There is a small difference between sound engineering in the studio and sound for a live show. Studio sound engineering comes with the ability to design the sound features to make it high quality. When it comes to living sound, it is about being able to develop the music at the moment in a live setting. Playing around and mastering professional tools do not give you an edge over-engineering a live show. However, the proper understanding of signal flow, miking, ear training, psychology and problem-solving will help you nail the basics of Pro Tools and sound engineering for a live show.
As a sound engineer for a live show, an essential skill is the understanding of signal flow. Without signal flow, you aren’t going to be able to work with sound leave alone be a skillful engineer. To work with sound, you need to know exactly where the signal is originating from, where it should be going and how you can get it to its destination, without interruption. To understand the signal flow completely, you need to master the PA system completely.
The first and foremost control that you will be working on at all times will be the mixer. The mixer is connected to the microphones, the instruments, FX, etc. All parts connected are controlled and processed by the mixer. There are several mixer consoles that you will find in the market, however, as long as you have the basics of mixing memorized, you should be ok. Most of the mixing consoles have 8-32 channels. They are also split into sub-groups, stereo outputs, and aux outputs. The outputs are mainly for the stage monitors and the outboard. For dynamic processing of sound, the outboards are used, whereas, for analog processing, semi-parametric EQs are chosen.
The frequency response of the person in front of the microphone is corrected using graphic equalizers. The mixer console’s main outputs are connected to the Graphic Equalizer. This will help in controlling the problem with sound frequencies in the room that is caused by standing waves. The loud squeaking feedback that can be heard from the microphone could be eliminated with the Equalizer. The Aux outputs on the mixer are connected to the equalizer before sending any signal to the stage monitors. When the message is transmitted through the equalizer, you will be able to stop any feedback from occurring.
Splitting your signal in two will help in managing the message better. For this reason, a crossover is used. Crossovers split the signals into low and high. The lower frequencies are sent to the subs, and the other rates are directed toward the mains. The crossovers are connected from the Equalizer which in turn is connected the mains output. You can then choose to split the frequencies into low and high ones and direct them accordingly.
Power Amps, Main Speakers, Subwoofers, and Monitors
The power amps’ main job is to supply power to the passive speakers. While there is nothing special other than for volume controls on them, they can be a handy to many engineers. The main speakers are the last stop in the signal chain. This is where the sound is heard the most and is where the electricity is converted into sound. There are two types of speakers for the mains; they are they active and passive ones. Subwoofers are beautiful for the low and reinforced sound that they produce. Many sound systems have several subwoofers depending on the type of music or sound that is to be generated. Finally, a PA system has monitors; these monitors are on the stage and are especially important for the speaker/singer to be able to hear their voice.