The sound guy

Jankowske

Senior Member
Share your sound guy stories! Good or bad...probably mostly bad. Best? Worst? Adequate-to-incompetent ratio? (I'm guessing 1:4)

I'll start with a kind-of funny one. At this one gig, I couldn't help but notice the bass drum "tone" of the bands before us. Like, put a microphone in a tomato, smash the tomato with a sledgehammer, and then record it to 8-bit. At some point during set-up, soundperson says "Cipher Six...you only have fiveminutes left to set up." That's cute; you didn't have to say it like a d-bag that doesn't believe in our set-up ability. He also added "I'll be there to mic you up when the drummer is ready." Bastard. I said CHALLENGE ACCEPTED because I have had way too much practice tearing down and assembling my kit, and a whopping two minutes later I went from bass drum to ready, no joke. I sat there for maybe another six minutes idly twirling sticks and laying down some christmas funk with the bassist, waiting for Mr. YourSetStartsThreeMinutesAgo. Some guy finally shows up and looks all mad at my beautiful full reso, until I point out my XLR out.

"What's in there?"

"Sennheiser e602"

"Oh! Sennheiser? Okay!"

After the set I ask the same guy how he liked my 2-minute set-up; he says he didn't see it and that the sound guy was in the bathroom or something, so I guess this guy was some helper-engineer person. I was hoping that maybe my mic would have made my kick better than the last bands', until I see the same mic on a stand on the side of the stage.

"Hey, that's the same mic I have in my kick."

"Oh, really?! I noticed that I didn't have to adjust anything on my rig..."

The band assured me that my kick was "pounding" and "not like the others." Whatever.
 

Galadrm

Senior Member
Had an excellent engineer at a recent gig, was really accommodating and made sure everyone was hearing what they wanted to, set up all the monitor levels well and was a good communicator. Even gave me complements about how great my kit sounded! Another gig at the same venue had a really arrogant engineer telling me how I had tuned my toms wrong and how there was no chance his opinion was wrong...

Seems like a lot of engineers get bad rep, they are always in a bad mood and have really bad communication skills, but I kind of expect that now at most of my gigs. If you just let them do their job and try to be nice they are normally tolerable, just don't fall into the trap of giving them attitude back because it will just make the gig worse.
 

Icetech

Gold Member
Not being a douche is a good plan in most of life honestly :) I own a business and deal with the public and you can bet there is a asshole tax on people that are dicks :)

BTW.. i wonder if most sound guys are just bitter from wishing they could be on stage?



Had an excellent engineer at a recent gig, was really accommodating and made sure everyone was hearing what they wanted to, set up all the monitor levels well and was a good communicator. Even gave me complements about how great my kit sounded! Another gig at the same venue had a really arrogant engineer telling me how I had tuned my toms wrong and how there was no chance his opinion was wrong...

Seems like a lot of engineers get bad rep, they are always in a bad mood and have really bad communication skills, but I kind of expect that now at most of my gigs. If you just let them do their job and try to be nice they are normally tolerable, just don't fall into the trap of giving them attitude back because it will just make the gig worse.
 

Florian

Gold Member
I have 2 very simple rules to follow re: the sound guy and it has served me well for over 30 years...

1. Dont tell soundguy his job
2. Keep soundguy happy

Ive never had a garbage IEM mix or been washed in the mix....soundguy makes you sound good, treat him well.

F
 

larryace

"Uncle Larry"
I don't deal with soundmen, but if I did, I think I would offer to buy them a drink, or do something of that nature. (before I play!) Because (this is what I would say) I really appreciate the thankless job they have, and how important a sound man is to everyone in the venue. A little well placed grease and compliments can break down the thorniest douche-nozzle.

You catch more flies with honey then vinegar.
 
T

The SunDog

Guest
I never have a bad time with sound guys. I can tell you first hand that knowing how everything works is a pain in the ass. Every time the singer doesn't have a signal or the guitarist can't hear his monitor I have get up from my kit and go over to the board and solve what is invariably a simple problem. Every musician should take a class or better yet, buy some gear and start learning how to run it. Live sound and recording. Learn about mics, mic placement, running cables, auxiliaries, sub groups, effects loops, wet/dry mixes, compression. It's easy to understand a good or bad mix when you understand the gear and know what the sound guy knows. Running sound is finite information ie. It is learnable. The sound guy is not Captain Kirk and the PA is not the bridge of the Starship Enterprise. If you think learning to tune your snare is the end all be all of being a professional then you are selling yourself short. Take an interest in your live performance and help yourself out. Spend a couple minutes saying hi, what kind of gear are you working with, how do you like to mic, how do you like to mix, this is what I like/am looking for, I like to have this and that in my monitor, do you have that capability with this system. You know? Be human and be a professional. Understanding how to achieve the best possible sound is part of playing live, and your relationship with the sound guy is a big part of this.
 
