9 Things Every Sound Guy Needs To Know About Musicians

I took some heat from my 9 Things Every Musician Needs to Know About The Sound Guy. Some from female engineers calling me sexist (even though I initially said “guy or gal” but explained I was going to use “guy” out of ease). Similar to how I used the feminine in this piece about producers. I switch off.

Many musicians told stories of horrible sound guys they’d worked with. And some sound guys still thought I was too soft on musicians.

Above all, I took the most heat from sound guys telling me to call them Front of House Engineers. Get over yourselves. I’m calling you a sound guy  because it reads better. I’ll show you the respect of FOH engineer title once you show me the respect of artist (and not POS).

Well sound guys AND GALS, this one’s for you.

Before laying into me, PLEASE READ THE INITIAL POST if you haven’t. I’m pretty darn supportive of FOH engineers. When you’re great, I love you. When you suck… well read on.

Here’s a musician’s take from working with over 500 front of house engineers from around the globe.

1. Not All Of Us Suck

I can’t tell you how many times the sound guy has had a chip on his shoulder from the moment I pulled up to the club. Maybe he doesn’t like Toyotas. Or jewfros. But from the moment I walked in, there seemed to be nothing I could do or say that could brighten his mood or day.

I cannot stand disgruntled sound engineers. I didn’t make you this way. So why must you insist on taking it out on me? I’m sorry you had conceited bands shit on you back in the 90s, but if you’re not over it by now, then you really should consider finding a profession where you don’t need to interact with humans. We have feelings. Most of the time these feelings are off the charts! We’re artists for god’s sake.

Please put yourself in OUR shoes. We just drove 300 miles on very little sleep. We can’t afford more than shitty Subway every day for the past 45 days. We’re tired. We’re famished. We’re smelly and most of the time the hot water ran out before it was our turn to shower. We not only need to clean ourselves up enough to look presentable, but bring a great attitude to the stage and put on a show worthy of the cover price people are paying.

We’re the ones on stage. Not you. Give us a break!

2. Sometimes Our Advice Is Pretty Darn Good

I once played a show at a very established club. With a weathered sound guy who knew his club all too well.

I’m a looper. I beat box. Every time the beat came back around, the beat disappeared. He couldn’t figure it out. Luckily, I had experienced this before so I knew what to suggest.

Before I could open my mouth he was checking every cable, DI, input and compressor. I asked him if it could be the limiter and he assured me there was no limiter. It was HIS new digital board (that he probably wasn’t that comfortable on yet), but “there was absolutely no limiter.”

10 minutes later when we established every other piece of equipment worked and I was sufficiently berated for apparently not knowing how to use my loop station (which I had been using without a problem for the past 6 years), he found out how to turn the limiter off. Whoops!

You may know how to run a 5 piece rock band, but I have more experience with my gear and my show. Why not put your ego aside for a second and work WITH me?

Who are you showing off for anyways?

3. You Think You Know How To Sing Better Than Me?

I’m not an inexperienced rap emcee who cups the mic forcing horrible feedback. I know better. If you’re out there rappers, take note. Please don’t cup the mic. It doesn’t help your sound and pisses off the sound guy.

I’ve been singing professionally for over a decade. I know how to sing into a microphone. I get paid lots of money to do it on a regular basis.

Please don’t tell me that I’m singing too close to the mic and that’s why there’s distortion. That’s on you. I’m a singer/songwriter. I’m not screaming. I’m singing fairly softly. If you can’t handle my proximity to the mic, maybe you’re doing something wrong.

I know how to properly use my proximity to the mic. I pull in and out to keep my sound consistent and level.

Do not tell me how to sing. I’m not 15. I’m not an amateur. Want to piss ME off? Walk up to the stage and show me how I far away from the mic I should be. Asshole.

4. I Get It. It’s Your Club. Must You Smoke IN MY FACE?

Why do most sound guys smoke? It’s the culture I guess. But do the laws not apply to you? It’s illegal to smoke inside. Well, I guess that’s only when paying customers are there?

Just because we’re in a rock club doesn’t mean you should have any more freedom than if we were in a conference room and you were blowing smoke in my face. Am I not a guest in your establishment?

I don’t smoke. I’m a singer. You’re ruining my vocal chords, lungs, health and one of my only 3 clean shirts with your smoke.

If you must smoke, be a decent human being (like everyone else) and go the fuck outside.

5. Can I Get Some More… Oh You’re Not By The Board. Cool.

It’s your job to stay behind the board and mix. Not go outside and shoot the shit with the door guy for 20 minutes. Sure, if you need a smoke or a piss break, I get it. Dip out for a minute after you set a tune.

But nothing is more upsetting than finishing a song and asking for more or less guitar and seeing that the Front of House engineer is not at the front of house. Or the back of house. Or IN THE DAMN HOUSE.

Must I tip you $20 before the show starts to get you to put some effort in?

6. Is Tipping Mandatory Now?

Most of the time expenses are coming off the top of my cut. And many times I’m paying for sound. Like, it says in the contract “$150 off the top for sound.” I’m more than happy to cover this, but do I also have to give you $20 at the start of the show to get GOOD sound? Are you going to leave the venue once I start the set if I DON’T tip?

If that’s the case, then maybe a heads up would be nice. Seriously. If $20 is the new 20% at a restaurant, then speak now or forever hold your piss.

7. I Don’t Understand Passive Aggressiveness

Some sound guys are cool if musicians move mic stands, monitors, amps, what have you. Others RAGE if you shift a vocal mic 2 feet to the right.

If you’re the type to shit yourself if musicians start moving gear around, why not make an announcement at the start. “Hey guys, I have things setup and wired. If you need anything moved just let me know before you do it so I can make sure everything stays the same.”

That would cause everyone a lot less stress and frustration.

If I shift a monitor 6 inches to point towards my face and then you shut off my mic and head to the bathroom for 15 minutes. I don’t know what you’re trying to tell me.

Other than that you need some laxatives.

