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Sound Wizard Brian Walker Shares Tech Tips for Livestreaming

October 20, 2020

At this point it’s probably a safe bet that we’ve all cringed through an online concert or two that suffered from camera glitches and less-than-stellar sound. Off-kilter or reversed cell-phone video paired with poorly balanced audio can make internet audiences edgy and probably a bit less inclined to feed the virtual tip jar. While many big performing-arts organizations and even some individual musicians and ensembles have made the transition to online performing gracefully and professionally, much of the rank-and-file have neither the savvy nor the resources to deliver effective music via livestreaming.

One highly regarded sound engineer aims to improve that situation and give musicians the basic skills and technical know-how to deliver their music more effectively — without breaking the bank — via a six-week online class offered by Berkeley’s Freight & Salvage.

Brian Walker is the go-to sound guy for many musicians in the Bay Area. He’s an audio professional whose diverse skills and many years of experience make him equally at home in a wide variety of audio production environments. His CV include decades of front-of-house and monitor mixing, studio recording, mixing and mastering, and he has many years of development work in audio-related roles in the software and games industries. From my own experience as a performing musician, I can confirm that playing any gig is easier with Walker at the sound desk.

I asked him about who his target audience was for this series.

“This class is geared towards musicians who would like to present their music online, either prerecorded or in real-time, but could be useful for anyone who wants to improve their video and audio quality for online presentations of all kinds — to make them look and sound more polished and professional,” he said. “The class assumes no real familiarity with cameras, microphones, preamps, or sound gear,” he added. All anyone will need to take part is a computer, tablet, or phone capable of running the Zoom application or a web browser.

Walker emphasized that the series is intended for regular folks. “The class is designed for students with very little technical knowledge other than basic computer skills, and presents a variety of low-budget options for gear recommendations,” he said. “Participants will also get the information they need to make informed decisions about acquiring or upgrading their audio and video equipment, and how to make good choices depending on their budget.”

While there won’t be any opportunity for hands-on engagement with any of the equipment mentioned, there will be chances for show-and-tell sessions on different gear and setups, so that participants can see what other folks are using and learn about how to optimize each rig. Other topics Walker will cover include using lighting and backgrounds to improve home-studio environments as well as how to monetize livestream performances, manage paywalls, and handle digital tip jars.

According to Walker, the class will focus on how to broadcast live performances rather than on learning how to produce elaborate videos of separate, prerecorded performances, although he says he may cover that approach in a future series.

The class starts on Sunday, Nov. 8 at 6:30 p.m. and runs for six weeks. Fees for the class range from $130 for Freight donor early-bird registration to $145 for early bird registration to $155 for regular registration. See additional details and sign-up on the Freight & Salvage class-description page. Click on the big red button labeled “Register”

Paul Kotapish is the managing editor for SFCV.  You can learn more here or at guitarfish.net.