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Mixing Live Sound

Lesson 7 of 17

Patching, Snakes and IO


Mixing Live Sound

Lesson 7 of 17

Patching, Snakes and IO


Lesson Info

Patching, Snakes and IO

We're gonna talk about patching and snakes and sort of the general concept of io so really quick here there's sort of two different things they're digital snakes and analog snakes digital snakes are relatively new thing that has sped things up pretty drastically made things a lot easier to manage as faras sending multiple channels of signal audio to multiple consoles so we'll talk a little about digital snakes we'll show how to set up a festival patch on an analog transformer isolated split snake learned how to use substance makes on and then also go through cem general practice things on how to sort of troubleshoot bad signal so to get things kicked off we're just going to show you quick video this was at capitol block party of us actually patching it and setting up the main festival patch from sub snakes on stage and then splitting it to both front house and monitor counsel so here we go we'll probably need a left over the tables here wait so what you guys can see right here is we ha...

ve the digital snake and it is being fed from the stage now patching it out to front of house once we get everything patched out there, then we're actually going to go back to the stage and show how this is all set up yeah, here we'll take the whole sneak out wait just wait here, okay so that basically shows you just sort of like running the snake out to front of house this's sort of our stage patching scheme. This is sort of how everything get set up, and there is a video where we go through and actually talk about how this is plugged in. We're going to find that in just a second if you look at sort of the stage here, we've got on stage, we have sub snakes that will run channels one through eight, nine, three, sixteen, seventeen through twenty four twenty five to thirty two, thirty three, three, forty and forty one through forty eight all those sub snakes get fed back to our main snake box on stage, and that snake box actually then gets patched underneath the stage to our digital snake head on that snakehead goes with ethernet all the way back to our front of house counsel, and then the secondary split off of this goes to our monitor, consul eso it's important understand when you're thinking about the patch list and you actually start sort of like building out this patch you want to sort of figure out, make sure that you're keeping track of not only what channel you're plugging into on the main snake, but also what channel that corresponds to on the sub's nick. So here's, some examples you might have, for example, kick, kick drum might be on subsonic a one which means it's going to be back here. So it's going to show up on channel one on the actuals snake, and then on the digital snakehead, which front of house it'll show up his channel one there, same with snare sub snake to channel two will show his channel too. But when you get up to, like guitar let's, say you're on sub snake f one, which might be over here on this side of the stage. Subsonic f one will actually show up his channel forty one, which then I will. Pats are hard patches. Channel forty one on the console. The vocal might be subsonic. See one s o b, right here on this channel and sub snake. See one will be channel seventeen. You know, maybe keyes is e one, which shows it was thirty three so it can get kind of confusing and tricky when you start using sub snakes and it's really important to remember and keep in mind what each channel it is actually being patched, too. So let's, go ahead and look at what that patch list looks like. So this is what we used for capital block party when we patched everything in way, have forty eight channels and this is what's called this festival patch on before I kind of walked through the festival patch here I want to sort of explain that there's kind of a difference between uh soft patching and hard patching eso when you're plugging a microphone into the snake physically actually plugging in and that's called a hard patch, so originally when we're setting up the stage, I'll have all the microphones on stage will patch those into a sub snake or directly into the snake and that's called a hard patch if I move it from like channel to over to channel four that's called you know I'm moving the hard patch from channel to channel four typically, once we get the hard patch set up, we never want to change it unless there's some very specific reason on stage uh, that we want to actually show, you know we want to actually move the channel over teo to a different channel like maybe the guitar on this side of the stage action needs to be in this side of the stage so we need a hard patch something or another example, maybe sometimes there are some bands that show up with all of their line's actually patched into their own snake head and then they just hand you a fan out of excel ours and say patch in all of our mike's here they have all their own mikes and everything. So that might be an example where you change the hard patch in the middle of the show or in the middle of the set up. Um, so, um, that can happen, but once we actually get all the hard patch set up, we typically want to keep it the same. And from that point on on lee do soft patching and soft patching is where you actually with a digital snake. You actually go into the settings of the patch bay of the digital console, and you rearrange the inputs based on where you want to patch things up in the council itself and that's going to soft patch. So if you look here really quickly, we're just gonna go to the snap of the patch bay, the venue software on dh you'll see that you have across the top channels. Uh, one through forty eight, those air, all of the mic priest that are actually on the back of the forty eight and then across the bottom on the left side. Here you have all of the channels on the console. So once I set up the hard patch, I'm gonna strike this all the way across, and basically, this means that channels one through forty eight are now soft patch. Two channels one through forty on the console and that's called just a one for one patch. It means that channel one's going to channel one, channel two to channel two all the way across. If I want to change that. Like let's say the guitar is actually plugged into channel six. It's hard patched