There is an old saying - usually sprouted by musos - that roadies
are frustrated musicians. Poor unfortunates who's only way of being
associated with the entertainment industry is to 'wear black and lift
lift-heavy things', plus they can't count past "Test 1 -2"
(There's another saying that lighting-engineers are frustrated roadies,
but that's a different story!)
With the added spark of being located in the centre of the venue,
surrounded by hoards of punters. 'The buck stops with them. If feedback
bursts through, every head in the house will turn to stare at the
In a studio, engineers walk into the control room, push up some
faders and ...voila, music leaps from the speakers...beautiful!
Live production is a different story altogether. The 'studio' and
r-e-a-l-l-y big speakers and amps, are in roadcases in the back
of a truck. As well as 'creativity and art', live-sound engineers
have to the technical knowledge to rig the PA, sound-check the room
and operate the system during the gig.
Live-sound engineers have to train their ears to identify rogue
frequencies that sound terrible or can take-off into feedback...
immediately! Train them so that if feedback starts they can turn
full-of-confidence to their 31-band EQs and pull-out the offending
frequency...first time! They have to be on-their-toes, to clamp
down on that the first little squeal of feedback, before it escalates
into uncontrolled oscillation.
On the other hand we must have a creative ear for music, rhythm
and melody. From FOH the engineer balances the individual sounds,
introduces 'light and shade' into the mix by using compressors to
adjust the dynamics of the sounds, and applies FX. Enough to keep
operators on their toes!
There is always the friendly rivalry between 'players and production'.
The band says that without their music no one - band or crew - would
be working. Of course, the standard reply from the hard working
crew is that without their skills and equipment, none of the punters
could hear them! The ironic thing - and the reason so many part-time
musos become full time crew - is that for smaller 'local bands',
the crew are probably getting paid more!
The final wash-up of all of this is that we are all part of the
bigger picture. It's true that the sound engineer 'can't polish
a turd' or put it another way; 'crap from the stage = crap out of
the speakers.' (Cliché central...sorry!) Of course, the flip-side
to this scenario is that if the engineer is not up to their gig,
they can make a great band sound really bad, set-up a feedback nightmare
and r-e-a-l-l-y upset both punters and band!!
No gig is the same as another, with each night presenting an entirely
different set of problems and rewards. Some other experiences and
qualifications are just as important as technical and creative abilities.
(1.) Calm & Cool - Keep calm and think clearly when everyone
in the audience looks at you when gear 'breaks down' or Feedback
(2.) Business Sense - Music is an Industry - as well as a love
- Venue Rules and Restrictions must be respected, if you want to
(3.) Diplomacy & Tact - musicians are creative people, their
product is their soul - treat them with sympathy.
We all have our areas of pressure, skill, expertise and creativity.
None of us are better or worse than the other. We are all part of
the great adventure of live music, so let's all remember why we
got into our beloved gigs in the first place. From 'inner city garage-bands
to mega-stadium gigs' it's exciting and fun, Woo-hoo!!
PS. What first attracted me to the soundies gig was that it sits
somewhere between 'science and art.' I was an electrician by trade
and a home muso by choice. I had my Telecaster, PB bass, 6 &
12 string acoustics sitting at home, spending up big time on music,
recording and sound mags. After a while it dawned on me that I was
more into production than playing and that production as creative
as playing. And thus the journey begins!