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Guide for Electronic Equipment Diagnosis
By Gavin Wright
4/24/2013 9:39:00 AM  

In need of electronic gear repairs? Read this first.

Is your amp broken? Has your speaker stopped "speaking" to you, or is your keyboard out of commission? You've come to the right place, but before you bring in your broken stuff, let's take a moment to better identify the real problem.

So, what is actually broken here anyway?

With electronic music equipment, there are often several different components working together to deliver the sound to your ear. An electric guitar has a pickup, volume and tone knobs, one or more cables, possibly some effects processors, an amplifier, a speaker and a power supply. A defect anywhere in this chain may prevent any sound from occurring. How can you tell where the problem is?

Divide and conquer. If your amplifier powers up but makes no sound, try using a different sound source (guitar, keyboard, whatever). No improvement? Try different connection cables. Still no sound? If possible, try a different speaker or speaker cabinet with the same amplifier. If none of these solve the problem, it's probably in the amplifier.

You get the idea - methodically replace each part of the signal chain you can to isolate the defective component. Many times, you can identify and fix the problem yourself – but not always. That's why we're here!

Follow these simple troubleshooting techniques to ensure you bring in the right piece of equipment.

Is there no sound coming from your instrument or amplifier?
      Try the "divide and conquer" technique above.

Did your gear emit smoke or sparks, or present any other obviously catastrophic symptom?
      If you fall into this group you'd better bring your gear in right away – something is obviously wrong.

Does your gear turn on?
      If it doesn't power up, check the outlet by plugging something else into it. If the outlet is okay, check to see if there is a user-replaceable fuse. If there is, unplug the unit, remove the fuse, locate a replacement fuse of the same value and swap it out. If the fuse blows again, or if replacement doesn't remedy your problem, bring it in for repair. Please don't try to access anything that requires disassembly. Many electronic components retain potentially lethal voltages even when unplugged.

Has your keyboard or other component begun acting erratically, or stopped remembering its presets and settings?
      Try "reinitializing". Many electronics have a "factory reset" option. Instructions should be outlined in your user manual, and many times consist of holding down a couple of specific buttons when turning the unit on. Be aware that this will generally erase any user-created presets and settings, but it sometimes straightens out the problem. If this doesn't help, it's time to visit our shop.

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Tags: repair, diagnosis
Categories: Pianos, Digital Pianos & Keyboards, Guitars & Folk, Live Sound & DJ, Recording & Software, Live Sound, Recording & Software
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Some Tips on Making Your Band More Popular
By Doug Ducey
5/24/2012 8:40:00 AM  

In the last three decades, the live music scenes all over the country have really taken a hit.  Different types of entertainment like DJ’s and Karaoke now work in the clubs and dance halls that used to book live bands.  Now, more than ever, live bands have to be at the top of their game if they intend to stay busy and make a decent income from their efforts.

That being said, here are some observations I have made over the years.  This is not meant to be a lecture or a “slam” to anyone, just some things I have noticed that I hope to pass on to anyone that reads this. 

