Novelty’s Limitations: A Eulogy For Older Technologies | ProSound News

While we rush headlong into the slick, the glossy, the virgin snow — we are losing lessons of the past…

“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” — George Santayana

“Those who reject the achievement of past innovations are due a smack.” — George Tucker

Ours is an industry driven by change. Margins and growth are, more often than not, based on a premise of installing what’s new in place of the old.

We post with the glee of an Aztec priest holding the still-beating heart of the sacrificed, photos of the now disgorged gear — its entrail like cables gripped firmly in hand, the enclosure slumped and askew. “Look at this old dog,” the status update reads, with nary a thought of the engineering breakthroughs and months of work the product required to make it.

The Logan’s Run Syndrome 
How we treat older technologies can be summed up by the plot of the movie Logan’s Run. The film describes a post apocalyptic dystopian society, where to maintain resources in the hermetically sealed environment, life is ended at 30.

When does “old” start? While we rush headlong into the slick, the glossy, the virgin snow, in the adrenaline haze of mass disposal in the name of disruption — we are losing lessons of the past. Despite our tendency to see familiarity in contempt, there are talismans to those seeking the next paradigm shift.

Flirtatious Confections 
The ultra-modern interfaces beckon us with their sexy, slinky presentations and the flirty feedback of virtual buttons. The response to touch are multi-layered and subtlety sublime. Like the ornate and delicate confections of boutique bakeries the allure stirs deep unconscious emotions. Is it really what is wanted or, more importantly, needed? Does it work?

Consider the simplest of our modern interfaces, the switch, and more specifically the light switch. It has a very specific job to do, turn on or off the lights. The action requires very little thought to complete, a quick flick of the wrist, and it’s done! They have limitations, of course — they can only perform one function and when multiple zones are to be controlled, they take up massive real estate on the wall.

Touch panels have the ability to provide a universe of zones on a single screen but end users grow weary of the five-step finger dance to dim a light. Like the salacious sweets, we learn that the new and exotic may not always be what is needed — even if desired. Manufacturers answered with screens that harken back to the switch by including tactile buttons on the side for single tasks.

It’s worth noting that among the main industry manufacturers, simple two- and four-button keypads are on the short list of top sellers.

Not Just The Greatest Band In The Land
To those who pay attention to such things, programming, and more specifically the languages used, have far outstripped their predecessors.

Modern coding allows for a dizzying array of control concepts whose acuity and flexibility are only limited in function to the imagination of the programmer. From controlling entire communities infrastructure to complete virtual worlds — the command lines are the new DNA.

Remarkably, the single greatest achievement in human history was completed during the early adolescence of modern coding. Apollo 11 used computers, which had processing power that was only a modicum of a present day children’s toy, to send men (238,855 miles) to the moon and back. A feat akin to solving Fermat’s last theorem with an abacus.

The run sequences were sparse as a necessity, code need not be trim but Spartan in form. The lessons of one generation’s experience is to first and foremost KISS it. This is not just the self-proclaimed “greatest band in the land,” it is also the top commandment of installation: Keep It Simple.

Limitations, especially when self-imposed, can inspire more creative solutions all while keeping the client experience high, and reducing costs. Taking a good look at what was necessary in the past can lead to more efficient systems today.

What The Ancients Knew
The phenomenon of losing great gains in technology for decades or hundreds of years is not new, in fact it goes back to the beginnings of civilization. Technologies of the past are lost and need to be rediscovered because the focal motivation of the culture, or an industry, becomes distracted by change.

The ancient Minoan cultures of the second millennium BC had developed running water flush toilet systems. Centuries later the Roman Empire also spread a version along with their water distribution aqueducts, only to be lost as the boundaries retreated. A vital technology lost several times, over multiple cultures, condemning humanity to filth and sewage born diseases until the 19th century.

In the realm of “hardcore” technology, nothing exemplifies an ancient development which could have changed the world more than Antikythera Mechanism. The device, discovered in 1900s from a shipwreck of about 100 BC, is considered by many to be the first analog computer. It is believed to be an astronomical navigation tool, pre-dating the Babbage Difference engine by at least a millennia. Just imagine what great leaps we could have taken if this technology had been developed and spread!

Progress As Paradox
While it is true that development and paradigm change are essential and a direct result of our human impulse — it should not come with disregard for the past. What “discarded” technology do you think we can advance from looking at again?

