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New sound guy - Good?

Discussion in 'Band Management [BG]' started by Todd GT5, Apr 14, 2009.

  1. Hello all, My band just acquired an experienced sound guy. He has really straightened out our equipment and is getting things working well.
    What has me concerned is his suggestions to the musicians to make our sound better, like each musician having their "sonic space". I really like the concept, however he is suggesting that to separate the bass from the guitars that I find another approach on a simple rock song, that would take me out of the obvious groove and rhythm tie-in with the drummer. My concern is does he understand the role of the rhythm section in a rock band and how should I approach these kind of suggestions from him. I don't want to discourage him from voicing his observations.
    Thanks - Todd
  2. robd

    robd Supporting Member

    For a sound man sonic space would have more to do with eq and the tone of the instruments then the parts anyone plays.

    He should worry about mixing and equalizing the instruments into different sonic areas, not rewrite the parts to accomplish it.
  3. baalroo


    Mar 24, 2008
    Wichita, KS
    If YOU hired HIM it's his job to make you sound as good as he can within whatever restrictions you give him. Just politely tell him that, although you appreciate the input, you will continue to play your parts the way you see fit. If you like the input and want him to continue giving it, even if you may not always take it, then tell him that as well. It's not really nearly as complicated as you're trying to make it.
  4. stflbn


    May 10, 2007
    Sounds like he's concerned that your bass sound and the guitars tones are getting to buddy buddy sonically.

    Tell the guitar players to get out of your sonic range. You own the LowMids/Mids. Let the Kickdrum own it's frequency.

    Every ones happy.
  5. jmattbassplaya

    jmattbassplaya Looking for a gig around East Islip, NY!

    Jan 13, 2008

    Just because he is "experienced" doesn`t make him good. He doesn`t seem to quite know what he`s talking about if he wants to change peoples parts to fit 'his sound' of the band. You hired him, so he should be working with all of you to accomplish what you guys want to be hearing, not the other way around.

    I`d tell him straight up that the parts aren`t changing so he needs to work with the eq`ing of everyone.

    Have you guys even recorded anything to compare the bands past sound with the current?
  6. jaywa


    May 5, 2008
    Iowa City, IA
    Agreed... it was all sounding really good until you got to that part about him suggesting you take a different approach to your part. That's just wack.

    I will give any good sound guy a fair hearing and do whatever I can (within reason) to make his job easier (move my cabinet, turn up or down, tweak my EQ), but if he started advising on the parts I play, that's where I'd be pushing back.
  7. Matt Dean

    Matt Dean Supporting Member

    Jan 2, 2007
    SF (North) Bay Area
    Big +1 :bassist:
  8. kalle74


    Aug 27, 2004
    I tend to disagree with most here...

    maybe he´s merely SUGGESTING that your songs could benefit from slightly differing bass and guitar parts. the bass doesn´t always have to double the guitars´low notes. as an experienced sound guy, I´m not afraid to point out these kind of matters, and sometimes (though not always) my points are considered, and thus lines are changed. the question is whether you trust him as a musician (some engineers actually have good ears for music)...

    you´re not hiring him "to shut up and do his job", hopefully (there´s only so much you can do with EQ). he´s along for making you all sound better. kind of like a producer would in the studio. he has the most objective take on your music. after all, he´s the one with the "audience-perspective".

    take his points into consideration, and try them. if they work, fine. if they´re plain stupid, you´ll know. if they don´t work, just don´t use them.
  9. I do think that the guitars occasionally creep into the bass frequencies, and maybe cause some lower end drone in our sound. Last week the sound guy turned me almost completely off trying to get rid of a low drone that ended up being the guitars. So I agree lets move them up, not mess with the bass to fix this.

    Thanks for the input - Todd
  10. bassman_al

    bassman_al Supporting Member

    Apr 16, 2008
    Fairfax, VA USA
    I have used lots of good and not good sound guys. Even the bad ones know that their job is to take what we produce and make sure it sounds as good as it can. Unsolicited advice is not his business, IMHO. I often think that one way to tell a good sound man is from the audience response. A good sound guy, I think, is one from whom you never really know what they REALLY think about your band's musical abilities. Unless he is also your recording producer...
  11. babebambi


    Jan 7, 2008

    my thought exactly
  12. bassman_al

    bassman_al Supporting Member

    Apr 16, 2008
    Fairfax, VA USA
    I asked our sound guy for his response. Its long, but helpful. His attachment is great, but too big for this forum. PM me and I'll send it to you. Very useful illustration of the different ranges of instruments and how they interact.

    "His approach is kind of a weird twist on a common approach. In live sound there are a few ways you do things to get a good sound. One approach is make each instrument sound good, and the overall mix will sound good (garbage in, garbage out, or the opposite – good in, good out). The other approach is to place everything in its sonic realm and tweak the others with some EQ to separate them. It’s an interesting approach, and also lends itself some good uses to speakers, as you aren’t overdriving them (this is a geeky thing, which I can explain more in detail in person if you want).

