Wednesday, January 2, 2013

"The Music Beat: The Kind of Buzzz You Want To Hear At A Concert!" by Jeanne Jasperse

This article is from the November 2012 issue of KC Stage

The most important thing about being a musician, other than having skills, is how you sound through the PA. I have left concerts before because the sound was so bad, I couldn’t stand it. Face it, if you want to be heard, you gotta have the right sound mix. That's where Mark "Buzzz" Collins comes in.

Buzzz has been a sound guy for the past 35 years. I first heard his sound at an Elders concert, and it made me sit up and take notice. He has been working with the Elders pretty exclusively since 1998. He also does sound for The Rainmakers and Walkenhorst/Porter.

Buzzz started his early career with a teacher named Steve Russia and continued later on with Greg Pierce. Buzzz has earned an endorsement from BB King for his work. There’s nothing like learning fast when you are thrown into the mix, so to speak, and Buzzz has learned from both sides of the mixing board. He has been a bass player since he was 15 and acknowledges that being a musician has really helped over the years.

Mixing sound is a very delicate process. You have got to make sure all the vocalists are happy. Is there too much treble or too much bass in their vocal mike? What about the instruments, same thing? Try juggling five performers plus instruments at the same time! You have three mikes on the drums, five to eight instruments that all need to be evened out, plus harmony vocals that need to match with the lead vocal being a bit louder than the harmony vocals .... See what I mean? You have to have a great “ear” and the ability to invest in your own equipment in order to survive in this field, it gets kind of expensive.

The standards Buzzz has set are hard to follow, but if you want to go into sound, he’s the one to watch. In order to make the band sound its best and the audience to be happy, you never leave the mixing board. You are constantly tweaking stuff here and there. It’s a major commitment that can’t be taken lightly. If you are a professional musician wanting to do your own sound, it’s always best to consult with a pro beforehand. It takes a bit to catch the knack of mixing your sound.

Making an audience happy is Buzzz’s main goal, but the love has to come from both directions. Is it too loud? Move to the back! Is it too soft? Move to the front if you can. Here’s a couple of tips for the audience, too. Don’t be a backseat engineer and tell them it’s too loud or soft. Just out of curiosity: why do people go to a venue that features live music and then complain there’s too much noise?

When questioned about the local music scene, Buzzz admits he doesn’t have much time to see anyone, but feels that Mike Kelly’s Westsider is one of the best places in town to hear music.

I wanted to feature Buzzz for this month because I wanted to shed some light on what goes on behind the scenes at any staged event. Whether it’s the ballet, the opera, or a rock concert, you have to have the best people to support your performance and please, always treat your backstage staff with respect.

They are professionals, and even though they have the power to make you look and sound bad without you even knowing it, they rise above.

Next month, it's Christmas time: holiday music options in the KC area. You can reach Jeanne Jasperse on Facebook or KKFI.

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