Reprinted without permission, because the website seems to have disappeared.

First, We Kill All the Soundmen

Mista Lucky Rants to Chasmo
November 26, 2000

 


Chasmo, I've been thinking.

Some people hate lawyers. Some hate cops. I hate soundmen.

In fact, I have a theory, a variation on the old adage that "them that can, do; them that can't teach." I think that there are people who really love music, so they learn to play an instrument. We call these people musicians. Then there are people who love music, but they do not have the talent to play an instrument. We call these people bass guitarists. Then there are the people who do not have the talent to play even the bass guitar, yet their massive ego tells them they belong onstage with musicians anyway. These people are called singers. Finally, at the very bottom of the musical food chain, you find the people who do not have the talent to play a musical instrument or the bass guitar, and lack the self-aggrandizing impulse to be singers, yet still want to hang around musicians. These guys--yes, they are all guys--are called soundmen.

Soundmen have wasted hundreds of hours of my time, and thousands of dollars of my money. Lest you think I exaggerate, allow me to go into detail.

First, in my experience as a musician, I have spent countless hours involved in the uniquely pointless procedure known as "the soundcheck." The soundcheck, for those who have not endured this singular form of tedium, is ostensibly a chance for the soundman to set up all his equipment, make sure everything's working and balance out the sound before showtime. In reality, it is a means of inflicting mental anguish similar to the Chinese water torture.

Here's how it works: musicians (along with their accompanying singers and bass guitarists) are asked to show up at a given venue at, say, 6:00 p.m. before a 9:30 gig, and play a few tunes and let the soundman get things together before the paying customers show. Sounds simple, eh? Well, here's what happens: 6:00-6:15: musicians show up; 6:15-6:30: bass guitarist and singer arrive; 6:30-6:45: band sets up; 7:00: musicians begin asking, 'where is the soundman?'; 7:15: soundman arrives; 7:30: musicians ask soundman when he's going to start setting up; 7:45: soundman quits talking to bartender, decides to unpack gear; 8:00-8:30: soundman unpacks 35 different microphones, decides which five he will actually use; 8:35: musicians point out that bar is beginning to fill up; 8:45 soundman says that even though he's not completely set up, musicians should run through a tune; 8:50: musicians play one song; everyone (except bass guitarist) agree that the sound is terrible-much too much bass guitar-and the monitors are not working, soundman says "it sounds great out front"; 9:00: band plays another song as musicians take turns stepping "out front" to test sound; 9:05: musicians tell soundman the sound is terrible out front and the monitors aren't working on stage; soundman says it will sound different "when the room fills up." 9:10: musicians ask why they are bothering to do anything now if it's going to sound completely different when the room fills up; soundman scurries around the stage, yanking cables looking puzzled; 9:15: musicians realize they have only about a half hour to get drunk, which they might as well do since they won't be able to hear each other anyway.

I'm sure you think I'm making all that up, but I've endured that scenario dozens of times. So have you, actually: that's why 90 percent of the time when you go to a show, the sound is horrible for the at least the first four songs. You're sitting through the soundcheck that should have taken place hours before.

Which brings me to the waste of money aspect of my complaint: I don't even want to get into the fact that at many clubs, the soundman is paid out of the money taken in at the door--before (!) the band sees any of it. I want to talk about all the gigs I've gone to where I've spent good money to hear musicians who can really play, only to sit through two hours worth of excruciatingly loud bass guitar and bass drum, wondering if the lead guitarist was plugged in. I mean, I must have wasted thousands of dollars over the years, and you know what really pisses me off about it? Most of the time, you could have walked outside, grabbed the first old lady you saw on the street, hauled her into the club and said, "now how do think that band sounds?" and she would have said the same thing that was obvious to every paying customer in the place: "well, young man, it's a lot louder than it needs to be, there's too much bass, and I can't hear the singer." Yet somehow the soundman thinks everything's fine.

There's only one possible explanation: these guys don't listen. See, they've taken classes, they're majoring in recording arts at the local community college, so they've memorized all this nonsense about which microphones pick up which frequencies blah blah blah and they think they have to apply that knowledge somehow. True story: I once had a soundman mic my tenor sax by dangling a microphone at eye level and telling me that you had to mic the top of the neck of a sax to get a "warm" sound. (Soundmen are always using words like "warm," "punchy" and "hot," probably because they don't have specific definitions like "bass," "treble" and "volume.") I told him that was bullshit: most of the sound comes out of a saxophone just below the lowest pad that is closed. That is a simple fact based on the way the instrument is constructed. No, he insisted, he was going to make me sound great. Naturally, you couldn't hear a fucking thing I played, but I had to humor him till the gig started, at which point I yanked the mic down and stuck it in the bell of the horn. My point is this: no one would ever arrive at such a stupid procedure using his ears. Somebody in Recording 101 told him that was the way to do it, and by god he was going to do it that way no matter what his ears told him.

