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brrecording
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#1
28th August 2011
Old 28th August 2011
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Talking Live sound rant

Sorry about this just a little rant to get off my chest! I've been touring around as a live engineer for a few years working with a few reasonably well known acts.

Tonight my little brothers new band were playing their first gig so I told them I'd do the sound as a favour! When I got there to soundcheck i was informed that I wasn't to touch the desk as they had spent 15k on gear (my rough estimate was about 5k) and they wouldn't have someone who doesn't know what they're doing destroying their rig.

Attempting to be diplomatic I explained that this is my full time job and when asked informed them of the artists I had toured with. Still I was refused access.

Needless to say the sound was terrible, couldn't hear the vocals, bass was far too loud and feeding back and the sound of distortion off the acoustic from peaking the input on the desk was the icing on the cake!

Why do bands do this! They had a far better chance of blowing their system than I did!! My apologies, rant over!
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Old 28th August 2011
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What did the bands do?
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28th August 2011
Old 28th August 2011
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Sounds like the clubs sound guy or whoever you refer to as"they" was just being the all important club sound guy prick.
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28th August 2011
Old 28th August 2011
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What I do if I'm told I can't work sound when visiting a new club is tell the sound guy I usually do my band's sound, have no problem not touching the board, and ask if he wouldn't mind me letting him know what to expect on each song. I end up coaching the soundman through the set and the results have been positive. Has always worked for me.
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28th August 2011
Old 28th August 2011
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@Joseph I tried this but he wouldn't listen, I asked him to turn the vocal up....which he did for two seconds before saying it was too loud and turning it down again! I know alot of engineers seem to think that live vocals shouldn't really be heard but surely once you get them up there you could just leave it?!
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28th August 2011
Old 28th August 2011
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Joseph Egan View Post
What I do if I'm told I can't work sound when visiting a new club is tell the sound guy I usually do my band's sound, have no problem not touching the board, and ask if he wouldn't mind me letting him know what to expect on each song. I end up coaching the soundman through the set and the results have been positive. Has always worked for me.
I used to do that sometimes when bands I was working with in the studio would ask me to look over their sound on a crucial gig. Of course, I was not (and never will be) a professional SR guy. I just don't have what it takes.
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28th August 2011
Old 28th August 2011
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Quote:
Originally Posted by brrecording View Post
@Joseph I tried this but he wouldn't listen, I asked him to turn the vocal up....which he did for two seconds before saying it was too loud and turning it down again! I know alot of engineers seem to think that live vocals shouldn't really be heard but surely once you get them up there you could just leave it?!
That's a drag.
Old 28th August 2011
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Backseat soundguys are the worst.

If the venue doesn't 'allow' outside engineers, this isn't likely the kind of room that attracts the caliber of bands who care enough about their sound to hire a pro.

Sounds like the system in the op's case was owned by one the bands lending it for the show?
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28th August 2011
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Yep it was one of the bands PA but it was all cleared before hand that my brothers band was bringing their own engineer and that was all fine. The only thing I can think of is that they didn't want another band sounding better than them!
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28th August 2011
Old 28th August 2011
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It's the golden rule: those with the gold make the rules.

Buy your own PA, and then you can tell other people where to get off.

To a certain extent, I can understand the guy not wanting to take a risk with the OP. He is probably approached by many guys who say they are qualified sound engineers - practically everyone is a 'sound engineer' these days, aren't they?

And even if you can prove that you are a shit hot sound engineer - that still doesn't mean you won't blow up his PA. $5000 is probably a lot to him, or whoever the owner is.
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28th August 2011
Old 28th August 2011
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that's bullshit. I work as an in house engineer and I have a few bands who i do all their gigs too... i've never once been told no. I had problems with one guy once in a country town... once he heard my sound check he appologies prefusly.

I have no problem with a house engineer sitting over my shoulder... i usually find it takes them a couple of minutes to see i know what i'm doing then they walk away.
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28th August 2011
Old 28th August 2011
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Daniel Antix View Post
I have no problem with a house engineer sitting over my shoulder... i usually find it takes them a couple of minutes to see i know what i'm doing then they walk away.
I like it when I make a few tweaks and the house engineer all the sudden wants to know what I just did - and admits he likes it. To mellow him out, the first thing I do is to drop the mains 5 to 8 dB. I'll work on in-ears and/or stage monitors with the house down, then edge it up to get a feel for how the room reacts to higher volume, walking away from the desk to different areas of the room. Many house engineers overdrive their system and that can squash the dynamics - you don't want to take that out of the musician's toolbox.
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28th August 2011
Old 28th August 2011
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Reminds me of a couple of things.