George Tucker, CTS, is engineering coordinator for Worldstage and co-founder, producer and personality for

Top 10 Tips For Mixing In-Ear Monitoring | ProSound News

A best practices take from a voice of experience in monitorworld…

Photo courtesy of Minerva Hearing Protection

1) Both Ears Or None. Using only one ear encourages much higher sound levels. Good custom molds provide 20 to 25 dB of isolation, allowing lower monitoring levels for artists, and reduced stage noise to compete with front of house. Mixed mode monitoring combining wedges and personal monitors ultimately results in higher overall SPL.

2) Hard-Wired Equals Hi-Def. Wired personal monitors will always sound better than wireless. In addition to loss of stereo separation and frequency response, multiplexed stereo wireless transmissions are susceptible to noise and multipath distortion.

Panned wireless mixes must be extreme as 7 o’clock and 5 o’clock pan positions become 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. due to reduced separation, and response falls off above 15,000 Hz for most wireless personal monitor systems.

3) Use A Helical Antenna. Wireless personal monitors are inherently non-diversity RF systems, where the benefits of a helical antenna’s directivity and full-angle 360 degree RF modulation can eliminate dropouts that affect multiplexed stereo transmissions more than mono.

4) Custom-Fitting Molds. Generic-fit transducers rely on replaceable foam or triple-flanged “Christmas tree” fittings to seal the ear and block out other sound. Most generic devices can also be fitted with custom molded sleeves, made of soft silicone from audiologist impressions, at half the cost of custom molds.

5) Stereo Is Better. A realistic mix, with performers on the stage’s far side panned to that ear, makes it easier to listen. Panning inputs in a stereo mix allows similar sounding instruments to stand out at lower volumes. Reverb naturally sounds better in stereo. Singers can harmonize better when their voice is centered and others are panned.

6) Drum Sub. The impact shakers and subwoofers add often helps drummers perform at their best. Other band members may decide this is something they also want, but there’s a diminishing return in adding subs, as it doesn’t help other musicians as much and it quickly begins polluting the stage with excessive low end. When drummer and bass player are in close proximity, they naturally share the drum sub.

7) Side Fills And A Downstage Pair Of Wedges Aren’t Necessary. That is, for a band that’s entirely on personal monitors. However, having them allows two things to happen:

A) Front of house (or control room) talkback is more easily understood, not just by performers, hut also by stagehands and technicians to better assist during line and sound check.

B) It’s easier for onstage visitors, whether they’re hosts or MCs interacting with your talent or the occasional sit-in with a guest performer, who may not use personal monitors in that situation.

8) Talkback (Monitors Only) Inputs For Stage Communication. Extra inputs for vocal mics on stage that can only be heard in the monitor system allow private on-stage conversations that provide security and comfort. Ideally every musician has a mic dedicated to inter-communication.

9) Individual Reverbs. All singers benefit from having their own separate vocal reverb, dedicated to their own voice and not shared with other singers. Singers can also benefit from a classic dual micro pitch shift that is simply one cent up and down with a 5 or 10 ms delay.

Grouped drum or instrument reverbs use several aux buses, but dedicated vocal effects can be either direct- or insert-patched to economize on mix buses.

10) Digital Consoles. An analog desk for personal monitors is great as long as you either bring it with you or have enough time to patch all your comps, gates and effects and you get a full sound check.

But there’s no greater joy than recalling a monitor scene on a digital desk at a festival and having everything right back where it was at the previous show. A 16,000 Hz low-pass on all personal monitors outputs from a digital desk can reduce digital artifacts.

Mark Frink is an independent author, editor, consultant and engineer who has mixed monitors for numerous top artists.

The Art of Snare Mixing…And A Frog | ProSound News

by Chris Huff
church soundI created a frog. It wasn’t intentional. Naturally, I’m not talking about a real frog but just look at that photo to the left!

You’ll never read a mixing book that says, “Make the snare’s EQ curve look like a frog in water.” If you do, immediately stop reading the book. Seriously, when it comes to snare mixing, the last place you want to be is behind the mixer.

There are three factors in creating a good snare drum sound.

1. The Snare Drum
Snare drums don’t all sound the same just like all acoustic guitars sound different. Even with a house drum kit, a drummer might bring their own snare because they like it’s sound.

Know that each snare has a unique sound. This is the baseline sound for the mix. Use the same mic and the same EQ settings with two different snares and you’ll get two different results.

