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PA Training Wanted

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Dick The Box 24 Sep 07 - 08:38 AM
Polly Squeezebox 24 Sep 07 - 11:25 AM
Grab 24 Sep 07 - 11:44 AM
Darowyn 24 Sep 07 - 11:53 AM
Saro 24 Sep 07 - 12:37 PM
GUEST,Qtwf 24 Sep 07 - 04:15 PM
treewind 24 Sep 07 - 07:04 PM
GUEST,Andy 25 Sep 07 - 04:36 AM
GUEST,John Robinson 25 Sep 07 - 09:39 AM
GUEST,Andy 27 Sep 07 - 04:06 AM
GUEST,John Robinson 27 Sep 07 - 06:14 AM
Dick The Box 01 Oct 07 - 07:25 AM
GUEST,John Robinson 01 Oct 07 - 08:30 AM
Nick 01 Oct 07 - 09:12 AM
Ross 01 Oct 07 - 10:04 AM
Grab 01 Oct 07 - 10:08 AM
wysiwyg 01 Oct 07 - 10:21 AM
GUEST,John Robinson 01 Oct 07 - 11:19 AM
wysiwyg 01 Oct 07 - 11:43 AM
The Fooles Troupe 02 Oct 07 - 08:09 AM
sian, west wales 02 Oct 07 - 08:20 AM
Grab 04 Oct 07 - 08:18 AM
GUEST,chris 04 Oct 07 - 12:05 PM
GUEST,John Robinson 04 Oct 07 - 02:48 PM
Richard Bridge 04 Oct 07 - 04:39 PM
Grab 05 Oct 07 - 12:14 PM
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Subject: PA Training Wanted
From: Dick The Box
Date: 24 Sep 07 - 08:38 AM

I have a basic PA with an eight track mixer desk / power amp. Having bumbled along for years I feel it is about time I found out how to use it properly. I need to know things like.....

How does adjusting the various frequencies affect the sound?
To what level should each of the various volume controls be set (instrument/channelslider/channelgain/ampgain)?
How do I prevent/cure feedback?
What sort of mikes should be used in what situations?
What is the best set-up to have?

I would preferably like to go on a course (weekend/evenings), or have some one-to-one training, with a recommended sound professional who is used to dealing with acoustic folk instruments.

I am based in Leicestershire but will travel for something that meets my needs.

Any one out there know of anything or anyone suitable?


Richard Ashe

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Subject: RE: PA Training Wanted
From: Polly Squeezebox
Date: 24 Sep 07 - 11:25 AM

Going back a few years I and my husband were members of a Hospital Radio group which put out programmes to patients in various hospitals. The point of this is that the particular group we worked with had a large number of members who worked professionally in radio. Upshot of this was that all members got to do the official BBC Sound Engineer training (and got the qualification for free) - whilst at the same time providing a good voluntary service for the patients.

It could well be worth your while enquiring to see if you have a local hospital/voluntary radio service who provide training.

Good luck - my time with hospital radio AND the training were really enjoyable, I hope you find the same.


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Subject: RE: PA Training Wanted
From: Grab
Date: 24 Sep 07 - 11:44 AM

Buy a copy of "Sound On Sound" and check the ads in the back. Quite a few places in there do weekend courses, although evening courses advertised there are mostly limited to London. A local FE college might have something though.

I wish I could recommend somewhere, but I'm lucky enough to have a spot with a band who don't mind me doing a bit of on-the-job training. So I'm learning PA the traditional way - by making my own mistakes and cleaning up the results. ;-) They're happy anyway, because it's still better than one of them trying to run the desk and play at the same time.


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Subject: RE: PA Training Wanted
From: Darowyn
Date: 24 Sep 07 - 11:53 AM

There is an organisation in Nottingham who might help, Confetti School of Recording Tech.
I did some very high quality training on Reason and DVD Studio Pro a couple of years ago, and it's a very impressive set-up.
I don't know any of the people personally who do the Music Tech courses at the Leics Colleges, and they are likely, if they are anything like us, in Worcester, to be too busy with the full-time courses to do much in the way of part time classes- if they are any good, that is!
Failing all that, if you do get a copy of Sound on Sound or log on to, you should be able to find a copy of Paul White's simple little handbook on Live Sound. I do know Paul personally, and he understands acoustic music very well, so I can recommend his book.

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Subject: RE: PA Training Wanted
From: Saro
Date: 24 Sep 07 - 12:37 PM

You might try Doug bailey at Wildgoose Studios - you'll find him easily on Google, or Brian Bedford (ex Artisan) who is based near Holmfirth. Both nice guys and know their stuff!

