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Noise Engineering SoundGirls Scholarships

About Noise Engineering:

Noise Engineering‘s mission is to make engaging tools for sound and music production. Started as a hobby in 2014(ish), we cut our teeth making Eurorack synthesizer modules in new and unusual styles. We love exploring new sound spaces and interesting ideas in synthesis to help broaden the universe of musical tone. We strive to put as much immediate functionality into every product as we can: we want to make fun products that inspire creativity; products WE want to play with. With products spanning a growing range of platforms, we aim to meet you, the artist, wherever you are. On the road, in the studio, in hardware or software, anywhere in the world, we have tools for you.

Our core values are based on community. Music is a place for everyone. We believe that all people should be treated with acceptance and respect and we welcome everyone into our community. But synthesis can be difficult to wrap your brain around, and we believe that it’s our job to help lower the barrier to entry. We work hard to offer extensive outreach and education, but we know there is always room for more–there’s so much to learn! We created the SoundGirls Noise Engineering scholarship to help people dedicated to the SoundGirls mission follow their dreams.

Award: We are awarding two $500 scholarships to be used for audio education and continuing education.

APPLICATIONS For 2021

Noise Engineering is providing members of SoundGirls two $500 scholarships to be used for audio education and continuing education. Applications are now open

WHO IS ELIGIBLE?

Any member of SoundGirls that is attending or plans to attend educational programs in Professional Audio. There is no age requirement and includes college programs, trade schools, seminars, and workshops. Applications are open to all genders and non-conforming genders.

HOW TO APPLY

Write a 400-600 word essay on the topic:  Why you love working or want to work in professional audio. Applications are now open- Apply Here

DEADLINE FOR SUBMISSION

The essay submission deadline is 12:00 midnight EDT July 30, 2021. The scholarships will be awarded in August 2021 and paid to scholarship winners. Scholarship winners will be required to send proof of enrollment in the educational program to SoundGirls or scholarship money must be returned.

SELECTION PROCESS & NOTIFICATION

The SoundGirls Board will review essays and will notify the winners via email.

ADDITIONAL DETAILS

The scholarship funds awarded can be used for educational programs related to professional audio. Scholarships are non-renewable. You will need to submit proof of enrollment in a program.

QUESTIONS?

Any questions on the scholarship essay can be directed to soundgirls@soundgirls.org.

Additional Scholarships and Resources

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

The Positive Side of Negative Visualization

Stagehands often joke that we aren’t paid to run a show track. We’re really there to fix problems and (on tour) load the show in and out. With a little bit of direction, anyone can follow a track: page a curtain, swap a microphone or move something from one place to another. You hire a prop master because she has specialized knowledge and can rebuild or repair a prop that breaks or get an audio technician because she actually knows the components of the system and can suss out a problem.

Troubleshooting, especially mid-show, is mentally demanding. You have to run through all possible scenarios, eliminate them down to the most likely culprit, and execute the fix or workaround all within the space of moments. Backstage, this comes in the form of video, mics, or com malfunctioning, usually armed with all the information of, “This sounds weird, can you fix it?” as someone points to their beltpack.

When you’re out at FOH, your problems usually center around a glitch with the console, something making a noise that it’s not supposed to in the house, or trying to work around mic issue as the A2 works to fix things. As always, this is while mixing the show, because you’re a position that has a specialized track, so you actually are paid to run the show.

While fixing problems on the fly, even in non-catastrophic situations like switching from a sweat-out main mic to a clean backup, your reaction time matters. It’s the difference between missing a word or an entire line as you think through the process of which channel you have to go to or which page of user-assigned macros you need to be on.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if our brains didn’t need quite as much time to work through problems? Well, (good news!) with a little mental exercise, it doesn’t.

Have you ever noticed it feels like it takes longer to walk to a new place than it does to walk back from it? You’re following the same route at the same pace, but something feels like it could be two completely different trips. What’s actually happening is that, on the way there, your brain is processing new information, which takes just the tiniest bit longer than when you’re walking back and now all your brain has to do is register a familiar sight.

The same thing can happen when you troubleshoot. If you’ve already worked through and fixed a kind of problem, you already know how to react and your brain can simply reference information instead of creating an entirely new plan from scratch. And it gets better: you don’t even have to physically experience a situation for your brain to pick up cues faster.

I’m sure you’ve heard of the term “Positive Visualization” as it’s a go-to in most guides to improve your happiness or your outlook on life. By all means, visualizing mixing a perfect show is wonderful, and can be a benefit all on its own, but we’re going to take a look at the opposite, but closely related, “Negative Visualization.”

I first heard the term in the podcast episode “Don’t Accentuate the Positive” of The Happiness Lab series. (I highly recommended the series, especially if you have any interest in psychology, plus that particular episode has a fascinating story about Michael Phelps.) While listening, I found I’d developed a habit of negative visualization over the past several years without realizing that that was what I was doing.

