Learning Live Sound Production (part 4)

My first time as monitor engineer

We are at Bunker’s Bar and Grill located in the Warehouse District of Minneapolis. The night is Saturday, September 27th, 2008. I arrive at the usual time (found in Part 1 of this series) to setup for the show. Everything went as described earlier in this series.

The night is cold and so is the beer. The audience is hungry, and even though the kitchen is serving deliciously warm burgers, they want more. They are hungry for an awesome show and we were going to provide just that!

After soundcheck was done, Dave Hill, my live sound production mentor asked me to sit in position as the monitor engineer for the night. I thought, “Am I ready for this? Is he serious?” and in two seconds flat, I gleefully said “Yeah, I’ll do it!” 🙂

The first band, The Jade Murphy Band, began to play. During the first song, a couple members asked to have their monitors volume turned up. The next song had a few more minor adjustments. The rest of the set was clear sailing. Next was the headliner, Summit Ave. The first few songs had some adjustments, and again was clear the rest of the show. Both bands greeted me with big smiles and said I did an excellent job. Needless to say, I was overjoyed.

Here is the post I found on Summit Ave’s blog for this very night.

Blog post for the Bunker's show

Summit Ave's post

My first time a front-of-house engineer

There needs to be a little bit of a back story before I detail my experience. In 2007, my girlfriend at the time and I put together a local art and music gallery in 29 days. Our first showcase was on July 29, 2007. The second show was in August of 2009. I am going to briefly write about the second show as I was the front-of-house engineer for one really great band. More about this gallery as it came to be known as Relentless Gallery, will be detailed later in a blog post (or two).

For both shows we hired Jonathan Waldo to engineer them. Waldo, as he is also known, is in the band The Absent Arch, which played both showcases. At the first show, I was so busy mingling and schmoozing that I barely saw any of the bands play! But the second show was where I first got my taste of being a front-of-house engineer.

Because Waldo is in the band The Absent Arch, and The Arch was playing. Waldo wasn’t able to both play and engineer the band. That’s where I came in. We did a quick soundcheck and then they gave me the green light.

The first song was played and I was hesitant to change anything. During the second song, I made little adjustments. After a few songs the band was warmed up, and I made a few more minor adjustments. Some time during the set, a mutual friend of ours named Will Garrison, came to me and offered a little mix advise. While I was thinking to do exactly what he said prior to him coming up to me, I had let it be. But because I hold Will’s opinion in high regard to music and his close relationship with the band, I made that final adjustment. Everything went great. No feedback issues or unhappy band members. 🙂

This concludes the series on my live sound production beginnings. Thank you Dave Hill for your priceless advice, it will never be forgotten. Thank you Waldo for having faith in me and leaving your band’s live sound in my hands.


Learning Live Sound Production (part 3)

My second time out with Dave Hill was at the Medina. This venue is a Minnesota tradition, with over 50 years of great live music, artists such as Alice Cooper, Pat Benatar, Willie Nelson and Johnny Cash have all performed there.

Dave Hill and I met at the Medina at the same start time as my first show, 3pm. When I arrived Dave had already powered up the stage. The live sound production went almost exactly the same as the first, detailed here. I will describe just the differences between the shows.

At this event we had a Hammond organ with Leslie speaker and he showed me the proper way to mic it.

Leslie Speaker

Example of a Leslie speaker

The Medina’s Grand Ballroom is much larger than Bunker’s, therefore the front-of-house mix is slightly different, but the soundcheck procedure is still the same. Dave also reiterated a point he made at Bunker’s, that the acoustics change once the audience fills up. The sound is absorbed by the audience, hence less reflective. Keep this in mind when the band is asking for you to turn up the volume on their foldback monitors, because they probably do need it.

The last difference to mention is the headliner was Bruce McCabe. Again the bands thanked Dave and I for providing them with “perfect sound”. The bands rocked and the fans screamed and danced until they fell over from exhaustion (literally someone did!). This was a night I will never forget.

To end this series detailing my live sound production experience, in Part 4 I will write about my first time as the monitor engineer and my first as front-of-house engineer!

Learning Live Sound Production (part 2)

We began with setting up the foldback (on stage) monitors, mics and cabling. He stressed the need to arrange the cables in a clean, out of the way manner. It helps with avoiding anyone tripping over and any accidental unplugging during the show. And as a bonus, it makes the band look better in pictures.

When the stage was finished Dave and I went to the foldback mixer. Here we connected and labelled the mixer for the performers monitors. Then we went to the front-of-house (main) mixer. Again, we connected and labelled everything. Once that was complete, it was time for a bite to eat. During this meal, Dave talked of his live production work and tours with Phil Collins, Genesis and the 10,000 Lakes Festivals.

Around 18:00, band members started to arrive and we began soundcheck for the headliner, Summit Ave. Dave showed me how to set levels of the instruments, starting with the drums. Next, he had me watch him set levels for the foldback monitors. I then walked around the venue to listen for all the instruments and Dave adjusted the front-of-house mix to my recommendations. 🙂

Following that, we checked levels of the foldback mix then the front-of-house for the opening bands, one of which was Umphrey’s McGee. Fortunately the front-of-house mixer was a Midas Venice 320, we had plenty of channels to have the headliner on the left-hand side and the openers to the right. Each with their own mix levels.

Finally after soundcheck, there was about an hour of social time and one more shot of whiskey and water. Remember to just sip it, as stated in the first post (Part 1).

It’s SHOWTIME! Everything went without a hitch! The bands were happy and complimented Dave and I with the way everything sounded.

“Dave Hill is one of the best live engineers in the city. We love Dave!”

In Part 3, I detail the events at the Medina Grand Ballroom.

Learning Live Sound Production (part 1)

In 2008, I began a live sound production apprenticeship under a seasoned professional by the name of Dave Hill.

I met Dave while working at a gas station located on Lyndale Avenue in Uptown Minneapolis. I told him about my interest in music and recording. He then told me that if I wanted to get serious about recording that I would need to know the basics and learn live sound. Dave explained to me that if I wanted to have great recordings, that I simply must know how to manage sound in a live environment. Boy was he right! Without fully grasping this seemingly simple concept, I would have been lost and had no knowledge to troubleshoot when situations were dire.

Dave invited me to watch and learn from him. The first show I attended was for the band Summit Avenue at Bunker’s, located in the Warehouse District. He told me to arrive at 3pm to begin learning how to setup. I was confused as to why we had to start so early and he said to produce the best sound possible that you have to arrive early to ensure the venue’s equipment is in working order. Power, lights and gear must all be checked to be working and in the event that anything doesn’t work, it is our responsibility to take it up with the venue to secure the proper accommodations for us to do our job right, and our job is to make the bands sound great!

I arrived at Bunker’s at 3pm and Dave greeted me. First thing we did was go into the basement and turned the power on for the stage.

Next thing we did was we went to the bar and each got a shot of whiskey and a glass of water. Dave said this is just to loosen up any nerves and get the gears moving. “You only need just this one. Any more than that and you are going to get trouble.” He continues, “Don’t try to slam it all in one shot, like Americans do.” Oh, one thing I should mention here is Dave is a native of England. “Just sip and enjoy. And if you need, chase it with the water.”

Part 2

Internship at A440 Live TV

On Monday the 16th, I stared my internship at the A/V studio, A440 Live. I met with owners John Heinen and Nick Nichols, we discussed our backgrounds with audio and they gave me a briefing of their studio operations.

Thank you, John and Nick for this terrific opportunity. I am looking forward to this being the beginning of many beautiful things for each of us.

A440 Live TV is designed for Bands and Artists who want quality promotional audio and video products on a budget.
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