Consider these three different snares:
—PDP Blackout Maple Snare
—PDP LTD Classic Wood Hoop Snare
—Pearl Chad Smith Signature Snare

Just by looking at them, you can almost hear the tonal differences:


Material composite, drum size, drum head skin, all of these are factors. Even tuning makes a difference. Snares can be tuned to match whatever the drum tuner decides is to his liking. To generalize, there can be a low or high tuning (true for any drum).

Stand near the drum kit while the drummer plays the snare. This is the sound you’ll be mixing with—not against. Don’t try making it sound like something it’s not.

2. The Microphone
A microphone should be paired with an instrument and so it is with miking the snare. The Shure SM57 pairs great with a snare drum because of its polar pattern and frequency response. I polled some techs and their pairings include the Telefunken M80, Heil PR 22, Heil PR 28, DPA 4099, and the Granelli Audio Labs G5790, a modified Shure SM57 designed for tight spots.

And don’t think mic designs are the same:


Photos are nice but let’s get real—we need to look at specifics. They can have different polar patterns, different sensitivity, and they don’t have to all be dynamic mics. For example, the Heil PR28 is a dynamic mic while the DPA 4099 is a condenser. While all of these characteristics do make a big difference in how a mic treats sound, frequency response is a major factor never to be overlooked.

The frequency response of a microphone alters the tonal characteristics of the snare drum. Take just one snare drum from above, like the Pearl Chad Smith Signature Snare, and mike it with three different mikes. The result is three different sounds. And we haven’t even touched the EQ portion.

For comparison, here are the frequency response charts for the Shure SM57, Heil PR28, and the DPA 4099 (Note the charts with multiple lines are showing the differing frequency responses when not on-axis with the sound source):


Note that snares can be miked both on the top and bottom. Here are a few combinations folks sent me this week;
—Ben Salzmann: Shure Beta57 on top, Shure SM81 on bottom
—Daniel East: Audix i5s both top and bottom
—Micah Webner: Audix i5 top, SM57 bottom
—Deron Yevoli: Sennheiser MD421 on top, Heil PR31BW bottom
—Jamie Ivey: Heil PR22 on top, Sennheiser e904 on bottom

3. The EQ Work
I told you this is the last place you needed to be and now you know why. EQ’ing can only happen after we listen to the natural tone of the snare and consider the mic(s) we’re pairing with it.

Here’s an example: take a snare tuned high and pair it with a mic that has a large high-end boost. Want to cut the highs in the mix? It’s not going to be easy as you’re mixingagainst what is being sent, not mixing with it.

At this point, you can be as simple or as creative as you want. How do you want to mix a dual-miked snare? How do you want the snare to sound for the song?

It’s not a matter of “how do I use the equipment?” it’s a matter of “what would sound right and how do I get there?” By having the right snare and microphone combination, you’ve got the hard part out of the way. (I know this isn’t always within your control.)

I like a single-miked snare. That’s not to say I won’t fall in love with a dual mic setup next weekend. A single mic setup is a good place to start. By establishing a good single-mic sound, moving into two mics, you already know how to get a good sound from one. Make sense?

Sum Of The Parts
The guidelines listed below are a starting point in mixing the snare. All of the sounds of the drum kit (and the whole band for that matter) have to be considered. The right sound for the snare for a particular song might be really flat on its own. (I cover this idea furtherhere.)

Here are some mixing ideas based on my experience:

High-Pass Filter (HPF)
A mic like the SM57 has the low-end rolled off. I will roll off a bit more if I notice a positive impact on the sound. I’m not going to roll off more just to then flatten the snare sound. If you’re running an analog board, hit the HPF switch and listen for a difference.

It’s a good idea to remove low-end frequencies from all mics that aren’t focused on a low-end instrument. For instance,  use an HPF on vocal mics. Snare and cymbal mics, which aren’t focused on low-end kit pieces, are another good place for using an HPF.

I’ve tried gating my snares but have never been happy with the results—at least for a general snare sound. I’ve gated the snare for a song to get a specific sound, but for all-around mixing, I tend to skip it.

Out With The Bad
I’ll sweep my mid-range with a 6 dB cut and find the area of offending frequencies. It’s that area you drop and suddenly you think, “now that sounds much better.” In the case of the frog EQ I mentioned in the beginning, I didn’t find that spot and rather found a huge boost is what was needed. Some days it’s like that.

