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When to have a 'sound engineer'

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(@rob77)
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Joined: 16 years ago
Posts: 136
Topic starter  

Howdy all,
Ok, so we're a part-time Blues Band, we can all play pretty well but with kids / work etc we play clubs about once a month. We try & be professional, but it is just a hobby. Occaisionally the gig money equals outlays....sometimes.
Normally we use our own PA, have a sound check at the start of the night & then check it every now & then with friendlies in the audience. We've been pretty happy with this in the past.

Anyway, our stand-in harp player wants to employ a sound engineer to run their own PA & give him an equal 5th of the money. Now, even though we're not in it for the money I doubt it's worth the outlay - can someone proove me wrong? Any advice appreciated, because we are always looking to improve our act, but want to make sensible decisions with limited funds!!!

P.S. No idea of this guys' qualifications or training - suspect he's a mate of said harp player. :roll:

"Who says you can't 'dive bomb' a bigsby?!"


   
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(@coleclark)
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Joined: 17 years ago
Posts: 417
 

I would have to head towards the idea of using him...split the funds between the 'original' band and the guy whose reccommeding the engineer can splis HIS share to pay for it...just for the first time..if it goes well then youve gained a good team member, if it doesnt change things then it doesnt affect the earning of anyone except the guy who though of it...

if its good then the NEXT gig he can have a share of the total pool...


   
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(@scrybe)
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Joined: 17 years ago
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heh heh, cole actually makes a very good point.......if the harp guy is serious about it improving the sound, he'll punt out on the first try and you get to 'audition' the guy, as you would with any new band member.

as an alternative, since there seems to be a glut of 'sound technology' courses theses days and, thus, a glut of suchs tudents looking forwork experience in the field for their resumes, you could hit up the local college and see if you can't get some guys who are willing to work for free and/or a lower price than this guy.

not that I'm encouraging brutish capitalist tendencies or anything, I just think its worth checking this guy's the best.

also, ime (and this depends on where you're playing and what gear you use, etc), most bands don't have resident sound guys. those that do, I've not noticed much difference in their sound to those who don't. certainly not enough to justify reducing your own pay to pay someone to do this job. but, if it all goes pear-shaped 3 songs in, its good to have someone who knows what they're doing and can run around fixing things for you.

thebig question is, does he know he what he's doing? ime, there's a hell of a lot of opinion which tends to be the bedrock of what is/should be a primarily scientific affair.

Ra Er Ga.

Ninjazz have SuperChops.

http://www.blipfoto.com/Scrybe


   
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(@rob77)
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Joined: 16 years ago
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Topic starter  

...and that's the crux of my concern. I know we do a perfectly capable job: heaps of gigs, happy punters & publicans & no stuff-ups. I have no idea who this guy is (except he's a friend of the harp-player), I don't think he's going to be doing much for money that could otherwise go into advertising, recording or repairing gear. The other guys in the band are non-commital about it. Maybe we'll give him one gig & if we're not blown away then we'll go back to the old set-up. Mr harp, as I shall now call him to protect the innocent, has been very good at getting some good gigs & his contacts have proved very usefull, so the other guys in the band are happy to let him have his head & see where it takes us. Maybe I'm being stodgy, maybe this guy is a sound genius who will propell us to new musical heights... :roll:

Hasn't done too much for his band though....

I guess we try it & see!! :roll:

Maybe I should stop being such a tight-ass & just go along for the ride too :lol:

"Who says you can't 'dive bomb' a bigsby?!"


   
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(@scrybe)
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Joined: 17 years ago
Posts: 2241
 

nope, you have a fair point. a band is a business, regardless of how part-time, fun, non-suit wearing, etc, it might be. like you said, there's limited funds, so you need to spend them where they'll have the biggest impact.

Ra Er Ga.

Ninjazz have SuperChops.

http://www.blipfoto.com/Scrybe


   
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(@leear)
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Joined: 19 years ago
Posts: 392
 

as a sound engineer/band member myself i feel everyband needs a sound man. i run my own band but also do it for other local bands and national acts. (btw to add to my repitore of names I did Bubba Sparxx this weekend. for those who don't know he's a rapper) Fun Show love those college Frat parties. Anyway usually when I'm doing sound for another local band I ask to be considered a band member. Down here in MS bands charge 100-150/person. So a 5 memeber band is 5-700 a night. I ask to be a member as long as the band agrees to help setup and take down and its their equipment. (now i'll bring a toy to play with every now and then I don't care about) So now they just went 6-750 a night for the band and they usually agree. If they get big gigs they will include is in their price. IF they play for the door we split it evenly. If they are opening for another band I usualy try to book the venue not the band.