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Subject: RE: PA Training Wanted
From: GUEST,Qtwf
Date: 24 Sep 07 - 04:15 PM


Rob seems to be doing something along the lines of what you're after.

Try contacting him through here:


Is there much interest in this sort of thing? Maybe a workshop at a festival? What do people think?



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Subject: RE: PA Training Wanted
From: treewind
Date: 24 Sep 07 - 07:04 PM

Doug Bailey has, at his own suggestion, run a "PA for Performers" workshop at Sidmouth. Not quite the same thing, it is for singers who don't understand how to use microphones properly and who need to communicate effectively with sound men when they are on a festival stage with someone else's PA. It was hugely popular though it had to be limited to a handful of people for practical reasons.

A workshop for people who have to drive their own mixers would be a good idea too.

I do understand the technicalities and that's come in useful on a few occasions when there was a self-help PA system and we had to manage as best we could.


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Subject: RE: PA Training Wanted
From: GUEST,Andy
Date: 25 Sep 07 - 04:36 AM

I learnt much the same way as Grab. I was at a local club ( ten years or so ago, no-one wanted to look after the desk and I've been at it ever since. As Grab said, you make mistakes & learn from them - and as we usually run open mic sessions, you have to learn to cover all sorts of things fast!

Some of the best people to learn from have been the visiting musicians. For example, Brian Bedford (in his Artisan days) was both demanding & very encouraging. I learnt a lot watching John Robinson set up for Julie Ellison on our kit, too.

Good luck whatever route you take


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Subject: RE: PA Training Wanted
From: GUEST,John Robinson
Date: 25 Sep 07 - 09:39 AM

Andy - the cheques in the post! Or did you mean you learnt how not to do it!! ;-)

Seriously, your comment has put a smile on my face - as an ex-IT consultant who initially learned the ropes the hard way. There's at least one pub venue we wouldn't be able to go back to thanks to my c*ck ups in the early days - luckily we're not doing pub gigs anymore but I have to say the experience of setting up a LOUD PA - to overcome LOUD audiences - in shoebox sized venues with all the resultant feedback problems taught me a huge amount. Setting up in a concert club like folkmob's or in a theatre is easy in comparison - but even easier when you have the experience from the more problematic venues.

I couldn't find a live sound training course when I started, but I did find a studio recording course which was invaluable. I'd recommend this if you can't find a live sound course (or maybe even in addition to a live sound course). There is cross over between the skill sets, although they are different skills sets.

The Paul White books are excellent. I still re-read them from time to time - we never stop learning and I am still on the lower slopes - they are currently in the reading pile next to the bed - often the last thing I read at night before drifting off to sleep. Frequency specific compression is my latest hot topic.

The "live sound" book reference is:

Basic Live Sound
Sanctuary Publishing
ISBN 1-86074-271-8

The whole series includes titles like "Basic Effects and Processors", "Basic Mixing Techniques" etc. There is cross over and duplication between books but it's worth considering some of the other titles.

We've been doing a national tour of Borders stores promoting 'Acoustic' magazine and I've noticed a good selection of sound engineering books on their shelves, so it might be worth a look in your local Borders bookshop. Other than that, Sound on Sound is a good source (as mentioned above) and their website has a useful archive of articles.

Another option might be to volunteer for a local arts centre - maybe they'd welcome the extra manpower on tech jobs and you'd pick up a lot of info and techniques there.

Hope all this helps.

Best regards
John Robinson

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Subject: RE: PA Training Wanted
From: GUEST,Andy
Date: 27 Sep 07 - 04:06 AM

Cheque arrived this morning, John. Now - how do I stop it bouncing around the office?

Volunteering, whether for an arts centre, a music club or whatever is a great way to lean. Good luck whatever route you take!


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Subject: RE: PA Training Wanted
From: GUEST,John Robinson
Date: 27 Sep 07 - 06:14 AM

"how do I stop it bouncing around the office?"

Frame it!


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Subject: RE: PA Training Wanted
From: Dick The Box
Date: 01 Oct 07 - 07:25 AM

Thanks for all the info and suggestions.

I now have a copy of the live sound book so my bedtime reading is sorted for the foreseeable future. Not sure that that missus will be happy about sharing the bed with the mixing desk though. Still, some different knobs to twiddle with might keep her happy.....

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Subject: RE: PA Training Wanted
From: GUEST,John Robinson
Date: 01 Oct 07 - 08:30 AM

Oooh er missus ...