I don't play much anymore, but soundmen still drive me nuts. I went to a club last night to hear a local band that I like--they're not anything great, but unlike most funk bands these days, they eschew disco and they at least aspire to produce the hip-shaking grooviness of instrumental funksters like the MGs--with jazz-level solo chops. I love that kind of stuff when I'm knocking back a couple ales on a Saturday night. Anyway, the club was packed, and I wound up standing right behind the soundboard, and I got to watch the soundman "work." As soon as the band started playing, it was obvious the organ was way too loud (at least it wasn't the bass for once) and you couldn't hear the alto sax player, even though he was playing a solo. What did the guy do about it? He fiddled with fourteen different knobs, moving them all no more than one-billionth of an inch, and if it had any effect on the faulty mix, I couldn't hear it. He continued doing this throughout the whole first set (and, I'll assume, the rest of the night, though by the second set I had moved), and after a while I realized all he was doing was turning everything up, bit by bit! Pretty soon, we had the same lousy mix, but it was so much louder you couldn't really distinguish exactly what was bad about it. As if to prove the point, I noticed that in between sets, when the PA system was turned over to a DJ, the muddy mix miraculously cleared up. No wonder so many people these days prefer to dance to records than to bands.

Anyway... here's my suggestion to remedy the situation: All sound men should be rounded up and herded into reeducation camps, where they would be taught a trade that has nothing to do with the production of music. (They can still work in record stores if they want to, I guess.) Sound systems will be operated by the musicians themselves, or by random members of the audience chosen by lottery on the night of the gig.

Hey, they couldn't do any worse.

--Mista Lucky


Soundman agrees with most of rant
a response by Keith Gordon, December 28, 2000

Actually, the rant against soundmen is mostly true. The first part is more bothersome, though I am a guitarist and trombone player who became a soundman, so that might explain something. I went to audio college, but it was all musician-engineers doing the teaching. Music was always fundamental. BTW, I agree, most guys out there don't have their sh*t together. Sometimes it is too loud, but it can relate to deaf musicians turning up a creating too much stage volume. Lastly, protect your hearing. Wear earplugs when not mixing and get tested. That way you can end up like me, 12 years in the business with above average hearing and mixing a band that people suspect is lip-syncing they sound so good.

 


It's tradition!
a response by Greg Tropea, January 6, 2001

Still trying to recreate the vocal magic of Louie, Louie, it's the deaf sound guy at work again! I'd know him anywhere. My private theory is that he's related to the 400 lb. guy and squalling baby that circulate from plane to plane, the former always sitting next to you and the latter always too far away to neutralize.

 


Brilliant!
a response by Tim Padrick, January 21, 2001

Truer words were never spoken!

http://1freespace.com/jsd/JSDConsulting/Audio/Mixing.htm

 


He's deaf, jaded and blames Soundmen for his faile
a response by Tiwaz, January 26, 2001

I am a Audio Engineer, 'soundman' to the ignorant. I sympathized with his hardships but you have to remember that clubs pay shit and when it comes to Audio, you get exactly what you pay for. I should also point out that musicians usually make bad soundmen because their ear become tuned to their chosen instument. Additionally, opinions on art vary. Funk is heavy bass weither the patron in question likes it or not, that is the style. In truth, muscians blame soundmen for their failures. I have learned not to make the band sound because musicains today are deaf, I'll prove it any time or any place. Small changes in a signal before the poweramp, become big changes afterward. My rant is jerks that are tone deaf, which is why they never made it as a pro musician, who blame the Eng. for reproducing their shitty sound too accuratly. Their personal proof is that they sound good on the system back at the garage, BTW it is a pair of underpowered swap meet specials($20). These whiners will only spend money on beer and drugs, what makes them sound good(I.T.O.), instead of gear, lessons, trade magz, or any of the other things that might be the difference between a has-been and a rock star. BTW If you hadn't notice most of the crazy party freak rock stars are either dead or sober now, and look like an egyptian mummy. And they wrote the songs before they got drunk.

 


If the "musicians" had to mix
a response by David Parker, January 30, 2001

It would be easy to get a really great mix if the "musicians" didn't have to have their stage amps and monitors so loud. We, the chosen in the middle of the audience who have get our heads torn off by angry members of the audience who want to know why it's so loud, would love to be able to mix a band by what we hear out of the mains, not have to mix the mains with the monitor bleed off the stage and the 100 watt 4-12 guitar cabs screaming. We are the ones "available" for the club owners and patrons to complain to, they would never go on stage and yell at the lead guitarist to turn it down or go tell the lead singer his monitor is taking their head off in the front row.

