In the Zone

Mental health has become a significant topic of discussion among peers in the years following the pandemic. As we gear up for new shows and tours, we must continue these conversations. It matters for getting us through long tours, and for navigating our time off the road as well. Aside from these obvious benefits, taking care of myself and developing professional routines helps me with my creative endeavors as an engineer, and ensuring I’m in prime condition gives me notable advantages to help deliver a quality show every night. I’m going to take time in this next article to highlight some actionable steps I take to feel like I’m able to achieve focus and be in the zone during a show.

Just like an athlete has to visualize their success and optimize themselves for a big game, we should also take into consideration routines and activities that help us achieve peak performance. The goal is to not necessarily think about the music, but rather to feel it and jive with it, so what steps can we take to help us achieve this?


Developing personal practices to improve your physical and mental well-being can help maximize the outcome of the show.

You can start exploring what works for you by talking with your friends and family on the road and back home, and by visiting the plethora of wellness resources available to us in these communities.  It takes time to develop this skill, especially if you’re not already pre-dispositioned for the lifestyle or if you struggle with mental health.

Personal care is important. Figure out sleep routines, food, and proper care for your feet. You don’t want to feel physically or mentally unwell when they call “Go for show.” Take care of your coworkers, also. You all operate as a unit, after all.

Technical Considerations

Prep and rehearsal time should be used wisely to help you optimize your day. I work closely with the audio provider and audio team to make sure we have all the necessary tools to have the rig well-suited to what I need, accommodating for potential lack of space in some venues and maximizing efficiency. I find it best to prep my control package myself so I know each detail is at its full potential and I can roll into show day and set up with little hesitation. My workbox is sorted and my cases are well labeled. My world is also set up comfortably in a way that allows me to have access to necessary personnel during the show.

I’ve spent considerable time making sure I take time to elevate my system tuning skills and understand the jargon fluently. I include as many tools in my FOH package as possible so I can quickly tune a system; wireless units such as Lectrosonics have been immensely beneficial in letting me tune quickly in theaters and arenas alike. I’ve developed a target curve that’s appropriate for the show I mix and for my ear, and have an expectation for an SPL target every day. We’ll explore this in depth later in a future article.

Mixing can be similar to a performance. If you’re a musician, you understand how critical it is to internalize the details. If you’re in the creative hot seat, you need to know the music inside and out so you can relax and enjoy yourself, and start thinking about the music rather than the sound. We have a unique role and it’s vital for us to help deliver a seamless, distraction-free show. Learning how to master the catalog is different for everyone; I’ll also dive into this in greater detail later.

The Bigger Picture

Making sure you’ve taken steps to minimize errors is crucial. Personally, my least favorite shows are usually subjective and stem from a lack of comfort. The show always goes on, but the nightly responsibility is to always try and exceed my expectations and help deliver a stellar show as often as possible. Being timid or apprehensive during the show reflects in the mix when you miss solos or fader pushes, or are slow to resolve issues. Proper personal and technical preparation before the show can address many of these challenges.

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