One gig down, more to come!

Lately I have been busy planning and studying for a festival in my home town. They estimated 1500 visitors and although it was a bit rainy over 1000 people showed up. My husband took care of the “big” stage and I was in charge of everything on the smaller stage. I knew the stage was going to be small, just not how tiny it would be! During the evening I had two bands on my stage, a girlband and a band consisting of three men with two electric guitars and a bass. The girls were in their early twenties and played drums, keyboard, bass and had a solo singer.
Me and my husband had gone through everyting about the PA the weeks before and I had been practising how to rig it and in which order you’re supposed to do what and what to do if something stops working. I made the channel list and the stageplots for the PA and both bands and made cues on the mixer so I wouldn’t have to do all the settings from scratch at the gig. It saved me alot of time..

When I arrived at the venue (which was outside in the small city center) we started rigging the stage and turned on the mixer. It rained, and altough the mixer was covered by a tent (without walls) I discovered that it was leaking, and a few drops were on the mixer. We solved the problem as quickly as we could and I looked at the mixer. I pushed some buttons and there was a horrific moment when I tought it had broken, because it was suddenly possible to select multiple channels at once. We then realised that we had discovered a function we didn’t know that the mixer had…. but now I know and I will use it to my advantage.

An hour later or so I did the first sound check completely on my own. It was the girlband and I had been worried about the drums and everything about them. My husband had showed me what I could do with mic placement, eq, gates and so on. Still I was worried because I haven’t got much experience with drums and I think it seems very challenging to get a good sound. But somehow I got through that and for mixing drums the first time ever I thought it sounded ok. I didn’t have much trouble with the soundcheck until I came to the second band and the guitars. They used two amp simulators I had never seen before and suddenly  I got a bit confused when I tried to figure out which one needed a DI-box and what to do when the amps had only mono out. I had planned for left and right out and already linked the channels and panned them to left and to right. As if that wasn’t enought to confuse me, when I had figured that out there was no sound from the guitars. I scratched my head and tried my best to remain calm when I discovered that I didn’t have the channesl turned on on the mixer. I felt a bit stupid and laughed at myself. Such a simple mistake… 🙂

The reason for that mistake was that I somehow had managed to save over band cue nr 1 with band cue nr 2! With this Soundcraft mixer it really is easier to save over a cue than you would think! Luckilly most of the settings for the two bands were the same and it was easy to fix, but I couldn’t help being nervous on this first gig on my own.

To sum it up, I really learned alot. I was so nervous I had a stomachache the night before and headache two days after, but I got through the gig and it went ok. The audience seemed to like the music and were dancing and clapping their hands. The artists were satisfied and as were the arrangers of the festival. I talked to the girlband before the gig and we called our stage the  girlpower stage 🙂

Next time I won’t be so nervous. I got through this gig and really challanged myself! It felt good afterwards, although it took a while before it all sank in. So much happened during such a short time. It really inspired me to learn more and I look forward to the next gig! I decided to reward myself by ordering a SoundGirls shirt! I look forward to wearing it as well!

Mixing with girlpower

Mixing with girlpower

My view from the mixer

My view from the mixer

View from the

View from the “big” stage

Johan is happy behind the mixer 🙂

My stage was kind of crammed... :D

My stage was kind of crammed… 😀

The last band on the bigger stage was an 80's party band

The last band on the bigger stage was an 80’s party band

My first gig behind the mixer

It is challenging to find the energy to do things when you struggle with a chronic lung disease. It feels like I’m learning in such a slow pace, but this week I’ve actually done some progress. I was FOH engineer for two days, five concerts in total at a school concert. There were lots of pupils in different ages performing. And I mean LOTS of them! This is the sixth year that their music event is arranged and they have been practicing for these concerts for a year.

When I first entered the venue my husband was already rigging the PA and there were tons of cables and mic stands everywhere and so many instruments that there was hardly any room to move on stage. The nerves almost got me at first when I saw the room. I thought of turning around and leave… 😀 but in the end I changed my mind because I want to learn and practice and my husband was supposed to take care of the lights during the show, so I had no choice but staying.

We were done with rigging everything in the middle of the night and I tried to ask as many questions as possible and I made notes about the microphones used and read through the channel list… many times. There were not five channel, or ten, or twenty, but 32! To me is sounded as quite a lot to handle at a first gig, but very good for learning to mix so many different instruments. There were flutes, xylophones, synthesizers, piano, guitars, electric drums and electric ukulele, five vocal mics, choir, bass and lots of instruments that I didn’t’ even know what they were called. You can look at the photos.

The stage where you apparently dry your shirts

I helped to set the gain on all 32 channels the night before the concert and to my amazement it turned out to be ok at the sound check, so all that was left to do was to adjust the levels between everything. The worst thing was to figure out how the mixer worked, because the mixer I have been practicing with at home didn’t have enough channels so my husband brought another one. I learned the most basic things like setting the gain and the eq and how to control what goes out to the monitors.