I remember some trade rag writer complaining about the sound of a major event. He and his equally important companion treked over to the sound board to tell the sound board operator just how bad a job he was doing. And the writer was highly insulted by the response that he got from said operator and ranted on about it for a couple of hundred words.

And I wrote to the mag and said to the writer, "Who asked you?" Nobody would approach a carpenter and tell him how to drive a nail. No one wold approach a cop and say, Her, let me show you how to direct traffic, you are doing it all wrong..."

But if there is one thing that I have learned standing behind a board is that everyone is a better sound person than me and nobody is too shy to tell me so. And what sound man has not had the experience of having someone screaming into their left ear, "Turn up the bass!" while someone is yelling at them from the right, "Turn down the bass you tin eared idiot.." or words to that effect.

It comes down to, "it's not your job".

Now don't get me wrong, I do feel your pain. But young bands will play too loud. Fact of life. They buy gear speced for arenas and try to use it in clubs the size of dressing rooms. And small clubs will have crap systems and often use board operators who only know one way to set up, because they are not really who they claim to be.

And in my opinion, major concert live sound has gone into the toilet. I feel that the modern engineers are doing less than one would think possible with gear that is so much more than we ever imagined could exist..... and now that the technology allows for totally amazing live sound, I find it to be totally abysmal. But it is not my job to try to correct them, and the people who hire people hired them instead of me. I can only shrug.

A while back Don Pearson and I were walking a room listening to one of his new (at the time) systems, and it sounded bad. We walked towards the desk, and the red lights were firing on most channels of the Gamble being operated by the band's engineer. We both shrugged and walked on. It wasn't his job, either.
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#14
28th August 2011
Old 28th August 2011
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This has happened several times to me, in both small and quite big venues.
I first of all try and talk to the sound guy, explain that it is my job, and I know what I'm doing.
Exactly what you did.

From then on, if he is still against it, I hand it over to the band I'm working with.
The bands I work with full time usually consider me as much a member of the band as any of themselves. If they bring you in on the gig, it's up to them to insist that they want YOU and nobody else.

It's happened to me where the in-house guy has accepted, painfully against his will, and they usually ask me for advice at the end...

I do a lot of gigs where I set up the PA, and just sit and watch until the end of the show. It's part of my job, and any other professional sound engineer.

Don't worry about it, it'll happen again.
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28th August 2011
Old 28th August 2011
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Jump on the grenade for the band....

I did a gig Friday night at a place with a great PA, great speakers, great desk with gobs of headroom, plenty of useful EQ, comp's, reverb, delay...

but........

Zero microphones, Zero Stands, and Zero Wires.....

WTF? Oh, the band brings the wires, the mic's and the stands, and whatever else they need to play cover songs.

Someone didn't tell the Band, "hey you need mic's and wire's, and stands", and oh, we hire a sound guy, so we're going to refuse your sound guy..."

Who is the guy that ends up telling the band they need mic's wires and stands? Me. The poor sound guy

But, is zall good.

I don't do live sound. I do live sound reinforcement.
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#16
28th August 2011
Old 28th August 2011
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As the in-house sound guy at a medium-sized venue I get a wide variety of so-called band "sound guys" as well as actual experienced engineers. The funny thing is the experienced guys do as shitty a job as a lot of the newbies. Quite often the are bitter about playing smaller venues than the arena tours they have done in the past and don't want to listen to anything the house guy has to say. This really unfortunate since I know the system and room better than someone walking into the venue for the first time.
We've got an old Soundcraft 800B which sounds good, but has very little headroom and sounds terrible when pushed too hard. I'm amazed at the number of folks that do it anyway and can't even tell that the mix is crap. I've just mixed 3 bands, gotten it sounding good, and invariably they'll crank all the trims and peg the faders way above unity. This always results in distorted garbage. It is not all that unusual for me to have to turn the amps down, although that doesn't cure the distortion problem.

