Your Gear vs. Your Gut
It’s hard to believe the quantity of audio questions I get about the specific types of technical gear in use at COTM. I’m not referring to basic queries about PA, microphones or consoles but I’m talking SPECIFICS—what type of connectors, DI’s, cables, brand of gaff tape (really happened), batteries, mic stands, etc.
Albeit flattering that people want to know what it takes to do what we do, I’ll risk repeating myself by stating once again that the gear doesn’t matter nearly as much you might think. When I was younger and consumed with figuring out some of my processes—part of the excitement was discovering how to make a pleasant audio experience work with what I had available. The bands I worked with back then had meager budgets and you just had to make it work. No time for specifics on consoles, mics and PA—if you were fortunate enough to get enough gear to squeak by then that’s exactly what you did. And I LOVED it. It made me BETTER by having to work within those constraints and figuring out how to mix creatively without all the awesome outboard gear, plug-in’s and conveniences available to me now.
The smoothest & biggest sounding rock mix I’ve ever witnessed was at an AC/DC concert a couple of years ago. The FOH engineer, Paul Boothroyd, was mixing it on an older conventional PA with an old analogue Midas Pro-40. No line array, no racks of digital beauty, absolutely no frills. He mixed in a way that truly demonstrated his artistry and mastery of the craft and showcased the consummate professionalism of the band. Simple, simple, simple AND job well done...
Earlier this week I was fortunate to witness Achim Schulze completely dominate FOH for the Scorpions using an old PM-5D and virtually no outboard gear. He took those old songs I had grown up with and created a tight yet big auditory experience. I didn’t even notice what kind of mics were on the drums or guitar cabs—was way more interesting to focus on the elements that made the concert sound so spot on: A great band with a great engineer who knew exactly how to harness their energy and translate it into a superb mix.
ALLOW ME TO EMPOWER YOU WITH THIS: Go with your gut instinct, allow some room to take a risk and use the gear you have available. Ask questions and look around at what others are doing but don’t lose your perspective—you might already have what you need to create something totally suitable for your particular environment and situation.
It’s not always about the gear—go forth and rock.