into channel six. But I want to soft patch that to channel nine. Then I'm gonna change that assignment. And that movement that I just made. Now channel six is actually showing up his channel nine so that's a change in the soft patch so soft patching is doing it in the console. Hard patching is in isan is on the actual stage so we're actually gonna go and set up this entire festival patch on the console when we get ready. But really quick, we're going to show you how we did that on capitol hill block party and the difference between, uh, hard patch in the soft patch. We're here in front of house. Now we're gonna pass the snake on this, uh, console side in front of house for stage one. We're gonna use stage one and one b stage to a stage to be power we're gonna run from stage you converted to edison here is really important to you that this is the main power for our whole consul so what? I'm going to grab some gaff tape and make sure you tighten the wrap it around and keep this up away from anything so nobody can action it, yank it and pull power during the show from from the house. And so again, the power is actually coming from backstage. We're patching it in through nl to, which runs along the snake and then converting it to a standard edison outlet. We can plug our power strip into wait slowly pulled aside and hopefully won't be yanked out accidentally during the show. So we're here the under the stage, we've got the stage box, all of the channels on stage you're gonna run into this digital snake on, we're goingto ethernet back to front of house, so we're patch in first channel stage one, eh? Wait second is going to be staged to a and to be which will run down here. Wait, I'm going to keep power out for where we're going to grab power from the district box, which is down there on the field kits that the lines up next so all of the inputs come into the transformer isolated split here channels one through fifty four, and then we have three splits at the bottom that eats gets spread out to each of the different consoles the first one is the main split which runs under the stage to a stage box. Ah, digital snakehead that goes back to front of house, then we have the second split that goes to the monitor consul here, so that split feeds off of that ram latch right into the forty eight pre amps right here on his forty eight uh, the third split is often used for recording eso sometimes we'll keep that set up in case there's a recording console that they want us to have a separate feed just for recording or sometimes for broadcast. We're not doing either of those things today, so we're just using the first two splits cool. So in addition to all the inputs going straight into the stage box, that's if we were to run a microphone from one side of the stage and run the cable all the way to the actual stage box that's what's known as a home run because you're actually running all the way back to the stage box to save cable length and to not have a bunch of cables running back and forth, we often use what are called sub snakes. Um, and sub snakes are basically a small box of eight channels that then we run back to specific implants there's a couple different ways to run sub snakes, we can run sub snakes off of any of these groups down here um, and those groups have channels one through twelve thirteen through twenty four, etcetera, that you can then just drop those different parts in the stage. And then, if you want a microphone just to plug into channel thirteen, it might be stage box to number one but shows up as thirteen on the actual snake just saves and running a bunch of cables all over the place and states headaches. The key thing to remember, too, is all snake boxes are different depending on how they work with the sub snake or the actual input on the snake box. Sometimes, if you were to plug into channel three on the snake box than the input on the sub snake gets cancelled out it it mutes it. Sometimes it it reverts to the sub snakes. So you need to know which one for us to keep things simple. We just use all of the sub snakes on the inputs, and we actually fan out the sub snakes across every individual channel, and we're not using any of the the subsonic many snakes cool, so we're here under the stage. This is the digital snakehead. All of the pre amps are actually right here, and then, um, we convert everything to digital and ethernet comes out here and runs back to front of house of the consul so everything from the main split from the analog snake comes in here one through forty eight on, then runs back to front of house. We also have all of the outputs underneath here, so left, right and subs come out of the bottom here and then patch into the speaker controller. Cool. So we've got the galileo speaker control here. This is what controls everything about subwoofers and the mains were very, very fine tune adjustments. Everything in this box is actually controlled via ethernet from my laptop back in front house. So once I get this set up, I really never come down here and touch it again because I could control everything about it from my laptop. But we have to hard patch it up first. So the mains right here, left and right and subs come out from the digital snakehead from from the front of house consul get patched into the back of the galileo. So we're running actually, three input zones we have left, right and subs, which we can control from the console, and then our output zones are a little more complicated. We have left right subs and then a center, uh, fill that we're putting on the side of the stage because they're not really covered by the main speaker throw, um we also have stereo feed that comes out of this just in case we need a separate stereo mics on stage for anything if there's somebody that needs a broadcast mix or somebody wants to record a fee, that's also set up there with a pair of xlr outs in case that needs to come up during the show. Okay, so that's basically the setup that we just sort of walk through just to sort of go back and look again just to cover everything you can sort of see. Oops, sorry again, you've got the sub snakes around the side of the stage, our main snake box, which creates the analog splits, there's the digital snakehead, which goes out to front of house, and then the pre empts on the actual monitor console are built on just like this s e forty eight this afternoon, we're going to see a little different set up there's a lot of different companies