 2009 track “Joyful Noise”, the verdict was overturned on 17th March by federal judge Christina A Snyder. Judge Snyder stated:

“It is undisputed in this case, even viewing the evidence in the light most favourable to plaintiffs, that the signature elements of the eight-note ostinato in “Joyful Noise” is not a particularly unique or rare combination.”

While news of the judge’s decision to overturn the verdict came as a surprise, the sentiment of Snyder’s statement resonated with most musicians who had listened to the songs in question – you can read my comparison and analysis of the 2019 trial here

The latest Katy Perry development felt like a “win” for good musical sense, but where do we go from here? What might the future hold for common sequences and regularly used traditions of composition? Damien Riehl and Noah Rubin think they might have some influence on this – the duo has developed technology that is working to find the answer to the eternal question “Is the number of melodies in this world finite?” As there are only a finite number of notes, can they only be arranged in so many ways?

Rubin is a musician and programmer as is Riehl, who also happens to practice law. Together they have created an algorithm that writes 300,000 melodies per second to disc as a MIDI file, thus automatically copyrighting them. The data set parameters for measuring the melodies use a range of one octave (incorporating a major and natural minor scale), and counts up to 12 individual note values for the length of the melody line, as this range works well for the conventions of pop music.

The two big questions arising from this technology lead us to ask whether the pair have infringed on every existing song there’s ever been, and will the songs of the future infringe on them? Riehl says no to the latter – the intention of creating this technology is to put the findings into the public domain to make the world better and “keep space open for songwriters to be able to make music”. The technological parameters of the algorithms’ range are expanding and developing all the time – the pair are currently working with a pitch range of 12 chromatic notes which means that in terms of genre this covers more than pop music, such as classical and jazz melodies. Riehl is sure that one day the technology will be equipped to use “100 notes and every rhythmic and chordal variation in the future”.

From Riehl’s expert legal view the repercussions of this technology could be ground-breaking in ensuring creative freedom exists for composers; he believes the copyright system is broken and needs updating, explaining that the average legal fees for these cases are in the range of $2 million-plus a fee to the original songwriter. The consideration of whether the accused had access to hear the original song in question would still be taken into account, as would the idea of conceding that songs can be “subliminally infringed” without ill intent.

In explaining the mathematical programming element of the algorithm, Riehl borders on the metaphysical as he shares the findings that we have a finite number of melodic combinations available to us and that “melodies to a computer are just numbers – those melodies have existed since the beginning of time and we are only just discovering them”.

It’s an interesting juxtaposition that this new technology is strangely aligned with the ancient concept that we pluck or channel our ideas from an unknown aether where they have always existed. Who knows, but maybe we can find some comfort and feelings of connection with something bigger than ourselves as we work through these solitary times.

You can download all the music created by Riehl and Rubin plus the algorithm programme code at http://www.AllTheMusic.info

The Basics of Sound

We all like to pretend that sound is a dark art that only a few chosen ones have chosen to understand and practice. However, this dark art is actually not just for the few chosen ones, even if you do not want to practice it full time it is useful for you to know about it.

Sound is physics, we can all agree on that. But you do not have to be good at math or be a ‘techy person’ to understand the basics of sound. To understand sound, all you need is a bit of common sense. Being able to work out how A is connected to B, that is it!

What is sound?

Easy right? It is not more complicated than that! Sound comes from A. The object which transmits it to B. our ears.

We like to think that things are more complicated than they actually are. But with all things tech, a human has designed and invented it. So if we stop ourselves for a minute and go ‘hang on, what would the most logical solution be?’ you’ll find yourself knowing the answer. All things tech have a signal flow, and that is what you need to figure out. How to connect the A to B.

When we amplify sound, it works in a similar way. But rather than transmitting the sound over just air, we transmit it via microphones & cables, i.e., metal! We transmit the sound from the stage to the receiver, which will be the mixing desk. From the mixing desk, it goes out to the speakers, which transmit the sound to our ears in the audience. That is a simple signal flow.

Why is it good to know about the signal flow? If you regularly perform live or record at home or in studios, how many times have you encountered issues? I’d say that every session or live gig has technical issues that usually come down to signal flow. You’ll solve things quicker if you know what might cause the issue by tracing the signal flow.

What about me and/or my instrument sound?

It surprises me that a lot of the musicians and artists that come my way have very little knowledge about their sound and how it is being produced, but more importantly, how they want it to sound to other people.

The only instrument I know how to play is the piano. But I have the knowledge of how I want drums to sound, how to reskin them and how to tune them. Perhaps it has been an advantage of having worked with so many drum kits. I know what a good kit sounds like, but more importantly what a bad kit sounds like!

Like breathing, we often forget that we are doing it. We just do! It is the same with actually listening and tuning in to something. Paying attention at a gig, what does it sound like? What is a good sound?

What do I want to sound like?

Be curious! 

Ever thought about how something is done? Google it! Read and learn about it; knowledge is power!

As I mentioned with drum kits, I don’t play drums, but I was curious to know how it all works. What are the differences, why do they sound so different, why do they need so many cymbals, etc.

As passionate as I am talking about sound, most full-time musicians will passionately talk about their instruments. They have perfected their skills and put so many hours into practice that finally they can tell somebody about it! Ask away!

Communication:

It goes both ways, as sound technicians or as musicians, knowing what sound you like makes it easier for you to start the conversation with each other. We shall always thrive on working as a team and not as separate entities; we need to be able to communicate with each other.

