Chris Rabold: FOH for Kenny Chesney

Live Sound Mixing

In this video, FOH audio engineer Chris Rabold talks to SSL about his experiences using the SSL L500 live production console at FOH for Kenny Chesney.

Chris Rabold: FOH for Kenny Chesney

Video Text:

I’m Chris Rabold and the front house

engineer for Kenny Chesney

this gig was coming up and had

I’m going into it so I was really

thinking about what I wanted to do and I

did it a lot of research hands-on sort

of what-ifs with this thing to make sure

it was the right one so this is the

first time I’ve ever used it really

really really really really glad that I


I’ve said this before somehow and I get

it I think it’s the way in the world

we’ve really gotten caught up not just

an audio but in all aspects of whatever

it is we’re looking at as a product

where we look at like feature sets first

and then we come to the real deal bottom

line last and what I mean is what I want

is something that sounds good

first and foremost bottom line that’s it

when I saw that SSL had a desk I was

really surprised

in fact that when I heard about it at

first I thought it was a fabrication I

didn’t think it was real that they would

do something like that you know so and

then when I found out they did I was

like wow and and I’ve referenced it

several times at different people I

don’t know how you couldn’t at least be

curious if SSL’s putting out a desk how

does it what’s that all about you know

even if you don’t think it’s for you how

could you not wonder I mean that name is

synonymous with you know Audio royalty

excellence we’ve all listened to

bazillion and one albums that have some

sort of SSO influence on it now we get

to the features it does have to work in

a way that’s going to move with me and

in the speed and the last thing I want

to do is to be thinking too much you

know we do we all do better when we’re

reacting so I wanted a desk that would

hopefully allow me to just you know do

it and go bottom line I wanted something

that sounded like amazing especially

with digital desk now we’ve all we’ve

either accepted the way they sound or

we’ve gone okay I know this one sounds

this way and I’m gonna have to do all

these things above and beyond to try to

get it back to that just a sound you

know a sound that I like and I wanted

something that I really didn’t have to

do anything to it was already there

everything I do above and beyond it’s

just embellishment

the main thing with me when I move over

is is metering and gain structure and

what is the console want to do that sort

of thing and this one matched up to the

one I was on before to where all of my

kind of I know where I liked with peak

metering I know where I like percussive

elements to hit and I like we know where

I like more sustained instruments to hit

figuring that out was the thing that

there was no figuring it out it was


so the Trent but the transition in

general at first it took me awhile I’ve

seen some guys when I went to the first

demo of it in Vegas I went with the

monitor engineer friend of mine when

runner Alice and he sat down and he had

this thing figured out in two minutes

this is the only desk on a sonic level

that I’m not really going at it’s super

hard on the EQ whereas a lot of times

you know on digital desk you’re like

plus eight before you really hear it or

you’re you’re really getting into it

you’re like man this is not right I’m

used to cracking an analog pot just

barely to get it there and this does

that this will give you that

responsiveness of tiny little bits so

it’s like it’s less work in general

doing it you know so transition took a

little while but that’s just me I’m that

way on all consoles it seems like I’m

just not too Swift this guy in the world

when it comes to picking up a new thing

but this makes it so much easier because

you just don’t need to do that much

assuming the source is what it should be

you know so and we spent a lot of time

on this tour this time around I didn’t

just jump into it like I did before we

spend a lot of time making sure the

source is what it should be so we’re not

trying to fake it through this

or four ways to do everything what’s

gonna become my workflow so at first I’m

looking for immediate response and then

I’m going oh no I that which way do I go

you know and I’ve created this sort of

hybrid workflow where I use several of

the different ways to do it and what’s

good is I’ve gotten to the point now to

where I was I told you sometimes I do

this one to that and I think it

sometimes I just do it and that’s what I

want and it just depends on where I am

on the desk and they both get you there

it really hits a lot of marks on a

generational level the the touchscreen

is one that I think is going to be

immediately appealing to a lot of people

particularly younger engineers who are

