What does a sound engineer do?

Written by trisha bartle
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Few audience members realise the amount of work that goes into the sound of the concert behind the scenes. A sound engineer uses his education and experience to make sure that everything sounds right before the performance. During the concert, she runs the electronic sound equipment to keep the performance sounding as it should.

Where They Work

Sound engineers, often called sound technicians or audio engineers, have a varied workplace. They can do sound engineering in concert halls, stadiums, theatres and meeting rooms. Wherever sound is important, including in musical acts, presentations and plays, a sound engineer can help improve the audio. A good sound engineer can make the audio portion of a performance seamless and faultless.

Sound Setup

At the audio venue, one of the first steps for a sound engineer is to set up the equipment--microphones, instruments, amplifiers and speakers--on and around the stage. The size and shape of a room can dictate where speakers should go and in which direction they need to point for optimum audio performance. Not only will sound engineers plug in all of the equipment, but they will figure out the perfect placement for each device.

Technical Audio Expertise

While sound engineers do use equipment to help them with their job, their best instrument is their ear. An experienced sound technician can tell whether something is off just by listening. This takes practice and education. Sound engineers need years of schooling and experience in order to get this good at their job. Some colleges have degree programs for sound engineers (see Resources).

Use of Electronic Equipment

Once the stage is set up with microphones and other equipment, the sound engineer will work with electronic equipment in a sound booth. These booths are usually positioned behind the audience but within sight of the stage. The audio technician will use mixers and equalisers to perfect the sound output. He will use a second person to test the various microphones and instruments on stage to make sure each one sounds right. Not only do the instruments have to produce sound, but they also have to be at the right volume. The audience should be able to hear each instrument without any of them overpowering the others. The sound engineer handles all of this before the show begins.

Performance Day

While most of the sound engineer's work happens before the performance, she is still needed on the day of the concert. Sound engineers stay in the sound booth during the performance as they work with the electronic equipment. They continue to make sure the sound is right and that the instruments are at the appropriate volume. Some sound engineers double their duties and handle light displays from the booth as well.

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