Sound Engineering for Horns

Sound Engineering for Hornsor: "A Mixing Console is Not A Treatment Plant"

In the life of your regular brass band, sound reinforcement, or rather event equipment comprising microphones, a mixing console, amplifiers and speakers, is not a prominent consideration. During rehearsals without a singer who might need to be amplified, no sound reinforcement is used. In big bands that include electric guitars, an electric bass and/or keyboards, the musicians in question usually use their own rig.
Yet, for bigger concerts, at least one person should think about sound reinforcement: do we need it? What exactly would we need? Does somebody already have equipment we could use or should we contact an external rental company and/or sound engineer? Sound reinforcement is a delicate matter, and most of us know very little about it. In this workshop, I would like to share my experience gathered over the years. I shall discuss the purpose and applications of a sound system and provide a few hints for musicians who are interested in sound reinforcement.

Why on earth...

would anybody need sound reinforcement? The subject is closely related to the audience’s and our own expectations: "By miking up all instruments, we can create a big sound. We could even record a multi-track version of our performance and release a new CD." As for the detractors: "We are already loud enough as it is! We don’t need speaker cabinets or microphones. Back in the old days, nobody used a PA system. It only creates more work and it costs a fortune. Besides, it only makes things more complicated. As for me, I don’t want a microphone, because that would mean that everybody can hear me."
The first step should be to analyze the benefits of a sound reinforcement system. There are several likely scenarios:

1. Scenario

The orchestra has a balanced sound, all parts and registers are well staffed and master their instruments. A conductor, or the musical director, guides and controls the dynamics and artistic aspects of the performance. From an acoustic point of view, i. e. even without any technological aids, the overall sound is already impressive.
This is the ideal situation, usually only achieved by professional bands. In a venue with suitable acoustics, sound reinforcement is often unnecessary and may even degrade the sound quality.
If, however, the venue provides less-than-perfect acoustic conditions, sound reinforcement quickly becomes a must. Just think of open-air events at "event locations" that are not suited for music performances, or mega events where the distance between the audience and the orchestra needs to be bridged in one way or another.