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Wednesday, August 28, 2013

How to Choose the Right Musician for your Wedding Ceremony

      Okay so you endured the endless string of first dates, relationships that just didn't work out and finally found that Mr. or Ms. Right and set a date! Well congratulations!! you have to plan a wedding where all your family and close friends will be joining you and it is sure to be remembered for many years to come! Many couples who are getting married the first time opt to hire a wedding planner if funds permit, however it seems more and more these days that budgets are too tight for such an extravagance as the bride and groom try to stretch their budget for the perfect venue, menu and honeymoon etc.

     Well there is good news, this article should give you everything you need to be as well educated as the best wedding planner when it comes to choosing the right musician for your wedding ceremony! First of all let's consider the location of your wedding ceremony, is it a church? On the beach? In a garden? Poolside at a resort? Second let's consider the theme of your wedding, is it traditional? Is it beach wedding with a laid-back island feel? The location does play a big part in the theme of your wedding ceremony, so let's start with some scenarios you may be considering.

     Church Wedding

      Here are some factors to consider, often times the church sells you a package that includes the minister, priest or rabbi to conduct the ceremony. This can often include the church pianist or organist, for traditional weddings it might work well for many brides to go with the musician offered in the package. In some cases the bride might have always dreamed of having a string group perform "Pachelbel's Canon" for her Bridal March, in which case she could opt to have a string trio or quartet play all the music for the seating, ceremony and recessional.


     Another option is to have the pianist/organist provide accompaniment for a solo violinist or flutist etc., this can be a great option for the budget conscious! If you always dreamed of having a harpist play at your wedding ceremony, they will certainly like the easy load in (more later about that) and the good acoustics of most churches will compliment the harp. Be prepared to spend a bit more for this option.

      Beach Wedding

      As a wedding ceremony musician myself I can tell you that when Mother Nature cooperates there are few things as memorable as getting married on a beautiful beach around sunset! Most venues have a Plan B when Mother Nature is not in a good mood, but let's assume the best, that it's a beautiful day on your wedding day! Unlike the controlled atmosphere of a church or temple, when you are on the beach with a peaceful breeze blowing, possibly others walking by who are not in the ceremony you may need to put a microphone on your officiant in order for your guests to hear the ceremony. This is true especially when you have more than 30 or 40 people on your guest list. I mention this because often your musician can often supply a wireless mic for the officiant and bring a small PA system for a modest extra charge. Obviously having power outlets available can be an issue unless they are using a battery-operated system. With that out of the way let's concentrate on what makes a great beach wedding when it comes to music. First of all if you want the laid-back island feel a steel drum player can provide a nice atmosphere, they can often play cheerful Calypso music for your guests to be seated by. Then they will play your choice of music for the wedding party and then the Wedding March or whatever you've chosen to walk down the aisle to. For a modern, hip wedding you can also go with an acoustic guitar player, the steel strings tend to stay in tune better on a warm beach day and many young couples prefer to have some modern music in their ceremony these days.


       It is also possible to have string groups play on the beach, although miking them can be an issue for a larger group of guests to hear them well, especially on a windy day and that goes for the officiant as well! A small foam wind screen over the microphones can help when the breeze is light to medium strength, but when it is blowing hard it is all but impossible to get rid of that wind noise over the speakers! Usually a large dynamic mic with a windscreen does a better job than the smaller lavalier microphones that clip on to the lapel. Other combinations that are nice on the beach include guitar and violin, or guitar and flute as well.

     Garden Wedding ...or nice backyard  : )

       Our last category is similar to the beach wedding due to being outdoor and susceptible to wind and other whims of Mother Nature. The same advice regarding microphones is applicable as well. One more thing to note is that pretty fake columns, flower holders and other decorations should be anchored securely in case the wind picks up and they fall over in the middle of a ceremony! ...true story for another time

      If your dream of having a harpist is to come true remember that most harpists insist on having a flat surface like cement to roll their 7 foot high harps on and then ultimately set up and perform on. The harp can be amplified for larger crowds, some have a microphone built in that works well providing there is a PA system with the necessary power. Guitarists are also great and having them sing and play for ceremonies is becoming  increasingly popular. Songs like "Marry Me" by Train or "I'm Yours" by Jason Mraz are perfect choices.