  • Turn it down…no one will sit there and have their hearing damaged by a band that is too loud.  You may have all this huge, powerful gear in order to do outdoor shows, but you don’t need to bring it all to a club that barely seats 100 people.  If you see people standing and leaning across a table yelling in each other’s ears to be heard, turn it down.  They’ll stay longer and the venue manager/owner will be happier.
  • Take a little time and get the PA EQ’d properly…make sure the highs are not piercing and the lows are not muddy sounding.  Same rule applies to guitars…make sure they don’t override the PA and drown out the singer.
  • Only play songs that you play and sing well…does this make sense??  It may be the #1 song in the country right now, but if you play it poorly, people will notice.  Maybe there is a really high note that is just completely out of your singer’s range…pass on doing the song.  Maybe there is this fantastic guitar solo that just has to be played exactly like the record to be effective and your guitarist screws it up every time…pass on doing the song.  If there is a cool drum solo, and your drummer keeps dropping his sticks, pass on the song…etc. etc.   No band will ever impress a crowd if they do any songs that are just “so-so.”  They all have to sound good.
  • Play songs that you have the instrumentation for.  If you are a “guitar band” and do not have a synthesizer, you’ll need to avoid tunes that are heavily synth laden.  Once I heard a band cover Van Halen’s “Jump” with only guitars and no synthesizer…it was awful!!  Why would you play something you suck at??
  • Learn some new or different material and mix up the order on the set list.  Regardless of the genre, your regular followers will soon tire of your set list if you play the same songs in the same order every gig.
  • Don’t stay in one place too long.  Unless you are a “House Band” at a venue, if you play many, many gigs at the same place, you run the risk of becoming “stale” there.  After a while, the crowd of regulars will know your set list better than you do.  Move around and gain more fans.  If you are lucky enough to snag a House Band job, keep in mind that you’ll need to constantly working up new and different tunes as often as possible or the concept will not work for any length of time.  Also, the band members can and will get bored playing the same old stuff.
  • Start on time and don’t make band breaks last too long…people will leave. 
  • If you are over 21 and playing the bars, keep alcohol consumption to a minimum.  Drunken bands don’t work much and when they do, they don’t make a lot of money.
  • Keep the set moving!  Play one song after another with a minimum of “dead air”.  If someone has to tune during the set, have a “front man” designated and make sure he is talking to the crowd about…anything!!  Find out what specials the place may be running in the near future and use tuning time to promote the venue…they’ll love you for it!!  Once I had an agent that explained it to me like this…”Let’s say you’re in your car and cruising down the Interstate listening to the radio.  A song ends and you have nothing but silence coming from your speakers…no music…no announcer…nothing.  What happens after, say, 10 seconds?  What happens is that you change stations!  Being on stage works the same way…if you treat your audience to a bunch of dead air and long pauses between songs…they change venues.”  He was so right on this one!  A mediocre band that keeps the show rolling will out draw a band of monster players, but they mess around between songs and have a lot of dead air.
  • Have “hand out” sheets for the venue patrons with your upcoming schedule of shows.

Always do your best to be a crowd pleaser.  Listen to your audience, particularly when they request tunes, and look at adding tunes you get a lot of requests for.  You should always have fun in your band, but remember; it is still a business and needs to be treated like one.

Keep rockin’!!

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Tags: Band Tips, Band Guide, Rock Band Tips, Rock Band Guide, Live Music Tips, Live Music Guide
Categories: Live Sound & DJ, Recording & Software
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Always have your wish list ready!
By Judy Pine
5/2/2012 3:08:00 PM  

It’s the end of a busy week and your principal contacts you to say he/she has found some funds for your program, but needs your wish list by the end of the day--and it’s already 3:00 pm!  While it’s exciting to hear this financial support has come to your program, what IS your wish list and HOW do you have it prioritized? 

I would recommend you have two lists at your fingertips at all times.  The first is an inventory list of the type and condition of instruments and resource materials in your classroom.  Do those 10 pair of maracas (that were in the room before you took this job) need to be replaced and if so, do you really need 10 pair moving forward?  Here’s an example to get you started!

South Elem. Inventory List (May 12, 2012)

Qty. Type of Instrument Condition More Needed? Approximate Cost?
2 Pair of finger cymbals Need new elastic straps No  
15 Pairs of rhythm sticks 10 pairs ok, 5 pairs to replace 5 to 10 pairs $1.50 each
2 10" frame drums New in 2009 10 more would be great $13.50 each x 10=$135.00
2 12" frame drums New in 2010 10 more would be great $16.75 each x 10=$167.50
10 PR maracas 4 pairs broken, 6 more than enough    
1 Soprano glock? Not sure if it's an alto or soprano, missing F#'s 1 new one with all bars $195.00 for an alto
1 Alto Xylophone Bars sound flat, maybe needs new tubing?   $26.00 for 4 yards of cording
1 Conga drum New in 2011    


With the inventory list above, you’re ready to spend that $200.00 from your principal within five minutes, as you know the condition and quantity of your instruments!


