When I Don’t Follow My Own Advice (and why)!

December 25, 2018 • By

If recording and mixing musicians in a studio is like cosmetic surgery then live-sound in bars and small clubs is like battlefield surgery. It’s rarely a perfect environment for hitting your checklist of best practices. But the more tools and strategies you have available in your grab-bag or tool kit then the greater the likelihood that you can be successful, even with comromised results.

Shot with my Canon flip-cam and a Sennheiser EW100-G2 lav mic on a cold, rainy day at Bottom of the Hill in SF, CA.

Please share with engineers, musicians and/or anyone that performs on a stage. Thank you for your support!

T-shirt of the Day: The Ramones Museum (in Berlin, Germany)! https://www.ramonesmuseum.com/
Hoody of the Day: 930 Club (Washington, DC)! https://www.930.com/

You can also connect with me at:
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/LiveSoundTips/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/Paul_at_FOH
Instagram: http://www.instagram.com/live_sound_engineer


Important Considerations After Soundcheck (& Throughout The Show)

December 21, 2018 • By

Episode #4. Anything you can do to make performers feel welcome, comfortable, respected and valued is where you should prioritize your efforts. Whatever makes the performer’s job easier will make your own job and your results even better. But the magic doesn’t stop when sound-check is over so here’s a partial list of things to work on after the soundcheck and throughout the show/concert/event.

In this episode I discuss taking breaks, production schedules and set times, maintaining eye contact for hand signals, backline changeover and doing your line checks discretely, and being consistently supportive by applauding for performers.


Breaking Out of Solitary Confinement

November 29, 2017 • By

Recently I was listening to this episode of Inside Strategic Coach -“One Thing Every Entrepreneur Needs: Community”, a podcast aimed at entrepreneurs. The discussion got me thinking about a particular phenomenon I’ve observed among struggling live sound engineers far, far too many times over the years. A common scenario that so many of us encounter early on, which can condition many people to remain confined to the lower rungs of the industry (the bar circuit and small clubs), is that nearly all of us start out working in isolation and seldom get to work side by side with other engineers. Most of us got our start mixing in bars, cafes, open-mic nights or in very small venues that only require one engineer to run both FOH and monitors for any given show. And, performers at these small venues don’t arrive with their own, exclusive engineers. So, why is that a problem?


I firmly believe that the biggest pitfall that can result from rollin’ solo in the very beginning is that when compared to the relatively inexperienced performers that we’re often working with at that level, we can be incorrectly perceived, much too soon, as an “expert” or “authority” in our field. It can become way too easy to believe we’re a lot better at the job than we really are. Expectations are set pretty low in this part of the biz and very few outsiders would ever know enough to seriously challenge or question our knowledge, abilities or methods. After all, at times we’re practically miracle workers in a high stress, trial-by-fire job that very few people want. Because of these conditions it’s entirely possible to slide by in the beginning with a pretty limited bag of tricks and even very little fundamental knowledge about the physics of sound while still believing we’re the smartest person (and the best ears) in the room.


Now, in all likelihood you’ve only come to Live Sound Tips because you want to go further in the world of live sound. So, with that in mind, I’m here to tell you that if you do want to get to the next level in live sound (or any business, for that matter) you simply cannot work in isolation any longer than necessary. The best way to avoid ending up frustrated and spinning your wheels is by not letting yourself get comfortable as that “big fish in a small pond”. Finding a peer group where you can compare notes, share ideas, acquire greater knowledge, learn new techniques and (IMPORTANT!) unlearn any bad habits is crucial for the advancement of your career. What Dan Sullivan refers to in his podcast as the stifling “rugged individualism” within entrepreneurism is the same thing in the live sound world that will keep you stranded at a very unsatisfying level that is likely to be way beneath your potential.


One observation Dan Sullivan makes about cooperation between highly successful entrepreneurs which also jives with my observations of successful live sound engineers is that there is more open and honest talk that’s intended to help advance everyone in that peer group. The right group of colleagues would gladly nerd-out and share information with you; they’re not trying to keep you in the dark and they want to learn from you as well. This gives you opportunities to fill in gaps in your knowledge base, acquire new skills, learn about gear (both new and vintage) that wasn’t previously on your radar and even clarify or shore up your existing knowledge by teaching and communicating it to others. And none of this feels like a competition where someone has to lose.


