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Live Sound/Soundman Questions/Issues Answered Here!

Discussion in 'Band Management [BG]' started by Mark Reccord, Nov 3, 2002.


  1. Hey all,

    I'm just posting this to say that if anybody has questions about live sound and dealing with sound people, I will be happy to try to answer them from a sound person's perspective. I have 10 years experience in live sound, tour management and sound system design. If there's interest maybe I can develop a FAQ about it.
    cheers!
     
  2. Josh Ryan

    Josh Ryan - that dog won't hunt, Monsignor. Staff Member Supporting Member

    Mar 24, 2001
    What do you do when the soundman insists on miking your amp instead of going DI (because of a ground problem they claim to have with the in house system) and then asks you to turn down so low that you effectively have no stage reference?
     
  3. CS

    CS

    Dec 11, 1999
    UK
    Why don't soundmen use their ears?

    Ex 1 Sound Desk Attendant bullies the drummer and I to turn down lower and lower instead of giving the singer a mic that works.

    Ex2 SDA mutes the bass (not mine) and forgets to put it back on. I was standing 3ft from the desk and congratulated the SDA for eliminating bass.

    Ex3 SDA shouts at me to turn down whilst the band were playing and I was writing the transposed chords that the keyboardist forgot to notify me about.

    Ex4 SDA sits for 5 mins with a big grin on face whilst mic howls.

    Ex5 SDA turns off the guitar channel because there is feedback everytime the guitar goes off. I place my hand in front off the vocal mic.

    EX6 SDA repeatedly turns up the backing singer because they couldnt grasp the concept of the two singers changing positions (and therefore mics).
     
  4. FretNoMore

    FretNoMore * Cooking with GAS *

    Jan 25, 2002
    The frozen north
    Great idea, I think many bass players here do double duty as soundmen and PA owners, but very often have too little time for sound checks and tweaking the PA sound.

    Any "rules of thumb" type tips you have on how to dial in a good basic sound for vocals and different instruments would be great - for bass in particular of course. How to get rid of feedback and boominess and other room problems etc would also be good info.

    Is there a "best way" to do a sound check - order of instruments etc - or is it down to the soundman's personal preference?

    And, how do you stop people from placing half full beer glasses on the mixer table or subwoofers? :)
     
  5. As a soundman and bass player myself, I tend to ask all these same questions as everyone else. I will try to answer some of the questions here.

    Boominess in a room; on the bass rig eliminate alot of the feq range in the 80-250 area and boost 30-63 range. This takes out the crazy hard thump and will make your cab sound better (and last longer). With my PA's I do the same thing, all the hard thumping really taxes your speakers and power amps driving them into distortion. Many people think the other way around, but this really works.

    Soundchecks; it is a soundmans preference, but in my opinion the vocals always go last. This is how I go, drums (kick 1st), bass, elec guitars, keys, Ac guitars, horns, backup vocals and then the big bad lead singer. If you can and have time do a whole song or four, I have a long story here that happened recently resulting in a rather mad female singer.

    Soundmen in general are hard to deal with because of the bands and crowd they put up with. If you have good backline and a patient attitude you will sound good. I find a lot of bands including my own trying to outwit the sound guy, you will never win. (more long stories here) Be nice to them buy them a drink or a least a glass of water, but don't try to break there equipment or tell them how to do things. *Note to singers- if you want to use your own mic just buy a SM-58. Sound men hate anything but the 58, and will even if he can make it sound good they generally won't because you hurt his ego. (this goes for drummers too)

    Feel free to email me any questions you may have about sound systems, soundmen or backline gear.

