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Some things I've learned being a soundman

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#1 BarryP


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Posted 10 June 2013 - 08:16 PM

Hi all,


      I'm not really a soundman and am usually the last resort for sound when people need one, because they know I own a PA.  In general, I find that being a sound man is much like being a sports referee.  The best you can hope to accomplish is that no one even knows you exist, but more often than not, everyone blames you for the band's inabaility to listen to your instructions.


     I ran sound last Saturday for a few bands of my friends.  The first two took all of my directions and actually sounded great!  The third band was a different story. I'd actually worked with them before and, though they are friends of mine, I've learned that I can only offer them suggestions and they will likely ignore them.  My attitude is, if that is what they want to sound like, then its thier problem, not mine.


       For starters, one of them moved the kick drum mic without asking or telling me.  I can only guess that they have it in their head that the mic "goes in the hole."  I wouldn't have minded this at all if they at least checked the sound of the kick after they did this, even though I'd spent a good 2 hours at home trying different placements of the mic through this PA system to see what sounds best, as well as checking the kick sound before the first band went on to dial in the EQ on it. 


       Then, as is normal for them, they plugged all of their big, expensive, finely adjusted equipment in, turned up the levels to what sounded right to them (each individually) on stage, and then started playing without any kind of check.  As is usual for them, they were so loud that you could barely hear the drums.  "Make the drums louder," one of the smart alecs would tell me, to which I'd remind him that I only mic the kick.  "You should mic everything."  No, not for $125....especially in a small pool hall that doesn't need the drums to be mic'd.


       Twice I asked the bass player to turn down because he was burrying the band, and each time he turned around and prentended to turn a knob, making no noticable adjustments.  I then got the band leader's wife nagging at me telling me that the guitars needed to be turned up, which I thought was laughable since all you could hear from the drum set was the occasional snare accent and cymbals.  The kick was a muddy pulse that were stressing my 15's, and still couldn't really be heard.


        She decided to go tell the guitar players, herself, to turn up.....which is another joy of running sound.  Having other people tell the band what adjustments they need to make.  The guitar player in this band actually told the bass player of another band in a show that I was doing sound for that he needed to turn up.  The bass player did and.......I know this will surprise you.....half the room cleared out by the end of the song.


       For the life of me I can't figure out why musicians on stage don't want to listen to the sound man.  What is it they are hoping to accomplish?  Do they think our goal is to make them so quiet that they can't be heard?

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#2 carox


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Posted 10 June 2013 - 08:47 PM

Seems to be there are still a lot of idiots out there who think volume is everything, and the louder the better. 


I don't understand it.  But there are still quite a lot of them about.   Idiots.

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#3 TrojanPhoenix



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Posted 10 June 2013 - 09:01 PM

Good question...it's obviously in both your and their best interests for you to make them sound as good as they can sound; what possible incentive could you have to do otherwise? So it sounds like one of those situations where everyone thinks they have a better idea of what they're doing than anyone else, and you can't convince them otherwise because, of course, they know better than you ::) . It's pretty frustrating when you do a good job and then someone comes along and messes it up only to completely shirk responsibility and blame you...and you're a pretty nice friend to keep doing that for them anyway. I would have been like, "Peace! I'm out!"

"This is life

What a ****ed up thing we do

What a nightmare come true

Or a playground if we choose

…and I choose" 


"Make sure the soundman doesn't c***block the drums, let the snare knock the air right out of your lungs, and those words be the oxygen...just breathe"

#4 BarryP


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Posted 10 June 2013 - 09:10 PM

@ Carox:


My brother and singer's former band was told that volume was their number one problem by their booking company.  They had a two guitars and two horns, which put them at 3 pieces bigger than most bands, and their drummer beat the crap out of his drums (I seriously think his stick would go completely vertical before every snare hit).


Anyway, after being told this they had a show with another well known local cover band that they split with.  For God knows what reason, the band leader (bass player) got it in his head that he wanted to play way better than this other band and that they way to do it was to crank their amps really loud (completely ignoring what he was just told).  So they did.


My brother and singer said, "the room was packed and we watched them push up against the back wall, and eventually out the door."