Then the 2nd list to have ready to go is your Wish List!  This is the list of all the instruments and materials you wished were in your classroom(s) in order to really give your students the music education experiences they need.  Be sure to find approximate costs so that when time is limited you’re able to put together your wish list in order of preference with reasons why all of these items are important to your student’s education.  Here are a couple of ideas to get you thinking about how additional instruments and materials can help you and your students achieve their goals in your classroom. 

Option #1:

South Elem. Wish List #1 (May 12, 2012)



Type of instrument


Cost each

Extended cost




Soprano glockenspiels




West Music of course!



Alto glockenspiels




West Music of course!



Fiberglass soprano xylophones




West Music of course!



Fiberglass tenor/alto xylophones




West Music of course!



Fiberglass bass xylophone




West Music of course!



Tenor/alto metallophone




West Music of course!





Additional thoughts…

Or maybe call West Music and ask if they will help us with a custom package of the above instrument for even greater savings!

Rationale for this wish list.

In the summer of 2011, I was able to take Level 1 Orff Schulwerk training at ABC University.  The above list of instruments would allow those new skills to be incorporated into every classroom. With an average of 26 students per class period, this assortment of instruments in addition to what is already in the classroom, allows every student the opportunity to play something every week.

Or perhaps you are interested in adding some drumming to your classroom…this is what your wish list might look like:

South Elem. Wish List #2 (May 12, 2012)


Type of instrument


Cost each

Extended cost



10" tunable/tubanos




West Music of course!


12" tunable/tubanos




West Music of course!


14" tunable/tubanos




West Music of course!





Additional thoughts…..

OR, would it be better if I purchase the West set of 12 Remo tunable tubanos and a Ngoma for $2392.35.  Let's go for that one!


Get your lists together now, so you’re always ready when anyone approaches you with some new source of money for your classroom! Remember the knowledgeable staff at West Music is ready and willing to create your ideal classroom any time. Just give us a call or send an email. We look forward to hearing from you!

To create your West Music Wishlist, please visit us online.

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Tags: wish list, classroom wish list, financial support, inventory, new instruments
Categories: Band & Orchestra, Orff, Classroom Furniture & Equipment, Pianos, Digital Pianos & Keyboards, Drums & Percussion, Guitars & Folk, Kids & Movement, Live Sound & DJ, Music, Books & Resources, Recording & Software, Recorders
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Exciting products and a catalog retrospective
By Jordan Wagner
9/9/2011 11:29:00 AM  

West Music's Judy Pine and Melissa Blum walk us through a retrospective of past West Music catalogs, leading up to our brand-new 2011-2012 catalog. The catalog is jam-packed with 186 pages of products to nurture your student's musical education.

In addition, Judy and Melissa share their personal favorites from the catalog! For more information on these products--or to order--go to www.westmusic.com!

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Tags: West Music catalog, new catalog, catalog video blog, retrospective video blog
Categories: Band & Orchestra, Orff, Classroom Furniture & Equipment, Pianos, Digital Pianos & Keyboards, Drums & Percussion, Guitars & Folk, Kids & Movement, Live Sound & DJ, Music, Books & Resources, Recording & Software, Recorders, Music Therapy
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Wireless Microphone Buying Guide
By Doug Ducey
12/7/2010 11:46:00 AM  


Whatever part you play in your musical group, there is a wireless product available to suit your needs. Here are some of the systems you have to choose from.

hand heldHandheld Microphone System

These systems combine a receiver and a microphone with either a built in transmitter, or a separate transmitter that plugs directly in to the mic. Perfect for lead singers because there are no cables to interfere with the singer’s performance and no body pack attached to the singer’s clothing.



Instrument Systems

These are generally used by guitarists and bass players, but are usable with any electric instrument. A small cable connects the instrument to a body pack transmitter and the receiver “receives” the signal generated and feeds it to the amplifier or sound system.


Lavalier Mics w/Body pack Transmitter

These are like the instrument system in that they employ a body pack to transmit to the receiver. A small mic is clipped to the users clothing and connected to the transmitter when being used. Public speakers, worship leaders, stage actors and presenters use these systems.