Sculpt To Fit What You Hear In Your Head
At this point, you should have a sound in your head that you want the snare to match. It’s that internal reference sound. You know what sounds good, you just need to make it a reality. Is there too much snap? Not enough? Is it perfect the way it is? (This is where that snare/mic pairing pays off.) Or does it still need some work?

And here’s where I have to say I’m sorry. I’m sorry I can’t tell you exactly what to boost or cut and where to do it. It all depends on your snare and your mic and your room andyour drummer and…eh, you get the point.

That said, here are a few places to start:
—Snap and presence, 3 kHz to 12 kHz. The higher you go, the less presence and more snap
—Body, sub-500 Hz if you need to give it some substance

The Take Away 
Know the tone of the instrument, pair it with the right microphone, and then step behind the mixer. Only then can a good snare mix be created.

Ready to learn and laugh? Chris Huff writes about the world of church audio at Behind The Mixer. He covers everything from audio fundamentals to dealing with musicians, and can even tell you the signs the sound guy is having a mental breakdown. Chris is also the author of Audio Essentials For Church Sound, available here.

Not Typical: Unusual Microphone Techniques | ProSound News

A little bored with the “tried-and-true”? Try some fresh approaches that are off the beaten path…
by Bruce Bartlett

The one-mic drum technique invented by engineer/producer Tchad Blake

 Getting a little bored with the same old “tried-and-true” microphones and techniques? Let’s have some fun with fresh approaches that are off the beaten path.

To create a differential (noise-canceling) mic, tape two identical omni mics together, one over the other, separated by a block of wood (Figure 1). Mix both mics at equal levels but with one mic switched in opposite polarity. Have the performer sing close to the top mic.

Many years ago, the Grateful Dead used this method to cancel sound from a huge stack of amps on stage. It’s actually the same as a figure 8 ribbon mic aiming up and down. It works best with in-ear monitors. Be sure to use a foam windscreen.

Need a zombie effect? Try a mic against the singer’s throat. Want a comb-filter sound? Mike the singer with two mics at different distances, mixed together. Hollow sound? Sing unto a mini mic placed inside the sound hole of a guitar. Also, have a singer use a megaphone, either acoustic or electronic.

Figure 1: Two ways to make a differential (noise-canceling) microphone.


Try the one-mic technique invented by engineer/producer Tchad Blake that I touched on in a previous article (here) – take a large-diaphragm cardioid condenser and mount it over the kick drum top, aiming at the snare drum. (This technique is pictured above left.)

It picks up a decent balance of the snare, toms, kick and cymbals all around it, and the balance can be tweaked by moving or rotating the mic, and raising/lowering the cymbals. There may be some off-axis coloration of the cymbals depending on the mic model and position, but in my experience it’s not too serious.

Another single-mic method employs a mini omni condenser. Clip it between 1 and 4 inches over the snare drum rim, in the middle of the kit over the drummer’s knee. It will pick up the snare, toms, and cymbals all around it (Figure 2). Put another mic in the kick. And for a punk band, try a single Shure SM57 overhead at the height of the drummer’s forehead.

Figure 2: Miking a drum kit with a mini omni mic.

Additional drum ideas:

• Tape a couple of boundary mics (such as Crown PZMs) to the inside of a clear acrylic drum gobo. Add a PZM inside the kick taped to the shell. Another trick: tape a PZM to the drummer’s chest. This works especially well in picking up a large group of percussion instruments as the player moves around. For some added fun, tape a mini mic to each maraca, bongo drum, cowbell, etc.

• Mike a child’s toy drum set instead of a regular pro set.

• Hit the cymbals lightly with some rugged dynamic mics while amplifying their signals. That is, use the mics as drumsticks. The cymbal sound will bloom and shrink as it’s played.

Acoustic Guitar & Mandolin
Try a small-diaphragm condenser near the player’s right ear, aiming down at the bridge (Figure 3). You’ll hear a natural sound in this location, but watch out for feedback.

Figure 3: The tones of several guitar mic placements.

Tape a mini omni condenser mic just inside the sound hole, and roll off 100 Hz about 10 dB to compensate for the boomy tone in there. This method provides excellent isolation. It also works well on a ukulele or an oval-hole mandolin.

How about an f-hole mandolin? Take a mini omni condenser, wrap its cable in felt or foam about an inch behind the capsule, and stuff it under the strings between the tailpiece and bridge (Figure 4). Roll off the lows and highs a few dB.

To capture a singing guitarist without phase interference, use two ribbon mics with their tops touching in a coincident-pair array. Aim one at the mouth and the other at the guitar.

