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Author Topic: How often do you see national level BE's absolutely ruin a bands sound?  (Read 24342 times)

Jay Barracato

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Re: How often do you see national level BE's absolutely ruin a bands sound?
« Reply #10 on: February 19, 2012, 05:32:22 pm »

Not sure if you're familiar with the Best Buy Theater in NYC, but I'd say the coverage throughout the venue is pretty good. I started the set on the upper level where FOH is, then made my way to the floor and found what I heard to be pretty consistent as I walked down to the sweet spot of the floor. The exception being when I walked directly in front of the house right Vertec hang, obviously its a bit brighter.

You have valid points that absolutely need to be considered in lots of situations. However I don't think they are the root cause of the glaring differences in frequency balance I heard from each bands mix last night.

As earlier stated, In Flames came on right after and it sounded great. Once again I could hear intelligible, yet for the most part not overbearing, mids and highs. And the kick was no longer dominating the whole mix. The opener of the night suffered from the opposite problem of the band I referred to in my OP, vocals that were tearing your head off. So in one night I heard opposite ends of the spectrum of how engineers tailor their mid and high frequencies of a mix, while having listened in the same spot of the venue for at least a portion of each set. Of the 4 bands, the second band sounded okay, 3rd band (who I came to see) sounded atrocious, and In Flames closed out the night with a great mix and killer light show to boot.

Granted this was my first time in this particular venue, but all things considered from what I heard I think in this case the BE is to blame.

It is always possible, just last weekend I took a two hour drive on saturday to meet up with a band at a venue I had never attended a show in. My real purpose was simply to remind the band of my availibilty, do a little networking, and check out the venue. The band was going to comp me for the show, but I looked at the pairs of vrxs pointed at the ceilings and the walls, heard part of soundcheck, looked at the increasing snow storm, and said my goodbyes and headed down the road.

But just like musicians can't have their best show of the tour every single night, the same goes for BE's. To immediately jump to the conclusion that the problem is lack of skills is reaching. Some hidden factor must be at work and until you mix a set in his headphones (new proverb) ...
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Jay Barracato

Loren Aguey

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Re: How often do you see national level BE's absolutely ruin a bands sound?
« Reply #11 on: February 19, 2012, 06:02:58 pm »

It is always possible, just last weekend I took a two hour drive on saturday to meet up with a band at a venue I had never attended a show in. My real purpose was simply to remind the band of my availibilty, do a little networking, and check out the venue. The band was going to comp me for the show, but I looked at the pairs of vrxs pointed at the ceilings and the walls, heard part of soundcheck, looked at the increasing snow storm, and said my goodbyes and headed down the road.

But just like musicians can't have their best show of the tour every single night, the same goes for BE's. To immediately jump to the conclusion that the problem is lack of skills is reaching. Some hidden factor must be at work and until you mix a set in his headphones (new proverb) ...

Okay so out of curiosity, when you encounter bad sound like we all do, at what point do you place the blame on the person behind the console? I hope this doesn't come off as me arguing with you, not my intention.

I completely agree with what you're saying. But in this case I don't think my conclusion is far reaching. This was not a case of a shit PA/venue, or shit band. Its a pro band in a nice venue with good coverage and a nice rig. I think all of the relevant variables were taken into consideration.

Take my example or Mike Christy's example, multiple bands, high end PA's and consoles, and drastically varying degrees of sound quality between different bands. (In his example I'm assuming the band that sounded bad is not a band that sounds bad no matter what anyone does) I know we all have off nights. But if my off nights ever sound like that I pray someone whose ears I trust doesn't mince words with me, so I can quit mixing for everyone else's sake. Funny(or sad) thing is though, as bothered as I was by it, no one around me seemed to notice.

I can't tell you how relieved I was at the first note of In Flames because I could tell immediately that their guy is legit.
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Jay Barracato

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Re: How often do you see national level BE's absolutely ruin a bands sound?
« Reply #12 on: February 19, 2012, 06:35:41 pm »

Okay so out of curiosity, when you encounter bad sound like we all do, at what point do you place the blame on the person behind the console? I hope this doesn't come off as me arguing with you, not my intention.

