12 sends of monitors + FOH – one engineer
Todd McKenney and Georgie Parker, two of Australia’s most respected entertainers joined forces to bring their favourite duets to the stage for a tour somewhat obviously called ‘Duets’.
Sound engineer was Jimmy Den-Ouden (formerly a writer with CX) who not only ran FOH but also monitors for most of the show dates. Jimmy has been working with Todd for the past year, a handy gig as Todd’s shows tend to be at the weekend enabling Jimmy to also work as an AV installer during the week.
“In my infinite wisdom, somewhere along the line I agreed that running monitors from FOH would be a good option,” commented Jimmy. “It started as fourteen sends but I’ve bumped it back to twelve, of which two are IEMs. I’ve done monitors from FOH before but not twelve sends worth.”
Jimmy says that budget was not the primary reason for this set up, but it was actually a request from Todd. It worked out well as the band has certain expectations, and if they don’t need to explain these to a different monitor operator every gig it saves a fair bit of time.
“I’m lucky in that I can pull up a show file on the console, and have the sends most of the way there, rather than to build it from scratch every time,” Jimmy said. “Fortunately once sound check is over, there is very little that changes in monitors. If it was a cue heavy show, this approach simply wouldn’t work. I’ve got like four monitor cues where one of the backing singers comes forward to perform with Todd and Georgie, but otherwise I’m free to focus on the FOH mix.”
While Jimmy toured an RF system and microphones, everything else was locally sourced. Jimmy chose an Avid Profile console which he can navigate quickly and of course, it sounds good. He does however have one particular beef with the Profile of which he has complained to Avid.
“It’s got this feature which allows you to flip things like high pass filter and gain onto a fader,” he said. “I wish they’d provide an option to disable it. Everyone I know hates it. It’s a great way to land yourself in huge trouble very quickly, and it’s the only real let down on an otherwise great console.”
In an effort to keep case weight down Jimmy uses no external outboard, and instead carries Waves 9 on a USB stick.
“Because the vocals can range from one singer through to four vocalists singing at once, there’s a wide variation in dynamic and if they’re all singing together it can become a bit overbearing,” explained Jimmy. “I buss all of the vocals and their associated reverb into a subgroup, then insert C4 across that to keep the vocals in check. It’s cool – you can kind of just shape the overall vocal sound to sit where it needs to in the mix. An instance of C6 goes across the main output. There’s not a lot else going on; Truverb for vocals, L1 on IEM sends. It doesn’t need to be a process heavy show”.
Having had problems with RF in venues on past tours, Jimmy travels with a Shure ULX-D Digital Wireless System, running four channels of wireless, and PSM1000 IEMs. Jimmy uses wireless Workbench software and an Apple Airport for advanced frequency coordination, monitoring, and control from FOH during the show.
The Shure ULX-D had a combination of KSM8 and KSM9 heads on them with Jimmy saying he really liked the KSM8 head he used for Todd and the hard-wired KSM8 used for the bass player.
“It works well for Todd who has a very powerful voice and when he’s belting it out, he will back off mic,” said Jimmy. “The KSM8 doesn’t change tonally, there’s no proximity effect. Similarly our bass player can sing low stuff right up to big falsetto – the KSM8 picks up the warmth of the low stuff but it doesn’t over-hype the top end.”
Other microphones included Audix D6 on kick, i5 on horns and guitar, DPA 4099s on drums, and a simple pair of SM57s for congas. Jimmy says “I tried a few different mics on percussion, but spill was a major issue – the congas really need to lead it and the 57s were the trick.”
The stage has a lot of wedges with keyboard, guitar, backing vocal, bass/synth, drums, and percussion all having their own. Todd and Georgie are normally positioned downstage centre but occasionally they perform on a central riser between drums and percussion, so there are wedges up there too.
“It’s a lot of sound off stage!” admitted Jimmy. “We don’t always have the same brand of wedges but I am pretty specific about what’s acceptable and what’s not. They need to be a concert grade wedge like an M4 or 12AM. I don’t want to waste time trying to make a crappy wedge sound better than it is.”
The tour utilized in-house PA systems, all of which Jimmy said had all been good. “On the whole I’ve had great support from the in-house production techs, which has made a huge difference.”
Jimmy stated that the biggest challenge for him was vocal intelligibility and so knowing Todd’s audience, he mixed the show similar to a cabaret show. With so much sound coming off stage, he busses only the vocal group into front-fill speakers to cover the front seating rows.
“The people sitting in those front seats are the fans who got in earliest to buy their tickets, so you really have to look after them,” he added. “First and foremost they want to hear the voices, so that’s what you have to deliver.”