The event turned out really good and the teachers and the pupils seemed happy with our job. Now the step to do more gigs is a bit lower. I’m happy that I didn’t let my nerves get me!

As I’m writing this post my husband is still carrying out all the stuff. I tried to help with the cables as much as my lungs allowed me. Mostly I got stuck in cables or stumbled on some of the celebrating pupils 😀

Now I’m tired and going to get a good nights sleep. Looking forward to the next gig and feeling inspired to learn more! All the pupils performing together   Me behind the mixer

Recording fiddle and bouzouki

Lately I have been practising a bit on mixing in Cubase. We have a folk music duo with my husband and had an upcoming gig. Suddenly two days before the gig a local radio station requested us to send them a song because they planned to talk a bit about the party. Only problem was that we didn’t have anything recorded. So in a hurry we decided to do someting about that and went to the studio and recorded and mixed until midnight. It went better than I would have thought. I mostly watched what my husband did and asked a lot of questions, and as usal complained about the sound of my fiddle. It sure isn’t easy to get the sound you would like with such a  short notice. But we acomplished something and I learned a bit more.

Recording fiddle

We did manage to record more than one tune and I was able to practise mixing in Cubase. The duo consists of me on the fiddle and my husband on Bouzouki and stompbox. The fiddle was the hardest to blend into the mix. Next time that we record I think we will try another room for the fiddle and I’m also having the bow rehaired to get rid of some “wheezing” sounds.
All in all it was a fun experience for me. If you are intrested in listening to the results you can visit our website www.tailswaymusic.com
Tailsway folk duo

At home, sick with the flu

I thought that being sick with this monster flu meant that I could just rest, eat candy and watch boring tv shows, but no. Instead this found its way to our livingroom!

Allen & Heath analog mixerI looked at it yesterday  and although it looks like a lot of faders and buttons it wasn’t as hard as I would have thought to figure out their functions. I have the basic knowledge by now and I don’t feel as scared to try things out as I did in the beginning. We have a lot of instruments at home that I could try and connect to the mixer. For now I’m happy if I can get it done correctly and get sound out of the speakers.
Anyway I feel excited to start mixing and get more practical experiences! I just have to get rid of this annoying flu. But maybe if I turn up the volume enough I might manage to scare it away…. as well as my neighbours.. 😉

Where to begin?

It’s been a whie since i started this blog. A lot has happened in my life lately. Had some health problems and some more health problems and I got married to my sound engineer guy 🙂 So now I’m stuck with all kinds of cables, mixers and speakers, so I might as well start learning.

I’ve been studying om my own and read alot lately. A big help and inspiration for me is the Sound Girls community of women in audio engineering. I’ve met women online with the same interest as me, which is a huge source of inspiration.
Biggest question for me has been and is still where to start. There are so many areas that you could delve into, but everything is still connected to everything. I’ve gotten myself two very good books about how to do live sound and I am constantly reading about basic things to get the bigger picture first.

I’ve been with J at a few PA-gigs and he has also shown me how to record in the studio and installed cubase on my computer. It’s all exciting and quite overwhelming! I want to learn everything but don’t really know how to start so it seems like I’ve started learning a bit of everything at once. I’m not complaining, I think it’s fun. I’m just waiting and wondering when something is going to make a little more sense to me.

It is important to combine theoretical studies with practical exercices for me. I can read and read, but I remember better if I get to try something out. Something as simple as setting the gain gives me a boost of confidence if I can manage it. I did do that at a gig we were playing with our folk duo with J. I had never seen the mixer before (an analog Soundcraft) but I found the basic buttons I needed and nothing blew up or broke down 😉 So I think there is hope for me.

I’m going to try to write on this blog for my own motivation and learning. Not sure about what, but only time will tell. Hopefully I will be writing about my own progress and not the opposite. And I’m going to try to remember to take some photos as well.

Until next time!

Rizzles gig in Åland this weekend

This weekend I went with the Celtic folk-rock band I play in (Rizzle) to Åland to play a gig. Åland is a big island that belongs to Finland right between Finland and Sweden. The boat trip to get there is approximately five hours. I hadn’t slept much the night before the trip. I’m always like that when I’m supposed to get up early. For me 6.00 in the morning is like the middle of the night. I got up, made a lot of coffee and dragged myself to the car and we drove to the ferry terminal in Turku.

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At the ferry terminal in Turku

When we got to Åland in the afternoon the sun was shining and it was hot outside. I would have looked for a refrigerator to hide in, but there was no time as our sound check had been rescheduled to right about when we arrived.

