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Teaching Theatrical Sound

Discussion in 'Sound, Music, and Intercom' started by falcon, Sep 13, 2005.

  1. falcon

    falcon Active Member

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    My old high school drama teacher asked me to also do a sound lesson or a series of lessons in addition to lighting. I do work for a professional sound company and run the studio, but I have no idea of where to start and how to teach it. Any ideas? The only equipment to be taught is the mixer, amps, eq, mics, and speakers. Any help would be great.
     
  2. Inaki2

    Inaki2 Active Member

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    Signal Flow, Gain Structure, Speaker Placement, Microphone Types and uses.
    Those would be my main topics.
     
  3. sound_nerd

    sound_nerd Active Member

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    As I said in the lighting question, best to have your teacher contact a local professional currently working in the industry. They migh tbe able to suggest good topic material they feel a young student starting out might need to know.
     
  4. jumpjet

    jumpjet Active Member

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    I find that when I teach students at the high school level, I can only give them about 20 minutes of lecture, before I have to let them play with something. At the beginning of the year, we start with a very basic intro to electrical/signal flow, and talk about how it gets from the playback device to the speakers. After that, I walk them from the top of the board, down to the bottom through a single channel, then one by one, cause an oopsie in the board and make them fix it.
     
  5. wolf825

    wolf825 Senior Team Emeritus Premium Member

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    FWIW, When I teach (and I do quite often) I keep ONE thing in mind--"how would I have liked to been taught and what example would have really showed ME how something worked??"

    In a nutshell I start with the basics--signal flow being most important, followed by GAIN STRUCTURE. IMO understanding signal flow and setting a proper gain structure and being able to recognize and troubleshoot either of those problems is paramount to knowing how the life blood flows in a system and how to properly operate a system of ANY size. 95% of all system problems IMO have to do with signal flow routing and poor gain structure. Learn those first IMO.

    After signal flow and gain structure are learned--teach BASIC sound theory (acoustic to electrical to acoustic energy loop and other things--they love it when you turn a old 58 into a speaker) and basic electricity principles to understand balanced and unbalanced signals, and the general fundamentals of the hardware and the gear and what it does and its purpose etc etc. VERY basic. K.I.S.S. applies (Keep It Simple Stupid). Lots of hands on projects...

    When teaching teenagers--what someone else said--make it HANDS ON. You can TELL someone all the things in the world but until they experience it and DO it for themselves, they won't truely grasp it. Plus you are dealing with short attention spans...so keep it challenging and interesting. Once they know signal flow then start doing little things to make them think about it over and over (and you can then show them how "signal flow" applies to darn near everything else--electricity, dimmer patching, networking DMX and so on). Also accept the fact--not everyone is cut out for this line of work or will pick it up even after a dozen tries...be PATIENT and don't give up on them..and you would be surprised how far you can take them in time. Also continue with basic Mic technique--get them to USE the mic so they understand how it works and how proximity effect and cancellations can happen etc. Then go into basic EQ and systems...

    For more advanced--I get into frequencies, feedback & detailed EQ work, speaker placement and cancellations, phasing and timing issues, mic techniques, mixing techniques..speaker types and variations...amp balancing, grouping and digital processing and routing and so on..

    -w
     
  6. JahJahwarrior

    JahJahwarrior Active Member

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    I actually do teach the "tech class" as part of drama....I started thi syear with sound, with what sound is. Then, I moved right in on the board, and tried to teach them wht all the knobs and things do, wihle teaching them signal flow. I don't understand what you all mean by gain structure, but I tried to show them how you could route the sound and what would adjust it where...that took over a week, because it wa salot to learn! Then I went through some other materials, and that's where I am now, making sure they understand it all, including troubleshooting: one day I just hooked it all up and let them go at it, tring to find my mistakes. Man, I was so mean :) one time, I turned the mic off (mic with a switch) one dude spent about 20 minutes trying to find the problem....

    and I have found a lady at a church I do lights at who went to Full Sail, she is going to come in and try to teach us a little more about sound, not sure what though. :) I need to talk with her and see what I've covered well and what she can teach us that's new.
     
  7. wolf825

    wolf825 Senior Team Emeritus Premium Member

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    Well gain structure is how you set and balance your attenuations in your signal path starting with the gain knob and going from there-- for all your signals wherever you route it--so none is crushingly distorting, over modulating, "too hot" or "not hot enough that its a whisper" or so intense that it has no headroom or place to go on dynamics...

    -w
     
  8. JahJahwarrior

    JahJahwarrior Active Member

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    oh, well then, I've taught htem that---level setting on a Mackie 1604 VLZ Pro is very simple to teach........I don't usualy follow how the manual tells how to do it, but it works, and so I taught them how to do it the manual's way.
     
  9. Andy_Leviss

    Andy_Leviss Active Member Premium Member

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    A couple years ago I did a presentation for the drama class at my old high school, and one of the things I did was bring in some samples of cues from shows I've designed to show them. I brought some examples of the individual elements of the cues, and then showed how they added together when combined into one cue.

    The thing that I think went over the best was actually a really simple cue. The prologue of a show I designed a few years back involved three characters having overlapping and quite enthuiastic cell phone calls (you only hear their side of the phone calls), which was quite dynamic to begin with. It dragged a bit, though, so I ended up underscoring it with a simple repeating hi-hat ride (kind of a "tcch-tikka-tcch-tikka-tcch-tikka..." thing around 100-120 BPM) that gave it a real drive.

    I handed out sides of the scene to three of the students and assigned roles, and had them read the scene once without any scoring. Then I had them read it again, this time with the hi-hat behind them, and discussed with them how even such a simple addition so drastically affected the feel of the scene (as simple as it is, it's still one of my two most favorite cues from shows I've designed, and the other one is a totally cheesball but perfect for the transition music/effect cue that is straying off-topic here).

    Figuring out ways like that to get them involved works out really well. I'll try to see if I still have the old emails I sent back and forth with the class's teacher with my ideas for things to do with them, and post some more, next week (can't promise when, because right now I'm super busy moving into my new apartment in the city, working a full time day job at a sound shop, and mixing eight performances a week of "Altar Boyz" off-Broadway in NYC).

    Till then, best of luck!

    --Andy
     

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