that are making some really cool ideas on how to set up stage patches and splits like this. We're going to see an interview with adam jackson who's, the front of house engineer for christina perri, and he mixes on minus pro nine consoles and the pro nines allow you to patch um, they basically combined the digital snakehead with the analog split. So they have one input on the actual digital snakehead and three pre amps for every single channel he'll go through and walk through how that looks, but it's actually really cool set up. So this is not the only way to do things. This is the way that we've done it. If you have analog consuls, then you wouldn't use the digital snakehead it all. You'd actually run the snake line all the way back to front of house on go all the way to the monitor consulate just used the analog split. And then, of course, if you weren't using a monitor consulate, all you would just run the snake head all the way back to your front of house counsel and mix both monitors and from the house from the same board. Um, okay, so let's, look at our festival patch. Now, the idea behind a festival patch like I was explaining is that you want to set up a you want a hard patch on input list that is any possible combination of instruments or mike's thatyou might need for the entire festival. This works really, really well, especially if you're working in a club where you have, like, four, five bands on the same bill on the same night. It's good to have sort of a standard festival patch set up so that you can quickly and efficiently with your stage crew, make sure that you're setting up on patching everything exactly where you want it on dh if you have a digital console, then once you get the hard patch set up, you can create the soft patch in front of house on, go through and make sure that you're only looking at the channels you're actually using, eh? So we would not. We're not using most of these channels for everyone show this is any possible combination that we might need on def. You see there's a lot of duplicates, like, for example, we have four guitar mikes, and if you look, we have two guitar d ies and six keys. We have those set aside on the on the festival patch, but that doesn't mean we're using them. We have them at different parts in the stage because the keyboard player might be upstage right or might be downstage left or might be center stage. We don't know where they're going to be, so we want to have the eyes and mike's available at different parts of the stage in the patch so that if I know hey, the keyboard players upstage, right, he's going to be in key six, which is on sub snake. You know, see channel for whatever way want to be able to quickly communicate and set that up if I'm mixing front of house, I'm usually relying on my monitor engineer and my stage stage deck sound guy's toe to do all the patching and then just tell me what patches they're using well, sort of like show a video later on what you'll actually see us talking through that and actually working that out, but typically once it gets set up, we don't want to make any changes so there's no confusion so let's actually go through this, we've got to kick mike's a beta fifty two and assure as some ninety one we're using mostly sure microphones, which are awesome live sound mikes um a snare fifty seven on the snare and fifty seven in the snare bottom on audio technical forty thirty three on the high hat two sennheiser four twenty ones on the toms son hazar east six oh two on the floor, tom! And then an additional tom mike in case we need it, the rides we're going to use an s m eighty one for the overheads. I believe we also used sm eight seventy one, but we didn't actually use those for every channel we kept a ride in a high hat, mike separate and then pull those out if we needed mohr overhead mikes to fifty seven's for percussion mike's which also ended up being the eye lines a couple times based micah sure beta fifty two we had a countryman based e I fifty seven's for guitar one through four we had a bunch of d b x active d I boxes on uh twenty three or twenty four all the way through and then a couple passives one thing about the eye boxes that you should know is that some keyboards don't work well with active d I boxes it's really hard to keep the level low enough to get without distortion a man active d I box requires power so most active d I boxes can use fan and power to be able to power the de ay box some of them require battery a cz well or in a dish instead of phantom power but some people just don't work well with active direct boxes for some reason s o I always like to have a couple options for both an active and passive d I in case there's for some reason we're sound checking and there's an issue with the active die we could just switch to one of the lines that has a pass of the eye we've got a couple holes in the patch blank strips and then we get to vocals so this is now all on the front stage boxes vocals one through six are all fifty eight I believe six is actually patched back at the drummer's, so the six vocal mike could be drum vocal. Then we have a talk back mike's so we all want to be on talk back, and we're gonna talk about how to set up the talk back mic in a second or later on, but typically I'll save those for the last three, so forty five, forty, forty four, forty five, forty six or john's talk back. Who was my monitor engineer, my talk back and then the emcee mike, which is a wireless handheld, and typically I don't need to hear john's talk back because we have a clear com system that will show later on today if he needs to talk to me, but he I need to send my talk back to his console because he's controlling the monitor mix is so when we set up for mixing, monitors will show you how to patch that in. But basically, um, my pre amps can't route to any of his monitor mix is he's the one that controls the monitor mixes? So instead of running talk back through my consul, I actually ran my talk back down an analog line all the way back to his console. So that he could control that and then patch it into all of his monitor mixes and I could talk to the band if I needed to know if I'm mixing monitors from my console, then I can patch it straight into my console and send it to all the monitors feeds. But if he's mixing monitors that I can't do that um for a lot of touring artists that are kind of at the next level they have much more complicated talkback systems between all the crew