8. Believe It Or Not I Showed Up For Sound Check For A Reason. To Sound Check.

The most frustrating thing is, after a thorough sound check, getting on stage in front of the crowd and having absolutely nothing stay the same. Then having to RE sound check in front of a full house.

Many times this happens when digital boards are being used. Where all you need to do is click “save.” Are you that lazy?

If it’s an analog board and there are a few openers I get it, you may need to RESET the board. I’ll wait.

But if there’s no way to save my settings, then let’s not waste anyone’s time. Don’t give me a sound check. And we’ll do a quick line check like I’ve done many many times before.

9. It’s My Name On The Bill. Not Yours.

Meaning, it’s my reputation on the line with hundreds (or thousands) of fans. If I have my shit together, rehearsed and deliver a solid performance, but it’s botched coming out of the system because I forgot to give you $20 before the show, that looks bad on me. That could potentially cost me thousands in future show revenue.

No one will want to come to my show again if it sounds bad.

If the sound is shitty, you can blame it on us. But we look like douche bags if we blame it on you.

And just because only 35 people came out for this show doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do your best. Maybe one of those 35 is the agent I’ve spent 3 years trying to get out to see me. Maybe it’s a music supervisor coming to find a song for her new movie. And you’re half-assing my mix because you don’t think it’s a big deal?

I’ve spend hundreds of hours perfecting my sound and thousands of dollars in rehearsal space rentals, gear and studio time to get to this stage. And because you’ve never heard of me it’s cool for you to take a 20 minute smoke break? Come on.

66 Responses

  1. SoundGal

    One thing every musician needs to know about soundcheck:

    Soundcheck is not rehearsal.

    • Ari Herstand

      Maybe not, but please remember that on a long tour sometimes the band needs to work out a new tune or go over a section that hasn’t been locking in for the past few nights. Once the “sound check” portion is finished, it would be pretty shitty if you didn’t allow bands to run some things they needed to if there was enough time for it.

      Also, it’s a new space. Give us time to get used to the room and the stage.

      Honestly, I’ve never had a problem running songs AFTER the sound check. Typically the sound guy would then leave for a smoke. Which is totally fine.

      • Sean

        If you’ve “spend(sic) hundreds of hours perfecting my sound and thousands of dollars in rehearsal space rentals, gear and studio time” like you say you have, why do you then need to run tunes in the middle of tour, when you should be at your tightest? Why do you think you pay to use those rehearsal spaces, and not the other way around? Rehearsal is rehearsal, soundcheck is soundcheck, and I don’t generally walk away from a PA with any mics on (as per your #5) so I can’t really take a stroll while you wind out on the system I’m responsible for.

        Generally I get paid a flat rate for the night, so when you spend my time in ways that are not actually necessary to accomplish the work I’ve been hired to do, I feel disrespected in a sense. I show up early and am prepared when artists arrive, and I always try to make the best use of everyone’s time and make things happen as quickly and painlessly as possible. It sucks when artists won’t extend me the same courtesy because they’re unprepared.

        In the rare event of an hourly-paid technician – and it’s not unheard of, I’ve done it – then by all means learn three covers in check and arse with your guitar tone for 20 minutes, although in those cases the venue management will almost certainly be pissy about it; this I have also experienced personally.

        Often the only break I get in the entire night is the venue dark between the end of check and the start of the show, and I generally am looking at an 8-hour day to do a club show properly, if not more. Artists occasionally literally deprive me of food for the duration of this shift by being late and unprepared. It is most frequently the ones who show up late who also need to “run a few tunes”, despite having held up other band’s checks, my supper, etc. Rehearse on your own time, and please respect mine, the venue’s, and the other bands’.

        • Ari Herstand

          Like Soundguy/musician said above, many bands work out new tunes after sound check and run them. It’s not showing up unprepared, it’s adding some excitement to the tour. New tunes come up all the time. Or new jams. New covers.

          Allow bands to run and rehearse them – if there’s time. I understand if you need to check the openers and there’s no time, sure, but go grab your food and take your bathroom breaks while the band is running their new tune.

          It has nothing to do with being unprepared.

          Allow artists to be artists and create on the road. Don’t squash creativity.

        • GGG

          If bands are late, fuck em, they don’t deserve shit. But why not let some band run through songs if there’s nobody else to check, they were on time, and it’s apparent they know what they are doing? Some people like to practice more even if it is mid-tour, that’s a bad thing? What else do you have to do? If everything is set up, it’s either sit behind the board and play Candy Crush, or go outside and smoke a cigarette and play Candy Crush.

          • Fuzzytrooper

            Why can’t we all just get along? I think a mix of both approaches is ok – so long as the rehearsal isn’t too start/stop/messy I generally try to do an initial line and monitor soundcheck and then work around the band where possible. From the other side I appreciate it when I can ask the band to stop while I check an individual vocal I’m not happy with for example. It’s all about give and take. We’re all there to achieve the same thing. I’ve been in situations where it’s very much us vs them and it just leaves people burned out and can destroy friendships.

        • sidsimo

          Uhhh, sometimes artists or bands like to alter their arrangements, setlists, various things. Sometimes things get stale after several shows. It’s not unusual at all to modify parts or setlists for any number of reasons. Being part of a team effort usually equates to success for all.

    • Soundguy/musician

      When I’m the sound guy at a show I am paid for the night. I’m going to be at the club all night anyways. If the band wants to rehearse after initial sound check that is fine with me. I’ve actually witnessed bands putting together a new song after sound check. It can be a pretty cool experience.
      On the other hand, if there are multiple bands that need to sound check the please be respectful of the other bands. Do a quick sound check and let us get to the next band in line.

      • Tim

        A club I worked at had many national touring acts. Some were very prompt and others were very late. I remember the Pointer Sisters running through about five numbers for a sound check. They worked on a few songs and it was no big deal. Arlo Guthrie on one of his visits spent about an 45 minutes with his band working on a new song. It was cool to see them work it out. !0,000 Maniacs also spent time after sound check on some new songs. I always found it neat to see artist work. And they would usually tell us that we didn’t need to hang around if we needed to do something else. I will always remember those days. Today it seems most bands barely even want to do a check. It is like they are to busy being stars with their friends.

