Club News

Musical Meetings

Musical meetings of the San Francisco Folk Music Club are held every other Friday at 885 Clayton Street, between Carl &Parnassus Streets in San Francisco. Singing and jamming in three separate rooms start at 8:00 p.m. Snacks are provided through $1 food kitty donations or finger food contributions. Guests are always welcome, no one is expected to “perform”, and there is no charge.

“If you think education is expensive, try ignorance.”
Date November 9 November 23 December 7 December 21 January 4
Setup Melissa Sarenac Kathy Lutes Paula Joyce Ken Hayes Debbie Klein
Bulletin Board Estelle Freedman Marisa Malvino Al Goodwin Kathy Lutes Faith
Host/ess Estelle Freedman Tes Wellborn Debbie Klein Joe Lavelle Joel Rutledge
Host/ess Phil Morgan Marisa Malvino Pazit Zohar Kathy Lutes Al Goodwin
Singing Room Melissa Sarenac Paula Joyce Marlene McCall Steve Lutes Estelle Freedman
Theme Trees Wild Women Evil, the Devil Animals Time
Cleanup Marlene McCall Morgan Cowan Ann Haebig Marlene McCall Morgan Cowan

Board Meetings

 The SFFMC board meets on the second Tuesday of each month — potluck at 6:30 p.m., meeting at 8:00 p.m. All Club members are welcome to attend the potluck dinner and the Board meeting.

 NEXT FOLKNIK FOLD-IN/FOLK SING: Sunday, December 16, at
Abe and Joan Feinberg’s

Letters

Dear SFFFF: (SF Free Folk Festival):

We much enjoyed the festival this year -- we attended it with two 7 year olds and one 5 year old. Thank you especially for putting the crafts table in the Pete Seeger Family Room and arranging for age appropriate music there! Great Festival!

The Lovekins

Shirley Baker

Shirley E. Baker passed away on September 14, 2007.

Born and educated in England, Shirley worked as a registered nurse in the North of England, London, New York, and San Francisco. She also worked for many years at Blue Shield of California developing and teaching claims procedures. A member of American Youth Hostels/Golden Gate Council and the Welsh American Society of Northern California, she loved the outdoors and traveling.

Her passion for music and the arts was expressed in ushering for over 30 years for the SF Opera, SF Ballet and other events. She was a much loved member of the SF Folk Music Club and for many years a devoted and stalwart attendee at Club song swaps and special events, where her knowledge of English, Irish and Welsh folk songs was much appreciated.

Shirley is survived by her long time companion, John Bako, cousins in England, and a host of loving friends.

All those who knew Shirley are invited to come share memories of her life. Memorial services will be held Saturday, November 17 at the American Youth Hostel in the Marin Headlands. (Shirley was active with American Youth Hostels and helped establish the hostel in the Marin Headlands.) Plans are for an 11:00 a.m. potluck brunch followed by appropriate observations. Please RSVP to Melissa Sarenac (415 647 1474) after October 21. For directions, see the Youth Hostel website at
norcalhostels.org/marin.

Molly Ivins Songwriting Contest

August Bullock at the SF Free Folk Festival Songwriter's Showcase, Drawn by Geri McGilvray

"The Ballad of Molly Ivins" Songwriting Contest deadline is December 30, 2007. The winner will be announced January 30, 2008, the one-year anniversary of her death. Judges include Country Joe McDonald, Ronnie Gilbert, Kinky Freedman and Utah Phillips.

The contest is initiated by the "Raise Hell for Molly Ivins" Campaign. Visit www.raisehellformollyivins.org for information on entering the contest as well as about the syndicated columnist herself who "used powerful words and satire to speak truth to power with wit and style."

Sea Music Concert Series

Please note corrected contact information!

Tom Lewis, leading exponents of traditional and contemporary songs of the sea, will perform in concert on Saturday, November 10, 8:00 p.m., as part of the Sea Music Concert Series at San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park. The historic ship Balclutha, berthed at Hyde Street Pier, will be the setting for the concert.

Tickets: $14 general, $12 San Francisco Maritime National Park Association members. To purchase tickets, please call 415-561-6662, ext. 33 or email Haley Ciborowski at

Sound System at Club Campouts

By Bob Keller

Introduction

For the last several years I’ve been providing a public address system for the concerts that are held during SFFMC campouts at the Boulder Creek Scout Reservation. Folks have asked from time to time about the system, so in this article, I'll describe the system and the philosophy behind the current setup, as well as how to get the best results using it.

History

Providing a sound re-enforcement system at the SFFMC Boulder Creek campouts was born out of a sense of acute frustration. From my perspective, I was tired of pushing my voice and I had noticed that I was avoiding playing certain songs because they required a finger-style approach. I was also tired of straining to hear the other performers and exceedingly tired of hearing the audience forever asking those on stage to speak up. Sound drops off at a rate of about 6 decibels with each doubling of the distance away from the sound source. This is called “Inverse Square Loss.”