Just noticed that the publishers of Sound on Sound magazine have launched a new title "Performing Musician" which is being billed as "a practical magazine for musicians and PA operators". Not seen it yet but that might be worth a look.

The new "AcousticLife" forum set up by Acoustic magazine might be another place to post any questions you might have. There's a link to the forum from their home page at

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Subject: RE: PA Training Wanted
From: Nick
Date: 01 Oct 07 - 09:12 AM

A decent local library may also have a selection of books. York libraries did (at least before I borrowed them all!)

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Subject: RE: PA Training Wanted
From: Ross
Date: 01 Oct 07 - 10:04 AM

Learn shorthand & always wear short dresses & boob tubes

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Subject: RE: PA Training Wanted
From: Grab
Date: 01 Oct 07 - 10:08 AM

Whew! On the subject of making mistakes on the job, I submit this last Saturday at Anglia Uni. To be fair, it wasn't all of my own making, but anyway. How did it go wrong? Let me count the ways.

1) The house soundman didn't seem to want me there. He didn't actually get in the way, but he didn't warn me about some problems with the kit. Not my fault, but something to beware of.

2) Apparent duff channels on the snake, so DI boxes for guitars weren't playing ball initially. And one channel on the desk seemed to be knackered (not feeding the main output, even though I could solo it up on my headphones, and even though it was selected on the main out).

3) Echoey rooms. If the resonant frequency of the room coincides with the key your bassist is playing in, there ain't a whole lot you can do except damage limitation.

4) DI boxes. They're usually driven off phantom power (as are condensor mics if you have any), and if the guy using the desk before you has switched off the phantom power then you won't have any guitars. That's an even better trick if the phantom-power switch is on the back of the desk so it's not immediately obvious. And when you *do* switch on the phantom power (or turn on the battery for the DI box), make sure that channel is muted, not just turned down on the main fader, because there could be a pre-fader feed to the foldbacks which will do horrible things. Damn.

5) Outboard gear - compressors, speaker management, etc. Never seen those particular ones before, and didn't have enough time to check it out, so I couldn't really make any use of them.

The lesson for myself is "turn up early". If you've got an idea of how it's all been set up, you'll have a much better chance of getting it right - and if you've set it up yourself, you should be OK. But if you're presented with a rat's-nest of wiring, a rack of outboard stuff and an unfamiliar desk and told "go for it", you've just been given enough rope to hang yourself with.

On the other hand, for all that the other guy knew what he was doing with the gear, he fatally misjudged how loud it should be. So it was our band that attracted people and had them dancing, after he'd blasted all potential audience out of the room... :-P


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Subject: RE: PA Training Wanted
From: wysiwyg
Date: 01 Oct 07 - 10:21 AM

"Turn up early" is SO IMPORTANT. "Sound check" we call it here in the US.

In the early days of our little band's community appearances we finally dreamed up the habit of coming the night before the gig for sound check and complete rehearsal. Not every verse of every song, but set order, key adjustments, vocalist assignments, how guest muso's would be placed, wired, and helped; where the loo is, where to park, and oh yeah-- sound check. I always recorded these run-throughs because as we all know, it so often sounds better in rehearsal than it does with audience.

Now, for a paying gig of course this option is not realisitc, but I've been on the other side of the door (hosting), and for us it was quite normal to open the building early enough for a thorough sound setup, sound check, and run-through for touring artists in our Community Concert series. For a 7:30PM start we always opened up at 4PM, or earlier if asked. This way the group got a relaxed meal break well ahead of the performance, and plenty of time to change, put on their gig faces, look ahead to factors affecting audience participation, etc.


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Subject: RE: PA Training Wanted
From: GUEST,John Robinson
Date: 01 Oct 07 - 11:19 AM

Susan, I suspect that Graham found those problems at a sound check.

Unfortunately the house engineer with an attitude is a problem that does occur from time to time. Most are very flexible though, and I tend to find that the more they know, the more flexible they are. The awkward ones are generally the ones that are not that good, and feel they need to protect their pitch in some way.

At a couple of gigs I've come back to the desk to find that an elephant trap has been left for me between completion of sound check and the performance ...   

Luckily 99.9% of them are great to work with.

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Subject: RE: PA Training Wanted
From: wysiwyg
Date: 01 Oct 07 - 11:43 AM

Yikes! "Elephant trap" has now entered our gigging lexicon.


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Subject: RE: PA Training Wanted
From: The Fooles Troupe
Date: 02 Oct 07 - 08:09 AM

"I tend to find that the more they know, the more flexible they are. The awkward ones are generally the ones that are not that good, and feel they need to protect their pitch in some way."

