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10 tips to become the WORST live sound engineer ever

Ruin your promising live mixing career with this advice from Nathan Lively and Björgvin Benediktsson!

By Nathan Lively

Lots of sound engineers want to be great, but you don’t hear much about going the opposite direction.

What if you are trying to develop a reputation for being completely terrible?

Björgvin Benediktsson is here to help. Here are suggestions from one of his best posts, 10 Ways to Become the WORST Live Sound Engineer in History, along with some comments of my own.*

1. You shouldn’t care about what the band says, your opinion is the one that matters.
I’ve developed a fantastic technique to accomplish this: When an artist says, “Hey, can you X, Y, Z,” I say, “Sure, no problem.” Then I pretend to turn knobs and make changes. “Thanks,” the artist says. “You’re an idiot,” I say in my head.

There are lots of easy ways to avoid requests that you don’t agree with. When a drummer asks you to mic their entire kit, you can put up all the mics and connect them to the stage box, but not actually use them. These methods are good for avoiding the artist and their stupid questions. No good can come from trying to understand the root of their problems.

2. Never walk around the venue because it only matters how the music sounds by the mixing board.
Listen, there’s no way I can solve every problem everywhere. If the venue wants great sound in every seat then they should have hired a sound system technician! All I can do is be responsible for making it sound good right here, and hopefully it will sound good everywhere el…wait, who am I kidding? I’m just trying to make it through the night without trouble. Don’t hassle me.

3. Place the monitors as close to the players as possible, that’s where they’ll hear themselves the best.
I disagree sightly with Bjorgvin on this one: the laziest method would be to leave the stage monitors wherever I first set them. If I cared at all, I would find the optimum listening position to help the performer and keep the stage volume low. But I prefer to just turn some knobs and blast it. Fuck ‘em.

4. Make sure the singer gets all the instruments in his monitor mix.
I love this. When an inexperienced singer walks in the door asking for “a little bit of everything,” I know they are unfamiliar with the difficulties of loud stages. From there I only have to smile and nod.

5. Never bring extra jack cables. If the players can’t remember their cables, they can’t play.
Is this your first time? How old are you? I’m sorry, do you need me to change your diaper as well?

I also never bring my own headphones. That way every problem with the sound system is forced into everyone’s life.

6. Constantly ride the faders so it looks like you’re doing something awesome.
I completely disagree with Bjorgvin on this one. The best way to be the worst sound engineer is to walk away from the console and have a beer. That way, if there is a problem all of a sudden, like a moment of feedback or a musician yelling into the mic, you are no where nearby to catch it. Besides, all the hotties are at the bar.

7. Feedback isn’t your fault. It’s the singer’s for wanting so much of himself in the monitor.
I’m not a wizard. If I were, I wouldn’t be here at this show. I’d be back in the shire smoking one of those badass pipes with some hobbits at the tavern.

8. Let the guitarists crank up their amps as much as they want. If they drown out the rest of the band, so be it.
I guess if I cared I would put the guitar amps up high on crates or stands and near the players so they wouldn’t need to crank ‘em up. But I’d rather avoid conflict, so I’ll just let them figure it out.

9. Show up late to the soundcheck. You know the band will too.
Musicians are slackers. We all know they won’t show up on time or be prepared. I could call them the day before to remind them of the sound checktime, but that’s really not part of my job description.

10. When the show’s over, just throw the cables in the box. No need to wrap them up.
I’m not in tomorrow night. Let the next guy sort it out.

And if you’re short on time, here’s the quickest way to become the worst live sound engineer ever:

I stole this image from Benediktsson’s post called The Worst Live Sound Mixing Mistake Ever.

* Hopefully you’ve already recognised this as satire. If not, congratulations! You ARE the worst sound engineer ever.

‘Most Important Answers for Sound Engineers’ T-shirt photo: Andreas Schepers on Flickr