Headset or Headworn Systems

Fitness instructors, drummers that sing, singing dancers and dance instructors would benefit from a wireless headset system. Again, the headset mic is connected to a body pack transmitter by a small cable. These systems allow increased hand movement as they are mounted by a small boom and held in place by the headset, thus making the microphone constantly in position to be used.



Clip-on Wireless SystemClip On

These are much similar to the lavalier system in concept, but are designed more for use by woodwind and brass players as the clip-on mic is designed to be affixed to a horn. Horn players love these because they are no-longer encumbered by a mic stand and are free to move about if they so choose.

All types of wireless systems have at least one thing in common, they all use batteries. Whenever possible use a good alkaline battery like a Duracel© or Eveready© and keep the batteries fresh. The life of a battery will vary from system to system, so check your owners manual to see what the estimated battery life is for your particular wireless unit.


Wireless systems operate on either VHF or UHF frequency bands. Most VHF systems operate in a band width of 174 to 216MHz. This would be in the same range of television channels 7-13. UHF uses a frequency range from 470 to 805MHz (the range for TV channels 14-69). Higher priced wireless systems are usually a UHF system because they have a higher transmitter range and offer less interference from TV signals. UHF also has more transmitter range than their VHF counterparts because UHF signals move through the atmosphere more easily.

The interference issue is changing. This is due to the FCC assigning parts of the UHF range for public safety communications. The band is becoming more crowded still because the higher end of the UHF spectrum (above 900MHz) is a general purpose range for cordless phones, ham radio and garage door openers. Wireless use in this range is not advised because interference problems are very likely. The VHF band is becoming more crowded because digital TV transmissions have recently been added to this band. Even though the UHF band is more crowded that it used to be, there is still more open space here than on the VHF band, which is why it is still the most preferred band.


A wireless system is only as good as its sound quality. You don’t want a system that “drops out” frequently or is prone to outside interference. You will want a wireless system that has a good “distance range” and ultimately sounds like a wired system. A well designed system with easy to use controls and easy to read displays is a must. If you are a musician that gigs every weekend or a full time player that travels a lot, a durable, ruggedly built system is a must.

Diversity is all about reception and freedom from dropouts. One external sign of diversity is two antennas, although not all dual antenna units are true diversity receivers. Usually, diversity means that two antennas are monitored and the one receiving the strongest signal is selected automatically. Reception is in part a function of position and is influenced by the locations of the transmitter and receiver. Using two antennas, you reduce the chance of dropouts occurring and get a much stronger, clearer signal. In a live performance setting, the fewer dropouts the better. Diversity circuits can be a simple, passive two-antenna system or they can be complex systems using two receivers, systems that add antenna phase switching, and the list goes on and on. You need to decide if you need diversity in the first place. If you need a system that will operate in a stationary location, an open location like a church, you probably would not gain anything by having diversity.

Frequency Agile Systems that have several frequency patterns that you can select are said to be frequency agile. In any location, one frequency may work better than others and be clear of interference from other signals. Having the frequency agile feature also allows more ease in using multiple wireless systems at the same time. If more than one band member is going wireless, you need to have a choice of frequencies. This feature is not so important if only one wireless system is being used. Some frequency agile systems will automatically choose the frequency with the strongest signal and least interference. This is a great feature known as Automatic Frequency Selection and again is especially useful when more than one wireless system is being used.

What Frequency Should I Get? If you are purchasing a wireless system, especially one that is not frequency agile, you will have to select from several frequency options. The frequencies are designated by a combination of a letter and a number. Unfortunately, each manufacturer uses their own system for this and they are not standardized from one manufacturer to another. The letter designates a particular band range for the unit, while the second part, the number, refers to a specific frequency within the range specified by the letter. You will want to choose the letter that works best for your location, and a number that is different from any other systems that will be used alongside of yours. If you have any doubt about which system will work best for you in your location, contact a West Music Associate, and they will be happy to assist you.

What The Heck is Companding and What Does It Mean To Me? You’ll see this term used in system descriptions, and the term is a combination of the terms “compression” and “expanding”. Each manufacturer uses different companding technologies, and some are much more sophisticated and more effective than others.