just so used to everything being that

anyway whereas someone else might be

more want more of a tactile traditional

type workflow or just you know I want

knobs you know

so everything that can be done here on

this section can be done here on this

section however I could come over here

and do it while this is let’s stay this

they’ll say this stays on a compressor

function over here it’s on EQ and if you

can see that even if you can’t trust me

the EQ is moving there

I can do it there however I can also do

it here see it here or I can come and I

can do it from here or I can do it from

here or I can do it over here

different set of ways to get there but

so I literally just gave you four

examples to do it

this time we had all

and lead in time with rehearsals so we

spent some time on the front end it’s

really like truly pre-production you

know just like a day with drums a day of

this yeah totally unheard of that’s so

shocked I actually got the opportunity

to do it and it we just went through mic

position Mike what you know mic

placement mic choices all that kind of

stuff but it was fully vetted you know

because you have your go-to especially

you know in the live world a lot of

times there’s no it’s you just you know

what you do and you go and so this was

really cool because I knew what I

thought I wanted to do but this way we

were able to go hey this is what I

always do but let’s see what happens

when we try this this and on almost

every situation we came right back to

where I thought we would be but it was

cool because it got the musicians on

board and their Tech’s on board with

this is why we’re doing it this way that

being said a lot of the inputs are such

that they shouldn’t need a lot of EQ or

they shouldn’t need a lot of this and

that you know they’re it’s we spend a

lot of time getting them right and then

then and so then in turn everything you

do here should just be icing on the cake

or just overall you know management of

the sources

all around things just need less I keep

going back to that you know they just I

feel inclined to want to add something

in places or and don’t I usually make a

cut here it’s just so much more of an

open sound that something I’ve set a lot

to a lot of people is the preamps in

particular it’s a very clean sounding

product but it’s clean with a sound you

know because there’s one of my other

favorite consoles to use out there it’s

good because it is the ultimate blank

slate it sounds like nothing you know

which is cool but what that also means

is it’s kind of boring and you need to

jazz it up a little you know where is

this one I still choose to do some

embellishment because I enjoy doing that

but um it’s on its own it sounds

polished but a lot of times polished is

synonymous with bright or height but

it’s just polished sort of that


produced almost sound it just sounds

like wow you know so yeah a lot of the

same mics that I use all the time I’m

still getting the same response out of

them that I want however I’m finding out

just how much extra work I was doing on

a lot of other consoles

might be 80 or 90 or something like that

but dieting no that doesn’t include

talkback there’s there’s the usual extra

stuff you know that’s not an audio input

that the crowd is hearing you know

whether it’s talkbacks or something like


and a lot of desk allows you to place

any channel anywhere or any channel type

so input-output you know bus that but

this is really cool because it’s so

simple it’s just a it’s just a

drag-and-drop type process so have it I

have an empty spot there and I can just

slide this down there and then it’s

populated with that input there so in

just as easy as I put it in there you

know I can get rid of it too so a lot of

consoles offer the ability to move stuff

wherever you want it this is just a

simple I mean you can sit there so it’s

when I started out all the all of these

tiles as they call them can be whatever

you want and when it started out I had

them all mirroring one another because I

wasn’t sure how I was gonna do it how I

was gonna move it’s not like traditional

where your outputs are here and only

your VCS are here and these are input I

mean it is whatever you want it’s a

blank slate so now as time is morphed me

into a more familiar or I have morphed

into it becoming more familiar with the

desk tom has allowed that I have I’ll

typically to do like drums and outputs

up here all instruments and vocals here

VCA is here and so now they’re all a

little different you know but um yeah

you can its ultimate is infinitely I

should say flexible on what you can do

we had an A and a B rig the last time I

did it and the B reg I didn’t use any

automation and it’s cool because this is

AB and AB and AB and like I said there’s

not a there’s like a little bit of

playback tracks and that’s using this

stuff you really got to watch you know

