By Kat Goldman
If you’re going to be a singer-songwriter working in the music industry, there are some technical things you will need to know. There are things like patch cords, and soundboards, and microphones, and sound monitors, and D.I.’s, and, to tell the truth- to this day, I still do not know- do you stick the patch cord into the “input” or the “output” of the D.I.? And what in GOD’S name does “D.I.” even stand for?
One time I did a concert in a big, beautiful church- a “Three-Hundred Seater,” as they say. When I finished my set, the audience applauded. I said my thank you, did a perfectly polite curtsy, and then turned around to walk off the stage. Except that I had forgotten to unplug my guitar! This brought me to an abrupt stop halfway across the stage, and whipped my body around to face the audience again. I smiled sheepishly, unplugged my guitar, and as gracefully as I could, walked off the stage, tripping over various patch cables, then swiftly exited the building.
Way back in the day and during my very first shows, I used to take an inordinately long to time to tune my guitar. I used to do it by ear- you know, the way Paul Simon did in those live, early recordings of Simon and Garfunkel performances. Sometimes my tuning would go on for close to fifteen minutes! I sort of thought it was “cute.” But my parents, at their front row table, would be rolling their eyes and sighing deeply, while vigorously stirring their Manhattans. It took me years to realize that you can buy actual guitar tuners that will make this job much easier and take the guesswork out of it!
For many years, I used to take extra time on stage at the end of my show, coiling up the patch cord real slow between my elbow and my thumb, while peering into the audience. I did this to show just how experienced I was in the world of music technology- like, real “pro” kind of stuff. Did you know that if you loop one end of a patch cord, and then whirl it around in the air over your head, you can also use it as a lasso? This really gets the crowd uproarious.
One time, I played in a venue that was so tiny you could use it to store spices. Right in the middle of my set, the promoters decided to set off a dry ice machine. They seemed to mistake our folk gig for a STYX concert. Well, with that room so small, the fog started to spread all around us during one of my more serious ballads. I could barely see anything in front of me, let alone breathe! There was nothing but white smoke! After that, I said I would never play in dry ice again!
Now, did you know that a microphone has a “sweet spot?” Rest assured, this does not mean that you are supposed to eat it, or stroke it fondly. What it means is that, depending on how you tilt your head, and where you direct your mouth, singing into that spot produces a better sound.
Sometimes if you sing too close, your chin will knock the mic, sending it bobbing up and down. When this happens to me, I will start to bob my head up and down in time to the bobbing microphone, as if I’m really getting into the music, and this way, hopefully, no one notices.
Don’t be afraid of the technical side of music. Just ask your soundperson, your engineer, your producer, or your band, any of the things you still do not know. For example, which goddamn hole is it you put the patch cord into? How do you turn down the violinist when he’s playing an unseemly loud Zeppelin riff over your acoustic folk number? Or, how do you cut the bloody house music over the loudspeaker so it’s not playing in the background during your show?
Whoops. Gotta’ go. My foot’s caught in some other cable.