Live Sound. What To Expect At Your Concert?
- The most challenging job in any nightclub is that of a sound engineer. If things are going great, they are hardly noticed, and if something sounds wrong (and that has a lot of opinions attached to it), they (and we) can be bombarded with opinions about how to fix it.
- Parents: Please do not hand signal your kids from the audience. (Yes, we’ve seen this many times) and tell them to change the amp volume settings when they come on stage. We have preset volume levels. Any dramatic change made by the students can cause a very unbalanced sound.
- For the most part, every club has competent sound engineers. They were hired because of their reputation and skills. They understand the room and the sound system better than any “lay” person. We need to allow them to do their job and not interrupt them. If you have a question about the sound, please address one of our staff, and we will do our best to answer any question you have and adjust reasonable requests. Please do not approach the sound engineer directly. Let our staff communicate any sound issues with the engineer.
- The students are learning how to play on stage. Getting a great sound on stage requires a lot of experience. It will not happen in one gig. It won’t happen in ten or twenty gigs. It really won’t happen for quite some time. We coach them on stage volume, amp placement/levels, microphone technique, stage logistics, and more. Will they sound perfect? Most likely, no. Will it be good? Most likely, yes. Learning to play live on stage will take time, and no two stages are the same. Like practicing scales and rudiments, learning to play on a stage takes time, and you must regularly perform on stage to improve live performance “chops.”
- Guitar players are learning to balance rhythm, lead guitar levels, and “clean” and “dirty” tones.
- Drummers are learning to listen to monitors and “hear” the band on stage.
- Bass players are learning to adjust their level and ensure the low frequencies aren’t taking over the room, creating a “muddy” mix.
- Keyboardists are learning (like the guitarists) to blend in with the band and monitor their volume levels.
- Singers are learning to use monitors and not blow their voices out trying to sing over the band.
- Horns (Sax, trumpet, etc..), like the singers, horn players are learning to use a microphone and listen to themselves in the stage monitors.
- Student musicians are all dealing with nerves, adrenaline, and wanting approval after they’ve performed. We help them backstage to be relaxed and focused on their performance. We want them to feel good about what they accomplished when they are finished. Even if/when something goes wrong, it is a learning experience. We want them to understand the learning experience and not focus on blaming someone or something else.
Pro players make it “look easy” because they have logged many stage time and preparation hours. They’ve seen and heard many variables from doing hundreds/thousands of gigs and know how to adjust. We are working with inexperienced young students, so “things will happen.” It is part of the learning curve. We want their efforts to be supported.
- Where were you listening from?
The best place to WATCH may be the front rows. The worst place to LISTEN to a live band is in the front rows. You won’t hear the mix in the front rows because you are sitting in line with the main speakers that throw sound out into the room. The best place to LISTEN is halfway back in the room or near the sound engineer mixing board. If you have a comment on the sound, the first question we will ask is…, “Where were you listening from?”
- Common comment #1. I can’t hear the vocals. Most likely reasons:
- The singer isn’t projecting directly into the microphone.
- The “listener” is in the first few rows.
- The sound engineer is asleep. (We hope not)
- Common comment #2. The (instrument) is too loud or too soft! Most likely reasons:
- The student may have turned the amp volume up or down without us knowing.
- The instrument is too loud… The listener is standing close to the stage, directly in front of the instrument.
- The instrument is too soft… The listener is standing close to the stage on the opposite side of the instrument they want to hear.
- The sound level from the mixing engineer wasn’t changed after a solo. (We hope not.)
- Sound levels: We try to have moderate sound levels at our shows. We recommend bringing earplugs or sound-muffling headphones for young children or yourself! 😎🎧
Everyone has an opinion on live sound. We know we won’t please everyone. There are just too many variables and opinions on live sound and performance. Most live pro shows I’ve seen/heard at The Staples Center have had awful sound. Unless you are in an acoustically dialed-in room and have had a thorough sound check, nothing will sound “perfect.” 😎
If we did a sound check with every band, it still wouldn’t sound perfect to everyone. Even then, once you bring an audience into the room, the sound changes, and all bets are off.
We do our best to make sure students have a fun show and, more importantly, a great learning experience to build upon. We want them to sound great, and we work very hard with the club and all the variables to make that happen. 😎🎸🎹🥁