Live Sound Reinforcement Series Chapter 21 – Outside Looking In

Posted: December 30, 2015 in live Sound Reinforcement, Live Sound Reinforcement Series
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If we start from the stage things actually be come easier.  If the mixing or sound board is the hub of processing sounds, the stage is the hub for generating sounds!  Most Live Sound Reinforcement events would benefit if the engineer spent more time here.  It is not uncommon for the sound guy to spend fifteen minutes making sure the kick drum has every frequency needed pumped up loud enough to message your spine (and ear drums) but they take two minutes to set up the stage monitors.  And most do that right after the band sets up  - – – – – when there is no music playing!

So let’s take a minute and walk up on stage and see what it physically looks like.  If you are familiar with the band you have a good idea of acceptable arrangements:  Overall dimensions.   Where are the riser(s).  How tall are the ceilings. Where are the AC outlets.  You may not be able to direct where the performers set up in a number of cases but you can influence some.  Where should the drums/keyboards/horn section go.  Where is a good central place for the snake (multi-connector cable connected to the mixing board).  Where do the monitors go (unless using in-ear monitor systems).  For me, this is also a good place to determine where the house speaker cabinets and amplifiers are placed.  BTW, if you are not familiar with the band or act make it a practice to find out.  Go to their website or media page. Get an idea of what they do live, if you can.  Ten minutes on-line will save you a bunch of headaches if they turn out to have specific requests for their instruments or performers.  I can also tell you from personal experience if you go up to Player C and say, “Hey, I got that adapter you need for your axe”, the player is going to notice the effort.  They will relax and you can let them know they are in good hands.  Getting the band’s cooperation is not necessary.  It is not in the books.  In some situations it might even be a waste of time.  I will still try every time.  Getting their cooperation…… sets up a great performance.  Then I focus on stage sound…..  and most band members will go out of their way to help during sound check and throughout the performance before 20 minutes of equalizing the kick drum.

Now that you have a good idea of the dimensions and set up requirements, place each performer in the best location and set up their respective microphones and monitors as needed.  Set up House gear and test.  From the mixing board, use a ‘talk-back’ microphone sent to the stage monitors to test and communicate with the performers.  Band members might feel like they are inside a cage at the zoo, looking out at the visitors!  Sometimes all you can see are the stage lights in your eyes.  The venue may be quite dark.  So the more comfortable they feel; the more like rehearsal you make it feel, the better the blend among performers.  The better the blend, the better the whole event will unfold.

Going forward I will go over a few details and outline this process to make it easier as well fun!

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Comments
  1. It has been a long time since I have worked on concerts, but I definitely remember the engineer spending a lot of time hugging the soundboard. This approach makes a lot of sense and seems like it can optimize sound for the listeners. Thanks for sharing some thought provoking stuff!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. DeniseBalog says:

    Hey MidiMike! Haven’t caught your “blog” lately:( I may not always understand what you are talking about (as I am not a musician or such) but I sure enjoy seeing your name go scrolling by:) Blessings for a very happy, and healthy New Year! denise

    Liked by 1 person

    • midimike says:

      Hey, denise! I am glad you can orbit my blog so feel free to land any time you can! I am fazscinated by other fields and glad you get something from my articles, even though they may not relate to you directly, and besides, sometimes I don’t understand what I am talking about! Thank you and be careful!

      Liked by 1 person

      • DeniseBalog says:

        Ha,Ha Mike!! Last night why I was doing the dishes, I was thinking about your “blog”:) I kinda chuckled to myself, your blog doesn’t go “scrolling by,” I think it would be more like Tina Turner’s “Rollin’, Rollin’ By!” Took me a minute to think of her name…Janis Joplin kinda popped up in my mind! And yes, gotta be careful when Janis starts rollin’! Happy New Year, great to “hear” from you Mike!

        Liked by 1 person

  3. tracihalpin says:

    Cool to hear about how things work. I remember going to concerts in the 80s and 90s and my ears would hum for hours afterwards! That doesn’t happen anymore. Does it have something to do with the improvements in sound egineer or are the decibels lower?

    Like

    • midimike says:

      I have been thinking about this reply for a while. Not that it is complicated but there are always a number of factors involved and I am too lazy to do any REAL research so I usually make up my mind with the little info I have at the time. Be that as it may!
      You are now protected (or interfered with depending on your viewpoint in today’s environment) by government regulations. Every major event will have testing equipment to make sure the sound levels at certain distances are not injurious or harmful. So you are correct; lower decibels. Amplifiers put out a lot more power when the ‘clip’. You clip the amp by over-driving the amp and making it get louder than it is rated for. The distortion and ugly sounds that can happen will be much stronger/louder when the amp slams too hard. You hear this a lot in small car audio systems driving by….) This is dangerous and again in pro places it happens, but not to the harmful level in most situations. Sound engineers are much more aware of the room dynamics. Culture and music have changed. Disco and heavy rock inspired chest-thumping mixes to keep people on the dance floor moving in the same tempo. Some places literally enough to massage your spine with sound waves! Anyway a lot of factors are involved here. Source, length of event and volume are all in play. A lawn mower at lower volume may be more harmful than louder music because the music is controlled and limited whereas the lawn mower will have many frequencies way past levels in the music.
      Digital technology helps because it does not help to push input levels that far. It does not get fatter or louder like it did in the old analog days. It just sounds terrible. So harder to push it too far before it becomes unbearable.
      Have a great New Year!

      Liked by 3 people

      • tom robinson says:

        I respect your friendly style of instruction. A good “sound man” is often unappreciated. It’s a complicated job. You don’t just wire up the components and pump it out to an audience, you deliver audio feedback to the band. And that’s the secret of good sound. Without clear feedback the band plays witlessly poor. I remember an experience in Yellow Springs that would illustrate this point.

        Like

      • midimike says:

        Thank you so much. I have listened to a number of great technical sound men, only to see their efforts fall apart because they did not look for the obvious. When things don’t sound right they don’t feel right and so much of music creation is feeling. Hard to ‘get in the mood’ when everything is chaos!

        Like

      • tracihalpin says:

        Wow thank you for that very detailed and informative response. I love reading about what goes on behind the scenes, and how things work. Hope you and your family have a great new year!

        Liked by 1 person

      • midimike says:

        You breathe this stuff and let it sink in so it is a pleasure! Thanks, and you as well!

        Liked by 1 person

      • tracihalpin says:

        Wow..I love how you described that about me. Yes, I do breathe this stuff in. It’s nice to know that someone can see that in me. Yesterday I read this whole article about how Johnny Rzeznik started turning his pegs when he was younger and playing in alternate tunings. And he talked about his guitars and the feedback on the stage etc. I love it. And my fangirl loves his hair and thinks he is the hottest 50 year old rock star! LOL…I heard a clip of a new song yesterday and it sounds more like rock and roll. Looking forward to that! Thanks, it’s nice to be understood on that level. Nobody gets it; they listen and look at my pics and clips, but they don’t get it. I know you get it!

        Liked by 1 person

      • midimike says:

        They say it takes one to know one and there is probably a lot of truth in that. Your life and outlook are definitely influenced by your musical experiences and you manage to understand what most people overlook completely. I get it, and I get you!

        Liked by 1 person

      • tracihalpin says:

        Likewise! Thanks 😊

        Liked by 1 person

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