I've got a "supergroup" band tonight featuring players that are used to bigger venues who will undoubtedly have a sound guy with an attitude. One of the performers is well known to be very difficult to work for, so I can only imagine the engineer will be stressed and push the system to (and possibly beyond) the max.
While this may be a bummer, it is part of the contractual agreement that the road engineer gets to work the system. I don't have the option to refuse. If anything gets broken or blown I have to detect it and report it to management before the act settles money at the end of the night.
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28th August 2011
Old 28th August 2011
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ears2thesky, this makes sense of a recent experience I had. Went to see Amon Amarth ("norse" heavy metal, my son's choice, don't ask) at the Rave in Milwaukee. Seems like it should be a good venue: high ceilings, some acoustic treatment, lot's of surfaces to break up reflections. The gear was impressive: a Yamaha PM4? inline desk with 16 subs and a big matrix, lots of compressors, EQs, reverbs and so on. The sound guy was from the band, and this is a big enough band I'm sure he was being paid well.

The sound from the start was mud, all low mids without even a good snare or high-hat to rise above it. Couldn't feel the bass as a separate sound, thump of the kick was lost in the mud. Guitar solos were barely audible anywhere in the room (paired 5150s with 412 Peavey cabs). At first I thought it must be the room, then maybe an inexperienced mixer but it would make sense that maybe he just wasn't aware of and compensating for the characteristics of a room/equipment he couldn't be bothered learning? Or possible the band just wants to be mixed as a sea of mud?
#18
29th August 2011
Old 29th August 2011
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Quote:
Originally Posted by brrecording View Post
bass was far too loud and feeding back
Electric bass? Feeding back because of the FOH system?

Quote:
Originally Posted by brrecording View Post
I asked him to turn the vocal up....
Was the system already up against the limiters? Usually the way to hear the lead vocal is to turn something else (or several something elses) down, or cut out a place in the eq for the vocals.

These two statements make me wonder.
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29th August 2011
Old 29th August 2011
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Aeolian View Post
Electric bass? Feeding back because of the FOH system?


Was the system already up against the limiters? Usually the way to hear the lead vocal is to turn something else (or several something elses) down, or cut out a place in the eq for the vocals.

These two statements make me wonder.
The bass was far too loud in the monitors and was starting to create a very low end feedback through the vocal mics on stage.

Speakers were rated at about 2400 watts rms, it had a dynacord powermate 1000 pushing it with the meters reading a peak at about -9 db which as we all know is very low on a FOH desk.

I'm over it now, it was just a rant on the night as I was a bit annoyed!
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29th August 2011
Old 29th August 2011
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If this happens it's always with a band I am helping out temporarily. If you want to have the control, you have to have the die hard support of the group.

But yeah, that sucks. It's never really about protecting the gear, just the ego.

John
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29th August 2011
Old 29th August 2011
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Quote:
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But yeah, that sucks. It's never really about protecting the gear, just the ego.

John
What used to get me is when the headliners engineer would ask me to turn the subs off for the duration of all support acts. have any of you had this request at a gig?
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29th August 2011
Old 29th August 2011
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Quote:
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What used to get me is when the headliners engineer would ask me to turn the subs off for the duration of all support acts. have any of you had this request at a gig?
Not the subs, that's a good one...yikes.

I have had people pull the masters down for the support acts. Now the techs just do it behind your back with their iPads. It's good to know where to turn those "features" off.

John
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29th August 2011
Old 29th August 2011
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SR means prep, lots of phone calls, first time at a club means squeezing in a visit if possible.

If the PA is somebody elses more calls!

Even in a situation where everybody knows you it is sometimes best to lay low, often a musician freind will ask for help, I'll keep my mouth shut till who's ever behind the board asks for help. You got to keep in mind we all were once knewbies!
All so I have been at gigs with Randy MJs, old monitor Mixer Scovill, and Cubbie, we all thought the mix sucked, stayed in our seats till the band asked the engineer to ask us help. Nobody mentioned their credits!
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29th August 2011
Old 29th August 2011
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Have to say on wed im hosting a gig in York, and its the first time that ive done so where im going to be twiddling my thumbs as im not behind the desk and its my companys rep at stake (First gig as a company :S) and I have people from all sides saying different things about the venue.

Now im most happy in a studio environment, and my live sound experience is that of mixing for musicals, so im more that happy for the sound guy at the venue to do the work, but im nervous as hell based on the hearsay I hear.

Well that and the warmup band have dropped out, with only 2 days left.
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29th August 2011
Old 29th August 2011
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Live sound rant

As folks have said you have to front the gig. Talk to everyone and check twice. And if you're not the headliner on a multiband gig, be prepared to get the short end of the stick. Promoters will often bend over backwards for a headliner and the earlier acts get what's left. No has beens touring the state fair circuit want to get their asses blown off the stage by some local outfit. Been there, got the t-shirt and learned to deal.

