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Be Good To Your Soundman

Do's and Don'ts for bands working with a soundman
The lights go down in the house, the intro music starts and your band breaks into the opening tune of your set, the one you know will get the audience fired up, but you start into your backup vocals and can't hear yourself thru the monitor. As soon as the song is over, you step up to the mic and announce to everyone in the house "Uh, sound dude, could you turn up my monitor? huhuhuhu". This is the least professional way to approach this scenario.

Having run sound for lots of bands when not doing my own gigs, this is a slap in the face to the sound man (or woman). The sound guy should be like the referee in a football game: at his best when he is not noticed.

Try to get with the sound man if he hasn't already gotten with your band and work out some hand signals for times when you can't hear a monitor or if it is too loud, and try to be as discreet about it as possible. People that come see you don't want to know that you are having a technical problem. That will draw their attention away from you and onto the sound guy. This is what I would consider to be a bad thing.

There should be, at some point after the setup of your equipment, a time when the sound guy mics up drums, guitars, bass if necessary and asks to get levels. He may even ask you to point your amp in a different direction than what you are used to. He is only doing this or asking this of you to improve your show. He knows the limitations of the system, if it is his, and what works best with his PA. Work with him. He may even ask you to turn down your guitar or bass. This again is an effort to get control of things. Give all of his suggestions an honest try in sound checks so that you can work out things out prior to the show. And by all means, try not to make changes without him knowing about it ahead of time. Make sure you go through all of you guitar effect presets that you will be using during sound check if there is time as well so he can make adjustments of the fly of make notes of what will happen during certain songs. Don't surprise him, if possible.

Here is an example of what not to do: once while attempting to run sound for a band that will remain nameless, I asked them to turn down a bit or aim their amps away from the audience a bit and they all laughed and said. "If you think it's too loud, you're too old." (I was about 21 at the time). As a result they cleared the house because they were so loud. I had absolutely no control over volume. They completely drowned out a 2000 watt PA. All I ended up with in the mix was 1 vocal mic.

Also, if your stage volume is super loud, you will have problems hearing even the best monitor system. If you turn down a bit, usually the sound man can bring it back up in the monitor mix if needed and the audience will hear a well balanced smooth housemix that is not sawing their heads off. Trust me: loud is cool but painful is not!

The sound guy is there to help you, not hurt you. He can make a difference between a great set and a forgettable one if he knows what to expect. Why put on a great show but sound awful? Do your best to be as cooperative and professional as possible and you will sound better to your audience.

Dave Evans plays bass and guitar, has run PA systems in places ranging from house parties to auditoriums, has an AAS degree in Electronics from ITT Technical Institute and has worked at several musical instrument repair shops in Birmingham, AL.