Just over 30 years ago I was enamored with the playing and recording of live music. Life back then involved analog recording rigs, tapes, heavy sound mixers, clunky snakes, speakers, monitors, amps, mics, and the investment of time to get it all right.
This week I learned a little more about what has changed in the past 20 years.
Look out for the Snakes
Running the snake was an occasional problem when the venue wasn’t purpose built for live music. For example, you are setting up in an open field and want to know the sound is great so you run the snake back to a console facing the stage. People want to dance when music is playing. Dancing is harder when when there are rugs, trenches, or other attempts to hide a gnarly cable from sight.
When there are a lot of instruments and a desire for great drum sound there will be a lot of inputs. When there are a lot of inputs the snake gets thicker. Luckily, some really smart engineers decided that analog-digital conversion might be a way to simplify the ever thickening cable of the snake and allow the use of low cost Ethernet to replace the original snake bundle of cables.
As wifi connected devices became more mainstream, the applications of wifi started to appear in more places where Ethernet was present. Next, the cost of high powered tablet computing meant access to often skeuomorphic designs mimicking various physical consoles.
So, if the engineers that tried Ethernet were really smart, the next wave of audio engineers were absolute geniuses. By using wifi the replace the physical Ethernet cable it meant the console could be just about anywhere anytime even between turnover of bands on lineup.
Mobile console FTW!
Most traditional snakes might have been 50 feet or 100 feet which is still well within the range of wifi. That means you can be the sound person anywhere in the room. In fact, you can probably be the sound person just about anywhere the wifi signal can reach.
But how would you communicate with the band through the monitors to get the sound dialed in just right? Simple. You’ll just need a mic with you while you have the tablet unless you have excellent signing capability or interpretive dance skills. You’ll want something rugged as you’ll be running around. You’ll be sweaty. Thank goodness for those audio engineers that have us all covered.
The direction of the industry will likely shift over time and take advance of the next generation technologies. Perhaps there will be an all AirPod or silent disco style concert where you can participate in the mixing yourself but that’s probably a very niche what if scenario.
An interesting concept.
Regardless, even the most back to basic sounding bands will push the envelope of what is possible. When I lived in Las Vegas I was able to catch Black Sabbath and hear just some of the possibilities.
Gregory R. Price on making the mix amazing everywhere every single time.
One Last Thought
Thank you again – all 7 of you– for subscribing and reading. My goals for 2019 are simple. I’m trying to pick a theme per week to summarize with a 10-20 year history. It’s likely the theme is technology but will crossover to science and socioeconomic topics. The fits and starts in late 2016 were about convergence and that’s still a big part of what occupies my mind each day.