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  • Writer's pictureChris

The Best Live Sound

I have worked to amplify noises for nearly 18 years now and in that time have gradually picked up knowledge from clever people, and sometimes been able to pass this on to others.

Last summer I was working on a show that had some corporate speeches on a big festival stage. The backstage audio team came from the rock and roll side of the tracks, and had not had cause to work on shiny corporate shows. We were all a bit run down by an intensive load in, but we had plenty of time, so we had a quick run through of mic up techniques. I suggested mic choices to be made, placement techniques to consider, problems to pre-empt and double checks to perform.

DPA Headsets ready for a show

The team drank in all the information, and I returned out to FOH to switch on a selection of beautifully placed mics – with no handling noise, beard scratching or jewellery clanging. I got a clear heads up as to which mic had been set so I could verify each one before they walked out – even though there were some very quick mic ups.

The team had all seen lavalier and headset mics before, but running through the pitfalls of each, and answering their questions meant they had a new found confidence in their roles that day – a confidence to ask the CEO of a company to turn their phone off, or ask a speaker to tuck in a big jangly necklace.

Everyone was energised by learning something new, and then using that knowledge to do a great job. The mic-up techs were really pumped up to have done a great job in a new field of expertise.

This got me thinking – I’ve rarely met a technician / engineer who doesn’t aspire to doing the best job they can, but sometimes the practicalities of day-to-day work can grind this aspiration out of them.

As my dear friend (and a marvellous engineer) Martin O'Grady said to me, "Who amongst us doesn't have the best job in the world? Because they're lying!"

- I forget if he was talking about sound engineering or gardening 😁, but he made a good point - we could all be doing much more depressing jobs!

Martin is still smiling, despite the tiny distance between vocal mic and cymbals at Rock City!

So I decided to start this blog as a gathering of thoughts for sound engineers, to share some knowledge, inspire enthusiasm and offer encouragement to do their best work, even when they’re broken by weeks of muddy fields, or corporate lasagne (like a cross between Groundhog Day and the Monty Python "Spam" canteen, but with an Italian twist).

And hopefully I’ll learn something too!


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