Soundmen...Ugh

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DrumBobDrumBob Frets: 58
We played a theater gig last night and the house soundman "couldn't make it," so he sent a friend of his to fill in. For the entire first set, my monitor mix was too low, and despite my pleas to crank it, he never got it loud enough. I was missing cues in a couple of songs because I couldn't hear the guitars. It was a very uncomfortable situation. I had to play very quietly just to be able to hear, and on break, audience members told me they couldn't hear the drums. He also had me too low in the mix.

During soundcheck, I began to get the impression that this soundman was an idiot. He said we were too loud on one of our acoustic numbers. What?

Before the first set, he set up my vocal mic on a house mic stand that must have weighed one pound, a real low end POS that immediately fell off my drum riser, knocking my almost new Sennheiser to the floor. I got my heavy duty mic stand out of the car and used that. During the first set, we had interference from a local cell tower, and the soundman had no idea how to deal with that at all. That finally sorted itself out. 

Finally, during the break, he got my monitor feed to the right level and the rest of the night went well. But, it took him too long to get it all right. It was clear that this guy, although he tried his best, was clearly out of his element. It just confirmed my belief that I have experienced way too many incompetent soundmen in my career. At least he didn't have an attitude.

Any other bad soundman stories?
"I Dance To My Own Tune, F*****, I Won't Do The Corporate Waltz.," Diesel Park West
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  • StratavariousStratavarious Frets: 1686
    edited October 4
    One local festival… we set up our own PA in the changeover….  They only had one monitor mix for whole stage.

    Enough said
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  • slackerslacker Frets: 1600
    There are a few threads on this at the moment. Here's one I've not mentioned before.

    A band I was in did a youth club gig in a local church hall. We took a soundman but when we got there the caretaker insisted in doing the sound himself.we started to sound check and it was horrendous. The caretaker had to go and take a phone call. Before he came back our guy fixed the left channel that was inoperable and set up the gains and eq. When the caretaker came back he didn't even notice.
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  • maltingsaudiomaltingsaudio Frets: 1918
    @DrumBob sorry to hear your bad experience, I see from your profile your an American journalist, is this for an article?
    www.maltingsaudio.co.uk
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  • DrumBobDrumBob Frets: 58
    @DrumBob sorry to hear your bad experience, I see from your profile your an American journalist, is this for an article?
    No, it was just a theater gig our Clapton tribute band played Saturday night. Once the soundman got his mess straightened out, we were good to go, and even though we had a sparse crowd, we were assured of a another booking for next year. 
    "I Dance To My Own Tune, F*****, I Won't Do The Corporate Waltz.," Diesel Park West
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  • vizviz Frets: 8306
    DrumBob said:


    During soundcheck, I began to get the impression that this soundman was an idiot. He said we were too loud on one of our acoustic numbers. What?


    HE SAID YOU WERE TOO LOUD ON ONE OF YOUR ACOUSTIC NUMBERS
    Anything that isn’t pentatonic is pretentious wank -  LastMantra
    more on the strength of my ability to own a PA than to play a guitar” - ICBM
    Be yourself. Everyone else is taken. Better to sound like an individual than a clone” - Merlin
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  • SupportactSupportact Frets: 98
    To be fair though, in this situation where the engineer was covering for a friend at short notice, maybe it's understandable if he doesn't know the equipment or the room. As you say he got it sorted eventually so he must have had some ability. Also it's not his fault if the venue has rubbish mic stands. 

    I do sympathise as I've had similar frustrations before with bad sound/monitor mix etc and it is annoying. But unless you're at superstar level with your own crew, sometimes you just have to deal with these issues. 
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  • ICBMICBM Frets: 58144
    I've recently mentioned the one who insisted the distortion coming through my bass sound in the PA was because my amp was too loud on stage, despite the amp being clean and the DI output being pre-MV, so turning it down would make no difference - which I had to demonstrate by turning it down to *silent* because he wouldn't believe me. I asked (politely) if he had the pad switch enabled on that channel and he just looked blank - he must have found it eventually because the problem was eventually fixed.

    I've also experienced one who insisted on DI'ing the bass not the amp and then giving me a completely different sound - the exact opposite sort of EQ curve, all mids and no deep bass - that I use because I know it works well with the band, and point-blank refused to allow me to use the amp DI. After that I've always taken an EQ pedal so I can put it *before* the DI if I get another idiot like that. He also told me I was too loud. We've got a recording of that gig, and unsurprisingly the bass is almost inaudible and sounds shit.