 

Info Hoarders

 

Many of us have worked in the live event or recording industry for years, and have no issues sharing our knowledge and experiences with others. The passion that surrounds this career is what keeps us motivated and creates incredible mentors and teachers.

There is another portion of the audio engineering industry that keeps their techniques to themselves with paranoid motives. They may refuse to share a technique or even explain to somebody what they’re doing because they’re afraid of that person taking their job. As an instructor, I have always been open with my students about my work, resources, and assets. If I create a show file or I show them a technique, I am doing it so that I can share knowledge with them, and then they take it and make it their own. I’m not worried that those students are going to take my job.

The competitiveness of our industry is highly present and sometimes aggressive. Of course, you can find any number of people to fill that position who could technically have the same skill set, but that does not make a person merely disposable. When the production company makes it known, they feel that way it creates that sense of urgency and paranoia to keep your job. At times this has led me to feel replaceable or irrelevant to a show. That mindset is toxic on both sides and can become all-consuming. I have seen people intentionally building a system or show files impossible to understand by anyone else, forcing their security in that position. They are hoarding information, possibly for reasons of self-preservation. A toxic work environment creates these situations, and being fired from them could be in your best interests in the long run. It sucks when it happens, though, especially when there’s no logical reason that you are dismissed.

We are not seamlessly replaceable, especially when you can look at your crew as humans rather than robots programmed to accomplish their tasks. I may not be special, but I’m certainly not dispensable. My abilities to handle emergencies, intelligent problem solving, or even my willingness to help others are special skills that others may not possess. What’s more important than knowing the basics or even being a very skilled engineer is being a person that can work as part of the team. This is preferable over a condescending jerk who hovers over their work, refusing to collaborate and hoarding resources.

We are living in this amazing moment where almost everything is accessible and often free. Humanity seeks to make a connection with others, and when we’re passionate about a subject, we can’t wait to share it. Becoming a dragon-like being with a hidden cache of information and no intention of sharing it is greedy. The people who behave this way, and the people who make these creatures should be held accountable for their toxicity. I’m not sure how to do this, other than being one of the helpful and supportive resources for my students and colleagues. Access to a network of supportive people is invaluable. We’re not meant to be on our own islands; this is a collaborative business. All of us at SoundGirls are forming these little alliances in support of the greater good. Connecting our islands through sharing information and mentorship is a huge step toward progress, and I am so happy to be part of this group..

 

Learn Sound Online—Free! (or really cheap) 

Over the years, I’ve met many people that felt limited in their sound careers either because of their limited training or inability to continue training/education.  I completely get it. Trying to stay current is extremely difficult, especially if you have a full-time job, kids, limited funds, or freelance/tour work that keeps you out of the running for regular university coursework.  Thankfully, the internet saves us again. Check out these excellent resources, because in this ever-changing industry, knowledge is power, and power isn’t cheap!

Skillshare

Skillshare is a super cool website that hosts thousands of online classes in all kinds of fields, including Sound Engineering, Sound Design for Theatre, Gaming, Film, Mixing, Producing, Editing, and more!  There are many videos available for free, and way more if you sign up for a premium account, which costs $99 a year + a free trial month. If that’s a fee you can’t swing, there are also scholarships available.  If you are already a super expert, you can sign up to be a teacher and make some extra cash.

Coursera

Coursera partners with top universities like Berklee, CalARTS, and Carnegie Mellon to offer different levels of online learning, and every course is taught by instructors from these universities.  There are hundreds of free courses available, and even more that come with a fee. Paid courses provide a shareable course certificate upon completion, which is an excellent resume item. Like Skillshare, financial aid is available for qualified individuals.  Coursea puts their training into different tiers, including:

Specializations- for mastering a skill in 4-6 months for a starting price of $39 per month

Professional Certificates- for getting job-ready in less than a year for a starting price of $39 per month

MasterTrack Certificates- for receiving a Master’s degree level learning in less than a year for a starting price of $2,000 with an option to pay in installments.  This certificate also counts toward a master’s degree if you decide to pursue that later.

Online Degrees- for earning a Bachelor’s or Master’s degree over 1-4 years (you choose your schedule) starting at $15,000 with the option to pay in installments.

MIT Open Courseware 

This is a super cool way to gain access to the material taught in MIT’s classes—completely free! Some course titles include:

While you won’t earn a degree or certificate through this open courseware, you will gain a ton of knowledge from one of the country’s most cutting edge technology schools.  What’s not to love?

SoundGirls Note:

The Production Academy

The Production Academy is an online resource that provides clear and reliable information on all the technical things you need to know to work in Live Sound or the Touring industry. SoundGirls uses The Production Academy for our Live Sound Camps for Girls and recommends The Production Academy to all our members.

SoundGym

I think this is probably the 400th time I’ve mentioned SoundGym in a blog…clearly, I’m a fan.  They now offer a completely free online course called Synthesis & Sound Design.  This is an advanced course to help take experienced producers to the next level. The course was curated from free content by sound experts and educators, and some of the subjects touched on include sound synthesis methods, modular synthesis, and samplers.  The course takes 12 hours to complete, and then you get big brain bragging rights when you’re done! SoundGirls also offers free subscriptions to SoundGym. Check the Member Benefits

Khan Academy

Much like MIT OCW, Khan Academy provides completely free courses online in all kinds of disciplines.  These courses are super user-friendly—even kids can do it! For this reason, Khan Academy courses make an excellent teaching supplement.  While much of KA’s coursework is geared toward regular academic training like math, English, and science, get creative with your search language to find exercises like:

Whether you’re just trying to brush up your skills, learn a new skill, or earn a new degree, training doesn’t have to completely halt your life plans.  These six resources are only scratching the surface of what is available. The most important thing is to keep learning. There is no ceiling and never too much information.