Anyway that was a ramble on nothing to do with this subject. Engineers are good to have around because as the night oges on things will need tweaking. That guitar play after 15 songs can't hear himself anymore so he turns up. now he's just covered up some vocals.

No matter where you go.... There You are! Law of Location


   
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(@danlasley)
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Joined: 16 years ago
Posts: 2118
 

In my limited experience, bands with musicians who listen to each other can get away without a sound engineer. I've listened to some $1000 bands who are so polished that they rarely need tweaking. However, if you are told that you don't sound as good as you should, then you should get a sound guy. Note that just like musicians, there are good and bad sound engineers.

So if it's not broke, don't fix it.

Paying the sound engineer an equal share has been my/our rule for a long time, after paying for the rental of any equipment. And nobody gets paid until load out is complete!


   
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(@diceman)
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Joined: 20 years ago
Posts: 407
 

The larger the band , the more need there is for a sound engineer . Small combos can get away without one , but as more and more pieces are added , the need for mixing from the audience's perspective becomes greater as well . Ideally the sound person should have an ear for music or even be a musician . And if a full share is given to the sound engineer then he or she should help with set-up and tear-down and lugging the gear in and out .

If I claim to be a wise man , it surely means that I don't know .


   
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(@rob77)
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Joined: 16 years ago
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Topic starter  

From what I can tell this guy is in a band, so that's a start. We have all our own gear, so he wont have to supply any...
We consist of vocals, guitar, bass drums & harp. We usually have a friendly in the crowd & if we're playing as a 3 piece (minus the harp) then I run the desk, sing & play guitar. We've never had any complaints about the sound (which isn't to say it can't be improved) & I involve the audience in the process as an interactive thing (which can be quite funny). But mostly nothing gets turned up too much after the sound-check.

Talking to the other members, we're going to give old-mate a run & see what happens. I REALLY don't want to sound pretentious (I'm still learning about giging) but I'm surprised to hear that most sound guys get a full share (which is great for them) for a job I can do on the run, while we're sweating our assess off, carring & carting the gear, doing rehearsals etc & they get to sit there drink piss & twiddle a few knobs - have I got it very wrong?

Yes - I'm expecting a barrage of abuse from sound guys - I know professionals are very knowledgeable, I just don't know if that knowledge will be wasted in our situation. Again I'm not trying to sound like a jerk, just trying to know exactly what's going on :shock:

"Who says you can't 'dive bomb' a bigsby?!"


   
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(@scrybe)
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Joined: 17 years ago
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ime, a great sound engineer is sorta born, not made (although trainging and experience obviously help). they just have an ear for the mix, same with mixing engineers, as I said earlier. a good one can be gold dust. one of my mate's works as a pro soundie, on glastonbury and world tours and such. if he's working the desk (as has happened in the past), I know it'll sound as god as possible. and his ears seems to pick up on things before anyone else's do, ime.

but I would only give the soundie equal pay if they're helping with carting the gear, setting it up, keeping it in good order (both uring the gigs and any advice for generally, knwoing that stuff is part of their job). and I wouldn't let them drink during the show (unless the band do too, I never drink when playing, aminly cos I can't combine the two, but he shouldn't be getting wasted enough for it to affect his work is what I'm saying).

I wasn't trying to do down soundies in my earlier post(s). I'm just sceptical of using one unless you've got good feelings about them (I've worked with some terrible soundies in the past, too), and in my experience most small bands don't have them and often don't need them for the venues amateur and semi-pro bands tend to play over here.

Ra Er Ga.

Ninjazz have SuperChops.

http://www.blipfoto.com/Scrybe


   
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(@danlasley)
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Joined: 16 years ago
Posts: 2118
 

Interesting, several concerns that the sound guy might not haul gear. I usually observe the opposite; the lead guitarist takes her amp and departs, the lead singer takes his mic and sits at the bar, and the bass player, drummer, and sound guy do all of the heavy lifting. I learned early (from David and Greg) that everyone does everything. We all learned how the drummer liked to pack his kit. Everyone coiled cables. Etc.

The sound guy plays his instrument all night long, does the hard work, so he gets his share.


