Sound Guys, it’s time for some cold truths:
When many musicians think of the sound guy here’s what they think: “that guy is kinda like the band on stage, but not quite. He wants to be in the band, but he clearly isn’t. Like a friend who doesn’t get the hint that you don’t want to hang out. Or a weird step-brother. Or like the 4 houses of Hogwarts.
Sound Guys and Sorting Hats
Here’s the weird thing about Hogwarts: Gryffindor is clearly the preferred house. If you’re in Gryffindor you’ve got it made. It’s the best of the best in there. Dumbledore himself is a Gryffindor grad for Pettigrew’s sake! Ravenclaw is for the nerds. Hufflepuff is for the people who aren’t quite… all there. But Slytherin – this house is for the a-holes.
Slytherins kind of hate Gryffindor on principle, (which I completely understand) but deep down they really want to be them. But alas, the Sorting Hat had different plans for them. That damn hat chose the worst house for them.
So here it is: Musicians are in Gryffindor. Sound Guys are in Slytherin.
This is how a lot of musicians view things. I’m not saying it’s right, but it is what it is. In this post, I will attempt to defend the role of the sound guy to musicians and encourage sound guys to not be dumb, all while completely bastardizing the Harry Potter Saga. Here we go.
How To Not Be a Dumb Sound Guy
Be Kind To The Band
Basically, don’t be like Draco Malfoy. That guy is a turd. Treat everyone in the band with respect. There’s nothing more frustrating for the band than a sound guy who is trying to control everyone on stage. This is one of the most common frustrations for musicians: Sound guys all up in their business.
You have to understand this: the band thinks they’re in control. In reality, you are, but it’s best not to upset the perception that they are. Just do your thing, make it sound good, and try to have as few demands of the band as possible.
Yes, I know you’re running around doing a million different things, and the drummer is playing too loud and the guitar amp mic isn’t even plugged in (not that it needs to be, that guy’s stage volume is insane!) and the singers keep complaining about how “it sounds fuzzy in my in ears”. But don’t complain.
The second you start complaining, the band thinks to themselves: “typical Slytherin, always complaining”. Even though you are COMPLETELY justified in your complaining. Play it cool and roll with the punches. Yes, you have to put up with a lot of crap, but this is business as usual in the Slytherin house.
Don’t Give Musical Input
Don’t chime in on musical decisions. Chords, forms, harmonies… that’s up to the band. You wouldn’t like it if the singer came back to the sound board and kept telling you to add reverb, how to EQ, or how many “diBs it should be set to,” right?
True story: I once had a sound guy plug in his own mic into the board so he could sing an extra low part that “wasn’t getting covered.” DO NOT EVER DO THIS. Let musicians do their thing, stick to what you’re there to do.
But what if you’re having an legitimate issue that you have to talk to the band about?
How To Get The Band To Do What You Want
When, inevitably, you have to ask the drummer to play quieter, or the guitarist to turn down their amp, do so with an unbelievable amount of kindness. When a drummer gets yelled at by the sound guy, “I just can’t do anything, the drums are soooo loud” you know what they’ll do? They’ll play quieter… for about 2 songs. Then the “screw this guy” mentality seeps in, and they start playing even louder. Yes, they’re being stupid, but now they’re doing the exact opposite of what you want.
If the bass player’s sound is really treble-y, or if the guitar player’s tone sucks, tread INCREDIBLY lightly. Frame it as it sounding strange “in the house mix”. Don’t single them out and say “your bass tone is really muddled.” Instead say: “I’m having a weird thing with your signal out in the house. For whatever reason it’s coming though kind of muffled, it’s probably just a combination of the venue and this system. Could you try adding in a little more treble and I’ll see if that makes a difference?”
All of a sudden instead of hearing, “you suck” the musician hears “we’re in this together, and it’s not sounding great as a whole, how can we fix this?” By doing this, you are putting yourself on the side of the band, letting them know that you’re there to help them rather than annoy them.
What The Band Can Do For The Sound Guy
Musicians, once you’re setup, if you see the sound guy running around, still trying to set everything up, ask him one simple question: “is there anything I can help you with?”
If the answer is yes, you’ll help the sound guy out, he’ll appreciate the help, and you can finish sound check earlier. If the answer is no, the sound guy will still feel valued and know you think that what he does matters. The same goes for breaking down. Putting in just 10 minutes helping with setup or tear down doesn’t cost you much, but means a TON to the sound guy.
For the frustrated musicians who have worked with a frustrating Sound Guy: please put it in perspective. You can’t hear the front of house mix. You have no idea how it sounds out there. You just have to trust that the Sound Guy’s ears work and he’s only telling you to play quieter so it’ll sound better as a whole without causing the crowd to go deaf. Even though they’re in Slytherin, you’re both at Hogwarts.
Sound Guys: go full geek. You know how the guitar player has a million pedals and is constantly rewiring his pedalboard? Be like that, but with your sound stuff. Have all the tools you need, and more. Gaff tape, converters, pliers, a multitool, extra cables. Have everything you could ever need with you whenever you’re working. This will make sure you’re incredibly prepared, and that preparation will impress the band.
Musicians: have patience with the sound guy. He’s doing a million different jobs, and all to try and make you sound gooood. You’re on the same side! In fact, the best Sound Guys are musicians themselves. So have a little patience.
Sound Guys: Overall, be kind to the band. Yes, they’re Gryffindor and that’s annoying, but instead of grumbling about where the Sorting Hat of life placed you, lean into it. Embrace Slytherin with everything you’ve got. Doing a great job at running sound and being easy to work with and it goes a LONG way with musicians.
Slytherin may be perceived as the crappiest hogwarts house, and the former home of a-holes like Draco Malfoy and Voldemort himself, but you know who comes from Slytherin? A person who put up with more crap than anyone, was dealt an incredibly unfair hand, and is the real hero of the Harry Potter Saga: Severus Snape.
Basically, be like Snape. But like a really nice Snape who is easy to work with and helpful and stuff.