    • SoundGuy~~

      When asked to test mic, some people, who will be singing go:

      check 1, check 2…

      Unless that’s what you’re singing, thanks for being helpful.

      • Camilo

        I had a singer once that started doing only a click noise with his tong and teeth… -could you talk or sing something? i asked.

    • DeanIversen

      setting up a rock show for a great band back in the 90’s we were set for the FIRST sound check and Mark Kendall points at me across the room not knowing who I was or anything having just met the day before he says to me “move that light so it points down on me” I didn’t want to say anything but it was already pointing down on his spot,

      however I grabbed a ladder moved it and asked him if that was OK, he pointed here and there then said OK that’s good” then he looks at me and says “I am the lead guitar player and I want to put on the best show possible, right?” knowing the light was already pointed on his spot I’m thinking to myself is this guy fucking with me or what? why me, he dunno me?

      anywho after the check I grabbed a ladder and took that light Mark was fussing about like there wasn’t already 100 lights pointing at him but that specific color set off his outfit apparently? anyway I pointed his light at the bass player which I come to find out was actually a cue light, oh well right, after the 2nd or 3rd song of the first set I looked at him and up at his light he just smiled and proceeded to ROCK THE HOUSE and make no mistake you would be hard pressed to find a better ROCK band for such a venue…

      point is lighten up, don’t take everything so serious like its life and death, there is ALWAYS that tone setter when everyone first meets, “how is this going to be” “is everyone uptight and a-holish or?…” so just be human and willing to help, I find a quick “if there’s anything I can do to help this show go off without a hitch” lets everyone know you’re a team player and there to make happen and not an attention whore, just lazy or incompetent, doesn’t matter what your job is if it needs to be done get er done, if someone isn’t doing theirs don’t be rude just ask “do you usually do this” ah OK it could use some attention

      I’ve worked with some of the biggest names and peeps some say are hard to work with and never had ANY issues, had a few fuck with me now and again but maybe that’s just my bad rep dunno? however I’ve had guys ask for me specifically, good people, big names successful bands, in the end its all about entertainment and if you just happen to be the entertainment that day, meh, roll with it… :-)

    • Soundguy/musician

      Bringing your own sound guy can work out great as long as he isn’t a “know it all”. I have seen traveling techs do a great job and I have seen traveling techs destroy a show. At a festival show if the sound has been good all day long you might not want to jump on the board and start changing things just because it’s “how you’ve always done it”. I’ve seen opening bands that sounded better than the headliner because the headliner brought in their own sound tech and he jacked it all up. I have also learned a lot of things from good traveling sound techs. Just make sure you have a good traveling tech. Good at sound and good at working with other people. “If the system is working fine don’t jack with it. just dial us in.”

      • Uncle Donnie

        As a “Soundguy” and a Musician I approve of this message. Well said Sir!

  2. Soundguy/musician

    I play in bands and I run sound. When I am behind the soundboard I think it is my job to give everyone the best possible experience. That includes the musicians, fans, and club owner. I try to help the musicians feel at home and let them know that I have their back. I am going to do my best to help them sound the best they can.
    I always try to keep the stage mood as positive as possible. Though at times I may act grumpy towards some of the attendees who seem to think that they can talk to me all night. I try to let them know politely that I am working but sometimes that doesn’t work with drunk people so I have to turn on my grumpy man face.
    I do not leave the soundboard unless I am fixing something on stage or quickly walking the room to make sure the sound is good all around the room and not just in my location. Being a musician I have been on the other side of this equation. Feedback kicks in and the sound guy is nowhere to be found. I’ve also had a track that was too loud (our bad) but the sound tech wasn’t there to turn it down so we played the whole song with the ambient track way too loud.
    I try to give the musicians the benefit of the doubt until they do something silly then I will attempt to help them in a non threatening way. One example is singers that want “More monitor” when they have moved the monitor and it is no longer facing them.
    I never expect financial tips from bands I run sound for. I am already being paid to run sound and most of the time I am being paid as well or better than the musicians.
    I agree about sound check. If I’m using an analog board that doesn’t have enough channels to dedicate to the headliner then it really doesn’t make sense to have them do a full sound check. Just set up back line so the transition can go smoother. If I have a digital board or an analog board with enough inputs, I will do a full sound check and save their scene.
    I give my all no matter how many people are at the club. I’m going to try to make it sound the best I can no matter if there are 10 or 500 people. As a sound tech attendance doesn’t usually affect my pay. Even if it did I would still give my all.
    I also don’t mind being called sound guy. I’ll sometimes introduce myself that way. Depending on the gig, I’m “Front of House” for tonight, I’m “Monitors” tonight, or I’m “sound” tonight. I also tend to do the same with bands or when I am on stage. If I’m running a multiple band show I will probably not know/remember everyones name. It is just easier to soundcheck using stage and instrument positions. “Stage Left guitar”, “Stage Right Keys”, etc. I mean no disrespect by doing this. It is just the easiest/fastest way to get things done.
    Just wanted to let you know that some of us sound guys are on your side. I give my all even if I don’t happen to prefer the style of music I am working with that night. When I run sound for a band/musician that is good I will end up promoting that band to venues, promoters, and friends.

      • Geewhizpat

        Yep…there’s the perfect “sound guy”…that’s why we hire our own…quick sign him up!

