by Alex Cosper (2/15/2014)
A live sound engineer who knows how to keep the technical side of audio unnoticeable to the audience is someone who is very valuable to the music scene. Venues that try to cut corners hire inexperienced sound people who do not understand how to achieve optimal sound in any given live situation. The main concepts to keep in mind to be a successful and respected live engineer is to have control of the technical side of the show without becoming the star.
The last thing anyone at a concert wants is for the sound engineer to be the focal point of the show, because thay means more interruption than entertainment. The engineer must know at all times the status of every channel on the mixing board and how to troubleshoot sound problems. The most important thing is that the engineer prevents feedback, distortion and other unwanted noise from disturbing the mix of musical instruments.
Any time loud annoying sounds come out of the speakers, the engineer must immediately react to cut the sound. The master volume is usually positioned at the far right of every mixing board while the microphones are on the far left. Knowing exactly where the master control is should be a no-brainer to any engineer, which is why loud deafening sounds should never last longer than a few seconds. The live sound engineer is responsible for making sure equipment failure isn't the reason a show fails. One bad show can be a credibility burner for an engineer if word gets around to professionals or even music fans.
Venues that care about their patrons and the entertainment experience will only hire experienced, competent live sound engineers who understand equipment, musicians and crowds. Some of the basics to learn in the beginning involve soundwaves and room acoustics. Learning how soundwaves travel and bounce off walls and ceilings is very important to developing a clear understanding of running audio for live shows. It's also important to understand which types of materials absorb sound.
A live sound engineer can make an impressive income either working for a venue or as a freelance entrepreneur. It's a good idea to learn as much about audio as possible, as well as band instruments and musicianship. The best live sound engineers are the ones that allow the most important elements to be heard clearly in the mix, which usually means getting a good audible vocal sound. The engineers who need more work are the ones who allow drummers to drown out other musicians. Although live sound is much different than recording, it helps an engineer to balance knowledge and experience between the two fields. Engineers can expand their knowlege through recording arts schools.
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