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I want to become an FOH engineer
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Insightful
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#1
25th June 2013
Old 25th June 2013
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I want to become an FOH engineer

So i am entering my last year of high school in august, and i still don't know what i am going to do after i graduate. I really want to become an FOH engineer. I was looking at an art school in my area that offers a program in audio production. They offer an associate of science ($46,000) and a bachelors of science degree($90,000). I want to make sure that is the best route before i spend this obscene amount of money. If this isn't the best choice, What would you guys do? For those who are FOH engineers, What did you do when you left high school? Any help is appreciated. Thank you in advance
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#2
25th June 2013
Old 25th June 2013
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Go to school for electronics and electrical engineering. Work with your schools tech team as an extracurricular.

Get friendly with some bands and help them out.

If you still like it, apply for an internship at a regional/national touring company like clair bros. Work your way up.



I wish I would have went to school for an ee degree... I think I would have liked my life a lot more. Now I'm stuck doing audio related things, and it's just not consistent enough for me.
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#3
25th June 2013
Old 25th June 2013
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Thumper View Post
apply for an internship at a regional/national touring company
Apply for any position in a sound/touring company, to get your foot in. There are a hundred jobs to be done in touring, FOH is just one of them and people tend to think it's a good thing to do. If you want to understand FOH, you got to have at least a clear understanding what all the other jobs in touring do, understand bands, backline, the gear, how to fix gear, how to fix untalended singers , electrical power, cabling, etc.etc.
Congratulations for choosing FOH, most people I know of choose recording because "it's easier and less stressfull"

And electrical engineering is a good thing.
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#4
25th June 2013
Old 25th June 2013
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Thumper is right

That is a lot of money which you will what to see a good return on, you don't need a single qualification to make it to the top as a FOH engineer no one will ever ask you as a requirement because people get there by who they know not what they know.

The problem with these new age courses/degrees is that this job doesn't correlate to academia and then a well paid job at the end. Yes there is a lot to learn about physics, acoustics, electricity, electronics, computer programming, music, legal aspects of the industry etc there are more areas that the job encompasses.
however the problem is that these areas only touched upon for what you need to know, so your not an expert in any of those fields you just know a bit.

When you invest all that money into a higher education you need to think about employability at the end. invest all that time to end up working in a dive?

Personally I would do a solid academic subject with a good grounding behind sound. Physics, electrical/electronic engineering/Acoustics/ElectroAcoustics will not be as fun as Music Tech but a hell of a lot more rewarding for the rest of your life. then work as FOH in the student union bar etc a good well connected place to start your career.

doing it as a hobby is different from doing it as a job, you want to be able to keep that option. being able to apply for well paid job positions easily with your bit of certificate paper or you could be stuck with a lot of debt and struggle to shift it quickly.


be a designer/engineer/consultant to the industry and make the toys that we play with
#5
25th June 2013
Old 25th June 2013
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I'm primarily a (schooled) musician, but have done studio-engineering for as long as I'm playing. Since about a year I'm also doing FOH jobs (classical / orchestra's and jazz is what I'm being hired to mix).

The common denominator in al these jobs is to know what you're aiming for, be it sound-, playing- or productionwise. And knowing what to aim for has got everything to do with (analytical) listening. So learn to listen, go to a college where your listening skills are challenged and improved (McGill?). Get a 'good' taste in sound.
The technical bit of FOH ain't so hard to learn if you can hear what you're doing. Any monkey can operate a mixer, but making it sound good is another thing.

Just my idea.
#6
25th June 2013
Old 25th June 2013
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Concentrate on some business or marketing school, aim for max money for minimum hours and understand the technicalities of business and legal regulations etc in your area.

Learn about music and sound in your free time, go to (expensive) seminars, go to gigs, read a lot.

Learn about gear and what things are popular simply by watching what others use and reading all the publications etc.

Set up a company by buying the right gear in a place where there is gap in the market. Either setting up a company in an area where there is none, or partnering with a company and buying a pair of Digico consoles or whatever when there is none within a certain area.

Hire good techs and pay them well, treat them fair. Do gigs for as many local bands, for cost or at a loss. Be friendly with them, concentrate on what makes a good SHOW, rather than what brand cables you buy etc.

Hope that one of the bands makes it big and goes on tour and asks you to be their FOH guy!
#7
25th June 2013
Old 25th June 2013
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There are really no "FOH engineers". Rather, there are people behind the board who have loaded in, set up and tuned the PA, dressed the stage, rigged the lights, repaired faulty house equipment, verified safe and adequate AC power, etc, etc, etc.

