The dont's of live performance

Discussion in 'Live Performance & Stage Sound' started by 7 Dying Trees, Nov 9, 2007.

  1. cip 123

    cip 123 SS.org Regular

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    Funnily enough my band just played a show which wasn't organised very well so we had to do our own sound, it wasn't a great mix on stage, I could barely hear my keys player, but I just needed drums.

    The front of house sound though went down very well, so yea maybe just do it yourselves, we had a friend doing levels and they didn't have any live sound experience.

    My own input, don't use a headstock tuner, or phone, It sounds simple, but my bassist has on multiple occasions been tuning on stage with one. Even when the volumes not up it just looks unprofessional. Buy a pedal or borrow one, it'll save you time and everyone else.
     
  2. bostjan

    bostjan MicroMetal Contributor

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    I use an SOS tuner. I don't care if people think it looks unprofessional. I can tune as quickly and as quietly and more accurately than anyone with a pedal.

    Regarding sound guys - I've run into more than a handful around here as well, that, sorry to say, have no idea what they are doing. And I say that as an audience member. I've seen bands with huge subs who had the sound guy pushing all highs and cutting all of the lows, to the point where people were complaining about earaches and headaches and such. I've been to dozens of shows with the same one guy doing sound where everything was feeding back the entire time, and the mix was a total mushy mess. A lot of folks got turned off of seeing live bands because the sound was so bad. It pissed me off to find out that the sound guy was making more than the entire band was getting paid in most cases.

    I'm not going to say that doing sound is super easy, but I will say this: doing sound perfectly is impossible to do. A sound engineer can spend thousands of hours honing his craft to get 99% of the way to perfection, but to simply cover the basics, it really only takes 20 minutes to learn how to get control of feedback and to make sure you know how to mute and unmute channels. If you are charging people $200 to run sound, and then ....ing up so bad that everything is feeding back and vocal mics end up being muted and it takes you several seconds to unmute them during the actual show, then you should be sued.

    That said, I've worked with a few really talented sound guys who didn't charge my band a penny, and, in one case even refused a tip.
     
  3. lewis

    lewis SS.org Regular

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    this is so f**king true. And the worst part?. Feeling like you have to butter them up incase they F**K up the sound EVEN more.

    I have had the same treble max type eq setups from soundguys that cause earaches etc, and STILL felt like I had to tell him he is doing a good job before my band started out of fear it got worse.

    them getting paid well is an absolute joke. I played a show once (backing tracks) where at our own rehearsal room sounded amazing, where we sounded so bad thanks to these "soundguys" (yeah they werent soundguys at all) and literally got £10 at the end of the night to share around 4 ways, whereas you know the useless soundguy, who made everyone think you are only a £10 band, gets loads in comparison. Its disgraceful.
    I wont hold back any longer. Im not buttering up anyone anymore. If you are genuinely Horsesh*t at your job, i will be telling you so. People defending them as being a "hard job".??

    f*ck me, try playing the intricate songs us musicians write and are expected to execute to a flawless level live, whilst still looking the part, all the while putting your entire bands sound and reputation in the hands of a 2-bit fraudster?.

    Yet pushing some volume sliders up or down to get a basic balanced mix, is "hard"?. Yeah sure it is.
     
  4. BenHughesDS

    BenHughesDS Divine Solace

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    :rofl: Dude, I love your candor! It's like you've just spoken out for all the frustrated musicians who have had to deal with this kind of scenario.
     
  5. lewis

    lewis SS.org Regular

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    haha thanks man! :lol:
    and here here!. We have all been there, we have all been screwed over in sound AND payment and we all deserve to not take it any longer.
    Sick of it.
    Can shove their scooped mids, max treble up their Arse.

    one time we played a show where the "soundguy" didnt turn up for soundchecks...... rolled in 20 mins before Doors were opening, with no equipment/mics anything. Then tried to defend himself by saying that although he knew this show was today, he had a late night getting wasted and "only just woke up"?

    erm...right ok... you are forgiven then?
     
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  6. bostjan

    bostjan MicroMetal Contributor

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    Just saw a show the other day- band did their own sound. It sounded great- not too loud, not too quiet; perfect balance of all of the instruments and vocals. I've seen this band a bunch of times. Every time they do their own sound, they sound great. Every time they get one of the "union" soundguys who are required by some venues, there is feedback and there are mishaps with the vocals being muted at the wrong times. You could say that maybe the difference between the room acoustics explains why the feedback is so bad and why they need a "professional" soundman there....

