Straumann Tour, London, Coventry, Manchester, July 2017

Straumann are a super technological company, providing high end kit to dental surgeons and technicians worldwide.  They came to hear about Rollercoaster via a dental technician called Ben Hill… who happens to sing in top local band The Sausage Monkeys.  These guys rock – and have been friends to the core Rollercoaster folk for the past 15-20 years… so it was great to get the recommendation.  The folk at Straumann booked us to play the 3 major dates around the UK – Sandown Racecourse, Ricoh Stadium (Coventry), and Old Trafford (Manchester).  We would be entertaining important clients up and down the country, and would be fitting in with the tour vibe – an awesome American style truck, lots of blow up guitars… basically a live band on tour.

Rollercoaster – ecstatic to be road testing the Ui24R

First gig was Sandown, where we have actually played a few times before.  The marquee was setup outside the racecourse stand, next to the juggernaut.  The drinks and food were free flowing as were the freebies – hats, inflatable guitars, mini toy lorries etc.  The technology inside the truck seemed to speak for itself – a kind of 3d scanning of teeth, right through to the 3 printing of denture components etc.  The Straumann staff were super friendly and helpful, and were quick to jump onto the dance floor with ‘air-guitars’… which in turn pulled the dental surgeons etc. in to the ‘mosh pit’.

This was pretty well the procedure for all the events.  The Ricoh Arena gig had a more intimate vibe, but come Manchester, the wild guitar antics returned in force.  In the shadow of Old Trafford, we rocked out to the setting sun… and before we knew it, we’d hit curfew.  The highlight had to be when all the guitars were thrown into the air – maybe to Mr Brightside…

Mid show with the Soundcraft Ui24R

This was a super fun tour to be part off, and a great brand to be associated with – after all, what’s better than high tech 3d scanning and printing (not to forgetting the £60,000 guitar on permanent display within the all American Juggernaut).

We could say it stopped there, but the wonderful folk of Straumann booked us to play their End of Summer Party in September… which we were told would be one to remember!

Thanks for looking after us – it was a pleasure to play for such a wonderful bunch of people!  See you in September 🙂

Laura and Dave’s Big 40th Birthday Bash, Marquee, West Horsley, July 2017

This was a lovely looking marquee, in a the family garden, and with it being a joint 40th birthday, was set to be a great event.  Laura and Dave, and family, were super welcoming, as we setup, and as we finished our sound check, the evening guests arrived.

We played all the classics – we’re doing quite a few 40th birthdays, so the music moves along similar lines.  Jason fiddled on his fiddle, Holly sang and swayed, and the rest of us simply did  what we do… and the crowd danced the night away.  Before we knew it, it was midnight, and the music had to stop.

They were a great crowd – and a lovely family to play to (very cool little dogs in our ‘green room’).  thanks for looking after us, and happy birthday Laura and Dave!

The Soundcraft Ui24R – Rollercoaster goes wireless

Rollercoaster – ecstatic to be road testing the Ui24R

Having played in this band (and previous versions of it) for the past 30 years, I’ve grown accustomed to various elements on stage – the amps, the instruments, the speakers… and the mixing desk.  Some elements have changed, but for the most parts it has remained the same.  These days, it’s band, playing songs from the past 60 years… what needs to change?

The most recent breakthrough came with In Ear Monitors (IEMs).  For me, this meant that I had the sound of the band, my voice, my bass etc. sent directly to a wireless belt pack on my person, and into headphones… small, moulded headphones (incredibly expensive as well, considering their size).  This meant the removal of feedback ‘squealing’ via the monitors (the huge speakers that you still see in front of musicians on stage).  It also meant, in theory, the possibility perfect tuning, as you can actually hear your vocals.  And you can turn other musicians down – and focus your headphone mix.  The other advantage, is that you can control the volume of the overall mix – meaning your ears AREN’T ringing the next day.  IEMs are great, and have made a HUGE difference to live gigging.  Of course, to get an independent mix for every musician on stage (considering we often play as a 7 piece band), is impossible… Which in small part, led to the next ‘revolution’ in sound for Rollercoaster – the new mixing desk!!!  Enter the Soundcraft Ui24R

Nicely labelled… ready for it’s first outing

I stumbled across this bit of tech whilst sorting out my duo setup.  I’d invested in a new PA system – a very nice LD Maui 28 column array – and needed a simple mixing desk.  I tried an Allen Heath one, only to return it as there were no instrument mutes – essential for live work.  The upshot was, I came across the Ui24R… and instantly saw that it could do everything I needed – not just as a duo, but as a full 7 piece band.  It wouldn’t just act as a mixing desk, but it would be a multitrack recorder – direct to USB – at the same time.  The actual cost of the Ui24R was less than our current mixing desk (Yamaha 24MGP24X) – and in theory, it could solve a lot of the gripes we all had with this current setup, so I took the gamble and bought one.

