9 things every musician should know about the Sound Guy
As much time as you spend in your rehearsal space perfecting your sound, it won’t mean anything if it’s sloppy out of the PA. All the money you spent on new pedals, amps, guitars, and strings doesn’t matter if the mix is turned off in the club.
The sound guy (or girl) is the most important part of your show that most bands don’t really think about. He (going with him for this track for ease – and most are male) can break your set (few sound guys can actually MAKE your set if you’re bad).
So, you need to know how to properly approach the sound guys and make them part of your team during the short amount of time you have with them.
Get his name
The first thing to do is to introduce yourself to the sound technician when you arrive. Shake his hand, look him in the eye and exchange names. Remember its name – you’ll probably need to use it a few times that night and maybe a few times through the mic during your set. If you start treating him with respect from the start, he’ll likely return that feeling to you.
Respect his ears
All sound guys are proud of their mix. Whatever style of music they like to listen to in their car, they think they can mix any genre on the spot. However, most musicians will enjoy hearing what you, the musician, like about a general house mix of your band’s sound. Don’t be afraid to tell it a vibe or general notes (“this should sound like a warm back massage” or “we like vocals and acoustics really high in the mix” or “we like to keep all the mics on. vocals at about the same level for mixed harmonies “or” add a lot of reverb to the lead vocals, but keep the violin dry “). He’ll appreciate knowing what you like and respond to it. He’s probably a musician himself. , so treat him like one – with respect. He knows the musical terms – don’t be afraid to use them.
Don’t start playing until he’s ready
Set up all of your gear, but don’t start whining on the guitar or drums until all the mics are in place and it’s back near the board. Beating the kit while he tries to tune his mics will surely annoy him and damage his ears. Get there early enough for the scale so you have plenty of time to feel the room (and tune your drums).
Have an entry list
If you need more than 5 inputs, print an accurate and up-to-date list of all inputs (channels). A stage scenario can also be very useful, especially for larger shows. Email the scene plot and entry list in advance. The good sound guys will have everything set up before you arrive (this usually only happens in the BIG places). If you are at a line-only club, print it out and give it to the sound manager right before your set.
Channel 1 – Bass drum pickup
Channel 2 – Snare microphone
Channel 3 – Micro Hi Hat
Channel 4 – Micro Tom 1
Channel 5 – Micro Tom 2
Channel 6 – Drum Overhead Pickup
Channel 7 – Bass Amp DI (top right of the stage)
Channel 8 – Guitar amp pickup (top left)
Channel 9 – Fiddle DI (to the right of the stage)
Channel 10 – Acoustic DI (center)
Channel 11 – Keyboard DI (stereo-L) DI (stage left)
Channel 12 – Keyboard DI (stereo-R) DI (left stage)
Channel 13 – (lead) Vocal microphone (center)
Channel 14 – Vocal microphone (left stage)
Channel 15 – Vocal microphone (right)
Channel 16 – DI tracks
Call him “yo man of sound” if you want to piss him off.
How to insult your sound guy
Call him “yo man of sound” if you want to piss him off. You have his name, use it. Or ask him politely again if you forgot. Don’t tell him the house mix is “off” or “bad”. Everything is subjective. It might not be what you like, but obviously that’s what he likes. He probably has a LOT more experience in the mix than you do. So be specific about what you like and dislike about your band’s house mix right off the bat or shut it down.
Know your equipment
Know how you like the equalization of your voice in general so you can tell. You can say “can we drop some of the treble voice in the house?” You shouldn’t say “voices are piercing – they hurt my ears.” You need to know how your gear works indoors and out, so if something goes wrong you point to the sound manager last. Pointing the finger at him first is a sure way to piss him off.
He is part of the club
The sound guy, the door guy, the bartender, the booker, the managers and the waiters are colleagues. Just like you and your fellow baristas are colleagues. They hang out, organize work parties, go to bars together and they chat. If you are a jerk to the bartender, he will tell the sound technician and the sound technician can then decide to ruin your set out of spite. Or just don’t make any effort to blend in.
Everyone wants a great show
Believe it or not, your sound engineer wants to perform at your best, just like you. Make it easier for her by showing up prepared and not sucking. He most likely has his shit together, so make sure you have your shit together too. The scene is not the time for you to “see how it goes” and try things out. That’s what repetition is for. Show up prepared.
There are sound guys (we’ve all worked with them) who seem to have a huge chip on their shoulder from the moment they walk into the club. These guys are usually older, failed musicians who have been at this club for decades. They’re hardened by years of working with dick musicians who not only suck, but believe they’re rock stars and the sound guy is a peon – and treat him like one. You may not be able to change his outlook on life, but treat him with respect and dignity from the start and he may light up just enough to put in the effort to mix your set.
Although it should go without saying, use the golden rule. If you treat your sound guy the way you’d like to be treated and work WITH (not against) him to put on a good show, you probably get one.
Ari Herstand is the author of How To Make It in the New Music Business, a Los Angeles-based singer-songwriter and the creator of the Music Business Advice Blog The taking of Ari. Follow him on Twitter: @aristake