Ferrante's Rules

180 Northfield Ave., Raritan Center, Edison, NJ 08837

1 (732) 417-1001

1 (800) 65-AUDIO

FAX: 1 (732) 417-1010

 We hope you will learn something here that you can 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.

Ferrante's Rules

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 lab.

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, Anticipate, 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 example.)

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 your system.

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 perfect???!!!!"

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,

Jim Ferrante

[Employment Test (New Browsers)] [Employment Test (Older Browsers)] [Reality Check] [Raymond] [Ferrante's Rules] [3 C's of Sound] [Sound Glossary] [Telecom Terms]
[Directions] [Contact Us] [About Us] [Services] [Equipment] [Our Customers] [Advice,  Reference & Other Info.]

Date Last Modified: 03/28/06