   
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 geoo
(@geoo)
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Joined: 19 years ago
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I learned early (from David and Greg) that everyone does everything. We all learned how the drummer liked to pack his kit. Everyone coiled cables. Etc.

The sound guy plays his instrument all night long, does the hard work, so he gets his share.

That sounds like a fantastic way of getting it done. Now, I'll be at the bar if you need a sound check. :twisted: :lol:

Jim

“The hardest thing in life is to know which bridge to cross and which to burn” - David Russell (Scottish classical Guitarist. b.1942)


   
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(@wes-inman)
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Joined: 20 years ago
Posts: 5582
 

There are pros and cons to this one. If anything, I think a soundperson should always be a musician themselves. Lots of these soundpeople can talk about decibels, frequencies and all sorts of audio jargon, but they really don't have a clue what a band should sound like. I once attended a gig where a band I was friends with were playing. They had a soundperson, but their sound was dreadful. It was pure mud, you could barely hear the lead singers vocal, while the drummer who sang backgrounds was in your face loud. When the guitarist played a solo you could barely hear it. And the band was struggling on stage, they sounded lousy and you could see it in their faces. I asked if I could tweak their sound and they said ok. With a few little adjustments I brought out the lead singers voice clearly (also turned down major reverb that was killing his voice), took the drummer down a bit, boosted the guitarist a little. What a difference in the music it made, and you could see the band perk up. The last two sets they were pretty killer and got the crowd going. So the soundguy probably knew the equipment well, but really didn't have an ear for what a live band should sound like.

As far as this guy lugging gear, if he is getting an equal share, he should do his part of the work. If he wants to run the PA and get paid, then he should set it up and break it down, plus follow the band home and put gear away. To get paid for sitting there pushing a few sliders while he drinks beer is completely uncool in my opinion.

Small local bands rarely need a sound engineer. If you have a wireless guitar system, you can walk out in the club while the band is playing and make adjustments. Actually, the best way to get good sound is play some quality CDs before the band starts and adjust EQ and volume then. If you can get a good CD to sound great, the band will sound good too.

But a knowledgeable soundperson with a good ear is good. It's just hard to find one with a good ear. :roll:

I think this old cartoon from the Far Side sums it up. :D

If you know something better than Rock and Roll, I'd like to hear it - Jerry Lee Lewis


   
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(@scrybe)
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Joined: 17 years ago
Posts: 2241
 

Interesting, several concerns that the sound guy might not haul gear. I usually observe the opposite; the lead guitarist takes her amp and departs, the lead singer takes his mic and sits at the bar, and the bass player, drummer, and sound guy do all of the heavy lifting. I learned early (from David and Greg) that everyone does everything. We all learned how the drummer liked to pack his kit. Everyone coiled cables. Etc.

The sound guy plays his instrument all night long, does the hard work, so he gets his share.

fair point. I came from the school of "no one's off the clock until everyone's off the clock," so I've always hauled all the gear, not just my own. anyone who slacks tends to get withering looks (at the very least) from me.

lol at the pic above.reminds me of the last major gig I went to. the support band were so badly mixed (and I was stod right by the mixing desk, the optimal place, supposedly). the bass drowned everything out - my mate's and I wondered if the sound guy was really crap and had no clue what he was doing, or if he was pretty smart and had noticed just how crap the band were during soundcheck and was attempting some 'damage limitation.'

Ra Er Ga.

Ninjazz have SuperChops.

http://www.blipfoto.com/Scrybe


   
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(@rob77)
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Joined: 16 years ago
Posts: 136
Topic starter  

One thing we are good at is everybody doing their thing setting up & pulling down. Our drummer even went out & bought a transit van so we can put it all in that & he hauls it everywhere for us (yup, he's a legend).

Man, for a four piece I'm really dubious as to wether we need this guy & what he'll be able to do, so I think we've agreed to give him an audtion at the next gig, but he's behind the 8 ball in my opinion. Like I said, not that they're not worth their salt in some situations, just not ours?

We've got a smaller gig on the 16th of May & bigger one comming up on the 17th, maybe give him a run at those & he can get paid on the 2nd one if he's any good :lol: .

I don't have a wireless guitar, but I do have a long lead that I used to go out into the crowd so I could go & dance with my girl in the crowd every now & then 8)

The next tricky thing is how do I guage (from on stage) weather it's making a difference? I'll let you all know how it goes.

"Who says you can't 'dive bomb' a bigsby?!"


   
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