members and the bands um and and band members there's a lot of touring bands that actually have in your monitors not just for every musician but for all the crew members and every crew member has the talk back mic and usually the monitor engineer and the front of house engineer have independent control of creating all those different monitor mixes. So ah, the monitor engineer will obviously create all of the talkback mixes for the band and the crew and then the front house engineer will build his own mix of talkback mic so that he could talk to anyone on the crew on stage any time throughout the show without interrupting the show. So sometimes front of house engineers will have an entire section of their consul just dedicated to talk back mike's on grouting those among the crew in the band so that's just something to keep in mind too um okay, so we're gonna go ahead and sort of set this up we're going to start off with just this typical soft patch um we're gonna go through and actually name all of these channels um so we'll start with channel one obviously this is going to be kick and then channel two is going to be kick in. Channel three is going to be snare. Channel four is going to be stare bottom five is going to be hi hat and then we've got tom one, two, three, four ride overhead left overhead, right, I'll do it percussion one and two and they were kind of stopped there. Um okay, so we've got pretty much all of our basic setup here. Um um we're gonna go through patching all of these were not going to make you sit and watch that, but obviously we're gonna go through a name all of the channels all the way across and then what I'm gonna do and I talk a lot more about this in the sort of s c forty eight fast start class, which is the complete like, you know, basically the user manual for this console that goes just goes straight into the s e forty eight it's it's a half day's class just on this consul specifically and I go into great detail about how to use snapshots howto set them up, and how to recall them how to build your entire show based off of snapshots, but the typical you think that I'll first do when I'm setting up the festival patches? Once I'm done, I'm going to create a new snapshot and call this festival recall, and that basically is now the entire show set up with just the correct patching in the correct name. That way, every time a band comes on stage, I can start mixing their show, get it set up how they want, and when they're done, I could just recall the festival recall and resets everything on the console with everything named so the patching is nate saved the names they're saved, and I can start over with whatever next band is using which instruments in which, which channels on dh, that just really helps a lot of time that saves everything on, and then every band to get saved, and this is especially helpful for situations where you have multiple bands of your sound checking in one night, let's say you have four bands that were playing that night. You go through sound, check on you, sound, check the headliner first and then three bands ahead of that, and every time they're swapping out all their instruments on stage, or maybe sharing a back line, or maybe some of them are entirely different I can go through and create snapshots for every single band during sound check that will include everything from the dynamics and cue that I'm using all the way to their monitor sends I could even put in tempo changes or you know different routing for for their specific mixes all that is saved in the in the snapshot so that when the band comes back up on stage um after the previous bands sound check I could just recall their sound check and the consul switches back to where I was at with them so that's the really big advantage of working working with snapshots within a file okay so let's keep going we've got all the festival lined up everything is patched the next thing that I'm going to do is I'm gonna actually go through with all the channels and talk to my monitor engineer and we're gonna line check every channel so the divers been lying checking and sound checking sound checking is I'm actually gonna bring up the instrument do something q some compression maybe work with some effects I'm going to make it sound good line check is nothing more than just yes I'm getting signal and it's the correct signal on that channel so once we go through and have the festival patch he's going to go through in line check everything um there's a couple ways to do that you can either go through um with each microphone plugged in and like scratch in front of it and make sure with headphones on that he's on the right channel that's kind of you know that's the easiest way to do it it's not entirely accurate the best way that I like to do it before we line check everything is to make sure that we're getting signal on every single channel before we even plug in microphones that way that I know if there's something wrong with the channel before I know that it has to be the microphone because we've already lined checked all the lines so what typically I'll do is I'll use a signal generator which is there's usually cable testers and signal generators that generates just a you know, pink noise or just a sine wave tone and it has an xlr cable and I'll have the stage manager or the monitor engineer go through and patch every single plug in every single channel and send signal down the line just to make sure that I'm getting signal on every channel that way I know those are all set and then I could go back and look at it so let's say that I get to the point where we do that whole thing and there's ah microphone that's not working or we're not getting a signal on the channel assuming that the patching is correct which is obviously the first thing you want to check make sure that you're talking about the same channel on this patch correctly, there's, sort of some tips to go through and actually troubleshoot um, some of the channels that might not have a signal. So first thing is line check everything first with signal generator. What that allows you to do is make sure that, you know, before the microphone even gets plugged in, that the line itself is not the problem. There could be a problem with the channel on the snake. It could be a problem with the channel, the microphone cable. It could be a problem with the pre amp on the consulate could be not patched correctly, there's all different things that could