How to Talk with your Sound Guy

It’s time to extend that olive branch with the most essential member of your band – The sound guy. 

Here is a video that sums up how most of us view sound guys. It’s super funny, it also has a lot of swearing in it – I KNOW! I’m sorry, Mom.

Obviously, this video is a nightmare scenario, it still gets me laughing every time I see it.

Are you afraid of the sound guy? Well, you shouldn’t be. Knowing how to run a soundboard will make or break a show. I don’t care how much you practice, if you can’t hear the vocals during a set, it’s not a good set.

We have all been here, anyone who has played has made these mistakes. Since the person running the sound is so important, here is some overall advice that has helped me through the years. 

  • Realize that what you hear in your monitor is not an accurate representation of what the audience is hearing. It’s your version of the show – MEANING that it should be enjoyed! If your vocals are too hot in your monitor, you will probably pull away from the mic, lowering what the audience can hear. That is a big problem! You want the mix in your monitor to be something you enjoy listening to. Avoid making your instrument so loud in your monitor – on the flip side, if you can’t hear yourself at any point, you can flag down to the sound guy that you can’t hear yourself. It’s OKAY TO DO THIS! Don’t settle for “Okay” or “Servicable” 

  • It’s okay to say that you don’t like how it sounds in the monitor. Don’t be afraid that you’ll annoy the person running sound. The monitor is your version of the show! Take the time during soundcheck to make it sound good! 

  • Expect the person running sound to be rude – Be pleasantly surprised when they’re not. Unfortunately, it seems that the job attracts a lot of know-it-all jag-offs. That’s not always the case. Getting smart with them never helps you. I’m just telling you the hard truth. Sometimes you have to stroke some feathers to get what you want. Keep a cool head!
  • Your amp should have a microphone on it, turn your amp towards the back wall, away from the auidence – This helps with the overall sound. In doing this you’ve just made it so that one person controls all of the sound the audience is hearing, instead of controlling all the sound, except that amp that is facing the crowd and sending a lot more guitar into the mix. It’s a common curiosity to the person running sound, it will put you in their good graces! (Usually) – Also, I just learned this recently. You might be tempted to turn the amp from the wall to face the drummer, or simply have it face you. Since you have a monitor, this is a bad idea! All you’re doing is competing with the monitor. Just trust in the person running sound, or at the very least, your ability to communicate what you need to the sound guy!

  • Be kind, but be firm – On this night, the sound guy works for you. Treat them like an employee, but an employee that can really screw you over by destroying your stock.

  • Trust in the sound guy, because in the middle of the show you have no other options – This job means someone is mixing the music in real-time. They are also human and make mistakes. It’s okay! Can you bring your own sound guy? – Yes, you can bring your own sound guy. I highly discourage using anyone that “kind of” knows what they’re doing. Like a buddy that plays guitar in another band, I honestly think you’re better off running with the venues regular sound guy.
  • I use to bring the sound guy a quick and easy gift. – I know, it seems kind of silly. I would bring them something cheap, something that says thank you for your help. Like a Redbull, if its a dumpy place, or a gift card if it’s an upscale venue. I know it sounds stupid, but I will tell you something – it always worked. This one sound guy learned my name and recognized me on the street a few months after the show. That’s pretty crazy! 

  • Play your hardest-hitting song during soundcheck, and play like it’s the last song in the set – As soon as you start your set, adrenaline will kick in, and you will hit hard! Plan on this! If you play softly during the during the soundcheck, you’re kind of wasting your time. THIS IS A TIME THAT SHOULD NOT BE WASTED. You want it to feel real when you’re playing. Soundcheck is not a time to practice the set, that time has passed. 
  • I know I said this earlier, but I want to make it a sperate point. The answer “it’s fine” is not a good answer – if you’re playing, and you’re out of tune, it’s not “fine.” Sound in your monitor should be just as important to you as an out of tune string. 

  • It’s okay to talk to the sound guy in between songs. – If you can’t hear yourself throughout a song. Before the next song, speak into the mic and tell the person running sound to turn you up. Can’t hear your guitar, ask them to turn up the guitar. Hell, you can even nicely make eye-contact during the song, point at the guitar, then point up. This is entirely acceptable and absolutely should be done if you can’t hear yourself. 

  • It’s your stage – I want this to really sink in. If you act like it’s your stage, the sound coming off that stage is yours, you will perform better. You will be able to get into what you’re doing. Pretend you’re an audience member up there, what do you want to hear more of? Remeber that you and the person running sound are on the SAME TEAM! Even if you have a bad sound guy, you are working together.
  • If you have a volume knob, always leave a little space to go higher – If you are going to hit a solo, you’ll need some room to punch through! It’s usually not a good idea to use a distortion pedal as a volume pedal. I just want to point out the obvious, there not the same thing. I have treated them as the same thing, and that’s kind of dumb. There are pedals specifically dedicated to that. Buy one of those, or just give yourself some room on your volume knob. 

  • Get to soundcheck early – And have the “soundcheck song” chosen before you get to the venue. – FOR THE LOVE OF GOD! Don’t dink around on stage. This is the most focused you are all night! (okay, well, one of the times you have to concentrate) The bassist should NOT be trying out “Suck My Kiss” on stage while the drummer is checking his sound. On your setlist you should make a note that says either “*Insert your loudest song here*” Or it will be a hard-hitting song outside of your setlist.
  • Once you’ve set up the sound, DON’T TOUCH ANYTHING – Don’t mess with volume knobs, don’t change pedal settings. Don’t move the amp away from the microphone. When you look at the sound guy and say “We’re good” that’s that end of it. Don’t move your amp around. Does that makes sense, if you change stuff after soundcheck, you have just undone the soundcheck, rendering it useless.

  • Print a setlist for the person running sound – Sure, most of them won’t look at it. But you’re already making setlists for the other people in the band. So why the hell not! If you’re switching guitars or other instruments between songs, this will also show them where and when they need to mute a channel. It’s just an excellent idea, and you need to do it. 

If after the show, you complain that “you couldn’t hear yourself” it is 98% YOUR FAULT. You have to talk to the person running sound. It’s not just a thing you do at the start of the show.


Published by crazylegsdean

Self defined as: taste taster for the aspiring musician on the go.

One thought on “How to Talk with your Sound Guy

  1. As a “sound guy” this resonates so well and I couldn’t agree more in fact I’m sharing it to my page right now!


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