I completely agree with what you're saying. But in this case I don't think my conclusion is far reaching. This was not a case of a shit PA/venue, or shit band. Its a pro band in a nice venue with good coverage and a nice rig. I think all of the relevant variables were taken into consideration.

Take my example or Mike Christy's example, multiple bands, high end PA's and consoles, and drastically varying degrees of sound quality between different bands. (In his example I'm assuming the band that sounded bad is not a band that sounds bad no matter what anyone does) I know we all have off nights. But if my off nights ever sound like that I pray someone whose ears I trust doesn't mince words with me, so I can quit mixing for everyone else's sake. Funny(or sad) thing is though, as bothered as I was by it, no one around me seemed to notice.

I can't tell you how relieved I was at the first note of In Flames because I could tell immediately that their guy is legit.

I wasn't taking it as arguing, but it was a phase I went through myself some years ago. I am a music fan, which is why I got into this in the first place. But there is a fundamental problem with being a "knowledgable fan" and part comes down to taste. Is the problem that the BE in control of the show making different choices from what you would have? There was a time when I would spend more time second guessing the tech that I could no longer enjoy the music.

So it came down to: Why would I endulge in a behavior that diminished my enjoyment?

So now my basic philosophy is to appreciate what the band is doing musically, while recognizing the tech flaws for what they are. If the flaws are so great that it completely reduces my enjoyment of the music, then I leave. If a band continues to have those problems, then I stop seeing them live. There are two fairly significant bands that I no longer bother to see live fort hose exact reasons. I am in this game for my pleasure, no sense in spending time where it is not pleasureable.

I hope I am not seeming over sensitive, but I am a BE, I sell my services as a BE, and I do 99% of my shows as a BE. For those people that say 80% of the BE's they encounter have problems, I just say turn it around. Try going out on the road, and mixing on a different system night after night after night. I am convinced those that can tour their own rig benefit from the consistancy regardless of the quality of the house rig. I would say that 80% of the house rigs I work on have if not a significant flaw than some particular quirk that affects the mix process.

Given that mixing is a series of decisions, usually compromises, that we only hear the end result of I usually avoid passing judgement, until I have to vote with my feet, because I have no idea what compromises have been made. At some point the person hired as BE must have inspired enough confidence to be offered the job. And then they have to keep it amoung all the drama and politics that go with touring. For all you know, the BE you saw was a last minute fill in who never got comfortable in the hot seat.

In my world, the basic question comes down to why would a band take part of their profits and hire a BE when there are all these great house techs all over the place (they keep telling us how much better they are than the band techs). Well the reality is that bands experiences with those "great techs" is very different than what the techs perceive. And that keeps my paycheck coming.

As I am wandering through a bunch of thoughts, I would be remiss if I didn't say that the few providers/house techs that really have their act together, make it so easy to step up as a BE that you really have to wonder why you are there. There are a couple of providers that post on these boards that I absolutely love working on their rigs, but in each of those cases they would do as good as a job as me, if not better. If I think they are better, I am willing to listen and learn, but I also remember that some of what I have sold the band is confidence in me and they want to step up to the mic and see me in control, for good or bad.
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Jay Barracato

Ivan Beaver

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Re: How often do you see national level BE's absolutely ruin a bands sound?
« Reply #13 on: February 19, 2012, 06:39:07 pm »

i spent about 10 years babysitting FOH for a local/regional that did a lot of A and B level acts.  you know the drill.  mix the opener you've never heard of in the few spare channels left on the desk.  then sit back and make sure the BE doesn't blow up the gear.  at least 50 percent of the time i was very underwhelmed by the BE's mix.  half of that [25 percent of the time] i was truly appalled...


In all of my gigs of all sorts, I have only run into 1 BE that made me go WOW!  I only knew him as "Doc".  I now wish i knew his real name.

