BarryP

Some things I've learned being a soundman

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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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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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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 :rolleyes: . 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!"

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@ 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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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?

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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.

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

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@ 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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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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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

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the drum mic set ive been provided with im finding very cumbersome, if i mic my snare drum up the mic & clamp are usually in the way of me getting to my left rack tom.

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 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.

 

Why would you waste all that time and effort when anyone can plainly see that the mic looks much cooler right here.

 

... 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.

 

Yeah, but we saw a YouTube video once of Grand Funk Railroad playing in an open-air stadium and everything was mic'd.  So our pool hall gig should be just like that.

 

... I then got the band leader's wife nagging at me ...

 

You mean "Art Director".

 

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.

 

Just trying to help you out, dude.

 

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.

 

Shoe sale down the block at WalMart.  Everyone has Twitter y'know.

 

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?

 

Typical response from the vast Audio Tech Conspiracy just trying to keep good bands down!

 

 

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Yes, thats a typical situation. Kinda football ya know :)

 

Football:

 

After a good game: -- Wow that team was really cool! -- Yeah they played like gods!

After a bad game: -- Darn it was a real crap! -- Yeah their coach is a stupid ****!

 

Music:

 

After a good concert: -- Wow that band was really cool! -- Yeah they played awesome!

After a bad concert: -- Bah the sound was a real crap! -- Yes, a soundman sucks!

 

*lol*

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I think some people have had a bad soundman somewhere along the way, and the trust has been broken.

 

I was working a local community musical for charity, and I brought an electronic kit to make up for all the percussion stuff I'd need. It was plugged into my personal amp next to the drums. In practice, I got told to turn it down (and it was already very low). So, I turned it all the way down to 0, but kept playing the pads. Apparently that was the perfect volume. :)

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Running sound is a lot like cooking BBQ....there's hundreds of way to do it none are necessarily better than the other,  of course the end result is what makes everyone happy and each "cook" thinks his method is the best.

 

A good mix to me is not always good to someone else either.  We all have our preferences and tastes. 

 

I hate working with most soundmen....but -  I have found that if I let them do there own thing...it works best.  If he wants my kick drum mic in a certain spot...so be it.  If he wants over heads farther behind....let him do it.  It's the method he's developed and it works best for him.

 

Don't micro manage your sound man (at first)...you'll just drive yourself crazy.  You have the same % chance of sounding like crap doing things your way...as you do his way. At least when you sound like crap HIS WAY -  no one can blame you.

 

Then.....you have a starting to point.

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Somethings i've learned.   My husband runs sound for other bands and gets our band all "dialed" in  but as the night goes on the bass player is always the first one who turns up.  Then comes the guitar players, then the singer always complains that  they can't hear themselves so the monitors get turned up, then the drummer is forced to hit a little harder because you can't hear the kick or snare and it's right in front of you.  LOL    Next thing every thing is all distorted and sounds horrible.    But I know this happens with my ears so I'm assuming it happens with the rest.  my ears get "tired" and what sounded crystal clear seems to get softer and harder to hear so where as I know it's my ears so I just deal with it others turn up.  then it gets to loud and I'm usually asking the sound man to turn my monitor down as it hurts ....  it's a never ending battle.

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You are 100% true mr. Patch. As I think, if the sound is really loud your ears become deaf after ~ 30 minutes. After that you cannot have an objective opinion about volume or timbre or balance or something else. You need either made a 30 minutes breack in total silence, either keep up workin' using only your experience and intuition. More, much of your sound perception begins to "hallucinate" - it seems that you need, for example, tweak up highs or lows or volume etc, even if you absolutely need not to...

 

Often musicians do not believe that in 30 minutes they become deaf, but I watched this effect a lot of times. Example. After the long recording a guitarist listens a fragment of his part where he plays 2 absolutely identical phrases. Then he claims, that in this fragment he should play 1st half louder and 2nd half quieter, and that this record sounds upside down - 1st half quieter and 2nd louder. And we must to re-record this fragment - or I need to swap those fragments on the track.

 

I wait until he turns his eyes off the PC monitor, make several mouse clicks and some dummy manipulations like resize track in-out, then I say "ready". And start to play absolutely just the same (unchanged) fragment. A guitarist's recation: "Well, that's what I said! Now it sounds perfect".

 

A good rule to fight against deaf ears - "a rule of one half". You wish to tweak up gain on the compressor, increase it, well, by 12 dB and think that now it is great. Now turn it down right by one half (i.e. 6 dB). Turning EQ knobs - just the same rule, "find a comfortable spot then turn back by one half". It really helps ))

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heehee yes it is  :)  there is is a Mr. "Patch" but he's a rhythm guitar player and not the one typing..  haaha

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not a problem..  Matoroskin..    a thousand apologies..wow that's a lot...   haahaa well then totally accepted  haaha  

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It would seem odd in the extreme, to me, to gig with a sound guy and not listen to what they say. You are doing your job, playing, he or she are doing there job, making you sound good out front. Whats not to like. You set your amps, etc, as you like them and they do the rest. Simple.

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It would seem odd in the extreme, to me, to gig with a sound guy and not listen to what they say. You are doing your job, playing, he or she are doing there job, making you sound good out front. Whats not to like. You set your amps, etc, as you like them and they do the rest. Simple.

What do you mean?  You go to the dentist and you tell him or her exactly how to clean your teeth, where to drill, where to poke.

You take your car to the mechanics and direct them which parts to replace and how to do it.  And also how to repair the other cars that happen to be there that day.   They are so glad for your advice as well.

For that matter, who here does not appreciate every time your band's guitarist or singer explains to you how to play those drum things?  Otherwise we would be so clueless.

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For that matter, who here does not appreciate every time your band's guitarist or singer explains to you how to play those drum things?

 

Bravo!

 

In fact, there are different sound engineers - just as musicians, mechanics and dentists. I always say that among sound engineers there are 2 especially dangerous types:

 

#1 A "hyper-creative" sound man. He claims, that (s)he is an "artist" - so, the music that a band plays is just his/her "canvas" and (s)he can "transform" it along with his/her own "vision". Cure: a gun. Baseball bat canl be useful, too.

 

#2 A sound man from "another league". Each music genre has its own laws and traditions - and if some jazz band comes to play to a new club, dont forget to ask a local soundman if he ever listened to jazz. Or you risk to get from inexperienced (young) sound engineer a "disco" EQ with totally cutted mids plus enormous loudness... And in this particular situation I think it would be useful for guitarist or singer to come to a sound engineer and to help.

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An interesting take.  So I guess the best anyone can hope is that the audio tech (or a mechanic, or a guitarist, or -- dare I say it? -- a drummer) knows his or her scope and limitations, and has enough integrity to ask for advice and input from others around who may be able to offer useful input.  Then, of course, those offering advice need to know when to back off too. 

 

I suppose that ultimately, everyone involved in the task -- musicians, audio techs, even the lighting crew -- must keep in mind that all their efforts are to maximise the overall benefit to the audience.   The only people whose opinions really matter.

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