 

Adriana Viana: Engenheira de Som Brasileira Independente

Read English Version Here 

A Brasileira Adriana Viana trabalha como diretora técnica, e técnica de PA e monitor freelance. Situada em São Paulo, já trabalhou com diferentes artistas da música Brasileira, como Teatro Mágico, Flora Matos, Plutão Já Foi Planeta, Rodrigo Teaser – Tributo ao Rei do Pop, e mixou shows de artistas internacionais no Brasil, incluindo Mark Lanegan, a banda jamaicana Toots and the Maytals e o guitarrista de blues Jimmy Burns. Atualmente está em turnê com uma das maiores compositoras brasileiras, Adriana Calcanhoto além de operar o PA das bandas Far From Alaska e Rashid. Ela também assina a direção técnica do Women’s Music Event, onde monta uma equipe de mulheres qualificadas para operar toda parte de audio do evento.

Quem vê Adriana operando uma mesa de som pode ter a impressão de que ela passou a vida inteira mixando. Mas quando ela começou a trabalhar na área há 12 anos, ela não tinha autorização para mexer no equipamento de áudio. Adriana sempre teve interesse pelo audio ao vivo – não apenas ia aos shows, mas também acompanhava seus amigos nas montagens e nas passagens de som. “Eu pensava, o que esse cara faz? Ah ele arruma o som… eu já entendia a profissão, sabia que tinha um cara que montava, um cara que fazia o som, um cara que fazia a luz, e achava super interessante.”

Quando soube que haviam duas vagas em uma locadora de equipamento de áudio, ela foi fazer uma entrevista no intuito de entrar no mercado, entender melhor a profissão e aprender.

Chegando lá, descobriu que as duas opções eram: recepcionista ou almoxarife. “Eu falei que queria ficar no almoxarifado! Me perguntaram se eu tinha experiência, eu falei que não, mas que era muito organizada e queria aprender para entrar no ramo.

Eles precisavam de alguém que conferisse tudo que tinha lá, contar cada coisinha. Então quando vinha um técnico, eu perguntava: o que é isso? ‘É um Shure SM58’. Esse outro também? ‘Não esse é um beta 58’. E aí eu fiz a contagem, deixei tudo organizado, dava entrada e saída nos gaveteiros.” Todos enfrentam dificuldades ao começarem uma carreira no áudio, mas Adriana aponta que mulheres ainda têm uma dificuldade extra que é enfrentar assédio e machismo. Adriana não foi ensinada sobre a parte técnica, e como solução para aprender, ela lia todos os manuais que encontrava. Sem apoio na empresa onde trabalhava e sem dinheiro pra fazer um curso de iniciação ao áudio, comprou um livro de fundamentos básicos do áudio e começou a estudar. “Eu ia aprendendo do jeito que eu podia, pegava apostila, livro, ia lendo o que eu encontrava. Eu ia acompanhando nos eventos e ficava observando.”

Um dia, em um dos eventos que Adriana costumava acompanhar, um técnico freelance percebeu seu interesse em aprender e convidou-a para acompanhar seu trabalho em uma casa de show “nos sábados, às 14h. Ele não operava, ele era roadie de palco, fazia todo cabeamento, patch, monitor, e tudo que ele sabia ali ele me ensinou. Ele falava, ‘isso é um XLR, isso é um P10, isso é um multicabo’. Ele me passou a visão geral do sistema, as conexões e eu fui aprendendo. Eu trabalhava de segunda a sexta na empresa de som, e todo sábado por meses eu ia de graça pra aprender. Cabeava, microfonava, ligava os monitores, AC, ficava na house vendo o técnico operar. Só olhando. Quando sentia uma brecha, eu perguntava.” Logo, o técnico que ensinou Adriana precisou de sub – e quem melhor para substituí-lo do que a pessoa que ele treinou? “Eu comecei a trabalhar como técnica de montagem de palco e logo eu comecei a operar, depois entrei no Centro Cultural São Paulo e fiquei fixa no setor do som. Aí comecei a trabalhar em várias empresas de som, fazer muito show. Eu sempre saí para trabalhar e aprender, eu lia manuais, não tinha dinheiro pra fazer IAV, nunca fiz, então eu lia apostilas. Tinham pessoas que me ensinaram algumas coisas, eu pude acompanhar grandes técnicos trabalhando, então você vai absorvendo. Mas foi muito na cabeçada também, de meter a mão e ir pra cima.”

As pessoas notavam o bom trabalho de Adriana e as propostas de trabalho iam aparecendo. Um dia, mixando uma banda na casa de show em que trabalhava, a banda gostou tanto de seu trabalho que passou a chama-la para trabalhar em seus shows. “Eles tinham equipamento próprio, eu ia junto ligava e operava.” Ela enfatiza, “tudo foi aprendizado, todos os processos pelos quais eu passei, todas as bandas. As oportunidades foram aparecendo e eu aproveitava.” Quanto mais ela trabalhava, mais bandas notavam seu trabalho e mais propostas de trabalho ela recebia. Logo, ela começou a viajar com a banda Teatro mágico como técnica de monitor, um divisor de águas em sua carreira. “Era outro esquema, todo mundo de fone, pan pra lá e pra cá, clicks, procedimentos diferentes de trabalho, RF, sistema sem fio; ali eu aprendi muito, eu fiquei três anos lá e quando eu saí muita galera me chamava pra fazer monitor.”