I did a lot of festivals and it was always amazing to me that many of the warm up bands sounded better than the headliner.

Even though the headliner was a better band-the BE often could not make them sound better.  And they ALWAYS blamed the gear!!!

So how come the "lessor band" sounded better-with the same gear.

It was always "If I had a "so and so whatever-it would sound better".  And I bet if they had the tools they were drooling over-they would not be able to operate it.

I have run into a number of BE's that just "had" to have a particular effect or console.  And when I gave it to them, they did not know their way around it and wanted me to explain it to them.  Somehow I guess they thought the gear alone would make it sound better?????

Not that all are that bad.  But I have meet more than my share.  I don't where some of these guys come from.

As a provider-I would often say to myself  "can't we all just get along?"  If you treat me decent-I would bend over backwards to help you.  But "come out of the chute" being a jerk-and my job is just to keep the system from blowing up.

Sorry to be so harsh-but that was my reality.
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Ivan Beaver
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Jay Barracato

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Re: How often do you see national level BE's absolutely ruin a bands sound?
« Reply #14 on: February 19, 2012, 06:44:31 pm »

In all of my gigs of all sorts, I have only run into 1 BE that made me go WOW!  I only knew him as "Doc".  I now wish i knew his real name.

I did a lot of festivals and it was always amazing to me that many of the warm up bands sounded better than the headliner.

Even though the headliner was a better band-the BE often could not make them sound better.  And they ALWAYS blamed the gear!!!

So how come the "lessor band" sounded better-with the same gear.

It was always "If I had a "so and so whatever-it would sound better".  And I bet if they had the tools they were drooling over-they would not be able to operate it.

I have run into a number of BE's that just "had" to have a particular effect or console.  And when I gave it to them, they did not know their way around it and wanted me to explain it to them.  Somehow I guess they thought the gear alone would make it sound better?????

Not that all are that bad.  But I have meet more than my share.  I don't where some of these guys come from.

As a provider-I would often say to myself  "can't we all just get along?"  If you treat me decent-I would bend over backwards to help you.  But "come out of the chute" being a jerk-and my job is just to keep the system from blowing up.

Sorry to be so harsh-but that was my reality.

In the army, like any group of guys forced into close proximity, we would sit around and start BSing. Invariably the talk would turn to past experiences, especially the ones we were miserable during.

Memory is selective and bad experiences are better remembered than great experiences which are better remembered than good experiences.

Just because you have more memories of bad shows doesn't mean there were more bad shows.
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Jay Barracato

Ivan Beaver

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Re: How often do you see national level BE's absolutely ruin a bands sound?
« Reply #15 on: February 19, 2012, 06:51:19 pm »


I hope I am not seeming over sensitive, but I am a BE, I sell my services as a BE, and I do 99% of my shows as a BE. For those people that say 80% of the BE's they encounter have problems, I just say turn it around. Try going out on the road, and mixing on a different system night after night after night. I am convinced those that can tour their own rig benefit from the consistancy regardless of the quality of the house rig. I would say that 80% of the house rigs I work on have if not a significant flaw than some particular quirk that affects the mix process.


I have often thought that the following would be fun. IF I wasn't married-IF I didn't have to worry about where my paycheck was coming from later and so forth.

I often thought it would be "fun" and challenging to be on tour with a decent band who was not out of control on stage level and doing the moderate sized club tour.

I would take it as a challenge to see how good I could make them sound on whatever hodge podge of a system we ran into.  Try to approach every system with a positive attitude etc.  Understanding that the particular was only for one night and tomorrow would be a different story.  And not  putting to much worry into the whole situation.

It is probably "to close to home" for many-but I honestly feel there is a bit to much "attitude" and a longing for "toys" to play with, rather than concentrating on the actual art of mixing.

A truly talented musician can make a half way decent instrument make music.  The "wanna be's" will blame the instrument.



