5 things every band should know about the sound engineerMark Ellis
A slight break from tradition in this week’s blog post, as we offer some advice for bands and performers. Surprised? Don’t be.
Sound engineers know exactly what’s going on from their perspective. Every fader is set ‘just so’ for a reason, EQ tweaked to quell every boom, hiss and trace of feedback and the decisions made during the performance are absolutely made for the right reason.
Does this mean we can assume the band intrinsically knows why the engineer made that decisions to drop the backing vocals during the second song? Do they appreciate why there was a reluctance to increase the amount of reverb on the lead singer’s mic? When they arrived and the engineer seemed more preoccupied with something taking place below the mixing desk, did they simply dismiss him as being un-attentive and rude?
Sound engineering is an incredibly difficult job, but then so is performing. Those on stage may never have touched a fader or run sound themselves, therefore how can they be expected to know why certain decisions are made at the mixing desk or sympathise with a less than jovial engineer?
In this post, we’re going to list five things every band should know about the sound engineer. Perhaps you’re in a band yourself, or you’re the person behind the board who wants to have a handy reference guide to pass on when things get rough. Whoever you are – this list is for you.
1. They’re human, so ask for their name
Let’s start with the basics. Shouting ‘oi!’ before barking your orders, or clicking your fingers during soundcheck in order to gain the engineer’s attention won’t win you any friends.
At the start of every gig, find out the sound engineer’s name and use it as you would your band members’. They’re human, after all.
2. Their ears need to be given the benefit of the doubt
Sure, you think the drums are too big in the mix, but you’ve got a far more important job on your hands than critiquing the mix: performing. Don’t spoil your own night be suggesting you know better (even if you’re confident you do – and you might!).
Respect the sound engineer’s ears and offer any opinion you have on the mix as just that – a friendly, personal take on the sound. Providing the monitoring is as good as it should be, you’ll simply forget about any suspected balance issues when the gig takes off.
Enjoy your set – don’t get bogged down in the technical detail (the audience won’t).
3. They benefit from an input list
You can save a huge amount of time during soundcheck if you turn up with a ready-made list of inputs. Make a note of everything – every instrument, mic and stereo pair for keyboards and laptops.
Of all the things you can do to fully understand the sound engineer, this one will win you the biggest smile – trust us.
4. They love it if you know your gear – properly
Do you know which knob to reach for if the sound engineer asks for less presence on your guitar amp? What if they ask you to cut off 30hz at source on your keyboard?
If you’re unable to respond to such requests quickly, you’ll only elongate the sound check process. Demonstrating a solid knowledge of your gear will endear you to any sound engineer, so take time to learn it thoroughly.
5. They like to be treated like a member of the band
The primary reason sound engineers and bands fall out is usually down to a lack of camaraderie and the toxic ‘us and them’ attitude that can all too easily develop between the people on stage and those taking care of the technical aspects.
If you’ve followed this guide by the letter, you’ll already know the sound engineer’s name and have impressed them with your intricate knowledge of your own gear. Why not go one step further and bring them into the fold? Include them in the drinks round and, after a successful soundcheck, make it clear that they’re more than welcome to join you backstage for a drink and a laugh after the show.
Sound engineers aren’t from Mars. Treat them as equals, respect their knowledge and buy them a beer – you’ll get on like a house on fire.