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Soundman problem

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [BG]' started by Murf, Jun 19, 2002.

  1. Murf


    Mar 28, 2001
    Hi guys,

    I got a bit of a problem which has reared its ugly head on a few occasions in the past and it revolves around this particular 'sound'man who does a lot of work in the scene I'm in here, basically anytime I hear his name being mentioned when live sessions pop up my heart sinks, not because he's bad (in fact he's pretty good and seems to know his stuff and he's a pretty likeable chap) but for some inexplicable reason when it comes to engineering/micking live bass he loses the plot completely as in he can make a top of the range fender/Lakland whatever sound like a goose farting in a fog (when you can hear it).

    Its frustrating because he does a brilliant job with everything else (vocals, guitars, drums etc) but for some reason his bass sounds are little more than a subsonic rumble with no discernible tone or dynamics (you cant make out individual notes fer gods sake).....whats even more baffling is he's a pretty decent bass player himself:confused: .

    So I'm helping out a friend with an ultra important gig he's doing (A&R) next week, the backing band (which includes yours truly...yaay) is damn tight and the songs are fantastic (think rhcp meets ELO meets motown meets the charlatans) and even better the songs are very bass driven ie funk fingerstyle and lots of high fretless phrasings (hey cool alliteration) which means my bass HAS to 'cut' through (I'll be using a fretless MIA fender jazz).......problem.......'Sound' guy is looking after the live sound on the night:(

    So Im really asking how do you go about getting your normal live sound from a sound engineer who seems to be completely 'bass deaf'??? WITHOUT sounding like your telling him what to do and p***ing him off so he wrecks your sound even more??

  2. CS


    Dec 11, 1999
    I would tell the bandleader that I have reservations about the soundmans suitability for his gig and why. I would also explain that the readon I'm bitching is because I care about my sound and his music and leave it there. The beauty of being a hired hand (as you know) is to play and go home having avoided all the politics. It always gets more complicated when you play for a friend.
  3. always bring your own soundman to a gig ;)

    The problem is globally known.. that's why my band uses it's own soundman, errr.. woman.. :)

    A good friend of mine, named Joanne, did an education in sound-science, and knows exactly how sounds are effected... so she's perfect for the job :)
  4. Murf


    Mar 28, 2001
    Thats one of the biggest problems, I seem to be the only one who has 'issues' with his expertise (in fairness as I said in every other department his sound is excellent its just on bass he's seriously lacking) and to most people he's seen as DA MAN when it comes to sound engineering but, I gotta say imo 'the emperor has no clothes', and besides "its only bass":rolleyes:

    Normally I wouldnt give a toss, in the past I've tolerated it as I was the hired help so I quietly seethed, shut my mouth and took the money but in this case its for a friend and I genuinely love his songs and I want him to do well with them and after all the rehersals I'd hate to see it fall flat because of an inept soundman.
  5. JMX

    JMX Vorsprung durch Technik

    Sep 4, 2000
    Cologne, Germany
    Talk to your band leader, preferably with a recording as evidence.

    Try to make it clear that it's crucial for the evening's success that the sound is top notch.
  6. CS


    Dec 11, 1999
    Which is why I would talk to him as a friend. I would warn them of potential problems and leave it there.
  7. ZuluFunk

    ZuluFunk Supporting Member

    Apr 14, 2001
    Insist on running DI from your pre. Then, at least you can control the tone of the signal. Sometimes they'll complain that the DI is too hot, but most boards can accomodate that. I've heard you can try running from your direct out to the DI box to limit the signal. I'm not sure if that works. It's worth the argument.

    As far as volume, get the singer out into the audience, by the board, during sound check to be the one telling him to "boost the bass, boost the bass, boost the bass"

    Unfortunately, he can do whatever he wants to the levels after the soundcheck. If I had my own sound guy, working for the band, at least he'd do what the band wants. Not just what he likes or what the club owner wants.

