Marco’s Tips

Electronic Factors/Logistics and Judging

  • Electronic equipment factors/logistics
  • Finer details of simply getting an amplified sound and mixing it properly
  • Sound libraries and “designed” sounds
  • Applying the system to judging electronics in field percussion, music ensemble and effect
  • General comments regarding judging percussion that are usually addressed every year.

Electronics: Getting a Studio Quality Sound in Our Activity

There is a consensus in the instructor community that this is an area in need of more education. As a judging community, we need to be more aware of the great challenges involved in producing a studio quality sound.

General Factors Involved in Producing a Great Amplified Sound

  • Quality of the Speakers
  • Quality of Amps
  • Quality of sound board
  • Quality of mic(s)
  • Placement of the Speakers in every stadium

Condition of the cords, multiple connected cords or single, quality of the power getting to the system, can be great affected by the cords. Just getting everything setup and running every show in a new stadium is a great logistical challenge for the performers. In drum corps, we don’t have an army of parents helping. For the most part, the performers themselves set everything up. We aren’t judging the setup process, but it is a massive undertaking Quality of Amps.

Other Logistical Factors

Where the mics are placed in relation to the instruments?
How the wind performer or accessory percussionist is holding their instrument in relation to the mic. This is incredibly difficult to do consistently show after show. The staff and the performers must be very detailed and very diligent.

Now everything is setup up, now what?

This process is usually done at the beginning of the year and then updated as needed.

Download a frequency chart:
The link is a typical chart that sound engineers use. Depending on the instrument you are amplifying, you have to eliminate all the frequencies above or below the range for the instrument.
Add compression, this reduces the volume of loud sounds and amplifies the softer sounds, it can help eliminate pops and distorted sounds. That’s definitely the basic definition, add reverb and balance the sound within the ensemble.

Frequency Chart

That process has to be done for everything that is amplified (only instruments that are miced, not synths). Once everything is mixed properly, it has to be maintained and updated every time, depending on the performance venue.

Synthesizers, Sound Libraries, Designed Sounds

If you hear a sound coming from a synth, it is produced in one of three ways:

  • Sounds that are built in to or loaded to the synth
  • Sounds that are coming from a sound library on a computer
  • Sounds that are designed sounds on a computer

None is better than the other. However, you can certainly reward appropriateness of a sound choice and as well as uniqueness of a sound choice. If it is an extremely unique sound, it is probably from a sound library or a designed sound (which means the instructor took a sound in a sound library or program and altered it).

Sampled effects or voice? The quality of the sample (Fidelity) should be discussed as well as the appropriateness of the sound sample choice.
Fidelity and choice of sound should resonate as equals. Regarding voice whether it’s spoken word, a Capella choir should have the effect of someone speaking to you or singing to you as if they were sitting next to you.

Judging Electronics and Amplification

The previous sections of this document were simply to give the music judge a greater understanding of what goes in to producing a studio quality of sound. One doesn’t have to be a sound engineer to appreciate the quality and the challenges inherent
The term “Fidelity” – Judges should use this term as a way of describing quality of electronic amplification, reinforcement or samples.

Judging Electronics

Depending on the “hat” you are wearing as a judge, will also depend on the level of detail of technical commentary.

  • “Teacher Hat”- the judge may need to discuss many of the details listed. That particular staff may need lots of guidance
  • “Counselor Hat”- the judge may need to offer some technical advice to help them produce a better sound
  • Critic Hat”- the judge probably does not need to offer very specific technical comments.

We are not saying each judge should be speaking about the logistics to every group. Only as needed. If the sound isn’t working, it’s our job to help the staff figure out the problem and a solution.

Field Percussion Electronic Commentary

Be very careful with your electronic commentary on the field. Balance is not something that can be discussed. We also have to be careful talking about appropriateness of a particular sound. We can offer specific commentary if it is obvious there is a logistical/technical issue. A positive comment regarding electronic sounds from the field is appropriate as long as you are discussing simply what’s hitting your ears on the field
Discussing the challenges are entirely appropriate.

Ensemble Music Electronic Commentary

Balance, appropriate of sound choice, quality of the amplification, logistics all can be commented on. However, from that vantage point it can be difficult to give some specific comments regarding technical/logistical. You may not be able to see mic placement issues, cord problems etc. In most cases, the music ensemble judge will be discussing broad concepts. You can certainly offer a possible technical/logistical reason for an issue a group is having. As with percussion, it is entirely appropriate to discuss the challenges presented electronically

Music Effect Electronic Commentary

Nearly all commentary would be broad in terms of the effectiveness of the sounds.
It is appropriate to discuss technical/logistical issues if it is having an impact on the effectiveness of the program. Quality, Balance, etc.
It is appropriate to discuss the electronic challenges as it relates being effective

General Review of Percussion

Try to keep sampling 50/50 battery to pit and ample all sections.
Recognize the challenges: Environmental, Physical and Musical. This is still the biggest issue. Try your best to always comment on the challenges whether there is an error or not. Be careful when making musical comments Discussing what the performer “brings to the table” on the field is appropriate. We cannot discuss whether the writing is appropriate upstairs.

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