During the last week of July, I traveled to Minneapolis, Minnesota to experience Yamaha’s Commercial Audio Training Seminar and get a first hand close-up look into what they are offering.
I have to be honest and tell you that I really didn’t expect what I experienced. Being a trainer myself, I tend to be very critical of other teachers and training events. The truth of the matter is, although I knew it would be good, I was surprised at the overall value of these seminars. For the record, I attended two classes over two days. Day one was the Digital Mixing 101 class and day two was a product training class on Yamaha’s M7CL Digital Console.
Yamaha holds training events in various cities across the US, usually in hotel meeting rooms, which make it easy if you’re traveling from a distance and need a place to stay. Their classroom is set up with multiple digital consoles so that the students are sitting in front of the board as the class is in session. This allows you to have hands on experience while the class is being taught. I found it to be extremely practical and helpful to be able to tweak the board as the class was being taught.
Class size is limited and each console has no more than five seats so that everyone has hands on experience. I also found that working with a small group allowed me to watch and learn at a much faster pace than if I was alone. Without re-teaching the mixing classes let me walk you through the event to give you an overview of my experience and an idea of what to expect if you attend.
DAY 1: Digital Mixing 101
I arrived at check in, found my name on the sign-in sheet and signed in. It did seem a little odd that they asked for “Emergency Contact Information”. I have to admit that this made me concerned about what we would be doing. However, after a brief conversation I was assured that no one was going to get me to check for 220 current in the same fashion that we all check 9-volt batteries. Luckily, they didn’t ask for “next of kin”.
The morning started promptly at 8:00am with a casual continental breakfast served in the back of the room. The room was nicely arranged, and the consoles were already powered up. The instructors mingled with the attendees as we checked out the digital boards and a table of resource information. It was obvious from the get-go that the trainers viewed themselves as partners with the class, and not as merely purveyors of information. They were genuinely interested in what we were doing, where we were mixing, and why we were there.
At 8:30 we were asked to find a seat and the class began. We all received a handbook for the class, along with a CD containing the PowerPoint Presentations, software for the mixing console, owner’s manuals for all the boards Yamaha makes, and some extras like screen savers and desktop photos. Cool!
Andy Santos began teaching the first session: “Basic Analog & Digital Audio Systems”. Andy began his career as an audio engineer by playing, recording and running live sound as a musician, as well as working as a guitar technician. He also has a degree in recording arts.
We began the class with an audio system overview, including topics such as gain structure, equalization, board layouts, and understanding outboard gear (such as compressors, effects, and EQ’s). From there we moved into some basic info on Balanced/Unbalanced signals and the difference between analog and digital mixing.
One thing to note here is that this is an interactive class. Yes, there is a curriculum to get through; however, the lesson is interspersed with questions and comments from the class itself, which makes the material very practical, no matter how basic or how advanced the concepts are. We had two assignment sessions where we were able to mix (via a multi-track player) as the instructors mingled, answered questions, and gave hands on instruction. I am not a newcomer to mixing, but in this setting I learned a lot.
A short walk down the hall brought us to a buffet style lunch with soup, salads and an array of breads, cheeses and sandwich meats. THERE REALLY IS A FREE LUNCH! (all this provided free of charge, by Yamaha) We sat at circular tables and before long I realized that this wasn’t just lunch, but part of the educational plan. As we ate we were able to share stories and compare notes as to mixing in our various venues. This was more of a spontaneous discussion time than it was a break.
OK our bellies are full and we’re back from lunch. Jose Perez is going to take the afternoon session by addressing: “Approaching Digital Mixing”. Jose, who began his career at age 12 in Puerto Rico, holds a degree in recording engineering and has traveled all over the world mixing audio in venues such as, Lincoln Center, Madison Square Garden, Staples Center.
Again we started pretty basic and moved up from there. We began with terminology and then reasons to move into digital mixing. In this session we got a good overview of Yamaha’s M7CL Digital Console. Here’s where we got a good look at what a digital board can do. Although digital consoles come with a much heftier price tag than their analog counterparts, it became clear very quickly that we’re not just working with a mixer, but a complete processing unit with onboard, EQ, Effects, Compression, and the ability to save and recall your mixes at any time, just to name a few features. By the end of the day we had covered a lot of ground and I was grateful that I was given a CD with all of the presentations on it for review.
As the class closed, they brought up several slides with their personal contact information and a contact name and number for the area sales rep. “OK, here it comes!” I said to myself. It’s time for the sales pitch and the special offers.
