live sound engineer gripe
Old 26th February 2012
  #1
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live sound engineer gripe

Was really dissapointed with a in house sound engineer we had on the weekend. First band, all you could here was drums and vocals....like a shitty cover band. Second band was louder, then when we come on we arent as loud. He never walked around the room to listen, just sat in back corner behind desk...yeah never again.
Just wondering is there a reason he would only have the vocals and drums a lot louder. Does it have something to with the desk or was he just a tard?
One final question, he said he couldnt get any mids form my vocals as I was using a boss ve 20 effects...which is a whole other story...any reason?
cheers
Old 26th February 2012
  #2
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I guess he doesn't know how to do his job, that is if he's actually employed and not a failed local musician doing it for a few beers. When I was back gigging, I was sick of the guitars being up so bloody loud. The guy would turn them up to stadium level and beyond the point at which the vocals could be any louder without feeding back.
Old 26th February 2012
  #3
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Or, all the bands on the bill were utter garbage and the OP doesn't know what he's talking about, or...or...
In most of these cases there's way more to the story than what one side brings to the table.
Either way, a band needs to be prepared for anything and should rely on no-one - pointing the finger after the fact is a waste of time and an effort better spent making sure everything goes well the next time.
Old 26th February 2012
  #4
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Did you give him any guidance? Ask for anything specifically? Leave him to guess? Was this the 3rd band he mixed that night? Did any of the other bands sound good? Did any of them "tip" the house engineer?

If you give a shit about the way you sound and are playing dives where its important to you to sound good... then carry your own engineer. If you're playing decent sized clubs [300+] then you might stand a better chance of getting a skilled FOH engineer... other than that its always going to be a crap shoot... and if you care about the product you're projecting into the club... hire your own engineer [which means paying them... and will probably mean paying them for a rehearsal or two].

Peace
Old 26th February 2012
  #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ssaudio View Post
... way more to the story than ....
There must be a phrase for "hearing a story told second-hand where you can see through the teller's sense of incredulity-- it doesn't seem preposterous to you because putting it all together, it makes sense."

Not that I have any idea what went on... but I do remember a time when I was at a benefit, and the somewhat weary sound guy was setting up all the inputs for a multi-farious band (six people: four vocals; keys; horns; accordion; fiddle; etc; in addition to bass/drums/guitars) and apparently he mumbled something about "gee, you got alot of inputs" which was accurate, and the band leader replied, "Hey-- we were ASKED to be here!"

Throughout their set, the kick drum predominated, it was like 90% of the sound. Everything else was a marbled mush. Obviously, the sound guy had slipped into a "default" mode indistinguishable from "not giving a good goddam."

If there's anything that amazes me anymore, it's that people by and large don't recognize EVERYTHING about "good audio"-- live, recorded, and everything in between-- depends on the perseverance of the guy with his fingers on the faders, the zillion and one decisions he must confront, and the thoroughness of his dedication to seeing it all through to a victorious conclusion.

It could be, the OP's guy was inept or struggling with inferior gear... or there could be a much simpler, psychological explanation...?
Old 26th February 2012
  #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by joelpatterson View Post
There must be a phrase for...
One word, 'experience', does me
Old 26th February 2012
  #7
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Or, utilizing the fewest letters possible... "Aha!"
Old 26th February 2012
  #8
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Ach, just roll the old eyes...saves saying anything...
Old 26th February 2012
  #9
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I generally run into this in small clubs ( like Fletcher mentioned).

If its a low key gig, and it isn't sounding right, I have no problems with walking onto the floor while the band is playing (long cable) and then barking some orders at the sound man. I'm too old for this hit.
Old 26th February 2012
  #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by theranga View Post
Was really dissapointed with a in house sound engineer we had on the weekend. First band, all you could here was drums and vocals....like a shitty cover band. Second band was louder, then when we come on we arent as loud. He never walked around the room to listen, just sat in back corner behind desk...yeah never again.
Just wondering is there a reason he would only have the vocals and drums a lot louder. Does it have something to with the desk or was he just a tard?
One final question, he said he couldnt get any mids form my vocals as I was using a boss ve 20 effects...which is a whole other story...any reason?
cheers
Drums and vocals... sounds like a lot of modern day live mixes, this sort of thing seems hip for some reason. Though often it's more like Joel's example and just kick, maybe some Vocals.

Did you introduce yourself to the guy you entrusted your sound to? Ask him how his night has been? A friendly chat during changeover can go a long way to inducing some interest... Let him know what kind of sound you're after, if you're a guitar driven band, let him know. Assuming you run your amps at decent levels chances are down the front people are hearing your amps direct and the only vocal they'd be hearing is monitor spill.

You brought your own vocal effects, I gather you gave him no option of dry signal? I don't blame him for losing interest -you took one his only creative tasks away from him. Like Fletcher said, bring a guy and pay him to take an interest, work FX, walk around the room etc.
Old 26th February 2012
  #11
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This is how it's done... (at 4.30)



Old 27th February 2012
  #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by PrettyGone View Post
This is how it's done... (at 4.30)
Fantastic way to get an engineer to start utilizing some mute buttons.
Old 27th February 2012
  #13
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I've known too many inept live sound engineers who do not deserve the "engineer" title.

