The Role of Live Sound Engineers

A live sound engineer is responsible for the set up and operation of sound amplification systems at theatres, sports arenas, music concerts and other live events. Live sound engineers play a crucial role in contributing to the success of a live music concert. Professional live sound engineering makes it possible for musicians to play to huge crowds of fans in a variety of venues without losing sound quality.

There are two different types of sound mixing used at large music concerts: front of house and monitor mixing. The monitor engineer’s role is the most important at music events as he needs to ensure that the audio needs of each individual on stage are catered for and blended into the cohesive sound the fans are expecting to hear. Monitor speakers, which allow band members to hear their sound as the audience does, are fast being replaced by the latest technology of an In Ear Monitor system. Resembling a hearing aid, the In Ear Monitor system serves the dual purpose of protecting the musicians’ hearing, while enabling them to hear their individual mix more clearly. The monitor engineer then has the task of pleasing from four to upward of ten performers with a high quality mix of sound.

The front of house engineer is responsible for mixing the sound aimed at the audience at the back of the venue. These two live sound engineers working together will ensure that the sound the audience hears is natural with no feedback or empty drum sound.

For traveling concerts, the live sound engineers are responsible for the set-up and tear-down of the sound systems. Assisted by audio technicians who take care of the maintenance of the sound system, the live sound engineers arrive at the venue well ahead of the performers and work to a deadline to set-up equipment. Each person understands their job function and everyone works as a team to prepare the venue for the musicians and the hordes of excited fans. The tear-down takes a lot less time than the set-up which involved deciding the best position for the sound amplifying equipment.

The much sought-after job of live sound engineering is considered by many to be an art form in its own right as there are a number of different ways the engineer could mix the sound. Despite serving a crucial role though, a live sound engineer is seldom in the limelight with the general public being unaware of all the effort that goes into ensuring that they enjoy the music they have come to hear.