I do have one caveat about networking and trying to meet more live sound engineers. On the occasions where you do find yourself meeting them you need to be keenly observant about whether or not they are someone working toward a compelling and interesting future in the business or if they are simply someone whose only achievements (or attempts) are now behind them. I think we’ve all met that middle-aged guy that’s a failed, former-musician-turned-engineer who constantly mutters under their breath and bitterly glares at everyone on stage because they believe they are the one that should be up there performing, not mixing. That is a person that has operated in isolation far too long and lost all perspective. The successful engineers you’ll meet aren’t afraid to talk openly about challenging situations or strategies that didn’t work whereas the unsuccessful ones never admit any failures or wrongdoing of their own and frequently resort to shit-talking about others as the only way to try and make their self look good. And I know you do NOT want to become that person. So please listen to this Inside Strategic Coach episode, mull it over and let me know what you think and if you got anything useful out of it.


Thanks for checking in!




Going Above & Beyond Expectations

March 25, 2017 • By

Fellow live-sound professionals, in recent weeks I’ve been enjoying a new podcast I found called ‘Starts With A Vision’ by Isiah Fowler. His talks and interviews, while not about professional-audio, are really interesting and informative. I specifically want to recommend listening to SWAV Episode #20 because the topic Isiah discusses (“Get more from your job than just a paycheck”) directly relates to an all too common problem that I see stifling careers every day (and not only in the world of professional audio!). This massive mistake I’ve seen a ton of people make over the years is not adequately preparing themselves for new opportunities to reach the next level in their career. Too many people hope that if they occupy a job long enough that someone higher up will eventually offer to open new doors for them despite the fact that they’re not taking any initiative or demonstrating they’re ready for that new role or responsibility. As if merely showing up and waiting long enough in one job entitles you at a shot for something bigger because it’s now “your turn” to advance. That is simply not the way the world works.

If you want to advance in your career you have to not only strive to be the best while doing your job but also spend a good amount of your free time studying, practicing, rehearsing and preparing yourself for that next level opportunity. Think about the performers we mix on our stages. Musicians repeatedly practice and study music far more hours per month than they actually spend performing. Comedians write and rehearse material for many more hours than the length of the final stand-up set they perform. Professional speech writers, motivational speakers, business coaches and spiritual leaders toil for countless hours to perfect the delivery of a pep-talk, speech, presentation or sermon that may last for 5-20 minutes. Yet I know VERY FEW audio engineers that invest time in becoming better at all things related to audio electronics when they are not “clocked in” on the job.

When that next-level opportunity comes how will anyone know or even suspect that you are the person that is ready for it? Most of my biggest opportunities were not simply the result of turning dials and pushing the faders up and down. My greatest opportunities came because of how many times people saw me come to a gig an hour early and take out a soldering iron and start fixing things that were broken. Or staying late to clean up the messes other engineers had ignored night after night. Or the times when someone else couldn’t figure out an issue with a piece of gear and I opened my laptop where I already had roughly 1000 pdf manuals and repair schematics of every kind of pro audio equipment you can imagine. All of which I’ve actually read in my spare time over the last 15+ years. Those are the qualities and traits that led me from mixing at my very first punk rock dive-bar show to mixing on tour for 20,000 a night in only 3 years.

The point here is that when you arrive at a gig you should be there not only to perform the minimum work required but to go above and beyond expectations, including fixing or improving those unexpected situations others failed to notice or anticipate. When you start doing that consistently, along with trying out new gear, investigating new mixing techniques, training your ears, reading technical manuals and learning the fundamentals of electronics and acoustics from textbooks (all in your own spare time, of course) then you’ll find that a lot more opportunities will not only present themselves but you’ll also have the necessary confidence to rise to that next level when they do. Quite simply, there is no “luck” in this business. Being in the “right place at the right time” is the end result of your intent and level of preparation for the next big move. Your studying, practicing and preparation are what will separate you from bitter losers that are stuck with lousy gigs in shitty venues because they won’t put in more than the bare minimum each day. Let them continue to think that by virtue of time or “seniority” they’re eventually owed a raise, promotion, tour offer or a gig at a bigger venue. Meanwhile you’re cruising past them by constantly improving your skills (both technical skills and “people skills”), increasing your knowledge and bettering yourself as a person.

If what I’m saying here resonates and makes sense or maybe even validates your own experiences and observations then please let me know. And if you enjoyed Isiah’s ‘Starts With a Vision’ podcast then I can highly recommend all of his preceding episodes as well. I really like what the dude is doing and recommend subscribing to his podcast and following him on your preferred social media platforms. As always, I thank you for checking in (and sharing) my Live Sound Tips!


Marie Forleo says, “Start _before_ you’re ready.”

