The other day I was on my way to work, and I always take the same route unless there are some disruptions on my tube line. There were, in fact, some disruptions this particular day so I had to take different trains, but luckily that route takes about the same amount of time for me to take me from my home to work.
I thought that I almost prefer this other route, it is mostly overground and you know, it is nice to change up your habits a bit. We tend to get stuck in the same routines. Mix a show in the same way you’ve always done, mic up a drum kit the same way as you always do, EQ monitors precisely the way you did yesterday. Sure it is tried and tested, but it gets a bit repetitive after a while.
Playing it safe:
In the live industry, you sort of have to play it safe most of the time, simply because there is no time to be adventurous. You got to make it sound good, and you have to do it fast.
However, if you are a venue engineer, you can easily get set in the same ways. But if you don’t challenge yourself, you’re not going to improve nor learn something new. It is like working out in the gym, if you work out a muscle the same way and not adding weight or variety to it you will not become stronger. You will simply just plateau.
The upside of being a venue engineer is that it is a safe environment. If you have been in a place for a little while, you probably feel relatively comfortable and will hopefully have a small bit of extra time to play around with things. This is a perfect environment to try and do things differently if you’ve got something that is tried and tested, you’ve always got that to fall back onto.
The ‘One-way’ route:
I work in a venue where the speakers are all hidden away and scattered around the building, surrounded by loads of marble. Not ideal for creating ‘the perfect sound.’ You just have to make it sound good with what you’ve got, and honestly, it is not that bad. However, anytime there is a visiting engineer they get entirely thrown off; because they are so set in the way they usually do things they can’t figure out a different route to get where they want to go..
The live sound industry is not a ‘one-way’ route. There are tons of roundabouts, disruptions, left turns, stops, and traffic lights. Some people work at 100mph and others are lingering around about 30mph. You have to adapt and treat every situation differently.
Very often you just have to work around it. With amazing gear nowadays, it is easy to forget the room and how critical it is for the overall sound of the show. Halls, venues, arenas, stadiums all sound different, there is not a ‘one-way route’ to mix a performance.
We need to be thrown off in able to learn new things. Adapt the way you set up and tune to each venue, each artist. Work off the basics but work with space you are in vs. fighting it. Ask engineers that work in that venue regularly, how they go about tuning the room. Always be willing to adapt, change, and learn new things.
So whenever you have any disruptions on your line, embrace it. Approach it with the right attitude, and you will see that it will not set you back as much as you might have thought it would. See it as a new learning experience, and hey, you might even find yourself enjoying the alternative route!