17 Ways To Avoid The Wrath of The Sound Engineer

Words by Julia Kaye

Photo by rhythmicdiaspora via Creative Commons

Photo by rhythmicdiaspora via Creative Commons

When you start out as a gigging band, your first few gigs are usually a steep learning curve. I was 17 the first time I played somewhere that wasn’t someone’s garage. I remember it because when I turned up at the venue, the bouncer wouldn’t let me in as I didn’t have my ID. I tried to explain that I was the drummer for the band scheduled to play that evening, and that the snare drum and cymbal cases I was carrying weren’t simply fashion accessories. In the end, I had to get the guitarist to covertly let me in through the cellar. After we’d played and the bouncer discovered I’d been smuggled in, I was barred from ever returning.

This was also the first occasion I’d ever sat at a kit that had been professionally mic’d up. When soundcheck rolled around, I ended up playing at a level that even the auditory system of a dog would have struggled to register because I didn’t want to annoy the bar staff. When we played the actual show, I remember the PA initially sounding like the opening scene from Saving Private Ryan, probably because the level for the drums was about 300% louder than it needed to be. This was entirely my fault. And that was how I learned to play at the same level for soundcheck as you intend to play live.

To avoid any other potential mishaps, I spoke to a bunch of audio engineers who were only too happy to elaborate on some of the things that annoy them the most whilst at work. They didn’t hold back:

  1. “If you break a stick, I don’t have any spares so please don’t be offended if I can’t help you with that. I’m not a music store. The same goes for guitar strings and plectrums.”

  2. “The load in time is there because, as a rule, that’s the most convenient time for you to load in. If you show up 15 minutes before doors and it’s no longer possible to do a full sound check, there’s no need to call me a ‘fucking piece of shit’, as one gentleman once felt so inclined.”

  3. “Please do not steal the house kit’s hi-hat clutch, cymbal felts or wing nuts. Or anything else. Just don’t steal things in general. As unpleasant as it is coiling up XLR cables after a gig, I’d rather they were there to be coiled and coat my hands with black, greasy sludge, than not there at all.”

  4. “There is a finite number of pillows which will fit in a kick drum. If you’ve ever asked yourself, ‘are there too many pillows in my kick drum?’ the answer is always ‘yes.’”

  5. “Please do not play your kit whilst I’m trying to mic it up. Think of this as two separate processes – I mic it, then you play it.”

  6. “You don’t need to remember my name but please do not address me as ‘sound guy.’ I’m not your guy, friend.”

  7. “Please do not let me mic up your kit then proceed to move all the mics and drums around.”

  8. “When you unplug anything from an unmuted channel and it makes a heinous noise through the PA, do not glare in my direction as if it’s my fault that the front row’s ears are bleeding.”

  9. “Some of the other staff in the venue happen to be my friends. You don’t need to talk negatively about them because they didn’t immediately drop everything to serve you a drink before everyone else waiting at the bar.”

  10. “If you want a specific sound front of house, just ask me and I’ll be happy to oblige. I’d much rather spend a bit of time working out what you want as opposed to finding out after the show.”

  11. “Women can mix sound too. Not just cakes. Also, my breasts do not obscure my view of the console, but thank you for asking.”

  12. “I know it’s usually an accident, but you don’t need to hit the drum mics with your sticks. Repeatedly.”

  13. “Please do not ask the audience ‘how does it sound out there?’ It’s kind of massively insulting.”

  14. “Oh – you’re using in ear monitors? That would have been helpful to know before doors opened.”

  15. “Contrary to popular belief I’m not actually a bitter, failed musician who ended up doing this just to make ends meet. I have a degree in this – not that I know everything – but I take pride in it. Thanks for understanding.”

  16. “This is a common one but please do not put your beer on the bass cabinet. Two reasons. First, low frequencies can make objects vibrate and move around. Second, Google ‘electrical burns’.”

  17. “There’s no need to complain about audio engineers at previous gigs deliberately ‘sabotaging’ your band’s sound. I actually know those engineers you’re talking about. You are not at the centre of a conspiracy. You’re just not very good.”

Read Issue 11 now!

Read Issue 11 now!