Here are some tips you can follow to spruce up the sound for your next show.
Running the board as a Sound Engineer, like a lot of other jobs, can get a little routine and mundane sometimes. That’s not to say that the band aren’t exciting or uneventful, but more rather there are certain elements that come into play that can introduce fatigue or can drain you more depending on how demanding the job is. That’s why we’ve introduced 5 tips that can help you continue on your passage to seeking the best sound possible while hopefully keeping you sane.
1. After the band has started playing and levels/monitors are correct throw on some hearing protection.
Often when we see live shows we notice that some sound engineers lack or never wear earplugs during the show. Now normally you would think sound engineers wouldn’t need to because it would dampen* the sound and they wouldn’t be able to perform their job well. However we notice the exact opposite. Over extended periods of time while being exposed to amplified sound (especially over 85 decibels) you start to introduce exposure fatigue. By introducing and wearing ear plugs you give your ears a break for a bit so when you come back into the scene without them you’re listening with a fresh take.
*Note that there are manufactures out there that create ear plugs specifically designed for use in sound engineering and live sound. Seek out a local Audiologist for more information on how to protect and gauge your hearing/hearing loss.
2. Walk the room to better gauge your mix
Learn to be able to pull yourself away from the board during a concert and start walking the room more often if you don’t already. By doing this you allow yourself to better hear in areas that may be trouble spots for listeners who are not getting the best sound they should get. However don’t let this distract you too much from who the actual audience is and remember who you’re mixing for. Are you mixing for the people in front of the band cheering or the distracted bar goer? Hopefully this answer is obvious.
Sound Reinforcement is not only just using your ears
3. Use a reliable spectrum analyzer to get a visual look at your mix.
As a Sound Engineer your ears are the most vital tools that can utilize. However sometimes your ears are just not enough when it comes to sound (take the Fletcher Munson curve for example). Your mix might sound great to you, but by getting to use a spectrum analyzer you can see a better interpretation of what is really being put out. There are many applications that you can download to a smart phone that are simple and quick and can be reassuring that you are for sure in the right ballpark with your sound.
fig. 2: Fletcher Munson Curve courtesy of Wikipedia
4. Periodically check you live gear to make sure it works properly
Sometime we get a little too trusting in our gear. In that sense it always helps to make sure that our gear is actually operating to best it can or is actually outputting correctly. It may not always be obvious to you that a speaker may be blown or even working properly unless you’re checking it when there’s not an audience.
5. Try to be more efficient during sound checks and focus on creating a sound when the band is really playing
We’ve all be there when a sound engineer has the drummer hitting the toms, snare or kick for what seems like hours. It’s important to remember that you’re not necessarily getting instruments to just sound great but also fit in context with each other. Sure that kick may sound great by itself but how does it sound in relation to maybe how the bass sounds? Maybe the drummer is more consistent with their kick during sound checks but less when actually playing. Now we’re not saying compromise or skip sound checks but rather try not to put your laser focus on the instruments individually and more in context with each other.
Did you see what you think should be on this list but wasn’t? Or maybe you feel like one of these tips has really helped you working behind the board. Please let us know in the comment section down below.