Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Say It Differently

I got to talking in a previous post about how the sound guy in general has kind of a bad rep for being hard to deal with.  I built my business on being a nice guy and that has gotten me further than my skill at mixing has in a lot of cases. But just because I'm trying to get along and put everyone at ease doesn't mean I don't get into arguments from time to time.  And this is an area where you can take an extra step and hopefully diffuse a tense situation so that everyone involved can get on with making art.

Whether in the studio or in a venue you're going to butt heads with a musician at some point or another.  Once you get into an argument you almost always end up taking a misunderstanding and making it worse.  I've fallen into the habit of re-stating my original thought just in case it wasn't heard correctly the first time or didn't sink in.  But if that doesn't catch traction I know I have to find another way to say it to try and get my point across.

Take for example the classic situation of the too-loud guitar player.  Even in a venue I'm new to, I've been over the system and I know roughly what it's capable of.  In walks some young buck with a full stack and I can tell right away he's going to overpower the system and I'm going to have to fight to make an intelligible mix.  But as soon as I ask him to turn down I immediately fall into that category of people he's already cross with who also want him to turn down like his mom, neighbors, or adults in general for that matter.

So I'll start in with talking about building a mix and wanting to do the best job I can for the band.  If that doesn't work I'll even go so far as to pump up his ego a little and tell the guy his rig is just way too much for my system.  So what if he leaves with a story about how his stuff is more manly than mine... my wife thinks I'm manly and beyond that I don't really care what anybody else thinks.  I just want the show to sound good.  To take it a little further I'll see if I can get him to pay attention to the local openers and how their stage volumes tend to blend already and I just help them along to fill the room.  Or if needed I'll point out another player who refused to turn down and ask how he thinks that band sounds with the guitar way out in front and the rest disappearing.

Most of the time I can get my point across, and we reach some kind of compromise.  I doesn't hurt to have a few tricks up your sleeve to help smooth things over.  Have a guitarist put his amp in the wings facing the band.  Usually it takes less than about five seconds before his mates begin to make my argument for me and get the punk to turn down.  But this doesn't apply just to loud guitar players.  You'll run into conflicts with management, lighting guys, video crews, and on and on.  It always pays off to keep a cool head and think of a better way to get your point across.

1 comment:

  1. Had a great comment from a Facebook follower:
    Rick Johnston said:
    Many guitarists don't know a dB from a D string -- and don't want to know. They only want the audience to hear what they're hearing. Problem is, when they stand in front of their stack they hear and feel every nuance of what they're playing...

    To which I replied:
    Good point. A lot of our fellow practitioners don't make matters any better either. Many a guitar player has had his tone murdered and is understandably gun shy.


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