Get a headworn mic that has a gooseneck-mounted mic capsule such as the Audio-Technica ATM75. Have the player wear the mic and place the mic capsule between the mouthpiece and tone holes.

Electric Guitar
Mike the guitarist’s strumming hand to capture the pick sounds, and mix it with a mic on the amp. Another one: Using a Y-cord, feed an electric guitar through an amp and through a Leslie speaker. Mike both and pan left and right. Phase heaven! Try it on a vocal, too.

For lots of lows and highs from a guitar amp, aim a Shure SM57 straight at the center of a speaker cone, next to the grille. To reduce lows and highs, hang the mic from over the top of the amp so it picks up the speaker at 90 degrees off axis. There’s no proximity effect at that angle.

Bassoon, Clarinet & Oboe


Figure 4: A mandolin miking method (courtesy of WeogoThe null of the vocal mic aims at the guitar, while the null of the guitar mic aims at the mouth. A Royer SF-12 stereo ribbon lets you do this with oneSome singers/guitarists hunker down so that their head is just above the guitar. Capture them both with a single small-diaphragm condenser below the guitar, aiming up.

Here’s a way to give the musician some mobility. Clip a lavalier mic to the player’s shirt, even with the center of the instrument. It will pick up the instrument from behind. You might mix in another mic taped near the bell.

Mike the handheld chanter about 8 inches from the side, and mike the pipes overhead. But why would you want to amplify a bagpipe anyway? (Some folks would say the same thing about a banjo).

Cello & Acoustic Bass
Get a miniature omni and stiffen its cable using a 3-inch long coat-hanger wire taped just behind the capsule. Wrap a windscreen around the wire, and stuff it between two strings under the bridge. Place the mic near the body of the instrument (Figure 5).

Figure 5: A miking method for cello or acoustic bass.

Grand Piano

Miking a tone hole gives a restricted, mid-rangy sound that can add a lot of color, while miking the sound board from underneath gives a dark, full tone. Also consider placing a mic at the piano tail looking inside the slightly raised lid. Or, try a couple of PZMs gaffer-taped to the underside of the raised lid over the bass and treble strings.

To add some grit, run the synth through an amp and mike the amp.

Blues Harmonica
Rather than using a “bullet” mic, place an SM57 (or any dynamic) next to a guitar-amp speaker. Mike the harmonica close up, and run that input through the amp using an XLR-to-phone impedance converter. The amp’s distortion and high-frequency roll-off might deliver just the sound you want. (And try it with a vocal as well.)

World Acoustic Instruments 
For instruments like pipa, bouzouki, oud, and sitar, try a small-diaphragm condenser about 3 to 8 inches away. If there’s a sound hole, place the mic fairly close to where the fingerboard meets the body, and if there’s not one, place it in front of the body. The sound hole resonates at a low frequencies with the air inside the instrument, producing a bassy, thumpy tone.

Concertina, Accordion & Bandoneon
Grab a couple of mini omnis, put a wide rubber band on each of the player’s wrists, and insert the mic capsules and 1 inch of cable through the rubber band, which holds each mic close to the tone holes. Or gaffer-tape the mics to the instrument first, so when the player comes on stage, he/she can remove the mics and mount them on the hands.

Capture an instrument or vocal with a cheap piezo mic, bullet mic, or headphones. Tape a paper towel or TP tube to the end of a mic – it creates a resonator unlike any EQ you’ve heard. Just watch out for feedback. Or place a mic inside a tin can to get a unique coloration. Unusual miking methods can create some intriguing, original sounds to dazzle the audience.

Bruce Bartlett is a recording and live engineer as well as a microphone designer ( His latest books are “Practical Recording Techniques, 6th Edition” and “Recording Music On Location, 2nd Edition.”

In The Studio: The Four Families Of Compressors | ProSound News

Ever wonder why there are so many different compressors and why they all sound different?
recordingEver wonder why there are so many different compressors and why they all sound different? That’s because back in the analog days there were a number of different ways to achieve compression depending upon the type of electronic building block that you used.
Here’s a brief excerpt from The Mixing Engineer’s Handbook that covers the four families of compressors that we generally use today.

In the days of analog hardware compressors, there were four different electronic building blocks that could be used to build a compressor. These were:

Optical: A light bulb and a photocell were used as the main components of the compression circuit. The time lag between the bulb and the photocell gave it a distinctive attack and release time (like in an LA-2A). Optical compressors don’t react very fast to the oncoming signal, but that actually makes then sound pretty smooth, which is why they’ve become a favorite on vocals and bass.