  3. Ron S

    You have a pic of 2 Midas H3K Consoles and your talking about paying $150 like its a serious amount of money. Most road guys make between $300 – $600 per show and if they are lucky they don’t have to put up with a bullshit band with lots of baggage. Generally guys who make this kind of money do know whats better than 90% of the musicians they work with otherwise they wouldn’t have the job. By the time they are in this position they have gone through:
    Bands who show up late
    Multiple Band Nights where the promoter told every band they can soundcheck
    Bands who can’t play in tune
    Drummers who show up with Neil Peart Drum Kits
    Bands who can’t play in time
    Bands who have the guitar tech or mech person tell you how to mix
    Bands who’s girlfriends are a pain in the ass
    Bands who knock drinks all over the stage
    Bands who spit all over the stage
    Bands who tape shit on the monitors then complain they can t hear
    Guitar players who couldn’t get a sound if it fell on them
    Bands with old broken cables that buzz and short all night
    Hip Hop shows where people just yell in mic’s
    Singers who throw mics and stands like its part of their art
    Bands who steal your mics and leave garbage one behind

    you have some valid points but not many …..remember there is always two sided to every story

    • Mattyo

      That’s specifically why he said read the other article before you lose your fucking mind. You guys are ridiculous for the most part. I’ve never read a more fair way of telling it than Ari’s blog. I’ve worked on both sides of the board and Ari makes valid points for both arguments. Don’t be a one sided dick and try to realize that you’re not the only fucking person that matters in the world.

  4. Steve Jay

    Hey Ari, as both a muso and a sound guy, thank you for calling out what I hate most about my fellow sound guys! It’s amazing how, one of the most essential people in a modern show, is often the most miserable, down-on-themselves, self-loathing ape. Love the job, love the bands, too, or get out of it, I say. Well said.

  5. everett b

    Got fired from a gig because we knew more than the sound man did !

  6. Mickey Mac

    Hmmm …seems like many of the comments from “Sound Guys/Gals” prove that many of them are pretentious obnoxious assholes…just as many musicians are! I’ve always thought of the sound person as being an artist – just like me. They should know their stuff just like I should know mine. I agree that they should be at the board and not schmoozing and cruising the women trying to impress them with how important they are. As a guitarist, I have to be on stage during the show – “at my post” – so to speak, so why not the sound guy? If you want the artist to take you seriously and treat you with respect, then take yourself (and your job) seriously and treat yourself (and your job) with respect! We’re in it together, and I really do appreciate the comments from FOH people who obviously realize this and DO take it seriously.
    Still, for the assholes out there, I feel compelled to point out the obvious: if it weren’t for the artists (who you bad-mouth, bitch about, and blame all your troubles on), there would be no need whatsoever for the “sound-guy!”

    • Ron S

      Or they have 30 years of experience and maybe you should pay attention and learn

  7. Cletus

    It’s been my experience if you walk into a club without a chip on your shoulder, are polite, and offer a friendly vibe with a dash of humor, 90% of the time it’s going to go well. If you walk in high and mighty, all bets are off. There are a lot of prima donna douchey musicians out there, try not to be that way, and generally the sound engineer and the rest of the staff will respond in kind.

  8. Guile

    Things That Have Made My Life Easier As An Artist:

    1.Advance WELL before the show with ALL necessary vital and UP TO DATE INFO. Input List, Backline, Stageplot. If something has changed let the production contact know well ahead of time AND kindly remind the front of house and stage manager before you even open a case. Many times this info will never even make it over to the stage manager/house crew because apparently people just don’t give a shit, but if you sent it and have proof of that you’re in a much better place then if you never sent it at all… Prod offices can be tough to get a hold of, always follow up till you get a response/confirmation.

    2. See #1 (there should be an online course about how to effectively advance a show or tour)

    3. Do your homework and make sure your advancing includes actually understanding what the venue physical layout, spec and rider is, and if it is up to date. If you get to the club without a bass cab and theirs is blown it’s not on them.

    4. Make a cheat sheet of monitor mixes, as well as notes for the set in general (where solos happen, acoustic passages, anything that might need to be ridden a little more from FOH)

    5. If you’re bringing your own FOH, let the venue know ahead of time via advance, and even better get them in contact with the house FOH so they can get on a page and create a rapport/troubleshoot any potential issues.

    6. If you’re not headlining a festival, you’re generally a second class citizen. You’re getting a linecheck, or maybe a glorified one at best. It’s not fair, I know, but everyone’s in the same boat.

    7. If you’re picky about you’re monitor mix, think about a cheap wired or wireless in ear rig. (this will save everyone a lot of time and frustration…some people just never get a wedge mix they like, and some people just are not built for it to work effectively).

    8. Bring your own vocal mics (with your name etched into it) and at least 4 of your own DI’s.

    9. If you are running playback, build a loom with all channels numbered clearly so you can break out right to a snake. This also goes for any rig that has more than 4 or 5 channels. Patching a stage is never as simple as it seems. Stagehands, techs and engineers appreciate it and might just thank you.

    10. If 7 out of 10 engineers comment about a certain aspect of your performance, mix, setup etc, it very well might be worth looking into. I’ve always done a “post mortem” with house people to get an idea of what was working and what was a challenge.

    11. Say please and thank you. You’ll probably be playing there again, even if not, people talk and the internet makes your reputation a lot more public.

    • BandProd

      Thank you for this! As a sound engineer, tour manager, production manager and friend to many high level musicians, this is some of the best advice to a traveling artist that I’ve seen. ADVANCE is the key here. I can’t count the number of times that I’ve heard “That’s our old stage plot and input list” Must have been sent by our (label, agent, manager, girlfriend …insert scapegoat here). Everybody has a computer. You can update it yourself if you have to. My team likes to have the consoles labeled & programmed, stage set & patched (if rental backline) and as close to show ready as possible when the artist arrives. Please make sure that everyone has accurate information and you will have a stress-free day…hopefully!

  9. Dan Hylton

    5. Can I Get Some More… Oh You’re Not By The Board. Cool. ha!

  10. Anonymous

    WOW you guys play MUSTANG SALLY and OLD TIME ROCK and ROLL then Encore with Crazy Train and Takin care of business, you got my respect and attention!!

    • Ari Herstand

      Yeah… this was written from the perspective of original, touring acts. Not cover bands.

      But even so. Is it your job to judge the content of the music? Maybe you hate the music, but there are obviously paying fans in there who love it. Do your best regardless of the genre, style and song choice. If the band is on time, professional and polite, can’t you reciprocate?