    Uh huh, except that I had played at many of the same venues before they had sound guys and I never had trouble with feedback, and now I've played one or two venues that stopped having the require-hire soundguys hence, and had no problems. The only time I had trouble was when I was running sound for a metal band that was playing at a 30-person venue with an 8x10 bass rig and two guitars were both running 2x4x12 guitar cabs, and I only brought a 1500 W PA system (which I thought would be appropriate for the venue.

    I ran into a similar situation once when I was doing sound. I already ran through soundcheck with the band. 30 minutes later, this other sound man shows up and says it's his gig and he's "in the union," so I'd better make like a leaf and blow out of there. When I started packing up my stuff, this dude was like "whoah there pal, you can't take away the equipment!" I explained to the guy that it was my stuff, so if I wasn't going to be running sound, then I was going to pack up my stuff and come back and just enjoy the show. It turned out that the other guy didn't bring any sort of amplifier nor a mixer nor any speakers, only mics and stands and cables. He didn't seem to understand the super-basic concept of not using someone else's shit. It ended up being totally stupid, with him leaving to go "borrow a PA system from someone" while I ran the sound for free until he got back. I talked to the venue manager, and that guy confirmed that I was booked by mistake, and he offered me free drinks for the evening for my trouble, but no pay. So I ran sound for the first band, then tore down my stuff and let the other guy take over for the last two bands, except that he left after the second band and I had to take back over for the third. As if the stage wasn't chaotic enough with bands frantically loading in and out at the same time...but no way I was going to let one of these "union" soundguys squeal feedback through my system for 1-2 sets.
     
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  7. TedEH

    TedEH Cromulent

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    ^ That's pretty insane.

    To add to the "don't do this" list:
    I saw a "band" recently that showed up with just a guitar and a bass, and some backing tracks. Fine, I'll be open minded about it...
    But they couldn't follow their own backing tracks. Half the set was false starts and trainwrecks.

    Seems to me the #1 don't of show playing is don't play shows if you can't get through a set.
    I can be forgiving of trainwrecks, but not when it's clear that the band is really not show-ready.
     
  8. lewis

    lewis SS.org Regular

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    this is literally like reading my own experiences.
    also....what an absolute shambles.
    Ive also had gigs where not only is the sound guy on the night exactly like we are saying about leaving everyone seriously stressed, but also some bands on the card have turned up with no gear..yep NO GEAR and then 30 mins before Doors are going around asking all the other bands. "Yeah so we are cool to borrow your amps and stuff yeah"?

    its honestly an absolute disgrace. Its one thing to book shows when you have gear but its abit crappy (budget stuff and we have all been there and started out right) and another thing to book shows knowing you actually have no amps and dont even bother trying to either hire amps in advance, or even communicate with the other bands well before the night of the gig to see if anyone will be nice enough to actually lend out their gear.
    (I still wouldnt because for me there is a principal of the thing). Why should I take it seriously, spending a fortune on pro equipment and spending all the time in the world perfecting my craft, only for a band on the same show as me, to turn up with nothing, and be not well drilled in their craft, only to benefit from my sweet setup?

    Erm the answer is a resounding NO you bunch fraudsters.
     
  9. bostjan

    bostjan MicroMetal Contributor

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    I had a good laugh a few months ago. I was doing a micrometal gig, and I was opening up for a long list of other bands, and the second band didn't bring any guitars and wanted to borrow mine.

    I've run into plenty of bands who assumed someone else would take care of amps and drums, but to show up with nothing but your fingers (no amps, no instruments, no picks...) :noplease:
     
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  10. Blasphemer

    Blasphemer Bird Law expert

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    Being both a musician and professional live engineer, both reading these posts and thinking of my own past experiences (on stage) have me in a combination of cringing and grinding my teeth out of anger.

    Last time my band went out on the road, we didn't have a competent sound tech the entire tour. And we're an instrumental band. There's no vocals to get above the drums or guitars, and our samples/backing tracks are almost entirely for between-song ambience. We're probably one of the easiest bands in the world to mix, doubly so since I spend a LOT of time making sure our sound is stage-friendly. All preset levels are tested and metered at rehearsal, solos have mid-boosts to pop them above the mix, the samples are all level matched, etc. This, however, was too much for some of the guys running sound for us. We're on self-contained in ears, and the guys at the board still insisted on pumping random stuff into the wedges against our wishes. Our stage plot literally explains this and other things in the most plain English possible, and yet it's just plain ignored. I feel like this picture perfectly describes the level of experience we were dealing with:
    [​IMG]

    Look at that EQ. JUST LOOK AT IT. Why not just turn the damn wedge down?? Why create a shitty, phasey mess for the people who have to deal with your deaf incompetence?!