FET: A Field Effect Transistor was used to vary the gain, which had a much quicker response than the optical circuit (a Universal Audio 1176 is a good example). FET compressors are often used on drums because of their quick response.

VCA: A Voltage Controlled Amplifier circuit was a product of the 80s and had both excellent response time and much more control of the various compression parameters (the dbx 160 series is an example of a VCA-type compressor, although some models didn’t have a lot of parameter controls). VCA compressors can be very aggressive, which is why the dbx 160 series have long been a favorite on rock kick and snare.

Vari-Gain: The vari-gain compressors are sort of a catch-all category because there are other ways to achieve compression besides the first three (like the Fairchild 670 and Manley Variable Mu). You might think of a vari-gain as the ultimate smooth sounding compressor because it was originally made for a radio signal chain, something that had to be as transparent as possible. That said, it’s hard to beat a vari-gain compressor across the mix bus for the added “glue” that’s difficult to get any other way.

As you would expect, each of the above has a different sound and different compression characteristics, which is the reason why the settings that worked well on one compressor type won’t necessarily translate to another.


Bobby Owsinski is an author, producer, music industry veteran and technical consultant who has written numerous books covering all aspects of audio recording. For more information be sure to check out his website and go here for more info and to acquire a copy of The Mixing Engineer’s Handbook.

Guitar intonation: how to keep your guitar in tune | Disc Makers

Many factors can cause your stringed instrument to have intonation problems, including old strings and fluctuations in weather and humidity. Maintain and protect your instrument to keep your guitar in tune.

I was chatting with a teaching colleague about a class recording project that his students were wrapping up, and he mentioned that a rock band had come into our campus studio for a weekend recording session and couldn’t manage to get their electric guitars to stay in tune. They had to live with the recordings of poorly intonated instruments, and we used it as a lesson to our own sound recording students to meet with the band well before the session day and emphasize the importance of getting their instruments into studio shape for every recording project.

While the next band to come in had better luck with tuning, a few of the following ones didn’t, which prompted us to add a well-intonated Taylor electric guitar to the recording studio’s gear kit. Now, when a band shows up with guitars that are not set up properly, the students can suggest trying the Taylor, which we know has rock solid intonation. Most guitarists are happy to do so and are pleased with how “in tune” the results are.

But what causes a guitar to have intonation problems? And what can you do about it if your instrument is causing you to be frustrated? How can you keep your guitar in tune?

Symptoms of intonation problems

Guitars use what is known as an equally tempered scale, as do pianos and most western musical instruments. Without going into the science, the guitar’s tempered scale is a compromise and doesn’t result in 100% precise tuning or intervals between notes. Since guitars have this inherent weakness when it comes to being in tune, it’s important to develop a basic understanding of guitar intonation and adjustments to get the best performance out of your instrument.

Most guitar players have a tuner of some sort, whether it’s a stomp box on the floor, an expensive rack mounted LED cascade, or a simple portable LED-model – all of which can speed up tuning and accuracy. Tuners can be helpful in diagnosing and making basic intonation adjustments yourself, which we’ll discuss. One of the most obvious signs that your instrument has intonation issues is if each string played open is in tune, but when you play a bar chord anywhere up the neck, it sounds out of tune. Shaun Conrad, an experienced luthier, lists some of the potential causes for guitar intonation issues on his informative website,

      Guitar intonation issues can be a result of:


  • Faulty or worn out strings
  • High action/Extreme relief (truss rod adjustment needed)
  • Bridge/saddle pieces need adjustment
  • Nut or frets need adjustment/repair
  • Changing string gauge or tunings

The first thing on this list may be the most overlooked. If you can’t remember when you last changed the strings on your guitar or bass and are having trouble with intonation, stop now, get a new set and put them on before proceeding any further! According to Conrad, “Replacing your strings could solve your intonation problems. Also, it is impossible to properly set your intonation with worn strings.”