A few months into a run, I usually reach a point where I’m comfortable with the show and the company has settled into a routine, so everyone can relax just a bit. At this point, I’d start to play a “what if” game. If I noticed a cue would be easy to fire at the wrong time if I wasn’t paying attention, I’d walk through the process of what would happen if I did make that mistake. I’d make it my own mental exercise, going through what chain reaction that cue might set off and what specific process I’d have to use to recover from the mistake.

That’s what negative visualization is: mentally walking through a problem scenario. The benefit is that in a figurative world, you can also work through multiple solutions to that problem until you find the best one. So, in the event you find yourself in that situation, your mind reacts faster to decide on a course of action because it’s already done it, even if the trial run was just in your head.

I had an actress who occasionally sweated out her main mic, but always at the same point in the show. It became common enough that I made a point key up the macro page to the one with her backup shortcut if I knew the backstage area was warmer than usual, or it was just a hot day. In some instances, she would sweat out even in colder climates, and even for those, I was so used to the combination of buttons to switch to her back up, it was like I had my own cheat code which took the work of moments with minimal thought.

In another experience, I had the main fader bank on the console reset mid-show. I had a freeze of an “uh oh” moment, then switched to the backup engine. That same glitch has happened a couple of times over the course of a few years, but even with hundreds of shows between occurrences, the second time it happened, I didn’t even have that initial pause, my brain was able to recognize a similar situation and my hand immediately moved to switch engines. Now, if something happens on the console, I automatically default to the instinct to reach for the Engine A/B button. As my body is reacting, my mind can process if I should actually change or not so, if I need to, my hand’s already there, if not, I can pull back.

This kind of mental exercise is something that’s becoming more important given the current state of everything.

The news that Broadway and most large events won’t come back this year is demoralizing, and all of us face the hard reality of deciding on a course of action to either get us through the short term or consider changes on a grander scale. But the challenges won’t stop there. As the entertainment industry focuses on its eventual reopening, we’re looking to do it as we create a more inclusive, knowledgeable, and healthier environment, especially for the BIPOC and marginalized artists in our communities. For many white people, that requires us to be activists as well as advocates for our fellow technicians, musicians, and actors when we get back to work. For those of us not used to speaking up or purposely exposing ourselves to confrontational situations, we know it’s necessary if intimidating task. Especially so in workplaces where off-hand racist or sexist comments were previously considered “just kidding around” and bringing attention to them might have been met with “just ignore it,” “it’s too much of a hassle, and it’ll piss everyone off,” or “well, what did you expect?”

As we face all these problems and more, negative visualization can be a helpful tool to reevaluate and rearrange our future plans or make an effort, not only to step out of our comfort zones but to actively do the hard work of de-programming years and even decades of ingrained behaviors. If there’s a silver lining in all this, we’ll get plenty of opportunities this year to retrain our brains and mentally practice constructive reactions as we head towards getting back to work.

 

Leslie Ann Jones Scholarship in Honor of Ethel Gabriel

This scholarship is made possible by a generous donation from Leslie Ann Jones and is in honor of Ethel Gabriel

APPLICATION For 2021

The Leslie Ann Jones Scholarship in honor of Ethel Gabriel and is a $250 scholarship to be used for education in the music industry. Applications will open on June 1, 2021

WHO IS ELIGIBLE?

Any member of SoundGirls that is attending or plans to attend educational programs relating to the music industry. There is no age requirement and includes college programs, trade schools, seminars, and workshops. Applications are open to all genders and non-conforming genders.

HOW TO APPLY

Write a 400-600 word essay on the topic:  Why you love working or want to work in professional audio. Application opens on June 1, 2021 – Apply Here

DEADLINE FOR SUBMISSION

The essay submission deadline is 12:00 midnight EDT July 30, 2021. The scholarships will be awarded in August 2021 and paid to scholarship winners. Scholarship winners will be required to send proof of enrollment in the educational program to SoundGirls or scholarship money must be returned.

SELECTION PROCESS & NOTIFICATION

The SoundGirls Board will review essays and will notify the winners via email.

ADDITIONAL DETAILS

The scholarship funds awarded can be used for educational programs related to professional audio. Scholarships are non-renewable. You will need to submit proof of enrollment in a program.

QUESTIONS?

Any questions on the scholarship essay can be directed to soundgirls@soundgirls.org.

APPLY HERE

Additional Scholarships to Apply for

The Ethel Gabriel Scholarship

SoundGirls Scholarships

 

 

Minimalist Mixing Techniques 

Hi SoundGirls! Back in January, I wrote about the recording process for a 16 song album I was working on at the time. Although I promised that my next blog would be about the mixing process, that took a pause because my last blog ended up being about my friend Tangela’s new podcast, “Women in Audio”. I was lucky enough to be her first guest, so for my March blog, I broke down some essential topics we talked about in the podcast, and provided links to it at the end. If you haven’t listened to the Women in Audio podcast yet- I suggest you do. She has multiple interviews streaming now, plus the conversations are fun and intriguing! You’ll definitely enjoy them.

With all that being said, we are circling back to the album I just wrapped and today’s blog will be about the mixing process, (YAY!).