March 10, 2017 • By

Friends, when I set out to become a successful, full-time live sound engineer at the age of 35 with no formal education in audio, no money in the bank, no industry connections and no other backup plan I was certainly _not_ ready. But I was so fed up with my old life that I knew I had to make a drastic change and pay whatever price was necessary. Rarely, if ever, will you be truly “ready” for the challenges in life that will help you advance to the next level. So if you’re still hesitating about getting your feet wet in the audio world or you’ve already started but you’re afraid of taking on the challenges that will get you noticed by the people on the next tier up, please watch this video by Marie Forleo and consider following her on your preferred social media platform(s). She’s one of my favorites and a huge inspiration for me starting LiveSoundTips.com.

Rock on!


Fake it ’til you make it

March 1, 2017 • By

Because Live Sound Tips is mostly aimed at beginners or even some intermediate level engineers that are simply looking to further their careers I need to stress to all of you the importance of something called the “Pygmalion Effect”. If you want to become a specialist like a “Front of House (FOH) Engineer”, “Monitor Engineer”, “Systems Tech”, “Wireless Coordinator” or any other highly differentiated role in live sound then you really need to adopt that job title as your new identity, even if you’re not quite there yet. It will affect your confidence and how you approach your new opportunities and it definitiely influences how others will percieve you in various roles.

You’ve probably heard the saying, “Fake it until you make it”. Well, that is essentially what this is all about. When others expect more from us we are likely to rise to the level that will meet their expectations. So why not do the same for ourselves by raising our standards? Watch Vaughn Kohler, professional author, coach and public speaker, give a quick video explanation with a very interesting personal anecdote about how powerful it is, in the link below (or you can read the transcript). And then let’s get back out there and make the next gig even better than the last one!




Opportunity is Everywhere When You Truly Engage with Others

February 28, 2017 • By

Vaughn Kohler, author and professional speaker, shares a very valuable perspective in this article and it very much relates to my recent video, “THE ESSENTIAL MINDSET FOR MASSIVE SUCCESS IN LIVE SOUND”. Too many sound engineers are either indifferent or downright rude to the performers they work with. We, as sound engineers, should look forward to meeting all the unique people we get to work with and treat those interactions like an opportunity for something great, not an inconvenience we have to grudgingly endure.

Please read his article and if you dig it follow him on your preferred social media platforms and also check out the awesome podcast he co-hosts, The MFCEO Project.




The Essential Mindset for Massive Success in Live Sound: Exploding the MYTH of the “thankless job”!

February 19, 2017 • By

Episode #2. If you’re one of those engineers that believes live-sound is a “thankless job” then you desperately need a fresh perspective plus a new approach, because nothing could be further from the truth. After 10+ years mixing at one of America’s most beloved and well respected live music venues I’m now sharing what I’ve learned about establishing rapport and strengthening relationships with performers. Because mixing skills and having a good ear can only take you so far if you neglect the personal side of the engineer/performer relationship. So that’s what this video is about; all those little details and small actions that instill confidence and convey your professionalism in a way that will turn musicians (and your peers) into your biggest, most vocal fans. This is a step by step guide of what to consider from the moment you arrive at the gig right up to the start of the sound-check.

A huge thank you to the awesome Bob Dossa for all of his hard work shooting and editing around all of my mistakes and awkward nervousness while in front of the camera. You can find him and much more of his work at http://www.rainydayrun.com

Please share with engineers, musicians and/or anyone that performs on a stage. Thank you for your support!

T-shirt du jour: PROTECT.org http://www.protect.org/

You can also connect with me at:
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/LiveSoundTips/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/FrontOfHouseEngineer/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/Paul_at_FOH
Instagram: http://www.instagram.com/live_sound_engineer
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/livesoundengineer


Viewer Q&A – Proper procedures for cleaning microphone grills

February 5, 2017 • By

Important details for those of you that are willing to go the extra mile by regularly cleaning the grills of your vocal mic’s.

Huge thanks to Adena Marom for being on location with me at Bottom of the Hill to handle the production mixing and recording and to Rich Harris at Soul Effective Productions for editing and adding the music and comedic elements for this episode.

Please share with engineers, musicians and/or anyone that performs on a stage. Thank you for your support!

You can also connect with me at:
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/LiveSoundTips/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/FrontOfHouseEngineer
Twitter: https://twitter.com/Paul_at_FOH
Instagram: http://www.instagram.com/live_sound_engineer
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/livesoundengineer


Personal Branding Is Important

February 1, 2017 • By

TODAY’S LIVE SOUND TIP: Recognize that you are not “just” an audio engineer, you are a _brand_ and you need to think creatively, work hard and behave ethically to build brand recognition and create demand for the skills you have to offer. Just having business cards and a resume on LinkedIn isn’t good enough. You need to take it a few steps further if you want to survive in the current marketplace.

Listen to this episode of Andy Frisella’s MFCEO Project podcast for a better understanding of how and why many people are getting overlooked or left behind when it comes to hiring. #TheMFCEO #MFCEOproject