What does FOH Engineer stand for?
FOH stands for Front of House and the FOH Engineer, (sometimes referred to as Band engineer or soundman/soundwoman) is responsible for mixing the sound for the audience at a concert. What you hear coming out of the PA speakers is for the most part under the control of the FOH Engineer. Other factors can have an impact on the mix such as; the quality of equipment, venue acoustics, stage volume, how well the band plays, etc… These are at times beyond the control of the FOH Engineer.
What does an FOH Engineer do?
Simply put: Each individual instrument on stage has it’s own microphone and input, from the lead singer all the way down to the individual drums and cymbals on the drum kit. The FOH Engineer manipulates the levels and equalization of the various instruments and vocals blending them together, adding reverb and effects as needed, to produce a mix of the band which is amplified through the PA system.
The level of creativity and freedom a FOH Engineer has with the mix varies from artist to artist. Sometimes a band or artist has a clear vision of what they want to sound like live. It is the FOH Engineers job to interpret and re-create this via the sound system. Sometimes a band leaves their sound entirely up to the FOH Engineer.
It is usually up to the FOH Engineer to decide or at least recommend what microphones to use on each instrument and vocal. On large tours the FOH Engineer provides a technical spec of what the sound system requirements are. This generally reflects their preferences in microphones, mixing console, outboard gear, plug ins, PA system, etc… and any other details pertaining to how the system should be set up.
FOH Engineers can be very involved in the set up and tuning of the PA System or they can rely on the system tech to do that and just mix the soundcheck and performance.
How is a FOH Engineer different from Monitors Engineer?
A FOH Engineer mixes the the band to be amplified through the PA system for the audience to hear. A Monitor Engineer mixes the instruments and vocals on stage for each individual performer to hear. A FOH Engineer is only responsible for mixing one mix for all of the audience to listen to while a monitor engineer is responsible for many different mixes depending on what the performers need to hear. They listen to these mixes through either speakers on the stage or in ear monitors, or a combination of both.
What kind of background or skills do you need?
An understanding of the basic concepts and terminology of audio and sound reinforcement, signal flow and proper gain structure as well as the technical knowledge to operate various mixing consoles and equipment. A well trained ear and ability to recognize frequencies.
You should comprehend the principles of equalization well enough to be able to create the tonal picture that is desired.
Good communication and people skills are a must. Not only will you be dealing with the artist but also various other representatives of theirs including but not limited to: their management, label reps, agent, family, and friends. Tact and diplomacy are incredibly beneficial.
A background in electronics, physics of sound, and mathematics is also helpful but not necessary.