Breaking the Sound Barrier

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This past week’s sound panel was full of valuable information on how musicians and sound engineers can work more harmoniously together. For those of you who couldn’t attend, or for those who just need a refresher – we’ve got you covered!

To start, we’ll go over the issues musicians and sound engineers typically face. Common complaints musicians have are that the sound guy or girl is always grumpy or always screwing up. For the sound engineer, common complaints are that the musicians are always yelling at them, never giving specific information or not knowing their name.

Sound familiar? If so, the solution is simple: communicate, communicate, communicate. This is a team effort that requires the artist and sound engineer to work together and be nice to one another.

Artists – this means no more screaming “Hey soundman! More vocals!” from the stage. If you can’t learn the name of the person who has your entire show’s success in their hands, shame on you! Another tip: avoid yelling at the sound engineer all together. The sound guy or girl is already getting a lot of direction from a lot of people. Yelling at them from the stage will only add to their perceived grumpiness.

Sound engineers – try and understand that the artists are in charge. This is their passion, their art and their craft. If you can communicate to the artist that you’re there for them and on the same team, then you’ll all have fun (which is why you got into this business in the first place, right?).  Panelist Harry Netti offered some great advice for sound engineers: “Be confident and take the job seriously, but don’t take yourself too seriously.”

The best way for musicians to keep sound engineers on their side and avoid mishaps during a set is preparation. If you can send the sound engineer information he or she needs to know (preferably in writing) before the day of the show, you can relieve a ton of the stress. Double-check the day of to make sure they received your instructions, or better yet, bring an extra copy in case they didn’t! Some things to include in your document may be how many vocals you have, your stage plot, any out of the ordinary requests and even priority ranking your inputs in case you have a quick turnaround between shows. Ironing these details out ahead of time will prevent tension and will be greatly appreciated by the sound engineer.

Finally, realize that the sound guy or girl is frazzled. Buy them a beer, use their real name and if you can remember – tell them thank you!