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Bad sound stories

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Lena 03 Sep 00 - 02:55 AM
RichM 03 Sep 00 - 03:06 AM
Liz the Squeak 03 Sep 00 - 11:36 AM
sophocleese 03 Sep 00 - 11:42 AM
Roger in Baltimore 03 Sep 00 - 02:01 PM
GUEST,leeneia 03 Sep 00 - 10:30 PM
Marcus Campus Bellorum 03 Sep 00 - 11:02 PM
Marcus Campus Bellorum 03 Sep 00 - 11:11 PM
Rick Fielding 03 Sep 00 - 11:52 PM
Chicky 04 Sep 00 - 12:51 AM
Callie 04 Sep 00 - 01:06 AM
Marcus Campus Bellorum 04 Sep 00 - 01:18 AM
Lena 04 Sep 00 - 04:11 AM
GUEST,leeneia 04 Sep 00 - 11:04 AM
Willie-O 04 Sep 00 - 11:18 AM
WyoWoman 04 Sep 00 - 11:21 AM
guinnesschik 04 Sep 00 - 11:25 AM
GUEST,Rich(stupidbodhranplayerwhodoesn'tknowbetter 04 Sep 00 - 04:17 PM
kendall 04 Sep 00 - 04:21 PM
Marcus Campus Bellorum 04 Sep 00 - 05:40 PM
DMcG 23 Dec 11 - 07:59 AM
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Subject: Bad sound stories
From: Lena
Date: 03 Sep 00 - 02:55 AM

I'm not sure wether there are going to be any contributions to this thread...but I'll try anyway. A couple of months ago my dad was doing the sound for Maddie Prior's tour in Australia.When I got to visit him,we got this lively argument about how folk should sound like.I wasn't enthusiastic about his clean sound,so he told me that 'we' always expect a folk concert to be simply a drunken mob listening to a squeaky p.a.
I wonder if really bad sound is a typical folk trait. Would you contribute with your own experiences?!

The funniest 'bad sound story' I have was during an italian folk concert,a month ago.During the sound check the singer kept on asking for a better microphone,saying that one was making her voice sound like plastic.The gig started,and after the first set she marched down the stage,walked to the sound guy with a table knife,grabbed him and said:" You like your cute face,he?!Then you change my microphone before I spoil it,kid" He did a wonderful job during the second set.

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Subject: RE: Bad sound stories
From: RichM
Date: 03 Sep 00 - 03:06 AM

I haved worked on sound from both aspects: as a musician, and as a soundman.

The Italian singer could NOT hear what he sounded like in the audience. All he heard was the stage monitor mix. At some point the musician has to trust the sound engineer to do an acceptable, attractive sound mix for the house speakers.
As to a clean sound, I think most music listeners are conditioned to accept radio quality in the music they hear--and radio quality is definitely low fidelity audio. Or it could be that the clean sound your dad likes is not as warm as others might prefer. Perhaps adding a little bit of delay or reverb, or a change in mics could make the sound more appealing...

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Subject: RE: Bad sound stories
From: Liz the Squeak
Date: 03 Sep 00 - 11:36 AM

Never sit in on a June Tabor sound check, not if you are delicate or something else to be doing for an hour and a half...... She still won't accept that there is no such thing as a perfect PA, and the arrival of over a hundred people is going to change the whole accoustic thing anyway! What my friend "Gordon" (not his real name) who used to be a sound engineer for a major TV station would do was let her have her way and then tweak all the knobs back to how he thought they should be, whilst she was preparing. She never ever twigged....!

Les Barker has the shortest sound check on record. He steps up to the mike. 'Ello. Yeah, that's ok. Bye. And off he goes!


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Subject: RE: Bad sound stories
From: sophocleese
Date: 03 Sep 00 - 11:42 AM

Story I heard years ago concerning a local band at a festival: highschool guys, quite good. They were in the middle of their Friday afternoon mainstage spot (Hey they were playing the festival! Big excitement!) when they were bumped off stage so that the closing act that night could do a quick afternoon sound check and not have to spend so much time in the evening doing it. Shitty, shitty, shitty behaviour.