    As I said, this is all made like 10x worse because I do this for a living. I work with a range of gear from behringer outboard gear and 30 year old consoles to PAs that cost more than a house and the absolute top of the line digital consoles. Seeing these guys make all the exact wrong moves when stuff starts taking off is so frustrating, but I KNOW that if I step in and help, I'll pretty much be stuck at the board for the rest of the night while the dude getting paid gets schlocked at the bar. There's no right answer expect to grit my teeth and deal with it, and make a note to think twice before playing X venue again.

    This even recently happened at one of my favorite local haunts. I did sound there for a few years as the house "metal guy". I pretty much always got comments from the staff about how much better it sounded when I was there, and audience members saying it was the "best xxx place has ever sounded". I eventually had to stop because my schedule really picked up and the money just wasn't worth the stress, anymore (it may have sounded okay, but I was absolutely fighting for every last bit of sonic fidelity and headroom out of that joke of a PA). My band played there in April, which was maybe 10 or so months after I had left, and the house guy was a joke. He only put mics on the kick drum, snare, vocals and a DI for the bass. No guitars, no toms, and we had to argue with him to get a line for our samples. The kick mic stand, placement, and mic itself was horrendously stupid and bad. Needless to say, it sounded terrible. Halfway through our set, people were telling us that they couldn't hear the guitars, and literally all I could do was shrug and point at the sound guy. It was embarrassing and enraging.


    Sorry for the rant, that just kind of all flowed out after reading your guys posts :lol:
     
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  11. TedEH

    TedEH Cromulent

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    Showed up once for a show that took place in some kind of gym/auditorium. Terrible sounding room to begin with, so I don't blame them for that bit. There was a small stage riser type dealie at one end that I expected the band would be on. The space on this stage was cleared off and some PA speakers were thrown in the front two corners. They then proceeded to put some drums and guitar cabs.... in front of the PA. Also, no monitors. Also, no mics except for the singer. When the first band started playing, they couldn't turn the mic up loud enough to be heard over the band without it feeding back horribly. I suggested moving the PA speakers so that they'd be in front of the band, and the sound guy / PA owner had a fit, telling me he "knows how to use his own f*king gear", and how dare I come from out of town and start telling people what to do.

    Unrelated - last time I did sound was for a small fundraiser event that just had a few acoustic performances and things like that between talks. I'm not really a live sound guy, but I've done enough shows as a performer that I get the basic ideas. I rented a small PA- couple o main speakers, couple o monitors, some 58s, 57s, bunch of cables, etc., and set them up the best I could in the room. It went alright for some performers, but for others, ones with no stage experience, it was a struggle keeping everything audible. One or two of the performers refused to use ANY volume. They strummed as quietly as possible and basically just hummed the lyrics to themselves, forcing me to push the PA as loud as I could get it for them to carry across the room- at which point they would hear themselves and back away from the mics out of stage fright. Compounding that, every time I stepped away from the board, there was a new drunk guy who thought he knew better and would try to "fix" it, which would instead cause terrible feedback, for which I'd get yelled at, and was bad enough for one of the performers to just quit in the middle of a song. :lol:

    I'm probably glad I'm not a real live sound guy.
     
  12. bostjan

    bostjan MicroMetal Contributor

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    So, @Blasphemer brings up the perfect point for this thread:

    Q) What is the appropriate course of action to follow when the sound guy is a complete shithead?

    The key to a successful musical career is to know the right people. Know the right drummer, know the right bassist, know the right sound guys, know the right venue managers, know the right promoters, etc.

    Preparing for a show is a big deal. I think that's where a lot of us drop the ball. We know, or think we know, how to successfully prepare to book a show, but once the show is booked, what do you do?

