Judy Rodman - All Things Vocal Blog

Training & insights for stage and studio singers, speakers, vocal coaches and producers from professional vocal coach and author of "Power, Path & Performance" vocal training method.

Friday, January 5, 2018

Tips For Stage Performers From A Sound Girl ... Interview With Fela Davis

Pro audio engineer Fela Davis 

NOTE: The audio player should appear below, if not, please click on the title of this post and go online to hear. 
Available also on iTunes , Google PlayTuneIn Radio, Android apps


In the quest to become better performers, all singers and speakers would do well to learn more about audio engineering, and how to communicate with sound experts. 

So... for this episode of the All Things Vocal podcast, I interviewed Fela Davis, an audio engineer entrepreneur based in New York City. This amazing woman graduated from Full Sail University and now has over 15 years of audio engineering experience, including working for industry powerhouses Clair Global and House of Blues. You’ll hear the names of several legendary artists she’s worked with as you listen to our audio chat. 

Fela specializes in wireless mics and in ear monitors, has prepped gear for network and cable TV shows including Good Morning America Summer Series, The Colbert Report and The Macy's Day Thanksgiving Parade. She and her partner Denis Orynbekov combined their expertise to create 23dB Productions, located in New York City. Besides in-studio work, they offer a mobile one-stop shop for live projects: They film videos, do multitrack recording, mix and master for concerts and live events.
When Fela's not creating content for her company she’s on international road tours… currently working as mixing-front-of-house engineer for 5-time Grammy award winning jazz artist Christian McBride, and does some shows with 5-time Grammy award nominee Ottmar Liebert.

Here are some points we talked about:

  • Fela changed her career interest in 8th grade from musician to sound engineering ... spurred by a career placement test. We talked about the importance of nurturing the budding interests of children.
  • We talked about why singers and engineers need to understand each other's issues.
  • She explained audio engineering for live stage work, front-of-house and monitor engineers.
  • I asked her about the mistakes she's seen performers make, and how we can avoid them. I found out I frequently made one of those mistakes.
  • Fela stressed the importance of practicing with in-ear monitors to get used to the sound before using them in performance.
  • She is an expert in wireless mics and keeps current with the technology, and we discussed whether or not to trust them.
  • Fela talked about combining forces with another engineer to create their NYC studio 23dB Productions. She listed some of the mics she likes.
  • We discussed when & where to do mic shootouts... and the benefits of buying your own mic.
  • We agreed that artists and engineers should be cautious with degrees of digital editing for tuning and rhythm; hence the importance of being prepared before the vocal session. I loved it when she said 'There is no grid for emotion'!
  • I asked Fela about working with Christian McBride on the road. Yes, she's on the bus!
  • We chatted about the qualities of good engineers.
  • She worked in other cities including Miami before coming to New York, and had to pay her dues working with all kinds of good and bad acts. We agreed...everyone has to pay dues and should use every show to get better at what they do!
  • She said we need to use reverb for in-ears, but limit reverb in wedge monitors to avoid feedback. 
  • Speakers need to project with rich resonance. She says because of what she can do if she has the appropriate tools, popping with lapel mics don't present much of a problem.
  • She described the SoundGirls organization which was formed by two top female audio engineers who work with major artists. She described how helpful it has been to be a part of all that networking, friendship and mutual support.
  • She gave some great tips for singers who want to learn audio engineering.
Fela Davis and her business partner Denis Orynbekov founded the New York studio 23dB Productions. You can contact her from that website.

So what about you? Has learning about audio engineering helped you be a better performer? Leave a comment - we'd love to hear your thoughts.

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