Ever noticed that applies all thru Life, including Musos?

That's what I call the "B-Grader Rule" - the B-graders 'WANT to Rule', so they will do all they can to backstab and run off all others who they are afraid have might more talent (and often practical experience!) than they do...


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Subject: RE: PA Training Wanted
From: sian, west wales
Date: 02 Oct 07 - 08:20 AM

This sort of training is flavour of the month in my circles - Creative Industries, etc. Looks like the contact in your area is Creative Leicestershire


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Subject: RE: PA Training Wanted
From: Grab
Date: 04 Oct 07 - 08:18 AM

Yes, I wouldn't dream of trying to do without a soundcheck! Even for an event where you have a lot of acts and you have to do stuff on the fly, you at least need to be sure that things will work when you push the faders up.

I turned up at the time the band were given for soundcheck. I think if I turn up half an hour earlier, I'll catch the house soundman setting the gear up, and I can then get in on the ground floor. In this particular case as well, it didn't help that most of the band had turned up way early, seen that there was no-one there and decamped to the nearest cafe, which handily has no mobile reception, so when we *did* need them it took us ages to track the buggers down, and soundcheck consequently started late. :-(


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Subject: RE: PA Training Wanted
From: GUEST,chris
Date: 04 Oct 07 - 12:05 PM

It always worries me when I see a band/performer bring their own sound person. They never seem to get a good sound-maybe it has to do with trying to operate someone elses equipment.I've seen a sound man do an amazing job,all week, at a festival venue dealing with all sorts of performers- then a band insist on using their 'sound person'-who has never been in the venue before-and does a sound check for his band halfway thru the evening and makes a complete hash of it. Isn't there some justification for a bands own 'sound person' to advise the real sound person as to what sound the band/performer wishes to achieve and then let the 'real' sound person get on with it and use their experience of the venue.

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Subject: RE: PA Training Wanted
From: GUEST,John Robinson
Date: 04 Oct 07 - 02:48 PM

Never? That's a mighty big word Chris.

We all make mishtakes from tyme to tyme - even a "real sound person" may drop a frequency clanger or three.

In any case one of the foundations of my life has been that I'd rather make the mistake and learn from it than witness it and be no wiser. But maybe I'm not real, maybe for real.

And on that note - probably out of tune - I'm going to see if I can learn what is wrong with my new hard disc. It may be a slipped disc. Maybe I should have used a real to real.


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Subject: RE: PA Training Wanted
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 04 Oct 07 - 04:39 PM

I am only an amateur (performer and sound man), but I think rule 1 is to listen, and it's amazing how many sound men don't. It is impossible (I mean it, impossible) to do sound effectively unless the desk is in front (preferably a long way in front) of the front of house speakers.

What follows is mostly about full-on electric stuff, but the "listen" rule always applies.   It's also very basic and there are lots of people on this site who can do it better, but here goes.

I like LOUD, but it isn't always appropriate, and turning up to about 10% total harmonic distortion is usually a bad plan (except for punk bands, they are supposed to sound like that for some reason - a friend of mine always says "What we want is a wall of really horrible shit"). Carrying too small a rig is fatal. Analogue desks are a lot easier to use than digital ones, looking for the digital setting you want among nested menus is a waste of time unless you know the unit and have the manual!

Ringing out a room (turning up with no-one on stage until you just hear the ring start, then tweaking that down on the graphic, and repeat until all the graphic sliders have been tweaked - you are now as loud as it will go before total oscillatory feedback sets in) is usually a waste of time. The room will ring differently when there are people in it.   Set the room with recorded music you know (of the band that is playing if possible) until it sounds "right". Then set the band's instruments on the desk not the main graphic sliders. You are going to need to tweak the graphic as people fill the room anyway - probably add treble and high-mid as people are squashy and absorb high frequencies.

Try to find out what the band sounds like. They may like the vocals back in the mix - or not. Etc. Kidnap a friend of the band to tell you in real time.   Do not allow that friend to be a relative or mate of any band member or they will want "their" person to be loudest! If the friend says "the bit coming needs more snap on the snare" or "the nest guitar solo need more gain because the guitarist has only 4 patches on his pedal and a louder one would have been the 5th" - or "the BVs here are really joint leads" - they probably mean it. ASK the friend to warn you in advance of things like odd sound FX or quiet or loud bits, or whispers or shouts built in to the performance that will need looking after. A band where the guitarists swap lead breaks you will want to tweak the guitar that has the lead break up a bit and it helps to know in advance. Most sound men totally ignore such helpful comments and upset people.

