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Martin Frey

I have been actively mixing live audio professionally since 1983. Over the course of my career, I’ve actively pursued and aquired education and experience in loud speaker management/physics by becoming certified in Meyer SIM II (1999), attending SMAART training and Meyer Sound System Optimization courses, as well as training/certification courses offered by many of the major digital console manufacturers. I am also proud to announce that I have recently officially endorsed The EAW KF740 Line Array Main PA Loudspeaker “Red Certification” training program. My experience as a live mix engineer spans mutiple genres of music and multiple touring/venue formats, from bars to symphony halls to stadiums and everything inbetween. I’ve had the great fortune to work with as FOH Mix Engineer and/or Production Manager with some of the following artists: -The Alan Parsons Live project (FOH/PM) -Journey (FOH) -The Celts, Christmas With (FOH/PM) -OneRepublic (FOH/PM) -Big & Rich (FOH/PM) -Tanya Tucker (FOH/PM) -Sarah Evans (FOH) Over the last decade, my role as an audio mixer has also been enhanced to include the responsibility of tour production management both in the continental US and around the world. I’ve also always made a point of attending major industry conventions such as NAMM (winter/summer) and InfoComm (wherever scheduling has allowed) in order to meet the people who design, build and promote the equipment I’m most likely to see and use in the field, in the very near future. I firmly believe that continual education, training, safety and real-world experience are amongst the most important tools in my kit and are key to my success. My goal is to continually learn and grow within this industry and to share my knowledge and experience with the next generation of audio professionals.

Synergy: The Mix Engineer And The System Engineer Relationship

By Martin Frey / April 24, 2015

BY MARTIN FREY

 

As a live FOH mix engineer, I’ve made it my business over the years to learn as much as I could about the basic principles of sound system physics.  This philosophy has given me two great advantages as a mixer:

 

The ability to successfully trouble-shoot and best optimize any PA whenever I find myself under less than ideal circumstances. (This almost never happens!)

 

To better understand how and why both the set-up and adjustments in the PA may directly affect both my FOH mix for the audience and the resulting sound onstage for performers.

 

In my experience, a skilled system engineer can make any festival, one-off show or an entire tour a very happy place for me to mix at the FOH.  (Note: The potential for the exact opposite emotion also exists!)

 

I know from experience that my relationship with the FOH system engineer on any show is crucial to achieving a very important common goal.

That is a great listening experience for the entire audience at every show.

 

Both the PA system and mix engineers each possess a unique skill set.  In combination, they can successfully merge both the art and science of live sound reinforcement.  “Science” being the physics of sound and “art” being the final mix the audience experiences during a show.

 

For both engineers, depth of knowledge—i.e., individual expertise, experience, good communication skills and trust—are all key to achieving this end.

 

In my opinion, “Synergy” is the best way to describe this important relationship.

 

The job of the PA system engineer is to provide me with a “blank canvass” so to speak, so that I can “paint” a sonic picture for the listening audience.

 

A skilled PA system engineer will use his or her knowledge, tools and greater understanding of sound reinforcement physics, including but not limited to:

 

1.   Physics, math, acoustics, safety.

 

2.   A detailed understanding of the specific PA system being utilized, including all related PA specific hardware/software-based tools, etc.

 

3. Proper installation, measurement and alignment techniques to install and optimize the PA system safely and correctly in each venue.

 

4. Really cool tricks like how to create a “precedence” effect, “Haas” effect, how to beam steer subs, arc-delay subs, create an end-fire or cardioid sub pattern, etc.

 

Each of these cool tricks requires combined elements of precise measurement, time/delay and/or polarity/phase manipulation.  It also requires the correct interpretation and implementation of hard data i.e., math and physics.

 

These are just some of the skills required to deliver a predictable, repeatable uniform response throughout the audience listening area (and performance area) every day, in every venue.

 

My system engineer enables me to present my final mix evenly throughout the entire audience listening area with minimal affect upon the artist/performers.

 

That’s why my system engineer is most definitely my best friend on the job!

 

Having said that, it’s also my responsibility to clearly communicate to my system engineer my own specific needs and/or tastes as to the expected response and performance of the PA system. (Aside from any specific audio tech rider)

 

Why?

 

Because these needs can and do vary greatly!  They may depend upon the style of music or type of presentation that I’m mixing.  They may depend upon specific needs or demands directly relevant to my client and/or artist.  They may depend upon the needs of a particular audience, venue size, special event or promoter.  They may also depend upon locally imposed and enforced volume (SPL) restrictions (becoming more and more commonplace today).  And last but not least, the final budget for PA may to some degree become a deciding factor as well.

 

However, once we have arrived at a mutually acceptable (happy) place sonically, it’s time for me to mix a show.  There is still potentially work yet to be done by my system engineer.

 

I must now rely upon him or her to quickly make any adjustments or changes to the various elements of the PA (as they become necessary) during a performance. This is to ensure consistency for the listening audience throughout the show.

 

Why?

 

Because our listening environment may change dramatically between sound check and show time.  Also during the show itself, for that matter! The audience, once fully seated inside the venue (the difference between an empty and a full house) or a sudden turn in the weather (moisture/humidity and wind) are just a few examples of how the PA may react differently from earlier in the day.

 

I’m now behind the console mixing the show and I can’t leave this position once the show starts. My attention is directed solely towards the mix and the artist/performers in front of me.

 

A very good system engineer will constantly monitor, take all of the aforementioned elements into account and make any necessary adjustments.

