Saturday, November 13, 2010

WEGO: Sock

MP3 (77 megs)

Here's the single set from what I consider a real breakthrough WEGO rehearsal on at least one dimension. The orchestra for the evening was Woody Frank (guitar and voice), Ian McKagen (guitar and voice), Jesse Silvertrees (djembe, piano, and voice) and Me Woods (key-bass, keys, and voice).

It's not so much that this features the best versions of several of the regular lyrical standards or any particularly zany energetic peaks (though it has plenty of great examples of each), but this was the rehearsal where I feel like we may have finally grokked a particular mix problem that would occasionally spring up with frustrating results. And I think we've hit upon a simple fix that should be able to consistently prevent it!

Since I went on about it so much last week -- and since I know you all come here first and foremost for in-depth mix-analysis ;)) -- I'll go into a bit more detail. I'll call this problem the "Unintentional Volume War". That is, it takes place in a group of competent listeners who aren't idealistically committed to ear-splitting volumes for their own sake (and is above and beyond the general tendency for people to want the music louder as their ears warm up). In this case, it's obvious that nobody is *trying* to bury the other players, and yet each player's volume keeps rising until it reaches the point that the old-folks in the room (me) stop turning up and start begging for everybody to turn down.

The solution might sound obvious, but I seem to keep forgetting it in spite of the fact that I know I've fixed this same problem in previous bands with similar solution, so it seems like it's worth laying out fully here. Most portable guitar-cabinets (and my keyboard-speaker) are low to the ground. Each player tends to set up so that they're standing directly in front of their own instrument speaker so they can adjust amp-settings, etc… These types of speakers throw a pretty narrow cone of sound. It's not like you won't hear it from off-angle, but it's about 4 times as loud if you're directly in front of the speaker. So, hopefully by now you can picture the problem: Since most players' heads are several feet above the ground, each player's sound is louder to everybody else in the room than it is to them, unless they're born with the exceedingly rare extra pair of ears in their calf-muscles. It's quite common for a player's sound to seem obnoxiously loud to everyone else in the group but still feel like they can't hear themselves well enough. So they turn up even more! The solution is to make sure that each player's amp is louder to that player than it is to everybody else in the room -- to treat the amps more like stage-monitors. In a small space, this usually means tipping the amps up at a 45-degree angle so that they're aimed closer to the head. I've blathered on long enough about this, and I'm sure you can all work out the implications, but suffice it to say that this simple change makes a huge difference.

Anyway, as I ramp up on other bus-projects again, I've got less time for cutting these recordings down, so you're getting another behind-the-scenes view here. Perhaps partially as a result of the new sonic and cognitive spaciousness, we were able to pull off some pretty adventurous uses (and hybrid usages) of the signaling language. A number of times, you'll hear us discussing the implications of what we're trying on the fly. And sadly, the best of the "sock"-themed freestyling happened before I started recording, so apologies for what is left here! ;))

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