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Yamaha Wears Paul Carrack’s Different Hat with Style

Jun,2011

As a former member of Roxy Music, Squeeze, Ace and Mike + The Mechanics, Paul Carrack is regarded as something approaching British songwriting royalty. Late April saw him play three nights at the Royal College of Music with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, where a trio of Yamaha digital mixing consoles helped the venue’s sound to be mixed to perfection, while also being recorded for DVD release.

Never one to shy away from a challenge, having recorded his latest album A Different Hat with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Carrack squeezed the entire ensemble into the confines of the Royal College of Music’s 400-capacity Britten Theatre. Playing three such intimate shows meant that space was at an absolute premium, so a pair of Yamaha M7CL-48ES consoles handled front of house and monitor sound, while an 02R96VCM was used to track the show for a DVD recording.

Using three Yamaha SB168-ES stage boxes, the house system was extremely compact but maximised the show’s all-important sound quality. With the orchestra generating plenty of acoustic sound, the key to mixing the show was ensuring that Carrack’s vocals could be heard, highlighting instrument solos, a good monitor mix and getting a good balance for the recordings.

“It’s an unusual gig, a very small venue that’s not looking for a lot of amplification. Very rarely do you do amplified orchestral work in a nice little theatre like this.” says system technician Charlie Brown.

“It’s about mixing Paul’s voice on top of the orchestra and pulling other instruments out just enough to make it sound acoustic, but still live and full,” adds Keith Birtwhistle, Carrack’s long-term front of house engineer. “These are prestigious shows for him, the kind of unusual gigs that he really enjoys doing. And it’s been going down a storm, the audience is loving it and it’s sounding great.”

Microphone placement comprised ambient condenser mics, to get an overall sound of the show, plus spot mics to pull out the solos and particular parts where necessary.

“It has been quite a journey from Paul’s normal nine piece band to this,” smiles monitor engineer Ady Parker. “He’s a big fan of in-ear monitors, so my biggest challenge is trying to give his mix a high quality of sound and not sounding like a lot of very ambient mics on a very open stage!

“The difficulty in this environment is, if you’re not careful, the orchestra can sound as if they’re miles away from him, so it’s been a challenge to mix but the M7CL is a great desk for the job. The shows have sounded fantastic, both Paul and I have been very happy with it.”

“One of the really useful things for me is that the M7CL is not dual layered like most digital desks,” Keith continues. “It’s a 48 channel desk with 48 faders, which means instant access to most of the channels. You need that with an orchestra, because you never know what they’re going to do and you don’t get much time to soundcheck.

“With 80 musicians on stage, you can’t keep asking them to stop and for a certain instrument to play a bit again. You listen, use your knowledge of an orchestra and your hearing to set the sound up in the time there is available and then constantly adjust it throughout the show. Having a lot of faders makes that a lot more straightforward.

“On top of that, its footprint is pretty small and it’s light, In tight situations like these shows, where I’m mixing the gig from the balcony, it’s easy to get the desk up here and doesn’t take up too many seats.”

Meanwhile, in the Royal Academy of Music’s in-house studio, engineer Steven Harrington was using the resident 02R96VCM console to track all three shows to ProTools for a future DVD release.

“We use the console for a lot of things, mainly studio recordings for students and live recordings from the College’s various venues,” says Steven. “Permanent tielines link the console with the live performance spaces so, for this show, 32 channels of both digital and analogue feed are being tracked on the Yamaha console. That recording will then be taken and mixed for the DVD.

He continues, “Some of the original mics hung in the Britten theatre are fed via analogue ties, so we’ve got them on a separate layer, using the preamps on the desk. It’s a pretty versatile console for every scenario we have and we frequently use every layer. It’s got all the facilities we need in a compact footprint.”

Data

Products M7CL-48ES , 02R96VCM , SB168-ES

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