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Subject: RE: Bad sound stories
From: Roger in Baltimore
Date: 03 Sep 00 - 02:01 PM

The worst professional job I ever heard was a Nanci Griffith concert at Baltimore's Meyerhoff Concert Hall. The hall was designed for an unamplified symphony. The unsound sound people brought in speaker towers. Nanci brought her big band.

The result was certainly loud enough. However, Nanci's voice was lost in noise and the instruments bled together. Made me wish I had not attended.

I recently had an experience at a wedding reception. The bride and groom asked me to play a few songs over the local band's PA system. It seemed to be an impossible job for their sound techie to get any vocal volume without feedback. My guitar was "plugged in" to the system and went out quite nicely. After a miserable few songs, I left the stage suspecting that only the people 5 feet away heard me, be no one else.

Once off stage and watching another acoustic perform suffer, I noticed the problem. The PA was channeled into a guitar amplifier which sat about 8 feet directly behind the microphone. The set up begged for feedback and it sure delivered.

Roger in Baltimore

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Subject: RE: Bad sound stories
From: GUEST,leeneia
Date: 03 Sep 00 - 10:30 PM

O man, I am a nut on the topic of amplified sound. How I hate it! Some years ago I went to a Judy Collins concert that was so horribly loud that people were yelling at her from all over the auditorium to turn it down. It was so loud, that at times I felt a yellow-hot streak of pain that started in both ears and went straight down my body to my diaphragm. My DH asked the sound man to turn it down, but he said the volume was being controlled by a mic on stage. Later I tried standing behind a column and putting wet toilet paper in my ears, but it didn't help. Finally, we left. (I am no longer a fan.)

Out in the parking lot, it sounded like an enormous Judy Collins, one the size of the ugly Transamerica Building in San Francisco, was towering over the landscape and booming at us.

Don't any of these people have any idea what the decibel level of their sound is and should be?

At another concert, much more recent Cajun event, the sound started out so loud I went right up and asked for my money. However, something inside the hall changed all that. As soon as the music started, a little boy shotup the aisle in obvious pain and terror, his hands clamped over his ears. The musicians waved frantically for the volume to be turned down, and it was. (Imagine what it takes to drive a preschooler away from his parents into a strange dark building full of strangers.)

Once again, why doesn't anybody know what the decibel level is?

In conclusion: AARGH!

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Subject: RE: Bad sound stories
From: Marcus Campus Bellorum
Date: 03 Sep 00 - 11:02 PM

All instruments amplify sound.

While this is dangerous territory to attempt to present a rational argument this is exactly what is needed here.

Amplification is not the problem per se (dare I use latin on this forum).

It is the amount and the quality that are the issues.

It is also quite nasty to put all "sound engineers" in the one category.

So, basically, amplification occurs at every stage of sound production and occurs when we perceive it as sound (inside our ears).

Sound engineers need to know their instrument (PA system) and have to know their audience. The good ones do!!! And these people are invaluable. It is wrong to say all sound people and all sound systems are incapable of producing good music amplification.

A little bit of knowledge is a dangerous thing (and anecdotes are not a basis for rational argument).

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Subject: RE: Bad sound stories
From: Marcus Campus Bellorum
Date: 03 Sep 00 - 11:11 PM

Sorry for being so defensive!!

Music and sound is a complex amalgam of physics,technical and sociological and psychological aspects.

Such a subject requires more rigour and less vitriole/prejudice.

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Subject: RE: Bad sound stories
From: Rick Fielding
Date: 03 Sep 00 - 11:52 PM

If you want to eliminate a LOT of problems:

Treat the sound person with respect.

Realize that they make their living doing "rock", so if you don't want as much "high end" or level, tell 'em.

Explain to them the acoustic properties of your instrument, and give them brand names and models of any sound enhancement equipment you're using from the stage.

Trust me your sound will be much better than if you try "attitude" on them.

Since I usually take at least four instruments on stage with me, I warn 'em ahead of time that the silly little one (lap dulcimer) is going to require a lot more gain than the banjo, and that the Twelve string is prone to feedback. I ask is it OK with them if I do individual mike placements on my own. Obvious, really, but I think they appreciate the courtesy.