You might’ve noticed the title for this month’s blog is called “Minimalist Mixing Techniques”, so you already know what I’m about to dive into…the art of NOT using 10,000 plug-ins on ONE song! Now, there is nothing wrong with that at all! If the song is calling for production, or if you want to just be creative with plug-ins…do it. There are certain artists or bands I work with that I like to get very creative with plug-ins, but in this instance- we didn’t go that route, and I wanted to talk about the steps I used to get the band their final product.

Here is the list of steps I would take from when I would first open up the session to when I sent them their first mix of the song:

Clean up your session

What I mean by “clean up your session” is- get rid of tracks you don’t need. Not using that DI track you captured? Hide and make inactive. If you have two tracks that could become 1 (ex. two mono overhead mic tracks)- create it as a stereo track. Make your starting base simple, so you can move through it seamlessly.

Set up your effects

Now that you’ve gotten rid of things you don’t need. Start adding in things you do need to create some depth in the mix. I would recommend only 2 (maybe 3) effects tracks since we are keeping this mix minimal. A reverb, delay, and a slap delay are pretty effective for any mix.

Start with the drums

The way I mix is I start with the drums soloed and then I move through the mix adding in each instrument at a time. For the drums, I would recommend bussing together the things that are the same (kick in/kick out, snare top/ snare bottom, etc), but don’t get too “bus” happy. One of the reasons I sometimes like to mix minimally is because it’s easy to have control over your mix when you don’t have too many things bussing into one another (aka phase issues, and your mix could get muddy if you lose control of the low end).

EQ

Eq is always incredibly important in any mixing process. I think it’s usually best to eq minimally, and if you’re capturing things well in the studio you shouldn’t have to do TOO much of it on the back end anyways. With this, I would recommend practicing using pro-tools stock eq so you can focus on using your ears instead of your eyes. You’ll question the eq moves you make more than you would vice versa (which results in minimalist eq techniques). That will also help you avoid phases that you may create yourself by eq-ing too much.

Compression

When mixing minimally, compression is key. You want to keep the dynamics of the song, but you don’t want things poking out of the mix when they shouldn’t be! I think the most prevalent two things to compress in a minimal mix are the snare and the bass. Obviously, compress the kick, guitars, vocals, as need be, but I’d say the snare and the bass you will want to focus on most. Since we are keeping it simple, keep a small ratio, set your attack/release (all dependent on the instrument), and slowly add in the threshold. Keep it on the lighter side though. Remember, we want those dynamics there!

Bussing

I kind of went over this in the “drums” paragraph, but to go into more detail, I will say- bus together with the things that make sense and make the mixing process easier for you. The reason I would bus the kick in/kick out together is that I have more control over the total sound of the kick through eq AND compression. It would be the same thought process for two guitar mics on the same amp, and so on.

That’s the gist of mixing minimally. I hope this blog helps you go outside of your comfort zone, and trust your ears a bit more. That’s what mixing this way has done for me!

I hope everyone is staying safe, healthy, and creative out there! No matter what, never stop making music or doing what you love.

Until next time SoundGirls, and as always- feel free to email me at virginia@backbeat365.com.

 

 

Fernanda Starling- Staying Versatile

From the mountains of Brazil to the hills of Los Angeles, Fernanda Starling has come a long way in her career in audio.

Fernanda was raised in Belo Horizonte (or “beautiful horizon” in English), the capital city of Brazil’s Minas Gerais state. Surrounded by mountains, “Beagá”– as it is known to locals – is a cultural capital. It is particularly known for giving birth to the progressive-jazz-folk musician collective Clube da Esquina, who are regarded as the founders of one of the most important Brazilian musical movements. In the shadows of this popular music scene, a number of heavy metal bands were founded, including the legendary Sepultura.

Fernanda spent her teenage years going to a variety of concerts and eventually started learning how to play bass. In 2002, she formed her first original band with two other musicians. They recorded their demo with André Cabelo, a well-known local audio engineer and owner of Estúdio Engenho. This was her introduction to the world of professional audio. “For the following one-and-a-half to two years, I kept bumping into André at live concerts,” she recalls. “One of those nights, he mentioned that his studio was so busy that he was thinking about getting an intern. Even though I was already working as a journalist full-time, I didn’t think twice about taking the opportunity.”

She immediately immersed herself in the process of studio recording and editing for music. At the end of 2004, after several months of assisting on recordings and mixings, Fernanda was hired by Cabelo: “his studio became my audio school.  It was a non-stop recording environment: we often did three sessions per day, generally with three different artists, of all genres”.

Her proven studio recording abilities also led her to receive a federal grant to work as the main Audio Engineer for the Federal University of Minas Gerais (UFMG) School of Music. There, she was responsible for recording and mixing classical albums as a member of an all-women research group between 2007 and 2009. This particular recording project was noteworthy, as it catalogued, recorded, and published more than 250 classical songs written by Brazilian composers for the first time.

As an avid learner, Fernanda also chose to complete an intensive certificate course called “Fundamentals in Audio and Acoustics” at the Institute of Audio and Video in São Paulo.

