The live sound engineer. A riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma, zipped up in a jacket.
Some bands dismiss them as a curse. Grumpy and dictatorial, ‘they never get our sound right’ because, let’s face it, they aren’t real musicians, they just twiddle knobs about at the back of the room while slowly getting wasted, right?
If you have a sound engineer at your live gig, you are one lucky little muso. And here’s why.
- You have an in-house PA and someone else to work it for you?! Get in! You don’t have to drag all your gear to the gig and set it up! You don’t have to keep running between the stage and the back of the venue to check the levels throughout the performance! You can just focus on playing and having a good time! And you don’t have to spend ages packing stuff away at the end of the night either! Result!
- They know the venue. They know the acoustics. They know the PA. So if anything starts whistling/farting/exploding they know how to fix it and you don’t have to worry about it!
- You don’t have to deal with any of THOSE people. You know who we mean. There’s always at least one. They rarely bother telling you their name. They generally prefer to introduce themselves as ‘Hi, I used to study sound engineering at uni back in 1815 and your levels are all wrong, mate, you need more/less blah blah blah…’ Then they almost immediately start pressing buttons and pushing sliders on your desk right in front of your utterly baffled gaze (and yes, this has actually happened to us). Anyone trying this on a professional sound engineer will, at best, be gently but firmly told to jolly well stop it immediately. Or, at worst, will shortly be looking for their teeth in the bottom of their pint glass.
- They have spare stuff! We’ve all done gigs where mics and cables have suddenly decided to die and no-one has any extras. Got a sound engineer with an in-house PA? Then you’re sorted.
- They’re generally pretty cool and groovy people. They love music and their job is to make it sound as good as possible. What’s not to like?
As you can probably tell, we of 5th Element love sound engineers. For us, getting one for a gig is an absolute treat. Unfortunately, however, we’ve witnessed more than one instance of a band being difficult with them. Which, when you think about it, is not just 100% pig ignorant and wrong, but also pretty dumb.
So, repeat after us:
Sound engineers deserve respect.
Their job is to help you do your job to the best of your ability. If you act like a twonk and try to hinder them in this, you’re only hurting yourself.
They’ve practiced and trained to do this, just as you’ve practiced and trained to deliver a live performance.
They work long hours, just like you do.
They’re the only member of the band who never gets to take the stage, because they’re too busy making sure you sound perfect. And when it’s not perfect, when things go wrong, they’re the ones dealing with all the stress.
So be nice to them. Treat their equipment with respect, as you would your own. Cooperate. If they ask to check your levels once, twice, a hundred times, do it. Buy them a drink. Say thank you to them at the end of the night.
Because a good show takes a team effort. It’s about working with each other. It’s about respect, skills, competence and, most importantly, trust.
And remember, if you aren’t grateful for what a sound engineer is doing for you, there are plenty of other bands who would be. So don’t take them for granted.
This blog is dedicated to all the fantastic sound engineers we’ve worked with over the years. It’s always an absolute pleasure, guys \m/