Microphones How much rehearsal time do you get as an SE for a musical?

Julian Amrine

Member
Joined
Apr 27, 2017
Location
Seattle, WA
Hi all,

TL;DR: When Line-by-line mixing, what is your personal threshold/ratio for rehearsal time to the amount of mic cues you miss?

Eviscerate me for being complain-y if you will, but I'm feeling pretty down about this. I'm the house tech, currently the SE for a 2 week run of a community theater musical. I've got 16 ch of wireless, area mics, and a handful of feeds from an orchestra pit. And to boot, I've got a decent installed sound system to work with (CL5!).

However (lol)

The way this show (and my employer) are organized, a lot of time I would have dedicated to system tuning/cue programming ect got sucked up dealing with their stage rigging/carp needs. I don't think thats an atypical experience...

Bottom line--I had 3 nights with mics before we opened. Only one was truly a full run. Now we're into the shows and I'm occasionally dropping mic cues because I simply don't know the show well enough. In my opinion its not my best work... The show isn't suffering much for it and I've not dropped anything super obvious. The clients aren't complaining either... but I'm really feeling beat up about it.

What are your rehearsal schedules like for bigger shows where you have to do line by line mixing? How poorly do you feel about missed cues?

Thanks all.
 

jkowtko

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jan 9, 2007
Location
Redwood City, CA
Have you annotated your script? I've done mixing for a friend who did the Sound Design for the show, 24 mic channels, we used circled fader numbers in the left margin for every line in the script, additional annotations in the bottom right corner for next page "surprises" ... and I was able to get it down pretty well in 2-3 runs during tech week.

I definitely don't like missing a line :|
 

Lynnchesque

Active Member
Joined
Feb 28, 2019
Location
Fresno, CA
Blame the stage manager :)

But really.. So I work with a local performing arts highschool. They put on a musical and/or straight show every semester as an extra elective during break- which means an intense condensed schedule. Typically we load in one day (The school does not have its own space, we have to rent everything), then the next day tech/q2q and a dress rehearsal in the evening, fix all the problems some??time??? And open with a matinee the next day. This tends to be... stressful. I am forced to fix things on the fly. One time I "fixed" something, and suddenly all of my blackouts were no longer black. I had to -frantically- find out what I did and manually fix in the track sheet during intermission.

So I feel your pain. One part of me accepts that this schedule is not a normal tech schedule, and at a certain point- they get what they get. It will never be perfect. The other part says that they pay me the big bucks because this is not my first rodeo, and I am capable of -and am gettin better at- making this whole thing happen in just a day.
Look, you're gonna make mistakes. There will be so many refinements that you wanted to make. But the goal is that the show goes on, that the ship doesn't sink. Do your best, and get good at making your errors look intentional- the audience won't notice the difference.

I always look back and wish we had done a better paper tech- know what you're going to do before you do it, tackle the problems before they happen, have the book with all your cues already written.
 

Aaron Becker

Well-Known Member
Joined
Apr 27, 2016
Location
US - East Coast
The way this show (and my employer) are organized, a lot of time I would have dedicated to system tuning/cue programming ect got sucked up dealing with their stage rigging/carp needs. I don't think thats an atypical experience...
I think the important takeaway here is to learn from this. If you're primarily the sound guy - make sure your sound stuff is taken care of before you start working rigging or carp duties. It's normal for people to have combined job duties in facilities like this. If you're primarily the rigger, then the venue/show just has to understand sound is taking the backseat to rigging. Or you need more time. If you can't have that, it is what it is. I've worked in some HS's where I've had to do sound and rigging, and be one of the only "authorized" people on the grid. Those sucked. I found myself putting a lot of extra time in and managing my time around other departments.