In the Heart of the Music Industry

In 2010, Fernanda moved to Los Angeles to continue pursuing her education in music production. She completed a certificate in Independent Music Production at UCLA Extension in 2012 and then started an Optional Practical Training program right after graduation, which allowed her to pursue work in her field.  Although some might think going back to school later in life would be difficult, Fernanda speaks highly of the experience: “I don’t regret going back to school full-time. It gave me the opportunity to immerse myself into a different culture and meet important industry professionals who still influence my life to this day.”

One of those key people is a music producer and audio engineer Peter Barker. Barker is the co-owner of Threshold Sound + Vision, where Fernanda interned. Under his guidance, she started working as a post-production sound editor and mixer assistant. By the end of 2016, Fernanda had worked alongside Barker on the 5.1 mixes for numerous DVD/Blu-ray projects, such as Dio’s “Finding the Sacred Heart – Live In Philly 1986”, Alan Jackson’s “Keepin’ It Country Tour!”, and Heart’s “Live at the Royal Albert Hall”.

Gradually, Fernanda found herself gravitating from studio recording to film and television audio, where there were more job opportunities. She invested in a full production sound kit and owns all the equipment that is needed to record professional audio on film sets. Since 2013, she has worked as a “one-man band”, providing field recording and mixing for independent short and feature films, commercials, TV shows, and documentaries.

Breaking into Live TV 

On the Broadcast side, Fernanda stays busy as a Pro Tools Operator/Recordist for live and live-to-tape productions. Her credits include big shows such as Celebrity Family Feud, Grease Live!, MTV Video and Music Awards, The Christmas Story Live! and The Oscars. Typically, she works from remote TV units: “besides the audio broadcast truck, responsible for the mixing of the production elements, music and concert productions also require an additional truck – or even two, depending on the complexity – to handle the music mix of the live performances.”

Fernanda in the Mojave Desert recording sound for the tv series “Big Red: The Original Outlaw Race” (NBC Sports).

Since 2016, she has also worked with Music Mix Mobile West (M3W), an award-winning remote facility company that specializes in recording and mixing music for broadcast. M3W regularly handles audio for award shows and live music performances on television, such as The MTV Movie & TV Awards, the Grammy Legends Award, iHeartRadio Music Festival, iHeartRadio Jingle Ball and KROQ’s Almost Acoustic Christmas. Asked why she likes broadcast audio, Fernanda states: the complexity and live element make it both a challenging and fascinating environment. These types of television productions typically encompass 160 inputs (and up to 192!) and feature numerous live performances with quick changeovers, so the multi-track recording plays a crucial role. What you hear on air is always a live mix, but the mix settings are prepared in advance.”

In the lead-up to the event, she records the soundchecks & rehearsals. Once the act leaves the stage, she plays back the captured audio so the music mixer can revisit the songs, fine-tune the mix and create snapshots for the live show. Alongside M3W’s co-owners, the renowned audio engineers’ Bob Wartinbee and Mark Linett, Fernanda has recorded countless A-list acts such as John Mayer, Kanye West, Taylor Swift, Beck, Lady Gaga, and Alicia Keys.

Her credits also include working as an assistant and audio engineer for the multi-Emmy Award-winning sound engineer/ playback mixer Pablo Munguia, who she met while studying at UCLA.  She has worked alongside him in music playback mixing for The Grammy Awards, The American Music Awards, The Oscars, and The Emmy Awards, amongst others. For these award shows, Fernanda is responsible for building and testing the playback systems at the shop and then assisting Munguia on whatever he needs during the production.

A multi-talented engineer, Fernanda is grateful for all the opportunities she has had in the entertainment industry: “being able to stay true to my musical roots and working with legendary audio engineers is definitely one of the best parts of the job!”

You studied journalism at university. Do you wish you had had the opportunity to study audio engineering first?

Is audio engineering school really worth it? This is a common question and I have always wondered that myself. To be sincere with you, after I had finished high school and had to pick a career, I didn’t even know that audio was an option… The reality in Brazil is different from North America.  I became more familiar with the audio world while working as a journalist.

Back when I started my post-secondary education, there were no universities offering a bachelor’s degree in audio. There are a few private audio schools in Brazil, most of them in São Paulo or Rio de Janeiro, but they just offered short-term certificate programs. Today, if I am correct, there is actually one university in Brazil offering a degree in audio engineering.

The way I’ve always tried to compensate for the lack of having an audio diploma is taking multiple short-term courses and classes to fill specific gaps in my knowledge as I advanced in my career.

It seems that the audio industry is much different in Brazil then what we experience in North America. Can you speak to the differences? 

Like I mentioned above, there is little access to formal education in audio. Besides that, the limited access to professional high-end gear may be one of the biggest differences. Brazil’s tariff regime is ridiculous! Imported manufactured products are subject to a wide range of taxes at all stages of the chain. Because of that, the final price of an audiovisual product is two to three times more expensive than it would be in the US. Therefore, independent studios in Brazil are not as well equipped as the American ones. One of the first lessons I learned from my first studio mentor, André Cabelo, was that gear is not the most important thing in the business: neither for making a good mix or to build and keep your clientele. What counts most is mastering the craft, having a relationship of trust between artist and the engineer, and creating a welcoming environment.

