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Author Topic: Working with a difficult performer when volunteering to run sound  (Read 8053 times)

jesseweiss

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So I'm a drummer, not a sound tech, but I run sound for our band and when we play community volunteer stuff (we have several of the same shows a year) I volunteer to bring and run the PA.  Nothing fancy just 2 FOH, subwoofer, 3 monitors, etc... for a variety of types of acts (we're a 4 pc rock band).

The opening act was just a singer with an acoustic guitar.  I'm thinking, awesome, very easy to mix to start the day.  We begin sound check and her guitar sounds like crap.  She's giving me all these directions to boost the highs as high as they can go, etc... to clean up the sound.  The guitar didn't seem to be a typical A/E either. I put a normal low cut on it, and tried to cut here and there to make it sound cleaner. No luck. She kept harping on how long she's been performing and doing sound, blah blah blah (30 years, which is only a little shorter than my band has been together!), and constantly complaining and chirping in my ear about how long it's all taking.

I (along with my guitarist) tell her to cut all her pedals (she has like 3 different pedals which I didn't bother to look at because of time, but none of which were anything special, and a TC Helicon voice thing for harmonies I guess).  After 20 minutes of her complaining about her guitar sound and me telling her it has to be somewhere in her part of the signal chain and not the PA, she realizes she has a pedal that has a subharmonic feature that she has cranked up and she has the highs turned down.  Even after that, the guitar still sounds muddy but she made us 30 minutes behind (which coupled with the second act going 20 minutes long even after being told to stop) meant my band only played like 35 minutes even though we provided and ran sound.

So I'm feeling kind of down on myself about being able to get the guitar to sound better, etc... since I'm relatively new to sound and using our XR18.

The next act is a School of Rock, and they and our band sound great. So at least I feel better about running electric guitars, etc... The last act is an acoustic duo (Cello and Guitar) but I run direct out of their Fishman Loudbox amps and they also sound great.

I've had a few experiences with one guy in the past complaining about his monitor (he's a diva too), but this woman was the first time I experienced someone causing the problem, refusing to listen how to fix it, and complaining and pontificating about her experience the whole time. Yikes!

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Chrysander 'C.R.' Young

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Re: Working with a difficult performer when volunteering to run sound
« Reply #1 on: May 29, 2017, 10:26:33 pm »

Simple - no $ = I take no shit from the artist.  I would have muted the PA and walked off saying "Now it's a real acoustic gig.  Good luck."

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Robert Lofgren

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Re: Working with a difficult performer when volunteering to run sound
« Reply #2 on: May 30, 2017, 02:16:06 am »

When it comes to acoustic guitars I always prepare a mic for it even if it "has a great DI" builtin.

And as the previous poster said; If I'm doing this for free it is on my terms or bring your own guy.

Next week I'm doing a paid festival gig and one band wants to give me the main output from their own mixer that they will have on stage with them and I've told them that they are on their own as I will lose all control, more or less, and can't take any responsibility for gear that I don't provide myself.
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Stelios Mac

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Re: Working with a difficult performer when volunteering to run sound
« Reply #3 on: May 30, 2017, 03:40:14 am »

The only thing you should be blaming yourself for is that you let her go on for half an hour.  ;D

IMO, whether you're volunteering or not, you should always act professionally.
I would've gone on stage and bypassed the pedals myself. If she's still being an uncooperative b****, mute everything and tell her she's run out of soundcheck time due to her unwillingness to cooperate. She's not paying you to put up with her after all  ;D

Soundcheck for an acoustic guitar with any proper musician shouldn't take more than 3 minutes.
IMO, if you're using a properly set-up PA that's been "voiced" to taste, and half-decent microphones, the sound mostly comes down to the musicians and backline. Not the EQ.
In other words, if you can't get a rough mix going just "faders up" there's a problem with either the band or the PA.
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Alec Spence

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Re: Working with a difficult performer when volunteering to run sound
« Reply #4 on: May 30, 2017, 05:14:02 am »

We'll all have come across poor sources from time to time, and it's often a case of damage limitation.

Acoustic guitars can be the quickest (turn up the gain and all is well) or the worst (nothing you can do makes it sound good).  In the latter case, especially if time is against you, the best you can do is be diplomatic and hustle things along.  The hostile posts from the other posters are disappointing - keep the criticism internal and help things along with a big confident smile, whatever it sounds like.

