Live Sound Reinforcement Series Chapter 20 – The Musicians on the Stage

Posted: November 10, 2015 in live Sound Reinforcement
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Through the beginning to the end of the last chapter, we have concentrated on the hub or the central nervous system of a Live Sound Reinforcement assignment.  I have been focusing a bit on live performance in a typical band or musical event.  We now understand how most equipment for the House PA, the stage monitors, effects, and even lighting systems use the mixing board as the central hub.  The mixing board’s usefulness does not end there!  Once equipment is set up, connected, turned on and confirmed functional, most of the adjustments made for the rest of the evening will happen because of changes to the mixing board.  It also becomes the Master Device, and all other connected devices are ultimately controlled by the mixer.  The sound engineer is the ONLY person that should touch the mixing board.

The next logical step would be to describe the components of the House PA system and how much power (or how much money do I need to spend….).  After all, this is what most people hear, right?

Obviously, I set up as a trap question.  The answer seems obvious.

If I said, “I sound like a broken record”, most young readers will not know what that means! But I will repeat myself on certain themes and I feel one a’ comin’!  The next important thing is not the House PA and the number of speakers and amplifiers you need.  Most small venue mixing engineers go straight for the house and main systems, completely ignoring the most important ingredient guaranteeing a great performance.  We will avoid that trap now and focus on the stage and more importantly – the musicians on the stage.

When bands practice, they ultimately find a good use of space and volume so each member can achieve the two primary goals;

1) Hear myself (usually louder than any one else.  This is not ego and we will get into that later)

2) Hear the other performers (usually not as loud as the performer wants to hear him/her self!!)

Once they settle in and can accomplish the above – practice is comfortable and productive.  Each member can hear themselves and can also hear enough of the other members to blend with them.  If you saw a live symphony orchestra and all you could hear were the trombones, it would seem like an awful performance.  If you were a musician in the orchestra and all you could hear were the trombones……………

Now we can go back to the band members standing on a stage or venue they have never seen or played in……   and now understand that this is a very real challenge, and the smaller the venue… the smaller the budget.  Lack of Resources can be difficult challenge to overcome.

In larger venues it was quite normal to have a smaller mixing board off to the one side of the stage.  All the instruments and monitors would connect to this mixer, and it would ‘split’ all channels and send them equally to the House mixing board out in the audience area.  (it can also be used to send signals to a recording van parked outside).  The sound engineer on stage makes the band members happy by concentrating on the performers but does not affect the signal going to the House board.  That way the House Engineer has full control of the unaffected incoming channels from the stage board.

Good enough for now and in the next few sections I will focus on the stage sound and mix.

Comments
  1. Important stuff to think about. It’s always good if the band members have some knowledge of live sound and don’t leave it all up to a sound guy who may not know what he/she is doing.

    Liked by 1 person

    • midimike says:

      So true. In my experience, the sound guy is an after thought and usually underpaid or inexperienced. This can be a fatal error as the band members usually have no idea what it sounds like in the audience.

      Like

      • So true. I mean, there are good ones and there are bad ones but you just never know. I worked at a club and the coat check (where I worked) was right near the sound board so I got to know the sound people really well. They were all cool people but they all liked to drink during their shifts so…

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Interesting stuff! I once heard about this guy (Mike Millard) who was famous for bootlegging old Led Zep/Stones/Floyd live performances by going in in a wheelchair and a blanket that disguised all of his audio equipment. Laughed my face off when I heard that, but apparently he beat the sound recordists at their own game! Finest audio bootlegs available to this day, apparently.

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  3. tracihalpin says:

    So are you saying the singer can hear you through his in ears? Very interesting post!
    Btw I got a new guitar teacher. He is in a band and has been playing for over 30 years. He said we aren’t going to read music. He asked me who I liked and I said jewel. He said we can start playing some intros from her songs. He said if you spend time reading music and playing nursery rhymes you aren’t going to want to play anymore. I said that’s exactly how I was feeling after 5 lessons. He said we want you to enjoy playing and develop a love for playing. This guy sounds great!

    Liked by 1 person

    • midimike says:

      I hope I understand the question correctly. Yes. The in-ear monitors basically replace floor monitors. All monitors are able to mix signals or tracks as desired. If all you want to hear is yourself, that can be done. If you want a full mix but focus on your performance (louder than the other players) you can do that to. I do not read sheet music quickly, as I play by ear and have a good memory for that – not for names unfortunately! I can of I have to but then I memorize it and don’t look at the sheet music again. Play to your strengths, but hard to argue with having fun!

      Liked by 1 person

      • tracihalpin says:

        I love this stuff. I find it all interesting.

        Liked by 1 person

      • midimike says:

        Very good. You have a unique perspective and a true passion. You would make a great sound person!

        Liked by 1 person

      • tracihalpin says:

        Thanks! I got a new guitar teacher. He’s been playing for 30 years; he is in a band and he told me we aren’t reading music and playing nursery rhymes. He said I don’t use books; he said I teach to what works for you and your style. He said 80 percent of guitar players can’t read music. He said he did go to school for music, so if I want to learn he can teach me or we can play some music. I said let’s play some music. He asked me who I like and I said Jewel. He said great we will start with learning the intros to her songs. I’m psyched! He told me the type of lessons you have been doing make it all seem hard and you are going to just want to put the guitar down, and I said yes that is how I was starting to feel. Did I tell you all this already? Sorry my brain is foggy because this whole Paris thing has me very upset.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. tracihalpin says:

    Oh ok I see I did tell you all this…lol!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Leeby Geeby says:

    I’ve always been fascinated by the sound aspect of a live gig there’s definitely a very deep form of artistry there. A good or bad sound engineer can make or break a show. I’ve heard some brilliant ones in my time and I’ve heard some real shockers too. I used to enjoy keeping an ear out for the sound guys at my local pub gigs.

    Liked by 1 person

    • midimike says:

      Most people in the audience are not aware why things sound bad, they just do. It takes someone like you that is tuned in to hear the coherence. There is an art and as you said can be the make or break for any performance. Thank you for a great comment!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Leeby Geeby says:

        I used to review bands for a job as a street press journalist, so I developed a trained ear. I really cared about getting hardworking bands the attention they deserved. There is nothing worse than hearing what you know to be a kickarse band get butchered due to a hack sound engineer. I would always compensate for that in a review.

        Liked by 1 person

      • midimike says:

        I could tell you had more than a causal interest! Good process, and so many bands need all the attention (positive) they can get.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Leeby Geeby says:

        Yeah. I did what I could for the scene. I barely made a cent doing it. It was all about the love. Good times, good friends, amazing artists and in hindsight a nice little slice of underground Australian rock culture history.

        Like

      • midimike says:

        I can tell. What I would give for a little slice of Australia rock culture history. I am sure your efforts were appreciated and remembered. If money comes of it; so much the better.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Leeby Geeby says:

        I was stunned to find actually that even years after that old regional scene died down, the younger kids still knew about it and had heard of me. It’s kind of surreal! If you ever get the chance to see The Living End Play, theres an authentic piece of Oz Rock pub culture right there. Even after they had been on the David letterman show in the states, they were still happy to come home and play for nothing for a small group of mates in a shitty little dive under a cheesy nickname. They used to do that a lot. That to me epitomizes the Oz rock spirit!

        Liked by 1 person

  6. rubiredsaid says:

    The good old days came back to me when I read this! At the sound check I always used to make sure my “mich” was set to how I liked it. The assembling of the PA system used to fascinate me!
    Good stuff Mike!

    Liked by 1 person

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