The signal is compressed by the transmitter, then the receiver expands it again. The process is necessary because microphones and instruments have a grater dynamic range than transmitters are capable of handling. By compressing the signal at it’s front end, and then expanding it again at the receiver end, the dynamic range of the mic or instrument can be better realized. Companding circuitry is also used in noise reduction systems and can give a wireless system a better signal-to-noise ratio and a higher dynamic range. This is greatly dependent on the quality of the circuitry design.

Since systems from different manufacturers, and sometimes even different systems from the same manufacturer will have different methods of companding, always avoid mixing the components from different systems, even if they use the same frequency. Dropouts, interference and other unpredictable results can occur.

Displays: You need to be kept informed of how well your wireless system is working, so you’ll need a display that is easy to read onstage and one that is well lit. It needs to tell you the channel you are using, signal strength, and a low-battery level warning indicator or battery level meter. The battery level meter or warning indicator is usually located on the transmitter, but some of the upper-end systems have these indicators on the receiver.

Front of wireless receiverWireless Receiver


How ‘Bout Those Wireless Monitor Systems? These systems use much the same technology as a wireless microphone system, but it turns it around. The central unit is the transmitter. It takes the monitor signal form the mixing board and sends it to a body pack receiver that uses “ear-buds” that are connected to it. True, you don’t have monitor speakers taking up stage space, the real benefit here is better monitoring. The ear pieces isolate the performer from external sounds and make it easier to hear than with regular stage monitors. Feed back problems are reduced greatly and the monitor mix stays consistent when/if you move around the stage.

Earbud wireless monitor systemWireless Monitor

Again, using a wireless system can make your performances much easier. The “freedom from wires”, the ease of movement around your stage setting, all help to enhance your entire performance. Now, the only question left is how much you need to spend on a system. If you play professionally and travels to various venues, you might want to look at spending more for a more advanced system with more advanced features. If you playing situation is more casual, and you are only using one wireless, a lower priced system likely will serve you well.

As always, do your homework. Analyze carefully what you want the system to do for you and your performance. Research the brands and get all the knowledge you can from manufacturers websites. Do not hesitate to call one of West Music’s associates with any questions you might have.

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Tags: Live Performance, Wireless Performance Equipment, Wireless Sytems, Handheld Microphone Systems, Instrument Systems, Lavalier Mics, Headset Systems, Clip-On Wireless Systems, VHF vs UHF, VHF, UHF, Frequency Agile Systems, Companding, FAQ, Wireless Receivers, Earbud Wireless Receivers
Categories: Live Sound & DJ, Live Sound, Recording & Software
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Microphone Buying Guide
By Doug Ducey
12/7/2010 11:44:00 AM  

It used to be that the price of the mic was a direct reflection of it’s quality. In the past few years, many microphones are available at a much lower price and perform quite well for their intended application. Most of these lower priced mics copy the basic structure of their more expensive counterparts.


Before you can answer this question, you have to decide how you are going to use the mic. Will you use it for live vocal performances like in a band setting? Is it for recording? Will you use it to mic an instrument? Maybe you’d like a multi-purpose mic. Once you decide on the application of the microphone, you can narrow your search considerably.


If you get a basic understanding of the specs and terminology, selecting the right mic will ne an easier task. Take some time and read the following:

Polar Pattern GuidePOLAR PATTERN: The polar pattern is the shape of a mic’s field of sensitivity or the directions from which the mic accepts or ignores incoming sound. An omnidirectional microphone responds to sounds coming from all directions. A bidirectional mic picks up sounds from east and west while excludinf sounds from the north and south. A unidirectional mic hears sounds from one direction and ignores sounds from other directions.

The most common microphones are unidirectional and they come in three polar patterns: cardioid, super cardioid, and hypercardioid. All three are patterns that reject sounds coming from behind the mic or from the sides. The cardioid pattern is roughly a heart shape, which makes the mic more sensitive to sounds coming from straight on or from the sides, but rejects sounds 180 degrees opposite the direction the mic is pointed. Supercardioid microphones accept accepts a little more sound from a 180 degree direction, but rejects more from each side. The hypercardioid allows yet more sound from 180 degrees, but rejects more of the sound coming from 90 or 270 degrees.