Some of them are corrupt - they may ruin their sound on purpose either because there are people in the band that he doesn't like or he got a bribe from a rival band to make them sound bad.
Old 27th February 2012
  #14
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i also know plenty of egotistical "musicians" that deserve to sound even worse than they do by them selves. its a 2 sided coin.

Please note, i am not the engineer talked about above. just a bloke who has mixed plenty of bands over the last 10 years
Old 27th February 2012
  #15
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If you don't have your own sound engineer, here are some tips:

- Have a chat with the soundguy, give him your name, ask his name and USE IT. Treat him with respect, if you're having a good night he can still be responsible for a bad sounding show if you piss him off.

- Try to give some wellknown references of the sound you're after..Don't be vague and say you like the sound of unknown band A or B. Try to be as idiotproof as possible describing your sound.

- My wife knows how my band should sound. I introduce her to the soundguy, telling him that she could give some feedback during the show. She doesn't know how to work gear, but she does know what her ears are telling her. Most soundguys really care about what she has to say, because she's pretty :p

Because i'm on stage i can't hear what's going on in the venue. When the show is almost over, i look for my wife giving a thumbs up or down. When the thumb is up, i thank the soundguy (using his name) on stage. A good soundguy (or someone who is at least trying to do a good job) earns applause as much as we (the band) do.

- Try talking to him after the show. Tell him what you liked and don't liked in a friendly way. Ask for his contact details if he was really good.Your hot wife could get you some discount perhaps for other shows :p

If he's just plain bad and ignorant, let the audience and the organisers of the event know what a dick he is, and never work with him again :p
Old 27th February 2012
  #16
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It's not always to do with bad engineers - there are some venues with practically unworkable sound systems. I've done sound in small venues with bands who insist on having their Marshall stacks at 11, firing straight into the vocal microphones. When you're up against this, there's nothing you can do.

The band plays the music, while the engineer's job is to make you louder to cover the audience correctly, but also to hear yourselves on stage. If you're already taking elements out of his control, then you're restricting his options.

Just my 2c. I'm usually more than satisfied with the results I can get even on cheap sh1tty compact desks, but when the band is thrashing it and all I've got is a pair of budget plastic speakers on sticks, there's very little you can do.
Old 27th February 2012
  #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by PrettyGone View Post
This is how it's done... (at 4.30)



I hope he got nothing but bass in his monitor after that...maybe a few feedback spikes.
Old 27th February 2012
  #18
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Some bands are easy to mix. They have a decent stage level and they make their wants and desires known before they go on. Then you get the band that turns all their amps to 12, has a drummer who thinks he is trying to fill up a football stadium and a vocalist that can barely be heard when you are talking to him or her and they want the mix to sound GREAT. They give you a lot of gaff from the stage telling the audience what a d!ck you are and constantly complaining about everything from the monitor levels to your lack of input channels so their drummer couldn't have one microphone for each drum like he wanted (but never specified in the tech rider). Yea I have done a lot of bands that were great but I have also had my share of the others.

Too bad... live sound should be fun both for the audience and for the performers AND house sound engineer.

MTCW and YMMV
Old 1st March 2012
  #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by AlexK View Post
It's not always to do with bad engineers - there are some venues with practically unworkable sound systems.
I had one of those, busted speakers, worst room configuration, half broken snake, a console on the end of its life and an effects rack w/ 1 noisy compressor, an eq with more than half of it noT working and a really shitty reverb, and half the mics sounded like they were bashed the hell out of. In this period of time, I LEARNED to work out some many problems, you wouldnt believe, now nothing in the world would make me cringe in fear when doing sound. It breaks, I know how to work it out to make it atleast "OK"

this was my first sound job, where i also had to take care of lighting, and didnt have a permanent stage so i had to build it before every show.

All this plus some pretty unhelpful band attitudes....I wouldnt even want to work with myself at that point.

I worked around it for some time, for the experience. I everntually quit seeing as it was starting to ruin my rep. Im happy to say i never got an other venue that was THAT bad.
Old 2nd March 2012
  #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by AlexK View Post
It's not always to do with bad engineers - there are some venues with practically unworkable sound systems.
Any combination of factors could be possible. I travel with a band. I've been hired to run sound at events with equipment provided. I asked maybe five or six questions to confirm ahead of time what gear would be provided, get an email back with answers to two of the questions - if I'm lucky. When I get there, neither of those answers prove to be correct.

It helps when I can at least run the sound myself and not interface with another sound guy. The room plays a big part in it, as does those situations where I have to use equipment provided rather than the band's own system. Being promised adequate gear is normal - venue insists that band use venue's system and not bring their own, but actually having adequate system upon arrival is rare. So we pretty much insist on bringing our own system unless we absolutely can't avoid using provided gear.

