19 April 2010

I'm a live sound engineer (ahem...)

Soooo..... this weekend I went on a course to learn how to become a live sound engineer. Sound engineers are the people behind the sound desk at gigs. They are the ones making the band sound great. They are also the ones who get all the cool chicks (well, in reality, that means they have first choice after the band is done with the girls...) Gosh I am bad!

Anyway, I have always been interested in how to create a nice sound at gigs. Being involved with Invocal means I get asked by many venues: so, what sound system do you need? And I always have to say: I don't know, I'll ask the band and let you know. So I decided it would be nice if I got some knowledge so i know what i am talking about.

Also, most of the time at a show, the sound engineer (if you are lucky enough to have one!), is used to doing loud rock bands and has no idea what to do with a cello or mandolin. Obviously, I know the music in detail so I thought it might be helpful if I could either help out the sound engineer or, in cases where there is no sound engineer, perhaps 'do' the sound myself so that the band can focus 100% on performing.

I looked online and found the courses to be REALLY expensive. Except for one in Gloucestershire, a 2.5 hour drive away. The course was 2 days and organised by Base Sound in Stroud. £260 quid for 2 8-hour days. That's a mere £16.25 per hour!

So I booked it. Well, let me tell you, it was really hard to concentrate through parts of it but easily the best £260 I have spent in a long time. There was initially a lot of theory about soundwaves, amplitude, frequencies, Ohm, volts, Decibels and Watts. it made my head spin as I am CRAP at science/physics. But at the end of the two days, it all made sense.

Learned how to use a desk, what functions of the desk are, how a soundsystem works, how microphones work, which microphones to use, where to put them, how to link up the speakers, monitors, instruments, how to create a 'Front of House mix' (the sound the audience hears), how to create a 'monitor mix' (what the musicians hear on stage), how to avoid feedback, how to add effects like reverb and delay etc.

Especially when it came to the bit about reducing feedback, the reason for the theory lessons about Hz and kHz became clear. Instead of just bringing the sound down, I learned that feedback can be avoided by removing certain frequencies from the sound instead! Awesome tip! Yay.

So, would I now be confident to go to a gig and 'do' the sound? I think I would be OK but ONLY if I was given unlimited time to set stuff up and do a soundcheck. Of course you get faster the more you do it but it is finding the opportunity to actually start doing it and have a band that is willing to give you that little bit more time to get it right the first few times.

Hopefully I'll get the chance. I can definitely recommend the course if you are interested in live sound engineering.


  1. It Sounds like the thing for you. Really. I can see you do it.... Next time i'm over i'll sit next to the Invocal personal sound engineer. And...don't worry you can have all the ckicks ;-)

  2. I know. I really loved it. Am meeting up with a guy I met there tomorrow to discuss 'business' so that is exciting too.
    Am a bit scared though because at some point I should have to do it on my own from ordering the equipment to hire to building it up, mixing the sound and then breaking it all down again. It is only a beginners course but I have learned so much. I just need to 'shadow' someone a few times. As an apprentice for example.

  3. Hey, Good to see someone taking an interest and being willing to spend some money on a decent course. Just a couple of points though.

    Sound guys dont make a band sound great. The band either sound good or they dont. 'You cant polish a turd' is the saying in the industry.

    Secondly your way off the mark if you think being sound guy will get you more girls!!!!!! Your better off boing in the band or even just a punter. They sound guy should be too busy either at the desk or rolling speakers out of the back door! Good luck though!

    Thanks, Dan