    Remember be cool!! ;)
     
  6. last year at the Garage venue in London I spent half an hour arguing with the soundman over whether the pre EQ or post EQ DI setting on my Trace amp would include the effects in the effect loop.

    having read the manual when I bought it :rolleyes: I insisted "post EQ".
    he insisted "pre EQ"- saying it would be "bad design" if it worked the other way.
    in the end I had to demonstrate how it worked with a distortion setting.
    *embarrassed soundman mumbles something about "bad design"*
     
  7. Chris, Josh;

    I understand your frustration, I really do. Situations like that are just awful. These guys are obviously incompetent or just don't care. What to do about it? Depends on your situation. The best solution would be to find a guy or a couple of guys that you feel comfortable with and hire them to mix your band at all gigs. Bands do have the discretion to hire their own sound people and not use house guys. Unfortunately this might not be in the budget. If you and other bands are all having trouble with a particular guy, perhaps complaining to venue management en masse might help? Barring that, get a lot of your friends to come out and complain to management about bad sound. these guys need to be confronted and turfed out. This is where it really helps to have some knowledge of how to operate sound systems. I hope you guys get the pleasure of working with some good sound people soon. It really makes a big difference.

    As for the stage volume issue: I'll say that a lot of bands are too loud on stage. I'll also say that a lot of sound guys harp about stage volume waaayyyy too much. People need to hear themselves on stage. My advice is to always try to operate at the band's minimum comfortable level, because less stage volume really does help things out front. But make sure you are comfortable with your stage levels. There isn't any need for anyone to be unreasonable about it. Screaming at band members to turn down isn't going to help. Reasonable guys (like me) might say something like "this is a really loud/horrible room, so it would benefit everyone if you guys could bring it back a notch." Some explanation as to why he wants you to turn down is warranted.

    Soundmen can certainly be hard to deal with at times, but so can artists;) . The best policy (until a guy has proven himself incompetent) is respect. I've seen too many artists treat very competent guys like flunkies. This does not help. Give guys you haven't met before the benefit of the doubt, they may be better musicians than you are. Show up on time for soundcheck, make sure you gear works, be polite, also let the guy know what to expect from the band. If you don't like reverb say "we don't like reverb," etc. Be professional, it will stand you in good stead if the guy proves to be a boob. It will also give you some bargaining power with the venue management/PA provider. Competent guys will be reasonable if you are.
    If you're playing a festival with 30 acts and no soundchecks, be extra cool, because the crew is probably working on no sleep and might be a bit on edge. Cut them some slack, you will get better treatment for it. I will go to great lengths to make artists who respect me comfortable, and I suspect most reasonable sound people do too.
     
  8. Bassr64

    Bassr64

    Feb 9, 2001
    N.E.Tx
  9. thrash_jazz

    thrash_jazz

    Jan 11, 2002
    Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
    Artist: JAF Basses, Circle K Strings
    After having been a soundman at a couple of shows, I can honestly say that IMHO it was a thankless job and I wouldn't want to do it again.

    The things I least enjoyed were: a) whiny singers who were never loud enough for themselves even when they were twice as loud as the rest of the mix; and b) members of the audience who would come up to me every two minutes with helpful "suggestions", even though most people said they were happy with the sound.

    However, this experience taught me that, while soundmen are usually pretty frazzed before the show starts, there is no still excuse for a lot of the things mentioned in this thread (and IME). My best guess would be tunnel vision - "I know MY way works, so we can't try anything else".

    Of course, not all sound people are like this and not all artists are annoying to the soundmen. The jerky ones deserve each other.
     
  10. FretNoMore

    FretNoMore * Cooking with GAS *

    Jan 25, 2002
    The frozen north
    There are some tricks for those 'helpfuls' from the audience - one is to thank them, make a minor adjustment and then reset it after they have gone away. :) Takes less to do that than to start arguing with an intoxicated wise-@ss.
     
  11. excellent thread.
    ;)

    mark reccord...

    i bought 3 jbl mr802's used. aside from road rash, they are in good usable condition, except for one horn. the bad horn has a diaphragm that has been overheated and is seizing, sounding like shiite. (emailed jbl to confirm my findings)

    should i:

    1) buy a ruby diaphragm for about $75
    2) buy a radian dia. for about $99
    3) buy a jbl dia. for about (gulp) $140
    4) buy a complete eminence driver for $60
    5) look for a used horn on ebay, risk that it "works fine"

    your thoughts?

    b
     
  12. thrash_jazz

    thrash_jazz

    Jan 11, 2002
    Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
    Artist: JAF Basses, Circle K Strings
    Most of the time I pretend to turn a knob or two but actually do nothing. It's hilarious when they say "That's much better now!"
     
