The Kiss Principle

Before I start: This is an LBC post. The subject was suggested by Conrad. Just happens that Conrad seems to have incurred the ire of someone in Russia and his Website came under attack. As a result his website has been taken down and the link is no longer included here among the other contributors.
Delirious, Maria/Gaelikaa, Maria SilverFox, OCD writer, Padmum, Paul, Ramana, Rohit, Will Knott, Grannymar

Here goes:

Many, it seems, years ago I used to work from time to time as a  Barn Dance caller. Not being a musician myself I took great pleasure in persuading real musicians to get together to form bands and I would employ them to play for Dances that I was to call.

One such unit was The Highams Park Village Band (HPVB). Flute, accordion, fiddle (or two), guitar, cello, occasional double bass and jingle ring.  We used my PA system (PA = Public Address) consisting of mixer desk, amplifier and loudspeakers (odd name that: loudspeaker). The sound of everything was fed through the mixer  and carefully  balanced to reinforce the sound. As the “soundman” I was never satisfied.  Compromise is always forced upon one by availability of funds and I had very few funds.

One evening we were at a gig when I was approached by a young man who told me that he had first seen us at his daughters’ school and had been really impressed with the sound of the band. I said I’d pass on his comment. No, he didn’t mean the actual band, though they were good, he meant the sound from the PA system.
“How do you do it?” he asked.
“I don’t know,” I replied, “I’m never happy with the sound.”
“Well, it’s one of the best I’ve heard.”

“Thank you.  I just keep everything simple. No fancy stuff.”
” Ah! The Kiss Principle. Works every time.”
I smiled,trying to look as if I understood this comment.
“What’s your interest?” I inquired.
“Oh, I work for the BBC as a  sound engineer.”
I cannot tell you how proud I felt. These are the best sound engineers in the world and here was one of their number dishing out praise to me!

Later, I had many opportunities to work with this man for he is a really very good Bass Guitarist and every time we worked together he would say to some other member of the band, “I love this little rig. It is brilliantly simple and sounds so good.”

The Kiss Principle? Keep It Simple, Stupid! or as the children I taught would have it Keep It Sensible Simple… after all they were right to object to being called Stupid.

I wish I could apply the KISS to everything in life.

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7 Responses to “The Kiss Principle”

  1. Rummuser Says:

    I will KISS. Great story.

  2. Grannymar Says:

    Being a simple soul, I like The Kiss Principle. Well deserved praise from the man at the BEEB.

  3. magpie11 Says:

    He now treks around the world recording traditional music for various programmes. Being paid for something you love doing…can’t be bad!

  4. Delirious Says:

    Ah yes, I have heard of the KISS principle. I think it is a great way to live!

  5. Nick Says:

    That keeping it simple impressed the BBC guy doesn’t surprise me. I’ve often seen bands with umpteen tonnes of sound equipment who don’t sound any better than a single musician with the bare minimum. I saw K T Tunstall recently, she had very little equipment and the sound was superb.

    • magpie11 Says:

      We often had to play in some awkward venues. You cannot afford to “muddy” the sound. There is one notorious venue in London where , back in 1972, I learned a great lesson.
      The room had a new in house system installed…there were twelve small speakers set around the perimeter each powered by its own amplifiers. The inputs for the mixer were all high quality microphones. I was asked by a band if I knew how to use the new-fangled system. Of course I did. After all it couldn’t be that hard.
      The results were fantastic. The lesson?
      Lots of low level amplification is more effective in many situations than High power from the “front” of the hall.
      Years later the HPVB performed a gig in that hall (that simple system had long been ruined) so I borrowed several amps and speakers and arranged them round the hall.
      All evening regulars at the venue kept coming in to find out how we had managed to get such a great sound.

      The same principle should apply to venues such as churches.

      Another of my secrets is to use 200 watt RMS amplifiers with huge power supplies to drive 100watt RMS speakers (an example). This means that the amplifier only has to work slap bang in the middle of its power range. There is lots of overhead power for musical peaks and so the amp never goes into clipping so the sound is smooth and the speakers are safe.

      Once met another BBC sound engineer and we discovered that we had both worked in the same venue ( a local school hall). I had used the same idea of lots of low level power…. again borrowing gear….. I used six pairs of speakers plus stage . She had used the same idea but only had three pairs plus stage. She commented that it was one of those times when Any Questions had been plagued with noise that was difficult to control. I noticed that Lichfield Cathedral gave them problems this Friday…one frequency needed to be cut on every mic….. there are so many gizmos available to do that these days.

  6. Maria from 'gaelikaa's diary' Says:

    There’s nothing like it, is there?

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