happen before you even plug in a microphone. So line checking the line first insures that that's the first thing that you're going to check before you get in anything else? Uh, cable testers can help but often can't determine intermittent signal, so cable testers are great in that you can take a cable and take all your cables and test them to make sure that they work and for the most part, that's. Correct, but sometimes you're plugging a cable, it says it's, okay, and then you listen to it, and a couple things can happen either one, it cuts in and out. Which is super dangerous just because you're in the middle of a show and all the sudden the lead vocal starts cutting in and out it can pop and click and be really nasty sounding or it can actually completely cut out and lose part of the performance, which is bad, but the second thing that could happen is they can actually pass the signal, but sometimes the signal sounds really, really weak and this has happened me on a number of times where you're it's there you you tested the line and it came through okay, but when you actually plug in the microphone it's way quieter than everything else that typically means that there's an inter minute connection or there's something along the line that's not totally connected, so you're not getting a full balance connection on dh. That could be really dangerous, too, because you'll end up cranking the gain on the pre amp to get enough volume and then later on in the show, the cable twists and suddenly becomes full and now way louder than everything and feeds back. So you want to avoid that situation if there is a signal that seems like it's way quieter than it has to when you're having to gain it too much there's probably something wrong with the cable and you should check that the third thing that can actually happen is that sometimes of signal will pass if you don't have a cable tester, it'll it'll actually passed signal with a dynamic mike, but pin too, mike, which pin too on a microphone cables? What carrie's fan of power if pin too, is not connected completely or intermittent, sometimes fan and power can cut in and out so it might work with like a fifty seven but that you plug in a condenser microphone and now you're not getting signals, so just keep in mind of those things that could be really, really helpful. Thea, the thing to keep in mind is on ly used phantom power on the channels that you're going to use it all right that you need it. If you have a console that only has a global fan of power or has it for banks, then you don't have much option. But if you if you can only turn on fan and power on the channels that you have phantom power or need fan of power and the reason for that is this has happened me before were sometimes you can have a line that is pin, too is the internal sleeve on pin, too, is worn in some spot, in which case they can touch the ground on dh there's been situations where fan and power hits the ground and causes massive static to come through that channel. Really, really loud and makes you look like a total moron as you're seeing me on the consulate all the sudden, this massive explosion of white noise comes with speakers. Um, so be careful only used fan of power when you need it and hopefully avoid those situations on and make sure to test all those channels first. Um, the biggest thing is preparing in advance allow plenty of time to make sure every input and output is tested before sound checking. The worst thing you could do is when a band shows up there on stays there ready to play, and one of microphones doesn't work or you're not getting signal on the bass guitar, and now you're scrambling to run around stage, trying to make sure and find out what's wrong. And why aren't you getting signal while they stand there and watch you? And it just they lose complete confidence in your ability to mix so line, check everything before they show up. Make sure that when they walk in the door, you know for sure every single channels ready to go so that when they go to sound check it's just a smooth as possible and there's no hiccups planning in advance really helps that way, um, I already talked about fannin power on pin tio. And yeah, start with the microphone, work down the line if you've done everything right, stuff still happens, you plug in the microphone and you've tested everything, and for some reason, it's not working troubleshooting, started the top of the chain and just work your way down so first replaced the microphone if that doesn't work to replace the cable, if that doesn't work, try a different channel on the snake. If that doesn't work, try a different preempt on. Eventually, you'll work your way down the chain to find where the problem is so that's sort of the process by which you you no trouble shoot some of these problems. Let me check one question really quick, do you record the sound check and tweak levels, etcetera and band's absence before they return for showtime? That's an awesome question. Yeah, eso you can definitely do that if you have a console, for example, like the s c forty eight or any digital consulate offers multi tracking. Um, a lot of what that entails is what's called virtual sound check, which basically allows you to record multi track, record the entire show and then switch the inputs from the stage box to be from pro tools or whatever you're recording in, and you can run those signals back through back through the console and once the band's gone, you can really take time to like, fine tune the sound check and make it great. We'll talk about that when we actually get into sound checking in mixing front of house, but that's definitely possible. I just want to ask, how is the layton seon connecting very long ethernet cable from stage to front of house mixer that's a great question. I don't have the technical specifications on the late in c for specifically this consul, I'm sure I could look it up. The the latent see has not ever been an issue for me, a ce faras converting from analog to digital and then running one hundred foot snake over ethernet back to front of house. I've never noticed any late and see it doesn't seem to be an issue late in sea within the console is adjusted in the master bus section c forty eight and all the venue software avid consoles actually compensate for delay because of latent seeing processing, but the latent see is is very low and it's not noticeable at all for most digital consoles that I've worked with.