Polar patterns for these types of microphones are very important if you use the mic in a noisy setting like a singer’s mic in a band setting. The cardioid, supercardioid and hypercardioid mics will tend to exclude all sounds except the singer’s voice which results in a less “muddied” sound and allows more gain before feedback occurs.

Some condenser microphones are multi pattern and their polar pattern can be changed either by means of a switch or by interchangeable capsules from one pattern to another-from omni to cardioid, for example. Having a mic with this feature makes for a much more versatile microphone, especially in the recording studio.

FREQUENCY RESPONSE: This is the range of frequencies from low to high that a microphone will respond to. These frequencies are stated as a range such as 80hz to 15khz. A good vocal mic would have a frequency response in this range. If you needed a mic for miking snare drums and toms, look for a mic with a range that starts around 50hz. Lower sounds like a kick drum a low end of 30hz to 40hz is desirable.

RESPONSE CURVE: Frequency response only tells you the range a mic can reproduce, but the response curve refers to the shape of it’s frequency responsiveness. Starting at zero on the low end and dropping off at zero on the high end, it takes the form of a curve when applied to a graph. In this curve there will be peaks and dips at certain frequencies that give the microphone a certain character, thus making it more suited for certain applications.

EXAMPLE: A mic intended for vocals may have a spike in it’s upper midrange, thus resulting in a smoother more intelligible sound reproduction.

Frequency Graph

SPL and Sensitivity: How quiet a sound a mic can pick up is referred to as the mic’s sensitivity. Since a microphone’s sensitivity is measured by different systems, for the less experienced user it is probably enough to know that the lower the number, the more sensitive a microphone is. SPL stands for sound pressure level and is expressed in dBs. A mic’s SPL describes the maximum volume of sound that the mic can handle. In a way, this is the opposite of sensitivity. This is of the utmost importance if the mic must deal with loud instruments. Average SPL level is around 100dB and a high SPL is 130dB.

In addition to the specs there are other factors that determine the characteristics of microphones. Manufacturing precision can affect a mic’s performance. As a result of this, some of the lesser expensive microphones aren’t consistent in their sound reproduction. How the mic is built and the kind of metal used also effect a microphone’s performance. Listening to similar microphones is the best way to choose the one best suited to your needs.


Microphones usually fall into one of two categories: Dynamic or Condenser. Dynamic mics do not require a power source, while condenser mics do. Further explanation of this follows, so pay particular attention to this next segment.

DYNAMIC MICROPHONES: Dynamic mic’s usually have a high SPL capacity. They are extremely rugged and have a polar pattern that rejects off-axis sounds. Since they have internal shockmounting, they tend to be used for live sound applications like vocals and instrument miking, but some are also used for recording. (The Shure SM57 has been a staple of both the studio and the stage for a long time.) Dynamic mics are usually affordable, and additionally, many manufacturers have introduced economy series mics that offer great performance at a budget friendly price.

Sm58 sm58 Microphone

Dynamic microphones use an inductive coil connected to a diaphragm that’s placed within the field of a permanent magnet. As the diaphragm moves, it moves the coil, thus varying the voltage the coil produces.

CONDENSER MICROPHONES: A condenser mic will have either an external power supply, use phantom power or have internal batteries. Newer mixers will have phantom power, but if you have an older mixer, check to see if it has phantom power before buying a condenser microphone. If the mixer does not have phantom power, free standing external phantom power units can be purchased to accommodate condenser microphones.

While most condenser mics are used for recording, there are some that are used for live sound applications such as miking pianos and acoustical string instruments. Other applications include overhead miking of choirs and cymbals.

Many condenser microphones have roll-off and attenuation switches used to enhance a certain mic’s versatility. The roll-off switch alters the frequency range, usually on the low end, reducing response or cutting it off below a certain level. This is used in live situations to reduce low-end rumble and to increase an amplifier’s efficiency. Lots of amplifiers don’t produce very low end sounds, but they use up power trying to. Rolling off the bass keeps the PA power amp from having to deal with frequencies that are below it’s capability. In recording, rolling off the bass results in added clarity. Attenuation switches alter a mic’s sensitivity or volume, so that high volume sources won’t overload the microphone.

