Audio geekout at Esplanade on May Day..

Last week, I got a chance to do something I have been wanting to do since the 1st time I stepped inside the Esplanade; stand behind their audio consoles! (warning! nerdy post ahead…)

Background

Thanks to references from by some family friends, I got a chance to “consult” the Esplanade sounds engineers during a concert last week. It was a North Indian (Hindustani) Classical Musical concert organized by Engage: Consumer Interfaces, an events organization founded by two (I believe) IIM alumni. Engage has been bringing many great artists from India to Singapore for concerts for the past few years.

This year, they invited Pt. Sanjeev Abhyankar and Dr. Ashwini Bhide-Deshpande for 2 separate concerts on two evenings, 1st and 2nd May as a part of the “Young Masters in Concert“.

Esplanade

I went a few hours before the concert for sounds checks. Now, if you have ever been backstage at Esplanade, you’d know that place is a freaking maze. There is no way anyone can figure out the place without a map. I did get lost.. a few times. Luckily, thanks to this pass, I had free access to the backstage for two days!

My access pass..

Sound Checks

The concert was held at the Recital Studio of Esplanade. The stage was just being miced up as I arrived. They were using a Sennheiser EW series wireless mic for the main vocals. A Sennheiser 441 for the Tabla, a Shure SM58 for the Harmonium and Shure SM57s for everything else form the electronic Tanpuras to the Manjiras. The Sound Engineer knew his Indian instruments and told me that he had chosen those mics on purpose, considering the sound of the instruments, the room and the atmosphere that was needed.

Leveling

Next, we did the leveling on the console. The console was a Soundcraft Vi6. Here are some pictures of it.

The Soundcraft Vi6

The Soundcraft Vi2

The console totally blew me away. The I/O capabilities are totally unheard of, and the control surface itself had 40 motorized fades, 5 Vistonics II touch screens, and loads of stuff I did not even know about. I was just too fascinated by the flying faders for the 1st few minutes to look at any other details.

The Vistonics II screens allowed the selection of any part of the signal chain, which then showed up on faders for detailed control. The Vistonics II touch screens also had knobs and buttons to do more settings. The configuration options were unbelievable and totally confusing. And finally it had an awesome glow in the darkly lit Recital Studio.

The levels for Pt. Sanjeev Abhyankar‘s concert were set too hot IMO. But he insisted on them. The classic sound engineer’s dilemma; Artist Expression or Audiences’ Ears? The levels for Dr. Ashwini Bhide-Deshpande concert were set nicely. Though she tended to move away from the mic, causing issues later during the concert.

After the sound check I went out for a break, and came back just before the concert itself.

Concert

All through out the concert, the Sound Engineer kept adjusting the levels and the gains for the various instruments by himself, and according my suggestion (which as my “job”). However, around 30mins in, he pulled up a screen using the Vistonics II touch screens for a effects processor module which he had placed in the signal chain. It was a reverb module from one of Lexicon’s effect processors.

Here are some shots of the screen.

The compressor module on the Soundcraft Vi6

The compressor module on the Soundcraft Vi6

The amazing thing about this module was the fact that it could use the current BPM information, which had to be fed in either using a know or tapping a button on the beat, to improve the reverb processing. It also had parameters like room size, room type and more to control the reverb effect. While the Recital Studio itself had been deadened using curtains and all, the reverb processor was being used to bring warmth to the sound..

Conclusion

Both the concerts totally rocked. Though I personally preferred Dr. Ashwini Bhide-Deshpande’s recital. Her voice, the music and the atmosphere was totally mesmerizing.

It was a great experience for me both from musical and technical perspective. Oh and I also got to share a car ride home  with Pt. Sanjeev Abhyankar :D.

I am hoping to do such stints again, and hopefully one day learn to professionally handle such consoles and mic such concerts…. It’s when great technology meets great music, the magic happens..

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7 comments so far

  1. uzyn on

    Woah pr0n for audio geeks

  2. brian on

    can always count on Esplanade for great sound because of their wonderful engineers!

    haha, lookout in august, playing my first Baybeats fest, and hoping to get some views from the stage -)

    gear pr0n!

  3. NTT on

    @uzyn… Hahah.. yea!

    @brian That’s awesome man.. Do tell us when.. we’ll come down to support.

    If you can get your hands on a Nokia N95, it would be great to live stream your performance from the stage over something like qik.com!

  4. malique on

    audiophiles, unite!

  5. Jester on

    sounds like fun actually.. makes me wanna attend one soon.

  6. Ian Srivatsav on

    Yeah sounds really cool. I only ever drop by the esplanade to watch the Indian Music Festival organised by SIFAS yearly [part of the study requirement!]
    I had no idea there was this much technicality involved aside from acoustic architecture.

  7. NTT on

    Eh?? SIFAS concert as study requirement?? :S

    But yea.. there’s tonnes behind the scene when it comes to audio stuff.. And I absolutely love it all.. :)


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