 


Come Now...
a response by Andrew Swanson, January 30, 2001

That's something I've never heard... A musician complaining about a soundman not having his act together... I have been in business for quite a while, and have many peers, and very rarely are we late,we never blow a gig off, forget power cords or instruments, don't have someone to work the door, broke the one string we didn't have a spare for or disappear with a chick during the set break for an hour. I'm sorry I can't quite say the same for all the bands I know.

 


Please Retire Mista Lucky
a response by Helen Capshaw, January 30, 2001

Let's see here, Mista Lucky, you hate bassists and you hate singers. You are so much like those guitarists who don't understand that when your amp is turned up to 12 that there is no way the other musicians on stage are going to hear their monitors and there is no way the soundperson will be able to get a good mix over the top of your volume. I'll wager you are a horn player who soundchecks two feet off the mike, and when the show starts you EAT the mike, forcing the soundperson to reduce the channel gain, which results in the loss of volume of your instrument in your monitor. The clubs you play in obviously don't have a monitor engineer on a separate monitor board, and since you have never run sound yourself you don't understand anything about gain structure. But your band probably once played a small local festival where you enjoyed the clarity of a separate monitor engineer, and you simply don't know anything about sound reinforcement so you cannot understand why a single sound engineer running both monitors and mains from one mixer might have any problems with musicians who have zero understanding of the signal path. Or why the crappy equipment in the clubs can't compare to the equipment used by that regional sound company at that festival you once played. Or why, if your sax in your monitor is five times louder than the drums, there is a pretty good chance the sound engineer isn't going to put you in the mains, because the club only holds 120 people. Get a grip, dude. Better yet, get a book on sound reinforcement and learn about something you know nothing about. No, nevermind, don't do that, I wouldn't want a jerk like you thinking you should get involved an honorable profession: sound engineering.

 


I feel bad
a response by Jim Gould, January 31, 2001

I really feel sorry for you. It seems as though you have not risen to a high enough level in your craft to rate a pro audio engineer. As one of them that spent the first part of my music carrer playing on the stage and the latter part doing what you despise I will admit I feel a bit of your pain but do not have the balls to generalise like you have. I could go on and on about players who had shit for tone on stage and expected me to wave a wand or somthing and make them sound like Brian May or whoever you percieve has having good tone on thier axe. Key players that have no clue that they can make the patches come out closer to a similar level. Deaf guitar players that do not need to be in the mix but think they should be anyway. It is called sound reinforcement not sound modification. Bass players too loud,yep par for the course in many ways. Get to bigger rooms if you can hack it. get out of the bars. Quit bitching. Pay the $$$ you can get someone there to do it. Maybe sometime in the future someone will give you an experience with a good engineer. There are plenty of us out there maybe you have not rated one as of yet.

 


Musicians do good Audio Engineers NOT make
a response by Stick, January 31, 2001

Well now, a horn player huh? I couldn't agree more with the statements made about deaf musicians ands stage volume. I say get yourself and your band mates a good set of IEM's (In Ear Monitors for the unschooled musicians) That way, stage volume is practically nil, and the Audio Engineer can do what he was hired to do, Make your deaf no talent ass sound good.

Audio engineers are probably, no, ARE the most important non-member of the band. They take most ratty club owned sound systems, and by adding some of their own "PRO" equipment to it, make YOU sound good to the paying customer.

Get a life Mista, and quit professing on a subject you know absolutely NOTHING about.

 


First, We Kill All the Saxophonists
a response by Doug Fowler, January 31, 2001

Weekend warrior musicians have wasted hundreds of hours of my time, and thousands of dollars of my money. Lest you think I exaggerate, allow me to go into detail.

First, in my experience as a audio engineer, I have spent countless hours involved in the uniquely pointless procedure known as "the nightclub sound check." The nightclub sound check for weekend warrior musos, for those who have not endured this singular form of tedium, is ostensibly a chance for the “musician” to set up all his equipment, make sure everything's working and show off his “chops”, usually while the audio engineer is trying to set monitor mixes. In reality, it is a means of inflicting mental anguish similar to the Chinese water torture.

