Trueman “Monty” Montfort – FOH engineer for Kenny G

I was recently asked to advance the production details for an upcoming Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra pops concert series with Kenny G.

The FOH engineer’s name seemed familiar when I saw it. Trueman “Monty” Montfort has been mixing Kenny for over 20 years and it turns out that Monty and I spent Sept 01, 2001 together during a Michael Bolton show with the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra.

Monty had mentioned needing time to “tune” the PA and I was looking forward to watching a veteran sound engineer work his magic. When the time came instead of a laptop running FFT software and a measurement mic he used his voice and a house Shure SM58.

I admit I was a bit disappointed. I had this idea that I would get some Smaart training and learn a few things. (SPOILER ALERT, I did…)

So I went about my other duties and upon my next trip to FOH, I left my phone recording audio as I headed back to the stage. What Monty was doing with his voice and an SM58 was interesting. I could tell that in spite of not using a “measurement rig” he was on to something. He methodically went through the system zone by zone adjusting output EQ on the rented Yamaha PM5DRH (his console of choice). I was busy assigning DCA’s on the house Soundcraft Vi6 (covering all the orchestra mics) with my back to Monty. He began to work on the subs and without looking I would swear he was triggering a kick drum sample.

I turned around to see him banged his FOH TB SM58 windscreen down on the padded console rest.

Monty spent 30+ minutes “tuning” the PA and tune the PA he did. A few notes before I forget them.

HELPINSTILL PIANO PICKUP

The Helpinstill piano pickup system Monty brought is a great device. In case you don’t already know about it, it works like a huge guitar pickup that picks up the piano string motion so there is no chance for feedback and there is no bleed. The resulting sound is not quite “classical” in nature and given the choice I don’t think anyone would prefer a Helpinstill over a good set of mics with an open lid piano but if the lid is going to be closed, the Helpinstill has my vote. The sound is clear as a bell and free of the typical muddiness that comes with a closed lid piano with mics in side.

Next,

STRING MICS

NOTE TO SELF: “Overhead mics for string (violin / viola/ cello / upright bass) amplification when in a shell with a band and stage monitors are worthless”. Based on what was available for rent locally, we used 24 Countryman Isomax 2 cardioid mics on strings.

(6) violin 1
(6) violin 2
(6) viola
(4) cello
(2) bass

Since there were more string players (10,8,7,6,4) than we had mics I put up some Earthworks P30 cardioids. I figured this would be a perfect time to compare the difference between close mics and overhead mics without any risk since Monty had no interest in using the overheads. So they stayed muted but I listened to them in headphones from time to time. Absolutely worthless in this situation.

If DPA 4099V,C,B had been available for rent we would of used those but they weren’t.

Unless someone knows something that we don’t the mount option suggested by Countryman for mounting an Isomax 2 on strings is not a very good solution. We rented of the DPA 4061 (omni) rubber bridges and those proved to be a poor solution too. The cable thickness on the Isomax 2 is just too big to fit the notch on the rubber bridge and consequently the mic has a tendency to fall out or rotate around. More than once I had mics that were aimed away from the instrument. We had to reset the mics in the rubber bridges at intermission and before the shows. Prone to failure…

This is where the DPA 4099V (violin), 4099C (cello), 4099B (upright bass) shine. The same mic but custom made mounting options for each instrument.

DPA 4099 microphones

Good stuff. Certainly the best string mic options I know of if you’re going to be in a less than ideal environment. Monty and I agreed that next time, we’ll plan for them.

Moving on or backwards, how on earth do you tune a PA with your mouth and an SM58. No one would agree that an SM58 is a measurement mic and yet Monty used it to tune the PA so I find myself in a conundrum. I’ve got literally thousands invested in software (Specra Foo Complete & Smaart), hardware (mics, a laptop, audio interfaces) and years trying to master the art of FFT measurements and along comes an old road dog who just “wings it”.

Saint Andrew 012015

I was recently contacted by the musical director for a local church requesting that I take a look at the current PA system and suggest how to optimize or make upgrades.

I requested some photos and these are what I was provided with. The labeling was added by the musical director. Very helpful!

St Andrew 3

St Andrew 1

St Andrew 2

St Andrew 4

You may have noticed that they currently have one (1) main speaker! Obviously at some point there was another speaker but some how it was removed and not reinstalled and no one I met knows why.

St Andrew pano FOH

Here is a top view floor plan of the room:

St Andrew top view

The system consists of the single main speaker on the house right, the ceiling speakers and (2) JBL speakers in the rear of house behind the pipe organ facade (one of which is disconnected).

I explained what happens when you have (1) speaker on (1) side of the room. Assuming the one speaker can cover the whole space (doubtful), obviously those sitting furthest away from the one speaker are getting less volume than those sitting closer. Then add to that lop sided system the (10) overhead speakers (all being fed from the same signal) which obviously means they are not delayed. Even worse since they all point straight down at the floor, they excite the floor. The room is not a bad sounding room acoustically but I would guess that when the system is used AS IS, it leaves a lot to be desired. The building was constructed in the 70s. What are the chances that those ceiling speakers are still operating at 100%? Most of the speakers I’ve seen that are that old need some maintenance. Especially if they were ever powered without some sort of high pass (HP) filter to protect them from low end. One of the reasons the church uses both the ceiling speakers and the one main speaker is because the one main speaker can produce some low end.

In case you don’t understand this already, small speakers don’t like low end. Small speakers (in general) have a a small travel range.

When looking at speaker specifications, there is a parameter called “Xmech” which indicates the maximum cone excursion before damage results.

Here is a WIKI article on speaker specs

WIKI article – – Thiele Small speaker parameters

Consequently, very small speakers or speakers designed for only voice or low SPL applications should be high pass filtered or else you risk damaging the speaker / speakers.

On my next trip to St Andrew, I will test the speakers in the system as well as possible. One of the issues with 70v speakers is that there is no easy way to test them separately other than to listen to them as close as possible. In the case of the ceiling speakers in this venue, I will need a tall self standing ladder or a powered lift to reach each speaker. Unless they have been replaced in the recent past, I would bet that they have been allowed to attempt to reproduce excessive low end which would also suggest they have pushed into over excursion at some point.

House of Blues Dallas – “Bricks In The Wall” Pink Floyd tribute 01/16/15

Last night I volunteered to assist my fellow engineer Jay Hogg who mixes the Pink Floyd tribute “Bricks In The Wall” @ House of Blues in Dallas.

The house of blues PA in Dallas and Bricks In The Wall were previously discussed in this post:

Bricks In The Wall – House Of Blues Dallas 091414

Jay had saved the eq and delay settings from last time so we had that point of reference. Jay has been practicing with Smaart 7. Much more than I have of late.

We measured the HR main line array and noticed a large dip from around 2k to 4k (-12db) which wasn’t an issue on the previous show. It seems obvious in hind site but when you’re measuring a line array you need to set the height of the mic ON AXIS of one of the cabinets. If you have your mic located OFF AXIS (vertically), you’ll be measuring the summation of two cabinets which in this case causes a lot of mid range cancellation.

To find the non cancellation zone, I lifted the mic stand up slowly while Jay watched for the frequency response to flatten out. Then I adjusted the mic stand to locate the mic at that newly found height. When you are making EQ decisions you want to do so optimizing the system for the most amount of people.

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