Agora que Adriana é um técnica reconhecida e com muita experiência, conversamos sobre os aspectos técnicos do seu trabalho e as particularidades de trabalhar com som ao vivo no Brasil.

  Ao ser perguntada  sobre quando começa a adiantar a pré-produção de um show, ela nos contou que “assim que eu recebo o contato, já faço. Tem show que eu recebo um mês antes, tem show grande que a produção técnica do evento já pega os contatos e já começa a pré, tem uns que é três dias antes do show. Eu peço o email, já envio o rider e peço o contrarider, via e-mail ou WhatsApp. Quando não dá pra fazer visita técnica eu peço foto, eu vejo online qual a casa de show. Tudo é formalizado por escrito, tudo que foi acordado, com todo mundo ciente, contratante, diretor técnico, dono da empresa de som ou técnico da casa, envio uma lista com tudo que eu preciso. Depois, se tiver algum problema com algum desses equipamentos, tem que avisar, e se precisar de substituição, tem que avisar com antecedência. E na passagem de som, se algum dos ítens não estiver funcionando perfeitamente, tem que ser resolvido na hora, senão não dá pra fazer o show. Eles sempre dão um jeito, mas tem que ficar em cima, e eu deixo muito claro, eu sou chata. Tem uns caras que dizem ‘ah tá bom, vai tá tudo certo’, e você chega lá e o equipamento é ruim. Então eu digo: se não trocar, não vai ter. Eles dão um jeito e trocam.”

A falta de profissionalismo na pré produção já serve de alerta para Adriana. “Respondem de forma genérica, ‘tem 4 monitores’, mas não dizem qual falante, qual drive, qual tamanho. Aí eu peço foto, porque as vezes só de olhar você já sabe, e já diz se tem que alugar outras caixas, porque essas não vão servir. Se você falar com outro profissional, você envia seu rider, ele manda o contrarider, você negocia o que não te atende e as opções para substituição, e você chega num acordo, só que quando não é um profissional, você não tem como negociar, é difícil, aí eu vou direto no contratante e informo o que está no contrato e o que não está sendo atendido.” Outro problema é quando as pessoas não são nem qualificadas para saber a diferença entre bom e ruim. “Você joga ruído rosa numa caixa e ela não reproduz corretamente, e o técnico diz que tá boa e tá funcionando. Como que um cara que trabalha com som não ouve? Ele não ouve o que tá ruim, ele não ouve nem um humming.”

Em quais consoles Adriana prefere trabalhar? “Eu gosto muito de encontrar mesas boas, gosto muito das mesas Soundcraft linhas Vi, 3000, 2000, gosto muito de Digico SD8 e SD9. Midas e SSL são ótimas mas difíceis de achar.” E o que ela mais costuma encontrar? “Yamaha M7CL e LS9, são equipamentos de muito uso, e se não fazem a manutenção direito, não dá. É o que eu mais pego, mas não entram em nenhum dos meus riders, nem com banda pequena, eu não peço, porque normalmente é o que vai ter. E até atende o input e o output, efeitos, equalizadores gráficos, mas o problema é o mau estado delas.”

Adriana não costuma encontrar equipamentos periféricos além do console, talvez um par de equalizadores gráficos, que muitas vezes não estão funcionando direito, então ela se adaptou a resolver tudo direto no console.

“Eu nem peço, porque pode ter um cabo de insert ruim ou mal colocado, aí o som não chega e você só perde tempo. Melhor ir no console, estou acostumada a trabalhar com qualquer console. O que tiver, você vai e faz. Tenho minhas preferências, mas o que tiver eu faço, não fico dependendo de equipamento. Claro que muda, né, as ferramentas, quanto melhores, mais fácil seu trabalho. Mas eu tô acostumada a torcer M7, LS9 e X32.”

As bandas brasileiras têm uma queixa comum antes de contratar Adriana como técnica de monitor. “O maior problema que as bandas tem é se ouvir. Uma banda que só pode ter um técnico, não vai ter um técnico de monitor, normalmente esse técnico vai fazer o PA. Muitas vezes é um técnico que faz só um show e depois vai embora. Músico que tá acostumado a ter técnico de monitor, se acostuma a se ouvir bem, e no dia que não tem, passa um perrengue.” Por isso, quando Adriana é a única técnica de som na equipe, ela levanta uma mix básica de monitor antes de ir para o PA, porque “enquanto eles não tiverem se ouvindo, eles não vão tocar. Não adianta o PA estar bom se eles estiverem errando, se eles não tiverem se ouvindo. Eu penso assim. Tem gente que não se importa porque foi contratado só pra mixar o PA, mas eu acho que tudo isso agrega no trabalho, se você chega e faz um trabalho mais completo a banda vai te dar muito mais valor e falar ‘a Adriana resolve tudo pra gente, quando for um show maior com cachê melhor a gente aumenta a equipe, mas por enquanto ela é o suficiente’”.

Então as bandas contratam apenas um(a) técnico(a) por causa da verba ou por que acham que não precisa de dois? “Tem bandas em que os músicos estão acostumados a não se ouvir e não tão nem aí. Tem bandas em que eles fazem questão de ter um técnico de monitor, mas a produção não tem verba, prefere chamar algum outro profissional, tipo dançarino ou figurinista, do que priorizar a equipe técnica.” Adriana costuma trabalhar com bandas com uma atitude profissional, e enfatiza que mesmo as bandas pequenas querem cada vez mais ter uma equipe eficiente e buscam contratar no mínimo um técnico de som, um iluminador e um roadie. Quanto maior o show, maior a equipe. Ela faz questão de não ocupar o cargo de roadie, para não tirar o trabalho de outra pessoa e explica para as bandas a importância de ter uma pessoa na equipe dedicada a esse cargo. “No meio do show, se der um imprevisto, quem vai virar as costas pro público pra resolver? O artista não pode resolver isso, tem que ter um roadie pra ir lá resolver o problema no seu instrumento, afinar sua viola no meio do show. Eu tento ao máximo agregar equipe, sempre, eu to acostumada a ter equipe grande porque funciona muito bem e um ajuda o outro, tudo funciona melhor. Eu sempre tento aumentar a equipe e mostrar a importância e a diferença que faz.”

