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Standard of sound on a very well known show

Ben Lawrance

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Hi all,


I went to see a very well known show in London on Friday, and was appalled by the standard of the sound.


I was constanly making comments to myself about how the mix was not right between the band and the vocals.



I also made comment on the fact that on quite an important part of the show, where you would have assummed a little bit of rise in the level (you know, to give it the wow factor) it was merely average.


This is not the first time I've seen this show, and had these thoughts. I must have seen it 6/7 times now (mostly becuase of my better half I might add) and for the last few occasions its been poor.


I am able to make these comments because I have heard the show sound damn good a few times, and was very impressed, but I just feel that lately it's not been up to par.


Now, I won't name the show, just incase it causes uproar, but I would certainly like oppinons on whether people think that standards are slipping in the westend, or whether I just happen to go to the performances where the sound op is having a bad day.


Sorry, had to get that off my chest.

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I too have been to see "A very well known show in London" quite a few times, and have generally been impressed with the sound quality. On a recent occasion, it became apparant that a female lead had a problem with a crackly radio mic, which was swiftly sorted for her next appearance on stage.


Certainly all the performers on this show too deserve credit, as every time it's been a 100% effort performance.

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I saw "a very well known show" when it came to Leeds a few months back. I have a feeling that it wasn't the same show you're reffering to, as it isn't currently on the west end, though it is somewhere down south!


As you said, the band was far too loud for the cast to be heard over, and one section where the show feels it should "lift", it pulled back if anything.


Sound is, however, a very personal preference. I have a go at most mixes I hear for something, and I accept that people will do the same for mine. I do, however, draw the line at not being able to hear a vocal. Either the engineer has very good hearing, or there was something wrong.


I feel half the problem is when an engineer sits with a script for the show infront of them. If you can read the script, or know the show well enough, it helps you perceive what is being said (or sung) so a muffled or quiet vocal is easier to make out. The problem is that the audience don't have such luxury, and may be hearing the show for the first time. This is why my number 1 concern is always vocals, with music taking second place.

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Cedd is so right.

Sound (to us enthusiasts) is such a personal thing.


I remember not long ago Bobbsy commenting on the sound at a Suzi Quatro (sorry, spelt wrong?) show.

We all have our own ideas of any certain mix, this cannot be taught, what sounds great to me may sound rubbish to someone else.


I do agree with Cedd however.

The vocal is really the main event during shows, and the musicians should enhance this, not overpower it.


Not wanting to hijack this thread, but I sometimes hear the same with some of the chart stuff.

A recent(ish) Simply Red song I feel was engineered terrible, can't remember the name of the song but the vocals in the verses can hardly be heard.


John Denim.

(ps if anyone knows the song they will know what I am talking about!)

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About 1 year ago I went to see a "famous show" that arrived near me. I have to say that the sound was also not up to scratch, late cues and sometimes dreadfully loud instruments ruined the mix.


There was also a sound effect that was played, this was also incredibly loud and ruined the dialogue that followed it. I don't know why the sound was not up to scratch, maybe it was fine but sometimes I did think that it ruined the show in certain crucial moments in the show, some of the group in which also attended the show commented after about the instruments in the band being far too loud, like the trumpet for instance.


I have to agree that lately the "more famous" shows that I have attended have included rather poor sound. To me the sound is a personal thing and I would much rather op sound for a big show because I feel it is important to get a good mix, I hope the "more famous" show's sound engineer's feel this way too ?





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The vocal is really the main event during shows, and the musicians should enhance this, not overpower it.

In my mind, if you can't hear the vocals over the band, then something's definitely gone wrong. IMO it's surely coming close to common sense to pull down the band a bit or boost the vocal if the vocal just can't be heard in the mix?


Apart from obvious things like that though, I often find that it's just like any other thing in that it comes down to personal taste, as well as the fact that if it's something you can do / relate to then you'll almost naturally be more complimentary or picky about it, even if it's just on a mental level. For example, if I see a solo violinist perform some fabulous concerto (I'm a violinist) I'll often almost study it to look at what technique they're using where, what kind of tonal variation they're using and suchlike. If a violinist did the same concerto and didn't perform it so well, I'd probably notice and start thinking things like "hmm if he did x there and y there I wonder whether that would have changed?", because I know the ranges of tone and style etc. you can get on the violin by using different techniques. If a world class player started reciting Beethoven's mythical second Didgeridoo concerto, I could enjoy it, and I could appreciate it, but I wouldn't start automatically thinking about how he could do x or y to change the sound. I'd either like it or not like it, and I wouldn't have a clue if any improvement in technique would make it better, or if the piece just wasn't to my taste.


In a way I think it's like that for sound. I'll often sit in a concert and listen, thinking about how I might've done things differently or how nicely the clarity of that guitar's been brought out for instance, but if I wasn't involved with sound otherwise I wouldn't have a clue!


Sorry if that's a tad confusing. It's been a long day! ;)



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Here is a youtube video to support my theory!


That's a mighty fine video but I'm not sure how it supports your...





hang on...



someone's just pointed out Mick Hucknall was in there somewhere.


Sorry, I was distracted by ... er...




... the lovely curves of the swimming pool.


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The last "well known show" I saw in London was last summer as a treat to ourselves just before we got on the plane to Aus. I have to say I was impressed by the sound quality (and the quality and energy of the performers despite the show having run for years).


As has been said, a lot of discussion of sound quality is about things which are highly subjective and down to opinion. Particularly when the discussion turns to SPL, something over-loud to one person is just right to another.


However, I have to say there are some cardinal sins that are NOT subjective. To spend half the first number "dialing in" the star's mic to make her audible is quite a big nono in my book--I could actualy hear the guy fiddling with the channel gain! To have frequent feedback on the star's mic (and to take sometimes 10-15 seconds to deal with it) is another nono. I don't think either of these two things are in anyway subjective--getting them right is sound mixing 101.


The other comment I'd like to make is that I think we need to differentiate a bit between long running shows in London and tours. Maybe I'm fussy but I judge a show that's in the same theatre with the same sound system every night (a sound system designed specifically for that space too) more critically than a tour that has a couple of hours to make their system sound okay in a space that's totally different from the one they were in the night before. It's not pleasant (especially with the price of tickets) if the coverage is a bit ragged but it's understandable. What is less understandable is things like late cues since these don't change from show to show.



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