Another difference is that federal government incentives play a big role in the Brazilian audiovisual and music production world, particularly in the independent scene. Maybe because of that and other cultural aspects, independent Brazilian artists get more of a chance to perceive music as more of an art then as a product?

Can you explain what you mean by these federal government incentives? 

There are numerous kinds of tax relief, i.e. tax benefits and incentives at all levels of government (federal, state, and local) in Brazil. Some grants, for example, are based on fiscal incentives that allow for companies or individuals to invest a share of their income in cultural projects in exchange for a tax reduction. Those benefits not only help to promote and democratize the access to culture but also directly supports independent artists. When an artist receives a grant, they can dedicate themselves to their craft, record & promote their album without worrying about working multiple jobs to fund their musical career. Besides helping musicians directly, these policies also benefit studio owners, audio engineers, and other professionals involved in the Brazilian music industry.

I will say I was shocked when I arrived in the US in 2010. I was used to a non-stop recording environment back in Brazil and it seemed that here, very few independent artists had the budget or opportunity to go to the studio and record full albums.

What about the TV Broadcast and film Industries? What are the biggest differences between America & Brazil? 

When we talk about TV programmers and filmmaking, it is almost unfair to compare the production capabilities of both countries. This is because of the difference in the size of their populations, and the difference in the ability to recover production costs domestically. It is often cheaper for Brazilian media companies to buy series & films from the US than to produce their own. In Brazil, the content produced outside the TV broadcasters, including film, is reduced and depends on government incentives.

Another difference is that broadcast TV is an extremely concentrated sector in Brazil, dominated by Rede Globo. They are one of the largest commercial television corporations outside of the United States and the largest producer of telenovelas (soap operas) in the world. Generally speaking, the US is famous for producing and exporting film, while Brazil is famous for producing and exporting telenovelas. It’s actually really impressive what the Brazilian TV industry has managed to create:  there are three original soaps going out every evening, and each series lasts approximately 200 episodes.

Can you tell us more about your experiences as a musician?

The FuDogs at the “Venice Beach Music Festival

Although music is my passion, I also had to focus on my careers, which were first journalist and then audio engineer. The best bands I played in were the ska ones. I Brazil I had a 7-piece ska band called Os Inflamáveis (The Inflammables). We had tons of fun playing together in small venues and festivals. Before I left Brazil, we were playing every Sunday at a local pub. I used to say that playing ska is my therapy: the bass lines are interesting to play, and the music lifts you up! I also joined other bands while I lived in Béaga and played as a hired musician for an artist called Makely Ka, but Os Inflamáveis was by far my favorite experience.

When I moved to LA, I really missed playing in bands. One day, out of curiosity, I checked the musician section on Craigslist and I couldn’t believe my eyes! There was a post about an opening for a bass player in a local ska band and went to audition.  I passed the audition and joined the Fu Dogs, we played together for five years at several special events in Santa Monica and Venice, as well as well-known venues like The Roxy.  I also played briefly with an original power trio called Bombay Beach Revival, and with FEMZeppelin, a female Led Zeppelin cover band.

It seems that Belo Horizonte had a vivid independent music scene. Besides playing in bands, is there anything else you miss? 

I would say that it’s quite easy to become a workaholic when you live in LA, especially when you love what you do. I definitely miss Beagá’s nightlife and the social life I used to have… There was always something to do! If I wasn’t going to my friends’ concert, I was bumping into them at cultural events or festivals or we were enjoying a good conversation at the bar. This popular local saying perfectly sums up life in my hometown: “se não tem mar, vamos pro bar” (we have no sea, let’s go the bar).

What is your favorite piece of gear?

I don’t have a particular one any recording device fascinates me for its capacity of capturing the uniqueness of a specific moment and then being able to play it back later!

I do use redundant Pro Tools Systems for broadcast recordings and Sound Device’s 633 mixer/recorder for my one-band-man field recording. At M3W’s studio truck, I oversee running a redundant Pro Tools MADI System (up to 196 inputs each) for audio recording (one as backup) and a satellite system for video playback locked to either of the recorders. I also like combining a flying pack of Pro Tools Madi and Sound Devices 970 when I have a gig that requires redundancy and a high track count below 64 inputs.

What advice would you give to young women looking to get into the audio field?

Try to learn from other people’s experiences. Surround yourself with those who know more than you. Read manuals. Be open to changes. Be professional. Understand the psychological aspect of working with artists… And remember that there is no right or wrong path, just keep working on your skills, take care of your emotional health, be worthy of trust, and be patient.

 

SoundGirls Secondary Skills Series – Tour Managing

Working in professional audio is tough in the best of circumstances, COVID-19 has made this much more difficult and impossible in live events and the filming side. (We expect this will start trickling down to the post-production side soon)

SoundGirls is launching a series of webinars to help you develop secondary skills that can help you become more versatile in the types of gigs you can take.