Here's how it works: "musicians" (along with their accompanying singers and bass guitarists) are asked to show up at a given venue at, say, 6:00 p.m. before a 9:30 gig, and play a few tunes and let the soundman get things together before the paying customers show. The reality is they usually show up fifteen minutes before showtime. Sounds simple, eh? Well, here's what happens: 9:00-9:15: musicians show up; 9:15-9:30: bass guitarist and singer arrive; 9:30-9:45: band sets up; 9:50 band complains about monitors, 10:00 band goes on break to smoke some marijuana and look for chicks. Meanwhile, the saxophonists girlfriend gets out from underneath the console after servicing the soundman and complains about the saxophone not being loud enough in the mix, even though his Marshall is the only thing anyone can hear in the club.

I'm sure you think I'm making all that up, but I've endured that scenario dozens of times when I worked in nightclubs. So have you, actually: that's why 90 percent of the time when you go to a show, the band is horrible for the at least the first four songs. You're sitting through the sound check that should have taken place hours before. Instead, the "musicians" were noodling around on their instruments and talking about how much they made in tips the night before delivering pizzas.

Which brings me to the waste of money aspect of my complaint: I don't even want to get into the fact that at many clubs, the soundman is paid the same (or less) than any of the “musicians” even though he/she may have as much as forty thousand dollars invested in equipment. I want to talk about all the gigs I've gone to where I've spent good money to hear musicians who can really play, only to sit through two hours worth of excruciatingly loud guitar, wondering what the lead guitarists means when he says “it’s not really loud, it just sounds that way” or “dude, I have to have it at that volume to get my sound” when the sound from his Marshall 4x12 is blowing past his legs and shredding everyone in the audience. . I mean, I must have wasted thousands of dollars over the years, and you know what really pisses me off about it? Most of the time, you could have walked outside, grabbed the first old lady you saw on the street, hauled her into the club and said, "now how do think that band sounds?" and she would have said the same thing that was obvious to every paying customer in the place: "well, young man, it's a lot louder than it needs to be, there's too much guitar, and I can't hear the singer." Yet somehow the guitarist thinks everything's fine, even though it would require an arena PA system to get the band volume up over the guitarist.

There's only one possible explanation: these guys don't listen. See, they've watched Steve Vai and Yngwie Malmsteen videos, they're living with their mothers or girlfriends (sometimes the same person because they can’t hold a job, so they've memorized all this nonsense about which killer stomp box will let them play like Jimi Hendrix and they think they have to apply that knowledge somehow.

True story: I once met a saxophonist that had an answering machine and had his own house.

(Musicians are always using phrases like "the check is in the mail, really", "no, your honor" and "would you like to super size that, sir," probably because they don't have specific concepts like "job", "responsibility" and "paycheck") I told him I would loan him five bucks for gas money but he refused, opting to take the bus home. I don't work in bars anymore, but weekend warrior musos still drive me nuts. I went to a club last night to hear a local band that I like--they're not anything great, but unlike most funk bands these days, they eschew disco and they at least aspire to produce the hip-shaking grooviness of instrumental funksters like the MGs--with jazz-level solo chops. I love that kind of stuff when I'm knocking back a couple ales on a Saturday night. Anyway, the club was packed, and I wound up standing right behind the band, and I got to watch the musos "work." As soon as the band started playing, it was obvious the saxophone was way too loud in the monitors (at least it wasn't the bass for once) and you couldn't hear the vocalist, even though he was singing. What did the saxophonist have to say about this? He cried like a little bitch proclaiming “I can’t hear myself, and I’m supposed to be loudest”. He proceeded to take out his frustration on the soundman, even though he had dutifully made every change in the monitor mix the saxophonist dictated from his bully pulpit up there on the stage. He continued doing this throughout the whole first set (and, I'll assume, the rest of the night, though by the second set I had moved), and after a while I realized all the saxophonist was doing was causing everyone to turn up, bit by bit! Pretty soon, we had the same lousy mix, but it was so much louder you couldn't really distinguish exactly what was bad about it. As if to prove the point, I noticed that in between sets, when the PA system was turned over to a DJ, the muddy mix caused by the roaring monitor system miraculously cleared up. No wonder so many people these days prefer to dance to records than to bands.

Anyway... here's my suggestion to remedy the situation: All saxophonists should be rounded up and herded into reeducation camps, where they would be taught a trade that has nothing to do with the production of music. (They can still work in record stores if they want to, I guess.) Saxophones will be played by the audio engineers themselves, or by random members of the audience chosen by lottery on the night of the gig. Hey, they couldn't do any worse.

 


Who are you?
a response by Mathew Nguyen, January 31, 2001

Dear Mista, Is Mista your real name? Have a CD out? So, you no longer play the sax because you think that soundmen did you no justice? Sure, we soundmen like to bring guys like you down. Do we tell you guys how to play or how much to drink or what kinda drugs you should do? I remember a sax player with a cordless attached to his horn that walked to the front stack and created a horrendous amount of feedback. I muted his sax to save the customer's ears and I would not un-mute until he gets back on stage. I am glad that sax players like yourself had gotten out of this industry.