Prep as much as possible. Make friends with the regional soundco guys who provide. So when the big shots blow in with all their attitude. You have friends in low places. They'll often mix you and then turn it over to the touring headliners guys who won't know the system as well. And sometimes they just disappear from FOH and are seen lurking around the amp racks and controllers just making sure everything is "okay". ;-)
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29th August 2011
Old 29th August 2011
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Too all newbie house engineers... please read.

As a house engineer since 1994 (13 years actually on the gig), I have determined that the seasoned house engineers are usually happy to let the bands engineer run the board during the show. Its like I'm getting paid to kick back and read a book or nowadays an ipad.

I will usually set the band up on stage (hopefully with the assistance of the bands engineer) setting up stands and running cables and all. I appreciate having an experienced hand help for soundcheck.

Then I will man the board and get things dialed in at soundcheck. After that I am at the board for the first song with the band eng behind my back (not a problem). After that he mans the board and I stand behind him for a song and then I walk around the room and listen round the 3rd song and then I am off hanging out talking to the concert mgr eating a sandwich whatever... its all chill and all good as long as the band eng does not mess things up. They rarely do for I get things dialed in 99.9% of the time and the band eng can give his point of view and I usually go with it.

Its the newbies or egotistical jerks that have to be top rooster at the board. So if you or anyone you know is new to the game have them read this and go with the flow.

I have been on the other side too. I was the personal engineer for the Blue Hawaiians. Worked about 40 of their live shows. They opened for Brian Setzer Orchestra at the Hollywood Paladium. I couldn't take the 80 hz buildup that was going on during soundcheck. It was a sonic flood of mud. The soundman there would not let me touch a thing. I informed the band that I was heading out and that they should request -6 dB or so at 80 hZ on the main EQ and I was outta there. Can't stand bad sound, especially when it is my band or friends band.

Anyway, that is my longwinded going down memory lane post. I hope I have shed some light for at least one young FOH engineer.

Thank you.
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#27
29th August 2011
Old 29th August 2011
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Well in this instance I AM the promoter, and I care about all the bands playing, thats why i want to have a say at the desk,

Meh we'll see how it goes on the night i guess.
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29th August 2011
Old 29th August 2011
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Quote:
Originally Posted by drbob1 View Post
...at the Rave in Milwaukee. Seems like it should be a good venue...
Yes it does doesn't it?

In my 35 years of Milwaukee area life, I'm yet to witness good sound at the Rave. I've actually written them off completely at this point and instead go to Chicago or Madison if the Rave/Eagles Ballroom are the only Milwaukee date on tour. It's that bad. It's always that bad.


I too have had a run at touring sound. I've been a house guy for 10+ years, and had the opportunity to go out on a few Vagrant records tours. Some highlights:

A club that had blue painters tape covering all of the graphic eq's. I thought ok... well let's see how well this is rung out. Just awful. Sure. There was no feedback, nor was there any top end.. anywhere. When asked if I may "have the keys to the tape", the owner said "oh no... we had a professional come in and tune all of that. it's perfect". fair enough says I... "would you mind if I write down his 'professional settings' and give it a quick go because I'm really not hearing a lot of clarity here." Reluctantly he peeled back the tamper proof seal to reveal everything about 2k gone. I spent 5 minutes with the graph and the owner asked me to leave it and put the tape back up. I tried to explain that this is fine for tonight, but these are tools meant to be used differently depending on the act and audience size.... wasting my breath here.

But my favorite was walking up to a rig to find a "dual smiley face" style notching on a front of house graph. You think that's bad? It was a mono 31 band.
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#29
30th August 2011
Old 30th August 2011
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I've been a live guy for ten years. Front of house, monitors, touring guy, house guy, bars, theaters, ballrooms, and outdoor festivals. Shit gear and gear that turns a man green with envy. Often in the same week.

In all of the above situations, I make it sound great if you put something on the stage that can sound great. It's not hard. Especially if the room is anything smaller than an arena. Yet shit live sound is everywhere.

On the small scale, I guess you get too many guys who don't care. On the large scale, I get the feeling that too many guys fall back on scene recalls from the last show. In general, I think too many guys try to do too many things. Especially when the band is making so much of the sound on thier own. I've had at least two gigs in ball rooms where we set up a large PA, got the band on stage for the sound check, and then had a good laugh because the best thing to do was not even turn on the PA. It's not at all like a studio mix, and I think some guys approach it that way.
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#30
3rd September 2011
Old 3rd September 2011
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