Friday, January 30, 2009

Important rules on sound guys.

As performers, we all need them. The sound guy (or gal) is an underpaid, skilled technician who would either be hanging out drinking or onstage himself if he wasn't babysitting your band. I think we should take a moment to validate the hard work that they have to do and the shit that they have to put up with. Below are a few suggestions on how to do your part (he has his part to not suck) before, during and after your performance.
Now, since I haven't worked with too many female sound people (though I know you exist somewhere), I'm using the gender as male in the following instances. You sound ladies know who you are. Come find me and I'll give you a sincere pat on the back or hug...

Rule #1: Don't piss them off.
The are a wide variety of ways in which you can go about not pissing off sound guys. Try to practice most of them.

Rule #2: Bite your tongue no matter how much of a dick he's being.
This one's the toughest to obey, but most valuable. Although surly sound guys are a dime a dozen, kiss his ass anyway. Remember: your goal for the night is to make it through your set sonically unscathed.

Rule #3: Get out of his way.
Don't be messing around onstage when he's trying to put his mics up. Step off the stage area and wait for his beckon call.

Rule #4: Do a good sound check.
Robert, my partner, advises: "Don't mumble into the mic. Don't yell into the mic. Sing your loudest song at the volume you plan on singing it onstage" I add: "no matter how much of a weenie you feel." Oh, and keep singing till he tells you to stop.
See, Rule #4 should be written for me. I don't do good sound checks. I feel like a dork sitting there singing a cappela. SO, I sing silly songs.
Ugh. And PLEASE don't do the "Yeah. Check. Hey. 1-2-3-4."
PLEASE don't do that. Engineers do that to check for sibilance in arena settings. We all know that this is the call of the arena rock roadie. Are you or were you once an arena rock roadie? No? Then, please don't do the call. Your sound check will not be permeating an acre's worth of land, so please don't do it. If you decide to do it anyway, know that somewhere out there I am snickering at you.

Rule #5: Introduce yourself.
Acknowledge him immediately. Don't act like you're too cool for Joe Schlub's Bar. He's responsible for making you sound good.

Rule #6: Watch your thumb while soundchecking.
Thumbs up doesn't mean "ok", it means "make this louder in the monitors". The little bunny rabbit symbol with the circle means "ok".

Rule #7 Don't act like a butthole.
Use the manners your parents gave you. If you weren't taught proper manners, well, I pity you and your band. Also, don't go around acting like numbskulls with your buddies. Mr. Sound Guy's seen it all before, probably last night, so you're not as witty as you think you are.

Rule #8: Don't be late.
You can put your makeup on in the car or in the can after you've done the sound check. Don't go around wasting everybody's time. Seriously.

Optional Rule #9: Show him some appreciation from stage.
Nothing boosts someone's confidence like feeling they're appreciated. If he's a sucky sound guy, don't sound sarcastic if you choose to do it. I've seen bands get the lights turned out on them while they were still playing. Of course that was in NYC at the Knitting Factory.

Rule #10: Burn no bridges.
You never know when you'll end up playing that venue again.
If Rule #2 applies, don't get in the last word before you load out, no matter how good it would feel. You never know if you'll end up at the same venue with the same jerk sound guy

Well, I think that's a good start. Abiding by at least a few of the rules should help your magical night run a lot smoother.

Feel free to email any questions you may have to

Kristen Strezo