Here is the list of some of the bulls@#$%t that we have to put up with

* too loud guitarists * sloppy bass guitarists * singers with no mic technique * Keys players who forget their power cords * Out of tune horn players * Deaf drummers * drunken/high on drugs bands * Last but not least - bands come in 3 hours late for soundcheck. Singers come in 30 minutes late, PERIOD! And the show suppose to start 15 minutes ago.

Mathew Nguyen

 


In defense of those who suffer for your stardom...
a response by Glen Kelly, January 31, 2001

Well, in reading the above rants, a few things are clear to me. First, too many people take this sort of thing personally. Secondly, an most importantly, there are very few really good soundmen in the world today.

A few points here for everyone's consideration:

First off, I have met a couple of female audio engineers. One of them was pretty good, too.

The soundman has to walk the line between the stage volume and the volume which is appropriate for the venue and performance. Stage volume is the number one headache of the soundman, next to unprepared/late musicians and customers who stand right next to the sign telling the times of the performances yet still refuse to read and feel that they must interrupt the soundman with all sorts of inane questions that the soundman in a house situation would have no idea about.

People who move from musician to soundman almost to a man (or woman) have "gaps" or "regions" in their hearing that they do not hear nearly as well in as your average patron. It is the curse and legacy of high stage or practice volumes. My co-worker is a guitarist. A very good one. But when we work the technical aspects of a band, I have to bear in mind that his hearing is just not so good in the 2KHz to 5KHz range so I adjust accordingly. I was chosen to be a soundman. I did not choose it, it chose me.

Being a soundman is all about balance and harmony. We balance the instruments and vocals with each other thereby creating what is hoped to be a harmonious, enjoyable sound for the patrons.

As for the saxist who went in front of the mains with his sax, well, as a soundman, I fault the soundman. Surprised? You shouldn't be. If you are in a live situation where wirelesses are involved, you can almost bet that they will go mobile so as to justify the expense of the wireless. For that reason, I make it a part of my setup to have any wireless instruments brought out in front of the mains while they are active and at performance level so I may prevent the feedback beforehand. In the venue I have been working in for the past 3+ years now, over 50% of the bands use at least one wireless mic and/or instrument. Most of those will go all through the house, or at least in front of the mains to some degree. It is not hard to ring the mains as well as the monitors and still have good sound if you really know what you're doing. Last night, for example, I had a performer with both a wireless mic and wireless accordion (internal-acoustically-mic'ed-squeezebox). Spent a good deal of time out in front of the mains with nary a peep of feedback at full performance volume.

Opinions are like anuses, everyone has one, and by the end of the day, most all of them stink.

I got my house sound engineering position by kicking out the roadies who were being sent by the original contractor to do the job and were doing it so very ineptly as to jeopardize the continuation of live performances at that venue. Since that time around 3 years ago, I have run over 1000 performances in that venue, with only 1 no-show by one band, due to the marketing department's decidedly inept personnel.

Over this time, I have earned the respect of the artists I work with through hard work and dedication. I do my best to make the performers and patrons equally happy with their mixes. I'll work the mix throughout the night to keep it sounding the way it should, only raising volumes when crowds increase or when otherwise appropriate (crescendos and the like). For those reasons, every band I work with will do whatever I tell them to do (within reason, of course) regarding volume and tone. If I need them to turn down, I tell them, and they turn down.

I have found the most common reason for excessive bass volume onstage is a combination of basic physics and logistics. If the bass cabinet is in direct contact with the stage, resonance will ensue at the resonant frequencies of the materials used in the construction, as well as the resonant frequencies of the airspace there. I have found that putting the bass cabinet on a carpet, as is commonly done with bass drums, will help both to be equal but separate in the mix. The other part of the reason bass is suslly loud onstage is that the bass wave itself can take a number of feet to develop. By that what I mean is that while the bass may sound tiny when you stand right in front of the amp where the bassist is, but if you walk out to the front of the stage or the first few rows of the crowd, it's huge. It helps in that regard to get the amp as far back and away from the perormer as possible.