       Where do you find your musician once you decide what you want? Many pros have websites with examples of their music, keep in mind that video examples are always better than audio mp3's to hear what they will really sound like live at your wedding. Hiring a musician is the same as buying any other product or service, be sure to check Google for reviews and referrals from their previous clients are worthwhile as well.

    With all the information above I'm confident you can move forward in choosing the right musician to play your wedding ceremony that will fit your theme, budget and tastes! Next you need to choose the music for them to play but that is a topic for another day! Good Luck!

   Jim Breen

When not blogging and performing at people's weddings with his company Tradewinds Music Inc., Jim enjoys writing and recording music for himself and others in his studio and going boating in his beautiful hometown waters of West Palm Beach, Florida.


Monday, August 26, 2013

how to choose a microphone for voiceovers

Okay so you've got all the recording studio equipment now, you're familiar with your DAW and have enough experience recording to get a good professional result…
What's next?
Many Different Clients!
…but you should just be able to put up your most expensive mic through the premium preamp that you bought and achieve audio nirvana right? Well the answer is maybe, yes and no!

The setup for one person who is the talent in your session is not always ideal for everyone. Let me explain, I was doing the voiceover for the owner of an Internet-based business where people bid for builders on their home improvement projects. The mics and preamps that I had at my disposal were a good professional level. So I started with a UM70 by Microtech Geffel which is a classic and usually delivers great results for voice overs if the talent stands close enough to it to take advantage of the proximity effect. I also have a Pearlman TM – 1and my Frankenstein Mic which is the Joly-modded MK – 012 with an Oktava large diaphragm capsule MK – 101 screwed onto the top of it. I tried each of these mics through my Grace M101 preamp as well as my Golden Age Project Pre-– 73 an excellent clone of the highly sought after Neve preamps.

My client had a good speaking voice and had experience doing commercials previously, which was very helpful in getting a clear even tone with good diction to record. After my initial tests I decided to go with the Frankenstein Mic: Joly-modded MK – 012 with an Oktava large diaphragm capsule MK – 101.this mic with the Golden Age Project Pre-– 73 was perfectly balanced with his voice's tonal range to give me a smooth, non-peaky tone! So the $350 microphone body paired with the $250 cardioid capsule plus a $400 preamp beat out my $2400 ( current cost to build ) Pearlman TM – 1 microphone paired with a $600 Grace M101 preamp! That combination also beat out the vintage UM 70 and either preamp! Is it truly the best Mic and preamp at that price  range?  Well many might think so, however there was some acoustic guitar music in the background that I was trying to blend his voice to and his particular tonal range just seem to fit that combination better. With a small amount of compression and EQ the commercial was ready for radio and TV.  see bid a builder commercial @

As a last example, we were working with a local indie movie producer who had some unusable dialogue tracks on her film that was bound for the Sundance Film Festival this past year, their videographer had shot excellent scenes but had used lavalier mics that were very noisy. After using noise reduction, EQ and other tricks we were faced with using ADR to replace the dialogue of several scenes.  see Video Post Production Reel "The Ultimate Sacrifice"

We had much luck with M Audio’s Sputnik mic in figure 8 configuration for a good live natural sound between two women who were sitting on a couch having a conversation. One scene proved challenging however, due to the fact that the lead actor was in Los Angeles and could not travel here to do his lines. I contacted a colleague at a studio in LA and he performed his lines with him and sent them to me via the Internet. The lines were recorded with a Neumann U87 and were well done, however they had the “Voice of God” sound that did not blend with the actresses' lines done here. With the use of EQ I was able to match them closely enough to make everyone happy, however if I was recording him I would've had him back off the mic or chosen the UM 70 which has less bass. In summary keep your ears and your mind open and you can find the right microphone for any voiceover!

written by Jim Breen
Jim is a studio owner, producer and musician  who lives and works in Jupiter Florida,  one of Palm Beach County's most beautiful areas.