Class Description

Mixing Live Sound can be one of the most daunting tasks for any engineer. In this class, Zach Varnell will walk you through the entire live sound production workflow, from loading in a PA and rigging and flying speakers to soundcheck and mixing on the fly.

In this class, you will get to see an entire day of load-in from Seattle's Capitol Hill Block Party along with a complete breakdown of a live sound production workflow and interviews with some of the country's top touring live sound engineers. 

You will learn:

  • Scaleable components of a live sound PA
  • Power distribution and management
  • Tuning speakers with a SMART system and FFT analysis
  • Mic Placement and tips for an effective soundcheck
  • Mixing front of house
  • Mixing for stage monitors and in-ears

We'll also walk through a live mix setup and interview with two touring engineers from their FOH mix position: Adam Jackson and Andy Frost (FOH and Monitor engineers for Christina Perri) and Shane Bardiau (Twenty One Pilots).

Whether you are a working live sound engineer and just want to brush up on some core concepts or you are a new engineer looking to get into live sound production, this is the place to learn all about live sound in one location.


user ee67bf

A very good overview of live sound presented by a professional sound technician. Good supporting video of a real event that Zach worked. He explained everything very well and I enjoyed the split screen views of his console work. Good job.

Navinder Gill

Zach has been Amazing ! He made it so simple to glide through the entire course ... Learnt Quite a bit .. Specially when I have an Avid Sc48 Board to work with.. Cheers !


Was fortunate to watch this live. Zach clearly is a master of his craft. I am a home studio drummer but learned allot about mixing and sound. Thank you Creative Live and Zach Varnell.