This is a good time to walk around a little if you can. If you have a helper that can baby sit the board for a while, slowly walk around the venue.  Listen to the various instruments as you walk to different sections and notice how each area sounds as you pass in and out of range of the main speaker clusters. Listen again for areas that ‘drop out’, especially in the main audience areas.  Talk to the host.  Make adjustments and respond to their suggestions.  Interact with the audience if you are good at that sort of thing.

Bring all that listening back to the sound board.

What adjustments can you make to improve the house mix?  Is a player sounding great when you are right in front of the stage but fades quickly if you are back further or at the bar?  Does the kick drum or one of the vocalists sound muddy and hard to hear clearly.  Listen to each instrument again.  Use the headphones and solo tracks do they sound muddy in the headphones too?  If so, you might need to change the EQ settings or other audio processors, change microphone location, REPLACE the microphone cable!, put rings on the drum heads to stop heads from long ugly tones, hey, there is a lot of stuff that goes into making the band or performance sound good.

It can go wrong.  I have gone up to drummers during sound check to ask them if they have any objections if I tune the drum heads for them before the gig.  Far too many drummers don’t know how to do this and far too many more don’t know that you even can.  If the kit is out of tune and generates all sorts of random harmonics and overtones, there is no way to get it to sound ‘awesome’.  It can sound loud and it can sound full, but it will never sound good.

I have probably upset a few performers as well by asking that they tune their instruments before we start playing.  One of the benefits of also being a musician in a number of bands is I can tell when something is out of tune.  I don’t think I can get drunk enough that playing out of tune is a good thing, but there obviously are a few out there.  If they cannot tell the difference that is worse than being too drunk, but we all sound and play better when everyone is in tune.  Some bass players can’t tell any more so you have to politely step in once in a while.

In a large club in front of a packed audience, the lead vocalist roared into the microphone, ” I ain’t got shit in the monitors, sound guy,  I got nuthin’ up hear at all…”.

I responded with a simple but effective test that I could do from way out in the audience.  I reached up to the main faders and yanked them down completely before he got to the “…… sound guy,  I got nuthin’ up hear at all…” part.

So he ended up with the band now reduced to stage volume.  As he was saying …’sound guy …’  He was booming through the on stage monitors at an amazing decibel level.  He apologized to me and the audience when I turned the mains back on and we rocked out the rest of the night.  The house was loud enough that he could hear them more than the mains and he was not used to that feeling.  That the sound guy would not have the vocals loud enough in the main mix and he would need to hear the monitors really loud on stage.  He ended up really happy with the mix and did not have to scream all night over the band stage volume.  Keeping things solid can include a number of unexpected challenges that are better met head-on, but these business relationships should also be kept friendly and cooperative.

Have spare cables for everything, even if the sound system does not use it.  Power cables for devices and amps.  Adapters for audio cables.  Tape, markers and paper.  I bring guitar cables and a few spare mic cables everywhere.  Batteries.  Small hand tools.  Power outlet tester.  Flashlights.   Drum head tuning keys.  Zip ties, the list could go on but session after session, someone will need those things for the show to go on and you will be the champion pro.  You gain cooperation and trust for the next gig.  Win win.

We all know the saying about weak links.  When you have so many components – each connected with cables and software and processors, it can take a while to troubleshoot the system when you have a failure.  Yes failure.  If you are the sound guy or gal and things don’t work or it sounds bad, YOU are the failure!  There are basic steps you can take and I can describe them in a generic way, but that type of advice will not apply to every system out there.  No two clubs or sound companies have the same sound equipment.  The best advice is to keep the number of links in any chain as low as possible.  The more links, the more of them that could be or eventually become weak.  It is not always practical to have a spare of every component, but finding local music and sound stores open in your area is getting tougher.  If taken care of properly though, most professional PA equipment available today will last a long time.  More on “Maintenance and Tips” in a future SLR series.

  1. Wow, I really like your take on professionalism and how that relates to your art. Well done.

    Liked by 1 person

    • midimike says:

      Thanks for noticing. I blame that on my parents too! LOL A mix of professionalism and a lot of boy scout preparedness goes a long way. Communication is also an art. They just get overlooked from time to time. You obviously do not overlook the importance. Kudos!

      Liked by 1 person

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