J had mailed our stage plot and our technical rider twice to the local sound company without any response. We had requested seven monitors and got five. I don’t remember the name of the sound company but it reminded me of lunatics. I was warned about the company the first thing when we arrived so I didn’t have my hopes up too high.

The dance floor

The sound check went fairly well, except that I couldn’t hear a thing from my monitor. I play the fiddle and it seems that nobody is willing to believe how hard it is to hear a violin in a monitor. We have had a lot of trouble with that during the four years that we have played with Rizzle.
Usually it goes like this:

The sound engineer asks me what I want to hear in my monitor and I request more of my fiddle. Engineer turns up my fiddle. Band starts playing and I don’t hear anything. I request more fiddle. Engineer doesn’t believe me or thinks that my monitor is broken.
This time he came up to the stage to check what I was hearing and with nobody else playing I could hear myself. Engineer decides that all is well and I play the gig without hearing a thing. The monitor might as well have been turned off.

I wasn’t happy playing that gig at all, but I’m used to that sort of thing happening so I played on and tried to hear the sounds that were coming out from my instrument. I could write another post about monitoring fiddles some other time.

Soundcheck with Rizzle

A nice view from the stage

We always look this happy when we play 😉

The engineers (two older men) were nice though and actually talked to me and listened to me. I’m not used to that. Usually they just seem busy and anti-social here in Finland. You’re lucky if they say more than a grumpy hi. A lot of the time it feels like they take for granted that I don’t know what I’m doing on stage or that I don’t have a clue about how I want my fiddle to sound. Maybe I look lost? At least I try to pretend I’m not.
I have a pre amp that I have learned how to use. We ordered one for me and one for our other violinist (my second cousin) last December so now I don’t have to worry that it sounds awful anymore.

We all have our own pre-amps in Rizzle and the sound engineers praised us for being so easy to mix. We’re seven on stage and we have about ten different instruments. Sometimes the songs are instrumental and sometimes not. I’m a bit surprise that no one has ever asked us about what kind of music we play, how we want it mixed and so on. Don’t they prepare themselves? Are they just lazy or do they just think that they have everything under control? I have pondered that many times.

The Headway pre-amp that I use

If I was a sound engineer I would make sure to introduce myself to the band, ask questions and make sure to make them feel comfortable and happy on stage. I would try my best. I think that is an important part of what a sound engineer does. When I was unused to playing in a band and especially in bigger venues it could be scary when you had no clue about how anything worked. I would have felt more confident a lot of the times if someone would have assured me that they were there to assist me with what I needed. I would have felt more relaxed during my performance. Not everyone is an experienced performer…

Anyway we had a good time this weekend. Only problem was that we were supposed to sleep on a ship that was cruising all day long, so we didn’t get to rest until after the gig. The island was full of people, some attending a bigger rock festival that was taking place at the same time as the festival we were performing at. The gig still went well and we got asked to come and play again next year and we sold a lot of cds. Now I’m so tired that I could sleep for a week. I have a lung disease that don’t like long days and parties as much as I do, but still I’m content with my weekend…except for the problem with my monitors..

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Our hotel sailing away

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Of course you want to buy our cd! 😀

Rockdonna inspires young girls to rock

Yesterday I stumbled upon an article in the local newspaper. A Finnish girl who studies music at a university in Sweden was telling about a recently started music summer camp for young girls. The goal is to inspire them to play instruments like bass, guitar and drums that are usually associated with boys. For a week they play together and have a good time. The following text is from Rockdonnas website:

Rock Donna is a new music project in Finland, that through camp activity works to inspire girls to play music together and work with music related jobs. At the camps we build up the musical self-confidence by playing new instruments, playing in bands together and participating in various music-related workshops. We especially want to inspire girls to play so called male-dominated instruments, such as drums.
Rock Donna is a long-term investment to achieve a gender equal music industry. Our goal is for your sex not to make any kind of difference when it comes to creating music or work with jobs related to the music industry.

I think this is a very good initiative. The girl who was interviewed in the paper was talking about how the boys in the music lessons in school often are the ones that get to play the typical rock instruments, while the girls get to sing or play more girly instruments like the violin or the piano.
I’m sure not all shools are like this, but I recognize myself in what she was saying.

When I was in school I had chosen music as a side-subject and every lesson the same story was repeated. Always the boys on the instruments while we girls stood beside and got to sing. I played the guitar at that time, but didn’t dare to play it in school. It would have felt awkward and I was a bit shy.

The camp is for girls in the age 13-19. Would something like that have exsisted while I was that age I would have been more than happy to join.
The girl in the article also tells that she is the first girl in the school she studies in to have the bass as the head instrument. She sometimes gets asked as a female bass player if she knows how a bass amplifier works or if she eaven owns a bass guitar. She finds it astounding and I do too.

I think it’s great that something like this is arranged in Finland, and I’m hoping that it encourrages the participating girls to pursue a career in music.

/Pernilla