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly of Wearing Two Hats.

Zoom Webinars

May 11 Basic Intro to Tour Managing

May 18 – Pre-Tour Organization, Creating a Budget and Advancing

May 25 – Day of Show

6 PM to 8 PM EST

Register Here – a link to the webinar will be emailed to you

When starting out as a Live Sound Engineer, you will encounter gigs that require you to wear two hats. The Tour Manager or Production Manager and Sound Engineer are the most common dual roles you will encounter. Being able to handle both roles effectively will make you more valuable, increase your skillset, and allow you to gain the experience you need to tour solely as a Sound Engineer or Tour Manager.

What do you need to know to tour manage? Tour managing is similar to herding cats. Why would anyone want to herd cats? It’s difficult, time-consuming, and the cats don’t like it. These days touring budgets are shrinking and the crews are often smaller. This means when you are starting your career in live sound, you will be required to do more than one job. Engineer/TM/PM is a favorite combination.  If you gain the skills to TM/Engineer, you will be paid more and make yourself more valuable.

 


Moderated by Misty Roberts – A veteran Tour Manager and Coordinator of 20+ years, Misty has been pivotal in opening up the conversation regarding Mental Health in touring.  As a leading member of Show Maker Symposium, she is helping to develop content in these times of need to assist her industry peers.  As the founding member of the Women In Touring Summit, she continues to advocate for change in the touring industry on behalf of the 1,800 members of the group.

In addition to guiding the conversation with mental health and substance abuse professionals on the I’m With the Crew weekly webinar which addresses mental resilience during the Covid-19 pandemic, Misty also hosts the Tales From Seat 4A podcast- providing interviews with industry heavy hitters in the creative fields of comedy, music touring and movie production.  Slowly she’s finding her comfortable spot being in front of the camera instead of behind it.

 


Dana Wachs is a Brooklyn based Audio Engineer, Tour Manager, and Composer/Musician. Dana started her career in music in 1994, as bass player for the Dischord band Holy Rollers, which ignited her interest in live sound, after a national tour supporting 7 Year Bitch. Her first foray into the practice of live sound began after that at the Black Cat DC, and later the infamous 9:30 club.

Dana’s first national tour was as TM/FOH for Peaches supporting Queens of the Stone Age in 2002.  Her first International tour quickly followed in 2003 with Cat Power.  Since then, touring has kept her on the road 9 to 11 months out of the year with bands such as MGMT, St. Vincent, M.I.A., Grizzly Bear, Foster the People, Nils Frahm, Deerhunter, and Jon Hopkins to name a few.

Outside of touring, Dana composes and performs under the name Vorhees, with two releases on Styles Upon Styles (Brooklyn), and is currently composing her first feature film score.


Mary Broadbent is a Tour Manager, Production Manager, and Guitar-Backline Tech who’s been in the music touring industry for 16+ years. She’s tour managed for artists such as The Mowglis, The Staves, Loote, Wrabel, Plain White T’s, and production managed/stage-managed the festival Girlschool and She Rocks Awards 2018 & 2020. In 2015 she added Guitar-Backline teching to her skillset working for Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, The Mowglis, The Staves, Plain White T’s, and Tegan and Sara. She serves as a TM/PM mainly but pulls double duty Tour Managing & Teching when tours require it. She finished off 2019 Tour Managing for Clairo on her Immunity Tour in the US & Europe and started off 2020 Guitar Teching for Against Me!  when the industry was put on pause by Covid-19. She lives in Los Angeles, and is using this ‘ pause ‘ in the touring world to take a Mixing Live Sound Course and advancing her on-going guitar lessons.


Maxime Brunet is a Canadian freelance FOH engineer and has worked as a Tour Manager. She has toured internationally with artists such as Wolf Parade, and Operators, amongst others. She has also developed an intro to live sound class aimed at women and non-binary musicians, which she has taught in multiple cities across Canada.


Tiffany Hendren - Dedication, Hard Work and EmotionTiffany Hendren is a full-time sound engineer and head audio tech at Del Mar Hall in St. Louis. She has toured as FOH Engineer and Tour Manager for Betty Who. She is also a co-director of SoundGirls.

 

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

Beth O’Leary – Baking a Cake on a Moving Tour Bus

Beth O’Leary is a freelance monitor engineer and PA tech based in the U.K. She has been working in the industry for 11 years and is currently working as a stage and PA tech on the Whitney Houston Hologram Tour. She has toured as a system tech with Arcade Fire, J Cole, the Piano Guys, Paul Weller, a tour featuring Roy Orbison as a hologram. She recently filled in as the monitor engineer for Kylie Minogue and just finished a short run for an AV company in Dubai.

