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Long-Time Bassist Starting to Get Gigs as a Soundman -- Tips Anyone?

Discussion in 'Live Sound [BG]' started by jaywa, Oct 14, 2013.

  1. jaywa


    May 5, 2008
    Iowa City, IA
    I have been playing bass for about 32 years and have been gigging heavily with multiple bands the last 10 yrs in particular but now some opportunities are presenting themselves to run sound for a band I used to play bass for on a sub basis. I mixed my first show for them a few weekends ago and they have since asked me to put two more of their shows on my calendar to work as well.

    Keep in mind, I literally had never run live sound for a band EVER before this gig a few weekends ago (although I do have experience behind the board in studio settings). This band is pretty well known and has some good musicians in it so I feel rather honored.

    I would be interested in hearing from other bassists who work "both sides of the desk"... not really so much on how to get a good mix (I think I've got that part pretty well down), but just other things you have learned from running sound that I might not have a handle on being so new at this.

    Thanks in Advance
  2. Ukiah Bass

    Ukiah Bass

    May 10, 2006
    Maybe it would be useful to re-read all the "I hate my soundman" threads and do the opposite?
  3. Ric5

    Ric5 Supporting Member Commercial User

    Jan 29, 2008
    I Grow Organic Carrots
    Long-Time Bassist Starting to Get Gigs as a Soundman -- Tips Anyone?


    It is always grat to find a soundman who:

    1 - actually cares how a band sounds
    2 - knows what he is doing
    3 - does not spend the night getting drunk
  4. jaywa


    May 5, 2008
    Iowa City, IA
    Already did. Heck, I even had posted in some of them. :D

    In seriousness, I do know that in the case of this particular band it was a huge bonus that I pretty much knew all the songs they were doing and how they did them. Who was singing lead on a particular song, where the lead rides would be coming, etc.

    It was also enlightening to see what worked (and what didn't) in terms of EQing bass, getting it to sit right with the drums, etc. Hopefully some knowledge I can take back and apply to my gigs as a player.
  5. Ukiah Bass

    Ukiah Bass

    May 10, 2006
    Yeah, I get the impression that many of the "slights" reported in 'hate the soundman' threads are due less to incompetence and more to a poor guy who is barely hanging on with the usual shortcuts due to the pressures of producing live sound for multiple groups (with loads of their own demands) in a short time schedule. With luck, we will soon see threads on TalkBass about a wonderful sound man who performed miracles at gigs in Sioux Falls, SD! :)
  6. Psychobassguy

    Psychobassguy Banned

    Oct 14, 2013
    I've done a lot of work in live sound. Since you come from a studio background, you probably already know most of the basics and general stuff so my advice would be to remember that live audio isn't the same; you're not producing the band as much as you are presenting them, so don't be afraid to play with dynamics and not just mix every sound for max volume all the time.

    Since it sounds like you're working with a good band, that's a major goodie right away. Lots of less than capable bands like to blame their bad playing on the sound/monitor guy. Not having to deal with that will help you out bunches. Don't just make the kick really loud, the vocals on top, and then mix everything else between.

    Boost the snare just a bit on an up-tempo song. Play with stereo spread on the rhythm guitars. Take an unused channel on the board and patch the direct out of the rhythm guitar through a delay processor and then back into the board eq'ed way different from the main channel and pan them opposite like ten and two o'clock to really fill out a sound. If you're feeling adventurous, try that with the bass, but make sure to cut all the low end off the "doubled" channel or you'll mess with its punch. Have fun, take chances and above all else, try to keep things at a reasonable volume. Concerts are too loud nowadays.
  7. two fingers

    two fingers Opinionated blowhard. But not mad about it. Gold Supporting Member

    Feb 7, 2005
    Eastern NC USA
    I do both. Just remember your time on stage. Be willing to have a conversation about what will make things sound better. Always remember you have been HIRED so they are your CUSTOMER. Offer up suggestions as to what will work best, but ultimately if they are hard-headed (and on some things they will be) about something, just do the best you can.
  8. Nagrom


    Mar 21, 2004
    Western Canada
    Keep one eye on the stage at all times
  9. audioglenn


    Jul 14, 2012
    I'll offer this tip: If you're working for a band where one of the player's stage volume is always TOO loud and screws your mix for the night(usually a guitar player) and refuses to turn down, then stop working for that band. Because no matter what you say, people will think it's your fault and your reputation takes a huge hit.
  10. Good tip. I just help out here and there. Punter : "Turn the vocals up!" Me : pointing to desk, the kickdrum is barely on and vocals maxing out, "Tell the band to turn down". Punter: "you suck !"