 

My system engineer is both my eyes and ears outside of the mix position once the show begins.

 

Trust becomes an essential part of this relationship for obvious reasons.

 

In my opinion, these are all key elements in providing our ticket-buying patrons with a consistently high quality, memorable listening experience.

 

Synergy is what happens when my system engineer and I are on the same page at all times. Real “synergy” can only happen when we come together as a team.

Our combined instincts, abilities and passion for excellence can only result in us truly becoming a part of the audience’s entire listening experience. That’s positive synergy!

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It’s December Again

By Martin Frey / April 14, 2015

It’s that time of year when many of us find ourselves winding down for the season.

Festivals are all but finished.  Many touring bands have already unloaded their busses, trailers and trucks, etc. and put everything into storage (with care) until whenever “next year” is going start.

 

If you’re lucky enough to have a full time gig, be on salary or retainer with an act or artist, or even still out on tour for that matter, you’re probably in pretty decent shape for the winter.   It’s a perfect opportunity to spend some much-needed time with the family and/or loved-ones, perhaps brush-up on your golf game or take a nice vacation. (What is that word, vacation???)

 

If you’re like me however, you’re a freelancer and/or completely self-employed. This in no way means that you’ll be getting home on or around Dec. 20th every year with a pocket full of per diem and crap-piles of money in the bank either, right?

 

It does however, present a unique opportunity to play catch-up on some of those pesky little business related chores that somehow seem to go unfinished during the busy season.

 

This includes all of the stuff that you simply didn’t have time to get to ‘cause you were too busy “gettin’ to your next gig”.

 

Some of those pesky little business related chores are pretty darn important too!

 

Here are a few good ones that come to mind, now that it’s December again.

 

 

For Example:

 

Your Resume:  When was the last time you updated that?

Believe it or not, having an updated resume could potentially mean the difference between you landing that “Sweet Gig” next year (or next week or tomorrow) or not.

Oddly enough and as boring as it sounds, updating your resume will also provide you with the benefit of looking back over the past year and seeing exactly what you’ve accomplished professionally.  Yah, I did that show and worked that tour and that festival, etc.  Satisfaction guaranteed.  Done.

 

Shrek relaxing before the big show

 

Your Tech Rider:  The more things change, the more things stay the same.

 

“Yah, we decided to move this over there and we needed to add 18 channels of this for that.  Now we have to have this or that console and everything is blue now, not red.”

 

Keeping all of your tech requirements up to date is crucial and this can be a real challenge to keep current!  You know how badly it sucks when someone ends up getting old and/or incorrect info.  Old and/or incorrect info is gonna cause headaches for somebody, most probably you, if you don’t fix it yourself.

 

Yes, it’s probably gonna change again next year but now you’re all over it like whiskey on a hobo.  Makes you look really pro.  Make sure your updated info gets to the all of the right people up the food chain too, especially if you’re not directly involved in the show advance process.  Done.

 

Your Contacts:  Here’s great opportunity to catch up with all of the new friends and business contacts you made this past year!  Drop 20 bucks on Christmas Cards and stamps (or Holiday Greeting E-Cards, if you feel the need to be politically correct).  Hey, it could be a potential tax-deductible business expense, right?  Either way, it’s a very nice personal touch.  Take a moment to say thanks again for the gig, thanks for a job well done, thanks for that loaner that saved the gig, great to meet you, hope to see you again next year, etc.  Let folks know that you care not only about them, but about your work as well.  Cards not your thing?  Take the time to make the call or send a simple email instead.  A little good will can go a long way!  Done.

 

Advertise And Connect, AKA: Networking:  This is America!  Embrace shameless self-promotion!  If no one knows you’re looking for a gig, no one can hire you.  It’s really that simple.  Armed with your updated, slick new resume, hit and join the industry websites.  All of them.  Start your own page(s) and promote yourself.  Most sites have job links with industry positions listed for virtually all levels of experience.  Join in on discussions related to your area of expertise.  Got a question that’s mystified you forever?  Need some clarification or peer/pro advice?  Start your own discussion and ask!  Somebody’s got an answer to your question and/or some real-world advice to offer. Look, nobody knows everything but everybody knows something.  Join a group or start your own group.  This is an awesome way to meet new folks and network, not to mention finding your friends and colleagues that you didn’t even know were on this or that site.  Web-based Media is the future and the future is here.  Done.

 

Tax Prep Time:  It comes every year. Guaranteed. Granted, a necessary evil at best, a huge pain in the butt at worst.  Well both, really.  However, if you suddenly land that “Sweet Gig” (that you got because of that slick, up to date resume that you just sent in) that’s rehearsing for the entire month of January and leaving immediately thereafter to travel around the entire known universe for the next 2 years, you’re probably gonna end up having to file for an extension.  Unless of course, you set aside a day to organize your receipts, pay stubs and related tax paperwork in advance.  If you’re not already wealthy beyond belief, or a small-to-substantial business owner, then most folks like us can get this horribly mundane task done inside of a day.  Honestly.  Yes, that day will suck (a lot), but just think of how easy it’ll be to file when the time comes.  Even better, you’ll be getting that tax refund check long before everyone else even has the chance to file for an extension!  Done.

 

Speaking of done, the Mayan Calendar ends this month, doesn’t it?

 

Time to get busy for next year!

 

It’s December again.

 

Have a Very Merry Christmas and a ton of great gigs next year!

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