but this is absolutely if somehow I if

one night I just didn’t want to do

automation it would be no problem you

know it’s these are just dudes playing

and one lady but yes I do and I’ll use

it to a different degree depending on

the genre here it’s typically for mutes

and unmutes

some eat very few but some EQ is

automated keys are automated like my

guitars I kind of let them do their

thing the bass doesn’t sing the drums do

their things but not I definitely use it

without question I mean it’s a huge huge

plus in this automation that it’s really

laid out well it’s very it’s it’s as

comprehensive as any other system that

I’ve ever used personally

some of it is actually doing absolutely

nothing because I have found this was

sort of nice even though I did all my

homework that I could on the desk it’s

still a new thing to me and I still want

to have stuff that I’m familiar with you

know however that being said there’s

some stuff in here that is not doing

anything but and absolutely in fact when

I had the desk at my house for a little

while I was sitting there at home and I

cooked up a mix I had some tracks to

play back and I was like man this is

really good and I’m getting ready to go

get my normal buttload of stuff I don’t

think I need it

you know so I could do this show and

feel 100% confident without any of that

I just didn’t you weigh it and I know

the way it sounds a lot of it’s for tone

to have some tubes about to explode you

know kind of doing this thing but this

desk I’ll tell you what and I was just

thinking earlier today about how I do

something different next time and I was

thinking I definitely don’t need any

outboard for it this is the first

digital desk I’ve ever used it you can

really go past that if you need to

hopefully you don’t but if you need to

go past that 3db mark of gain reduction

it really does it without the input

becoming smaller you know like it really

allows and the they could sell this

whatever algorithm they’re using for

this I’m is really good and they could

sell this they could just make the

dynamic section of this a product on its

own and I think people would really be

blown away by

make it sound this wide wide wide

he just goes it’s funny there’s there’s

certain there’s some digital desk out

there that I think the greatest thing

they do is they don’t have any depth to

them therefore they do that very modern

two-dimensional kind of thing and it

works in their favor because that’s what

concert goers are kind of used to now

there’s others that have give us depth

and this just gives us just change Bank


this gives depth width height you know

all and you have whatever you want to

name or however you want to phrase it it

really does that so the thing for me

with this desk

it just sounds more sudden think I said

earlier polished and produced it just

sounds cleaner or clearer bigger wider

all of that sort of stuff so you know I

should also say you know there’s the

stems functions there’s tons of amazing

features on here stems are really cool

they call stems it’s just like an ox or

a group or a bus or this or that all

combined into one but it’s really

functional something that’s really cool

on this desk again the answer to your

question is I can make it sound exactly

like I want it but if you want to get

into some of the kind of neat or nerdy

your stuff you’re gonna go there you can

see we’re through here I can change the

order of any of the processing filter EQ

gate comp both inserts delay or the all

pass function which is super neat thing

on here too but I can reorder any of

those so it’s not a matter of what input

is this kg – you have to mute it to do

it which makes sense you have to stop

from passing audio but I can say I want

the gate after the column but I don’t

want the gate before the comp or I want

the filter at the very end so you know a

lot of consoles analog and digital it

most will give you the ability to put

the gate before the comp or this or that

or the EQ before one or the other or

maybe do some where the EQ accesses the

sidechain of the compressor this does

that to the nth degree you can you can

really do you can do whatever you want

here so that’s the kind of thing the

desk allows me to do but at the end of

the day I just just hope it just sound

like I want it to you know big and


I do I really do I mean I really truly

do I’ve had some shows on it that or

I’ll listen back to something I’ll just

eat just like God man that is just you

know shitty part of that is it’s very

revealing so when I suck it’s very

apparent you know but yeah

yeah really do I hope to use it again

and again definitely on this store and

on other tours as well

Other Engineers

Behind the Live Sound of Coldplay with Daniel Green

Red Hot Chili Peppers – Dave Rat FOH Engineer

Kevin Lemoine mixing Green Day