Comparando a realidade brasileira com a americana, Adriana aponta que “aqui você tem que saber fazer tudo: alinhar o sistema, coordenar o RF, mixar PA e monitor, várias coisas. Lá fora é tudo mais setorizado, o que acabando sendo mais organizado. Aqui a gente acaba fazendo tudo porque, se sou só eu e começa a fugir um microfone sem fio, é da parte do som e isso complica o meu trabalho, então eu já garanto o RF. Se for um evento maior, tem que ter uma pessoa pra fazer isso, a casa de show tem que me entregar o equipamento funcionando, mas em shows menores com banda menor que a gente leva nossos próprios microfones e in ears, eu não vou deixar o artista passando sufoco.”

Sobre os problemas técnicos que costuma encontrar, Adriana suspira “a gente passa por muitas coisas”, mas encara essas situações já prevendo como resolver: “se você passa por algo e aprende, você se antecede, previne e toma medidas para evitar que aquilo aconteça, senão você tem que parar o que você está fazendo para resolver um problema. Independente do que seja, você já tenta, os cabos são todos por aqui, já vou fazer o RF, já vou checar tudo, já vou testar antes, logo quando chegar, pra ter tempo, então você vai se antecedendo. Vai dar um monte de imprevisto, cabo que pára e não funciona, canal que entra humming, mas a experiência faz com que você consiga lidar com isso de uma maneira mais rápida. Ok, aconteceu algo, resolve dessa forma; RF tá ruim? Então põe a base no pé da cantora, sabe? Então tem coisas que você já vai tomando medidas mais bruscas para garantir, não dá para perder tempo resolvendo um monte de problema, porque normalmente é só a gente que tá lá pra resolver.”

Falando em prevenir, perguntamos a Adriana o que ela costuma levar para os shows: “Eu levo par de pilha nova sempre, fita, hellerman, toalha, listerine e alcool gel, duas grades de sm58 – se for outro modelo eu limpo, caneta, pen drive. Uma artista reclamou que o microfone tá fedendo? No outro show você já entrega um microfone limpinho. Uma cantora reclamou, eu liguei no dia seguinte pra produção e avisei que tava indo comprar duas bolinhas de microfone e pedi pra ela me depositar. Acabou! Então você tem que achar soluções práticas ao invés de falar que está com problemas. Acho que equipe técnica é isso, achar solução e evitar problema.” No início da ano, Adriana viajou para a Europa com os irmãos, e mesmo sendo uma viagem de férias, ela levou fita. “A gente usou tanto! Colei o tênis do meu irmão que tava abrindo o bico, o livro da minha irmã soltou a capa, passei fita! Meu óculos tinha aberto, prendi com fita. A gente usou tanto, e meus irmãos riram, ‘só você mesmo pra viajar com fita!’. Eu também ando com um multiteste, porque são coisas que podem te salvar. Quanto menos você depender dos outros, menos problema você vai ter.”

Algo que notei ao acompanhar Adriana em montagens e passagens de som, é que ela costuma levantar a cena do zero. “Cada dia é um dia, não é sempre a mesma mesa. Eu tenho muita cena no meu pendrive, mas é difícil usar, já tive que fazer muitas vezes do zero porque a mesa não lia o cartão.” E é claro, cada dia é uma sala e um sistema de PA diferentes. Para verificar a resposta de frequência do sistema, Adriana costuma usar ruído rosa e na sequência tocar suas músicas de referência. “Eu gosto muito de Change The World, do Eric Clapton”, ela também toca versões dub de músicas do The Police para testar os subs. “Costumo usar também Massive Attack, músicas que eu tô acostumada, eu sei o que eu tem um detalhe aqui e ali”. Ela toca Everybody Here Wants you do Jeff Buckley, por causa do reverb longo da caixa, “tem PA que não tem o reverb da caixa, que não tem a resposta dos harmônicos. Tem uns que o stereo está péssimo, tem o stereo de altas, de médias, que estão na mix. Quando chega um backing vocal aberto e não veio, você sabe que aquela região de frequências não está certa.”

Em 10 anos, ela quer continuar fazendo o que está fazendo. Ela gostaria de passar mais tempo no estúdio aprendendo técnicas mais apuradas de captação e mixagem, “mas eu não posso parar de trabalhar para ficar aprendendo no estúdio e ganhando muito pouco. Eu preciso trabalhar. E eu realmente gosto do que eu faço. Tem uns trabalhos que você faz que você se sente parte mesmo. Eu fico feliz quando sei que no dia seguinte tem show do Far From Alaska, ali é a gig do coração! Eu não me vejo fazendo outra coisa. Quando comecei a trabalhar com som, eu nunca mais parei, eu sempre trabalhei muito. E a galera gostava e chamava de novo. Quando você é determinado e se esforça pra fazer o melhor, não importa o que seja, você colhe o que planta.”