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PQleyR

Platinum Member
The OP reminds me of an exchange I had with a house sound engineer at a gig last year. The prologue to this is as follows: the band I was playing with were first on of three, and the headline act's soundcheck had taken a very long time...probably unnecessarily so (particularly since their mix was appalling during the actual gig). So once they'd got all their stuff off the stage I had to get up there with my cymbals, snare, pedals, throne, laptop, mixer, and all the associated PSUs and cables I need, and begin the unavoidably lengthy task of setting up and plugging this stuff in on my own. So then we had this brief shouted conversation, with me behind the drums and him behind the FOH desk:

Sound guy: "Can I have the laptop please."

Me: "Two minutes!"

Sound guy (pointedly): "Just so everyone knows we've got eleven minutes till doors"

Me, irritated: "And it's going to take two of them!"
 
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gdmoore28

Gold Member
One of the nicest compliments I've ever had came from the soundguy at an outdoor festival we played a number of years ago. I got to listen to several bands before we played and noticed that the sound guy was doing some very sweet mixes. His company had very good equipment, and the engineer and stage crew knew how to use it.

Anyway, at that time I used my PDP CX-series kit, but I had thrown a DW bass drum head on it just before the gig because it was the only ported reso I had. When we finished our performance I went out front to thank the desk jockey for making us sound so good. He told me he was so happy that somebody had shown up with a DW drumset because they are so easy to work with and that mine sounded best of the day. I thanked him, but just didn't have the heart to tell him that he'd actually just heard a lowly little PDP drumset. Sure made me feel good, though!

GeeDeeEmm
 

Jankowske

Senior Member
You're a genius, GDM.

I think we could all put high-end logos on our cheap kits and reliably get more compliments/attention on our sound and probably even playing. At least from non-drum-nerds. Most of the time people are listening with their eyes more than they should (at all).
 

Jeff Almeyda

Senior Consultant
In any field, people skills are critical.

I've never had a soundman that I couldn't win over.

The trick is to pit yourself in their shoes. Do you know how many "great" drummers they have to suffer through? Guys who's drums sound like cans and who couldn't keep a beat to save their lives?

No wonder they want us all to use the same kit. From their POV it doesn't matter because 99% of the guys suck anyway and the remaining 1% sound good on anything.
 

Boomka

Platinum Member
Yes, Jeff.

Where possible, my first port of call when I arrive at the gig is to meet and greet the techs that will be handling our sound, etc. I'm in their lair, and it pays to make a gracious entrance. My - usually unspoken - perspective is "I'll take care of my end, and you take care of yours." I make sure my drums are tuned, set up in good time and that I'm ready and willing to help the sound person do what they need to do to get a sound **within reason.** A couple of strips of gaffer or moongel, or even a few turns of a drumkey is no skin off my nose.

I've put some thought into how I play and how my equipment is set up to make it a bit easier for the sound people to do their thing so there usually isn't too much hassle. In return, I expect the sound person to know their gig and their room better than I do and I generally leave them to it. I just have never found that it served me - from a political or psychological angle - to get into micromanaging the FOH sound. In the end, even if you get it the way you want it in soundcheck, they have all the power in the world to do whatever they like during the show.

So I focus on getting the best monitor mix I can and playing my drums as best I can. I communicate anything I think is relevant for them about how I'm going to play (e.g. using brushes or hand-held percussion) so they can be prepared.

Of course, I have a short list of things I won't allow (like removing or cutting holes in a full BD resonant head) but, when dealing with potential conflicts, I keep in mind the old saying that "diplomacy is the art of telling someone to go to hell in such a way that they look forward to the trip." That said, there are (very rare) nights when you have to set fire to the earth and take no prisoners. :)

BTW, what I do recommend is that if you ever have the chance to sit down with a sound engineer with a strong resume, take the time to pick their brains about how they approach mic'ing and recording drums. I've even asked certain techs I respect how I can make their job capturing the band's sound easier and picked up some very useful information. These folks make their living with their ears and can sometimes provide great insight into how you REALLY sound from a perspective you never get from behind the drums or even in the playback booth.

Start by respecting them and their experience and expertise. Kind words and a relaxed vibe can even give a less competent sound person the confidence and motivation to bring their A game. Everybody wins. And in the end, poor sound is forgiveable. No one has ever died from poor sound. You're not going to be able to train up a less experienced/less competent sound person in the time you have before a gig. Best to do your best to suggest and encourage and then just let go.

And unless it's an absolute sh*tshow -- and sometimes even when it is -- I always take the time to thank the techs when I go back to do my idiot check after the car is loaded. You never know when you'll be back or run into the same guy in a different room or a different show.
 
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The band that I play drums has one of those mini fridges that looks like a small Marshall single stack. We took it to an outdoor gig last summer and added it to our back line. Everyone in the band is very professional and only drinks moderately while we are playing. When we were setting up, the soundman hired by the event saw it and was thrilled beyond measure. He asked if he could put some beer in it. He kept coming onstage grabbing beer after beer, as well as smoking huge joints off to the side. As the night went on, the sound got worse and worse, to the pont that we had to stop our set because the sound and feedback onstage were unbearable. He got in a big fight with the promoter, got fired on the spot and just abandoned the whole rented PA, leaving the promoter to deal with the aftermath. The Marshall fridge stays home now.

