What Do I Need?
Sound is often left to the last minute, probably because of the inconvenience of setting up the equipment as it often has to be packed away between performances. The most simple set up will require a tape player, some form of amplification and speakers.
For recorded effects a good quality home hi-fl cassette tape machine will do, but a reel-to-reel tape machine will give a better quality playback and it is more easy to cue the tape to the start of a recording. Alternatively you could record your music and effects on to a recordable Compact Disc. A home hi-fl amplifier and speakers might be powerful enough for incidental music at a smaller venue, but overrunning the amplifier will distort the sound and could do permanent damage to the amplifier and speakers. For best results get a professional power amplifier. Position your speakers where they will be best heard by your audience. Your actors will be distracted if the effects are too loud for them to work.
Even if the stage directions do not indicate that a particular piece of music should be played before the play or during the interval, think about what might create the right atmosphere. If you play a specific piece of music just before the curtains open at the start of the play, when the audience hear the same music later during the interval they will realise that it signifies the next part of the show.
For musicals, reinforcement of vocalists may be necessary. Many people think that a rifle microphone will be the answer. Unfortunately unless you can afford the best professional equipment, you will find a rifle microphone will not only pick up what you want it to, but everything in range including the audience coughing and rustling their programmes!
You might be able to use a Pressure Zone microphone, but these work best in conference type applications, where the people speaking are not moving around. Personal hand microphones are best, but if you need to disguise them use radio microphones that are small enough to be un-noticed. There is a small range of frequencies available for amateur radio microphone use and they can be prone to interference. Whatever equipment you decide on, buy or hire the best that you can afford as the results you get will be noticeably better.
Almost every production will involve some sound effects. Just how you achieve the result you want will depend on how many effects you need and what they are. Many recorded effects are commercially available or can be downloaded free from various web sites, although the quality of some effects may not be clear enough for theatre use.
- More about special effects
If you play music - whether the performance is played live or by such means as CD, radio, DVD, TV, karaoke etc, whether a charge is made for admission, or whether the performers are paid - a PRS Music Licence is still necessary.
copyright Leigh Graham 1997-2010.