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Band Director in need of help with sound in the gym


I am a band director and general music teacher...I am new to this school this year and just had my first concert and it was ruined because of the wrong sound equipment in the gym. The person in charge of the sound runs the campus radio station and they kept telling me that we had the right equipment for what I was asking for, but we do not...and I do not know where to begin to get the right equipment. I could not hear anything from the stage, with or without the kids using microphones and I was 15 feet in front to the stage. I could not hear the music coming from the speakers for the elementary kids, so I can't tell if there were phasing issues. The parents sitting in the bleachers, could only hear the music and the background vocals, not my kids singing. The microphones that were used, I believe are unidirectional, because they would not pick up any sound unless you were speaking right into it and if they were left on, there was lots of feedback. The microphone stands were the straight ones, not the tripod ones, so they were in the way. So, what equipment do we need? There is a "mixer" but I do not think the sound person knows how to do more than hook up the microphones, or if has any other capability than just that. I need quality equipment and basically want to start over.
December 17, 2011 @02:50pm

Hi Erin,
Unfortunately, there's really any number of things that could be at issue here. It sounds as if conventional handheld vocal mics were being used to pick up a vocal ensemble (is that correct?). That's going to be trouble even in a good room with adult singers, but in a gym with kids, it's asking for disaster.
The first issue sounds like you are less than confident in the abilities of your technician. Until that's dealt with, any equipment suggestions or additions won't make a lot of meaningful difference.
December 20, 2011 @02:26am
Dave Burris

I'm curious by what mechanism, except lousy sound, that the conclusion was the show was ruined because of the wrong equipment.
School gymnasiums are generally lousy acoustical environments in most instances and without acoustical treatment are extremely challenging to get articulate results.
I have no idea to what extent the technician in question even had any control over what equipment was used.
Based on the fact that there was lots of feedback, it does seem that microphone and/or speaker placement was an issue. A contributor to the feedback was likely trying to compensate with gain for poorly placed microphones and quiet signal sources (the kids).
Sounds like you need professional help is assessing the situation. I would be hesitant to make any suggestions without a lot more information on the current situation.
December 20, 2011 @03:13am

A funny thing that you started this particular thread..
AV people unfortunately have very little clue as to amplifying live performances....especially school performances.
A public school music teacher since '81. Over the years I've directed middle school chorus, band, HS band, HS jazz band, elementary string orchestra... I also perform professionally on my instruments. About a dozen years ago I started providing sound for live performances (outdoor festivals, concerts, indoor choral concerts, showchoir festivals, etc.).
Three weeks ago, I was contacted by a regional AV company to trouble-shoot a middle school auditorium PA install in reference to mic'ing the MS chorus' Holiday concert. The AV company hired me as a consultant to work with the choral conductor.
I advised the AV company as to what 3 mics to get (Audiopile C-61) and met with a company rep and the chorus director 90 minutes prior to the evening performance. The company rep had previously mic'ed the chorus (mics on the sides of the chorus pointing at each other, etc....total horror show...feedback galore).
The FOH speakers were center-clustered above the stage (how does one get a stereo effect with center clustered speakers?...sheesssze) and the mixer was located in an enclosed room (not even a sliding window) in the back of the auditorium. The installed sound system looked good on paper (asthetically) but was virtually useless for live performance applications.
I set things up (from scratch) and got the rig sounding pretty good and the Christmas concert sounded great.
I also noted all of the settings and placement of the mics for the chorus director to use in future productions.
My advise to you: get a local sound tech (hopefully a musician) that is experienced in choral performances to set you up. AV depts, (install, and onsite) staffed by non-musicians have no clue...
Just my TCW
Mike M
December 29, 2011 @01:26pm

I believe you should contact a local audio expert, and have them sit in on a show or something with the "house sound guy" and see what the problems are. Then go from there. Sounds like he used some Sm58s for chorus, which us sound guys know is a big no no.
December 30, 2011 @09:15pm

You could spend $30,000 on sound equiptment for a gym and get really good sounding basket ball game but singing with mics no.
If your school does not have a auditorium for drama and choir then you need to spend on accuostic treaments for gym. There are panels made for walls and to hang between roof trusses that will knock down the echos. Simple area rugs/cheap carpet edged to roll out on court.The problem with the children singing is if they are standing on the court in front of the bleachers there is a huge cavern of reverberation behind them and you will never get enough gain before feedback in that situation. If the kids can stand with their backs to a wall 2 to 4 feet away that issue will be better but they will be across the room. If you must use the room then how you use it has to change.
AV salesmen will try to sell you miricle mics and speakers etc... You can not overcome the reverbation of a gym with mics and speakers. I have run live sound for years and gyms suck and will never sound good for anything like a childrens program. If you set up chairs on the floor facing one end and have the kids on the end of the court and portable speakers on stands just in front of them to each side in will greatly improve. Large area rugs underthem would help also and people covering the floor in chairs gets rid of the reflections on one major surface of the room, the floor.
I do not want to come across to strong but putting louder sounds into a bad accustical space makes really big loud things worse. If you have to use the gym before you push for more gear you need to get rid of reflectiveness surfaces like walls and ceilings. If thew coach does not want you to be on the floor then I have seen draw curtiand that pull across the court to reduce the size of room that work quite well. Try to find company that has done sound treaments in a gym near to you and go hear for yourself. I have seen people try to buy their way out of this with gear and they are always disapointed. Treat yout room first then the gear will cost less.
By the way micing childrens choir is challenging in the best of rooms, in a gym yikes.
A gym is like a pig. You can put it in a dress and call it sister and try to get it a prom date but it is still a pig.
January 30, 2012 @08:26pm