    • ShieldsCW

      Is it really your job to judge the content of a band’s set? Do you feel justified in not giving your best effort because they’re playing music that you like? It’s people like you that give the PROS a bad rep.

  11. Joe

    The sound man has seen a lot of GOOD bands and dealt with a lot of professionals, so he’s not impressed with your attitude after rolling out of your shitty van with a pot hangover. Also, he really wants to be on stage and actually is often a waaaay better musician than the bands rolling in. The sound check is for HIM to set gains and get a feel for the band, otherwise you WILL sound like shit if you don’t work with him. You can jam after.
    Want to sound great through the PA?
    Set up when he says and just play a few notes to check your gear, then be quiet and wait for his instructions.
    It usually starts with the bass drum, so turn your guitar down…and wait.
    Be very quiet and listen to him through this process, then you can play a song and ask for ‘more monitor’.
    He already knows what you want in your monitor. drummers want bass. bassists want drums. Guitarists want guitars ( just theirs). Keyboardists too, but for different reasons. Vocalists want vocals in their monitor, room temperature water and lemon and honey n shit backstage, and a big old light up their ass.
    And yes, the sound guys are stoned. So are you and so is the audience so get over it. You’re all paranoid and grumpy til the show. If the band is under 30, they suck. Same with the sound man and audience.
    Little known fact: many sound men are also 75% deaf…not because the music is loud, but because they are the only ones who can be near musicians for that long without punching them, especially the sucky ones under 30.

    • Vince

      Joe, so sorry that you don’t have the balls to be a performing musician – you know – because you’re so great and all. Just quit being a sound guy, man up, and go for it. Get out there with your band and play and be that success that we all know you can be. I have a feeling that you’re not such a great sound guy anyway.

      • Frequency Studios

        LOL Just jumpin in here Vince cause it looked like a good spot ! +1 to all the happy sound guys and gals and musicians of which I am both I own a recording studio have done my fair share of foh and have done every imaginable tedious task in audio 2 am load outs followed by a nice jaunt across the country in a cube van hauling around and setting up all that light gear we use Oh yeah there isn’t any of that lol and I do it because I love it yeah I’m a musician but I don’t profess to tell anyone how to play their music (unless they have acquired my services as a producer)I attempt to augment and make a band sound as good as is humanly possibly given their talent or lack thereof I am professional and treat everyone with respect until the moment they do not reciprocate and then I politely remind them they are part of the human race and should act accordingly I have dealt with my fair share of shitty sound guys and musicians venue owners bank managers grocery clerks etc Who cares people being shitty is not an accuse or reason to be shitty as well most people go through life oblivious to anyone around them and make everything about them, people have shitty days loved ones that have died girlfriends or boyfriends that have broken up with them I think we all would be better served by having some compassion and understanding for how it is “over there” and lets learn to f’in communicate …have to go mic a Neil Pert drum kit lol great articles by the way!!

  12. another soundGal

    So I guess I’ll respond to 1-3 and 9, because 4-8 I don’t even..lol, do people actually do those things?

    …I started this job in a small, smaaaall venue with tons of concerts. Like, 6 per week, 4-7 bands per every tuesday and, if I was lucky, 3 on fridays. No stagehands, just me. For about 7 months per year I had THE WORST BANDS EVER. Every teenager band that found nothing more interesting to do with their spare time, like, I don’t know, prepping for college or smth, was on my stage, howling that WHY DON’T WE SOUND GOOD. Dunno, dude, maybe because you should first learn to count to 4 and then start to play the drums, or at least learn the diference between major and minor if you are playing a guitar. And don’t hold it like a shovel. Sometimes, the atitude-teens were replaced with atitude-old-farts, no-talent-no-names whatsoever that blamed every failure in their lives on the sound gear and/or sound guys or everyone else but themselves. Kindly go to your wife to hold you, please.
    And every few months or so, a good band popped in. HOW ON EARTH could you get over the excruciating experience you had with the hundred bands before them? I tell you: you don’t. At least not untill they prove they’re different. I know you deserve the benefit of the doubt, butbutbut please, gimme a break! I’ve been through hell and back untill you arrived!

    And I’m ok, I’m always open to advice and/or suggestions IF they don’t start with „hey, stupid, if you can’t do it, here, you should try listening to someone that knows his shit, like me”. Kindly go teach your wife how to deepthroat.

    And for the 9th…well..I always try to do my best. Always. Even if I don’t get paid. Hell, if I did a bad job I request to not get paid. If a concerts sounds bad on my account, I hope I can crawl somewhere and die quietly. I’m really sorry if my [insert various reasons like colds, flu, not enough sleep, tricky venue, bad day for science here] fucked up your gig, but I really REALLY did the best I could. I know it doesn’t mean shit, but I feel really bad for it.

    And a piece of advice for the sound guys that feel (somewhat) offended by Ari’s rant: if you find yourselves saying ”aha, you little ass, you’re all pretentious fucks” a lot during your read, pick a band that you like, be good enough for them to hire you and quit doing venues, like I did. And then you can be the proffesional everybody loves to work with, including yourself.

  13. Steven

    I am so sorry you had to be mistreated by the sound guy(seriously). I’ve been on both sides of the fence, as a bass player and sound guy for over 40 years. And while I can get a little snappy sometimes, I’ve never treated the musicians I’ve worked with as you described. As a freelancer, I can’t afford to piss off the artists.

  14. foh

    Always remember the #1 rule = dont piss off the sound guy./girl/engineer !!

  15. Larch Audio

    Lots of good comments, and some crazy stuff. Like some others, I’ve been involved with this for decades. Incredibly hard lately to get gigs lately as no-one is getting paid these days. I show up with $30K of gear, 3 hours before the gig (and clean up for 3 hours after) and I know that I only do it because I love it. And I care. Some bands won’t call me (to their credit) as they feel guilty about asking me to do it for very little or even nothing. Little secret is, of course, I’d still do it.