Advice to keep your guitar in tune
While we can’t address the full range of possible problems and solutions that spring from Shaun’s list, one of the most basic adjustments can be done by any electric guitarist with a tuner: fine tuning your saddle pieces. I spoke with Bill Stevens, a guitar repair expert who manages The Music Box retail music store in Stockton, CA and who has been adjusting and repairing guitars for more than three decades.

keep your guitar in tune
“For a quick check to see how much intonation adjustment is needed,” says Stevens, “I like to use one of the guitar tuners that has a needle to register intonation and an LED that goes to green when the string is in tune. First, tune an open string so it’s in tune using the tuner, then go on up to the 12th fret and press down and play the octave of the open string. If it’s a bit flat, you can shorten the string length by moving the saddle toward the fretboard using the adjustment screw [on an electric guitar]. If the octave registers as sharp, then you’ll lengthen the string by using the adjusting screw to move the saddle in the opposite direction, away from the fretboard.

adjusting guitar intonation
“Use the tuner to get the octave in tune with the open string. Carefully adjusting the saddle pieces in this way can help clear up some of the most typical intonation problems on your electric guitar. If you have an acoustic guitar, you won’t have individual saddle adjustments, however most manufacturers are shipping new acoustics with compensating saddles which help improve intonation.

“Weather can have a lot to do with how your guitar plays,” Stevens continues. “Try to avoid extreme temperatures when your guitar is in its case. Particularly leaving your guitar in a car in summer, as it can get incredibly hot. In winter, don’t leave your guitar out in the garage or anywhere there will be extreme temperature or humidity swings. Although it sounds pretty basic, get a decent case to protect your instrument, too. Nearly every guitar sold used to come with a case of some sort, but today, many guitars don’t include a case to protect your investment. So I encourage everyone getting a guitar to at least get a soft bag. Also, don’t lay down your guitar when storing it, it’s better to keep it upright in the case, like you would store a vinyl record album.

“Mandolins and ukuleles are less likely to have intonation problems due to their smaller scale. Bass guitars, however, may need regular attention since the amount of tension on the neck is way more than a typical electric guitar.”

Truss rod adjustments

Most modern guitars include a metal rod that helps stabilize the neck and reduce or eliminate neck bowing that plagued older guitars without truss rods. According to Stevens, “Summer is a time when you may typically need a truss rod adjustment due to the heat causing a bit of neck bowing. It’s mostly the case with newer guitars where the wood is not quite cured. Then in winter, the neck may bow a bit in the other direction and you may need a little relief, moving the truss rod in the opposite direction than you did in the summer. Many older guitars won’t require regular truss rod adjustments so long as they don’t experience any extreme conditions, since the wood is settled.”

Your instrument may also require a truss rod adjustment if change to a different gauge of string and end up with action that is too high to play comfortably. Or if you want to use a lowered tuning which results in annoying fret buzz.

“Most new guitars need a truss rod adjustment once you start playing them,” Stevens adds. “Although the guitar was probably set up to play properly at the factory, it’s usually been in storage for a few months time, so it will need a tweak. We offer a free set up and adjustment on every guitar we sell here. I suggest the customer take the guitar home and play it for a week or so, then come back in and tell me how they want it set up. No matter where you are buying a guitar, you should ask that the store go over the intonation and set up for you, ideally at purchase or within the first week after.”

Check your neck’s relief

Unlike adjusting the saddle pieces on your electric guitar, which can only affect string length, truss rod adjustment can have a major impact on your guitar’s playability. I always have an experienced guitar tech make any truss rod adjustments on my guitars. But I can check to see if I need an adjustment using two simple aids, a capo and a thickness or “feeler” gauge to measure the amount of neck relief.

checking guitar intonation
Start by placing a capo at the first fret on your guitar neck. Then with your feeler gauge within reach, hold down the string where the neck joins the body. Insert the feeler gauge between the string and the fret at the eighth fret. On a typical electric guitar, there should be between .3 mm and .5 mm clearance. This clearance is referred to as “neck relief.” Too much neck relief can cause the neck to have higher action in the middle of the neck resulting in poor intonation (fretted notes will be sharp) and just being hard to play. Not enough neck relief can cause fret buzzing.

Conrad also states there is no one measurement for how much relief should be used. “Just like anything else in adjusting guitars, neck relief is a player’s preference. It depends on the style of the instrument and the player.” Should you want to go ahead and dive into making your own truss rod adjustments, Shaun shares detailed instructions on electric guitar truss rod adjustments.