Only after all this is accomplished can one sit in the chair behind the desk and proceed to try and keep the vocals above the onstage screaming guitar amps...
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#8
25th June 2013
Old 25th June 2013
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Wyllys View Post
There are really no "FOH engineers". Rather, there are people behind the board who have loaded in, set up and tuned the PA, dressed the stage, rigged the lights, repaired faulty house equipment, verified safe and adequate AC power, etc, etc, etc.

Only after all this is accomplished can one sit in the chair behind the desk and proceed to try and keep the vocals above the onstage screaming guitar amps...
THIS.

I am a full time "FOH Engineer" at a decent sized regional sound company. We do serveral shows a month, and probably 1-2 big national acts a month. Even then, I'm only mixing shows a few hours a month. That comes down to a very small percentage of my job.

Beyond doing load in/load out and prepping gear, the majority of my time is spent doing maintenance (I'm in the middle of re-coning a few subwoofers right now), cleaning equipment, re-organizing the rig (ie building/reconfiguring the racks that we use), I research new gear and make purchase suggestions to my boss, I went to InfoComm to talk to some of our providers, I'm on the phone constantly troubleshooting broken equipment, the list goes on and on.

There are a myriad of skills needed to be a "FOH Engineer" and only a few of them actually relate to mixing bands.

Bottom line is to not get your hopes up. The kids who graduate from these music production schools often show up at our shows as stagehands and all they care about is the gear at FOH. That's the last thing they need to be concerned about. I need them to help build the stage and push cases. I don't care if they have a "degree in audio production", I don't care if they were top of their class and have a 4.2 GPA. None of that really matters in this industry.

I tell most kids in your position that you might be better off trying to get into a company right now as a stagehand. You don't really need experience to push cases. Some places will train you. You should be paid starting at day one. YOU SHOULD BE PAID STARTING AT DAY ONE. The live world is much different than studios. Don't be pushing gear for free because someone is kind enough to give you "real world experience". They are taking advantage of you. It's not easy work and it shouldn't be done for free, no matter how badly you want to get your foot in the door.
#9
26th June 2013
Old 26th June 2013
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Get your EE and do sound on the side until you're out of school. Many of the best engineers out there are MUCH more than just FOH dudes... they're doctors, cabinet makers, composers, architects...

Operating a console pretty well is pretty easy. If you have a brain it won't take you long to get pretty good but you'll have a hard time to convince someone to pay you a living wage for that skill... you need to bring more to the table:

Communication skills, production management, tech skills etc.
#10
26th June 2013
Old 26th June 2013
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 0-it-hz View Post
Get your EE and do sound on the side until you're out of school. Many of the best engineers out there are MUCH more than just FOH dudes... they're doctors, cabinet makers, composers, architects...
All of the "good" engineers I know are just that...full time engineers. I don't know anybody that have enough time on their hands to be a good doctor and a good first class engineer at the same time.

Quote:
Operating a console pretty well is pretty easy. If you have a brain it won't take you long to get pretty good but you'll have a hard time to convince someone to pay you a living wage for that skill...
I agree that knowing the function(s) of the knobs and faders on a console is relatively 'easy'...but that's a far cry from being able to produce good mixes. Knowing what it takes and how to do produce good mixes in different situations takes technical knowledge, experience and talent which does not come overnight.
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#11
26th June 2013
Old 26th June 2013
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I am a full time independent FOH engineer.
I have been actively touring for the past 12+ years.

The 5+ years prior to that I had a regular house gig at a small venue and picked up whatever freelance mix work was available taking almsot every gig I was offered to gain experience, meet artists and make some money. Some of the artists I worked with in the small venues eventually went on to play some big venues and I was fortunate enough to be given the opportunity to grow with them. I was frequently told that in addition to my mix work and technical knowledge it was my good attitude and profesional disposition at a house gig that made people think of me when they were looking for a touring engineer. I have recommended good house engineers for touring gigs over the years and a few of them have gone on to have successful careers.

Before that I worked at a 5 room rehearsal complex and rang out 3 mixes a day in each of the 5 rooms. Every day we would flatten the graphs and start fresh. It is there that I learned signal flow, frequencies and gain structure. The foundation for what I do today. I did that for 5 or so years.

And before that I was in a band that rehearsed at the place I eventually got a job at. I regularly expressed an interest in gear and let it be known I was willing to learn if someone wanted to teach me.