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Ivan Beaver
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Jay Barracato

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Re: How often do you see national level BE's absolutely ruin a bands sound?
« Reply #16 on: February 19, 2012, 07:04:03 pm »

I have often thought that the following would be fun. IF I wasn't married-IF I didn't have to worry about where my paycheck was coming from later and so forth.

I often thought it would be "fun" and challenging to be on tour with a decent band who was not out of control on stage level and doing the moderate sized club tour.

I would take it as a challenge to see how good I could make them sound on whatever hodge podge of a system we ran into.  Try to approach every system with a positive attitude etc.  Understanding that the particular was only for one night and tomorrow would be a different story.  And not  putting to much worry into the whole situation.

It is probably "to close to home" for many-but I honestly feel there is a bit to much "attitude" and a longing for "toys" to play with, rather than concentrating on the actual art of mixing.

A truly talented musician can make a half way decent instrument make music.  The "wanna be's" will blame the instrument.

Often the standard you have to go by is what the venue is used to. A great show is not when the band sounds their best, but when they sound better than other bands in the same venue. I think that is the crux of Loren's concern and it really is not about who is mixing. But I think you have read enough of my posts to know some of the bizarre stuff I run into in the small club world.

My standard rider specs no brand names, and has no "not accepted" products. I have never used it as a "wish list" and I think techs that do are making things harder for the rest of us because riders are not taken seriously in club world. Most of the words on it past the input list are safety related items. My standard rider has more safety information than anything else. Most of the clubs never look past the input list.

I have never bought into the quality of the tool argument, but I probably have a different idea about where the money on quality tools should be spent. FOH processing ain't it. I did have a group that was being wooed by a record company, so a couple of execs were kind of following us around as the band was showcasing in Nashville. One of the band members, knowing my dislike of SM57's for acoustic instruments commented that she was sorry that was all I had to work with on one stage. One of the execs, who also played mandolin, trotted out the "poor workman blames the tool bit". I just asked him what type of mandolin he played, and like any musician I was treated to the whole pedigree of his beloved historic gibson, including its value. I just asked him why a $129 rogue wouldn't serve his purposes. It has the same number of strings and makes the same notes...
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Jay Barracato

Loren Aguey

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Re: How often do you see national level BE's absolutely ruin a bands sound?
« Reply #17 on: February 19, 2012, 07:48:56 pm »

I wasn't taking it as arguing, but it was a phase I went through myself some years ago. I am a music fan, which is why I got into this in the first place. But there is a fundamental problem with being a "knowledgable fan" and part comes down to taste. Is the problem that the BE in control of the show making different choices from what you would have? There was a time when I would spend more time second guessing the tech that I could no longer enjoy the music.

So it came down to: Why would I endulge in a behavior that diminished my enjoyment?

So now my basic philosophy is to appreciate what the band is doing musically, while recognizing the tech flaws for what they are. If the flaws are so great that it completely reduces my enjoyment of the music, then I leave. If a band continues to have those problems, then I stop seeing them live.

I'm probably in that phase you speak of. I'm in the same boat as you in terms of being in this for the love of music. And yes, sometimes I need to remind myself to forget about the mix and enjoy the music. But on the times when the mix is spot on, my enjoyment level goes way past just the music as I can genuinely appreciate the quality sound and how its complementing my experience of the music that I enjoy so much.

I'd say for me it was bad enough for me not to pay to see them again.

To answer the portion in bold: yes he absolutely made choices that would differ from mine and by now that goes without saying. 

But I'd say the choices he made would be drastically different from any competent mixer and my beef with the sound is far removed from issues of personal taste, but fall short of basic fundamentals.

Often the standard you have to go by is what the venue is used to. A great show is not when the band sounds their best, but when they sound better than other bands in the same venue. I think that is the crux of Loren's concern and it really is not about who is mixing.

Not exactly sure what you mean by this but to be clear on my end: You're right I don't actually care who is mixing per se as long as they are doing justice to the band that I paid to see. I can live with "choices that I wouldn't have made". After all, how rare is it that you see a show where as the listener you feel the mix is perfect and you wouldn't change a thing? Even the great killswitch engage mix I praised a few years back had the guitars panned more than I like. But as long as the mix and performance is good I don't get hung up on things like that and enjoy the show.

