Tips for Working in Live Sound

Live Sound is one of the disciplines that we teach at the Conservatory. Each part of audio engineering has its unique challenges, as well as a shared set of common skills. The success of a gig depends a lot on how prepared you are, and how you handle the challenges that will come up on the job site. Knowing how to use the gear is one thing, but there are also some core life skills that can come into play and make your work life a lot easier! Today I’d like to focus on some pieces of advice to consider when looking to work in the Live Sound arena:

Live Sound Venue at CRAS

  • Be on time. This is pretty straightforward – show up to where you are supposed to be, when you are supposed to be there! A good rule to follow is: if you are early – you’re on time; if you’re on time – you’re late; and if you’re late, you’re fired! I always try to arrive at least five minutes before I’m supposed to be anywhere.
  • Listen to who’s in charge. If you’re not running the show, you’re helping out, and doing things your own way isn’t necessarily the best way to help. When in doubt, ask questions!
  • Bring ear plugs/filters. If you don’t have a set of custom ear plugs/filters, it might be a good time to look into getting a pair. Here’s a presentation we had with the guys from the Tinnitus Foundation talking about this very topic!

Live Sound Crew

  • Keep busy. If you have nothing to do, find out if there is any way to help with something else.
  • Lift smart! Often times you’ll be asked to lift heavy musical and sound equipment. Make sure to use proper technique, and don’t overwork yourself. If you think two people are required to lift a thing, go find someone to help instead of trying to kill yourself doing it on your own.
  • Keep your mixing tips and suggestions to yourself. Unless someone asks you specifically, it’s not a generally good idea to tell people that they are doing things wrong. Even if they are, quietly stand by until your help is asked for or needed.

Frankie Ballard sound check

  • Don’t drink or do drugs. Being at a concert feels like a party, but you’re there to work. Be professional, be sober!
  • Wrap cables the right way. If someone has to go untie all the knots you made in their cables by wrapping them incorrectly, they’re not gonna want you around for the next show. If you’re not sure how exactly to wrap a cable, ask them to show you how they like to have their cables wrapped.

Cable Wrapping Party

  • Be prepared! Having a gig bag is a huge plus! Flashlights are incredibly useful, especially in dark places like under the stage, or behind a gear rack. You might also want to have other items like guitar picks/strings, band-aids, aspirin, a leatherman/multi-tool, duct tape, EAR PLUGS!, etc.
  • Smile! Even if you aren’t feeling well, at least look like you are enjoying your job. Besides, not many people get paid to go to concerts!

Live sound for concerts

  • Know your PQs and EQs – monitor mixes and EQs make up a majority of a live sound engineer’s work. Make sure you’re familiar with how to adjust each without causing feedback!