While I do wish I had an EE degree, the lack of one hasn't hindered my job prospects. I have been fortunate enough to have had some amazing opportunities presented to me and I took advantage of them, worked hard, constantly tried to increase my skill set and just do my best. For the most part it has worked out an I have been rewarded with a career.

I know people in the industry that have followed similar paths as mine. As well as those that have worked at audio-production companies. As someone said earlier, there are many jobs in this industry besides FOH and it certainly helps to know what everyone else in the crew is doing. If you really want to sart mixing FOH I would recommend getting a gig at a local venue and seeing where it goes from there. Whatever you do, remember that a good attitude is just as valuable as your technical skills.
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#12
26th June 2013
Old 26th June 2013
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Originally Posted by elharley View Post
Whatever you do, remember that a good attitude is just as valuable as your technical skills.
Very good post and very solid advise.

It should also be mentioned that we should never underestimate the psychological aspect of this job...
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#13
27th June 2013
Old 27th June 2013
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Originally Posted by Insightful View Post
So i am entering my last year of high school in august, and i still don't know what i am going to do after i graduate. I really want to become an FOH engineer.
The cue forms at the back.

Seriously, as some have stated, it is about getting your hands dirty and lugging boxes for a long time, with a great attitude, while picking up experience with some small local bands that cannot afford an engineer but are willing to let e novice behind the controls. This has been the audio engineers life for generations. A great trade/apprenticeship/degree will stand you in good stead though and believe it or not, that knowledge will make you all the more valuable to a perspective audio company for employment. It may even be the minor detail that puts you at the head of the cue one day. Go forth and learn and good luck.
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#14
27th June 2013
Old 27th June 2013
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Originally Posted by Insightful View Post
They offer an associate of science ($46,000) and a bachelors of science degree($90,000).
For the cost of the associate "degree" you can buy yourself a nice PA system and a lot of the associated bells and whistles as well as something in which to haul it. Set it up, learn how to use it, BE a FOH engineer.

If it doesn't work out for you, you can always sell off the gear at half of what you paid and you'll have spent a whole lot less than going to a "theory academy". You can't re-sell the "degree" they're charging you for.
#15
28th June 2013
Old 28th June 2013
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Get a job working in the field while also going to school. The more I work doing live sound, the more I wish I had a degree to back up my experience. Most of all, get good at networking and finding work....I suck at that part so I starve a lot.
#16
28th June 2013
Old 28th June 2013
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To the OP

Please for the sake of your well-beeing, take all the advise above very seriously and do by no means fall for that marketing BS those audio schools use to get your money.

There already are too many young kids working at mcdonalds having an outstanding degree in audio production.
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#17
28th June 2013
Old 28th June 2013
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Originally Posted by mdoelger View Post
To the OP

Please for the sake of your well-beeing, take all the advise above very seriously and do by no means fall for that marketing BS those audio schools use to get your money.

There already are too many young kids working at mcdonalds having an outstanding degree in audio production.
Yes, yes and yes. Also, hahahaha!
#18
28th June 2013
Old 28th June 2013
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Really. The very best advice is to continue your education in a field that you can actually make a living doing. Electrical engineering, business, etc.

If you are smart you will do some simple math. Figure out what a "normal" living wage is, add in housing expense, transportation expense, health care insurance, etc.

Then try to find anyone who is a FOH engineer that makes that kind of money. They are very rare.

Get an education, get some experience doing sound, read everything, study, go to seminars, etc. but first build a career in something that will actually pay the bills while you learn how to be broke.
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#19
28th June 2013
Old 28th June 2013
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Originally Posted by Wyllys View Post
For the cost of the associate "degree" you can buy yourself a nice PA system and a lot of the associated bells and whistles as well as something in which to haul it. Set it up, learn how to use it, BE a FOH engineer.

If it doesn't work out for you, you can always sell off the gear at half of what you paid and you'll have spent a whole lot less than going to a "theory academy". You can't re-sell the "degree" they're charging you for.
This is probably the worst advise I've ever read on GS which says a lot, it's also the dumbest thing you could do.

Good education is never a waste of money or time and an engineering degree is a very valuable investment in your future...not something to sneeze at. If the audio engineering gig doesn't work out, you (because of your education) will still be valuable in the labor market.

Having a bunch of expensive gear without the knowledge and experience to use it and with no business education or experience is like using the cart to pull the Donkey. If it was that easy every idiot would have a 5-ton truck loaded with gear in their backyard...
#20
28th June 2013
Old 28th June 2013
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What is driving this decision? Have you been involved with a production company, your school's theatre tech program, your church's tech ministry or some other opportunities that exposed you to live sound? Do you have other possible educational or career goals or is this the only path you are considering?

