Monday, September 10, 2012


I promised to put up some stage plots.  I even had a folder of old ones I was going to scan.  But, since I managed to misplace that folder, you are going to have to do with the ones below...

This above is from, well, a failure.  We had a great pit for "Legally Blonde," and it was a loud show anyhow, but I wanted that particular tight sound you get from close-mic'd instruments.  There weren't enough house circuits to do this, however, so everything was submixed from a mix position down in the pit with the orchestra.  And after trying it for one night, I pulled the reinforcement out and took the mics home.  To do live music like this, you need a live mixer.  And they need to be where they can hear.

Notice the complicated monitor routing (that stayed, as did the keyboard connections).  Each keyboard had to hear themselves, and the other keyboard, and one needed to hear the vocals, and the rest of the band needed to hear them...

Add to the complexity, we were using old wireless microphones without enough "throw" to get decent reception all the way from the sound booth.  So the receivers were all down in the pit, too, hogging those precious few house circuits.

This is what it all looked like after the reinforcement was pulled.

The above is even sketchier, as it only had to communicate to me.  Many of the same band members, but this was a special session in the rehearsal hall where we made a pre-recording of one song.  I'd previously mic'd this pit orchestra on two other shows using section mic'ing, and this was a similar idea; one drum overhead, one mic split between the two violins, a DI on the 'cello and on the bass (not completely indicated here), a section mic in the middle of the winds, one in front of the trumpets, and a last one over the lower brass. 

In the actual session, the piano was an upright and we just stuck a mic six inches from the sound board.  The section mics were dialed to "omni" and set as high over the section as the tripod stands would reach.  And two vocal mics picked up the (arbitrarily arranged) singers.  (The singers were singing in unison so there was no effort made by the conductor to split them by part or range).

All of this was snaked to my firewire and directly recorded in multi-track for later mixdown.

This is almost becoming the standard setup at my current theater.  We do small, jazzy pit bands there.  The critical element is a vocal monitor to the conductor/keyboard.  He or she is given a small mixer so they can customize the blend of vocals, their own keyboard, and select other band members.  In the show above the drummer was getting a set-once mix -- mostly keyboard -- and the bass was happy just to hear himself (he didn't even bring his own cab, but borrowed a monitor speaker).  The guitarist -- multi-guitarist -- was in his own world with pedal board, firewire, laptop, his own monitors; he took a simple monitor mix from me and gave me back a mono signal of whatever he was doing.

Drums are usually way too loud anyhow but they sound better (and they balance better in different parts of the room) with some general mic'ing.  Lately I've really been coming back towards a small number of overheads at a moderate distance.  That still gets the presence but isn't as finicky to dial in as individually hitting all the different elements of a kit.  The above wasn't such a set-up; two overheads in fairly tight, kick and snare.

Also notice I've logged not just the snake channels, but what channels they turn into when they meet the main snake that goes out to the FOH. 

It isn't just the pit layout that needs diagramming on these shows.  This last entry here collects all the vocal sources into the mixer.  There were separate diagrams for the band connection to the mixer, and the SFX playback.  I've often used two computers for the latter; one for bread-and-butter sound effects set up in the lighting booth and run by the Stage Manager, and a second for improvised effects and some ambiance work that is controlled by me from the FOH position.

In any case, this diagrams the wireless microphone receivers that are at the FOH position, the shorter-ranged Shure SLX that needed to have their receivers stuck under the stage and run through the stage snake, an off-stage microphone for back-up chorus, the talk-back microphone for the Stage Manager, and, a peculiar addition for this show, one connection off the multi-track sound effect playback; some pre-recorded dialog was routed this way so it would be under the master dialog fader and otherwise treated the same as primary wireless microphone input.

The main change from this diagram I've been making lately is to route the talk-back microphone around the master vocal buss -- because then I can adjust overall microphone levels without cutting off the Director in the middle of a rehearsal.

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