    "Take these three items, some WD-40, a vise grip, and a roll of duct tape. Any man worth his salt can fix almost any problem with this stuff alone." - Walt Kowalski

    "Just because I don't care, doesn't mean I don't understand." - Homer Simpson

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  • Danny1969Danny1969 Frets: 7092

    Most if the venue FOH guys I have worked with have been pretty decent. In the last 3 weeks I've been in Leeds, Cirencester, Bristol and London and all the guys running PA and monitors have been spot on, professional and friendly. Sometimes you will get someone who is a little less capable because people get sick, have family issues, transport issues etc. In these cases you have to remember there isn't a pool of capable FOH / monitor mixers sat on hooks all weekend with nothing to do. Anyone very capable will already be working. Just as any capable and pleasant professional musician will be working. Some of those guys do brutal hours too. I was giging the O2 Academy in Islington on Sat night. The FOH engineer was there when we loaded in at 3 and wasn't due to finish to 4:30am! 

    There was an issue we had, just before covid. It was a theatre gig north of London I think before covid happened. We loaded in, soundchecked and everything was great so retired to the dressing room and waiting for the call to the stage on the comms. When we walked onstage I could hear in my IEM's that all the mics were muted as there was no spill in my ears at all. That's normal though and we took our  positions, picked up guitars etc and waited for the mutes to lift. But we waited and waited until it was really embarrassing ... from the audience point of view 4 guys and a girl just walked on stage and just stood there not playing anything for 5 or 6 minutes. A couple of people in the audience started to laugh cos it must have looked bazaar ! Finally we had to should across the theatre to the FOH at the back "everything is muted" 

    The engineer came into the dressing room at the interval. He had set up some mute groups and forgot to un-mute them. as you can't see the groups on the first layer of a typical digital desk he couldn't work out why we weren't playing anything. Great engineer other than though though, we all make mistakes. 


    www.2020studios.co.uk 
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  • merlinmerlin Frets: 4242
    Sound guys are all called Dave, but it's not their name, it's their qualification.

    They have a Diploma in Advanced Volume Engineering.

    Most pass with a 2,1,2,1
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  • ICBM said:
    We've got a recording of that gig, and unsurprisingly the bass is almost inaudible and sounds shit.
    It would be useful to know where the recording was taken from. It may be exactly as you say but it's also very possible the the recording doesn't really represent what was going on in the room at the time.
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  • ICBMICBM Frets: 58144
    edited October 6
    shufflebeat said:

    It would be useful to know where the recording was taken from. It may be exactly as you say but it's also very possible the the recording doesn't really represent what was going on in the room at the time.
    From the desk. And before you ask, no my amp was not so loud on stage that there was no bass in the PA - in fact it was so quiet it might as well not have been on for all I could hear of it after he told me I was too loud about three times (with me turning down each time).

    A couple of friends who were there said they couldn't hear me properly either. I probably *should* have turned it up...

    "Take these three items, some WD-40, a vise grip, and a roll of duct tape. Any man worth his salt can fix almost any problem with this stuff alone." - Walt Kowalski

    "Just because I don't care, doesn't mean I don't understand." - Homer Simpson

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  • robertyroberty Frets: 2958
    Yeah I hate playing sound engineer roulette. You put a lot of work in and they can make or break your night. You have to appreciate the good ones, quicker, better, easier to get on with
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  • slackerslacker Frets: 1600
    I was walking around a stately home grounds not mine I was a guest, and way in the distance an orchestra were running through spring by vivaldi. The sound started to come towards me and I realised that the sound person was turning on the speakers. Not necessarily loud but nearer. No coloration no feedback just the orchestra amplified so I could hear it clearly. 

    That's who I want to do my sound.
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  • PolarityManPolarityMan Frets: 6211
    ICBM said:
    We've got a recording of that gig, and unsurprisingly the bass is almost inaudible and sounds shit.
    It would be useful to know where the recording was taken from. It may be exactly as you say but it's also very possible the the recording doesn't really represent what was going on in the room at the time.
    Thats true, last week at rehearsal we tried setting our nerw backing tracks through the PA with jsut clicks in ears and despite the backing tracks being ridiculously loud in the room they didnt really register on the recording..im assumy because they were all super phat bass synths and the mic just wasnt capturing the lows very well. 
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  • maltingsaudiomaltingsaudio Frets: 1918
    slacker said:
    I was walking around a stately home grounds not mine I was a guest, and way in the distance an orchestra were running through spring by vivaldi. The sound started to come towards me and I realised that the sound person was turning on the speakers. Not necessarily loud but nearer. No coloration no feedback just the orchestra amplified so I could hear it clearly. 

