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Mixist, Sound Technician, Sound Eng......No


What should we call the knob twiddler  

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  1. 1. What should we call the person that mixes live sound

    • Sound Engineer
      28
    • Sound Technician
      7
    • Sound Person
      11
    • Mixist
      2
    • Idiot
      3


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I used to be a FOH and monitor engineer.  I was more than happy to call myself an engineer, because not only did  I think I had a bit of a talent for it, I also had been to university to study audio and theory,.  Although I came away with a BSc and not a BEng, I felt I was "engineering the sound".  I also made sure I knew how everything went together and could make up cable looms, repair certain bits of kit etc.

I think a good example is the corporate audio visual world where I now work.  We have staff who can go to a room, dial up your call, connect your laptop and ensure your mics/speakers are working and do very basic diagnostics.  We call these AV Technicians.

The staff who can go to the room, read schematics, strip the relevant bits of kit out of the system that may be faulty and replace with/set up spare ones are the AV Engineers.  

I would probably say the sound persons are similar - there are some who twiddle knobs but have no real grounding or experience as to why they are twiddling them.  I would call them Techs!

I agree on the bit about doing the sound for the room and not the sound desk.  This is another reason I used to not understand engineers in wide rooms trying to pan everything in the mix - it might sound great at the sound desk in the middle of the room, but what about the poor lot on one side of the room that only hear half a keyboard or toms etc?

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Posted (edited)
4 hours ago, Huge Hands said:

I would probably say the sound persons are similar - there are some who twiddle knobs but have no real grounding or experience as to why they are twiddling them.  I would call them Techs!

I agree on the bit about doing the sound for the room and not the sound desk.  This is another reason I used to not understand engineers in wide rooms trying to pan everything in the mix - it might sound great at the sound desk in the middle of the room, but what about the poor lot on one side of the room that only hear half a keyboard or toms etc?

We already have a name for these people, they're called amateurs...

Most live sound is mono still, some bands do stereo and surround effects, Prink Floyd had a 24 track tape machine to fly all the surround effects in for The Wall live!

Most pro engineers I've known or taught will be more than happy to build studios from piles of kit, many will build kit from piles of parts, every sound we make is chain of processors and effects, very mix a balance of thousands of individual components, I have no issue with the term engineer, I have an Mmus but I don't go around calling myself a Master, maybe I should buy a cape and start.

Edited by WinterMute
typo
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8 minutes ago, WinterMute said:

I have an Mmus but I don't go around calling myself a Master, maybe I should buy a cape and start.

Not "a Master" but maybe "The Master"...

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Here in Norway, there is an education with a title corresponding to "sound technician", but the every-day term is more like "sound guy". 

I have prepared a list of suggestions for you, starting with the guys and girls who know what they are doing, and ending up with the ones that don't:

Sound wizard
Sound engineer
Sound guy/girl
Knob turner/ Slider slider/ Buttoneer
Knob noob
Knob

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On 27/05/2021 at 14:45, Chienmortbb said:

To diffrentiate the person from the machine that records, the BBC calls the operator of a tape recorder a recordist. So should we call them Mixists or does that sound like a member of Momentum that  reads Socialist Worker?

The assistant is a sound recordist, as is the person who trassfers rushes (on the very rare occasion this happens anymore), as is the person who records location sound. The person who edits sound (for film/tv, not music) is a track layer or sound editor, and the person who mixes is a dubbing mixer. 

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A friend of mine is a sound engineer. He has an M.Sc in it. In most countries you can only use the title engineer if suitably qualified/accredited and it s a protected title. Not in the uk... we should respect the title of engineer more and reserve it for those with appropriate qualifications/accreditations but unlikely to change 

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10 hours ago, Beer of the Bass said:

I've seen it argued that the - man suffix in vocational words might come from the Latin "manus" for hand, and isn't inherently gendered. Though others say that's probably a fudge that was applied in retrospect, so I dunno...

Because handyhand doesn't have such a good ring to it?

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Interesting question.

I am both a real engineer (electrical engineering degree) designing products for the bass, guitar and pro audio markets) as well as a FOH mixer (40 years in the international touring act market). I never have to worry about misuse of the word engineer.

There are colloquial uses of words like engineer, but being an engineer (having graduated from an accredited engineering university program) carries with it certain assumptions if you operate as an engineer… that you know and follow the regulations in your industry, that you are licensed (for some work) that you carry certain insurance coverage (called professional liability coverage here in the states), you may be required to carry a bond, etc.