Am I one of those "book-educated-sound-college" grads? No. I have and have read more than a few times the generally-accepted bible of the profession: The Yamaha Sound Reinforcement Handbook. I have the latest edition and it is festooned throughout with post-it notes and bookmarks to relevant and useful info. I have attended dozens of seminars and clinics on the art of running sound. I also have over a decade of real-world experience in venues ranging from 100 to 1000 people. I've worked with such artists as "The Neville Brothers", "Roy Clark", "Bryan White", "Loretta Lynn" and hundreds of lesser-known acts as well as floor shows and in studios with 8 up to 24 tracks analog and digital. I try to take extremely good care of my ears and I actually do get them checked 2 times a year to see if I am becoming desensitized in any way. So far so good. I use an SPL and a db meter to be sure I never exceed a reasonable volume, and set a main-mix inserted RNC compressor/limiter to keep it reasonable throughout the night. Solos are boosted. Good soundmen will ride the mix when necessary, not just stand there and swill beer while hitting on the females. The tone and levels of sloppy or weak players is adjusted so that they do not unnecessarily detract from performances. Simply put, I do whatever it takes to make every performance as good as it can be, and whoever does not like or respect what I do and what I have to go through to get it to that point can just pucker right on up and kiss my hairy butt!

Now, if y'all don't mind, I'm gonna go get another band accused of lip-syncing. It happens a lot.

Finally, the most important section: NEVER forget: The soundman is caught in the middle! He's the one who has to hear requests for Wilson Pickett, Otis Redding, etc..., or deal with drunk patrons who think it is Karaoke night and want to usurp the lead vocalist, or deal with people who automatically hate your guts because the band won't play George Jones or what have you. We deal with the idiots who sit 4' from the mains and then complain that it is too loud. Also keep in mind that in many cases, the perception of volume is most greatly affected by one's like or dislike of a particular piece of music. This is something I have witnessed hundreds of times now and I am sure I will see again just as much.

If a musician talks down to a soundman, it is a sure bet that most soundmen will not do whatever it takes to make that musician happy. If the musician treats the soundman with respect and an inclusive rather than exclusive attitude, then the soundman will probably do whatever the musician requires of him or her. This is, of course, making the dangerous assumptions that (a) the soundman knows what he or she is doing and (b) they are professional enough in their attitude to care.

 


This is you, "blah, blah, blah"
a response by Destin Porch, January 31, 2001

Hey, if that's your opinion, whatever. I don't agree with the soundmen shit, but I don't care too much so I'll leave it alone. But what's the deal with knocking bass players? Sure, some of these guys can't do much more than follow a simple chord progression with a single note, but these players are usually in bands with guitarists that don't play more than power chords anyway. And there's a really broad range on bass guitar philosophy anyway. For those that feel like bass has nothing to do with the melody and exists solely for the purpose of spanning the gap between guitar and drums, the simple shit you hear is fine. And perhaps you're not familiar with Sir Wilson of Sublime? And have you heard any music by Yes, or Cake, or Primus? And I could continue the list forever and what? I myself have been playing guitar, piano, drums, harmonica, and singing for years and am very capable of playing in a band on any of those instruments, but I play bass guitar in a band currently b/c I enjoy it. And I'd bet money that some nobody that doesn't play couldn't come close to thumping my lines without years of practice.

 


Everyones ear is different
a response by Craig in Charlotte, January 31, 2001

What's the difference between a toilet seat and a Sound Man?

A toilet seat only has to deal with one asshole at a time.

 


listen up, assface
a response by I hate morons, January 31, 2001

I don't know who the fuck you think you are, cock-smack, but you're uppity, YUPpie, chain-cigar smokin, only the "cool" wine drinkin, BMW wannabe drivin, ugly mama's boy hairdoo sportin, golf IS a real sport playin", never had a real ale in a real bar ass has got to go. Where the fuck do you get off, come-nose? Go to a real bar with a real band, and you might find evidence to pound one fact through that thick, granite-monolith resemblin' head you're precariously pearchin' on your pencil-neck: YOU CAN'T SHINE A TURD. Bands that suck and sound like shit will continue to sound like shit when further amplified. There is no mixing console with a "turn the suck-factor the fuck down" knob. Don't even open those girly pursed lips with this bullshit about how the DJ sounded good. If you knew anything about what you so smugly spouted off about, you would know that there is no comparing prerecorded material and live music through a sound rig. THEY ARE TWO DIFFERENT ANIMALS, monkey-fucker. If you love to bitch, bitch about something you know, like hiding from mice or something, dolt.

I HATE MORONS

 


Kenny G wannabe
a response by Harry, January 31, 2001

Hey due, Looks like some of us have already said plenty with regards to your moronic rant. I just thought I'd add, the biggest assholes I ever had to deal with were playing Sax, and thought they were "the shit". Bigger assholes than any singer. Even that swingin mooks dude (ya know joey Dee's son) is an ass-wipe from way back. How about a little thing called budget. You know, if your playing a shithole, with a bottom feeder promoter putting on the gig, don't expect all the same gear and services you (will never have the pleasure of having) would expect on an A level tour. I have to go along with Doug, Jim, and Mathew on their particular rants. Dude, go crawl under a rock and die. No one will miss you.