  13. moley

    moley

    Sep 5, 2002
    Hampshire, UK
    Not disagreeing with ya, but have you ever sung lead vocal over a PA with a full band behind you? You can be singing as loud as possible and still barely be able to hear yourself (unless you stick a finger in your ear) even though you're turned up louder than everything else. If the singer's complaining that they're not loud enough, maybe they've not got adequate monitoring? And singing live when you can't hear the sound you're making is *not* good - for you or the audience.
     
  14. thrash_jazz

    thrash_jazz

    Jan 11, 2002
    Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
    Artist: JAF Basses, Circle K Strings
    I know what you mean. You do need to have a lot of vocal presence in the monitors, but they were already waaay louder than anything else from all accounts. And they weren't talking about stage volume either. :)
     
  15. cassanova

    cassanova

    Sep 4, 2000
    Florida
    My big issue with the soundman at our church is that they're extremly obsessed with keeping the stage volume extremly low. Thats not a huge problem, and I dont blame them, but the problem comes in when the drummer is louder than everyone, the pianist Im sitting next too is louder than the guitars/bass. I can never hear myself proporly on stage, Im always gettin drowned out by the drummer and pianist. Yet Im told Im too loud. In 16 years of playing Ive never had these types of problems.

    I dont entirly blame this on our soundman though. The pastor (who is also a singer in the band) wants to have a say on the mix and stage volumes, and the senior pastor, who self admittidly doesnt know a thing about music or sound seems to have to stick his two sense in on it as well. Not to mention a couple of congregation members think they can have an input as to what goes on in the mix.

    Every week its the same problem, the bass is too loud, yet I can never hear myself on stage.
     
  16. FretNoMore

    FretNoMore * Cooking with GAS *

    Jan 25, 2002
    The frozen north
    It can be problematic to hear yourself on stage, we also try to keep the stage volume as low as possible, but an excited rock drummer is LOUD! :)

    My solution is to use my small combo amp (EBS Drome 12") as a personal monitor. I'm normally at stage left, so I place it at my feet at the front left side of the stage, angled up at my ears. The drummer also gets some bass that way, whether he wants to or not. ;)

    This works very well, I usually have to turn it up slightly as the show progresses as everyone seems to play harder later at night. And it doesn't affect the FOH sound much.
     
  17. I wouldn't want to be a soundman, though- I certainly wouldn't want to deal with people like the drummer in my original band- "I want this, this, this and this in my monitor" "no, it's not loud enough" "no, there's not enough guitar- all I can hear is bass, I want more vocal" "I can't hear my snare" .......

    half an hour later "no, the guitar's too loud now".
    :mad:
    I can't believe that when the drummer in my covers band gets a monitor mix in a fraction of the time.

    the stage amp volume issue also bugs me- my timing goes to **** if I can't hear myself.
    I understand the problem, though, with stage resonance and the mics picking up bass, causing a foghorn sound in the mix.

    it helps to put the bass amp on crates to lift it to ear level.
    there've been times when I've played a few songs crouching next to my amp, just to make sure it's on. :rolleyes: :p
     
  18. regarding the stage volume issues...

    one problem that seems too common is the fact that most guitar players and bass players believe that their backline 'amp' or 'stack' is a cool stage decoration. they place the combo or head & cab in a placement that is 'visually pleasing' because they want to show off the gear, or because 'it's supposed to be right there'. then they refuse the concept of repositioning or angling the cabinet.

    this absolutely does not lend it self to a good stage mix.... and it encourages people to fix the problem of 'i can't hear myself' by using more volume. the volume contest is never won by anyone.

    move your amp!!!! go on, don't be stubborn!!!

    try a different position in relation to the drums, try sidestage, try rotating to the right or left 20 degrees or so, angling the cab upward 15 degrees... you can get a good stage mix if each performer is open minded about this.
     
  19. mark...

    i went on a tangent with your thread, sorry -
    :oops:

    b
     
  20. cassanova

    cassanova

    Sep 4, 2000
    Florida
    Been down that road on the amp situation. they wont even let me bring one in anymore. In fact they did away with everyone but one guitarist using an amp. They say the bass was just too over powering. im totally at their mercy as far as stage volume goes.