In different parts of the audio industry, a FOH mixer may be called the BE (band engineer), FOH engineer, FOH guy, A-1, board op, etc. There are other terms for the monitor mixer like ME, A-2, monitor guy, monitor engineer.

In other segments, you have playback techs, playback ops, dubber ops (from cinema days where mag film was unmarried from the picture in rush or daily screenings), sound op, etc. 

Of course different areas of the world have their own vernacular, and often it’s based on very loose translations.

In the end, it generally doesn’t much matter what they are called so long as they are not representing themselves as a “real engineer” and doing things like signing documents as an “engineer” might.
 

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13 minutes ago, agedhorse said:

representing themselves as a “real engineer” and doing things like signing documents as an “engineer” might.

An outstanding example of the kind of lowlife that gets up to that sort of thing story...

A few years ago Christchurch had a bad earthquake. The worst building failure was the near total pancaking of a reinforced concrete multistory office building. Something like 3/4 of all the deaths in the quake were in it.

The investigation turned up that the supervising construction engineer was a con artist. Had the building been built properly it should have stood up but they couldn't prove it. As far as I know the guy never even went to court but he lost his job as a ''helicopter maintenance ''engineer'''' in Australia. Some mothers' children....

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2 hours ago, agedhorse said:

In the end, it generally doesn’t much matter what they are called so long as they are not representing themselves as a “real engineer” and doing things like signing documents as an “engineer” might.

True, I usually don't mind but I suppose that, despite all my efforts, I am turning into a grumpy old man.

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Are they any good?

 

Then call them by their preferred nom de plum and help them.

In my professional experience as a software engineer/architect, the letters after a person's name bear absolutely no relationship to their ability to deliver consistent quality work.

 

Same goes for sound engineering.

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5 minutes ago, Chienmortbb said:

True, I usually don't mind but I suppose that, despite all my efforts, I am turning into a grumpy old man.

Come on in- the whingeing's fine!

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Just now, 51m0n said:

Are they any good?

 

Then call them by their preferred nom de plum and help them.

In my professional experience as a software engineer/architect, the letters after a person's name bear absolutely no relationship to their ability to deliver consistent quality work.

 

Same goes for sound engineering.

How right you are. I strove for seven years to get qualifications and the experience to become an IEng and a Fellow of Whatever The Sociecty Was Called Then. Next time I got my business cards printed, there is was after mt name IEng FWSWCT. I changed jobs shortly after and they got the letters in the wrong order, I told them just to use my name instead. The novelty of having letters after my name had already worn off.

 

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2 minutes ago, 51m0n said:

Are they any good?

 

Then call them by their preferred nom de plum and help them.

In my professional experience as a software engineer/architect, the letters after a person's name bear absolutely no relationship to their ability to deliver consistent quality work.

That's very true. I regularly work with several chartered civil and mechanical engineers and their engineering skill can be rather dubious at times. 

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On 27/05/2021 at 14:45, Chienmortbb said:

Hobby Horse warning. I hear a lot of people calling the person that twiddles the knobs, a Sound Engineer or Sound Man. To me both are wrong, I am an Engineer, I studied Mechnical and Electronic Engineering for 7 years before I was allowed to use the letters IEng after my name.

OK boomer 😄

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Posted (edited)

In the film industry people have to put up with being called ‘gaffer’ (even if they aren’t ex members of the Sweeney), and ‘best boy’ etc etc 😀 they even get listed in the credits at the end of films. So I can see the need for more appropriate and precise terminology here. 

As we already have the acronym FOH, wouldn’t an acronym be best? Or just generic ‘sound’. 

A pet peeve of mine is the notion that the band and especially the bass player, just provide a basic ‘generic’ sound and the soundists at the desk create the overall band sound. This is, of course, rubbish. The amount of time and energy spent creating ‘the band’s sound’ on, say an album is huge and generally people going to see the band live would expect in general to hear a live representation of what they’d heard previously. When I saw Yes live in the 70s they did sound reasonably close to the recorded sound - notably the bass - similarly when seeing Free live that incredibly fat bass sound was present. In each case the band had created that sound and the team on the desk had mixed it to suit and fill the venue. 

For pub and local venues surely the same should apply.

In terms of being precious about the use of the term ‘Engineer’, I work in engineering in an environment where everyone is qualified or working towards some level of qualification, be they technical, engineering or some other discipline. There are people who are precious about using the word and I can understand it to an extent - there are also people who are simply being elitist though, some cringingly so 😧 something which doesn’t sit well with my 60s upbringing, where all forms of class-based elitism were (quite rightly) mocked by satirists and dismantled as the country grew out of archaic and inappropriate social structures. Music was part of that as was the business of sound recording, mixing/engineering. Remember when Cliff Richard and The Shadows and The Beatles started in the early 60s, it’s said the recording engineers wore white lab coats etc etc and there was a specific hierarchy of them, and defined set of rules (which these guys broke on occasion to create new sounds).  