Large Diaphragm MicLARGE DIAPHRAGM CONDENSER MICS: These mics have diaphragms from three quarters to an inch in diameter. They are very sensitive and require external power and shock mounts. Since they are large and so sensitive, they are unsuited for miking live performances, but are excellent for recording voices and many instruments. These can be very expensive, but recently many manufacturers have been producing more affordable large diaphragm condensers designed like the expensive models and work quite well for nonprofessional recording.

Small Diaphragm Mic

SMALL DIAPHRAGM CONDENSER MICROPHONES: These do especially well in reproducing higher frequency sounds and sound sources that change quickly in volume. They have a diaphragm that is one-half inch or less in diameter and are used in both recording and live performance applications. They require phantom power or a battery to operate. These are well suited for overhead miking of cymbals.

SHOTGUN MICROPHONES: This style of mic has a narrow and extended polar pattern. They are used mainly for broadcasting because they excel at picking up specific sound sources from a distance. Pic of shotgun mic

SUMMARY: Do as much research as you can before purchasing a microphone. Most manufacturer’s web sites are full of information and specs on their products. You’ll be amazed, and maybe a little confused with all the choices available, so take your time when choosing a microphone. For further assistance contact any West Music store and one of our knowledgeable Associates will be glad to assist you.


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Tags: Microphone Guide, Microphone Tips, Microphone, Polar Pattern, Product Guide, Microphone Help, Frequency Response, Responsive Curve, SPL and Sensitivity, Dynamic Microphones, Condenser Microphones, Small Diagram Condenser Microphones, Shotgun Microphones
Categories: Live Sound & DJ, Recording & Software, Live Sound, Recording & Software
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Church Sound Files: The Fallacy Of A “Flat” System
By Jon Baumgartner
8/25/2010 11:36:00 AM  
Flat is great for home stereos, headphones and interstate highways, but sometimes not so much for church sound systems.

On more than one occasion, I’ve been called to a church to inspect the facility for the purpose of designing a new sound system. Upon arrival, I discover that the church has perfectly adequate audio components that have been tuned and balanced perfectly inadequately.

It never fails - when I inform the owner that the system is fine and simply needs to be properly tuned, I get the response that the church has just paid somebody several hundred dollars to tune the system with pink noise and a computer, and thus, it is as close to “flat” as possible.

But these clients have been sold a fallacy: flat is always good, and flat is what you want.

Not so fast, and here’s why. About 40 years ago, home stereo systems began to improve exponentially. The ability of loudspeakers to exactly reproduce what was happening in the studio recording became extremely good, and providers of high-end stereo system equipment began bragging that the loudspeakers had nearly perfectly flat response. They were indicating to the potential buyer that the loudspeakers were going to exactly reproduce what the studio engineer had worked so diligently to create in the recording studio.

Without question, a stereo system with a perfectly flat response over the entire audio spectrum is indeed a wonderful thing to experience. So why is “flat” not the end-all and be-all?

As previously mentioned, the recording and mastering engineers go to great lengths to EQ every single track on a project to sonic perfection. These guys are true professionals at producing breathtaking audio, and they don’t want your home loudspeakers messing with their art. Therefore, a perfectly flat loudspeaker response should in theory reproduce a sonically perfect example of the original work. 

Because many of us enjoy listening to music in the home (and some pursue sonic perfection with great zeal), it has become widely known that flat is good. Flat is desirable. Flat is what we want.

Let’s get back to our church. The technician we speak to about tuning the room tells us that he will use a computer analysis tool to determine which frequencies in the spectrum are deficient, which ones are too prevalent, and which are just right. He’ll reduce the overly prevalent and increase the deficient, until all frequencies in the audio spectrum are represented at the same decibel level. The system response is now flat. Oh good! This Sunday the sound is going to be awesome!!

But Sunday comes along and the sound is very thick, muffled and somewhat dull. Disappointment city. Why?

