KNOXVILLE, TN, September 25, 2019 — FOH sound engineer Albert Rettich, aka “Big Al,” uses Waves Plugins for “Weird Al” Yankovic's 2019 Strings Attached tour.
With 67 shows in 64 venues all across North America, and each show featuring a live symphony orchestra – usually around 41 pieces, and at times much more (like the Nashville Symphony, the National Symphony Orchestra and the Colorado Symphony Orchestra) – the live mix requires a deft touch, and FOH sound engineer Albert Rettich is up to the task. He remarks, about using Waves plugins for this production, “At FOH, I'm pretty stripped down. I don't have a lot of outboard gear, so I rely on Waves quite a bit. We’re touring with a large orchestra so that, with a full band including guitars, bass, drums, keys and background singers, comes to about 133 inputs on our DiGiCo SD5 consoles at both front-of-house and monitors.”
On the benefits of using MultiRack, a software host that lets FOH and monitor engineers run multiple, simultaneous instances of the same award-winning Waves plugins used in recording studios and mixing rooms the world over, Rettich says, “Waves MultiRack can be as complex or as simplistic as the user chooses to dive into it. For Weird Al, each song had a minimum of two snapshots. When mixing a comedy rock band and a full orchestra, there were things that had to change and things that needed to stay consistent. With each time I use MultiRack, I notice that it reduces my CPU and with using the Scheps Omni Channel, C6 Multiband Compressor and others that most think would make the CPU ‘work,’ I never went over 50%!”
He adds, ”On my main outputs, I have a plugin chain that starts with the Waves CLA Mixdown. I love the glue and the drive and that gives me capabilities of tightening things up in the mix a little bit. I come out of that into an MV2 (high and low-level compression plugin). I like using the ‘Broadcast Wizard’ preset so that I'm right into that one pocket. I come out of that into the L3-16 Multimaximizer with IDR. There's a setting in there that takes out a little bit of the mid-range—that gives me that loudness curve. I then come out of that into the GEQ Graphic Equalizer, which I think is one of the most underrated plugins. You know I'm old … really old [laughs], so having a 31-band EQ is like second nature for me. The nice thing about the GEQ is the ability to switch between the Classic and Modern components. I prefer the flat-top filters on the Modern (component), because it maintains the Q shape no matter how you adjust the band’s gain—not like the classic version of it where the more you cut or the more you boost the wider or narrower it gets. What’s weird is that a lot of the theaters we’ve been visiting have the left and right subs, and front PA speakers all down the same line, and that's kind of rough because the timing and the cutoff of the subs is going to be off in a lot of cases. So, the Waves Sub Align plugin was great for these situations. Using this plugin on the mains was useful in fixing this problem with a PA, and also helping the artist shine.”
On processing Weird Al’s vocals, he remarks, “My vocal plugin chain is always on my side monitor. I like having that control in knowing it's right there. Especially with this show—I've got my eyes in so many different places, and so far the Scheps Omni Channel is what I've been messing with the most. I use the Tune Real-Time, and that's mostly because we do five or six shows a week. On that fifth or sixth show, he might be getting a little tired, so I sometimes need to kick it in—otherwise it's out. Then on his vocal, and pretty much all my vocals in the show, I have the Primary Source Expander. This way, when his background singers or the band aren't singing, I'm not getting any bleed. For effects sends, I’m using the CLA Effects plugin. It’s got everything there—delay, pitch control and short and long reverb. I use it in send/return mode to feed the reverb and the delay separately within the plugin. I direct-out his vocals again into another channel that has the CLA Vocals plugin on it. What I love about it is that I can get a nice compressed sound, and I’ll use the Wide setting to make his vocal sound a little bit wider if I need to—without having to push his vocal levels too hard.”
Regarding Al’s accordion, Rettich notes, “We use a wireless Beta 98 (miniature cardioid condenser microphone) hooked up directly inside the accordion to reduce any bleed. I do tend to get wind noise when he is not playing—especially if we’re playing an outdoor concert. The Waves F6 Floating-Band Dynamic EQ works great right off the bat; it takes that harshness out of the wind noise. Then, I have a CLA-2A plugin just to kind of even it out and compress it a little bit. I then use the IR-L Convolution Reverb for a nice, smooth room on it—to give it a little tail.”
On mixing the live symphony orchestra with a full band, Rettich adds, “Throughout the inputs I've got the Waves F6 Floating-Band Dynamic EQ, but I’m not micing every instrument. I'm trying to keep it as minimal as possible. I typically place one microphone for every two pieces or instruments throughout the orchestra. For instruments that don’t put out a lot of signal, like oboes and bassoons, I use a one-to-one close-micing technique.”
He sums it up: “In my experience, when mixing live, sometimes you don’t always get to carry control, and yet Waves still enables you to have the basic tools to keep your mix consistent. For those times where you are in full control, Waves plugins allow you to sculpt the audio in live, just as they do in a studio. Waves is a win-win for most engineers out there and I’m one of them.”