So what’s so good about the Ui24R.  Ok, so the main points, for our band, are as follows:

8 aux outputs… which means fully controllable independent mixes for up to 8 musicians.
full mix recall – setup a mix and save it… next time you setup at a venue, it will have exactly the same gain levels, monitor feeds etc.
everyone can control their mix, wirelessly, via any device that runs an HTML 5 web browser.  Apple, Android etc.  All of this is through the units own wifi hotspot.  Plus you can wire in directly via ethernet, or HDMI+usb.
20 inputs – 10 of which are the dual xlr / quarter inch inputs.  2 phono inputs (for DJ input for instance).
A complete multitrack recording system to USB – yes, you can record 22 tracks of audio direct to a USB stick at a variety of quality levels… which can be dragged directly into a DAW (in my case Logic Pro) to be mixed later.
Plugins on EVERY TRACK – including compressors, gates, reverbs etc.
It’s just bigger than a shoe box – and is super light.  It will fit into a 4U rack space.
Direct, wireless soundcheck mixing from front of house.  The guitarist out front hears what needs changing, and does it – immediately – without having to head over to the desk.
These are the main points – but to sum up, it’s an incredibly powerful and versatile bit of kit… in theory.

A Ui24R view from the stage

So out of the box, the unit wouldn’t link up with it’s wifi.  I fixed this by direct linking my laptop… then the hotspot worked.  I played around with it for a week, the the band came to try it out before a gig, which is where the ‘in theory’ broke down.  We added the instruments, and the unit started to emit digital distortion – it was a fault, and we couldn’t use it for the gig.

So the unit wasn’t working, and I contacted the Facebook group covering the Ui24R.  It’s not official, but has constant input from the product manager, so it is effectively going straight to the top, and bypassing the ‘underlings’ within a large corporate group.  The product manager, Danny Olesh, supplied me with a  firmware update, in an attempt to fix the bug.  It didn’t do this immediately, though after a day working with the unit, the glitch’ seemed to disappear.  I’m still waiting of a replacement unit, but so far, the current one is working OK.

The first road test was at a local wedding.  We had a the five piece band – electric drums, bass, guitar, fiddle, plus 5 vocals… and a sequence with a click track.  With this setup, we used 5 auxiliary mixes – something that would not have been possible with the previous one.  As a first outing, the setup took longer than usual, but that is to be expected.  We had an old 2009 White MacBook connected directly to the ethernet port.  Wirelessly, we had a Samsung tablet, an iPhone, a iPad, and another MacBook connected.  Rob (guitarist) mixed from out front on his Samsung tablet, during soundcheck.  We had the old MacBook direct linked more as  a safety net.

The biggest difference on stage, is the ability to adjust your monitors directly.  I had my iPhone on my mic stand, so could easily, during songs, scroll across my aux, and push any levels up or down.  It was just so easy.  More reverb – just scroll across and push it up!  And I’m still learning the interface.  You have so many customisable views, that it is definitely possible to minimise scrolling, and have all the important things on one page (click, bass, vocals..)

It had no problem recording the full 2 hours of music on about 15Gb of USB stick space – though that was just around 12 channels of audio.  This is at the highest resolution 24bit .wav, so as good as it gets for mixing later.  And it is super easy to drag the files into Logic… and then it’s down to the mixing.

Mid show with the Soundcraft Ui24R

It’s early days, and we’ve now done 2 gigs with the Ui24R, but it’s definitely going well – and with the ability to fine tune and save a mix, it will definitely get better.

I’ll update this post as we move deeper into the full shakedown of the Soundcraft Ui24R, but for now, it’s given new life to the band, and opened the door to an even higher quality product – which can only be good for the folk standing the other side of the speakers!

