Doesn’t matter what we sound like. It matters what the sound man does with it.

Discussion in 'Bad Dog Cafe' started by 985plowboy, Mar 26, 2020.

  1. 985plowboy

    985plowboy Friend of Leo's

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    So I have a bit of time to reflect on my own thoughts lately and this is what came to mind this morning.

    For a dozen years or so , I played guitar in church. Don’t let this throw anyone off the thread.
    This is applicable to anyone who plays through a sound system that is mixed by someone else.

    A few years back I had “my sound” dialed in. An ash / maple strat with Van Zandt pickups, snake oil nickel strings, Herco flex 50 picks, monster cable, Peavey Classic 30 with a perfect mix of Tung-sol, EH and JJ tubes running into an Eminence Texas heat speaker.
    I liked it.

    Miked it up just so to the mains and let the sound man take it from there.
    I heard a recording made of us and he had me tweaked out to where my guitar sounded like a drunk bumblebee trying to chew it’s way out of an empty beer can.

    I drug my gear home and came back with an acoustic. Why bother.

    I know we all discuss tone etc... ad nauseum. Amps in isolation boxes, tube vs. modeling. Amps vs. multi effects processors.

    It may matter much less than we want it to.

    Anyway, first criteria for a sound man is that he is technically competent.
    Past that, he needs a good ear.

    I’m just thinking.
     
  2. tubegeek

    tubegeek Tele-Meister

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    I run sound in a church (or at least we were in a church until a couple weeks ago. Now we're inside a computer.)

    When I mic up a guitar - which is surprisingly rare, we have more of a piano/Hammond B3/pipe organ focus - I try my best to match what I hear direct from the amp itself. Maybe roll off top (over 5K) a bit and very low (under 80) a bit just because there is little of use coming off an amp speaker cone in those ranges.

    I'm lucky in that our sanctuary, 150-plus-years-old, is very lively so much of what the congregation hears is either direct off the amp or bleed into other mics.

    Harder to balance that way but impossible to truly botch, too.

    Man, I have heard some bad PA mixes though. My condolences.
     
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  3. Thinline casket

    Thinline casket TDPRI Member

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    A good sound man is a treasure.

    Treasures are hard to come by...
     
  4. blowtorch

    blowtorch Telefied Ad Free Member

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    yep, at a lot of different levels
    You build that perfect tone, at home, and drums and bass join in and obliterate your rarified air

    At the gig you're at the mercy of the soundman, and even then the audience may very well be mostly indifferent to any perceivable difference all your agonizing choices and tweaking has made in your sound.

    And, they're mostly connecting/responding to the output (and appearance!) of the vocalist, anyway
     
  5. brookdalebill

    brookdalebill Tele Axpert Ad Free Member

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    I personally am not a fan of the all-powerful, all controlling sound man.
    I have experienced good sound men, but unless the venue is a “listening room”, meaning no dance floor, I generally consider the sound man my enemy.
    They often shut me down too much, volume wise, and add effects I don’t want or use.
    In short, I Am Sick Of Being Controlled!
    I became a musician to have some control over my sound, and livelihood.
    Yeah, right.
     
  6. tubegeek

    tubegeek Tele-Meister

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    I think you meant "outfit," not "output."
     
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  7. Manual Slim

    Manual Slim Tele-Afflicted

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    I can accept it live a bit easier than I can in a studio. Last time I was in one I took the time to set up my borrowed rig to sound like me and plowed through the session thinking it was fine. I don’t know what happened between recording and mixing but it wasn’t good.
     
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  8. tah1962

    tah1962 Tele-Afflicted

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    Very true. The FOH sound is never remotely close to the sound at home in a practice environment, or even on stage in a band mix. I always use a wireless system so I can walk out front to hear what my rig sounds like in the mix. I’ve worked with very good, and mediocre sound technicians. The one thing that I’ve found regardless who I’m working with, is that the lines of communication have to be flowing. I also treat them as I would want to be treated and we both work for one common goal, to get the best result possible. This has been both a humbling and enlightening experience through my years of playing live.

