Three Points I learnt From My First Gig Shadowing a Live Sound Engineer

This was the first time I had been shadowing an engineer at The Cookie in Leicester this academic year (November 2014).

As this was my first real look at how live sound engineering works I was watching exactly what the engineer did. From turning on the sound system to how the engineer communicated with the bands and how he dealt with problems.

There were three key basic pieces of information on setting up the sound system that was learnt from the gig, which would apply in any venue

  1. The mixing desk needs to be turned on before the speaker amps, and when switching everything off, the speaker amps need to be switched off first before the mixing desk. This sounds like an obvious thing to do, but forgetting to do so can ruin the whole gig. If you happen to forget the amplifiers and speakers switched on at full power and you switch the desk on, the speakers could blow, which would make them dysfunctional.
  1. All the channels need to be muted and all the knobs turned to zero before starting the sound check and after the gig has finished. Similar to the first point, everything should be turned down before plugging any equipment into the desk before the sound check as not to damage equipment. Also everything must be zeroed after the gig so that whoever uses the mixing desk next wont damage the speakers or other equipment. Another reason is so the next engineer wont have to waist time setting everything to zero for the next gig.

“The desk should be properly zeroed – all faders down, EQ and aux knobs down, filters off, phantom power off, pan knobs centred and so on” (

  1. The amplifiers should be turned to full power. This is done because amplifiers work best, at maximum headroom. Another reason for doing this is because it helps with the gain structure and control, with the amplifiers turned up to full and the master channels and input channels zeroed, meaning the gains on the channels wont need to be turned up too high. What this also means is that faders can be turned up to 0dB and there will be no distortion from the main mix. Furthermore faders are at their most responsive at 0db, so the mixing can be done subtly by the sound engineer.

WBL = 4 Hours


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