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Sound Rant


Over the years, without trying, I have become a live sound man on a local level that is in demand as someone that makes it sound good. I tend to get hired for the gigs that REALLY matter to bands. Here is how it happened.
Live sound sucks and I hated doing it
The sound is always muddy, no one can hear themselves, I am the goal tender(sound man) so I get blamed.
Why the heck would anyone take this gig?
I started out hating live sound so I would charge a lot and have a miserable time. Bands would say “that was the best we’ve ever sounded-I could actually hear the vocals!” Other bands that were at the gig would then hire me for their sound. Even though I thought the sound I delivered was better then average it still sucked and was not indicative of the bands talent or mine as an engineer, for that matter.
A band should never be in charge of its LIVE sound.
After working with a ton of bands in the studio I realized that I sit down with bands and talk about their sound with them extensively. Live sound guys rarely do this. As soon as I started to sit the band down and explain how things worked on my end the live sound world changed completely for all of us. When you have a band cranked to the nine’s and the vocalist looks at you and say’s I need more vocal in the monitors, it just isn’t gonna happen. He will be angry when he doesn’t get it because after all you “just need to turn him up.” Screeeeeeeetch(oh yeah?–feedback.)
The 2 BIGGEST mistakes bands make to mess up their sound.
They bring far too much gear for the venue they are playing.
A small club that is fire rated for 175 people but often has 225 should rarely have a P.A. for anything except vocals and instruments that are not amplified such as lined in keyboards and acoustic guitars. I have done gigs at community halls for 300 and all we mic’d is vocals and a hint of drums. Guitar amps and bass amps do the rest.
Bands are WAY too loud…. If you rub your fingers together 1 foot from your ear and you can’t hear it the band is too loud. You’ll be surprised how loud something needs to be before you can’t hear that. If you need to raise your voice a bit to have a conversation the band is the right volume. If you need to yell in the bartenders ear the band is too loud. When things are louder they “feel” better but they do not sound better.
Points to let the band know
1. The sound is for the audience not the band. (Most bands are surprised by this) 2. The sound on stage will feel quiet to the band because it is always louder out front. (don’t let this kill your energy) 3. If their amps are quiet enough then they can be put through the F.O.H system.
4. Other then kick drum most small to medium sized clubs require no drum micing. 5. If you must be loud you do not get stage monitors. Period. If the band exceeds a reasonable volume feedback is unavoidable in vocal monitors and they become a hazard instead of a help. 6. If a band has agreed that they are running a vocal P.A. only, they need to trust my judgement on volume. I tell the bass player or guitarist to turn up or down and my say is final. If a band is not playing nice with this I have gone as far as implementing a policy that if I see someone turning themselves up with out my permission they are fined $20 and it goes to me. This is harsh but it works or they don’t hire me again, continue sounding like crap and we are both happy that neither of us have to listen to each other again. 7. The bands volume is based on the vocalists volume. Period. Set up the vocal first then you have a base line volume to measure the rest of the sound levels on.
The biggest hurdle
The feeling of playing loud is awesome and addictive. Feeling like you sound good and actually sounding good have little to do with each other.
When you go into your massive AC/DC chords and the earth doesn’t shake it is easy to feel like a poser. For the bands that have had the ability to stick it out with my method they have found that people start to comment onĀ  how they sound good. When people start to sing along with the lyric’s of your originals because they can actually hear them it has a massive impact on the psyche of the band. This doesn’t happen over night but it does happen.
In short turning down makes bands sound 50% better right out of the gate. Thank you for your please fasten seatbelts, return trays to upright and locked position, and Rock On!

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