As others have already noted, you generally do not step right into a good FoH or A1 role, you typically have to learn and work your way into those positions (and often get to know the right people). A formal education can definitely help but without any associated practical experience you may be lacking on that aspect. Similarly, I have encountered techs with significant practical experience but also with many holes in their knowledge and/or bad practices and misconceptions picked up along the way. A mix of relevant education, good mentoring and hands-on experience is probably the most effective approach to develop your skills.

Do the audio production/audio technology programs that you referenced focus specifically on live sound or that address it in depth or do they primarily address the recording and post-production aspects? Do they get you out in real world scenarios? It definitely does not hurt to have a broader understanding but you might want to make sure you'd be getting a good education in the aspects that interest you before laying out the kind of money you note for an audio production program.
#21
28th June 2013
Old 28th June 2013
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Samc View Post
This is probably the worst advise I've ever read on GS which says a lot, it's also the dumbest thing you could do.

Good education is never a waste of money or time and an engineering degree is a very valuable investment in your future...not something to sneeze at. If the audio engineering gig doesn't work out, you (because of your education) will still be valuable in the labor market.

Having a bunch of expensive gear without the knowledge and experience to use it and with no business education or experience is like using the cart to pull the Donkey. If it was that easy every idiot would have a 5-ton truck loaded with gear in their backyard...
Sam....

It was sarcasm.
#22
28th June 2013
Old 28th June 2013
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Quote:
Originally Posted by museAV View Post
What is driving this decision?

Do the audio production/audio technology programs that you referenced focus specifically on live sound or that address it in depth or do they primarily address the recording and post-production aspects? Do they get you out in real world scenarios? It definitely does not hurt to have a broader understanding but you might want to make sure you'd be getting a good education in the aspects that interest you before laying out the kind of money you note for an audio production program.
this is very good advise, a studio course will not expose you enough to the live sound world, take time to find the right course that will prepare you to start straight out of the blocks.
#23
28th June 2013
Old 28th June 2013
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3 days?? no OP?? But hopefully other will take the mostly great advice given freely here, good thread.
Only post I took exception to was the person who thinks setting a mix is a "part time" gig for a doctor.?? Hmm, I guess some peoples idea of a "good" mix can be varied.
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#24
28th June 2013
Old 28th June 2013
  #24
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Back when I was a volunteer firefighter, you had to fight a few fires before you were eligible to train to be the driver, as the driver is usually also the pump operator. I didn't like it during the time I was waiting for fires to happen.

After becoming a driver, we went on a fireplace fire one night, and I was on the inside hose team. We were getting a good stream of embers when the driver radioed us that he was going to shut down our hose so he could supply the ladder truck (which has its own pump). I radioed back that we weren't ready as the hose went limp. It's good to know where to find an axe when you're running down the stairs and straight for the pump controls...

I've been in your shoes, OP. I don't look back, except when I hook up a little Yamaha mixer, a compressor, and mix the tunes from my iPod (with compression and ducking) and my PC (which serves as the trigger for the ducking) on my desk. My advice: go chase a career in computer networking. When you get good at routing, switching, and then QoS, go back to your dream of FOH mixing; your QoS training will cross over to compression and mixing in ways you can't comprehend today. Meanwhile, you're working a job that pays a decent hourly wage 40 hours a week or more.
#25
28th June 2013
Old 28th June 2013
  #25
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Quote:
So i am entering my last year of high school in august, and i still don't know what i am going to do after i graduate. I really want to become an FOH engineer. I was looking at an art school in my area that offers a program in audio production. They offer an associate of science ($46,000) and a bachelors of science degree($90,000). I want to make sure that is the best route before i spend this obscene amount of money. If this isn't the best choice, What would you guys do? For those who are FOH engineers, What did you do when you left high school? Any help is appreciated. Thank you in advance
don`t spend money to become a f.o.h. engineer. except for some books on acoustics, microphones, sound reinforcement etc.

go to your local p.a. rental and ask for a job / volunteer hand position.

go to your cool local small to medium size live venue and ask for a job / volunteer position as a stage hand.

get jobs and learn. from scratch.

be kind, work your ass off, don`t talk too much. learn.

if you have a question (and i hope you will have some) learn when to ask. and when not.

learn how systems work and how they are hooked up. learn how to wrap cables properly.

learn how and why bands engineers put certain microphones in certain positions.

learn how the whole venue is organised. who works where and what exactly is his/her position.

learn that in the end social skills are more important than everything else.
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