When I pay to see a melodic metal band and all I hear is overwhelming kick drum boom & click and an unintelligible mud of vocals and guitars then that's when I take major issue with "choices made". But I digress, I honestly don't mean to keep bitching about last night I just wanted to clarify that its not merely an issue of subtle mix choices.

I'm generally interested in other people's experience like the stuff you guys have been talking about. 

In Flames was great and they made the show worth it for me.
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Jay Barracato

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Re: How often do you see national level BE's absolutely ruin a bands sound?
« Reply #18 on: February 19, 2012, 08:03:51 pm »

I'm probably in that phase you speak of. I'm in the same boat as you in terms of being in this for the love of music. And yes, sometimes I need to remind myself to forget about the mix and enjoy the music. But on the times when the mix is spot on, my enjoyment level goes way past just the music as I can genuinely appreciate the quality sound and how its complementing my experience of the music that I enjoy so much.

I'd say for me it was bad enough for me not to pay to see them again.

To answer the portion in bold: yes he absolutely made choices that would differ from mine and by now that goes without saying. 

But I'd say the choices he made would be drastically different from any competent mixer and my beef with the sound is far removed from issues of personal taste, but fall short of basic fundamentals.

Not exactly sure what you mean by this but to be clear on my end: You're right I don't actually care who is mixing per se as long as they are doing justice to the band that I paid to see. I can live with "choices that I wouldn't have made". After all, how rare is it that you see a show where as the listener you feel the mix is perfect and you wouldn't change a thing? Even the great killswitch engage mix I praised a few years back had the guitars panned more than I like. But as long as the mix and performance is good I don't get hung up on things like that and enjoy the show.

When I pay to see a melodic metal band and all I hear is overwhelming kick drum boom & click and an unintelligible mud of vocals and guitars then that's when I take major issue with "choices made". But I digress, I honestly don't mean to keep bitching about last night I just wanted to clarify that its not merely an issue of subtle mix choices.

I'm generally interested in other people's experience like the stuff you guys have been talking about. 

In Flames was great and they made the show worth it for me.

But my point remains that it mau have been factors totally out of the BE's hands.

This goes all the way back to the beatles but it is extremely easy to do things in the studio that there is no way possible to perform live.

A recent case: A band I used to work with decided to go more mainstream country and add a drummer. The upright bassist also switched to electric bass. I went to see one of their first big shows where they were opening for a A list country act in a large outdoor venue. I wandered in during soundcheck, introduced myself at FOH and sat to listen. The guy mixing them definitely knew what he was doing, but he had the same thing you described, all kick and bass, cymbals on top, and mud in the middle. You couldn't even hear the melody instruments. He turned to me and asked if that is what they usually sound like, I told him I had never seen them with the drums before. We ended up listening to every single channel. The loudest things in the banjo mic was the drums and bass, the loudest things in the fiddle mic was the drums and bass.

The band had no control over the sound on stage and there was nothing the guy at FOH could do to clean it up.

And I would bet that many techs, both BE and not, get trapped by choices like this that the band made.
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Jay Barracato

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Re: How often do you see national level BE's absolutely ruin a bands sound?
« Reply #19 on: February 19, 2012, 08:26:34 pm »


The band had no control over the sound on stage and there was nothing the guy at FOH could do to clean it up.

And I would bet that many techs, both BE and not, get trapped by choices like this that the band made.

Hence my thread in the Basement entitled: "First you have to learn to play without a PA".......

As sound providers we're often put in the position of being stage manager/MC/DJ.  On small festivals for non-profits we also become event producers to a certain extent.  And after a looong career as a musician/performer, I find it hard not to want to add "arranger" to the list.


"Guys!  You don't all have to play all the time in every song!"
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Re: How often do you see national level BE's absolutely ruin a bands sound?
« Reply #19 on: February 19, 2012, 08:26:34 pm »


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