One guy I've dealt with a few times has some extremely high end guitars along with expensive pickups and expensive pedals.  Unfortunately, it all sounded dreadful.  Much better with all his exotic modelling pre-amps bypassed, but still not fabulous.  Turns out he tends to self op with a Bose L1 system - I suspect he's spent a lot of time matching everything up, but that nothing works well away from his system.
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Keith Broughton

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Re: Working with a difficult performer when volunteering to run sound
« Reply #5 on: May 30, 2017, 06:05:52 am »

Plug the guitar into the DI without pedals.
If it sounds good, it's not your problem.
Remind the performer you are on a schedule and need to move on.
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I don't care enough to be apathetic

Stelios Mac

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Re: Working with a difficult performer when volunteering to run sound
« Reply #6 on: May 30, 2017, 06:12:09 am »

especially if time is against you, the best you can do is be diplomatic and hustle things along.  The hostile posts from the other posters are disappointing

You always need to maintain a professional attitude, absolutely.
But sometimes enough is enough - And if the said artist kept refusing to bypass her pedals for 20 minutes straight, instead going on to brag about her experience "running sound" thinking she's a know-it-all, whilst eating up over half an hour of other bands' performance time, diplomacy has to be said aside for a moment.

The way I see it:
- She's got no respect for you & your work (as a volunteer, even!!!)
- She's not interested in how she sounds (Which you're there to help her with) but rather how she's gonna make herself appear as the ultimate soundguy/musician/genius/all-in-one or whatever
- She doesn't give a damn about others and the fact that she is eating up everyone's performance time.

It's not her fault though, someone should've stopped her. Sometimes you just NEED to move on, you don't have time to keep arguing with a "know-it-all". If the only way to do that is to mute her, then that's what you'll have to do.
I second what Keith said ^
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g'bye, Dick Rees

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Re: Working with a difficult performer when volunteering to run sound
« Reply #7 on: May 30, 2017, 06:47:32 am »

Plug the guitar into the DI without pedals.
If it sounds good, it's not your problem.
Remind the performer you are on a schedule and need to move on.

Yup.

I always want a split before the pedal board.
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Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain...

Kevin Maxwell

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Re: Working with a difficult performer when volunteering to run sound
« Reply #8 on: May 30, 2017, 09:37:10 am »

If you donít know how to already on the XR18 learn how to solo a signal to headphones (directly on the XR18) and have a decent set of headphones with you. The first thing you should have done when the guitar sounded funny was to solo it on your headphones and confirmed that it sounded that way coming to you. I assume that the XR18 was on stage at that point then you just hand her the headphones and say that is the way it sounds coming to me. And it will hopefully quickly wake her up to the problem.

I have been dealing with a church that I keep telling the guy in charge of the music (who is a really good musician and can mix) that he needs to have a set of headphones so he can solo a source and see how it sounds coming into the mixer. He refuses because he says when he has someone else mixing (volunteers) when he is playing they will just mix with the headphones on. So sometimes you canít win.

I was doing a variety show in a High School and one act, solo with guitar, he had a pickup in his guitar and it sounded funny. I said it sounded like the internal battery was going dead. The father was there and he said they just changed the battery recently so that canít be it. The father was the original guitar player for a long time in a group with a number of number one hits while he was a member. I have worked with him a bunch of times. He insisted it wasnít the battery. The guitar had to be partially unstrung to change the battery so it wasnít real easy to just put a new battery in. I donít remember how I convinced him to change it but it was the battery. It turned out that if you left the guitar plugged in and just sitting there it would drain the battery and that is what his son had done for a couple of days or more. And I would guess the battery wasnít that good to start with. But this whole thing didnít take 20 minutes.
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Tim McCulloch

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Re: Working with a difficult performer when volunteering to run sound
« Reply #9 on: May 30, 2017, 10:07:07 am »

I had a whole bunch of snark written but couldn't bring myself to hit the post button...

We are expected to be deferential to artists no matter how obviously their shit is fucked up.  You will have to demonstrate that it's not your console input, mic cable, sub snake, main snake, drive snake, DI box, or anything else.  Any you'll have to do all this without touching *anything* belonging to the artist or artist's stage setup.  The artist can have dead batteries, defective cords, FUBAR processing, missing all the strings on the guitar... and it is STILL YOUR SHIT THAT'S THE PROBLEM.

It's a particularly satisfying flavor of schadenfreude to expose these egotistical fucktwits in front of their peers and doing it with a smile on your face.
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Re: Working with a difficult performer when volunteering to run sound
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