Something that annoys me from a sound-guy's perspective

K.Howden

Senior Member
Hey all, I've recently started doing sound at some gigs I've been a part of and one thing has come to light that really grates!

Drummers (usually the younger one's) feeling the need to bust out every chop they know when you ask them to sound-check the kit...I sometimes get the feeling that there's this big intimidation complex going on where drummers feel the need to "scare off the competition" during a soundcheck. Whatever the reason it's not helpful in the slightest, it's near impossible get a good balance between each part of the kit because it's just a blaze of sixteenth notes and thirty-second notes that are totally indiscernable!

I don't usually like dishing out advice like this but please! if you are guilty of this do yourself and your engineer a favour and play a nice steady four-on-the-floor between the hats, snare and kick for three bars and then an eight note fill across the toms for one bar and back to groove, with accents on the cymbals every so often then break into a tom groove and repeat the whole process on your ride cymbal then repeat the whole process again, until your engineer for the night is happy.

Doing this will help get a good balance between the voices of the kit and give you a better sound, especially for your hats, snare and kick which let's face it is pretty much the cornerstone of what we play and the most important balance to get right.

Yes, it's nice to show people your skills but that's what drum solo's (not that I'm a fan of those either in particular) and youtube are for surley?

Anyways, rant over!

Kev
 

PQleyR

Platinum Member
Very true. It helps to have engineering experience because then you know just what an engineer is going to need you to do. I like to work closely with engineers, it makes things so much easier.
 

K.Howden

Senior Member
Exactly! I've learnt a whole lot from just talking to engineers, and other musicians. I must say as well that I was completley guilty of doing what I mentioned in my initial post when I was younger and less informed.

Having that interaction with engineers and musicians who play other instruments has no doubt improved my sound and my playing.

Hope everyone is well,

Kev
 

Pocket-full-of-gold

Platinum Member
You're not the first engineer that I've heard with this gripe and I'm guessing you won't be the last.

I was lucky to have been taught early in life that a sound check is just that....time to 'check' the sound.....not the time for a 15 minute solo.

Come and mic me up mate....I'll be a dream, I promise. I'll hit each drum until you you tell me to stop. Then you can have a couple of bars of the"money beat" on hats and ride, an easy fill so you can tweak whatever you need (all at the same volumes that I'm actually gonna play at).......Bob's your uncle, Fanny's your aunt, the job's done and I'm off to the bar. :)
 

K.Howden

Senior Member
Come and mic me up mate....I'll be a dream, I promise. I'll hit each drum until you you tell me to stop. Then you can have a couple of bars of the"money beat" on hats and ride, an easy fill so you can tweak whatever you need.....Bob's your uncle, Fanny's your aunt, the job's done and I'm off to the bar. :)
We have ourselves a winner!

Kev
 

DrumEatDrum

Platinum Member
Every sound check I've ever done I've always played the simplest thing possible, because I know that's the best way for the house engineer to dial up a good sound.

I've never done live sound myself, but I could see how it would be difficult to dial anything in with someone showing off their best chops.
 

Pollyanna

Platinum Member
I always just did what the engineer asked. "Kick!" bom bom bom "Ok, snare!" bang bang bang ... etc
 

Aeolian

Platinum Member
What kills me is when the drummer does some really cool sounding licks sound checking, and then when the music starts either plays really simple, or when he does try something more sophisticated, totally looses the beat. It's like they've been practicing these "tricks" in free time, but can't use them in an actual song.

Usually, when I'm providing, I just solo up the different mics and see where they are going on the meters and if there is anything weird about the sound. Doesn't matter what they're playing. The more the better.

And when those show offs are wailing around, they tend to play more at song volume. A lot of times if you ask folks to hit different drums in isolation, they get kind of timid and don't hit them as hard as they are going to when the music starts. This is common to most folks and I always leave some headroom above whatever the "sound check" levels are. Especially for guitarists, when they step on the pedal of doom and everything jumps up 15 dB. Or the keyboard player who hasn't leveled the patches on his synth. The worst are guitar players using modelers like Line 6 and such. The level jumps up and down between patches like everything. Often if I see some guy using one of these, every time he reaches with his foot, I'm reaching for the trim control.

