The Cookie – Leicester College Easter Gig

With this gig I set myself the target of finding out what problems can arise when dealing with less experienced performers and how to deal with them.

When engineering live gigs at small venues or pubs, a sound engineer will always come across less experienced bands at some point. As a sound engineer, you have to be a lot more focused on the job. This is not to say that a sound engineer isn’t usually focused on the job at hand but in this case there’s a lot more chance for a problem to occur, which means the engineer needs to be quick to react.

For this gig, the musicians performing were from Leicester College. For some it was there first year at Leicester College so hadn’t had much experience of performing live, whilst others were more comfortable on stage.

Set list for the night

Set list for the night

Once the equipment was set up safely, the sound check took place. From the sound check the first problem arose, which was the singer wasn’t loud enough. This was to do with a lack of confidence and how far away she was singing from the microphone.

Of course doing a sound check isn’t the same as performing and in some ways, it can be more daunting then the actual performance. With the sound check there are usually people staring at you as you repeat the same part of a song over and over, which can make you feel silly. I know this from experience, as being a drummer doing gigs, so being the singer at the front would be understandably more difficult with less experience. This is the feeling I got from this sound check.

As the sound engineer, you have to boost the performers confidence so you can get the best sound out of them before the show so that the sound levels are good. With this sound check the vocals were turned up to +5dB as well as the vocals channel being sent to two mix buses also with the faders at +5dB with only one light of signal being shown on the desk. The rest of the band was drowning the vocals out even with only the amps on stage turned on and the acoustic drums not coming through the front of house.

With this situation, there wasn’t a lot that could be done to help the singer apart from her actually singing louder. The cable to the microphone was swapped as well as the microphone itself, to see if it wasn’t working properly but there was only a slight difference in volume from the troubleshooting that took place. As is generally the case, time was against us, with other bands needing to be sound checked.

Mixing Desk with the faders set high for the vocals (Channels 13, 14 & 15 on the right)

Mixing Desk with the faders set high for the vocals (Channels 13, 14 & 15 on the right)

When it came to the show starting the bands were louder than they were with the sound checks. The singer who was quiet at sound check was louder, which meant the vocals were clearer and could be heard above the rest of the band. This was through the confidence and adrenaline from performing in front of a crowd and friends.

However, with her new found confidence she started holding the microphone with half her hand covering the mesh grill rather than the handle, which made her quieter and less audible. Once the song she was singing had finished she was told to hold the microphone from the handle and sing as close to the microphone as possible.

Other problematic situations occurred from the other performances such as one singer directing the microphone at the monitors when she wasn’t singing which caused feedback. Another example was guitarists tuning guitars on stage before they were about to perform or not tuning altogether and playing the gig with an out of tune guitar. There was also singers not singing close to the microphone that were about a foot to 6 inch’s away even once they were told to sing closer

To conclude, when working with less experienced performers there are generally more problems that occur as well as a poorer sounding show altogether. In this case, the engineer needs to be ready for anything to happen whether on stage or mixing from the desk.

WBL = 5 Hours

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