    Have a look at the attached. What most people do is roll a little bit of low end off of the bass, so the kick drum and the bass guitar aren’t fighting for the same range. They’ll then take a little low-mids from the bass drum to leave room for the bass guitar. Similar approaches are done with the vocals by rolling a lot of the low end out so they aren’t woofy/boomy. The hardest one is probably the guitar and keyboard, as they’re typically doing stuff in the same ballpark. With some luck the timbre of the two instruments are enough to separate them that you don’t need to mess with EQ too much.

    I rarely mess with the house EQ, only for corrective issues like feedback in the main speakers due to room issues, etc. My approach is to get each instrument sounding good with the channel EQ on the sound board, or even having the musician take off some low/high from their amp and then when you blend everything together, they come out sounding good as a whole. I was trained that EQ is for corrective things, not to make things sound how you like it (scooping the guitar or bass for the uber-metal rock sound, etc).

    If you were to put everything in its sonic space, it’d look something like this (from lows to high)

    Kick drum/floor tom

    Bass guitar/rack toms



    Horns/drum attack/bass slap

    Snare drum/cymbals/vocal sibilance/hiss/clarity

    So, although his approach seems good, I would NEVER ask any musician to change what they’re playing in a song to get it to fit. That’s taking the theory of sonic space and pushing it too far. I’d only recommend something on this for a song in which the bass guitar gets lost because maybe it’s a 5 string and they’re playing on the open B, etc. Besides that, let the musicians be musicians and do what they do best!"
  13. If you and the guitar player are playing the exact same rhythms it can get boring. He may very well have a legitimate point. Record yourselves and listen to it critically.

    As you note though, if you have an obvious groove and rhythm tie-in with the drummer, the solution is to get the gui**** to change, not you. Have him stop mimicking YOUR rhythm if they're too similar and your's is locked in with the drums.

  14. jtrow


    Mar 1, 2009
    Mid America
    Sonic space doesn't have as much to do with what you play as where you sit in the mix. It also doesn't mean he has a good point, is it one song, or a bunch of them? If it's just one or two maybe there is a reason he said it, if it's a lot of songs than he has a problem, or your playing is the probem.(I don't mean that:)) It can't hurt to listen to what he says, it doesn't mean you have to do what he says.
  15. Rick Auricchio

    Rick Auricchio Registered Bass Offender

    In order of importance:

    1. Composition
    2. Arrangement
    3. Performance
    4. Engineering
    5. Equipment

    Start at the top of the list to make things as good as they can be. If your arrangement is bad, then all the performance chops in the world won't fix it.

    Listen to some of the cuts on the Beatles' Anthology series---they sound like anybody else, nothing special. Listen to the songs after George Martin has polished the arrangements, and they're great by comparison. Same song, same players, same equipment.

    So perhaps you're getting a bonus from your sound guy: he may actually have an ear for good arrangements, not just setting EQ and levels. He may be thinking more like a producer than just an engineer. Don't want the help? Not willing to try to improve? Then tell him to shut up, and continue what you're doing.

    You want proof for your band situation? Run a tape, just a pair of mikes in the room. Listen critically. See who's right.
  16. jmattbassplaya

    jmattbassplaya Looking for a gig around East Islip, NY!

    Jan 13, 2008
    :eyebrow: What`s your angle? Obviously they want help and want to improve their sound if they are paying the guy. However, they are paying him to do a job and that`s to improve the quality of their sound. They aren`t paying the guy to come in and critique and change the actual parts of the song.
  17. Beyer160


    Dec 20, 2008
    But what if that's what the song needs to sound better?

    As others have pointed out, arrangements make a difference in the distribution of frequencies in a song. Onstage, you have no idea what it sounds like in the house- your sound guy can hear things you can't. I admit it seems odd to move the bass to a higher register to make room for the guitars, but I haven't heard the song, either.

    Make a recording so you can at least hear what he's hearing. He may have identified a legitimate problem, even if you want to seek a different solution.
  18. Phalex

    Phalex Semper Gumby Supporting Member

    Oct 3, 2006
    G.R. MI
    Listen to the sound guy. Be cooperative. Try his suggestions, and if you hate it, go back to doing what you're doing. I used to have an awesome sound guy back in my original band days. On a couple of songs, he had ideas for how the bass should come in at the beginning, and it worked out fine. On a few more songs, he thought they would sound better if I played with a pick, OK fine. If he thought something was too busy, he'd say so.

    As long as it's constructive criticism, there's no harm in working with him.
  19. S Sanders

    S Sanders

    Feb 15, 2009
    Tulsa, OK
    Very good advice here, in my opinion. Especially if part of your concern is encouraging him to continue to offer his observations. You can listen to and consider advice without having to follow it. Ultimately you, as the musician, have the final say on what you play. That does not mean that you cannot give fair consideration to the advice offered by the sound guy. The specific example you gave in the OP and your subsequent response demonstrate this quite well.

    Listen to the sound guy's advice and then say exactly what you said here. If the issue really is that the guitars are stepping on you, then the answer seems to be adjusting them, not the bass.

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