Because flat usually only sounds good if you’re playing a recording through it. Recall that the studio engineers went to great lengths to sonically shape the sound.

If your church is fortunate enough to have a quality console with lots of sweepable EQ on each channel and an engineer that really knows how to listen and how to mix, each individual channel can be tweaked to sound fabulous (just like they do in the studio).

On the other hand, if your console is closer to entry level and your Sunday mix engineer is a volunteer who is helpful and willing but perhaps lacks adequate experience, then it’s time to rethink the “flat” idea.

I own and use a spectrum analyzer, but the work doesn’t start there. It ends there. 

First I get rid of feedback using the system EQ. Then I get rid of lingering overtones, and then I do some tonal shaping (again, using the system EQ). 

How do I do this? By listening first (see my prior article about EQ). When I’ve got the system sounding as good as possible, I then fire up the Real Time Analyzer (RTA) to see what it looks like. I may find a part of the spectrum that is lower than it should be and will tweak it up a bit. Almost always, with very few exceptions, the midrange has to be reduced in relation to the lows and highs because the human ear hears mids more readily, and we need to compensate for that.

Take a listen to a quality recording of a singer you like. Notice how crisp and breathy - yet rich and full - that singer sounds.  It doesn’t take a lot of listening to realize that the magical voice you have grown to love has been carefully EQ’d. We have to do the same thing with our sound systems in order to achieve that musical quality, both in speaking and in singing (and of course in all the other sound sources one can find in a church).

Technicians who tune systems by listening sometimes get a bad rap in the the pro audio industry. Computers and analysis programs are wonderful tools that help us in the field to achieve better results. There is, however, no computer that will tell you that if the sound is nasal you should reduce 1 kHz just a bit, or that if the sound is too boomy you should get rid of some level at 100 Hz.

If a technician tells you they tune by ear, ask for some references. You may be very pleasantly surprised. The system will be tuned nowhere near flat, but hopefully it will be crisp and articulate without being piercing, as well as rich, warm and full without being muddy or boomy.

Flat is great for home stereos, headphones and interstate highways. In our church sound systems, sometimes it’s better with some valleys and hills.

Originally published at ProSoundWeb

Jon Baumgartner is a veteran system designer for Sound Solutions in Eastern Iowa, a pro audio engineering/contracting division of West Music Company. Feel free to e-mail him with your questions at jbaumgartner@westmusic.com.

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Tags: church sound systems, flat tuning
Categories: Live Sound & DJ, Live Sound, Recording & Software
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Need a PA That Can Do It All?
By Mark Nicolay
7/7/2010 5:33:00 PM  

I am going to write about an outdoor event held last Saturday which featured Peavey sound reinforcement equipment.

We had five bands under a large tent and medium stage. The weather fought us from Friday night till Saturday afternoon when the first band took stage and the rain stopped for the rest of the event!

We used entirely Peavey equipment on loan from West Music. Two Sp2 main cabinets, one Peavey 2x18 sub, two SP5 for monitor, and three power amps and one stereo EQ. The board was a 20 channel PV20-USB. Yes, we recorded the entire event to hard drive via USB, but I admit we ended up with a too loud bass drum. That was a condenser mic-the PV20 board has 48v phantom power-on the bass drum, so maybe we had it adjusted wrong, but it was a great LIVE mix. The crowd and the bands had a great time, much credit going to a fine sounding outdoor system. You know how difficult it can be to get a good mix outdoors!

This is my main point here-Peavey equipment is as good as anything you can buy! We had a pro sound quality with products that are rugged, reliable and clean, and of course, costing less than major “professional” brands.

The sound man we used has big time professional experience and he was impressed with what we did. He was only going to help us set up and dial it in, but he enjoyed himself so much, he stayed and mixed sound for all five bands. Despite the systems’ relatively small size for an outdoor event, we rocked the joint! If you are in the market for a PA that can do it all, I encourage you to look again at a fine American company, Peavey Electronics.

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Tags: Peavey, Live Music, Audio Equipment, Amp, Amp & Live Music, Amp and Live Music
Categories: Live Sound & DJ
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