Rethink Your…”Just Because”

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Just because…

Just because you’ve been at this for decades doesn’t mean you have aged out.

Just because your old ways have been replaced with new ways doesn’t mean you’ve aged out.

Just because you hear new words doesn’t mean you don’t understand what is being said.

Just because you don’t understand “why” things are now being done a different way doesn’t mean the way things were done was wrong or this is better. 

Confused?… good then you will have to read on. 

Here comes the story … there is always a story.

I recently did an interview with one the industry’s top music A2’s (the folks who set up mics and interconnect to broadcast truck), Mike Fortunato.  

Mike is younger then me and didn’t come up through the music recording side of the biz like I did.  He started out as a guitar player in club bands. I was able to get him into broadcast as an A2.

If you don’t know what an A2 does in broadcast they typically pin mics on talent, go on location with a small camera crew on ENG shoots. (like those news guys you see on every movie standing at press conference or staked out in front a “person of interest” house.  

During the past decade and a half Mike found his way onto stages for mega concerts setting up the band and TV record truck’s complex audio system on stage and off stage.

Hurray for Mike! Hahaha 

That’s not why I’m mentioning all this… It’s about the conversation we had before we went started the interview. We got talking about how the mixes for a live music show is done today compared to years gone by.

A little Joe S backstory.

Sorry, but I have to give you a little more backstory before I move on. My career has always been split between music and TV.  My music side was either hands on teching gear or on an audio console engineering in a studio or for live bands. Since I haven’t engineered a real gig in forever, when Mike was explaining the audio path at these mega band shows I was lost.

I understood the terms he was using but not as applied to a live show; stems, tracking Pro Tools, three different engineers mixing three different mixes for the same show, no sound on stage because everything was virtual sound modeling, all stage FXs were control by an AI system attached and pumped into the musicians InEar monitors, etc. etc.

Sooooo, me being me, I couldn’t leave it there. I had to do my homework and figure out what and why was it SO DIFFERENT.

The big reveal.

Well what I found out was it wasn’t all that different.  The basics of what was going on was the same. The new technology had just altered / replaced the need for a lot of human limitations which allowed talent to expect and expand their music and show.

A guitar player who used several amp types while tracking the song in the studio, became impractical to replicate on stage. The same guitar player may have used dozens of FX on multiple tracks in the studio but on stage wasn’t able to manage all of them on stage.  Even if he could the live engineer would be over whelmed trying to replicate all those tracks live.

As I said the evolution in digital and synthetic technology changed all that. BRAVO. A live musical performance now could sound exactly like the recording. Is that actually a good thing?

That’s not for me to say. (No its not! but I’m old school. I like to be in the moment when an artist is feeling the crowd. If I wanted the exact recording I’d pop in my ear buds)

The same goes for studios. I came up engineering when band members actually had their real hands on faders while we mixed.  Pre-automation, when you were mixing a lot of channels it was necessary to have more hands helping during the mix.

That help many times came from the band members. Not only was it necessary, physically big boards stretched faders beyond one person’s reach, but having the musicians actually contributing their creativity to mix by “playing” the faders made for some awesome mixes.  

Now the “new ways” have really changed the art of engineering. The basics are still there. All the sound sources, guitar, mic, FX, digital track, etc., still have start at the source and find their way to the “mixer”.  Once at the board, someone still has to have the ear to blend those sources together and then send that final mix to the audience.

Technology has added some alterations to the basic path but the critical knowledge was never the tech it was having the ear to be able to mix USING the tech as a tool.

That way too long of an illustration, is also true for every creative outlet. Camera, Lighting, Directing, Carpentry, Plumbing, etc.

 Don’t get lost in the terminology being tossed around or “look” of the new tech. Just look for the basics as you’ve known them to be. The starting point …. the path … and where it ends. Then just keep translating their words to the ones you’ve used throughout your career and BAM you just reinvented yourself without having to listen to the “youth” tell you, “that’s not how it’s done”.

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