    That's who I want to do my sound.
    But are you going to pay him to do your sound everytime?
    www.maltingsaudio.co.uk
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  • ChrisCox1994ChrisCox1994 Frets: 235
    pay peanuts get monkeys 
    https://www.gbmusic.co.uk/

    PA Hire and Event Management
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  • slackerslacker Frets: 1600
    slacker said:
    I was walking around a stately home grounds not mine I was a guest, and way in the distance an orchestra were running through spring by vivaldi. The sound started to come towards me and I realised that the sound person was turning on the speakers. Not necessarily loud but nearer. No coloration no feedback just the orchestra amplified so I could hear it clearly. 

    That's who I want to do my sound.
    But are you going to pay him to do your sound everytime?
    As I gig about once every 10 years I have time to save up
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  • ICBM said:
    shufflebeat said:

    It would be useful to know where the recording was taken from. It may be exactly as you say but it's also very possible the the recording doesn't really represent what was going on in the room at the time.
    From the desk. And before you ask, no my amp was not so loud on stage that there was no bass in the PA - in fact it was so quiet it might as well not have been on for all I could hear of it after he told me I was too loud about three times (with me turning down each time).

    A couple of friends who were there said they couldn't hear me properly either. I probably *should* have turned it up...
    To be honest, I'd expect any desk recording, apart from really big gigs, to be light on anything that was well represented without PA.

    I find it difficult to comment on anything I didn't experience myself but can only suggest that there are no end of variables (including skill of sound-techs) that contribute to good or bad sounding gigs. Sometimes you just turn up and switch everything on and it's Abbey Road, other times you can be fighting room, system and band all at the same time.

    For me there's a special skill in making a decent sound from a bad situation and that usually comes along with knowing what you're after and knowing your tools. Even then it's a collaborative effort and every individual is a potential weak link. I find this conversation disappointing, while not claiming it's not justified, because if it was a football team I would expect them to lose. The issues you discuss are very important but the approach is going nowhere.

    For the record, as a player I've also complained bitterly about crap sound-techs. It made me feel better.
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  • BorkBork Frets: 177
    We had a regular guy do our sound, he was pretty much an extra band member. But when we were starting out in London, we had a bunch of freelance cowboys, sit in while we found someone reliable and competent. In one case that cowboy was literal in the sense he wore a stetson over his shaved head and a large bunch of keys at his waist. I never got his name but he was one of the most arrogant people I've ever met. He had an attitude like he'd be able to do his job a lot better if the band wasn't there yet he forgot to check if phantom power was on before plugging the DI cable into my Lexicon MPXG2 and sent 48v to places where it wasn't supposed to go. The unit still functioned but the display has never worked properly since.

    Twangers: Chandler Custom HSS Strat w/ maple body, Al Knight Hitmaker replica, Yamaha MSG Deluxe (x2), Kleinberger w/Moses neck and sustainer, Ibanez S470,  various partscasters in pieces.

    Knob twiddling c/-:  Mesa Boogie Studio preamp + Lexicon MPXG2, Marshall JMP-1 preamp + Rocktron Intellifex + Lexicon MPX1, Carvin Quad X + Lexicon MPXG2, Burman GX3 preamp.

    Tap dancing c/-: Xotic XW1 wah, Amptweaker Tight Rock, Joyo JF14, Mosky Silver Horse, Effectrode PC2A comp, Digitech FreqOut, Joyo Dynacomp, Line 6 M5 multi effects, Mooer Ocean Machine delay+reverb

    Neighbourhood complaints c/-: '76 Burman Pro501, '83 Fender Concert II, '84 Fender Princeton Reverb II, '19 handmade 5F2 Princeton Tweed, '17 Ibanez TSA5 x2

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  • ICBMICBM Frets: 58144
    Bork said:

    He had an attitude like he'd be able to do his job a lot better if the band wasn't there yet he forgot to check if phantom power was on before plugging the DI cable into my Lexicon MPXG2 and sent 48v to places where it wasn't supposed to go. The unit still functioned but the display has never worked properly since.
    While it doesn’t excuse that sort of attitude, to be fair that’s a design fault with the unit. Anything with an XLR output should be expected to accept or not be damaged by phantom power. It’s not difficult, it just needs either a small transformer or a couple of caps.

    "Take these three items, some WD-40, a vise grip, and a roll of duct tape. Any man worth his salt can fix almost any problem with this stuff alone." - Walt Kowalski

    "Just because I don't care, doesn't mean I don't understand." - Homer Simpson

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