Live Sound was not her first career choice, as Beth was originally attending university for zoology. Although she has always been passionate about music. She remembers the first festival she attended “I remember the first festival I went to (Ozzfest 2002 – the only time they came to Ireland), and the subs moving all the air in my lungs with every kick drum beat. I thought that was such a cool thing to be able to control. When I heard about the student crew in Sheffield it made sense to join.: Join she did and it was there she learned “ everything about sound, lights, lasers, and pyro in exchange for working for free and letting my studies suffer because I was having too much fun with them.”

Her studies did not suffer too much as she graduated with a Masters’s in Zoology, but she would go on to work as a stagehand at local venues, eventually taking sound roles at those venues as well as a couple of audio hire companies. Even though she had no formal training, she would attend as many product training courses for sound and few focused on studio works. She says at the time “real-life experience was more important than exam results when I started, I think it’s changing a bit now. But, it’s still essential to supplement your studies with getting out there and getting your hands dirty.”

By her mid-twenties, she wanted to expand her skills and start working for bigger audio companies. After a lot of silence or “join the queue” replies to her emails asking for work experience from various companies, she met some of the people at SSE at a trade show. She would learn that they are really busy over the festival season and said she was welcome to come to gain experience interning in the warehouse. She remembers arranging to intern for three weeks “I put myself up in a hostel and did some long days putting cables away and generally helping out. A week in, they offered me a place as stage tech on some festivals. I’m pretty sure it’s because one of their regulars had just broken his leg and they needed someone fast! I then spent most summers doing festivals for SSE. After a few years I progressed to doing some touring for them. I now also freelance for Capital Sound (which became part of the SSE group soon after I started working with them!) and Eclipse Staging Services in Dubai, amongst others.”

Can you share with us a gig or show or tour you are proud of?  

I baked a cake on a moving tour bus once, I’m very proud of that…

Apart from that, I used to run radio mics for an awards show for a major corporate client. Each presenter was only on stage for a couple of minutes, but the production manager didn’t like the look of lectern mics or handhelds, so everyone had to wear headsets. Of course, we didn’t have the budget or RF spectrum space to give everyone a mic that they could wear all night, we needed to reuse each one three or four times. I put a lot of work into assessing the script and assigning mics in a way that would minimise changes and give the most time between changes. I then ran around all night, sometimes only getting the mics fitted with seconds to go. I always made sure to take the time to talk to the presenters through what I was doing (and warned them about my cold hands!) and make sure they were comfortable. I did the same show for about five years and was proud that the clients, most of whom were the top executives for a very large corporation, were always happy to see me, and asked where I was by name when I couldn’t make it. Knowing that the clients appreciate you is a great feeling.

Can you share a gig that you failed out, and what you learned from it: 

I was doing FoH on a different corporate job, the first (and last) gig for a new company. I had terrible ringing and feedback on the lav mics. It was one of those rooms where it will still ring, even if you take that frequency out wherever you can. I worked on it all through the rehearsal day, staying late and coming in early on the show day, trying to fix it. I did most of the ringing out while the client wasn’t in the room, so as not to disturb them. I asked the other engineers in other rooms for advice, and probably followed my in-house guy’s lead a bit too much. I figured he knew the room the best of anyone, but in hindsight, he wasn’t great. The show happened, and the client was smiling and pleasant, but it definitely could have been better.

Afterward, I got an email from the company saying the client had complained to them about my attitude. I was devastated. I had worked as hard as I could, and I pride myself on always being as polite as possible! I realised too late that from the client’s point of view, they saw an issue that didn’t get fixed for a long time, and they didn’t see most of the work I put in or know what was going on. I learned that it is so important to take a couple of minutes to keep your client in the loop and let them know you’re doing your best to fix the issue, without going overboard with excuses. It can be hard to prioritise when you’re so focused on troubleshooting and you don’t have much time. I still have to work on it sometimes, but it can mean the difference between keeping and losing a gig.

What do you like best about touring?

The sense of achievement when you get into a good flow. So few people realise how much work is involved. For arena shows, we arrive in the morning to a completely empty room, we bring absolutely everything except the seats. We build a show, hopefully, give the audience a great time, then put it all back in trucks and do it all again the next day.

What do you like least?

When the show doesn’t go as well as it could. There’s no second take if something goes wrong that’s it and you can’t go back and change it. It’s quite difficult not to dwell on it. All you can do is make sure it’s better next time.

What is your favorite day off activity? 

I love exploring the cities we’re in. My perfect day off would be a relaxed brunch with good coffee, then a walk around a botanical garden, a bath and an early night. Rock and roll!

What are your long-term goals?

I need variety, so I’d like to stay busy while mixing it up. Touring and festivals, music and corporate shows working with different artists and techs. I’d also like to get to a position where I can recommend promising people more and help them up the ladder.

What if any obstacles or barriers have you faced?

I think one of the major barriers in the industry is people denying any barriers exist. I was told I needed a thicker skin, to toughen up, everyone has it rough. Then after years of keeping my head down and working hard, I saw how my male colleagues reacted to words or behaviour that didn’t even register as unusual to me anymore. Their indignation at what I saw all the time really underscored how differently they get treated.