Desde que começou sua carreira há 12 anos, Adriana só parou de trabalhar quando estava grávida de sua filha Luka, e mesmo assim trabalhou até os oito meses de gravidez. “Depois que ela nasceu eu fiquei seis meses só em casa com ela, depois eu voltei a trabalhar, por isso eu não tive mais filho, porque eu não posso perder esse timing e financeiramente eu não posso parar de trabalhar. Mas eu gosto muito do que eu faço, e eu gosto de fazer vários trabalhos diferentes ao mesmo tempo, estilos, equipes e produções diferentes, isso tudo é agregador e o aprendizado é maior.”

Adriana já foi chamada várias vezes para dar cursos de áudio, mas sua resposta é mais prática e direta: “Vem trabalhar comigo que você pega!”. Uma pessoa inclusive pagou para ter aulas particulares, e ela formulou como repassar todo seu conhecimento da melhor forma possível, mas ao fim ela resumiu “Eu levei muitos anos para aprender tudo isso que eu te ensinei em um mês. Agora, depende de você. Bate em porta de empresa de som, bate em porta de barzinho, casa de show, diz que você está estudando áudio e pede pra acompanhar, se ofereça como assistente. Você quer mesmo? Bate em portas”. Adriana não se sentia a vontade de indica-lo, pois ele não tinha experiência. “Eu aprendi com um técnico que nem sabia para que servia o botão de high pass, ele apertava pra descobrir, mas tudo mais que ele sabia, ele me ensinou. E eu sou muito grata a ele por isso.” Recentemente, Adriana estava mixando PA e no meio do show foi surpreendida pelo técnico que a orientou no início da carreira, ele foi lhe dar um abraço e dizer o quanto estava orgulhoso do seu progresso. “A gente tem que correr atrás. Hoje em dia é fácil, tem muito video, workshop, técnico que vem de fora dar curso, tudo agrega. É importante saber mexer no equipamento, mas o mais importante é saber o que você tem que fazer com esse equipamento. Equipamento é uma ferramenta, como se fosse um computador ou uma máquina de escrever, você pode aprender muito sobre som e audio, e conhecer as ferramentas, mas o mais importante é o ouvido.”

Adriana reforça: se a gente não correr atrás, nada acontece. “Nada caiu no meu colo. As coisas foram acontecendo porque eu ia me mexendo, nunca fiquei parada esperando nada. Graças a Deus todo esse tempo eu não fiquei sem trabalho. Quanto mais você trabalha, mais trabalho aparece. Isto é fato.”



Profile by Gabi Lima, engenheira de audio, produtora, compositora, instrumentista, cantora e comedora de doce.
Gabi Lima is an audio engineer, producer, songwriter, musician, singer, and candy eater. She is based in São Paulo, Brasil

Adriana Viana: Independent Brazilian Sound Engineer

 

Read Portuguese Version Here

Adriana Viana is a Brazilian freelance Front of House, monitor engineer, and technical director. Based in São Paulo, she has worked with many Brazilian artists such as Teatro Mágico, Flora Matos, Plutão Já Foi Planeta, Rodrigo Teaser – Tributo ao Rei do Pop (a Michael Jackson tribute concert) and mixed international artists when they played in Brazil, such as Toots and the Maytals, Mark Lanegan and blues guitarist Jimmy Burns. She is currently the front-of-house engineer for Far From Alaska and Rashid and is also on tour with one of Brazil’s finest songwriters, Adriana Calcanhoto. She is also the technical director of Women’s Music Event, where she puts together a team of qualified women to run sound for the entire event.

Those who get to see Adriana in action might get the impression that she has been mixing all her life. But when she started out in this business 12 years ago, she wasn’t even allowed to operate any equipment. Her interest sparked from going to a lot of shows, and as most people bitten by the audio bug, she would tag along with her musician friends for soundcheck. “I wondered, what are those guys doing? I could see there were people in charge of the audio equipment, of setting it up, mixing, doing lights, and I found it super interesting.”

She learned of a couple of job openings at a local rental company and went in for an interview. She then discovered the only two positions available to her were: answering the phone or keeping track of warehouse inventory, so she chose the latter, to be closer to the equipment. “They asked me if I had any experience and I didn’t, so I told them I was very organized and I wanted to learn so I could get in the business. They needed someone to manage their inventory, so I took that opportunity. When techs brought in equipment, I would ask: what is this mic? They’d tell me; it’s a Shure SM58. Next time they’d bring a similar mic, and I’d ask, “Is this a Shure SM58? They’d inform me that it was a beta 58, so I’d learn the difference. I would keep stock, count, and organize all the equipment going out and coming in”. It’s already difficult for anyone coming into this industry to work their way up, and Adriana points out that it’s even more difficult for women who have to deal with sexism and harassment. Adriana wasn’t really taught anything about the equipment, instead, she’d find the manuals and read them. She wasn’t given the opportunity to operate the equipment either, and couldn’t afford formal training, so she bought a book about audio engineering and started studying it.“I just learned by reading manuals, workbooks, books, just any printed material I could find. I was eager to learn so I’d go to events and watch.”

At one of the events that she’d tag along to, a freelance tech noticed her eagerness to learn and invited her to his regular gig “every Saturday, at 2 pm. He didn’t mix, he was a stage tech, ran all the cables, patched everything, and taught me everything he knew. He’d tell me, this is an XLR, this is an instrument cable, this is a snake, he taught me how the system was set up. I worked Monday through Friday at the rental company, but on Saturdays, I went to his gig to learn. You could say I worked for free, I’d run cables, set up mics and monitors, then I’d quietly watch the front-of-house engineer mix, and I’d ask questions when he had a break.” Soon, the tech who taught Adriana needed a sub – and who better to call than the person he trained? “I started subbing for him as a stage tech, and soon after that, I was mixing, then I became the house engineer for that venue. Then I started working for other sound companies as a tech, and I worked a lot of shows. Then I worked at other venues and learned even more. I was always out there learning and working, I read manuals, I couldn’t afford to go to school for audio engineering, so I never did. I watched people working, and I learned. I would always go for it and just try and do it.”