Lots of singers won't sing for you without the instruments playing, which you need to set their voice. They leave you to sort it out once the song or two that should be the last bit of the sound-check starts. Not much you can do about that...   Be suspicious of people who don't like reverb on voice. It's probably an affectation and a little bit of reverb and low-mid boost sweetens most voices - but always listen.

For the sound of the instruments I like to bring at least one very long jack lead and invite each plugged instrument in turn to set, through his own amp, the sound he wants on stage, and then to come out front as I work his channel and listen - the aim being that as I turn the rig up and down, the sound he wants through his amp just gets louder and quieter. This can be important with plugged acoustic guitarists as they can't hear the top from behind the front of house and often tweak away on their own controls until they sound like a giant transistor radio. The exception to this rule is bass guitarists who use FX. Try to get a feed before the FX or better still one before and one after as bass FX can really screw your speakers. If you have a female friend who likes body piercings, when she develops a mysterious smile, the bass guitar is right.

Lots of electric guitarists who "scoop" on their amp settings will need mid added to avoid sounding like "thatch" or "scrud" (somewhere between scratch and thud) through the rig. Metal bands are the worst offenders for this. I have seen acoustic guitarists with their own tone controls either on the guitar or at their feet really drive soundmen mad in the same way - beautiful guitar, brilliant guitarist, totally horrible sound!. It is almost impossible to DI an electric guitarist - the HF off the FX pedal will destroy your tweeters - you have to mic the guitarists cab, but get the mic right over the speaker, pointing a bit at the edge of the cone to capture the "break-up" of the cab sound.

Don't rely on the band to tell you if you have a balance on the foldback. Carry a set of headphones and if always check the foldback sound through the headphones with the front of house way quiet before turning the front of house up again. Carry a VERY LOUD headphone amp (I use an old 10 watts per channel hifi amp(!)) and you will be able to snatch the occasional very short listen to the foldback even while the front of house is on. Don't leave those cans on at that level or you will blow the cans, and don't leave them on your ears or you will soon be permanently deaf.

Compressors are not usually needed on acoustic (ish) bands. Indeed I found mine so little help even on electric bands and looking for the elusive stomach-punch on kick drum (you know it's right when you can't breathe and you can actually feel your balls (if you are male) shake) that I sold it again. Cheap kick drum mics are no use at all.

Cymbals usually need very little mic-ing unless you are in a HUGE venue, and mics on cymbals make it very hard to get a decent definition on the other drums on a full set. Mute them while you are setting the other drums. Find out from the drummer how he likes his snare sound - basically boom pop or snap - (then set it just a bit snappier, and possibly mic from underneath to get the snare wires). Does he like his hi-hat to crash or clonk? The more mics on stage, the harder it is to get a clean sound.

Once you think you have it right, walk round the room with the band playing to make sure it sounds OK from all angles.

If you use ear defenders, take them off from time to time to check the sound (I have seen one soundman, well known in these parts, set the band and then sit and read a book with his ear defenders on).

If you use Mackie speakers, turn down the high-mid a fair bit or they will sound really rough and aggressive.

Never mind the purists who say to set the channel gains and make sure the faders go to max travel to minimise hiss. Redline the gains and then turn down a bit. Now use your faders. You now have a visual mnemonic for what is louder than what. Then tweak the gains a bit to get your faders working round a bit more towards middle of travel than you did before (but watch those clip lights). Now you have the flexibility on the faders to deal with the loud and quiet bits.

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Subject: RE: PA Training Wanted
From: Grab
Date: 05 Oct 07 - 12:14 PM

Chris, it depends on the soundman.

If you've played in a band, you've probably been screwed over by a soundman at some point. The band I play in (as opposed to the one I do sound for), me and another bloke swap the bass around, and the one that isn't on bass plays his own guitar. I also play violin occasionally. We've changed instruments before now and started a song to find that one or other is still muted. OK, it's harder for a soundman to keep track of this, but that's what they're being paid for. And if you know the band's material, you know what to keep an eye out for.

Another problem, as Richard says, is *listening*. A local folk club used to run a small PA rig, and we had a soundman who was literally deaf (hearing-impaired anyway). He practically ran the club into the ground by constantly messing with levels, getting howls of feedback and all the rest, before the organiser decided he'd had enough and chose to make the club acoustic-only simply to get rid of the guy. And a few years back at Broadstairs, there was a fantastic duo playing drums and acoustic guitar where the guitar was practically inaudible, and in spite of asking the duo in the interval to get him to do something about it, he simply didn't (and the duo said they didn't want to push it because he could be touchy when asked to change stuff). A great gig spoiled.


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