In mixing a cappella, there are several ideas and sound techniques that stray from what most engineers learn and practice in the industry. I thought I’d start a blog that addresses these differences to help groups get a more full and clear sound.
Lets start with the ever important and most widely misunderstood vocal percussionist (VP) or beatboxer.
I start by using a “Y” split cable to bring his/her channel into two channels on the mixer. You can also use Whirlwind three-way splitter or internal buss on a digital mixer. This opens up the opportunity to EQ and place effects on the upper drum parts without affecting the kick channel and vice versa. The three channels are as follows: one being the kick (KK), the second being the snare and over-head channel (SNOH), and the third as a vocal channel in case they sing on the same microphone. That gives you the ability to effect and EQ each channel differently for swift mid-song changes to that vocalist by muting the vocal channel and opening up the Kick (KK) and Snare/Over-head (SNOH), of vise versa. Just mute and open the channels as needed. Never have all three open at once, that defeats the purpose.
Second, I EQ the KK channel to sound like a kick drum. Have the artist do a kick sound and adjust only the KK channel to have a good amount of 60 Hz, almost no mids, and a peak at 5 KHz. I also put the subwoofer send on an auxiliary out and route the kick channel to it.
Then mute the KK channel and open up the SNOH channel alone with the artist doing snare and hat sounds. EQ it to handle all of the low-high mids and highs. I usually put a HP filter up to 150 Hz, bring up 250 Hz, put a peak at 3.0 KHz, and a shelf EQ at 11KHz and above.
Then bring the two channels together by bringing them both up. Have the artist do their “full kit” and blend the two channels until it sounds good. The best part is that you could put a little reverb only on the SNOH channel to give it some room. During the show, the engineer can use either channel more or less to create atmosphere in the mix, ie. Dance tunes get more KK, slow songs, more SNOH.
For microphones, I prefer dynamic microphones that can handle high sound pressure levels (SPL’s) I use the Shure Beta 58 on on most beatbox, since it can be wireless. The Sennheiser EW100 with the 965 hyper-cardiod capsule is also a good choice. Small EQ differences can be heard by sending the signal through the airwaves so I prefer the wired models if I can get away with it. Also, if you want a huge kick sound, use the Audix D6!!
Remember, you can always email your sound questions to firstname.lastname@example.org