    1. Fliers. Print them, or electronically post them everywhere. But you have to get the word out that you are doing a show. If you are doing a lot of shows, people might be following you already, but it doesn't hurt. You don't want to stupidly overpromote, but really, IMO, overdoing it is much safer than underdoing it.
    2. Orchestrate not just your music, but your entire stage show. This could mean lights, theatrics, whatever. People come to see you to be entertained, so be entertaining.
    *** I think this part is where the sound man is important - he/she is part of the show as well. If you have your own sound engineer, that person should be at one of your rehearsals closest to your show date. If you are using a house-provided engineer, it's best to get to know the person, and communicate your expectations and needs. If the person still sucks so bad at the job of running sound, then, IMO, it is okay to insist on using your own sound engineer. If you are using a house-provided PA, this might be impossible to insist, but it might be necessary.
    3. Always have mitigation plans. Your drummer is a great guy, and only he really understands your music. But you may have to keep close touch with a backup, or at least someone who can lend drums if your drummer's set gets stolen or otherwise becomes inaccessible. If your drummer doesn't show up, and you have no backup, then be as entertaining and professional as you can be without a drummer. If too many factors eclipse the viability of your show, weigh out your options and then, if it's best for your career to not play, don't play. It's one of the worst options, but sometimes there are no better options. People can be understanding under obvious circumstances. For example, you are a death metal band, and you are playing at a venue when the power goes out. Try to throw together an acoustic jam. If no one has acoustic instruments, it might be best to simply mingle with the audience until the power comes back on or until everyone leaves. If a tornado is coming toward the venue, though, then obviously just get out of there.

    I've been in plenty of "just get out of there" situations. I can tell you that not one of those situations could be honestly claimed to be "not the band's fault." I'll break down one particular personal experience from ages ago. My apologies to everyone involved in the story, but I won't name names.

    I was in four bands at the same time. I had quite a few contacts and my musical career was going nicely. I met two guys at my work who were in a band. They weren't looking for a guitar player, but after hearing me play at another gig, they offered me a gig with them as an "alternative-rock" band along the lines of Creed/Staind/Trapt/etc. which was a popular style at the time. We got together for a few practices, and I noticed some issues with the band on my end, which I vocalized in hopes of getting things on track with the stated goals of the band. Looking back, I think the issues were more that the stated goals of the singer of the band (make it big) were incongruent with the goals of the other guys (have a few beers with friends and relax). This falls under knowing the right people. None of the people put together in the band were on the same page, and it showed. I used my contacts to get us a gig, under the pretext that everyone would pull together and learn their parts in a month and a half. That falls under being prepared before making next steps. Practices never came together 100%, with the people who needed to be there most not making it. No one did any promotion for this upcoming gig. It was at a well known place, so, everybody assumed people would be there.

    Time for the gig anyway. This was a place I had played once or twice before with a much different style of band. Now we were booked to go first on a billing of three bands. Miraculously, we were all there on time and set up and were ready to sound check. No sound guy. That was directly on me. I assumed there would be a sound guy like there was last time - I never asked for a sound guy, though. So I set the levels myself, and off we went. Show time. Hardly anyone is there, maybe twenty patrons, and it's a rather large venue- seats about 200. Ugh. Ok, play song one...song two...and so on. I'm having a blast. The singer sounds like shit, but he's getting into it. Nobody else in the band had played a gig before, so they are nervous as shit and it shows. We cruise through our setlist at record speed, and still have ten minutes left in our set without any material. What do we do? No mitigation plan at all, we go into a very awkward instrumental piece that the bass player doesn't know, so he walks away. The singer starts making out with this woman in the audience no one knew. Ten minutes grind past. Phew, now it's time to pack up...except the venue manager wants us to keep playing. As it turns out, band number two didn't show up. Ugh, umm, now what? Well, we didn't learn to say no, so we decided to jam with the other guitarist on bass and the singer on drums, since we all knew a lot of the same songs that way. BUT WE HAD NEVER REHEARSED THEM. So, awkward cover of Zeppelin, awkward cover of the Doors, etc. etc., it was bad, but not bad enough for our singer's newest groupie to back off. Nope, she's on the stage, groping him and slobbering all over while he's playing drums. The singer/drummer's girlfriend then unexpectedly shows up, and she's pissed. Much screaming ensues. Now it's just me and the other guitar player on stage, and then a fight breaks out and beer bottles go whizzing past my head, and I hear an awful crunch noise. I had forgotten that the backing of the stage was a huge single-paned glass mirror. ...was...

    So there is glass everywhere. Three of the five members of the band are involved in fisticuffs, and the venue manager is rushing to the telephone (this was before cell phones were common). I packed up my stuff as fast as I could and jetted. No apologies - nope, I was too damn embarrassed to talk to that venue manager ever again after that, and none of my other bands played there after that cluster.

    If I had asked the right questions, knew the right people, or prepared properly for a full scale show, then this could have been far less disastrous. The only positive thing I got from it was an entertaining story and the wisdom of seeing how wrong things go when the essentials of band management are completely disregarded.
     
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  13. bostjan

    bostjan MicroMetal Contributor

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    I've seen that too, unfortunately, more than once. I don't know how the idea gets into people's heads that they can push sound from behind the band right into the wall of microphones and then back to the speakers, without causing feedback.

