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use when running your sound system. Please e-mail us back if you
have a question on a topic you need answered or would like to send your comments along.
Rule # 1: If it is loose, it will break.
Explanation - Whether "it" is a piece of rack equipment, a
mic stand, a connector on the end of a cable or snake, a speaker sitting inside a cabinet,
or your entire rig loaded into a Ryder truck; make sure "it" is tightly screwed,
turned, adjusted or packed. (May you never know the cost to fix a truck's overhead
door with half an amp rack sticking out it.)
Rule # 2: Don't take a gig you know your system can't do. Very
soon everyone else will know too.
Explanation - Never take on a job that you know you do not have
enough, or the right equipment to successfully cover the audience and artist's
requirements. You are really screwing the pooch, and at the least, you are helping
propagate the myth that ALL soundmen are clueless, deaf idiots whose only purpose is to
destroy the artistic integrity of a performance.
Rule # 3: Never have headphones on your head for more than 20 to
30 seconds at a time, unless you are sitting in a cubicle of your high school language
Explanation - Remember that we get paid to make the whole band, not
just one element, sound good to the audience. It is much more important to make sure
the vocals are balanced, blended, and out in front of the band, then it is to make sure
you have exactly the right Eq on the rythym guitar. Make sure you can hear the whole
mix reasonably well, then go in and fix this or that. Don't make the audience miss
things while you are creating the perfect Hi Hat. (I once watched a heavy metal
band's studio /live engineer spend 15 minutes on a hi hat.)
Rule # 4: Remember the 3 A's of live sound -- Anticipate,
Explanation - Live is live, no stop and rewind buttons. You have
one chance to shine. It is the ultimate pass/fail situation. Even mountain
climbers have safety ropes. How do you survive? Murphy's Law states anything
that can go wrong, will go wrong, at the worst possible moment. Truer words were
never spoken. That sounds like one crisis situation after another doesn't it?
If you don't think something going wrong during a performance is a crisis, I can
assure you that either the band, the promoter, or the client will think so.
Management by crisis doesn't work well in the corporate world, and it really
doesn't work in show business. You can't erase a crisis after it has happened.
At best, if you are a professional, you will "fix" the situation quickly
with a minimum of fanfare.
What Murphy never tells you is that he takes control of situations if you haven't done
your best to prepare for the task ahead of you. If you are too lazy, too lax, too
inexperienced, too rushed, too unconcerned to do the job right, he will make sure you pay
for your sins.
Use the following game to help fight off Murph:
Rule # 5: Never believe anything an in-house electrician tells
you, he is the devil.
Explanation - There are two kinds of soundmen in this world.
Those who have had equipment destroyed by improperly wired AC outlets, and those
that will. Recently I actually found a 15 amp wall outlet in a conference room wired
as a 50 amp 208 volt service (with no ground of course) with nothing to indicate that it
was anything but a normal outlet. (Can you say "polarized?")
Some of these guys really aren't bad people, they just don't understand or care about
what we need. Remember we use electricity in just one of dozens of possible
terminations. I've had many an argument with an electrician over the fact that when
we need a "three phase" service, we mean three hots, " a neutral", and
a ground. Many three phase services don't usually have a neutral (fan motors for
Let the user beware!!!
Solution - Always have an AC volt meter (multi-meter) in your toolbox. Always
check every receptacle you are going to use. Always confirm 117-120 volts AC to
neutral. By the way, the little hole is the positive. There should be less
than 1/2 volt between neutral and ground. More than that and you will have a hum in
Point of Interest: You know those little outlet checkers that give you two amber
(or green) lights if you plug them into a properly grounded receptacle? Guess what?
I didn't follow my own advise once and only used one of those little checkers,
instead of a meter in a hotel ballroom on a six circuit temporary panel run to the stage
by the hotel electricians. It was obviously one of several similar panels
distributed around the room that day. I figured, okay, these guys are cool.
I'll just check for reversed hot and neutral, and a good ground. To make a
long story short, three of the six duplex outlets were wired as 220 volt (hot, neutral and
ground.) The tester indicated the presence of the ground and confirmed the correct
hot and neutral socket locations. Boy was I surprised when smoke and sparks shot 10 feet
out from the front of my Crest 8001 amp. Thank God the EAW speaker processor had the
kind of fuse holder that held a spare (see Rule # 4) fuse to replace the one that blew.
One spare (ditto) amp later, we were back in business.
Epilogue: the hotel paid for the repair to the amp
Rule # 6: Nobody cares how nice the decorations look when they
can't hear what the speaker is saying.
Explanation - The sound system is always the least important part of
an event, subservient to all other production elements needs for space, budget, time,
camera angles and manpower until...
The show starts!!
Then nobody remembers that you requested to be able to hang or place speakers where
they really needed to be. Nobody wants to hear that you begged to have the orchestra
show up an hour earlier so you could get a sound check. Nobody accepts
responsibility for cutting out the balcony fill, but then filling those seats.
Instead, all you hear is "How come the sound is not
The point here is know when to agree to things and know when to put your foot down.
I have many times explained to wishful thinking event planners why the speakers
"simply can not go there." If you agree to something you know is
foolish...the only person who will look that way is you.
More to come,