Closing thoughts

As a guitarist myself, I’ve played and owned many guitars over the years and I’m happy to say the guitars we have at home now all have very good intonation and are quite stable. Others that I’ve owned over the years were more temperamental, or fluctuated greatly with changes in weather, requiring seasonal adjustments. And while I’m comfortable checking my neck’s relief or adjusting intonation via the saddle pieces, I get a pro to do my truss rod tweaks, when needed. Hopefully, this article has helped you learn a little more about guitar tuning and intonation and you’ll have a better idea of what it takes to make your guitar more playable and in tune, especially if you’ll be using it for recording.

Story Links

Equal temperament (Wikipedia)
Explains the equal temperament system of tuning in a musical instrument.

Guitar Tuning Nightmares Explained (Jack Endino)
A fascinating three-part article on the realities of working to get guitars in tune in the recording studio by Seattle-based engineer/producer Jack Endino.

Tuning the Guitar (Paul Guy)
Delve deeper into the science of how the tempered scale evolved in a fascinating article by Swedish guitar guru Paul Guy.

Keith Hatschek is a regular contributor to Disc Makers Echoes blog and directs the Music Management Program at University of the Pacific. He’s also written two music industry books, How to Get a Job in the Music Industry and The Golden Moment: Recording Secrets from the Pros.

Read more: Guitar intonation: how to keep your guitar in tune – Disc Makers

Details, Details: Setting Up Snake Channel 24 | ProSound News

Dave Rat lists the (many) factors accounted for in setting up the lead vocal mic for a top artist/client…

Check it out:

1) The mic. Anthony has been using Audix OM7 dynamic mics for over 20 years now. The OM7 exhibits high feedback stability and picks up very little room sound compared to other mics. This allows me to capture an “up close and personal” vocal sound, and if I need more air or space, it’s easy to add with a vocal reverb. Also, these mics are very durable, and the spring steel grills don’t dent when dropped.

Conversely, the OM7 pick-up pattern falls off in volume very quickly if you’re not lips to grill on the mic. Also, it tends to be more susceptible to moisture than other microphones. Since Anthony sings close to the mic and we switch to a fresh mic at mid-show and again before encore, those drawbacks are not an issue in this application.

2) The mic stand is integral to the performance so it must be exact. We use the Atlas MS12 – a straight stand, no boom. The “12” stands for 12 pounds, and that is the weight he’s used to swinging around. These stands have a slightly larger diameter tube than the Euro manufactured metric stands and are less likely to bend. The metal clutch is more durable than the plastic clutches, and the larger diameter cast metal base makes it less likely to tip over as well.

3) The cable must be extremely durable. We use Belden 8412 or equivalent with real rubber jacketing (not plastic), braid shield, multiple fiber wraps and preferably a twine filler. It must have minimal stretch, withstand abuse and be resistant to tangling.

 4) The clip. We use a Shure SM58 clip because the Audix clip is too rubbery. It’s the older version clip that is not flared up top. It requires the mic to be slid – not popped – into place, and the mic won’t jump out when the stand is swung or bounced. Also, we heat up new clips with a lighter and bend them open so they get the proper grip on the mic – not too tight or loose.

5) Taping the cable. The mic cable is taped to the mic to prevent it from being accidentally unplugged. This is done with a single non-overlapping layer of black gaff tape. It’s critical that the mic (and tape) slide out of the clip not too easily but also not jamming either.

6) Taping the stand. A ring of gaff tape is wrapped around the inner pole to prevent the stand from getting shorter should he bang it on the ground in a downward direction. Each stand is measured to be exactly 55.75 inches in height, base to thread ring. There are always at least two spare built-and-measured stands as backups. We go through dozens over the course of a tour.

7) Boring out the clip. The stock old-school Shure clip has a sharp-ish edge that prevents the taped mic from sliding out smoothly. To solve this, the rear sharp of each mic clip is beveled and rounded out with a Leatherman tool or any sharp knife and checked for “slide.”

8) Clip rotation tension. The clip needs to hold the mic firmly at an angle and not loosen easily. Cheaper imitation clips do not have the tension washer stacks inside and will come loose when repeatedly rotated.

9) Cable length. The mic cable is 50 feet long and plugged into a stagebox located center stage.

10) Spare mic. An identical spare taped vocal mic is coiled at center stage. The main mic, spare, and a wireless mic all are plugged into a three-way SoundTools switcher located at the monitor position. This allows Anthony to grab any of the three mics and have it instantly switched in line to both monitors and house.

There you have it – now you know how we prep snake channel 24!

Dave Rat ( heads up Rat Sound Systems Inc., based in Southern California, and has also been a mix engineer for more than 25 years.