 


I think everyone here needs to grow up.
a response by Russ Button, February 21, 2001

I've worked all sides of this question. I've played trumpet in everything, including rock bands, symphony orchestras, chamber ensembles, dixieland bands, and my favorite, swing big band. I've been a big band leader and *KNOW* what a pain in the ass prima donna musicians can be. I've also designed and built any number of loudspeakers for both pro sound and audiophile hi-fi applications. I've run sound for a variety of stage productions and have done location recording for classical and jazz performances.

You get self-absorbed idiots in every profession. All those guitar player jokes are true! But some of the things I've seen soundmen do really have called for correction with a Louisville Slugger upside the head. I remember a couple of years ago seeing Chris Calloway in front of a terrific big band in San Francisco at Bimbo's. The stupid shit soundman had the bass drum so fucking loud that you literally couldn't hear anything else. You've got John Handy, who's a world class tenor player up there blowing as loud as he could, and you could barely hear what he was doing.

I remember the only time I saw Bill Evans play. It was at Zellerbach Hall in Berkeley. Here you've got a 9' grand piano, in a trio format with bass and drums. Now tell me why in fuck you've got to mike the piano? They had this mike in the piano and played everything through fibreglas Community Light and Sound horns. Of course it sounded like total shit, not that the soundman knew or cared. For something like that, you don't do ANY sound reinforcement. You're in an acoustically designed concert hall where they present orchestral performances. The room is designed to carry sound acoustically. A piano is a LOUD instrument. You just let the musicians balance themselves acoustically. They've been doing that in symphonies for centuries now. Who needs a tin-eared rock 'n roll soundman?

I remember another performance in Zellerbach where Gil Evans came out with some of the best players out of New York - Lew Soloff, George Adams, etc. All night all you could hear was drums and guitar. There were 10 of the best horns players on the planet and you couldn't hear them. It was criminal.

I remember one time in Zellerbach when the great reed player, Phil Woods was playing with his quartet. He pulled the mikes away from himself and the rest of the band, much to the dismay of the soundman. He played clarinet acoustically in a hall that had more than 2000 people. No, it was't loud, but it was clear and infinitely more beautiful than any soundman could possibly produce.

No sound system ever sounds as good as the instrument itself. Every soundman should realize that while, in certain situations, they are a necessary evil, there's nothing they can ever do to make an instrument sound better than it does without a mike. Sound reinforcement is only what the label says it is - *reinforcement*. The best sound check is where the soundman listens (what a concept!) to the band with no sound running, and then just works to make everything sound the same, only loud enough for the hall.

The bass drum does NOT need to THUMP over every tune! The point of musical performance is to hear the melody. It's a shame that's a foreign concept to so many soundmen.

So grow up people! There are plenty of idiots on both sides of the mike. Fortunately there are plenty of good people on both sides as well.

'nuff said!

Russ Button

 


I hope your plan is to get out of this business.
a response by Kevin Rodio, March 22, 2001

Mista Lucky,

I hope you plan to get out of the music industry. Your rant has reached quite a few "Sound Engineers" and if you plan to stay in the biz, may you NEVER come across one of us. I am insulted to find that your rant has compiled such a vast hatred towards people in the industry. You need to take a step back, take a deep breath, and persue a career in a feild which best suits you.....Mc Donalds Drive thru attendant.

Best Regards, Kevin Rodio

 


The Other Side
a response by David, April 8, 2001

"them that can, do; them that can't teach." That certainly explains all the guitar teachers in town as well as all those studios masquerading as "audio schools." I love good music even though I did play drums. I prefer to listen than to play, so I studied, and listened, and practiced, and became an engineer. I'd much rather work in a studio, unfortunately only live sound seems to pay (barely), so I'm a "sound man." BTW, the reason there are so few females in this profession is that for some reason we all must "pay our dues" by carrying large speakers and pushing heavy amp racks.

"Soundmen have wasted hundreds of hours of my time, and thousands of dollars of my money. "

I can't count the time I've wasted at rehearsals, or troubleshooting some band's setup. Or the huge investment I have in sound gear. Only to have the band tell me, at the last minute, "Oh, we've decided that we can do the gig with our speaker-on-a-stick rig with the six-channel head."