When I travel with the band and a house engineer runs sound or a company is providing sound for a multi-band festival, it's usually a nightmare. Band's management calls or emails ahead with band's stage plot and input list, and we are told that I can assist with sound. We arrive - no one has the info we sent, and sound guy ignores any offer of help that I try to give. He keeps making major changes, because fans keep complaining and he is tired of hearing it. Band tells him I was the one he was supposed to listen to for advice. Either way, the constant complains from fans should have indicated to him something was wrong. By the end, these guys are usually asking me for help or letting me take over, and fans are satisfied. Usually I'm not, because of having to jump in and start using an unfamiliar system in the middle of a show.

Or you get the nice guys with no attitude - easy to get along with, but don't believe in making any adjustments. Just set levels at unity and let the band work the mics.

Or the guys who initially listen to what I and the band suggest, and then after getting it right - they start changing things. Not a decibel or two at a time, but the full range of the fader in a quick jump or cut. Nothing needed adjusted. Even if it did, it didn't need adjusted that much. Or that sudden.

Lots of

One of my philosophies is the sound system should be as transparent as possible. I try to provide the illusion to the audience that they are hearing the band - not hearing the band through a PA system. Although of course the band with sound reinforcement is usually going to sound better than the band in a room with no sound reinforcement, but we are creating the illusion of a natural sound uncolored by the technology it's being filtered through. Ideally, anyway... still not there yet in reality. But some people are not even on the same planet philosophically.
Old 2nd March 2012
  #21
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as a previous house sound guy i have to add the flipside, band brings "engineer" that doesn't have a ****ing clue. blames me for everything bad, basically has me run the show then takes credit for everything good when he can't even ring out a monitor. sorry but it happened enough that it's worth mentioning. my favorite one was the band that brought two audio school students to mix the show, they were completely overwhelmed and ended up just running the tap on the vocal delay through the set while i did everything else, of course they told the band they did everything.
Old 2nd March 2012
  #22
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Agreed 100% - it should also be added that despite all the good intentions, 'back seat driving' is almost always a disaster - few 'helpers' get it right.
Old 2nd March 2012
  #23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mingustoo View Post
I hope he got nothing but bass in his monitor after that...maybe a few feedback spikes.
Watch the video again... I saw him try to get the monitor engineer's attention AT LEAST 3 TIMES before he made the comment over the mic.

If the monitor engineer was on my crew and that happened... it would have been his last gig. A monitor engineer not paying attention to their artist is a pretty egregious offense!!

Peace
Old 2nd March 2012
  #24
3 tips that help to guarantee decent sound in the majority of club gigs.

1. Stage level

2. Stage level

3. Stage level

7. Stage level.
Old 2nd March 2012
  #25
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Fletcher View Post
Watch the video again...
For it surely tells us all we need to know
Old 2nd March 2012
  #26
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Fletcher View Post
Watch the video again... I saw him try to get the monitor engineer's attention AT LEAST 3 TIMES before he made the comment over the mic.

If the monitor engineer was on my crew and that happened... it would have been his last gig. A monitor engineer not paying attention to their artist is a pretty egregious offense!!

Peace
Agreed.
But asking calmly between songs will get you much further.
Old 2nd March 2012
  #27
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Fletcher View Post
Watch the video again... I saw him try to get the monitor engineer's attention AT LEAST 3 TIMES before he made the comment over the mic.

If the monitor engineer was on my crew and that happened... it would have been his last gig. A monitor engineer not paying attention to their artist is a pretty egregious offense!!

Peace
this.

especially if the show is just starting.

don`t you love to watch monitorengineers surfing/texting on their ipad/phone while musicians give him signs all the time.
Old 2nd March 2012
  #28
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Quote:
Originally Posted by noktem520 View Post
Agreed.
But asking calmly between songs will get you much further.
Dude - the comment was at 4:34 in a song that was 15:08... not even a third of the way in. He motioned to the monitor engineer [or it looked to me like he motioned to the monitor engineer] at 2:43, 2:54 and definitely at 4:25... if Mr. Monitor engineer had been on top of his shit [the way he should have been] he'd have caught the subtle hand signals way earlier in the program.

The artist is working - he has an expectation that the crew is going to do their job and make it possible for the artist to provide the best show possible for the audience. If the "visual communication" thing didn't work - why the hell should he wait until the end of the song to be in a comfortable environment? The artist is out there putting his balls and emotion on the line - the crew is there to support that effort. End of story - the performer gets what he wants. Period.

We also don't know what [if anything] was said before the band went on, we don't know if the monitor engineer was on the tour or not, we don't know a damn thing other than it looked like the performer asked for something 3 times and didn't get the desired result.

Believe me - if the worst thing that happened to the monitor engineer in that situation was to be called an asshole over the full system... he got off WAY easy.

Like it or not... that's the gig. Either do it 100% right, or guess what happens.

Peace
Old 2nd March 2012
  #29
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Plenty of assumptions there - none remotely helpful, albeit revealing.
Old 6th March 2012
  #30
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There are a ton of engineers like this where I live. Now i play in a band and do live as well as studio sound. When I play in a band I always treat the sound guy with respect, that way i can focus on my job and he can focus on his. I've had some sound guys though that you can worship the ground they walk on and they can still be asses to you. The best line i've heard so far is "I've been doin this for 35 years, i don't need your advice on Sh*t like this." This is after the show when he gives us a bad monitor mix and walks away from the console for the entire show to drink.
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