The whole soundman thing is such an odd relationship. Most musicians live by the mantra " don't piss off the sound guy". Doesn't matter how much of a jerk he is ( and we've all met our fair share) or how incompetent he may be, because he has the power to wreck your gig on a whim, or just because he doesn't know what he's doing. Of course, a good sound man who's helpful and professional is a joy to work with.
 

Muckster

Platinum Member
I have 2 very simple rules to follow re: the sound guy and it has served me well for over 30 years...

1. Dont tell soundguy his job
2. Keep soundguy happy

Ive never had a garbage IEM mix or been washed in the mix....soundguy makes you sound good, treat him well.

F
Totally agree. When i work with sound guys / gals, the first thing i say to them is "what do you want to do?" and then i stay out of their way. Never had a problem.
 

eclipseownzu

Gold Member
I will be honest how the drums sound is actually really low on my priority list for FOH sound. I am a member of a band, as such I want the band to sound as good as possible. What I really want is the guitars and vocals to be clear and well mixed. As far as drums go I want the engineer to get it mic'ed as quickly as possible and move on so he can focus on what matters. I could have the best sounding drums in the world at the FOH and if the guitars are muddy and vocals are too low people will leave thinking we sounded bad. I have played literally thousands of shows in my life and nobody has EVER come up to me at the end of the show and told me the drums were too low in the mix.

I have had great engineers and I have had douche bag engineers, I have even had engineers so drunk they couldn't run the board. But that is nothing in comparison to the antics of bands I have played and toured with. All in all 99% of sound engineers are way better behaved than the bands they service.
 

JosephDAqui

Silver Member
In any field, people skills are critical.

I've never had a soundman that I couldn't win over.

The trick is to pit yourself in their shoes. Do you know how many "great" drummers they have to suffer through? Guys who's drums sound like cans and who couldn't keep a beat to save their lives?

No wonder they want us all to use the same kit. From their POV it doesn't matter because 99% of the guys suck anyway and the remaining 1% sound good on anything.
Me too! never had a problem and I always used the same mantra as you, basically treat others how you want to be treated.

The best way I've won over sound guys was by coming early and tuning the backline kits (where applicable) and helping with the sound check - this helps save a lot of time for everyone. I'm pretty quick with my tunebot and keep saved kits in the iPhone app that would be applicable - standard drum sizes. Most sound guys really appreciate me doing that, some have bought be a fine glass of scotch for it :)

There have been exceptions in the past though, you know, some people are a waste of carbon. There was one sound guy at a big/famous club that thought for sure that he was a great and mighty deity, and he took lots of pokes at me for no reason while setting up. Of course, my anger built up on the inside but I was still pleasant on the outside and took it gracefully, because I didn't want this D-Bag to take it out on us while we were playing. Physically speaking, he was taller than me, but not even half as strong. I properly released my anger as we played (the great thing about being a rock drummer!), but as I was packing up, I went up to him shook his hand and while still holding his hand (yeah, creepy...) I told him next time it's a beat down and I will prison pound him like I own him. I enjoyed the fear in his eyes - so, it turned out to be great night after all :)
 

SquadLeader

Gold Member
First thing I always do is buy the sound engineer a drink.

I'm relying on him to be nice. And I'm actually quite clueless about sound if I'm honest to myself.

So if he tells me to dampen my snare a little, I'll dampen it. He's in charge.

I generally find them to be reasonably pleasant. They spend a significant portion of their time dealing with irritating swines who always think they're right (ie. musicians)...so who can blame them.
 

KamaK

Platinum Member
When I visited my brother's club, I saw that he had set up SDC overheads above the drums. Being a small room, I couldn't imagine that they were necessary. The cymbal bleed through the vocal mics was more than enough. Then I saw the board.

He had the overheads phase-flipped, which turned their channels into cymbal-volume-reduction faders.

Pure genius... He figured out how to turn loud drummers down.
 

JacobDB

Member
but as I was packing up, I went up to him shook his hand and while still holding his hand (yeah, creepy...) I told him next time it's a beat down and I will prison pound him like I own him. I enjoyed the fear in his eyes - so, it turned out to be great night after all :)
I don't know what you look like, but that was a terrifying story, haha. You have me scared so i'm sure he ruined his pants after that.

Sound guys are very crucial. I run sound for several friends and different bands all the time an used to work for a few different churches. I always tried to be overly nice to musicians but there are a ton of know-it-alls that are clueless and persistant. I had a rock drummer one time tell me he wanted huge deep tom sounds but demanded that the mics be at least 8 inches away from the head because he didn't know how to play without hittig them. I tried my best to explain that it's better to close mic the drums and then do some magic but he insisted, then kept complaining about how they sounded in the mix and said I didn't know what I was doing. The overall idea is that some sound guys and some musicians suck. Just be as nice as you can to everyone you meet and hopefully they'll be nice back. Or threaten them like Joseph :)
 
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