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#5 machinegunbassdrums


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Posted 10 June 2013 - 09:58 PM

ever mic'd a bass drum with no port and nothing inside except for a couple of felt strips behind the heads a la old school?


Amedia Cymbals
Silverfox Drumsticks
eccentric drum systems (quicktorque cams)

YELLOW_TOAD on 15-01 2009, 08:14:22
Bikinis should be small.....not drum sets.

#6 Matroskin


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Posted 11 June 2013 - 08:15 AM

Sounds familiar... And it can be a real nightmare - I remember one festival when for 2 days me and my friend made sound for over than 40 young rock-groups... It was a horror show, I give ya my word!!! Aaaaaaaah :D


One of the keys - ears of young rock-musicians. They always practice tweakin' their gear up really LOUD. Using PA speakers or earphones - no difference. And, as a result, they often are deaf. Really - deaf!!! And that's why they often cannot hear themselves playing on stage, even if monitor line plays much more louder than FOH. And, surely, a sound man cannot change anything here. Instead of makin' sound better you try to make it not as awful as it is...


Often sound engineers joke that a best set of gear for stage is the set where all knobs are glued or nailed so that young musicians cannot tweak 'em at all :D


To keep my nerves solid and sound I always try to establish such nice and polite rules (if I'm on da FOH mixing console) for rockin' youngsters:

#1 Do not touch mics w/your f***g hands! Do not even try to move it!!! If you think that this overhead mic mustn't be here 'cause it hides your wonderful hairdo from your gal's cam, YOU ARE WRONG!!!
#2 NEVER touch knobs on amplifiers! Need volume change - the only knob that you are allowed to tweak is a volume knob on your guitar!
#3 NEVER plug or unplug wires by yourself, m***r! Wanna blow up my speakers?! I ll screw your neck!
#4 NEVER plug or unplug power adaptors and/or cables by yourself. Check a rule #3.
#5 When tweakin' a guitar fuzz pedal or amp's channels - levels of the clean sound and distorted sound must be as close as possible. A sound man is not a machine always to tweak all channels volume when you depress your favorite distortion...
#6 If you wanna "turn highs and lows UP" - always TURN DOWN MIDS.

#7 If you wanna "make a drumset LOUDER" - ask guitarist and bassist to play QUIETER.
#8 For drummers - each crash strike costs $10.

#9 For vocalists - NEVER put a mic into your pocket! NEVER knock it - knock your own head, m***r!

#10 For all clever-clever guys walking by w/comments alike "Turn up high mids on da snare" or "Add more reverb to vocals" - here's a mixing console, here's a chair, sit and take command until the end of the show - and I will go smoke or have some beer or chat w/gals etc.

:D :D :D

If to put jokes off, the dream of any sound engineer is experienced and intelligent musician on the stage. Usually it removes all such problems.

#7 PetGerbil


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Posted 11 June 2013 - 11:02 AM

As an Addendum to #9, You are NOT Roger Daltrey, and you will NOT swing my Mic around your head!!

#8 BarryP


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Posted 11 June 2013 - 04:44 PM

@ Pet,


      One of my recent rules is you can do that if you want, but you have to bring our own mic and cable. 

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#9 Painkiller


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Posted 11 June 2013 - 08:30 PM

As a band, you should set up your gear, make sure you've got the sound you like (NOT the volume), and from that point on, leave everything to the sound man. Don't touch any dials or anything, the only thing you need to touch are your instruments.
If you want something different; volume, mix in the monitors etc. Just ask the sound man. That's HIS job.

Although I have to say, you should have a vote in the way the mix for the audience sounds.
And I've also met sound man who were too deaf or too drunk (or both) to make it even remotely acceptable for the audience...

I've been lucky enough to be on both ends of the mixer, so I was able to make ALL the mistakes :)
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#10 PetGerbil


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Posted 11 June 2013 - 09:09 PM

Heh,yeah Barry. If it's their own mic they can do what they like !! In fact, I like a bit of mic swinging, just not with my mic...

(I'm just bitter cos 25 years ago someone ruined my mic swinging it round their head) :D