Thread July 18, 2015 editorial: comments
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Live Sound Burnout Syndrome
I had an annoying experience at a gig recently. My band was playing at a music festival in which there was a very good sound system, and everything onstage was miked. As a result, I didn’t worry about turning up my guitar amp any louder than was necessary to hear myself. The front of house mixer had my back — or so I assumed.
After the set, I talked to friends who were in the audience, and discovered that my guitar was almost inaudible out front. WTF? Apparently, this sound guy was asleep at the switch. My assumption was that he just didn’t give a shit. We were just one of many bands playing over the course of the day, and he was too lazy to put in the effort to mix us correctly. Now, please if any of you out there are live sound mixers, don’t take this wrong, but I have noticed this attitude frequently among many (but not all) soundpeople — at clubs especially. I’ve also talked to musician friends of mine who’ve experienced the same thing.
There must be something about having to mix a lot of bands, day in and day out, that turns a lot of live sound engineers into grumpy old men who don’t give a damn. On some level, I sympathize, because, especially at clubs with multiple band bills (which are most clubs these days), the house sound person has to deal with many bands every night, some of whom play too loud or show very little respect and complain on the mic about the monitors. But still...If they’re going to do that job, why not try to do their best?
Sure, club sound engineers need a lot of patience to deal with so many musicians on a regular basis, some of whom are jerks or treat the microphones and other sound gear carelessly. But hey, we all have challenges in our jobs, but they don’t make us just stop caring. (At least I hope not.)
So what do you think? Have you had similar experiences with the sound personnel at the clubs and other venues you play?
The interviewer writes down a quick note and hands it to engineer, it says "when can you start?"
The unfortunate reality is that there are still too many live sound venues where the levels are out of control and hazardous to the hearing of the patrons. Now imagine the sound guy who does this 4 to 6 hours every night. It's possible that the engineer is using metering or fader positions to mix the sound and has no idea what the actual audio level is because he can't hear it properly and most guitarists just crank it up. So maybe it's your fault for not cranking it up (just kidding).
I have had that experience and it has taught me not to trust sound men to take care of my sound, unless it is one who works specifically with the band
When I go to a club and it sounds like garbage I never go back. We should all do the same. I guess that's the reason why most decent bands bring their own mixing engineer.
Point well taken. However, for those who live in areas without a vibrant club scene, boycotting a club could mean losing one of the few options to hear live music.
And having a short list of decent board ops to offer helps, too.
For decades I have been studying music, and sound, frequency, reverb and everything else that goes with it, and I wouldn`t dream of calling myself an engineer.. perhaps an dabbler in audio at best. As a guitarist, I have learned to get the sound I want at the volume that suits me best on stage . Also I have learned not to embarrass the sound man by asking for a boost or cut at a certain frequency, because they feel intimidated if you know more that them and WILL give you a crap sound out front deliberately.
I once saw a great young band at a club where my "friend" was doing sound. As I spoke to him at his mixing console I pointed out that the guy playing the guitar solo on stage was completely inaudible.. he just sat there with his arms folded, looked at me and shrugged his shoulders. Poeple like that should really just pack up and make room for enthusiastic sound guys. I know some really great sound guys too, I sat with a guy at a gig once who was constantly and enthusiastically riding the live mix from the band, and it was amazing to watch. He had never seen the band before, but as a musician himself, spent quiet some time before the gig talking to the band, trying to learn about the idea of the sound they had in their heads. He was constantly filtering panning changing eq and reverb - very tastefully, as the gig progressed,. The band and the audience loved it! The unfortunate thing is people like that are never thanked or acknowledged. REAL experts like that do it for the love of it, but need the freedom to work in the way that suits them best... not in a way that where some quick buck making club owner, make their minimum wage job feel mundane and boring.
The unfortunate reality is that there are still too many live sound venues where the levels are out of control and hazardous to the hearing of the patrons.
Indeed, and bands are a big part of the problem with out of control sound, as well, thanks to singers who need the monitors maxed out, drummers who hit too hard in a small room, and guitarists who turn up to 11.
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