People noticed her hard work and kept hiring her for more gigs. While working at a venue, she mixed a band who liked her work so much they asked her to go on the road with them. “They had their own equipment; I’d set it up and operate it.” She emphasizes, “all I went through, all the bands I worked with, that was my learning process. Whenever there was an opportunity, I’d take it.” The more she worked, the more bands noticed her excellent work, and the more she would work! She soon landed a gig with the popular Brazilian band Teatro Mágico as their official monitor engineer. “It was full-on wireless, in ears, stereo mixes, click, everything! I learned a lot in those three years, and more people kept hiring me to mix monitors.”

Now that she’s an experienced and well-respected live sound engineer, she talked to us about the technical aspects of her work and the particularities of working with live sound in Brazil.

When asked how early she starts pre-producing a show, she replied, “as soon as I’m hired to do it. Sometimes a month ahead, sometimes a couple of days before the show. I ask for the venue’s tech contact so I can send in my rider right away and get theirs back, via email or WhatsApp. If I can’t do a site survey, I ask for photos, too; I also look online for more info on the venue and their equipment. I exchange all the information in writing, so everything that’s been agreed on by promoters, managers, the rental company, techs, and directors is documented, and everyone is informed. If the full rider can’t be provided, I ask that substitutions be worked out ahead of time, and inform that everything needs to be working during soundcheck or the show won’t happen. I stay on top of things, I request all the necessary info, and some guys will dismiss it with ‘relax, everything will be alright,’ and when I get there their equipment is terrible and their system isn’t working correctly, so I show them all the documented info and state: you either provide us with the right equipment or there won’t be a show, so they do.”

People who don’t act professionally during pre-production are a red flag for Adriana. “They give generic answers like ‘there are four monitors’ but won’t tell me the specific brand, model or specs. That’s why I ask for pictures, so I can identify if the equipment meets our needs, and if it doesn’t, I specify what they should rent instead. With real professionals, you can work out a deal between what you need and what they have, but you can’t really negotiate with people who don’t act professionally, they walk in circles, so I go straight to the promoter and let them know that the rider is not being met. The promoter then demands that all technical aspects of the rider be honored.”

Another problem is when people aren’t even qualified to tell good from bad. “You play pink noise through a speaker and it sounds terrible, but the house tech listens to it and says it’s working fine. Some people can’t hear hum noises either.”

So, what consoles does she request in her rider? “I love getting good consoles to work with – Soundcraft consoles, the Vi, 3000 and 2000 series, I like Digico SD8 and SD9. Midas and SSL consoles are great but hard to come across on the road”. So what does she usually get? “Yamaha’s, usually in bad condition, unfortunately. M7CL, PM5D, and LS9 are the most commonly used consoles, and if they’re not regularly checked and well maintained, they won’t work properly. I never request them on my riders, not even when mixing a small indie band – because that’s what I’ll usually get anyway, and though they have enough inputs and outputs, they’re usually poorly maintained.”

When it comes to outboard gear, she says venues usually just have a pair of graphic EQs, and if that’s not available or in poor condition, as often is the case, she’ll resort to using the console’s graphic EQs on her outputs. “I avoid poorly maintained equipment; the cables might be in poor condition too, so as not to waste time, I deal with it in the console. I’m used to working on any console that’s available. I have my preferences, but whatever is there, I’ll use it, I’ll mix on it. I don’t depend on equipment to do my job. Of course, the better the tool, the easier my job will be, but I’m used to getting a good sound out of not-so-good equipment.”

Brazilian bands have a common issue that makes them hire Adriana as a monitor engineer. “They have trouble hearing themselves on stage. If the band can afford an engineer, they’ll usually hire just one engineer, not two different people for monitors and FOH. And that one person will mix FOH. Sometimes it’s a one-off gig for that tech. Musicians that are used to having a monitor engineer are used to hearing themselves well, and when they happen to not have a monitor engineer, they’re in trouble.” That’s why even when Adriana is the only engineer in the crew and is mixing FOH, she’ll get a basic monitor mix up for her musicians, because “I can’t begin to mix FOH if they can’t hear themselves – they won’t play right. It doesn’t matter if I have a great-sounding PA if my musicians aren’t playing well if they can’t hear what they’re playing. At least that’s how I see it. A lot of people will just stick to mixing FOH because technically, that’s all they’re getting paid to do, but I think this makes my work better, more complete. And if I do a good job, the band recognizes and appreciates it, they see that I presented a solution, and I make sure they get a monitor engineer when their budget is bigger.”

So do bands only hire one tech because they don’t think they need two or because of a tight budget? “Some bands never heard themselves well on stage, and they’re used to it. Some bands only play if there’s a monitor engineer. Some productions don’t allocate the budget for it – they’d rather spend the money on a different professional, a dancer, a stylist, than having a larger audio crew.” Adriana is used to working with professional bands that hire at least one sound tech, one light tech, and one roadie. The bigger the show, the bigger the crew. She also makes a point of not working as a roadie and informs bands of the importance of hiring one, as that’s someone else’s job that she’s not taking. “If you’re playing a show and something goes wrong, is the artist going to turn their back to the crowd to fix it? That’s a roadie’s job. I try to add as many people to the crew as possible because everyone’s work is better that way. I always put together a good team and show the artist how important that is.”