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Subject: RE: Bad sound stories
From: Chicky
Date: 04 Sep 00 - 12:51 AM

I think Rick's right - the key to a good sound setup is the relationship you get going with the sound person. If (as a performer) you introduce yourselves and explain what you're after, and ask the sound person about the foibles of the venue (or the sound gear), then there's more likely to be a feeling that you're working as a team to give the audience the best possible performance.

I love performing without amplification in a venue with great acoustics (sometimes not the venues one would expect - it's always worth doing a check without amplification to see if the venue can wear an acoustic gig). For purely vocal perfgormances it's probably the ideal situation - you can adjust your voice as you hear the harmonies change and make the whole room swim in the sound. That's IF the venue has good acoustics.

If the venue has less that good acoustics, then I really think amplification's the only solution.
If you're a performer, try and get the best sound by communicating with eachother and the sound person, and by doing a proper sound check. If you can, have a tame audient who knows your repertoire to whisper in the sound person's shell-like ear or wave their hands at you in a meaningful fashion if the sound's not working as it should. And if you find a sound person who has a feel for your music, get their name and number (or lock them in the boot of your car).
If you're an audient, maybe gently communicate any perceived shortcomings to the sound person in the first break. It's worth a try.

As Callie will tell you, I do love singing with a mike tho - it's those childhood dreams of pop stardom.

- Chicky

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Subject: RE: Bad sound stories
From: Callie
Date: 04 Sep 00 - 01:06 AM

Marcus - I admire your restraint regarding sound 'engineers' after the treatment your band received at Snalbans. If that had happened to me, I'd want to collect their heads on stakes.


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Subject: RE: Bad sound stories
From: Marcus Campus Bellorum
Date: 04 Sep 00 - 01:18 AM

I have had very few "good small sound system" experiences.

Perhaps the problem is the low prices "small operators" get (maybe that's "all operators").

Quick changeovers between artists also directly influeces the style of music and the type of artists that "fit" the bill.

Here, in a good "acoustic" venue, no PA is an advantage. Otherwise, where PAs are essential (and that is many many venues) time, thoroughness, empathy and communication are all very important and can be in very short supply.

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Subject: RE: Bad sound stories
From: Lena
Date: 04 Sep 00 - 04:11 AM

Rich,the italian singer was perfectly right.Being the wife of a sound engineer,and the best friend of another veeery good one(my father indeed)she knew what she was talking about.And as I know the category quite well,I tell you there are some nasty soundguys who won't even bother listening to you and 'Cute Face' was one of them.I have two spoiled years and I'm basically unable to enjoy concerts where my father is not doing the's on the basis of the respect I have for his work that we got that argument.The problem is that Maddy Prior uses keyboards(an instrument I openly loathe)in her set.They require a clean sound that together with the usual little reverb you always use to make up voices in folk music was making the all thing sound a little bit too perfect,too cd-like.
I like the story about the small kid complaining.
The majority of sound guys wear earplugs(God bless them,i'll be nuts by now without them),that's probably what happened at those two concerts.I don't think it was a matter of the soundie being deaf(he wouldn't have been working there otherwise)or also,if you live the volume to people on the stage you'll have it as loud as possible.Firstly because they can't hear what the audience is getting,second because well,they want to be heard.
Once my dad was hassled by a music critic complaining about some obliteration of some level or frequency,and replied:"The difference between a roll of toilet paper and a sound designer is that the toilet paper gets shit from just one person at a time"

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Subject: RE: Bad sound stories
From: GUEST,leeneia
Date: 04 Sep 00 - 11:04 AM

To go back a few posts, I really must protest Marcus' wisecrack about "more rigour and less prejudice/vitriole." Does he call protesting against actually physical pain merely a form of prejudice?

As for "rigor," decibels and the threshold of pain are rigorous scientific concepts, concepts that everyone involved with sound ought to understand.

And finally, anecdotes can be helpful if they're true,and mine are.

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Subject: RE: Bad sound stories
From: Willie-O
Date: 04 Sep 00 - 11:18 AM

Anyone who ever went to a Grateful Dead concert has heard proof that even rock-n-roll can be delivered just dead clean and at a listenable volume level.