    With all of this being said, I have been to gigs when the guitar player was ripping the sound guy between sets. Well, guess what, when the next set started his sound didn’t get better. I wonder why? (Rhetorical question :D)

    So my simple advice, take it or leave it, is to treat the sound guy with respect and he will respect you. It will be way less stressful for both of you, and you’ll both be looking for one common goal, the best possible sound. Cheers.
     
  9. tubegeek

    tubegeek Tele-Meister

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    I heard a really great band mixed quite well a couple of weeks ago - Tom Nolan Band at the Moose Lodge in LA. I thanked the sound man for his huge contribution by NOT MAKING IT TOO LOUD. His reply was - the drummer hits pretty hard and I just make sure it all balances to him. Wise man.
     
  10. beyer160

    beyer160 Friend of Leo's

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    25+ year veteran of the PA/recording industry here.

    Are there bad sound guys out there? Oh yeah, especially at the bar/church volunteer level.

    Some things to remember, though-

    -Your recorded/live sound will NEVER sound like it does to you, 3' away from your amp. Let's say you're using a Deluxe Reverb with a 12" speaker- think about how hard it is to translate that sound to a 5" bookshelf speaker, a pair of earbuds, or a set of PA bins in a rectangular room with a drummer wailing away.

    -Microphones are not perfect analogues of the human ear. Also, most of us don't listen to guitar amps with our ears jammed against the grill, where mics need to be positioned. You are standing in one specific place, and the amp sounds different at different distances- someone 20' away doesn't hear your amp the same way you do at 3'.

    -If you're listening to a live recording, you're not hearing what the people in the room heard anyway- if some fairly expensive gear was used by someone who knows what they're doing it'll be close, but not exact. You can't capture the feel of a live band hitting you in the chest through a home stereo or a set of headphones, either. If you think your "toan" was thin on a live recording, it may not have been heard that way in the room, it's just that the low end didn't translate on the recording.

    -There's an old joke in the PA business about the best EQ being a wrecking ball- the point is, a lot of venues weren't acoustically engineered for amplified music, and the room acoustics are a challenge. If you're in a room with a bad standing wave cancelling out all the low end, guess what? No equipment or PA tech can fix that... without a wrecking ball to take out the walls.

    In the end, the best you're going to get is a version of the sound coming out of your amp at the ideal listening position. Some guys are pretty good at getting it close or even enhancing the sound, but you'll never ever get it exactly the same.

    These aren't excuses, by the way- these are just some of the challenges we accept and overcome every day to provide good sound. True, some guys are better at it than others, but if the expectation is to have a perfect replication of your home rig in a live or studio environment, you're going to be disappointed. A guy once told me a story of a little old lady coming to him to complain at a concert- "Lee Greenwood is never this loud on my TV at home!" She was absolutely right.
     
  11. ce24

    ce24 Poster Extraordinaire

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    There's more drama control freaks in church bands than in secular small bar bands. . My experience only of course ...I played in and lead worship for 25 years..... Moved to a new town after retirement.... And I lasted about a year in our new church..... Got yelled a at more than once... Good by...egocentric important people.
     
  12. CCK1

    CCK1 Tele-Meister

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    ^^Best Answer^^
     
  13. maxvintage

    maxvintage Friend of Leo's

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    My attitude after years of gigging was always be nice to the sound guy and don't try to fight him and get him to do what you want. Aside from "more monitor" unless you hired him for your band you should practice a zen-like acceptance and accept that if people are liking it, it's good, end of discussion.

    We can never hear what the audience is hearing
     
  14. scottser

    scottser Tele-Afflicted

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    a recording might not necessarily be what is heard out front, it might be just a bad recording.
     
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  15. Ron R

    Ron R Friend of Leo's

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    I'd say the majority of your audience will most definitely be indifferent to your magical tone and tweaks.
    Each band member's focus and goal with regard to tone should be on just how they fit into the overall band mix - that overall sound is all anyone in the audience remotely cares about.
    Our move to IEMs has been a blessing in that regard - it's mad us all much more aware of how things sound overall, instead of each guy worrying about how to hear himself on stage.
     
