Study Hall

Something In The Air

Accounting for environmental and other changes in the sonic atmosphere between sound check and show time.

Experienced engineers and technicians are well aware of these issues and have devised various methods to attempt to compensate. I’ve seen some make predictive adjustments based on experiences at similar venues.

Last-minute line checks are not uncommon where an engineer actually listens to the instruments through the sound system during set change, re-EQing them to correct for any venue tonal shift.

I know quite a few touring engineers, including myself, that avoid re-EQing during sound check and instead rely upon the EQ settings from a previous show.

There are also some who have just succumbed to the reality that the first few songs will be sacrificed, and not unlike the waiters above, scramble to fix it anew each night.

Bridging The Gap
Why is it that the status quo of system tuning is so relentlessly shortsighted? Is the change in sound over the course of a show just some odd mystery that no one truly understands? Is calculating how the sound will change such an unsolvable complexity that we must make last-minute approximations after spending hours tuning?

“It will sound better once the room is full.” The words have been repeated so many times that it’s actually become humorous to the band as that tired trope of an explanation is offered. We have the sound now and then we will have a different sound later, and yet it seems we have no way of knowing what that other sound will be except different.

Can we bridge the gap? Is it possible to tackle the complex endeavor of predicting the way the audience and environmental factors will alter the sound? Is predicting the environmental effects of temperature and the influx of humans as complex as predicting weather patterns or launching a satellite, or perhaps is there a much simpler equation that for some reason effective tools have not yet been created?

Since we can know approximately where the audience will be and how many humans will attend, we can calculate the average skin temperature, body size, and about how much clothing humans tend to wear. So it can’t be that complex to calculate the approximate sound absorption, sonic diffusion, and thermal effects that clusters of people will have.

Also in most indoor venues, we have control over the room temperature, and for outdoor venues we can find out with a fair degree of accuracy what the temperatures will be throughout the show.

If we were to accumulate and process this information, is it truly out of our realm to add it into our system tuning process and actually predict what the venue will sound like at show time? Most of us are aware of what happens in a crowded venue using a sound system stacked just above head height. Basically, when the audience arrives, all of the high frequencies go away for anyone more than a short distance from the system.

Study Hall Top Stories