By Vinay Prabhakar, Head – Academics, Swarnabhoomi Academy of Music
India has witnessed a growth in the number of live concerts and shows over the past decade. The number of live venues in India that enable young musicians to showcase their talent is also increasing. Besides this, a host of festivals like the NH7, Mahindra Blues and Sunburn festival that showcase great artists and draw new talent each year will prove encouraging for any music professional in India.
The sound quality of these shows could have been questioned until a decade ago, but with the improvement in sound systems and system engineering aided with smart technology that enable engineers to tweak the system, the final sonic quality of shows has improved remarkably. Concertgoers today are well-informed and are particular about the sound quality of shows.
Sound reinforcement is the main purpose of live sound productions. The reinforcement takes place in different degrees. A small performance in a coffee shop will not need a lot of speakers while a concert in an outdoor venue will need a lot of speakers, power amplifiers along with a large mixing console with more headroom on each channel. Therefore, ensuring that at a given venue there is optimal sound coverage that is audible as well as clear is the main aim of live sound engineering.
There are many aspects to achieving quality in sound production; having a solid understanding of sound equipment like mixing consoles, loudspeakers and power amplifiers, fundamentals of the physics of sound, applicative knowledge of microphones and miking techniques and the ability to shape a live mix with the right tools like equalisation and dynamic control are what is needed to ensure a successful production.
Without a skilled engineer or qualified personnel, such an achievement is not possible. An effective live sound production is the product of a properly designed sound system that is audible and clear to everybody in a venue and controlled by a Front of House engineer (FOH) who understands the sound of the band as well as being adept with the mixing console.
A system engineer’s role is to ensure that there are enough loudspeakers in a venue and they are setup in the most effective way possible to cover all areas of a venue.
The other important role in live sound is that of a Front of House engineer (FOH); this person ensures that the sound of the band is conveyed to the audience in a manner that is balanced and close to what the band desires. This is only possible when the FOH engineer understands the artist’s music and also has a good system to work on. Most FOH engineers started their careers as a crew or a technician and learnt by observing other mix engineers. An audio institute will teach the basics of equipment and best practices in setting up and mixing, but the real experience of learning Front of House mixing will be achieved with each show that you mix.
A Monitor Mix engineer is another important role that is still new in India. This role entails that the artists can hear themselves on stage clearly either through in ear monitoring systems or stage monitors. Most of the times, FOH engineers perform this role simultaneously.
There are tremendous opportunities for any person who is inclined towards live sound. Starting from the role of a crew, instrument technician to becoming a System Engineer or Front of House Engineer (FOH) or Monitor Engineer, you can end up shaping a career in show production. While system engineers are still few in India, most live sound enthusiasts start young by joining a sound rental company and work their way up from a crew to an FOH engineer. These enthusiasts learnt most of it on the job by observing others.
Most audio production institutes offer the basic knowledge like microphones, mixing consoles, which will certainly help you understand the different equipment but the real learning takes place when you are in a setup that is recreated to give a feel of a real venue. Learning about live sound with line array speaker systems, system tuning software and industry standard mixing consoles will certainly improve your contribution to a live sound production if you are entering as a fresh graduate.
If you are considering training in live sound then Audio Academy in Bengaluru, Sound Engineering Academy in Trivandrum and True School of Music in Mumbai are a few options you can consider. Swarnabhoomi Academy of Music will soon be launching a short course in Live Sound.