Bottom line: (to echo what Lynnchesque said above) - it will never be perfect in these scenarios. They do get what they get.
 

markviml

Member
Joined
Aug 5, 2009
Location
Wenatchee, WA
3 rehearsal sounds about right. What did you have done when you entered the theatre? Console laid out with the offline editor? DCA's programmed? (as mentioned) Scrip marked up? Did you get some time to set gain and EQ at the first rehearsal? That's about all I have, then we're doing the first stumble through. Having a good A2 always makes it easier, not having those worries on top.

Agreed, it will never be perfect. The guys that get it perfect have many years of experience, do it daily, and get paid well for it. Maybe someday I'll get to that level.
 
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RonHebbard

Well-Known Member
Premium Member
Joined
Jun 12, 2004
Location
Waterdown, ON, CA
Blame the stage manager :)

But really.. So I work with a local performing arts highschool. They put on a musical and/or straight show every semester as an extra elective during break- which means an intense condensed schedule. Typically we load in one day (The school does not have its own space, we have to rent everything), then the next day tech/q2q and a dress rehearsal in the evening, fix all the problems some??time??? And open with a matinee the next day. This tends to be... stressful. I am forced to fix things on the fly. One time I "fixed" something, and suddenly all of my blackouts were no longer black. I had to -frantically- find out what I did and manually fix in the track sheet during intermission.

So I feel your pain. One part of me accepts that this schedule is not a normal tech schedule, and at a certain point- they get what they get. It will never be perfect. The other part says that they pay me the big bucks because this is not my first rodeo, and I am capable of -and am gettin better at- making this whole thing happen in just a day.
Look, you're gonna make mistakes. There will be so many refinements that you wanted to make. But the goal is that the show goes on, that the ship doesn't sink. Do your best, and get good at making your errors look intentional- the audience won't notice the difference.

I always look back and wish we had done a better paper tech- know what you're going to do before you do it, tackle the problems before they happen, have the book with all your cues already written.
@Lynnchesque Without knowing which lighting board you're using I suspect you ought to invest some time wrapping your head around the difference between tracking, not tracking and especially learn the concept of "Blocking cues" especially "Blocking black outs". There's rarely, if ever, any reason for not recording black out cues as blocking black outs; doing so will prevent any alterations to cues from tracking through cues originally recorded as blackouts.
If I haven't scrambled your thinking to the glazed eyes point yet, I'll elaborate slightly and hopefully clarify your thinking.
When a tracking lighting console records cues it only records the changes from the previous cues thus when it records a black out cue it only records taking out channels which had levels above zero; channels which were already at zero are NOT recorded thus if you modify earlier cues assigning levels to channels which were previously at zero, when you get to your cue which was previously a black out it will not have zeros recorded for any channels which were previously already out.
Basically understand and appreciate the significance and difference between a cue containing no instructions for a channel versus a cue containing an instruction for a channel to go to a level of zero. Hopefully I haven't glazed your eyes irreparably.
Posting from north of Donald's walls.
Toodleoo!
Ron Hebbard
 

Brenden Friedel

Active Member
Joined
Jun 2, 2017
Location
Orlando
Hi all,

TL;DR: When Line-by-line mixing, what is your personal threshold/ratio for rehearsal time to the amount of mic cues you miss?

Eviscerate me for being complain-y if you will, but I'm feeling pretty down about this. I'm the house tech, currently the SE for a 2 week run of a community theater musical. I've got 16 ch of wireless, area mics, and a handful of feeds from an orchestra pit. And to boot, I've got a decent installed sound system to work with (CL5!).

However (lol)

The way this show (and my employer) are organized, a lot of time I would have dedicated to system tuning/cue programming ect got sucked up dealing with their stage rigging/carp needs. I don't think thats an atypical experience...

Bottom line--I had 3 nights with mics before we opened. Only one was truly a full run. Now we're into the shows and I'm occasionally dropping mic cues because I simply don't know the show well enough. In my opinion its not my best work... The show isn't suffering much for it and I've not dropped anything super obvious. The clients aren't complaining either... but I'm really feeling beat up about it.