Wonder why their sound was hugely better than any other rock concert I ever attended.


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Subject: RE: Bad sound stories
From: WyoWoman
Date: 04 Sep 00 - 11:21 AM

I used to review music for a large newspaper here in the U.S. and there were some performances that did cause physical pain. Peter Tosh and Joan Armatrading come immediately to mind. When you feel a searing pain in your ears and sinuses and your solar plexus is pounding with the bass, the sound might be a smidge loud. And this is a problem if you're being reviewed. A general rule of mine is that if I have to put down my pen and notebook so I can put both fingers in my ears, the review is not going to be splendid.

I credit (debit) a few such concerts with being the reason I now have to say "What?" a lot.

There used to be a kid who lived down the block from me and I could tell when he was leaving or coming home because I could sit inside my house with the windows closed and FEEL the bass on his car's sound system as he drove by. That was about ten years ago. I'm certain that guy has absolutely no hearing left now.

And == addressing a comment above, I don't think anyone said ALL sound guys are louts. AS in any other population, there are good 'uns and bad 'uns. As I understand the Mudcat, we get to discuss fearlessly the whole spectrum.


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Subject: RE: Bad sound stories
From: guinnesschik
Date: 04 Sep 00 - 11:25 AM

Locally, one of our most prominent sound guys is deaf. He runs the sound at all the big local festivals and fund raisers. We've learned that the best way to deal with this is to "go electic" on all our intsruments and to pray we get someone he's trained for sound, not himself. Small venues are especially a nightmare.

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Subject: RE: Bad sound stories
From: GUEST,Rich(stupidbodhranplayerwhodoesn'tknowbetter
Date: 04 Sep 00 - 04:17 PM

I gotta go with Willie-O on the Grateful Dead comment. I've seen them in [relatively] small amphitheatres, huge stadiums, indoor arenas of various sizes and the sound was always at least comfortable and usually quite enjoyable, even in the big windy stadiums, like Soldier's Field and Rich Stadium.

On a personal note: I once had a tech with a Megadeth t-shirt and a stack of Motley Crue and Van Halen laminates around his neck ask where my bodhran plugged in. Words will only cheapen the rest of the story, but I can tell you that the soundboard tape we made did not turn out to be the great live demo we'd hoped for!


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Subject: RE: Bad sound stories
From: kendall
Date: 04 Sep 00 - 04:21 PM

About 3 years ago, I was asked to perform at the Common Ground Country Fair in Litchfield Maine. The con man told me that some of my friends were doing it for free, and would I like to join them. Well...I approve of organic farming, so, I said "Sure, I'll do it as a benefit." After I got there, I found out that some of us were being paid, and some were not. That really pissed me off, so, I was in a foul mood when that ham fisted rock & roll idiot sound man did something that produced screeching feed back that was so loud, it caused me pain. I was behind the stage at the time, and it was very painful. One of the women performers was out front, and it was so painful that she was crying. I did my set anyway, because the fact that I had agreed to do it free hadn't changed. A year or so later, they called me and wanted to know if I wanted to audition to be on the program!!! God!! I do hate being treated like a tradesman, especially when they make more money than I do! Anyway, I'd hate to have their nerve in a tooth.

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Subject: RE: Bad sound stories
From: Marcus Campus Bellorum
Date: 04 Sep 00 - 05:40 PM

I rest my case.

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Subject: RE: Bad sound stories
From: DMcG
Date: 23 Dec 11 - 07:59 AM

Very old thread, but I've just heard a story that seems to fit here. My daughter has been working on a show where the sound guy was very rude and unhelpful, and the (professional) choreographer was sure he had met the sound guy before. Eventually he remembered ...

Around 10 years ago, he was on tour with an internationally renowned classical pianist. They turned up at one theatre mid-tour, where Mr Sound Guy was in charge. So they asked to see the piano, to discover that the only one available was an upright, not a grand. The famous pianist was remarkably generous, and said she'd work with that. Could she rehearse with it? "No, we don't have access until the show starts" came the reply. After some persistance - acouple of hours - they were grudging allowed access. At which point - around 90mins before this internationally famous pianist goes on stage - it is immediately apparant that the piano has not been tuned.

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