    Actually, there's a tip, if you're doing that sort of sound, take your own compressor for lead vox. Half those guys have zero mic control.
  11. stonewall


    Jun 14, 2010
    Show interest in the personal on stage sound of each musician tell them you will do your best to reproduce there personal sound.
  12. jaywa


    May 5, 2008
    Iowa City, IA
    Good stuff everyone, thank you.

    This band I'm working with right now is kind of limited in that while they are good musicians and have all been playing together for quite awhile, they are (IMO) a little underequipped P.A. wise. By which I mean, a decent Mackie board but currently no outboard processing equipment and only two Mackie powered subs and two powered tops (plus a truckload of wedge monitors since none of them are IEM). And this is for a band with two guitars, a keyboardist, bass, drums, aux perc, two female backup singers and a 3- or 4-piece horn section.

    They have the money to go a lot bigger with their P.A. but I don't think they want to haul that much stuff around and also a lot of their gigs are private functions where they don't need a huge production. And, as a newb sound guy maybe it's good to have a smaller/simpler setup so there's less for me to mess up. :smug:

    One thing I was already experimenting with my first gig with them was panning the drum kit, aux, guitars and keys to build more sonic space and try to unclutter things a bit. It seemed to work pretty well and it was fun to hear the drum fills in stereo.
  13. modulusman

    modulusman Banned

    Jan 18, 2004
    So they have no graphic EQs for monitors?
  14. jaywa


    May 5, 2008
    Iowa City, IA
    Oops, my bad. Thanks for reminding me Modulus...

    They have a 2nd board they keep behind the stage and that's how they mix their monitors. So all I have to worry about is FOH.

    There is onboard EQ for the monitor board but they don't have outboard EQ for monitors or FOH. Nor do they have compression or reverb. Thankfully, they all play their instruments pretty well and are decent singers so the lack of processing is not QUITE as noticeable IMO.
  15. modulusman

    modulusman Banned

    Jan 18, 2004
    Well if the monitors feedback or sound bad at least they can't blame it on you.:D
  16. jaywa


    May 5, 2008
    Iowa City, IA
    Funny thing from that first gig... I already got my trial by fire in one respect.

    Gets to the break and I hear one of the chick singer's husbands/boyfriends/whatever say (not to me but to her and loud enough so I could hear), "I can't really tell how you're doing cause I can't hear you." And this after I was just CRANKING the chick singers in the mix. I just kinda laughed it off.
  17. I replaced the bass player in my band, and he's now helping us out on sound. The rest of the band had to smile when he asked me to turn down on stage, so he could get me through the PA and do some eq. I was too loud and spent most gigs with my fader on zero.

    It turned out the previous sound man had asked him to do the very same thing for years.

    He found the swap to sound pretty daunting, because for the first time, he heard the songs as the audience did. He'd never realised exactly what the band as a whole really did. I've always thought that drummers probably are in the trickiest position - they've never heard their own drums from the front. Sticking somebody else on the stool going thump/crack never sounds the same.
  18. Stumbo

    Stumbo Wherever you go, there you are. Supporting Member Commercial User

    Feb 11, 2008
    the Cali Intergalctic Mind Space
    Song Surgeon slow downer software- full 4 hour demo
    Once the band starts playing, I find a bit of time where I take a walk around the venue to listen for any eq. changes that need to be made. I also do the same later on when the venue fills up.

    Also, since the band has two subs, remember that they should be kept together for best dispersion.
  19. FWIW: Over the years, I’ve worked with different S.F. bay area sound reinforcement companies running FOH and or monitors and I’ve worked with many very well known national acts. Anyway, without seeing you at work, I really can’t say what you know or will learn (how are your trouble shooting skills?), but my tip for you is - if you haven’t already, I recommend investing in a good flashlight, a lineman and a box full of assorted connector/adaptors, etc.

    EDIT: Oh and the number one no, no rules is - NO FEEDBACK - EVER - PERIOD!!!
  20. Jaywa, it sounds like you already have the main tools: ears and an appreciation for music. If you can hear the mix, and know where to reach to improve it, that's main hurdle. On the tech side, I've seen many 'professional' sound men who don't understand gain structure. I watched a festival stage recently where the sound man had all his faders at 0, and adjusted levels with the gain knobs.

    I also have one foot in each camp. I think it's a bassist thing. We tend to hear the WHOLE band when we play, so it translates well to mixing.

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