Live Sound Engineer Survival Guide
In this blog, I'll be sharing my experience as a live sound engineer with you and go through some useful tips for working in this role. We'll be looking at: Live Sound Kit Bag, Artist And Venue Research and Being Professional And Communicating Effectively in this live sound engineer survival guide.
If you’re still relatively new to the world of live sound, check out our other article: Introduction To Live Sound, to find out more useful information for sound engineers starting out.
Live Sound Kit bag:
No matter what venue you work at, having a kit bag with tools and accessories can come in so handy. Below is an example of why:
One of the first venues I worked at said that they had all the equipment needed there so I didn't need to bring anything. They were right, as they had all the most important stuff but unfortunately the aux cable for playing backing tracks had gone for a walkabout. After spending a lot of time searching for it with no success, I had to improvise. In the end, someone had to end up cueing the backing tracks from the DJ decks on stage, which was far from ideal. Ever since then I've carried an aux cable with me to every gig that I've done and you'd be surprised how many times I've had to use it.
So, you can probably see why having a live sound kit bag can come in extremely handy! My kit bag started off consisting of just the aux cable, but now contains other items such as electrical tape for coiling cables, blank channel strip sheets, a screwdriver, monitoring headphones, cable adapters and a dynamic vocal microphone.
It's not made up of much but can really help to save you in a sticky situation!
Artist and Venue Research:
I talked about preparation earlier and this section is one of the reasons preparation is important as a live sound engineer.
If you're going to be working at a venue you haven't worked at before, do your best to find out what their technical specifications are as this can really help you on the day or night of the event.
For example, I'm going to be working at a new venue this weekend and I've arranged to go and have a look around a few days before to see what their setup is. This is probably the best way of researching a venue so that you can prepare to work there. If they've got a mixing desk I've not used before, I can begin to familiarise myself with it beforehand, so I'm not just working it out under pressure on the night.
Also, seeing how their rig is set up in advance can give me a better understanding of how everything works so that I can work more efficiently at the event.
Artist research can also be very useful, even just to see how many band members there are. This can give you an idea of how many microphones and DI boxes you might need on the night, which can enable you to roughly plan the layout on the mixing desk.
Being Professional And Communicating Effectively:
Lastly, it's important to be professional in this area of work and use your best professional judgement when you really need to.
Certain requests made by artists and venue staff can sometimes be detrimental to the sound of the gig and sometimes even health and safety.
For example, an artist wanting to run a 20ft XLR cable through the crowd so they can walk on to the stage singing is a big health and safety concern. This is not a random example either!
Also, you need to be able to tell artists to turn down their amps on stage if they are too loud as this can cause more problems. As long as you ask them in a professional way and explain why, they will comply most of the time.
There should be mutual respect between artists and sound engineers but sometimes it's not always like that unfortunately. Just do your best to stay professional!
Of course, your technical knowledge and expertise is the main reason you're working as a sound engineer, but having organisation and communication skills is also paramount to working in the role. Prepare as much as possible, and also try to prepare for things that can commonly go wrong by keeping an organised kit bag and using past experience to avoid undesired surprises! CM has its own high specification PA system which is used for internal and external community events. Some of our students on the Creative Music Production Foundation Degree have spent time learning how to use the PA system during extra-curricular activities, which has led to them working with CM at the events and even becoming professional sound engineers further down the line. Check out our course page if you're interested in developing professional music production, business and live sound skills or for more information on our degree.