I voted sound tech btw..... I’ve heard them called this often. Usually recording engineer in a studio. 


 

 

Edited by drTStingray
Corrected auto correct (apologies if I missed any!!)
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On 31/05/2021 at 11:52, drTStingray said:

A pet peeve of mine is the notion that the band and especially the bass player, just provide a basic ‘generic’ sound and the soundists at the desk create the overall band sound. This is, of course, rubbish. The amount of time and energy spent creating ‘the band’s sound’ on, say an album is huge and generally people going to see the band live would expect in general to hear a live representation of what they’d heard previously. When I saw Yes live in the 70s they did sound reasonably close to the recorded sound - notably the bass - similarly when seeing Free live that incredibly fat bass sound was present. In each case the band had created that sound and the team on the desk had mixed it to suit and fill the venue. 

When it comes to creating a recording I am really not sure I agree with you at all.

A band's sound on a recording is very much a team effort between the band, producer, tracking engineer, mix engineer and mastering engineer. These days these extra roles are more and more often covered by less people, so the producer may be tracking, and even mixing, but probably not mastering too on a commercial release, variations certainly apply. 

However you only have to listen to the mix contests on basschat to hear how 10 mixers given exactly the same input can produce wildly different output, and not in the realm of remixes alone, just completely different takes on the source material as it was tracked.

If you take that to its logical conclusion in a larger venue the sound person is effectively producing a live mix of the band, unencumbered by the stage volume. Almost certainly they have reference mixes of recorded band output to work towards, but not always. So in this setting the audience experience is very much at most 50/50 band and sound person. If you don't believe me that's fine, but I can assure the person behind the board is absolutely the one calling the shots in terms of sound live. Of course to keep their gig they need to work to produce something the band, their management and tech people approve of, but its still only the sound person who can achieve that live. In contrast a monitor engineer is only as good as how happy the band feel about their personal monitoring on stage in the moment. A far harder nut to crack in a lot of situations (guitarists and singers, jeez!).

The smaller the venue the more of the band's own generated volume 'invades' the audience space and the less the sound guy has ultimate influence (for better or worse). In these cases a band can royally ruin any chance of a decent mix regardless of the PA output or any mount of soundy skill.

I saw Vic Wooten at the Komedia in Brighton, stood right in front of Vic, could have muted the strings on his bass any time I liked, utterly brilliant gig. The PA stacks were 15 feet to either side of me. His Hartke bass rig was about 8ft behind him - I heard the band mainly from their own monitors, and Vic entirely from his rig. Now in that venue, on that gig, the soundy had very little to do with what I heard. But damn they sounded good! Even when Vic accidentally kicked the kick drum mic fully out of the kick drum :D

To be honest I think the different 'engineering' roles I have mentioned, tracking engineer, mix engineer, mastering engineer do actually warrant the title engineer, live sound FOH guys who know their beans are in the same sort of position as mix engineers for me, but also deal with shabby acoustics every night - certainly more and more bigger rigs use virtually limitless computing power live for fx and plug ins to achieve better and better mixes live (or closer to the record anyway). The amount of understanding required to perform these roles technically well, never mind artistically, is staggering - just look at the endless compression discourse on this site, that stuff is recording fx 101 and most bassists don't have much of a clue about it - they often struggle with the concept of gain staging for crying out loud. Mastering is a darker art still, very much a psychoacoustic role as much as anything else, but the technicalities of saving a mix at mastering stage are not insignificant at all. Where as tracking, although technically not quite as out there as mixing in some cases, requires a degree in psychology to get into a person's head and extract the very best from them in a stressful situation.

Producers on the other hand, eat doughnuts....

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Posted (edited)

A really great insight into the thought processes behind the roles I mentioned above can be found in Mixerman's Zen and the Art of Mixing/Tracking/Producing trilogy. Great books, entertaining and educational in equal measure. His Diary of Mixerman book is absolutely hilarious too!

 

https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/096004051X/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_apa_glt_fabc_1MJK8DZQ1N6XK0F6RF9X

https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1480387436/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_apa_glt_fabc_4ZH2733AC77AE8E7B601

https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B08QBHB47L/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_apa_glt_YHCR8FB3N8QEWM17X4A0

https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B009T9XERO/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_apa_glt_76ZBVYNNPAV7SD1ZTK4B

 

Edited by 51m0n
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