    I’m grateful to work with any band. And yes, some of them need some serious work. But in truth I’ve learned more about my trade fixing bands with problems than I have working with bands that already sound great. I have nothing but respect and admiration for the fact that you’re willing to get up there on stage and put it all out there. And, indeed, some folks I’ve worked with have gone on to very great things. None, so far, have taken me with them :)

    But here’s the deal. If you are going to claim to be an Audio Engineer, act like one. That means “mixing.” It’s a verb. It implies action. There have been times I thought my gut would bust from needing to go to the bathroom, but it’s what we signed up for. If you aren’t doing something, you aren’t really doing your job. I sometimes fader track every note of a guitar solo just to get it right. Not really necessary, but it makes it just that 1% better than not doing it. Pay attention. You are part of the band when you do sound for them. And that $150 may actually be all that the band got that day (in some cases it is more than they received – and yes I feel guilty when that happens).

    I’ve mostly been blessed to work with musicians who actually care and who will gratefully listen when I try to – gently – make a suggestion. Sure there’s been a few that blew me off. That’s OK, I may not be available when they need something and I do talk to all the other sound folks in our area. Word gets around if you aren’t “nice.”

    Audio engineering, according to several sources I’ve read (at least when done correctly), is one of the most complex activities engaged in by humans. Literally thousands of decisions per second. If you’re a band, seek out someone who cares. They will work with you, try to make you better, occasionally blow it (yeah, I’ve been there), but in general make your life better. No one but sound guys are willing to spend 3 hours coiling cables the RIGHT way.

    I do see (ok, hear) a lot of mediocre sound guys in my travels. My wife hates that because she can see it in my face. Like a musician, there is practice and skill involved. Gain skill and PRACTICE – don’t just assume that I now know everything or the song is mixed – I can go somewhere and sleep. If you elevate the profession, it will pay off for at least the folks that come after you. If you are a band with a great sound guy (technical AND personal), thank him regularly – it’s all the good ones ask for.

  16. Don

    The biggest problem that’s not really addressed here is that there are so many amateur “Sound Guys” who call themselves engineers.
    I’ve seen hundreds of ’em who wouldn’t know a VU meter from a LaPlace Transformation.
    I recently went to a show in a small club where the newly installed EAW system was being driven to the point of extreme clipping. And it was an acoustic show. I mentioned to the club manager that it was quite painful for the audience (literally). The “Sound Guy”s response was “Oh, I like it loud.”
    You’re there for a) the customers/attendees, and b) the band. In that order.

  17. Jenna

    I’ve been on both sides of the stage. Setting up, perfecting scenes and tearing down for multiple bands. I’ve also performed on stage at venues throughout Southern California. There are bands that are courteous and great that deserve good sound and there are also bands full of assholes who don’t know sound and are disrespectful to expensive equipment. I’ve seen sound guys/gals do an excellent mix for crappy bands and also some that do not give a crap about any band (even extremely well-known bands) that disappear before and halfway through soundcheck.

    Just don’t be pretentious and start being respectful of both bands & sound engineers. Come on people. Especially when fans are there paying for a good show. EVERYONE is a part of it and it reflects on both the musicians and the venue.

  18. Matthew

    I can’t speak for all sound guys but for myself (also a musician)…

    5. I’d hope those guys are trying to do something constructive? I hate leaving my board, but a lot of the times I’m jumping in the mic closet to grab replacement cables or gathering up the next band to make sure they’re ready to hit the stage.

    6. Tipping actually was customary back in the day from what I hear. I’ll get ol’ timers every now and again who hand me $10. If you’re selling out venues, the sound guy worked really hard for you / wasn’t a dick, and you’re walking away with a good net profit, why not hand him a $20? Or a beer? Or a shirt? A good sound guy was there before you, will be there after you, will spend more time working, and won’t be getting cheers for attractive, adoring fans.

    8. I can’t fathom why someone on a digital board wouldn’t save. WTF? But I work on analog a lot and often the person who booked the show decides who gets a sound check, I never have a say in that. Like you said, we just don’t have enough channels for the hipster band from Brooklyn with two drum kits, four guitarists, and the ukulele the singer plays on one song AND three openers. We can chart, but it’s usually faster if we check the headliner, opener, and line check (something entirely different from a sound check) the rest.

    I liked both articles, BTW. Write good articles. Ignore comments. Repeat.

  19. ashenk

    I have never given cash to the sound guy/girl because we simply don’t get paid enough…BUT I always try to buy the guy/girl a drink or use one of my drink tickets on them. This way when you have to ask for something, or its your turn to be on stage, hopefully they will care a little more since you went out of your way to do something nice for them.

    As a performer regardless of your expectations of the sound guy/girl you need to be polite, respectful, and find a way to not piss them off (more)! The reality is that most sound guys/girls are never going to read this article and the situations in this article will NEVER change! As a performer you need to learn how to read and deal with people. Some sound guys/girls would prefer you never talk to them and some sound guys/girls love to talk, just feel it out, be respectful, and respect their ways of doing things! Don’t piss them off and they won’t piss you off!

    Even if you do everything you can to be respectful and nice to the sound guy/girl, your still going to run into situations that suck. Sometimes you can fix it on stage on your own…I had a show where the sound guy wasn’t around and I needed more guitar and more kick drum so I moved the kick microphone inside the kick to get a little more “thump” and I turned up my amp…problem solved. The sound guy could keep eating his dinner next door and I was able to control my sound! (leave headroom on stage and you can control your own mix)

    • Sound

      You actually microphone and changed your guitar level in the middle of a show? Bad practice man. You know those inputs are live in the house? you decided to take liability for ALL that gear for a little more thump, when you would’ve survived without it? Thats the biggest thing you could do to piss off a sound guy, for the dumbest reason. Would’ve served you right to blow his subs while he wasn’t there, end up leaving the venue owing 10x what you were contracted to make.

