Here we are Saturday a week ago playing the Gordonsville Street Festival. We've done this event for a number of years now. It's put on by all volunteers to support the volunteer fire department of the town. I always feel we're giving a tip of the hat to Benjamin Franklin by helping continue an institution he thought up.
One of the most fun things about this event is the number of small children who come by and are absolutely fascinated by seeing real musicians playing real instruments. The look of wonder in their faces is terrific.
Over the years I've used this event to test out various ways of doing sound reinforcement. This year we had the best sound ever due to some new equipment and better ideas on how to use it.
The new equipment is the Mackie mixer on the little table in front of me - and the Rockit speakers just barely in the frame on the far right. The mixer has plenty of inputs with phantom power for condenser microphones which I use for the tuba, clarinet, my vocals and Dick's announcements between songs and his vocals. For my banjo, which has a very directional sound, there's a small dynamic mic on my music stand right at banjo height.
This mixer has onboard compression and reverb for each channel - and just a touch of compression really helps the clarinet and vocals by making the softs louder and the louds softer. And a touch of reverb on everything makes for a warmer sound outdoors.
The real difference, though, was the speakers. They're meant for mastering audio in studios, not for outdoor work, but I was careful with them and their sound makes it very much worth it. Compared to the Peavey keyboard speakers I've used in the past, their sound is much warmer and more full. The visual analogy would be going to a much higher resolution computer screen and seeing so much more detail while it's even easier on the eye.
I had the speakers on a little cart, angled so that they worked half as monitors for the players and half as sound reinforcement for the audience. When I wanted to have them be a bit more monitors for us, all I had to do was change the angle by moving the cart a little bit.
One of the speakers is a subwoofer and it really helped the tuba have a fuller sound down in the low range.
Overall, there's lots of room for improvement in doing the audio, but this setup gets us well into the ballpark of good sound.