What are your rehearsal schedules like for bigger shows where you have to do line by line mixing? How poorly do you feel about missed cues?

Thanks all.

Right now I’m the SE and SD for a production of the sound of music. Typically for shows I have 2 full runs with each cast. The show I’m doing right now has Friday being our first micd day Saturday is my clean up day to clean up any sound cues or mic cues on the board. Then Monday is the other cast mics. Tuesday is the same cast from Friday and Wednesday is mondays cast. Followed by Thursday opening. I don’t find this stressful. Plenty of time to learn the show for me. I also follow a script on my iPad during the show so it’s hard to miss cues since I annotate my script to show each mic cue like a LD/SM would with light cues.
 

Lynnchesque

Active Member
Joined
Feb 28, 2019
Location
Fresno, CA
@Lynnchesque Without knowing which lighting board you're using I suspect you ought to invest some time wrapping your head around the difference between tracking, not tracking and especially learn the concept of "Blocking cues" especially "Blocking black outs". There's rarely, if ever, any reason for not recording black out cues as blocking black outs; doing so will prevent any alterations to cues from tracking through cues originally recorded as blackouts.
If I haven't scrambled your thinking to the glazed eyes point yet, I'll elaborate slightly and hopefully clarify your thinking.
When a tracking lighting console records cues it only records the changes from the previous cues thus when it records a black out cue it only records taking out channels which had levels above zero; channels which were already at zero are NOT recorded thus if you modify earlier cues assigning levels to channels which were previously at zero, when you get to your cue which was previously a black out it will not have zeros recorded for any channels which were previously already out.
Basically understand and appreciate the significance and difference between a cue containing no instructions for a channel versus a cue containing an instruction for a channel to go to a level of zero. Hopefully I haven't glazed your eyes irreparably.
Posting from north of Donald's walls.
Toodleoo!
Ron Hebbard
Yes, for a long while tracking was an inscrutable beast not to be trusted. I have since come to understand its uses, particularly when going back to fix long sequences of moving lights- thank the gods for tracking. I'd gotten away with no blocking before then, now I know. I use LightFactory, it takes two mouse clicks in the cue list to set a block, but I was in too much of a rush to figure it out...
Basically understand and appreciate the significance and difference between a cue containing no instructions for a channel versus a cue containing an instruction for a channel to go to a level of zero.
So, a Nil and a 0 eh?
 

RonHebbard

Well-Known Member
Premium Member
Joined
Jun 12, 2004
Location
Waterdown, ON, CA
Yes, for a long while tracking was an inscrutable beast not to be trusted. I have since come to understand its uses, particularly when going back to fix long sequences of moving lights- thank the gods for tracking. I'd gotten away with no blocking before then, now I know. I use LightFactory, it takes two mouse clicks in the cue list to set a block, but I was in too much of a rush to figure it out...
So, a Nil and a 0 eh?
@Lynnchesque Essentially every time you record a black out cue, command your board to record it as a Blocking Blackout Cue, this will force your board to record a level for every channel including recording zeroes for all channels with no levels assigned keeping your black outs black. Not all of us up here north of Donald's walls end every sentence with "Eh." (Most of us possibly but not all of us) [No more than all Americans with Lynnche in their names are part of lynch mobs eh?]
Toodleoo!
Ron Hebbard
 
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Lynnchesque

Active Member
Joined
Feb 28, 2019
Location
Fresno, CA
@Lynnchesque Essentially every time you record a black out cue, command your board to record it as a Blocking Blackout Cue, this will force your board to record a level for every channel including recording zeroes for all channels with no levels assigned keeping your black outs black. Not all of us up here north of Donald's walls end every sentence with "Eh." (Most of us possibly but not all of us) [No more than all Americans with Lynnche in their names are part of lynch mobs eh?]
Toodleoo!
Ron Hebbard
That's a shame, I found it so endearing while I toured there (The eh's not the lynch mobs) ((I may have a penchant for tying nooses, but only because it's a fancy knot))
 

steine

Active Member
Joined
Mar 6, 2007
Location
Denmark
I am soon (April 12th) having loadin for a local amateur ensemble musical production (Danish musical Atlantis)
This sunday they start setting up all lights in the truss, and make room for my center speakers, delay speakers + down/sidefills.
Master L+R Array is already up.