It does bug me a bit when a sound guy insists on me banging on the kick for 5 minutes while he "dials it in". Everything is going to change when the music starts and that massive impressive sound he just dialed in on his cans is going to sound like mud though the mains when the bass player and the keyboard players left hand start up. A bit of level checking and seeing if your kick is overly boomy and needs some cuts should be all that's necessary.
 

sticksnstonesrus

Silver Member
The worst thing (almost as bad as blurring, unattainable playing)...is false power. By that I mean, under-hitting how you're going to play, or over-hitting how you are going to play. I try to give a sound check based on a forte hit, all in steady quarter feel no greater than about 100bpm. Everything quieter than that would be followed by the rest of the band usually so it takes care of itself.

Also, I usually try and get to the sound guy prior to a check and let him know I hit fairly hard, and try to discuss anything thaty might be pertinent ahead of time (like monitors/wedges/in ears...and likewise they'll let me know what he wants, when he wants...I have found that I get a much better response, better communication and overall sound overall when this happens first.

Sometimes though, it just isn't. Some shows you don't even get a line check. Sound guys adjust on the fly with your opener. Oh well. I've learned not to complain till after in those cases. Do the dayum thing...
 

Frost

Silver Member
Too true, but when I read the title of this thread I thought you were going to mention the insistence on more kick, all the time, regardless of how high it already is. That is annoying to listen to, and try to fit into a mix.

One of my biggest annoyances with the sound guy, is that there is hardly ever enough rack and the snare is usually way way too high in the mix. A lot of soundies view the snare as the kit, and everything else to just be an accessory. It could just be the sound techs I've been exposed to however.

Hey all, I've recently started doing sound at some gigs I've been a part of and one thing has come to light that really grates!

Drummers (usually the younger one's) feeling the need to bust out every chop they know when you ask them to sound-check the kit...I sometimes get the feeling that there's this big intimidation complex going on where drummers feel the need to "scare off the competition" during a soundcheck. Whatever the reason it's not helpful in the slightest, it's near impossible get a good balance between each part of the kit because it's just a blaze of sixteenth notes and thirty-second notes that are totally indiscernable!

I don't usually like dishing out advice like this but please! if you are guilty of this do yourself and your engineer a favour and play a nice steady four-on-the-floor between the hats, snare and kick for three bars and then an eight note fill across the toms for one bar and back to groove, with accents on the cymbals every so often then break into a tom groove and repeat the whole process on your ride cymbal then repeat the whole process again, until your engineer for the night is happy.

Doing this will help get a good balance between the voices of the kit and give you a better sound, especially for your hats, snare and kick which let's face it is pretty much the cornerstone of what we play and the most important balance to get right.

Yes, it's nice to show people your skills but that's what drum solo's (not that I'm a fan of those either in particular) and youtube are for surley?

Anyways, rant over!

Kev
 

Bo Eder

Platinum Member
Oddly enough, being a soundman at Disneyland has taught me to get away without a soundcheck most times. The resort is looked at as an entire stage so if the park is open, you're not going to hear a soundcheck, ever. I learned the venues I mixed at so well, that I could dial in where the drums would sound their best and when the player actually showed up, before the first song is ended the mix is tweaked to perfection. I didn't want to brag and say it was perfect to start with...

Since all my work has been here at the park, I've never been part of a 'normal' soundcheck that everyone else has to go through. Usually the most on-stage communication I'll get out of the band during the performance is to make sure everyone gets what they need in the monitors, and that's just levels - everything a band needs gets communicated to me well before they even show up so I'm just about dialed in when they arrive.

I feel everybody elses' pain, I should call myself lucky.
 

Pollyanna

Platinum Member
Yeah Destroy, that process rings a bell.

Aeolian, a few things you said really resonated too.

What kills me is when the drummer does some really cool sounding licks sound checking, and then when the music starts either plays really simple, or when he does try something more sophisticated, totally looses the beat. It's like they've been practicing these "tricks" in free time, but can't use them in an actual song.
lol ... I did that in my n00b days ... trying to pick up a bit of BS drummer cred before bowing to the tyranny of the money beat, as though I was saying "Hey, I'm really a monster but I'm just holding back". Truth was that I didn't dare to try fancy stuff during the gig or I would have risked losing the beat haha

Yep, it's absurd. Seen tons of drummers do it, though.


