Professional Sound - Indepth

Live Sound Tip by Jim Yakabuski

Darth Vader You Don’t Need

Effects can take an average show and add all the glitz and sparkle that make a great show. If you have a nice, acoustically dead environment to mix in your choice of effects, it can make or break your mix. One of the bad habits I’ve found myself getting into over the years is checking effects returns during the day and then assuming the parameters are not going to change at all before the show. You can be pretty sure that all is okay with most effects units because you physically have to call up edit parameter pages to get in there and muck around with things, but some units have parameter adjustment wheels on the front, and they have been known to get bumped here and there which can cause some embarrassing moments.

One unit in particular that I am speaking of is a certain kind of harmonizer. It has a spinning wheel on the front panel that is very easy to turn, and on one occasion I just happened to catch myself before I made a horrendous mistake. The last thing that I was editing that afternoon was the pitch of the harmonizer. Without changing that edit page, the wheel got bumped later on in the day and just before show time I happened to listen to my effects returns and catch the mistake before the show started. If I had not, the two lovely ladies who were singing backup vocals for the show would have resembled Darth Vader much more than their normal sweet-sounding southern selves. The edit wheel had spun down and the pitch dropped considerably.

Another way that you can get caught is if someone, like an opening act engineer, makes adjustments to your effects during his show and forgets to tell you, or you forget to recall your program or parameters. Usually these days most opening acts get their own effects gear, but in many club situations everybody is sharing effects. Be sure to store your settings, and in those types of situations, double-check that nothing is out of whack. It’s a good habit to get into. Unfortunately, aside from the benefit that all these programmable units have given us, they can catch us once in a while because we rely too much on their stability. Add this to your pre-show checklist. And use the force!

*This article is excerpted from Jim Yakabuski’s book entitled *Professional Sound Reinforcement Techniques. The book is published by MixBooks, an imprint You can also find the book online at and

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About Andrew King
Andrew King is the Editor-in-Chief at Professional Sound. He is also a co-host of Canadian Musician Radio and NWC Webinars’ series of free music and entertainment industry webinars.
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