I received the orchester plan last monday, and this monday I "should" get the final actor/role list to begin planning my microports (38 channels)

April 12th I get the main console (CL5) and extra equipment.
April 17th Band setup and soundcheck
April 18th Microport soundcheck on all actors
April 19th runthrough with MP but no band, to get the Light done (and I can get the scenes checked for DCA errors)
20, 21, 22 - 2 times complete plays each day, one each day with band
23rd last rehersal with all
24th pre opening show
25th Premiere
May 4th last show

I feel I am priviledged with time. (I know most of the play without script)
Last time we did this musical (10 years ago, my first ever using LCR mix and attempted line mix on a LS9) I missed like 3-4 lines in total over 10 shows, I plan on missing 0-2 this time ;)

But I have been in situations like:
loadin friday afternoon, soundchek and playthrough firday evening.
one playthrough saturday morning, opening saturday afternoon, play in the evening as well, play sunday afternoon and loadout to be done before midtnight.
At least I only had 8 wireless handheld and 3 headsets for that show.
 

cekren

Active Member
Joined
Dec 3, 2012
Location
Midwest
I generally get between 2-5 scheduled full sound runs for most shows. I actually get around 1-3 typically.

Having had a few shows in the last year where I wasn't seeing the full run until 1 or 2 days before opening, I've started multitrack recording rehearsals to practice with later. The CL5 is especially easy to do this on as it already has Dante built in. I prefer to run Waves Tracks Live on my laptop and then do a "virtual soundcheck" back through the console to practice parts giving me issues. It's also useful because it doesn't require anyone else, and you can even do it with headphones if other things are happening in the space.
 

NickVon

Well-Known Member
Joined
Sep 4, 2009
Location
07003
My tech schedules for when events happen in my venue are

Saturday. of/before tech week (set, final lx focus (sometimes programming of show, sound setup (monitors for MD, pre laying out band mics, setup mix busses (rough) and connecting of wireless mics)
Sunday. cast stumble through with lx and set. I will usually try to get at least 8 mics on leads, ( don't worry about "mixing show, just finding out where my EQ's and such need to sit, and focus this run notating my script (sometimes I notate my script long before, but usually not)
Monday - Tuesday. Full micing of cast running from notated script and making adjustments to EQ/ compression as needed
Wednesday. Band arrive, mix band before rehearsal (Bitch about the band being to load, actors are tired, just focus on hitting my cues in notated script)
Thursday. Band has reigned it in, Actors are ready are less tired after resting'ish on Wednesday. Focus on mixing show and hitting cues per script
Friday. Open

That was my luxury schedule.

For schools or events outside of my venue (It's usually on the short side)
Monday, Loadin/setup. rehearsal with as many mics as we can get on actors/performers. Student Op creates notated scrip, While I EQ Compress and do bussing during rehearsal
Tuesday, Student Op runs show from script, (focusing on hitting mic ons) makes notes/changes as needed. I will fine tune "eq" or fixing mic placement and listening in the room from an Ipad. assist with balance changes so the student OP can see the mix changing. (also we usually add the band this day so I'm working on mixing them as well, while the student hits the on off cues
Wednesday. Student Runs show with off/on and mixing (with me usually next to them on the ipad just being the lifeboat.
Thursday- END OF SHOW. Open Student Runs show with off/on and mixing (with me usually next to them on the ipad just being the lifeboat.

