March 03, 2023
As a live performer, whether solo, duo, or full band, your number one collaborator at the venue is the house sound engineer. Even if you have your own dedicated sound person, they’ll need to interface with the house engineer to get the job done right.
House sound engineers are mostly just like you – highly passionate individuals with specialized knowledge, hoping to put on a good show. You need them and they need you, so here are a few things they’ll need from you, the artist, to help things go smoothly.
Above all be cool. Think of your sound person as an ally and your best resource to getting what you need. Be nice, be helpful, and be positive. The good vibes will be super helpful.
Don’t think of your stage plot as a document listing your technical demands. Think of it more as a helpful shortcut so the sound engineer can set up everything they need and nothing they don’t. Make sure your plot includes everything you’ve got and what you need, including monitors. For example, don’t just say there’s a drummer. Say how many toms, cymbals, kick, snare, etc. List how many vocalists there are, how many guitars and amps, and where everything usually goes, including where you’d like to have monitors (or if you’ve got in-ears). Finally, include a list of gear you have just in case it’s needed.
You can include preferences like whether the singer likes a lot of themselves in the monitors, or whether there should be a lot of reverb – things like that, but remember to be flexible – again, it’s not a list of demands, it’s a helpful document for getting the job done easier.
Often, you’ll be able to just talk to the engineer, but having this stuff on a piece of paper is helpful in case they forget or everyone’s in a hurry.
You’ve given the engineer your stage plot and you’ve talked over your sound, but that doesn’t mean everything will go exactly according to plan. The stage may be smaller than you’re used to, there may not be enough monitors to cover your ideal setup, the rig could lack outboard gear you want, etc. Your engineer will need to you be flexible and adjust if necessary.
That’s why it’s a good idea to practice with various setups and come up with ways to adjust to various venues.
Everybody needs you to show up to load in on time, especially the sound engineer. They can set up a very small amount without knowing what you have and what you do, but most of the set up requires your presence and there can be no real sound check without every member of the band there. So, your sound engineer really needs everyone there on time.
At most venues your sound engineer becomes your de facto stage manager. Especially during soundcheck, they need musicians on stage to follow directions closely. At this point, your job is to do exactly what the engineer asks and nothing more. So, when the engineer asks for kick drum, guitarists should not be noodling, vocalists should not be checking mics, etc. Come show time, you’re doing your thing, and you both need to communicate. If you need more in your monitors, for example, the engineer should notice that quick gesture to your ear. Similarly, if the engineer pops up behind you and asks you to turn the guitar amp back down, you should do it.
All in all, your sound engineer doesn’t need much from you besides information, communication, and cooperation. The same basic things you need from them. So, it’s pretty easy for everyone to get along great and put on an awesome show.
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"Make a joyful noise unto the Lord all of the earth; make a loud noise and rejoice and sing praises. Sing to the Lord with the harp and the voice of the psalm." - Psalm 98:4-5