Thursday, November 19, 2009

Busy Season

This fall has been the busiest season of my audio career. Since audio is not my full-time job (yet) four gigs may not seem that busy to some, but it has kept me busy. It kicked off in September with a introductory seminar for a church. I'm hoping that will turn into some further training opportunities. In October I mixed an outdoor acoustic show for my friends in Long Walk Home.

The next weekend was a 5-band festival that was off the chain in all sorts of ways. The gear was mostly borrowed. There were five acts and five completely different vibes. The first act was a folk band that was all-acoustic (except the bass) and I had to keep pushing the system hard to get it loud enough for the venue. There was also a 2-piece punk band, a classic rock cover band that was LOUD. The most unique was a 2-piece band with a drummer and bassist. The bassist had a switcher and 2 amps. He'd lay down a rhythm with a looper on one amp. Then he'd switch to the other amp and play melody on top of it -- with a bass. The last band was an all-girl (except the drummer) punk band. The whole evening was quite a lot lot of fun. I recorded this show and the Long Walk Home show. The LWH mix is signed, sealed, and delivered, but life has gotten in the way of the other one. Life includes lots of work, other stuff, and a crashed hard drive (gotta love the backups).

Monday will mark something of a milestone for me. I get to mix for Andrew Peterson on a real PA rig.  I'd be lying if I said I wasn't nervous. First comes the setup. I have no idea what kind of gear it is, only that it is professional kit. I'm pretty sure the desk is a Yamaha PM3000 (which I've mixed on before) and the loudspeakers are some kind of JBL. Once the system is set up and voiced I have to make sure the professional musicians are comfy and happy. I'm really praying this night goes well and nobody ever notices I'm there.

It's been a joy to help some good people make music this fall. I hope this trend is not just a blip on the radar but a turning point.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Long Walk Home

Looks like I'll be mixing my friends in Long Walk Home at the Eternity House on October 25. I'm planning to use my new board to record the show. I'm praying that it will not rain!

Presonus StudioLive - First Impressions

A soundman's mixer is his musical instrument. For the first time I have an instrument of my own. After much research (but sadly, no hands-on research) I ordered a Presonus StudioLive 16:4:2. Today it arrived. I chose the StudioLive mostly because of its price/feature combination. It seems adequate with regard to sound quality to meet my needs - will be a major step up from the borrowed gear I've been using. And it offers some features that really expand my capabilities. I can't say it's the last console I'll ever buy. Actually, I hope it isn't. But I think it will serve me well for some time.

My first impression is almost not worthy of a review. I didn't give it an honest chance. I haven't used the preamps yet and I don't have any loudspeakers worth plugging it in to. So I used the tape outs and plugged it into my simplified stereo system :-) It is very easy to set up. I had sound coming out in a couple of minutes and most of that was spent looking for RCA cables. A few minutes later and I was streaming multitrack from Logic Pro into 8 channels and doing some actual mixing. Very nice indeed.

At first I was not impressed by the sound. Then I remembered the stereo speakers. On with the headphones, and oh yeah, there's the rest of the sound. Much better. I'll reserve further judgement on the sound quality until I can hook it up to a real system - hopefully in a couple of days. The main output channel seems to run really hot. It was getting close to clipping with the fader at unity and fairly conservative levels in the mix. Again, I'll reserve judgement and check on that further. There's a level attenuator knob on the back panel that I need to read up on. It could also be related to the meter ballistics. I will educate myself and hope for improvement on that front.

The usability is pretty good. I had very little problem finding the features I needed. One annoying thing is that I wish the "selected channel" would automatically follow the channel being edited like it does on the M7CL. It's annoying to start adjusting EQ only to discover you are working with the wrong channel. Maybe there's an option somewhere. I'm especially glad for the tap button and the easy access to different kinds of metering. I found myself switching to output metering a lot. I've not done that on other boards - probably because the button was not so accessible.

The mixer is not really suitable for rack mounting. At least I was not able to find a good rack for it. I ordered a custom case for it which hasn't arrived yet. But this makes me wonder why they tried so hard to fit it into a rack-mountable size. I like the layout of the board and the fact that the fader panel is angled at a flatter plane than the Fat Channel controls. But I might've gone ahead and made the board wider and/or shallower. It would be nice to have the EQ controls more vertically oriented, similar to the M7CL - or at least give some separation between the dynamics and EQ. With my poor vision I had to look pretty hard to ensure I was editing the right parameter. I'll get used to that soon enough. Also I find the feel of the faders and other controls to be a bit fragile. I don't think they necessarily *are* fragile, they just feel that way a bit.