"Here's how it works: musicians (along with their accompanying singers and bass guitarists) are asked to show up at a given venue at, say, 6:00 p.m. before a 9:30 gig, and play a few tunes and let the soundman get things together before the paying customers show." Sounds simple, eh? Well, here's what happens: 5:45 I show up and, if I'm lucky, the band has faxed a stage plot. I set up mics, DIs, monitors and run cables. 6:15 I power up the console, the EQ/effects rack, then my amp racks. I put on a CD and tune the system. 6:30 I wonder where the hell is the band. 7:30 The band finally shows up. OOPS, they forgot we're on eastern standard here(as if the whole world runs on Nashville time). 7:45 Band unloads and starts setting up. "OOPS, that's last year's stage plot, sorry but we have a totally different setup now." 8:15 "I can't hear myself, can I get more me in the wedge." After educating the back line about stage volume in small clubs, we reach a compromise that I can work with. 8:30 " I still need more monitor, SCREEEEEEE." Sorry baby, but 120dB is all we got, maybe you should get fitted for in-ears. And, please stay on the mic. 8:45 HOWLLLLLL After another lesson to the acoustic guitar player, maybe he'll stand still and stop aiming the sound hole at his vocal mic. HOWLLLL Maybe not. I reverse the polarity on the guitar input. 9:00 We finally get to check the system with two quick songs. All the while I must answer questions from the road manager while trying to listen and take care of every little thing she thinks she hears. ("I don't hear any lows in the flute." "What's this button do?") 9:05 "What happened? There's no monitors! They were there." OOPS the bass player accidently tripped the breaker on the power strip when he shoved his case behind the amp rack. 9:15 The house opens 9:45 The band goes on.......late. The levels are perfect.....for about the first ten minutes. Then the level war starts. By the time the first set is over I no longer have any of the amps in the mains: they're all too damn loud. Despite my pleas to the back line, they stay too damn loud throughout the show. And, somehow this bad mix is my fault? An audience member tells me, "The bass is too loud," I know it, but what can I do. IT'S ALL MY FAULT, ISN'T IT?

The real point of all this is that good shows are the result of cooperation and communication between talented individuals. I listen to the musicians in order to get their monitors right and project the type of sound they want into the house. The good ones listen to me for instructions specific to the venue/sound system. Yes, I use fuzzy terms like "hissy" and "boomy" only because so few of you understand "sibilant" or "mid-low formant" or even "350Hz." The point is that it's a team effort. I'm as confused as you are (and even more frustrated) as to why there are so many bad engineers who work regularly. How do these guys keep their jobs while the rest of us struggle?

 


what is a rany?
a response by shenita noel ford, June 23, 2001

i guess everything blows is about what we the people think blows. well i have plenty of things on my mind that blows like for instence i hate a few people i used to know in high school. i won't name names but i still hate them and what they did to me. i also hate people who spit on other people. those people know who they are. i also hate people who rape people. they blow most of all. well they are a lot of other things that blow on my list i just hope i can get to all of them. i hate having to choose from a well paying job and my classes at college. why can't they work aroung my schedule not me aroung theirs. i hate my brother his wife thier dern kids, i hate racist people. i hate this jerk called chad johnson and i hate william johnson! well if i can thing of other things that blow io will certainly put it here first!

 


what is a rant?
a response by shenita noel ford, June 23, 2001

i guess everything blows. Well I have plenty of things on my mind that blows like for instence I hate a few people I used to know in high school. I won't name names but I still hate them and what they did to me. i also hate people who spit on other people. those people know who they are. i also hate people who rape people. they blow most of all. well they are a lot of other things that blow on my list i just hope i can get to all of them. i hate having to choose from a well paying job and my classes at college. why can't they work aroung my schedule not me aroung theirs. i hate my brother his wife thier dern kids, i hate racist people. i hate this jerk called chad johnson and i hate william johnson! well if i can thing of other things that blow io will certainly put it here first!

 


why kill the one that make's you sound good
a response by Dan the sound man, November 24, 2001

First If you work with the sound guy you will sound good. If he knows how to run sound. Most band's have the one ROCK GOD that Know's it all and turns up so loud it sounds like shit. And the sound man can't do a dam thing about it thats what you get shit sound. I have run sound for five years now with the same band. Thay pay me well to for a good job done. I will say on my time off I have gone to hear other bands and some of them sound like shit. But looking at there EQ setings, stage volume, monitor volume will say it all. And It can be hard to get good sound men at shit pay and giving up there wk'ends. As for your sound check issue who the hell was doing your sound. if I even do a sound check It's EQ the drums. And ring out the monitors sure the hell don't need the band for that. well i need the drumer For about 5 mins. So I say hat's off to most of the sound men and get over the I'am a ROCK GOD and will sound good with no one runing sound. GROW UP!

 


M.L. you are a funny son of a soundman
a response by Jim, March 14, 2003

Mr. Lucky

You are funny! You spin a mean tale and the S men chewed it up. Can't say I ever heard of you but you are a good word smith.

J