As I've been doing this for 10 years now. I find I need less days of " rehearsal " to run a show well for cueing. For shows where I have maybe only two days to see/watch a rehearsal i put 90% of my focus on a correctly notated script over mixing and executing a perfect rehearsal. If I hit part on day two of rehearsal that was all wrong or poorly written in my scrip i take the moment to correct it right then, and if some mics get left on or not in in time for the next scene I don't stress about it for the rehearsal. Most of the groups I work with have an understanding especially the time-crunch groups, and realize they will probably not hear a "perfectly" executed final dress, but they will for Opening.

A lot of that come with experience. I've been doing this for 10 years, I still feel like I'm a baby out here, as there are those on this forum that have refined the craft even more. I might have some pages of script I can find to show you how I notate my scripts to keep them clear and detailed, but precise. (Like mentioned above (with lighting) Audio cues are kind of naturally tracking, I have ways to write numbers in boxes, circled etc that allow me to do "blocks", to double check what should still be on after some crazy in's and outs.

Depending on who does the mic-plots. Sometimes it's me sometimes its the group that hands it to me. I'll take the time to redo them. RENT for instance if plotted as a 1-16 based on the Cast list is trickier to mix because people "Duos" and "Trio's" Male and Females I want next to each other based on how often they have scenes with each other don't really work out. So it can be worth your time to think about how you group cast members and assign them to your channels.
 

rwhealey

Well-Known Member
Joined
Sep 7, 2008
Location
Denver
The way this show (and my employer) are organized, a lot of time I would have dedicated to system tuning/cue programming ect got sucked up dealing with their stage rigging/carp needs. I don't think thats an atypical experience...
I think this is part of your problem. I have been fortunate enough on the semi-pro side that when I'm doing sound for a musical, I just show up and do the sound - no miscellaneous tech involved.

Bottom line--I had 3 nights with mics before we opened. Only one was truly a full run.
Three is about right, but your three should be full runs. If your tech is too choppy you won't be able to practice timing on your mic cues.

Now we're into the shows and I'm occasionally dropping mic cues because I simply don't know the show well enough. In my opinion its not my best work... The show isn't suffering much for it and I've not dropped anything super obvious. The clients aren't complaining either... but I'm really feeling beat up about it.
Don't beat yourself over a miss here and there. I find I'm a mess on the first day of tech, start to get it on the second, and have it down by the third. I don't usually feel great until the second weekend of the show.

A couple things I have found that helps:

- I try to buy a CD of the musical when I find out what the show is going to be and listen to it at least a few times before tech week.
- I take a physical script and mark it up with highlighters (i.e., I go into it with a plan).
 

KBToys82

Active Member
Joined
Dec 22, 2014
Location
NJ
I'm the sound guy at my school, and I have students that do everything. We usually have 3 rehearsals before the show, sometimes an extra 1 the Saturday before.

My mixer doesn't have any DCA's, so it's completely line-by-line mixing the students do. We now run 20 mics. I usually have the students come in the week before to mark up their script and actors entrances/exits. Starting to debate getting a mixer that has them, however my 2 mixers aren't even 3 years old yet.

Up until this year, I was dead-set against having students mute on/off but rather bring up the faders, but after watching a video of someone make it's benefits I let the students try it out and they seem to prefer it a lot over leaving channels down until they enter the stage.

I'm actually jealous of them because I've never mixed a show.
 

josh88

Remarkably Tired.
Fight Leukemia
Joined
Jan 26, 2010
Location
Ypsilanti, Michigan
I'm lucky to get 2 full runs, sometimes I get one run of each act. I've had a few gigs where I get a couple hours to set up a system, get a board organized and then the next day I get 1 rehearsal that doesnt finish the show.

I rarely get 3 full rehearsals before the opening performance. I'm typically running 16-24 mics and 10-20 mics in the pit.

Keys for me are laying out the board in a clear manner, numbering the script so that I can keep an eye on the faders in play, getting my DCA's laid out, and (if I have a digital board) building my scenes and mute groups in advance so I don't have to waste time doing it during my limited rehearsal time, and I usually do a patch list just so I can stay organized and speed up my micing of the pit.