So that's not a glowing review of my recent upgrade, but again, I haven't really given it a good test yet. And I have to admit going from zero to the StudioLive is a pretty good jump! Even if it turns out the headroom on the main mix bus is lacking it will still be a much better board than I typically take on gigs. And it has a 16-channel recording interface built right in. I can't wait to put that to the test!

Thursday, October 8, 2009


I was listening to U2's "Grace" today. Actually, I was listening to Nichole Nordeman's track on a tribute record. I have to admit I'm not a huge fan of the Nordeman cover itself. The vocal production is a bit too "pop" for my tastes. But the song is captivating - so captivating in fact that I had to listen to it twice this morning on the way into work and once this evening on the way home.

I love the way it frames the idea of Grace in terms of visual beauty. I also love the way it captures the transformation that is inherent in the idea of Grace. Here's a sampling:

Grace, she takes the blame
She covers the shame
Removes the stain
What once was hurt
What once was friction
What left a mark
No longer stings...
Because Grace makes beauty
Out of ugly things

Grace finds beauty in everything

What a great way to bookend a day when I need Grace to touch everything I do.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Upcoming Events

I have two events coming up this fall that I am really excited about. The first is a five or six-band festival on Halloween. This should be very interesting since I have no idea what kind of gear will be available. But I'm very excited about the chance to work with a few bands. These fests are very exciting and stressful all at the same time.

In November I'm mixing for a fairly well known Christian artist at a church in Little Rock. I'm very excited about the chance to work for a pro on a pro rig. We're renting gear from Just Sound in Little Rock so the only barrier will likely be the interface between my ears and the equipment :-)

I hope that my work will be a blessing to everyone involved in these events.

I'm planning now for a recording project for some of my own music. Many songs from the Ash Wednesday days were never recorded well. I need to put some thought into how I can squeeze that into my schedule. In the meantime I'd love to pick up a couple of recording projects or events if you have need for sound this fall. Contact me at if you need my help.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Open For Business

Sound has always been a hobby for me. It's an expensive and time-consuming hobby to be sure. Cheap sound equipment is no good and good sound equipment is not cheap. Even good sound equipment takes time to learn how to operate and time to do things right. At some point a budding sound engineer will either quit out of frustration from using crappy gear or invest money in some good kit. This investment of money and time pretty much requires a person to turn the hobby into a business. That's the crossroads I find myself standing in.

I've been doing sound in some capacity for about 13 years now. Off and on I've made a little bit of money doing it. The time has come for me to transition this from a hobby to a real business. That's a difficult thing to do. At one time I didn't have the experience to justify charging people for my work. Now I don't have the time to justify doing it for free. As much as I want to jump at every opportunity to mix or do a project I now have to consider whether these gigs are a good fit for the business. Is the payout worth the investment? Is there a different kind of payout like marketing potential or learning experience? Is there an opportunity for me to be generous with a cause I want to support? Is there risk involved that I need to calculate? These questions are not always easy to answer.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Fat Tuesday What?

Most musicians can recall some magical moments when things just click. The name "Fat Tuesday Audio" was born out of one of those moments. In college I was part of a band called Ash Wednesday. We practiced on Tuesday nights in what could loosely be called an "apartment" in downtown Conway, AR. In one of our first practices we played for several hours and created what became about five or six of the songs we played. Thankfully, we had the presence of mind to record it all on a 4-track cassette recorder. On one of those recordings someone wrote "Recorded at Fat Tuesday Studios".

I've always had some interest in the technical side of the music business. As I transitioned from being a player to being a mixer the name "Fat Tuesday" stuck. I've toyed around with several different names. This one seems to have some longevity and it reminds me of where I came from and what I am doing this for. I have had some difficulty deciding what the third word of the name will be. I've switched around between "Fat Tuesday Audio", "Fat Tuesday Productions", "Fat Tuesday Sound" and others. My current favorite is "Fat Tuesday Music". I'll explain more about that in a future post. But for now I want to focus on the fact that I am more of an artist than a technician. I'm not nearly as interested in being in the "sound" business as I am in being in the "music" business. With that in mind I intend to run things a bit different than many sound companies. For now, this site will be a collection of my musical activities. We'll see where it goes from here. Thanks for listening to my megaphone!