Welcome to Inside the GRAMMY Museum, our new four-part blog series with audio engineer David Trau. As the head engineer at the GRAMMY Museum’s Clive Davis Theater, Trau has a gig that most engineers would die for. Located on the second floor of the museum, the intimate 200-seat theater hosts more than 100 performances a year with some of the most legendary performers in the world. I recently sat down with David to discuss a wide range of topics, including his favorite gear, live sound tips and tricks, memorable performances, the museum’s education initiative and more.
Can you walk us through a typical production day?
For our normal shows, we usually come in around 3 or 4 p.m. to get details about the event and start building out the stage. Most of the artists who perform here will be using our entire backline, and they almost always use our mic package and monitors. We try and have the stage set up as close to show ready as possible before the artist is onsite.
Once the artist arrives, we do a sound check, and then it’s show time. The majority of shows we do are public events, and they have a kind of Inside the Actor’s Studio vibe—except it’s for musicians. Our host Scott Goldman will usually invite the artist onstage and conduct an hour-long interview before the performance to discuss a current album or project they might be promoting. After that, the artist will usually perform around four to five songs live.
What can you tell us about the gear in the theater?
HARMAN has sponsored the GRAMMY Museum and the Clive Davis Theater since it opened eight years ago, and they provide all of our gear. For the PA, we have an array with two JBL VRX loudspeakers and a subwoofer on each side as well as two VTX subs on the ground. We also use JBL monitors. Our board is a Soundcraft Vi1 console, which I love. We use dbx outboard gear and have several of the 376 tube channel strips. For mics, we use AKG for everything. We even have AMX touch panels for switching and control. So, we’re all HARMAN, all the way!
How would you describe the sound quality?
The JBL team helped design and tune the room, and they’ve actually received some awards for the design. It’s a very small space, and it’s amazing for very intimate, acoustic-type performances. Sonically, the room is very tight and very balanced— it almost sounds like you’re in a recording studio.
How does the room handle bigger bands?
Even though it’s very tailored to intimate acoustic-type performances, it’s really interesting to see a larger band perform here, because it’s so up close and personal. We recently had Bryan Adams with a full band—they did an incredible job, and it sounded phenomenal. One of the largest shows in terms of people on stage was actually Seth MacFarlane. He was playing Frank Sinatra tunes to coincide with the opening of the museum’s Frank Sinatra exhibit. He had a 12-piece orchestra, grand piano, harps, strings, woodwinds—you name it. It was a really cool thing to see.
Stay tuned for part two of Inside the GRAMMY Museum to learn about some of Trau’s favorite tech tips, including live vocal sounds, drum mics and more!