<Date: Wed, 1 Apr 1998 12:12:03 -0800 (PST)
<From: Bruce Bradley
<Subject: Audio Engineeers
<I read with great interest your thoughts on the state of audio
<engineers in Live sound reinforcement. I have worked for the last 10
<years as an engineer and I can verify your observation about many
<engineers being deaf. This fact seems to ring true especially for
<engineers that travel with a specific act. As a "house engineer" I
<have seen and heard many engineers afflicted with high-mids hearing
<loss. I can't count how many times I have wanted to wrestle these
<"sound men" to the ground in order to restore some sanity to the mixes
<that they subject the audiences to. The main problem is that the
<artists that these guys work for rarely get out front to hear the
<"noise" that is emanating from the PA. The only thing that the Artist
<normally hears is a "board tape" that the engineer mixes directly to a
<DAT or cassette. This mix is not subject to the EQ'ing that the
<engineer has set up for the house sound, therefore the performer never
<hears that bump in the high-mids that rips the audiences heads off. I
<have my hearing tested often to ensure that I have not joined the
<ranks of these semi-deaf "professionals", and wear ear-protection
<whenever I am not in control of whats coming out of the stacks. While
<mixing some rock shows I have been approached by patrons seeking more
<volume, to which I reply; If it's not loud enough you can go stand
<directly in front of the stacks to get the volume you need.
< In addition, there are so many artists that are truly deaf,
<play at levels that make it hard for a soundman to keep the volume
<under control. This is most prevelant in smaller clubs, but can also
<be a problem in arenas. Every microphone onstage will pick up this
<screaming guitar, making it virtually impossible, (without gating
<every single mic on stage) to tame this beast out front.
< I care about what the audience hears and hopefully they enjoy
<portrait of the artists' material that I paint via the mix. If they
<don't enjoy it I certainly have failed to get the message out the way
<the artist intended. I just wish more artists would get out front
<during sound checks and listen to what the audience will hear, not the
<special mix the engineer has sent to tape. Meanwhile, might I suggest
<concert-goers invest in a set of good quality earplugs to insure that
<they will not be damaged by careless engineers.
Thanks for your message. It's always good to hear from the sane folks out there in audio engineering land. It's truly amazing that so few performing musicians go out into the soundspace during sound checks to hear what the audience will be hearing. However, discriminating, considerate, and educated musicians (for example, the Kronos Quartet) collaborate with the audio staff to get the sound level and quality that are appropriate for the music they program. Unfortunately cultivating understanding and communicating in the realm of audio technology is one of those painful gaps in the education of many musicians. Even in the late 1990s the vast majority of music professors and teachers are completely lost in the field of audio technology; so it's understandable that they're incapable of providing the requisite leadership to aspiring musicians.
In the long run the considerate audio engineers like yourself are the people who will persevere and excel in the field. Live sound engineering as we know it today has been around for only a few decades; since it's still a relatively new field we can fully expect a shakeout of a majority of the audio assaulters in short order.
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