Almost every marching band shows features exposed moments with a soloist or two. These moments can be tremendously effective, giving the show musicality and contrast. However, if they are not mic'ed and balanced correctly, you can totally blow what would have been a nice moment. Here are some tips on optimizing your soloist's performance.
1. Balance- It's very important that soloists fit into the balance of the band. Too often, bands get excited about how powerful a tool electronics can be, and end up over-balancing their soloist. If your soloist doesn't fit into the context of what has come before, and what will come after, then you're more likely than not going to blow the delicate musicality of that moment.
2. Mic placement- Mic placement has a huge effect on the sound of your instruments, ultimately way more than EQ is able to fix. An instrument's sound takes space to develop. If you mic too close, you'll get a stuffy, woody sound...you want don't that. A good rule of thumb, put your ear where the mic is. If it doesn't sound good, then it won't sound good through the system. If you have questions, we have pictures of the ideal mic placement for every solo instrument, just email us.
3. Compression- Dynamic processing is newer territory for marching ensembles. This is typically only available on digital boards, and not appropriate for all situations. To put it simply, compression limits the dynamic range of an instrument. For soloist, this can be a very good thing. How often do you find the quiet parts of a solo get lost, but the louder parts are just fine? If you try and mix for the quiet parts, all the sudden the loud parts are way too loud, By applying compression, you limit the volume differences between the soft and loud parts of the solo. If you do it right, you maintain the perfect amount of dynamic range, not too little, and not too much, allowing your solo to fit perfectly in the mix every time.
4. Reverb- A soloist is one of the best opportunity's to use your mixer's on-board effects. Light verb or delay can really make your solo sound musical and give it great contrast from other moments in the show. I suggest routing your instrument through a aux with reverb on it on a pre-fader send. Then, while the soloist is playing, gently feed in the reverb until it's nicely balanced against the dry signal.
By correctly utalizing these tips, you can have a soloist that sounds amazing every rep.