    That's too bad. I bet everyone reading this is more competent than half the sound guys in this town. I mean, we have some really good sound guys, but there are just so many who haven't a clue. I can only imagine that anyone so far behind the bell curve must not care enough to read any information about running sound. Basic basic things, like not knowing that a howling, mid-frequency feedback cannot be eliminated by cutting the 5k+ band on the EQ, and then not knowing to turn the volume down to get it to stop. Or when they have a keyboard plugged into a line/mic hybrid input and not knowing that they need to engage the pad, so the keyboard signal just clips out completely and blasts over the top of everything else, even with the volume turned down as far as it will go.

    Lucky for me, most of my complaints are from seeing other bands. I have, though, once, not too long ago, had to run across a venue to shut off a squealing channel on a mixer when the sound guy was in a panic with his arms in the air.

    Running sound and playing at the same time is pretty daunting. Running sound and singing and playing - fuggetaboutit.
     
  14. Mark Lykkos

    Mark Lykkos SS.org Regular

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    This thread is pure gold. I love it.

    I suppose my contribution is don't be an ass and be late to stage for an excessively large amount of time. It causes extra tension in the crowd sometimes, especially if the crowd has already been drinking a lot and a few fights already broke out before the headlining act even gets on stage.
     
  15. Unleash The Fury

    Unleash The Fury SS.org Regular

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    What if a stranger from the crowd offers to help you tear down and bring stuff outside, would you let him help or politley refuse his help?

    Because who knows, that cabinet that hes wheeling out the door might be the last time you see it!
     
  16. TedEH

    TedEH Cromulent

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    ^ Probably more of a context thing. Get a stranger to wheel the cab outside without supervision? No way. Get a stranger to help me lift my 150lbs+ bass cab off the stage and into my car so I don't hurt my self? Absolutely.
     
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  17. auntyethel

    auntyethel Skommeling

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    Sort of along the lines of borrowed equipment... I saw a band whose bassist did those hardcore jumpy flippy things, ended up jamming his headstock into the floor and snapping it off. He then asks to borrow a bass from one of the other bands and the guy actually lent him one. Guy proceeds to do the same moves and broke the borrowed bass as well. I wasn't sure if I felt sorry for the guy who lent him the bass considering how the guy treated his own instrument, I sure as hell wouldn't lend him my bass.

    So to the theme of the thread... don't lend people your equipment I suppose. I think not lending someone a piece of gear because of their own foolishness is more 'professional' than the guy not taking responsibility for himself.
     
  18. bostjan

    bostjan MicroMetal Contributor

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    I'd say generally the latter. Probably <10% chance something goes wrong, but it's all about expectation. $15k worth of equipment x 5% chance of something going wrong = $750 expectation cost. Not really worth it, IMO.
     
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  19. Screamingdaisy

    Screamingdaisy SS.org Regular

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    At 40 pages I skipped/skimmed a lot, but here's mine....

    Don't leave your guitar in it's case until the last minute. I've had guitars go significantly out of tune when the stage lights hit it and the strings slackened.

    Don't use a clip on tuner. I initially really liked mine. I kept it in my pocket since they look dumb hanging off the headstock and clipped it on when I needed it. Cleaner signal path (guitar-cord-amp). Worked great... until it didn't. One show I was still tuning down when the band kicked off the next song. The stage volume was enough to vibrate my guitar and render the clip on tuner useless. A few shows later the other guitarist noticed he was out mid-song but had no way to quickly fix things since the band was still playing and the clip-on wouldn't lock onto a note. Both of us went back to pedal tuners.

    One I noticed last night.... If there's 3-4 bands on the bill don't insist on using your own drums. I can pretty much guaranty that the soundman won't put the time/effort into your kit that he put into the original kit during soundcheck. If someone's willing to let everyone use their kit, use that kit and supplement with your own hardware if necessary.

    The opener used the headliners kit. Hour long soundcheck, sounded great. Second act used his own drums... 5 minute sound check. Sounded terrible.
     
  20. lewis

    lewis SS.org Regular

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    This is incredibly accurate.
    As tough as it is sometimes to convince headline bands to share the use of their kit, it does benefit the whole show. It always sounds better as you said.


    Ive played shows where the headline band has brought their own sound guy but refused the use/help of him for every band bar them as headliners. So basically the whole card sounded damn shit (the provided house soundman was clueless) until the headliners, with their own sound guy stepped up.

    that always irked me tbh. Not sure why. I guess a part of that was envy but still, whatever happened to just help a brother out you know?
     

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