The Ui nestled in at the back – out of sight

Lexie and Jamie, Wedding Reception, Loseley Park, July 2017

Great to visit Loseley Park again – such a beautiful venue, with lovely grounds.  Jamie and Lexie were the young bride and groom whom we had the honour to play to, with the first dance as Your Song (played by the band).  We pushed on, throwing in a Gay Gordons for the Scottish contingent at the halfway point.  Cocktails were flowing – we could see them being brought out as we played – and the guests were up and dancing, despite it being one of the hottest evenings this year.

Great crowd – best of luck to Lexie and Jamie in the future – thanks for looking after us!

James and Vita, Wedding Reception, Farnham Castle, June 2017

Beautiful wedding in a beautiful venue – Farnham castle.  the food was amazing, so we knew we would be playing to some happy contented guests.

Sure enough, from the first dance, they were on the dance floor, ALL NIGHT LONG!!!  Yes, they were a great crowd – perfect to play to.

James and Vita are a lovely couple – a pleasure to play for – thanks for looking after us!

Creating a Multitrack USB from an External mix on the Soundcraft Ui24R

Just as a pre-cursor to any responses – I worked this out on the fly.  I’m not a programmer, and not a world class studio engineer… however, I managed to get and external multitrack source song, recorded in Logic Pro (whichever version was around in 2011), to play via a USB as a multitrack file, on the Ui24R… and here’s how.  This was all Mac OSX based, but it should be a similar procedure on PC.

A.  CREATE THE STEMS FROM YOUR EXISTING MULTITRACK

  1. Firstly, in Logic, I opened a full multitrack song.  In my case, it was a demo of One Day Like This (by Elbow) – recorded and played by my band, Rollercoaster.  Probably at this stage best to save as an ‘alternative’, or ‘save as’ – so you don’t change your original mix.  I went through the channels and effectively grouped them, sending them to busses (changing the outputs – see image 1)
  2. From the busses, I clicked ‘add track (see image).  I made sure that each track was clicked to be ‘mono’ (IMPORTANT).  Make sure you have no clipping on the gains.
  3. On the aux tracks on the arrange page, with the pencil tool, I created blank regions, and extended them all to the full length of the track.  This would ensure all the files are equal in size and length. (note – don’t name the spare auxes as numbers as I did in the example – I think it confused the Ui24. I renamed them ‘s1’, ‘s2’ etc.)
  4. I then selected all the aux tracks on the arrange and exported – without normalising.  The resulting wavs may have ‘-01’ after them.  Delete this (they may not – it may happen at the next step).
  5. You need to check that the files are at 48khz.  Mine were at 44.1khz, as this was the original session.  To my knowledge, the Ui24R works at 48khz.  Click a file and ‘command-i’ it.  The info will tell you the sample rate and bits.  At this stage, you may need to convert the files.  I wanted to create a 24bit 48khz multitrack, so I needed to convert the sample rate.  To do this, I went to the audio pool (in Logic – Window-Browsers-Project), added all the audio tracks, then selected them, then converted the sample rate from 44.1 to 48.
  6. Put the final files into a folder called ‘0002’ – for example.  Folder 0001 will contain the ‘template session’.  NOTE:  all this is done on the computer hard drive.  It will be copied across later.

