Live sound engineers work in theatre, concerts, live broadcasts (TV/Radio) and even in churches and conferences. Musical knowledge and timing are a big part of live sound but having an interest in physics/acoustics will help in understanding how your sounds will come across to audiences in different spaces. It is a fast paced job, but very interesting and varied!
Sound waves behave differently depending on the place/space that they are transmitted in. (think about how a guitar might sound played in a room at home, compared to that in a church or even a stadium concert). In live sound, it is the engineer’s job to be able to balance (mix) all of the sound sources (instruments, voices) so that it is clear for the audience to listen to.
Roles and responsibilities for a live sound engineer will include: being able to chat to performers – explaining the order of the soundcheck and event/concert, setting up the equipment such as amps, front of house PA speakers (for audience listening), monitor speakers (for band members listening) and microphones. In larger concerts and shows, there will be separate engineers taking care of the front of house and monitors.
Sound checks need to be done for both front of house (audience speakers) and for monitors (each band member will have a different mix in their monitor, specific to their requirements). The sound check allows levels to be set before a show starts and means there is less likely to be changes needed during a performance.
The engineer will perform the live mix during the performance and will be responsible for using any necessary effects/signal processing. In some occasions, a feed for recording may be taken from the mixing desk.
At the end of any show, the engineer will be responsible for correctly and safely dismantling all the equipment and reporting any faults. In this role, it is useful to have at least some knowledge of electronics to safely maintain equipment.
You will need good hearing, pitch and timing, good communication skills and be friendly and approachable. You will need to be motivated as there is a lot to think about and multi-task with. Calm personality and good problem solving skills are important in a live situation.
Check out our article from live engineer, Carla here
More job role information can be found on these websites:
Health and safety regulations are important, see Noise at Work Regulations and HSE Guidelines.
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