To my surprise, that was it. No sales at all. Of course we got contact info for sales, because truth be told, we all wanted this board by now. There are so many seminars that end with an intense sales event, but not here. Amazing! These guys really invested in us and even offered their email addresses, encouraging the class to contact them with questions. It’s time for dinner and sleep before tomorrow’s session.
DAY 2 – M7CL Product Training School
Since this is a product training session for Yamaha’s NEW digital console, I’ll be brief here, however I encourage you to check out all the features of this unit on their website. You’ll not only find pictures and a description, but also a Flash Introduction Video.
OK, here we go! Jose opened the morning by passing out the handouts for the day and we dove right in. We began with the product’s onboard features, some of which we never even got to on Day 1. The highlight of the morning was really learning the console’s touch screen and Yamaha’s “CentralogicTM” feature, which allows you to bring any bank of eight channels at a time front and center which maximizes control and makes it extremely easy to use and to understand. Nice!
Also, we had a review of patching and hookups. The nice thing about going digital is the fact that we eliminate a lot of wires and connections. What connections we do need, are very straight forward and easy to understand. We had another opportunity to work in our groups and save scenes, which allows you to SAVE and RECALL any mix that you’ve done for any group at any time (up to 300 different scenes). Imagine not having to worry about the pastor’s kids coming in and messing up your mix from rehearsal. (Sorry, I had to go there…) You just hit a button and all the settings and sliders return to the position that you saved them. If you’re not sold on digital consoles yet, take a minute and think about this. Wow! This can save a tremendous amount of time. No longer are you working hard to get the board right, the board is actually working for you and allowing you to have the time to focus on the event and mix easily. I’m not trying to sell you on digital mixers here, but what this class is doing for me is allowing me to see possibilities of sound quality in MY CHURCH that I had not considered before.
Lunch Time! Same atmosphere as Day 1, but with Chinese Food and more good conversation. This is great!
Back for the final session and we’ve already learned so much that I feel like I’ve been here for a week. As we move into the afternoon session, Andy begins to address the advanced features of the M7CL which included more on data management and recalling scenes. We had an extended discussion on password protected user access. You can set the console so that each user must have a USB Key that unlocks the console. The USB key can also can limit access to certain features which you may not want a novice user to have access to without your supervision. We looked briefly at the computer software which allows you to make changes at home on your computer, save them to a USB drive and load them into the console when you arrive at church.
At this point, I must admit that my head is pretty full and I’m started to get a bit overwhelmed. Andy Santos turned the class over to the Training Department Manager, Shaun Kamiya. Shaun has been with the Yamaha Corporation in both Japan and in the US since 1998. He has worked as an electrical engineer, in technical support, and has written curriculums and materials for Yamaha’s training seminars. The trainers have nicknamed him “MANNY”, short for THE MANUAL, as he seems to be able to access data from memory faster than my high speed internet connection.
Shaun conducted the “Grand Finale” which was worth waiting for. He walked around the room with his tablet PC and changed the settings of the mixer via his wireless connection. Imagine being able to walk around your worship center and tweak your mix as needed. Imagine being able to set the monitor volumes while you are up on the platform with the band and worship leader. OK guys, I got it… This board does A LOT!
So we conclude the class going over contact information and now, since this is day two, I’m still waiting for the catch. Free Education and Free Lunch… here comes the sales pitch!
Nope! As a matter of fact, both days concluded with a video from Yamaha’s Technical Support Department giving us a small tour of the area and showing us how their 24/7 technical support works. Yes, I said 24/7. The memorable quote was (my paraphrase); “You only have one chance when you do live sound and we don’t want technical issues to stand in your way. We are here for you around the clock.” And you know what? They mean it.
I had an opportunity to sit with the training team and just talk about what they do. I was impressed not only with their knowledge and teaching abilities, but perhaps even more so with their passion for audio and love for training others. They really listen to people and enjoy what they do, that’s obvious. The classes in general were excellent and, with no sales effort at all, I saw the value of their full line. The commitment they have to listening to others and making improvements to their product based on user suggestions is something that I’ve not seen in a long time.
Oh yeah… remember I mentioned high value? Well, as we left class both days we received a fair amount of pretty cool and useful “free stuff”. I know that you want to know what we got, but I guess you’ll have to check out the class to find out. I guarantee the training that you’ll receive far exceeds the perks that you’ll get at the end of class. As I said at the beginning of this article, I am normally pretty critical of other training events, but this one blew the doors off of many that I have attended.
For more information on Yamaha’s Commercial Audio Training Seminars go to www.yamahaca.com or email them at email@example.com