Episode 018: Sound Guy Heaven or Hell?

The sound guy can be your best friend at the gig. Help them help you, and the whole band.

Music: Jahzzar, Please Listen Carefully; spinningmerkaba, Urbana-Metronica (wooh-yeah mix).

Special shout out to our listener Paul Towsley for suggesting this topic, based on our Episode 015: 10 Stage Mistakes to Avoid! Have you subscribed already?

Show notes

Dave, what’s the ONE most important thing you try to remember at sound check?

  • Being cognisant of not only my sound, but listening to  the whole
    • Lazy sound checks = distractions on set

Paul, same question

  • I remember the Gary Larson cartoon, “The Far Side,” where you’re sitting behind the front of house engineer. Band playing on stage, and on one side of the sound board is a big knob that says “SUCK.”
  • Meaning, the sound guy plays an important part in your gig, so work with them

What happens at your best sound checks?

  • Dave
    • Results in the only live tweaking on your bass
    • Levels are set in a way that you can avoid playing a song at sound check (especially bar gigs)
    • Proper monitoring allows everyone to hear what they want to hear without the fight and chasing higher levels of another banmate
  • Paul
    • Everyone gets full attention in the band…
    • Sound guy makes sure all players are present, each person gets the balance they want
    • Nowadays, many are using an iPad or other tablet to control the mix and accompany you on stage, so they hear what you hear and react faster
    • This is why it’s so important not to noodle — be courteous to your bandmates and the sound guy (don’t want to hear “stop it”)

Ever had a sound check go badly?

  • Dave
    • Yes – large venue, sound guy that didn’t listen when we said monitors were low
    • Drummer behind the plastic thing and was basically playing in his own silo
    • Then he cranked the mains so it just sounded crazy
    • Beatles at Shea Stadium
  • Paul
    • Yes, won’t name the venue, but it started with a guitarist (not me) not being where they needed to be
    • Sound guy was quite impatient and ornery… he was definitely one of those “don’t screw with me, I hold your fate in my hands” guys
    • Intentionally screwed up the guy’s mix, so he couldn’t hear himself
    • Guitarist had to turn up on stage, things got too loud for the singer
    • Sound guy came to us later and was like, “I didn’t realize you guys were such good players”… not quite an apology and it was kind of weird

Other tips

  • Learn something about mixing, so you can identify things you need — the sound guy can’t be in your head
  • A little EQ knowledge is helpful (“I need more/less lows, low mids, high mids, highs”)
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for attention – nicely
  • Feedback – ask and offer
  • Allow head room on your instrument

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