    • Sound

      You actually moved a kick mic and changed your guitar level in the middle of a show? Bad practice man. You know those inputs are live in the house? you decided to take liability for ALL that gear for a little more thump, when you would’ve survived without it? Thats the biggest thing you could do to piss off a sound guy, for the dumbest reason. It would’ve served you right to blow his subs while he wasn’t there, and end up leaving the venue owing 10x what you were contracted to make.

  20. Sean Grogan

    Thank your FOH engineer, get him high. Hug your monitor engineer. If there is a systems tech on hand, buy him a beer. The sound guys are your greatest ally when it comes down to the quality of YOUR show. Contrary to what you may think, if it sounds bad, in this day and age, everyone knows its the sound guys fault…even if its the bands fault. Hes been there for hours beforehand, and will be there for hours afterwards. His day is long and usually thankless. There is a ton of pressure coming from all angles and it can be hard to keep your cool. That being said, there is absolutely NO reason for an engineer to be blaitently rude to you, unless youve really earned it. I prefer the “take things away from your monitor mix til you can learn some respect” approach.
    I ALWAYS strive provide the highest quality sound i can for a group, but as a house engineer its hard to hit the nail right on the head, as you are literally performing with a new band on the spot in front of a packed house. When im with the band ive worked with for 2 years, i do everything i can to ensure the most positive experience from the moment i step foot in the venue. Its called REINFORCEMENT. we are all on the same team, so just work together? Its not a damn pissing match, it an industry.

    Besides, the sound guy is always right.
    Even if hes wrong.

    Oh yea, thank the lighting guy, they helped a little.

  21. Sound Tech Kevin

    I have been a sound tech for around 8 years. I volunteered at a church to help out and discovered I loved to run sound. With the grace of a lot of different performers I have gotten pretty good at it but still have a lot to learn. The single most important thing to remember is that we as sound technicians are there to serve the band / speaker. It’s our job to make them sound great regardless of weather we like the style they play OR their attitude. Doing a job well let’s you sleep well at night. They are at our mercy, they need us to connect them to the audience. It’s a privilege to do so…

  22. Pro sound

    Doen sound jobs for a living many years. I treat musicions with respect when they do the same to me. I don’t smoke, jell ore stress up. Be prepared and know what your doing is my way. The trucks does’t load and un load them self. Stages must be built, speakers/arrays must be stacked ore flown as well as tuned. Safety for tons of responsibility on me. I travel as much as you and were do you think I sleep if you have a shit hotel.
    Only had one band that really hated me, a hip hop band whit DJ. There where nothing wrong whit the sound. When they went for the “fuck the sound man” power off, acoustic on them.

  23. Allen

    The main problem with most asshole sound guys is that they are not real musicians and are on a power trip. I have been making my money as a FOH engineer for a while but I am a musician first and the key is to treat the band like they are kings and they will usually respect you. If they feel confident and comfortable on stage they will perform better. I show the bands respect and hardly ever have many bands that are just total jerks. Every once in a while I will have some one being destructive with gear but not that often. If you start off with the right attitude letting the band know you are there for them it usually goes a whole lot better.

  24. theodor

    Dynamics and volume, soundmen, they do exist and while not suited for some bands, others it is part of their genre. Don’t tell bands to change everything about their levels on their pedal boards whilst they expect you are making up for it by riding desk levels….when really what you are doing is trying to change their sound, removing the dynamics because you aren’t using ears but looking at the leds and probably haven’t heard anything but techno to know what dynamics actually are. They’re there for a reason, some will have everything level and sound good, some bands will play music with lots of them, and both work as styles of music-but ask them to switch around their dynamic roles between those two scenarios and its wrecked. Imagine coming up to an orchestra and telling them everything must be ‘mf’ you would get laughed at quite seriously and piss about 50 people off quite a lot- Not every band wants that, but some are trained musicians who learnt dynamics and play styles that are reminiscent of orchestral dynamics such as post-rock. If you can’t deal with reinforcing that without clipping then you aren’t very good, its pretty easy.

  25. Joe Americain

    The best fix for all 7 is to hire a sound guy…Oh and fix that jewfro

  26. Scotttso

    I’m a soundman. (Ha who said we don’t read this.) I consider myself an artist. I play some instruments but don’t consider myself an artist there. I produce sound for bands where 100 people pack the house and small festivals of 3500.
    We are all professional. So act like it. Goes for everyone. I like stage plots as well as monitor mixes other than just vocals. If I don’t get them, apparently there’re to big for their britches. There will be problems.
    I don’t expect tips and will promote bands that try to be polite.
    I admire most of the comments and they are mostly true. Although a few depict what kind of artists they are. We play for the sole reason that we love music. Weather we make $50 a night or 5 mill a year. If you don’t love music, get the fuck out.
    I put hours a night/day setting up and tearing down to see people having a good time. This includes everyone that is involved with the show. From artist to the audience and the janitor. We all get wrapped up in ourselves and forget the reason why we do this.
    I have a digital board. Thing about digital is saving scenes. “Testing one, two…” Made me laugh.. Just like fingers on a piano, voices need to warm up. How many vocalist actually warm up before sound check.
    I love festivals. First band gets sound check and the rest get first song sound check. I ask for a spoke person and ask him for changes in monitor mix. You don’t provide me with stage plot or mix, oh well. That is what happens when you think your that good. Audience suffers because of tension. Who is to blame?
    One last thing. I hate feedback. I will only push vocal monitors up so loud. This is set up when monitors are turned on and I ring them out. If you can’t hear then your band is playing too loud. The trick is not to turn up.. No. No. No. It’s to find what is too loud and lower that instrument. If that means putting the drummer in a dome of silence or moving him back 500 yards, so be it.
    With all the bands I have mixed for, I can honestly say I can count on one hand the bands that I will never mix for again. Unless I make $10,000 for the show.
    Treat others as you would like to be treated. Remember. Foh can get so much worse.