It does bug me a bit when a sound guy insists on me banging on the kick for 5 minutes while he "dials it in". Everything is going to change when the music starts and that massive impressive sound he just dialed in on his cans is going to sound like mud though the mains when the bass player and the keyboard players left hand start up.
One of the sad facts of life that the coolest sounds - as you say - "turn into mud" once the others start occupying the register. Kudos to Jimmy Page and JPJ for working around Bonzo's kick sound the way they did. I can imagine a lot of players making mud pies.

I learned a lesson when listening to a playback earlier this year. The eng focused on the kick and idiot me's going "Yeah, give it more reverb!" and revelling in this fabulous round kick sound (extra fun with a 16" kick :). Meanwhile the eng is going, "Erm ... it's unusual ...". Then he added bass and keys ... and it was shite.

He gave me a sympathetic look (nice guy), took off the reverb, and we had instant karma.




The five minutes boom boom thing is painful, though. I think it's a thinly veiled message: "I really hate your kick drum sound ... let's see if we can make a silk purse out of this pig's ear". Either that or, "Um, what does this knob do?" :)


And when those show offs are wailing around, they tend to play more at song volume. A lot of times if you ask folks to hit different drums in isolation, they get kind of timid and don't hit them as hard as they are going to when the music starts. This is common to most folks and I always leave some headroom above whatever the "sound check" levels are.
Good point! I've done that timid thing too. Nice strategy.
 

richkenyon

Silver Member
This is so true - it's just a sign of inexperience on the drummer's part. It can also be some underlying frustration that maybe they're on the wrong gig! I can think of times where the only thing that really interested me was the band jam at the soundcheck....!

In defence of drummers though.... I have worked with too many lousy sound engineers with terrible attitude (in the U.K)... not lately thank goodness.
 

sticksnstonesrus

Silver Member
Really, the connective tissue between the audience ears and the instrument (obviously mic'ed) is the sound guy/girl (person).

Inside our boxy, boomy, reflective church walls, plus playing a Yammie DXT kit, I (we) rely solely on the sound guy for the external blend. I make triple sure to include him on the praise we get collectively.

Same goes for all shows where I have to put faith into the mix beyond the kit. I'll do what I can do to play it right and keep it steady and appropriate for the space we are in. Everything beyond the mic's is on the sound engineer. And if it is crap throughout (or neglected, which is even worse)...I also make sure to let them know. I can't stand a ""set it and forget it" sound guy.
 

jer

Silver Member
Especially for guitarists, when they step on the pedal of doom and everything jumps up 15 dB. Or the keyboard player who hasn't leveled the patches on his synth.
^^^qft

Along the same lines, (and just my observation), I find keeping amp levels at the same as what we do when we jam really helps keeps stage volume down and allows the PA and monitors to be used as intended.
 

Tommyland

Member
I always play simple beats for the engineer, and when they do ask for the whole kit I try and just play all of the kit (for their benefit---to test the coherency) instead of trying something really hard that will show everyone how totally awesome and/or cool my chops are.

But:

I sometimes get the feeling that there's this big intimidation complex going on where drummers feel the need to "scare off the competition" during a soundcheck.
I have been gigging for almost 15 years but this is still the only part of the gig experience where I get a little nervous sometimes. Maybe the following explains why some younger drummers bust out all their moves.

The scenario is almost always the same. All the bands are there in the venue with nothing much to do, they're chatting, eyeing each other up, and one another's equipment, making initial impressions: “oh look, he's got a Reference series kit, I wonder if he's any good...” and so forth.

Then drummer number one gets the voice from the ceiling or where the PA speakers are located and all of a sudden, notices how everyone in the room is now looking at him, with arms folded or an inquisitive stare. The FOH music that was playing during set-up is cut and there is silence while the engineer asks the drummer to play.

Me thinks, this type of attention is what rattles some drummers and they turn the situation into a talent competition.
 
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