Unplugged In Isolation

This week's Blog post is a small insight into our Saturday night , 2 piece acoustic lockdown sessions by Aoife and Len over the last couple of months.

Every Saturday at 20:30, live on our Facebook page, Aoife and Len delve into an hour and a half of acoustic versions of popular tunes. The "show" has become a mixture of requests from our followers, some personal favourites and the occasional tune from our full band set list. However the latter is probably the least of the weekly sets, as we like to go outside the box for the time online.

The "Studio set up" 
As with so many people globally, we are still in very restricted times, and as all 6 members of Vintage Vibes Band are still unable to gather together, we wanted an avenue to keep in touch with the music community. As Aoife and Len live together, and we have all the tech equipment for the band, we decided to do our best to broadcast weekly.
So since we started our unplugged sessions, our spare bedroom has been transformed into the "Studio" for the weekly show that you see each week.

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Technical Needs and Quality Viewing
Getting a quality feed out has its learning curves and pitfalls along the way and each week we try to improve on the quality of stream for our viewers and thankfully we have learned from other musicians a lot ( special thanks to the lads from Concrete Jungle for their groundbreaking steps and advice here), and thankfully things have steadily improved since our first show.

Our entire show is broadcast through an Apple Mac computer, visually the camera feed is the internal camera of the Mac, this is straightforward enough.
The main obstacle that can befall us here is the quality of WiFi on the night. We live in a rural area and weather, surrounding mountains, forests and lakes , can all effect the stream on the night.
Also similar conditions wherever people are viewing can have similar bearing on the transmission quality. We've recently moved to fully wired Ethernet cabling to minimise WiFi interruptions. After this, its very often in the Lap of the Gods!

We try to enhance the lighting of the room with some ground spotlights behind us, but what isn't visible to the public is the lighting bar that faces us while broadcasting!

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Thankfully its LED technology so theres no great heat from them, otherwise we would melt!
With the addition of a few of Lenny's guitars, a band backdrop banner and some black sheets, the studio is set to go.

Creating the Sound
This is probably one of the most important elements to the performance, obviously, as it's a music performance, viewers want a quality sound. This is an area that we are constantly working on. For the tech minded people reading this, here follows a brief outline of how we manage our sound.
We set up as normal, 2 vocal mics and the guitar into our p.a. system. Our system is a very compact digital p.a., and runs through an iPad app, so the physical set up is simply 3 leads into a small box. This box has its own wireless router that lets it communicate with the iPad.
Through the app we can mix volume settings etc. . The next process is to get that sound enhanced with some echo and reverb,  into the Mac and out to Facebook.

Below is a sample screen from the App that runs the p.a. (someday we will get to include Drums, Bass , Sax etc. again!!)

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Getting the sound online.
The signal from the p.a. is taken from an output and into a sound interface that basically "talks"to the computer. This is basically a little box  (in our case a Line 6 UX2) that is connected between the p.a. and Mac with its own software library (called Pod Farm)  that allows endless options. (Its also the system used when home recording audio and has lots of features for instruments as well as vocals, but that's another day's post!!)

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Once the sound has hit the Mac, its a case of fine tweaking it so that it produces a clean balanced sound. This can be done on the p.a. app but we like to do it at the final stage to cut down on pre processed signals being effected by the computer itself. This we do via the Pod Farm Software. Its just like having a massive shop full of pedals, processors , amps etc in "cartoon" form and they are adjustable for whatever you need to do.

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Once this is tweaked, the sound is broadcast on the livestream via Facebook Live.

The Week Of A Broadcast
A typical week preparing for a show actually goes by very quickly. Thankfully we can leave the studio set up so there's no de-rigging or setting up on gig day.
A Sunday is normally spent watching the previous night's show, looking for any tech or visual issues that need to be addressed and going through all the comments on the feed in detail. Even with the feed going by, on the night, its hard to catch everything.
We make a note of requests and important details and then begin the process of compiling the following Saturday's set list. This is the most comprehensive part, as it involves song choices, how to arrange original versions, especially with just an acoustic guitar, key choice and a mixture of requests and planned tunes.
This normally takes 2-3 days to set in stone. Then Thursday and Friday are spent fine tuning the running order, and rehearsing the songs repeatedly, all the while receiving requests via messages. This can have us change the set a bit, or park a song for a week and so on.

By Saturday, we will run the set fully, at least twice during the day to make sure its ready to roll. Then in the afternoon we test the full broadcast, all the tech equipment and sound quality. Sometimes this has been fine and literally minutes before we go live, something can go wrong. Facebook can refuse to Go live, the sound system may refuse to come on ( recent nightmare, due to a software update!!) and sometimes by the time you see us on screen, there's been blind panic and mayhem in the moments beforehand.

After that its time to do the part we love and enjoy the night. Sometimes signal interruptions can cause hiccups, but this part is totally out of our hands, and indeed anyone that goes live, shares the same fate. 

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Miles Apart Yet Intimate

The hour and a half flies by, and we absolutely love getting to perform. What's even more enjoyable is a genuine connection to everyone on the feed. It's as though we are sitting in the room chatting and playing along, with you all, and its one of the huge silver linings thats come from the past year of madness. Regularly every week we have viewers from Ireland, England, Scotland, Wales, Germany, Holland, Spain, Lanzarote, America, India and Japan. Its a bit mind blowing when we are sitting in a bedroom in a 3 bed semi detached house in the Wicklow mountains in Ireland.
We are counting the days to performing live with our full band. We miss the guys really badly. However at least now we have the foundations set to be able to broadcast fully with them all when the time comes.
And given the fun we've had unplugged and the friends we've gained through it, we fully intend, even when life returns to physical gigs, to bring you all some continued online shows with the full 6 piece band experience.

Looking forward to seeing you all very soon!!

Stay Safe xx