Thankfully I have done plenty of jobs with no sexism at all, but it can be frustrating to get told I don’t understand my own life. Just because you don’t see what you consider to be discrimination, doesn’t mean it never happens. It can be particularly disappointing when young women are outspoken about how sexism isn’t a problem, ignoring the groundwork set by the tough women who came before them.

I have also struggled a lot with a lack of self-confidence, which can really put you at a disadvantage when you’re a freelancer. You need to be able to sell yourself and reassure your client they’re in safe hands, so I’m sure the self-deprecation that comes naturally to me has held me back.

How have you dealt with them?

I try to give people the benefit of the doubt as much as possible. Whether I misunderstood their intentions or they’re honestly mistaken, or they genuinely don’t want to work with a woman, all I can do is remain professional and courteous and do my job to the best of my ability. A lot of the time we get past it and have a good gig, and if we don’t I know I did all I could. I take people’s denial of sexism as a good sign, in a way. It shows it is becoming less pervasive and I hope the young women who are so adamant it doesn’t happen are never proven wrong.

I’m still working on my self-confidence. I try to remember that the client needs to trust me to relax and have a good gig themselves. I aim to keep a realistic assessment of my skill level. I used to turn jobs down if I wasn’t 100% sure I knew everything about every bit of equipment, for the good of the gig. I then realised that a lot of the time the client wouldn’t find someone better, they’d just find someone more cocksure who was happy to give it a go. Now I’m experienced enough to know whether I can take a job on and make it work even if it means learning some new skills, or whether I should leave it to someone more suitable.

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

Be specific when looking for help. If you want to tour, please don’t ask people “to go on tour”. Pick a specialism, work at it, get really good, then you might go on tour doing that job. When I see posts online looking for “opportunities in sound”, I ignore them. What area? Live music? Theatre? Studio? Film? Game audio? What country, even? Saying “I don’t mind” will make people switch off. People looking to tour when they don’t even know which department they want to work in makes me think they just want a paid holiday hanging out with a band.

Most jobs in this field are given by word of mouth and personal recommendations. Networking is an essential skill, but it doesn’t have to mean being fake and obsequious. The best way to network is to be genuinely happy to see your colleagues, and interested in them as people. And always remember you’re only as good as your last gig. You never know where each one will lead, so make the effort every time.

People who run hire companies are incredibly busy, and constantly dealing with disorganised clients and/or very disorganised themselves. Don’t be disheartened if they don’t reply when you contact them. Keep trying, or get a friend who already knows them to introduce you so you stand out from the dozens of CVs they get sent every week. Make it easy for employers. You are not a project they want to work on. Training takes time and money. They don’t want to know you’re inexperienced but eager to learn. Show them how you can already do the basic jobs, and have the right attitude to progress on your own.

Must have skills?

Number one is a good work ethic. You can learn everything else as you go along, but if you aren’t motivated to constantly pester employers until they give you a chance, turn up, work hard and help the other techs, all the academic knowledge in the world won’t help you.

Being easy to get on with is also essential. We can spend 24 hours a day with our colleagues, often on little sleep, working to tight schedules and people can get grumpy. Someone who can remember all the Dante IP addresses by heart but is arrogant and rude won’t go as far as someone who can admit they don’t know things, but is willing to ask questions or just Google it, then laugh at themselves later.

Staying calm under pressure, communicating clearly and being able to think logically are all needed for troubleshooting.

Anyone who tells you that having a musical ear is determined at birth is just patting themselves on the back. Listen to music, practise picking certain instruments out and think about how it’s put together. Critical listening can be learned and improved, even if you have to work at it more than some others.

Favorite gear?

Gadget wise, I love my dbBox2. It’s a signal generator and headphone amp in one and produces analog, AES and midi signals so it helps with so many troubleshooting situations and saves so much time.

I use my RF Explorer a lot to get a better idea of the RF throughout a venue and can use it to track down problem areas or equipment.

As far as desks go, I don’t have loyalty to a particular brand. They all have their advantages. I still have a soft spot for the Soundcraft Vi6 because that’s what I used in house for years. DiGiCo seems pretty intuitive to me and has a lot of convenient features. I spent most of the last year using an SSL L500. It sounds fantastic and has a lot of cool stuff to explore.

Parting Words

It can take a long time to break into this industry. I had been doing sound for nine years before I went on a tour, and then didn’t do much touring again for a couple of years after that. You have to be tenacious and patient. However, if you find yourself in a situation where you aren’t progressing, or the work environment is toxic, leave. As a freelancer, you shouldn’t rely too heavily on one client anyway. And that’s what they are: clients. When a friend pointed out these people aren’t your bosses, they’re your clients, it really helped me to change my approach. I now rely less on them for support, but I’m also free to prioritise favoured clients over others. Live sound can be rough around the edges, but there’s a difference between joking around and bullying. There’s a difference between paying your dues and stagnating. If you’ve been in a few negative crews it can be easy to believe that everywhere is like that, but it isn’t. Keep looking for the good ones, because they do exist.

The SoundGirls Podcast – Beth O’Leary: Freelancing, blogs, and sexism

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