Working with Live Audio Engineers
By: Mark Turko
You have practiced really hard. You own a decent guitar and amp and crafted a good guitar tone. Your skills and knowledge have improved to a certain point and you join a band. The band practices really hard and gets good. What now? You book a gig and take the band out of the rehearsal space. If you are fortunate enough to play a show that has a sound system and a dedicated audio engineer to operate the system, all the better. In this article I will give you some insights and tips on how to make that short relationship of working together be beneficial you and how you can get the best sound out front and on stage for yourself.
“Please” and “Thank You” are very crucial when dealing with sound engineers. Aside from a sound engineer hating his job or having a bad day, those two words will set the tone for his attitude towards your band for the rest of the evening. Having a friendly disposition in general will get you the best results and may get him go the extra mile to help you out.
If your time slot isn’t sandwiched between two other bands, be sure to ask the sound engineer when it is a good time to set up your guitar rig. Don’t assume just because the doors are open it’s OK just to start loading your gear up on stage. People work differently. Some sound engineers don’t mind if they set up cables and microphones as you are setting up, some may want to have the stage to themselves until they are ready for you and yet others would want you to be completely set up so then they can go to work. Just ask what is better for them. That in itself will exhibit courtesy and make you appear more professional in the sound engineers mind.
If your fortunate enough to have a soundcheck . Follow the sound engineers lead on who is to play their instrument to set levels. Wait your turn and be quiet so he can do his job. When it is your turn be sure to be conscious of the volume of your guitar. The levels that you are accustomed to at rehearsal may not be appropriate for the size and acoustic quality of the venue. If a sound man asks you to turn down, don’t complain, just ask for some more of your guitar in your monitor mix. Be sure to keep your monitor mix sparse with the other instruments that are on stage. Many instruments through a monitor mix can get messy sounding.
If your band is sandwiched between two other bands a soundcheck may not happen so be ready for the “throw and go”. That is when you throw your gear up on stage as fast as possible and get to playing right away. In these situations it is best to have everything unpacked and ready as much as possible. Take your guitar amp out of the road case or remove the dust cover, have the guitar cables you are using all coiled and ready, have your pedal board out of its case and ready to placed onstage and plug in. Having things all prepped and ready will save time. Usually a bands time slot is not extended past it’s scheduled end time so any additional time it takes for set up cuts into performance time. If there is another band coming on after you be courteous to the next band and sound engineer. Get all your gear off stage first, then start packing it for transportation. Set up and breakdown times will be noted by the sound engineer and will play a factor in his opinion about you when asked by the owner or booking person.
It may take a song or two during your performance for a sound engineer to be available for any adjustments to your monitor mix. He is not ignoring you while he’s is looking down at the mixing console. He is making sure the audience is getting the best possible sound first. Bear with him while he makes sure you don’t sound terrible to the audience.
Keeping these things in mind will provide an orderly and professional appearance for you and your band. With a professional appearance you can be sure that any future opportunities are weighted in your favor. Any leverage you can have to get another gig is a good one
The Author: Mark Turko is a guitar instructor who owns and operates a guitar school in CT. Contact him If you are interested in electric guitar lessons in Hamden CT.