    That's why having a monster rig on stage is a plus. You have the ability to hear what you're playing regardless of how much he gives you in the mix. In decent sized rooms, you'll hear my rig from the stage through the house mix in just about every case. I don't need too much in the PA anyway. If you can't hear my on stage set up from 30 feet back, then the mix though the mains, I assure you, is louder than it needs to be
  8. cb56


    Jul 2, 2000
    Central Illinois
    Unfortunately you have described about 95% of all "soundmen". At least most of the ones I've worked with. I have even gotten to the point with a few of them where I have done stuff like unplug the signal from my rig to them or play in the wrong key just to see if he or anyone else notices. They don't. I've been lucky this year to have had some good ones run sound for my band on outdoor stuff. But yeah even alot of the ones with a "great" reputation (locally) have this problem. They seem to get the drums pounding out front while the bass is no where to be heard. I read a quote from a famous bass player about this. I can't remember if it was Lee Sklar or Jace Bruce saying that "my job (as bass player) is to get the right notes with a good tone to the soundman. After that it's out of my hands. If he screws it up he's just making himself look bad" I've kind of adopted that for myself and it's helped me from going crazy and killing anyone. If anyine complains to me about the bass tone I tell them to go talk to the sound man about it. I also have no problem with anyone jumping up on stage and standing next to my rig if they want to hear the bass. especially if it's a nice looking woman ;) I understand really I do.
  9. Murf


    Mar 28, 2001
    Thanks for your input guys,

    I think the biggest problem is that the soundguy dosent seem to differentiate between volume and tone, I dont want to be LOUD for the sake of being heard, I want my sound to 'sit' well with the other instruments, I want note definition not just this bass hum which vaguely permeates everything (this isnt a heavy rock gig and I'm using a fretless for a reason).

    The weird thing with this guy is that the on-stage sound is generally very good and my bass sounds exactly as I want it but somewhere along the way by the time it hits the f.o.h its muck, I've tried everything to help from using sansamp, pods and direct di and he STILL manages to balls it up (its like he has this very specific idea in his head about what a bass sound is and thats exactly what he gives you regardless of what you give him....thats fine....but it sure as hell isnt my sound).

    I'm seriously considering just hiring a monster rig for the night and bypassing him altogether.

    The frustrating thing is most people dont really 'get' bass, oh they'll miss it when its not there and if your lucky your groovy line might just catch they're attention but on the whole bass seems to be an after thought in these situations...therefore the "approach the bandleader with your reservations" idea just wont work because at the end of the day your ONLY the bass player:rolleyes: and no-body else has any problems with the sound.

    As I said earlier he's actually a pretty good bassist himself and he can name off the pros and cons for amp types and setups at the drop of a hat...so whats his problem with getting a decent live bass sound?

    (Something just occurred to me....I have a funny feeling his OWN live bass sound is probably pretty amazing:rolleyes: )
  10. craigers2

    craigers2 Supporting Member

    Sep 26, 2001
    my band is also having some major problems with our soundman. everything sounds fine on stage, but when you go out in front - it sounds like mud.

    i started to turn up my amp on stage to help my sound out, but now the singers are complaining that i'm too loud.

    just can't win.
  11. lneal


    Apr 12, 2002
    Lee County, Alabama
    I have posted several times on this subject. Check my archives. Anyway, I would go talk directly to this soundman and tell him what you have told us. Be nice and diplomatic. If he wrecks your sound after that (which he probably will), there's nothing you can do.
    If you get word that your bass isn't loud enough, Disconnect your DI or mike and crank that mutha up! That'll get his attention! When he comes to tell you to turn down (and he will!) tell him he can either make you sound good in the mix or kiss your a$$!
    Don't take it from these guys! As someone pointed out earlier he is getting paid.

    Once, a few years back, I got sooo frustrated with this that after getting word from several people (who would know) that my bass was nowhere in the mix I went back and snatched the soundman up...and well.....
    It was something that convinced me that diplomacy is a much better way to handle things.
  12. BlacksHole


    Mar 22, 2000
    Rockville, MD
    I also think you should talk to the soundman directly. Simply tell him that you are looking for a distinctive sound that may not be the normal bass sound and explain it as well as you can. Make it sound like you would like something a little different from all the other bassists he mixes for and be as nice as possible to him while doing this. Who knows, he may even give you a little of what you are asking for. Since you said you were playing fretless and doing some upper octave fills, tell him this and discuss this particular sound with him.

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