Pro Audio Parade Music

I’ve been researching: How do you do pro audio for a Fourth of July Parade? In this case, we’re trying to give a bunch of dancers some dancing music and share that music with the audience, but we could be playing music on a float or a trailer. I know lots of churches who are involved in parades nowadays, and their entries always involve music. How do we make parade music so that everybody can hear it, and so it doesn't sound like garbage?

We’ve all seen the little battery powered systems; they’re great for a small group in a quiet environment, but they aren’t enough for sound in a parade: the high school marching band two blocks away will overwhelm it. Let's save these for mission trips or fellowship halls (they're pretty good for that!).

I consulted with Fred Tomke an engineer at QSC Audio. Fred knows his stuff: he’s been using his own K12 speakers on top of a bus in his own local Fourth of July Parade for a few years. OK, Fred, what do I need to power them properly?

It turns out that the only thing you need is a competent inverter for the vehicle. He uses a “basic 800 watt” inverter to power his (2) K12 speakers (1000 watts each), a small mixer, and a CD player. He says he’s never run out of headroom. “The secret is in the power supplies on the speakers: they’ll handle anything from 85v to 240v.”

To connect multiple devices (like the mixer, CD player, and multiple amps), just use a power strip. And we ended up using the smaller, broader-dispersion K8 speakers on this project: The smaller size made it easier to load onto their minivan’s roof rack, and the 105ยบ dispersion pattern means more people alongside the parade route will hear it, even if you lay the speakers on their side (as any sensible minivan driver would do!). It still has the same 1000 watt amp built in, so “loud enough” is not an issue.

The little JBL EON210P system will also work nicely in this environment: a little poweredmixer and two 10” main speakers.

There is one important detail: don’t use an inverter that connects via the vehicle’s cigarette lighter. That lighter is limited, typically, to about 5 amps, and you’ll pretty much need all 6.7 amps that an 800 watt inverter can provide. Instead, use one of the inverters that connects directly to the vehicle’s battery, or extend to the battery with 10- or 12- gauge cables.

Oh, and make sure you vehicle is running. This kind of power consumption will drain your battery pretty quickly.

With this kind of setup, you can get loud enough that the parade officials will come tell you to turn the music down! Or you can use this system for your concert-in-the-park after the parade!

Happy Fourth of July.

Using the Presonus Studio Live Mixer

The Presonus StudioLive digital mixer may be the most popular small mixing board for churches this year. But as easy as it is to operate, it's not the same as an analog board.
Recently, Presonus's Rick Naqvi did a very detailed webinar on the board. It's an excellent source for learning how to use the new board.

Vocal Microphone Technique

It's always been amusing to watch the band set up. The guitarist brings his amp, a few pedals, and maybe a couple of guitars. The bass player brings his instrument, and often his own amp. The drummer uses the church's drum kit, but he brings his own sticks and takes the time to tune and position the drums to his liking.

But the vocalist just uses whatever mic is handed to them.

My experience has been that the choice of microphone for the vocalists, especially the lead vocalist, has a substantial effect on her sound in the house, her intelligibility, and even her confidence in front of a crowd. Using "whatever they give me" would be like the the guitarist playing "whatever guitar they hand me," whether it's a Fender Squire or a Paul Reed Smith Custom 24 guitar, or the sound guy saying, "Yeah, whatever. Behringer, Midas, Yamaha, Digico: they're all the same."

The point: if you're a vocalist, find a mic that really lets your voice give its best in your facility. If you're the sound guy, then give real thought to what mics sound best on which vocalist, particular the main vocalists. Try out some new ones if you need to, and teach your team that "This is John's mic!" Or encourage John to buy his own vocal mic.

And of course, audio engineers love working with untrained vocalists, who sing away from the mic, lean into the mic for their loud notes, and cup the grille. The reality is that a good sound system will clearly amplify whatever sound (good or bad) that the vocal mic picks up. It is not to the vocalist's advantage to send a poor signal to the sound system.

Audix created this video, and they make some excellent vocal microphones (and some amazing instrument mics), including some at modest prices. Of course, they use Audix mics in these brief clips. But the techniques are appropriate for any handheld vocal microphone

Note: this post contains a video clip. If you're having a hard time seeing it, click on the title ("Vocal Microphone Technique") to watch the video on the post's home page. And if you want to share the video with your vocalists, use this link: