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Dealing with club sound guys - mix notes, FOH checks, etc.

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  • Dealing with club sound guys - mix notes, FOH checks, etc.

    I've been used to playing in a cover band that plays all night (no other bands), brings our own gear, and has our own guy to run sound for us. Recently joined another band that plays multi-band bills and uses the house soundman. And it's taking some getting used to.

    I've done 3 gigs with them so far, all 3-band bills with us playing last. The first one, we had a proper sound check, left our gear backlined while the earlier bands played, and the monitor mix was way off when we came on. The second and third gigs, we didn't get a sound check or get to set our gear up first; did some rudimentary balancing of levels before we went on (though a bit rushed), and played. Gig #2 suffered from way-too-loud guitars. Gig #3 we took stage volume down a little more, but wound up with too much vocals in the monitors (which the singer tried signaling the soundman about but finally had to say something on-mic mid-song), and while I could hear my guitar OK on stage and in my wedge, I was way too quiet compared with the other guitarist in the FOH (which I didn't even learn about until a comment from an audience member after the show was done, and confirmed by video that I took of the gig).

    I wish someone had said something to me a couple songs in so we could have talked to the sound man about whether I needed to turn up my amp or he needed to turn me up in the FOH, but shouldn't he have noticed the out-of-balance guitars, or the fact that my leads were buried, on his own?

    Guess I've gotten too used to having a dedicated sound guy that we can trust. I want to try and prevent this stuff going forward if possible. What do bands who use house sound do to ensure they sound good on stage and in the audience?

    Do you give printed "mix notes" to the sound guy before your set? What should those look like; is there a standard format?

    Do you have a friend of the band tell you sometime early in the set between songs if there's a problem with the FOH mix, and run a message back to the sound man if your monitor mix needs to be adjusted and he's not responding to hand signals from the stage?

    Any helpful suggestions are appreciated.

  • #2
    I do this all the time. Usually the first band gets a full sound check and then you just line check the second and third band, and you're off to the races. Real pain in the ass to set up and tear down for each band in a club. Then the mics won't be the same etc.

    If the guy is on the ball he should have the band dialed in by the guitar solo. During line check get the guitars set stage volume wise. Go over the drums real quick, set the gains, the monitors should be close. I'll wander over by the end of the first song to make sure everything is good.

    I'll ask if both guitar players do leads or if only one guitarist does all the leads. Any surprises to look for, etc

    Again, that's being on the ball.
    PA Unity15's over LS800p's. YX15's, YX12's IPR power, RM32AI

    LightsMartin Minimac Profiles, Chauvet Intimidator Spot Duos, Blizzard 3NX, Fab5, Hotbox


    • #3
      First band: soundchecked

      Second band, line checked and go

      First band: soundchecked

      Second band: line checked and go
      PA Unity15's over LS800p's. YX15's, YX12's IPR power, RM32AI

      LightsMartin Minimac Profiles, Chauvet Intimidator Spot Duos, Blizzard 3NX, Fab5, Hotbox


      • #4
        Many techs when faced with no sound check, and barely a line check do what I call the We Will Rock You mix for the first little bit. They make sure the kick is happening, then the vocals, then bass, snare and hats. Some guys just kinda stop there for a bit and then eventually start adding guitars and keys and BG's. If you're lucky you'll get a tech like StratGuy22 who really knows what he's doing, but there will be times when you are not so lucky.

        One thing I would suggest regarding guitar solos, is that you can help the tech out by making it clear you are soling. I always wander to center stage or somewhere noticeable. I also try and put a little more body movement into the solo - sometimes I can catch a tech's attention that way. Also, help the tech out by having your solo patch louder than your clean. Maybe not 6dB louder but a little louder anyway. Too many times I've seen a guy step on his "pedal of immensity" only to hear an overly fuzzed out patch that is quieter than his clean or crunch sound. Maybe halfway through the solo the soundman will realize there's a solo going on. He might get around to turning it up. I've seen this on countless occasions.

        I guess one other thing might be that I never want guitar in the monitor, unless I'm mixing. It's just too easy to mess up for a one hour (or less) set. And except for the drummer, no drums in the monitor either - fraught with pitfalls...

        Oh and smile; most people won't know the sound is lousy unless you tell them it is.


        • #5
          In cases where we don't have a solid sound check, we will play our 'Sound Check Song'. I'll get the drums going, run a simple 1-4-5 in some simple key, and walk through the FOH (I'm all wireless) and sing simple melodies asking for changes to the mix... "Thiiis, is, our souuuuund check. Caaan we get, a little more fiddle out front..." Etc, etc...


          • #6
            I've done multi band events for quite some time, usually bluegrass events. Proper sound checks are a fantasy that we both wish we had time for. Promoters want the acts to roll on and off stage quickly so the time needed is just not granted.
            In these situations it is imperative that the tech is watching for hand signals or such as its virtually a certainty that adjustments are needed. If he's not, take the time at the end of a song and just politely tell him what you want right across the system. It's not that big of a deal in most settings and it doesn't require an extended conversation.
            " Hey Bob, less lead guitar in mix 1 please".
            Understand that unless you're doing sound checks early in the day or the day before with the ability to save settings, this is largely unavoidable but it can be done fairly seemlessly if everyone does their part.

            A&H GL2800 console, BagEnd Crystals over D-18's, 12"and 15" BagEnd and EAW wedges powered and processed by QSC, Klark, BSS, Symetrix, Valley, Sabine, Peavey and BagEnd INFRA.


            • #7
              I carry our own sound guy and pay him an equal share. He works his ass off and is the best around here overall. It really helps us develop our sound and get consistency. I try to stay away from the 3 and 4 band formats.
              "Danny, ci manchi a tutti. La E-Street Band non e' la stessa senza di te. Riposa in pace, fratello"


              • #8
                Nice. I run sound from the stage when we play. Not the most idea but it works pretty good. When we play it's generally just us, though this weekend we are playing a multi band bill, trading sets.

                Multi band gigs are ones that I provide sound for
                PA Unity15's over LS800p's. YX15's, YX12's IPR power, RM32AI

                LightsMartin Minimac Profiles, Chauvet Intimidator Spot Duos, Blizzard 3NX, Fab5, Hotbox


                • #9
                  Last night at the benefit had my band follow the previous band . 12 bands for two nights, When our band finished our set our drummer said he could not hear the lead or rhythm guitar thru his drum monitor. I told our drummer to tell the sound man to turn up the lead and guitar rhythm in his drum monitor. Our drummer said the drum monitor was off our entire set and the previous band that played before had turned the drum monitor off. Why did the soundman have no monitor mix coming thru the drum monitor? Our drummer said it was a guessing game since he could not hear us and he guessed on the chord changes. How many have you had experiences with bad sound men? I will drill them and ask them questions before they mix our band again. They may think I am rude trying to tell them their job. But if they suck at their job they make us suck.


                  • #10
                    Your drummer should have signaled the sound guy after the first song!
                    "We are currently experiencing some technical difficulties due to reality fluctuations. The elves are working tirelessly to patch the correct version of reality. Activities here have been temporarily disabled since the fundamentals of mathematics, physics and reason may be incomprehensible during this indeterminate period of instability. Normal service will be restored once we are certain as to what 'normal' is."

                    Life's journey is not to arrive at the grave safely in a well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, totally used up and worn out, shouting ', what a ride!'

                    "The greatness of a man is not in how much wealth he acquires, but in his integrity and his ability to affect those around him positively" ~Bob Marley

                    Solipsism is the new empiricism. -Alan Burdick


                    • #11
                      My cover band is coming off a sumer of festival gigs. Have had good sound, some great PA's and good sound guys at all of them. This Saturday we go back into a club with our own PA. Doing our own sound from the stage. Sigh...

                      I have done the original band 45-60 minute set thing a bunch in NYC and mostly the sound guys are decent, but you can't expect a sound check other than a line check.

                      For the guy where the previous band turned off the drummer's monitor - that ain't the sound man's fault. However, he should have made sure the drummer was hearing what he needed to hear.

                      I don't think I have ever played a gig where they didn't at least do a line check to make sure everything was working before we started playing'


                      • #12
                        Sounds guys have all kinds of theories of their role, or what the "norm" should be. I ran a S&L company for 10 years doing it. I have heard some BE's say they are there to make FOH sound like they think it should, while others say they are not there to interject artistry. They are there just to take whatever mix is on stage and make it louder. Pros and cons both ways. I have heard musos ask for mixes of everything louder than everything else in the monitors, and also heard them ask for nothing but themselves, or nothing. Bottom line, you have know up front what the guys thought on his role is and NICELY explain what role you would like him to fill if it is different. You can hand them a sheet that lays out the position of each person on stage and note what each wants in their monitor. If you don't he has no clue what you expect to hear in your monitor. You won't get exactly what you think is perfect in these situations but you can get something usable. Something like drummer: drums, bass guitar slightly lower, and rhythm guitar, or whatever mix you can dream up. They can't take time in a multi-band show to carefully get every mix perfect. It is trench warfare. You do a quick tweak from whats on the sheet and go. If the sheet is too deep he won't bother. If it has nothing he won't know what you need. It isn't just your reputation on the line, it is his also. He wants it to sound good. Be nice and respectful to him. If you make him angry, there is nothing like a guitar monitor that is detuned 50% and delayed half a second. Cooperation makes the day wonderful, and it works both ways.

                        BTW: I would never have worked for an even cut. I spent years making 2-3 times what any band member did in the band I primarily worked for, and it was because that is how they wanted it. They walked in at show time, with everything done, including fresh batteries in each wireless headset, wireless IEMs, every pair laid in the correct spot and freq scanned and programmed for the venue. Soundcheck completed. PA was set and ready. Lights, lasers, hazers, and truss were set. They literally walked in 5 minutes before, played and left 5 minutes later. They did a 4 hour show. The techs did 4 hours of load in, 4 hours of show, and one hour of load out. We earned our money. They also partied during breaks, while we continued to play tunes, take requests, answer questions, tweak the show, and protect our and their investments in gear. Their lives were trouble free and they NEVER had to worry about anything going wrong. It just didn't, and thats why they paid well. A tip to the sound guy for a good job will be remembered also.

                        Sorry this was long. Tough issue, no easy solutions, but some general guidelines.