I broached the idea of providing a public address system at the campouts. The response I received went something like, “We’re folkies. We don’t amplify.” Undaunted, I decided to use the “camel in the tent” approach. So, at a Labor Day campout several years ago, I set up a pair of microphones in the audience and made a recording. This recording, of course, suffered from the problems of “Inverse Square Loss,” even though I was able to electronically boost the volume. At the next campout, to get a better recording I moved the microphones down to the stage, but didn’t connect them to a PA system. At the following campout, I added amplification. I was expecting to have to defend my actions but it never came to that.

The PA System Today

The system as currently configured makes use of an awesome and revolutionary new concept in sound called “stereo.” Yeah, I know, some might say that the concept of stereo reproduction has been around since the late 19th century, but from what I can tell, except for jazz and classical music, it is used very seldom today in live sound.

A pair of condenser microphones (Sony ECM-33Fs) is currently used for the system. They have been configured in a near co-incident stereo array. What does that mean? Well, both microphones are installed on a stereo bar (a metal bar that is placed on the microphone stand), which supports the two microphones and keeps them at the same height above the ground. The signal from the microphone to the left of the performer is routed to the speaker on the performer’s left hand side; the signal from the right microphone is routed to the right speaker. These signals are then routed through a Behringer 2442 FX-Pro mixing board that feeds a Hafler P300 amplifier. The speakers are (and I love this part) a pair of JBL J325A home bookshelf speakers (making this a fair-weather or indoor system).

Each component in the system has a frequency response of no worse than 50 Hz-20 kHz (and most are better than 20 Hz-20 kHz). Note: One Hz (abbreviation for Hertz) is a cycle per second. Normal human hearing is the frequency range 20 Hz-20 kHz.

The primary purpose behind this implementation is to allow the audience to hear the performers while maintaining the spatial integrity of the sound stage. The system implements a concept that some call “minimalist stereo”.

Getting The Most out of a System Configured This Way

The best results with a stereo microphone system of this type occur when performers forget that the microphones are there or ignore them. Unfortunately, some performers are unable to do this, and both the live sound and the recording those sessions suffer because of this. The following guidelines suggest how to get the most out of the PA system.

A single performer using the system has it pretty easy. Usually nothing need be done. Adjusting the physical position of the microphones by raising or lowering the array (both microphones) so that the microphone heads are positioned at about shoulder height (whether sitting or standing) and positioning the performer in front of the microphones yields the best results. (For this article's purposes, the front of the microphone is the pickup.)

Performers are responsible for balancing the volume of the instruments with the vocals just as they would be in a non-amplified environment. The microphone position can also adjust the balance. Lowering the height of the microphones slightly below shoulder level will accentuate the instrument (assuming a stringed instrument such as a guitar or banjo); raising it slightly will accentuate vocals.

Good results can be obtained by two people using a system of this type if they position themselves equidistant from the array after it has been positioned at about shoulder height for the tallest person. It is usually a mistake to move the microphone heads up or down to deal with differences in height. Remember that the system is there simply to provide more sound volume, and that the performers are responsible for balancing the sound of their instruments and vocal presentation.

Under no circumstance should a microphone be removed from the array. This effectively destroys the time and distance cues that humans rely on that makes stereo so cool. Also, from what I can tell, the folkies that have the urge to do this have never learned how to handle a live microphone properly. So what you hear are the sounds of fingers moving up and down the microphone body, “ ’plosives” and other problems that come from direct microphone techniques.

A group using the system as configured has to deal with a higher level of complexity, but this is more due to choreography (do you really want to have all the guitars and mandolins on one side of the sound stage?) than to technical issues. The performers are responsible for balancing the volume of their instruments to voices just as they would if they were unamplified. Also, because the group is larger, they should stand farther away from the microphones. There is really no need to give into the urge to “lean in” towards the microphones so people can hear you. Nor is there any need to move the microphones close to an individual that is to be “showcased.” Consider, as performers, what you would do if there were no microphones and you wished to showcase a singer or player and do that instead.

Stereo (of this type) is only concerned with the lateral image. Because of this, it does not matter whether some performers (in a group or duet for that matter) are sitting and others are standing.

The Advantages to Setting up Microphones in This Way

Several common problems that people experience with the use of microphones occur as part of using direct microphone techniques. These problems are dramatically reduced or eliminated when microphones are set up in an array of this type .

Furthermore, this system has less need to equalize (in an attempt to restore frequency response), so I tend to run it with no equalization. Also, feedback is usually less of an issue (though that is dependent on both performer and engineer).

Conclusion

As stated earlier, the purpose of this sound system is to provide sound re-enforcement at SFFMC Boulder Creek concerts so the audience can hear the music. In that, it has been quite successful. Gone are the complaints about not being able to hear the performers.

I haven’t been as successful in getting performers to leave the system (specifically the microphones) alone, but, hopefully, this article has answered some questions about the philosophy behind the system and how to better use it.