Reflecting on the reality of working in Brazil compared to the US, Adriana points out that “You have to know how to do everything – tune the system, set up wireless equipment, coordinate the RF, mix FOH, mix monitors, a lot of different things. Overseas there seem to be different professionals for different tasks… but here, if something goes wrong with the audio, that’s all part of my job, and I want to make sure everything works. If it’s a big event, you need people dedicated to specific functions, the equipment needs to be working, but in smaller shows, my artists will bring their own mics and in-ears, and if something goes wrong, I have to fix it. We may not have an RF tech, but we have common sense. Each situation is different, but I won’t let the artist encounter difficulty and do nothing about it.”

When asked what difficulties she usually encounters, she sighed, “We go through so much…” but replied with a problem-solving attitude: “if there’s a problem and you learn how to deal with it, you can anticipate it and make sure it doesn’t happen again. You take precautions to avoid possible problems. And if you set up correctly and test ahead, you won’t have to stop what you’re doing to troubleshoot it. Things might go wrong, you might get a bad cable or a noisy input channel, but experience makes you identify possible issues and deal with them faster. Ok, something is not working, we’ll set it up differently. Poor wireless signal? Send the singer’s mix to her floor wedges. You know? You take precautions so you won’t waste time trying to fix a bunch of different things, because usually, I’m the only person there to fix it.”

Speaking of thinking ahead, we asked Adriana what she takes with her to a show: “Fresh batteries, tape, Hellerman tool, towels, Listerine and hand sanitizer, a couple sm58 grilles, pens, memory stick. An artist complained that the mic was stinky? Well, next show, you hand them a freshly clean mic. An artist complained, I called her production and said I was on my way to buy two spare sm58 grilles and asked them to reimburse me. There, problem solved. You have to come up with solutions instead of complaining about the problems. Good audio techs will find solutions and avoid problems.”

Earlier this year, she went to Europe on vacation with her siblings – even off duty, she took gaff tape with her. “I taped my brother’s shoes; they were coming apart on the sides; the cover was coming off on my sister’s book. I taped it! My glasses were falling apart; I taped them. My siblings were amazed that I took tape with me on a vacation trip. I carry around a multimeter too. The less I depend on others, the fewer problems I have.”

One thing I’ve noticed from watching Adriana set up and sound check, is that she’ll usually build up her scene from scratch. “Each day is different; I don’t always get the same console… I have a lot of scenes on my memory stick, but I hardly ever use any. Sometimes the console won’t read the flash drive!”

Needless to say, she encounters different rooms and PAs every time. She uses pink noise to check the system, see if all frequency ranges are responding correctly, then she’ll play some music. “I really like Eric Clapton’s Change the World,” she also uses dub versions of The Police songs to check the subs. “Massive Attack, you know, music I’m familiar with, so I’ll know what’s missing.” She plays Jeff Buckley’s Everybody Here Wants You, which has a distinctive long verb on the snare, “I can tell if the PA is reproducing the harmonics. With these mixes, I can also check the stereo image, especially the mid and hi mid-range. When you play a song that has a wide backing vocal mix, I can tell what’s there and what isn’t but should be.”

Ten years from now, Adriana hopes to be still doing what she does. She wishes she could spend more time in a studio learning recording techniques, but she “can’t afford to stop working and assist at a studio making less money. I gotta work. And I really love what I do. Some gigs make you feel like you’re part of them. I go to sleep happy because I know the next day I get to work with Far From Alaska, this gig is the apple of my eye! I don’t see myself doing anything else. Since I started working with live sound, I never stopped, and I’ve always worked a lot, and the more I work, the more work I get. When you’re determined, and you work hard to do your best, you reap what you sow.”

The only time Adriana stopped working since she started 12 years ago, was when she got pregnant with her daughter Luka and even then worked till she was eight months pregnant. “I took a six-month break when she was born; then I had to go back to work, that’s why I haven’t had more kids, because I can’t lose momentum, and it’s also not financially possible for me to stop working. And I really love my job; I always worked for different bands at the same time, different styles, different crews, different productions, it all makes my learning much richer.”

People keep asking Adriana to teach about live sound. Her reply? “Tag along, and you’ll learn.” One guy went as far as paying her for private lessons. Hard-working as she is, she developed a teaching plan and taught him everything she knew. In the end, she told her student, “It took me years to learn what I taught you in months – from now on, you’ll have to learn from your own experience. Look for a gig, go to venues, say you’re learning audio, ask if they need an assistant. Do you really want it? Knock on doors.” She said she couldn’t recommend him for gigs, because he didn’t have any real live hands-on experience. “I learned from a guy who didn’t know what an HPF button on a console was, he kept turning it on and off to find out – but everything else he did know, he taught me. And I’m very grateful.” Recently Adriana was mixing a show where her mentor happened to be, so he went up to her and gave her a big hug to tell her how proud he was. “You have to go after what you want. Nowadays there’s a lot of information available, youtube videos, workshops, panels. It’s important to know how to operate the equipment, but most importantly, you have to know what to do with it. It’s a tool, like anything else, you can learn a lot about audio and about your tools, but the most important thing is your ears.”

Adriana insists: things don’t happen if you don’t make them happen. “Nothing fell on my lap. Things happened because I went after them. Thank God I was never out of work. The more I work, the more work I get. That’s a fact.”