B.  Create the template folder and files from the Ui24R

  1. On the Ui24, create an new show, and a snapshot called ‘One Day Like This USB’ (it can be anything – this is just so you don’t mess up any previous shows you have – I’ve called it the name of the song)
  2. Name your mix channels the same as the stems you have created – this just makes it easier later.
  3. Record about 10 seconds of silence via the Ui24 onto a USB – with 20 channels patched – onto a USB stick
  4. I opened this USB on my computer.  On the Mac you have to view hidden files – see here – Quickly Show/Hide Hidden Files on macOS Sierra, OS X El Capitan & Yosemite | Ian Lunn – WordPress & Front-end Developer
  5. The result, was a folder called ‘0001’, and the contents were the wavs PLUS the important .uirecsession file (see image).
  6. I then download the free programme ‘Mediainfo’ – MediaInfo Mac (Mac) – Download – I would use this to examine the .wav.  I would also use Adobe Dreamweaver to edit the .uirecsession file.  There is probably a script editor to do this – and you can probably do it via terminal… as it was, I have Dreamweaver, and it works!
  7. On your USB, Duplicate the ‘0001’ session folder, and name the duplicate ‘0002’.  Delete the wav files in ‘0002’ LEAVING THE .uirecsession file.
  8. Open the .recsession file in Dreamweaver (or what ever app will edit such files – some kind of text editor)
  9. In Media Info, open one of the wavs you have recorded.  You will see the following details:
  10. You will need to replace just 2 elements in the .uirecsession file.  This data is at the very bottom – lengthSamples and lengthSeconds.  And these two figures are located in the .wav file (it can be any of the files, as they should all be the same length).  So you need to input the duration in seconds.  The Ui24 records this to 18 decimal places – this is the only shakey part of the process, as without the correct formula, i couldn’t be that precise.  As it stands, it works with just putting in the complete seconds.
    In the .wav meta data, these are the relevant tags to look for:  Duration, and Samples Count (see image)
  11. On the .recsession file type in the duration, in seconds (if you can get a decimal point put it in – leave it if you just have whole numbers), and type in the samples count.
  12. If you have been doing all this on the hard drive, copy the ‘0002’ folder onto your memory stick.
  13. Insert into the ‘rec’ slot of the Ui24R, and wait say 15 seconds.  Then go to the multitrack play section and play the song! (remember to go to your ‘Patching Page’ and click on USB-A, and PATCH 1:1.)

NOTE:  I have since found that you can call the session folder anything – I named it ‘One Day Like This’ and it worked… great if you want to have different soundcheck songs – in our case, if the drummer doesn’t make the soundcheck with his electric kit… not that this is relevant for everyone.

See below for the zip file of the ‘Multitrack’ folder of this song.  Naturally, it is just to be used for test purposes, and not to be commercially distributed, or used as a backing track in any situation.  Basically, use it to test out the features of the Soundcraft Ui24R.  Apologies inconsistencies on the source recording – it was recorded in a noisy studio, through a very much out of date Motu 828 MKII… however, if mixed correctly, you should be able to get a good result – we certainly do.  Enjoy!

CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD DEMO MULTITRACK.  UNZIP AND PLACE ‘Multitrack’ FOLDER AT THE TOP LEVEL ON  A SUITABLY FAST USB

 

If you do find this zip file super useful, or if you decide to go ahead and use it as a backing track (we can’t stop you), then a ‘studio contribution’ would be appreciated – click the button below, pick a figure and do it through Paypal… it’ll keep the band happy!




Sarah and Mark, Wedding Reception, Marquee, Send, Wiltshire, June 2017

Back to a marquee wedding, which is great to play, as the sound is second to none.  Sarah and Mark had seen us at a previous wedding (Katie and Dan), so they knew what to expect.  First dance was played by the band, with Chris Hughes doing his awesome Van Morrison impression – Somone Like You.  We had the very wonderful Tim Pearne on keyboards, which sounded great.  The night pushed on, the guests danced away, breaking to enjoy the fireworks.  Brilliant crowd – lovely to have Sarah come up and join us to sing Son Of A Preacher.

Thank you so much for looking after us – and thanks for the gifts of quality wine at the end – to was much appreciated.  Best of luck to Sarah and Mark in the future – i’m sure we’ll be seeing them soon at another wedding 🙂

Elizabeth’s 70th Birthday Party, Oxford Thames Hotel, Oxford, June 2017

A short trek to Oxford, and a setup in a separate room from where the guests were…this was a full 7 piece gig, with the mighty Tim joining us on keyboards, plus Chris Haigh and Jason on fiddle, with female vocals form Holly… plus the usual core 3piece – Rob, Chris and Al.  The event was the 70th Birthday celebration of Elizabeth – we had be co-ordinating with her lovely daughters Alice and Katherine, as well as her husband Roderick.  It was an all age occasion, which is no problem with the band, as we cover all genres, and dropper songs in and out to suit who is on the dance floor.

They were a great crowd to play to – dancing all night, and with real enthusiasm… there was a real warmth (as well as the approaching heatwave weather outside).  Highlight was when they managed to conga in and out of both rooms, pulling even more folk on to the dance floor.

It was a pleasure to play – thanks for looking after us, and happy birthday Elizabeth!