Fake it till I make it.

Discussion in 'Location Recording' started by jrguitars, Jun 13, 2013.

  1. jrguitars

    jrguitars Active Member

    Hi all,

    I'm a newbie here and somewhat a newbie with a new 'live' sound engineering job I was thrust into...hence the 'fake it till I make' thread title.

    Years back, in another life, I was a guitarist in a contempory rock covers band, 20 yrs worth. Starting out as a budding guitarist with all the gusto and passion a younster has, I formed a band, purchased a PA and started booking gigs.

    We were very successful over a long span of time and I learnt as I developed as a guitarist, sound man and manager, in improving the bands sound, quality of gigs and general musicianship.

    I am no sound tech! but through experimental application, lots of questions and hit and miss, I managed to produce a 'good' enough sound to keep us working. The problem I have now is this:

    All those years using basically the same desk, while adding bigger amps, speakers, cross-overs etc, I knew how to get a sound, but lacked in the technical side, or a competent understanding of sound engineering in general, but I knew how to set the gear up and produce 'good enough' sound averaging 4 gigs a week...this however did nothing for my deeper understanding of engineering...what I produced did the trick but learning 'more' became somewhat unnecessary as all was well and we were working a lot.

    I 'retired' from performing 8 yrs ago after almost 3000 gigs, 43yrs old and sick of the late nights (I still jam my ass off tho)

    Here we are today, and somehow? I ended up in a cool little boozer/cafe at the beach doing sound for live acts using the 'in house rig' recently installed...

    Lastnight was my 2nd gig there and I tell you I was shitting bricks coming to terms with the gear, mixing desk and such, but somehow...got through and the muso's and the establisment were happy enough.

    I joined this forum today in hope of asking Q's as they arise concerning live mixing and I have been reading shitloads the last few days to gain some better understanding of 'wtf' I'm doing...

    This coming Sunday arvo, I have a six piece band, 4 voc, 1 percussion pad, drums, bass, 2 guitars, woodwind, brass and multiple 'others; maracca's, congo's and god knows what else...yeah, I'm a little out of my depth...

    So, I hope some of you will offer some encouraging support and advice as they arise, and I thank you in advance.


  2. Boswell

    Boswell Moderator Distinguished Member

    Welcome, Ross!

    It sounds as though you are holding it all together pretty well, but come back with specific questions and the folks here will give you the benefit of their experience.
  3. jrguitars

    jrguitars Active Member

    Thank you Boswell for the welcomethumb and I will certainly draw on the knowledge and experience of this board.

  4. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    Hi, and welcome to the forum. :)

    Probably one of the biggest challenges you will face as an FOH engineer will be working with bands who are inexperienced, particularly in regard to stage volume.

    Your job becomes a lot easier if you have the fortune to work with a group of performers who understand this concept, those who know that there isn't much an FOH cooker can do if the levels coming off the stage are so unGodly loud that there's nothing for you to mix.

    Here are a handful of thoughts/suggestions from an engineer and a musician's point of view, take them for what they are worth:

    1. Walk around the room - a lot. Understand that what it sounds like on one end can be completely different from what it sounds like on the other end. Now, don't chase your tail trying to make it sound perfect everywhere, because in most taverns/clubs that's nearly impossible to do, but... finding a common ground can be beneficial.

    2. Check your volume level in the general location of the boss or bartenders. You want to make sure you're not killing these people.

    3. Understand that "loud" does not equate to "good". If you've got nice smooth frequencies happening, you can get away with a bit more volume - and less complaints - than if you are running an all-round lower level mix db but are killing the patrons with enough 1 k to drill a hole in their foreheads. LOL

    4. Let the bands know what you need from them to do your job to an optimum. Generally - and to reiterate - the most popular culprit of a bad sound usually revolves around stage volume levels being too hot or even out of control. You have to let them know if this is happening. Tell them you've got your master faders on the FOH all the way off and they are still too loud, and that there is no front mix, because their volume on stage is too hot to even add a PA. Let them know when they sound bad...and then tell them what you need them to do so that you can do your job to get them to sound good again.

    5. Be somewhat familiar with the style of the music you are mixing. It probably won't do you much good to add the ol' "disco smile" graphic EQ setting on a bluegrass band. LOL

    6. Finally, don't be a "twiddler". There's no need to be constantly fiddling with settings if it sounds good.
    Most great live mixes I've been privy to usually involved an engineer who gets a good mix and then locks that mix down - And then, makes very small alterations throughout the night and along the way - things like compensation for the number of people in the room, slight volume changes for solos, or effects for certain songs.... etc.

    Again, welcome to the forum. There is a serious wealth of knowledge here, and if there is a topic you feel that you can help someone else with, please don't hesitate to share your own knowledge on the subject.

  5. kmetal

    kmetal Kyle P. Gushue Well-Known Member

    hey ross this place is cool, generally a nice group of people around here. the more the merrier!

    well said d, number 6 very important, especially if you like the band! it becomes getting paid to watch a band play. i've defineatly caused accidental feedback by unnecessarily messing w/ things.

    i'll also add, that no matter what, whether the burgers are overcooked, or no chicks showed up, it's always the soundguys fault.

    i just learned about 'ringing out the room' from this site a few months ago, not battling feedback nearly as much as just winging it

    oh yeah, one thing off hand that guitarist and keyboardist do that should be talked about, but usually isn't before hand, is make sure the channels/patches they use, are reasonably close in volume. you can not see the future if it isn't on a cue sheet. it's so anticlimactic when the guitarist goes from clean channel, slams on the dirty channel for the big chorus, and its half as loud as the clean part. mutli effects box users are huge culprits of this! all they have to do is just adjust the patch gain for each patch and save it.

    a flashlight, ducktape, and screwdriver, can really be a gig saver. i once taped mic wires (the tiny ones inside the mic) together right before the show started for a couple hundred people. there was no signal from the mic, but the power switch still made the pop, so i eventually figured it out.

    some bands are more well equipiped than others, so some extra cables, adapters ect don't hurt either, again, some bands have this covered.

    don't forget to ask the bartender if the band gets free drinks, or a tab, or what that arrangement is. a few beers or sodas, can eat into your earnings. and i've never been questioned as not being 'part of the band'. you lug, you chug :)
  6. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    I definitely agree with K here.... you have to have a little "MacGyver" DNA to be a good live sound engineer... and be at the ready for situations that arise, as Kmetal pointed out above.

    You'll want a case of some kind, something where you can keep a variety of tools like screwdrivers, cable cutters, wire strippers, a flashlight, ( don't forget the friction tape!) a slew of audio adapters, extra cables, connectors, fuses, etc.

    Oh, and in regard to the above list, particularly with cables, connectors and adapters, don't be afraid to carry at least three of everything with you.

    Yeah, it can get a little bulky to do so, LOL....but trust me, in live sound scenarios, Redundancy is your friend. ;)


Share This Page