  27. BK Sound Dick

    Most of these complaints sound like they come from bands that draw 5 people on a good day. If you’re good enough to draw the kind of numbers it takes to fill my venue then most likely you have your shit down and we don’t have most of these problems. The rest is just bitching from wannabes and I’m sure whom ever was mixing you could go on about how much you suck at your job. I never require a tip to work and if you offer one I say tip me after the set if you’re still happy. As a house engineer I get to deal with 20+ ‘artist’ a night so don’t get offended if i don’t have special time for you. Just be pro and do your job. Also don’t ask how it sounds out there or I’ll start asking if you’re singing on key.

  28. Sound Engineer aka "Sound Guy"

    Well, sometimes it is not that easy.
    I am a musician as well and a musician has a lot of frustrations, those that you said.
    As a sound engineer:
    – I need to be there lots of hours before the show. I have a complete PA to move and set up, i have to make my decisions because of the space that i am working on, i have to set up every routings and every mic on stands before the musician comes, so when he comes he has everything prepared so he can setup his “tools” and i can concentrate on making HIS sound!
    – It is not credible to charge for 10 hours of work if the show is only 4 hours, but the fact is that i work 10 hours before the show, so (once again) everything is right when you arrive! And we still have months, and years for knowledge
    – Sound is not just to put some mics and pufff!!! magic! It has a lot of work behind so it sounds good. So moving the monitor or the mic 3 feet, can REALLY fuck everything up, because acoustics are always laughing on what we (the humans) do! Feedback, Comb Filter, Resonances, etc…
    – The soundcheck is for checking sound, before that i have to deal with a lot of problems, which always happens! And i have to make sure that i fix everything before you, the musician, arrive, so your comfortable. You have months, years to prepare your music and your sound (the sound of your instruments, voice, etc.. wich is the most important before any mic placement by the way) i have 3 days to prepare YOUR sound, which is not always good. And of course, the soundcheck is to check the sound, when i ask you gently to hit the snare, AND ONLY THE SNARE, because i need to check that mic individually, and you are rehearsing with your band, and talking a lot about your stage problems with them, it makes the communication a really difficult process. So, if you want to rehearse, come AT TIME for the soundcheck and then you can do it, or come BEFORE the soundcheck and to it so we can do everything on time!
    – While you are having your great dinner and drinking plenty of wine (because your payment will be great) before the show starts, i am at the desk to make sure everything is going to run well and eventually (actually very often) i am on my knees to find that cable that was plugged off because you stumbled on it.. and you didn´t tell me.
    – At last, every time you can’t handle a mic or you don’t know how to move on the stage, you don’t know the polar patterns of a mic and everything strats to feedback during the show… The people don’t look at you with an ugly face, they look at me! That I am trying to resolve the shit you made… Me, the “Sound Guy” which actually studied a lot, by the way!
    This happens in a lot of cases, fortunately not all of them.
    – Despite of the fact the we eat manuals for breakfast, every sound engineer has to study music, and the music properties to make the best work possible, shouldn’t the musician study a little bit of microfones? monitors and PA?
    So we are there for the same objective, THE BEST SHOW POSSIBLE.. there is no need to be rivalry between the musicians and the sound engineer, just the need to be some communication and good vibe.
    Being a musician and a sound engeneer helped me a lot do deal with these problems, one side or the other.
    Merry Christmas

  29. Zigakly

    Funny how the article written by the sound guy is articulate and even-handed, but this rant is nothing but attitude. Don’t bring this to the stage, no matter what your role is.

  30. q.

    House system. Allan/Heath on the stage in a corner. Band does their own sound. Young gent who works at the bar knows all about the system and will help you out. So says “Bar”. Run your lines into the board. Start line check. Channels 2, 5 and 7 = no sound.
    Young Gent – “Oh. I forgot to tell you. Some of the channels are blown”
    Myself – “Which channels?”
    Young Gent – “Not sure.”
    Modify inputs to channels that work. Mark the channels that are “blown” so the next band that rolls in will know.
    Young Gent – “I never run the gains past 11 oclock. Sounds better.”
    Starts turning down some of the gains
    Myself – “Have you ever used the PFL?”
    Young Gent – “What’s that stand for?”
    Throw And Go gigs. I would love someone to write an article on those.

  31. Robert The Bruce

    As a sound guy I’m happy that I don’t make any of the points on this list.

    1. I assume you’re a decent musician because you got the gig.
    2. I love to hear different approaches to instruments/ vocals etc, I’ve even handed my tablet to a vocalist so he could EQ his vocals to his liking, that show was flawless. (I handled the rest of the band, he was just a bit vague and the interface on the tablet is really easy)
    3. Haven’t really had this issue pop up at all with bands, plenty with corporate functions though…
    4. Don’t smoke, easy.
    5. This is an interesting one: I may not be by the board, but I have a real-time surface in my hand, and I’ll stand next to you at the beginning of the soundcheck to set gain and monitors before heading back out FOH, even if you can’t see me I’ll be listening and watching, and I let musicians know as much.
    6. I’m paid well enough that I’d never even consider a tip, I do enjoy when the house provides refreshments though.
    7. See point 5. At the point you’re likely to want to move stuff I’ll be there anyway, all the gear is there for your performance, just don’t damage anything.
    8. Saving on digital boards varies and can have interesting effects, though any engineer worth their salt should be across the quirks of their board, or be prepared to work around them.
    9. My name is on the line as well, if you make me look bad I’ll lose bookings as an incompetent sound company, we’re all in this together after all. (I’ve done too many musicals, I long for the simplicity of just a band without 12+ headset radio mics to deal with)

  32. clay

    if it’s a metal show in mid-sized venue, seem a like the sound guys think the only thing worth hearing his the kick drum. I’ve been to four shows now where that’s all you could hear, plus a bit of the vocals. Not wasting my money anymore on crap like that.

  33. Big DOgg

    I gotta say Ari, your side of the argument came across with quite the dose of vitriol. Whilst the other seemed quite measured and empathetic, and even outly admitted to faults that sound techs can possess. Thus, in my opinion, almost answering who is right in this argument, the sound techs…Chill out brother