  16. noname_dragon

    noname_dragon Tele-Meister

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    Yeah, I ran sound at my church for a few months, and I got a good listenable mix where you could hear all the details. it's a 5 piece band with 4 vocals. But its a thankless job because there's always naysayers. The musical director is also the drummer and he wants a loud slamming' mix with pumping subs for a hip-hop style kick drum, which I think is inappropriate for the room .it''s frustrating.
    Hearing other people doing that mix seems to show that they aren't listening ... for example: can't hear the guitars that are miced, and the piano is too loud and bass is SO muddy not to mention the toneless boom of the kick drum that dominates the bass guitar.
    I wanted to play guitar in the band but if no one can hear you, what's the use?
     
  17. thankyouguitar

    thankyouguitar TDPRI Member

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    As someone who has been on both sides of the board in the highest and DIY-est contexts, soundperson is a tough gig. My best experience as a listener and player has been at venues that put only the vocals and maybe bass drum through the PA to balance it with the on-stage sound. Admittedly, these are not huge places and there are less challenges.

    I feel I could make a pretty good arguement that for the most part performances with audiences of more than 100 are less about focusing on the music than they are about dancing, drinking, eating, etc and so the decisions about the sound fall more into the needs of the venue, sound person, producer etc anyway.

    In solo playing, I use a preamp to go direct to the PA which I know is a weird choice. But, I get to say to the soundperson that I trust them to set a good level in the room and make whatever eq decisions they feel are appropriate and this has really melted the ice in the player-soundperson cold war for me! As long as the stage monitor pointing at me is loud enough I'm happy. And I built the preamp, so I've already pretty seriously limited whatever moves the soundperson can make anyway.

    Great topic for a good stuck-in-the-apt think, 985plowboy!
     
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  18. beyer160

    beyer160 Friend of Leo's

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    One of the most eye-opening experiences I had as a young PA hand was the first high-end private party I ever worked. I'd done enough time in bars to know how to mix somewhat decently, and I was working as a stage tech for a PA company. This was a black-tie event with name acts. As soon as the first band started, I thought the mix was off- very prominent kick, snare and vocal, everything else more or less in the background. I figured the FOH guy would fix it by the end of the song, but as the band rolled into the second number, nothing changed. Then I looked at the room and all the people dancing and it hit me- that's what this gig needs. They need to hear the words and have a strong beat to dance to, that's it. They don't need to hear every note of the guitar and keyboard, just enough to know what song it is- the beat and vocal have to be up front. If I'd mixed the show the way I'd done bar bands so that everything could be heard equally, it wouldn't have worked as well. It really changed the way I look at audio mixing.
     
  19. brookdalebill

    brookdalebill Tele Axpert Ad Free Member

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    Though I am (obviously) virulently anti-soundman, I also know that resistance is futile.
    You want a hassle, mess with the “sound god”.
    I try not to be too high maintenance.
    I fundamentally agree with your approach.
    I’m just one guy, and the sound man is trying to appease the band, the patrons, and the venue owner.
    I get it.
    I regularly work with “high maintenance” leaders and performers.
    They just make the gig harder.
    Anyways, all I want from the sound guy is everyone’s vocal in my monitor, with mine being somewhat louder.
    I’d greatly prefer to have my guitar or bass amp out of the mix.
     
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  20. teletail

    teletail Tele-Meister

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    I've finally just accepted that all I can do is make my sound the best possible, refuse to run direct and demand (if necessary) I be mic'd, and what the sound person does with it is out of my control. The problem is that most sound men don't understand what their job is. They think their job is to make the band sound the way THEY want it to sound. The band should sound the way the BAND wants it to sound.

    I remember in the 70's I had a friend that played bass with one of the premier show bands in the area. He played a Fender Precision through an SVT and 8X10 cabinet. He should have been shaking the floors. The soundman convinced him to play with ticky tacky sound and promised that out front it sounded big, fat and full. It didn't take long to find out that the sound man was a lying sack of dog excrement, the bass sounded thin, ticky, tacky out front too.

    I played in a band for years that always used an opening act and unfortunately heard first hand what butchers most sound men are.
     
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