Messed up and fabulous!


Active Member
This is a saga, a bit long, so be warned.
Our show was yesterday. I was so happy being a part of it, and I am so relieved that it is over. Is that normal?
I told everyone that I was doing sound, but of course I got roped into being stage-manager-all-around-consultant-and-troubleshooter also. So I wrote the cues, as detailed and clear as I could, then handed them all to someone to manage without me, while I did the sound.
We set up in the morning. We used wired mics, handheld wireless mics, lapel mics, condenser mics for overhead and piano, and small square condenser mics taped to the floor. Then we did a sound check and balance. Meanwhile the lighting tech from the theater was setting up the lights. The sound tech I was working with was doing the lights during the show, but not setting them up.
We started rehearsing, and setting levels. The sound/lighting tech was also entering lighting cues into the computer. It was a digital sound board, and I had never used one before, so the sound tech showed me how but set them himself. Then he was called away for an emergency. He got someone to come right away and cover for him.
But the replacement was a lighting tech, he knew nothing about sound. He did not know how to use the board at all. He could not help me set the levels for any other part of the show, and I was afraid to try by myself in case I messed up anything we had already done. So for some things I only used the faders.
The guitarist's cable was fine during the rehearsal, but during the show I did not get any signal at all. So I lowered the volume for her vocal mic, and pretended it was supposed to be a quiet song. But it was a sort of rock song, not the quiet type at all. During intermission I set one of the wireless mics for the guitar, but both wireless mics had to be used in the number right after, so the stage crew had to be exremely on the ball about that.
And oh yeah, through my headset I could not hear, but others could hear me. So I did not know when the next performers were ready or not. So I told them to make sure everyone was ready to go on right away, and I told them right before I started the music, and right after I turned up whatever mic. It mostly went fine that way.
And I asked the drama scene to make sure their lapel mics were turned on before they went onstage, but I did not check them myself physically. That was a mistake. So I turned on the conser mics for the lines of the one who did not have a working lapel mic.
And as the show progressed, one of the wireless mics were running low on batteries. I sort of noticed it during the first half, but did not know what it meant. It was very obvious in the second half. One of the wireless mics worked better than the other, so I kept track of it, and asked through the headset to bring it to each next person who needed, whichever side of the stage they were on. The stage crew did a lot of running around toward the end of the show. But of course I could never be sure that the person had the correct mic, because my headset was faulty. So I turned on both wireless mics just in case.
It was so much FUN! I had so much adrenaline pumping after the show I could not fall sleep for awhile.


CB Mods
Sound like live theatre! It is good that you had fun, and I bet you learned a lot in the process. As long as the audience left happy then you did your job.


Active Member
Welcome to live audio. It sounds like your show went pretty well. Now you know what is meant when someone refers to live events as "combat audio". It sounds like you handled the curve balls that got thrown at you well and learned some stuff in the process. I think that's the whole key right there, never stop learning. If something didn't work, figure out why not and apply that knowledge the next time. If something unplanned went well, figure out what you did and why it worked, then keep doing it. That's how most of us learned. Anyway, the emotional roller coaster is perfectly normal too. The day you have a great show and don't catch a buzz is the day you are finished in this industry.


Active Member
What do you do if right before the show a mic stops working?

Yesterday I was at a show, not at the mixer, but backstage with the wireless mics (there were 17 of them), making sure the correct person always had the correct mic, and to switch them between performers correctly and each time to check the power and mutes. They were the type of wireless that have ear holders, we call them madonna mics. Most of the performers were younger than 13. And they all were extremely excited about getting to wear a microphone, so I could not turn my back for a second.

During two scenes of the show, every mic was on stage and in use.

Right before the show, like at the three minute call, two mics stopped working. No signal. We checked the cables, we swithced the headset part to different mics, changed the batteries again. They just did not work. We went over the list with the choreographer to determine exactly who should not get a mic. Some people leaned over to their friends to say their lines, or picked up a mic from the floor.

If I were the one in charge when that happened, with a director or whomever yelling at me for incompetence and demanding I find new mics pronto, what should I do? It was not a fun moment, and I was glad someone else was in charge. But eventually I want to be in charge, and I want to know how to handle it.


Resident Curmudgeon
Senior Team
Premium Member
What do you do if right before the show a mic stops working?...If I were the one in charge when that happened, with a director or whomever yelling at me for incompetence and demanding I find new mics pronto, what should I do? It was not a fun moment, and I was glad someone else was in charge. But eventually I want to be in charge, and I want to know how to handle it.
Well, how did the person who was in charge handle it? Do you agree or disagree with what he/she did? There's your answer. Things will go wrong in live performance, and the ability to think quickly and act quickly to rectify the situation is a skill that comes only from experience.

I don't think it needs to be said that there should have been backups. If 17 were in use at one time, there should have been at least two spares, but "you dance with the girl you brought," if you know what I mean.


Active Member
It was an almost shouting match. The only thing that made everyone keep a lid on was all the kids running around. Basically he did not want to give them all his mics, to save some for backup, but they found out and assigned them to people anyway. If he would have had more, they would have used more.

When is it critical to have backup mics? Like if there are five mics, and three are wireless. Should there be backup then?

And do you just smile politely when someone is spewing hot oil all over you?


Active Member
When is it critical to have backup mics? Like if there are five mics said:
Spares are a must. If it's critical enough to worry about, Its critical enough to carry spares or have some other work-around immediately available. You should always have a plan B and maybe parts of a plan C for everything you do. That goes for more than mics too. I never book out 100% of all of my gear. If I have to do that, it's too big of a show for me. I have spares or a back-up plan for everything I use in a show or I reconsider the show. Part of the question "can I handle this gig" should be "do I have spare gear if something breaks". As far as mics go, I look at the rider and I ask them what they need and then in the back of my mind I add a couple of spares to whatever they need. In the case of your 17 mics, I wouldn't have told the customer about all of them. I'd have said I had 15. Then I would have brought all seventeen so I had spares. If they don't get used then nothing else gets said. If they are needed then I look like a pro because I have a solution available. Most professional concert audio companies have spares of major pieces of gear or a plan in place to patch around whatever is broken. It's just the way this game is played.

As to a spewing customer, that's nothing special to this industry. It's basic customer service. I don't think I've ever yelled back at a client, much as some of them deserve it.:evil: I am always up front and honest, and I tend to tell it like it is, but getting into a yelling match is a waste of time. It also looks bad to other prospective clients in the room. I tend to try to find a diplomatic way to tell them to "come back and talk to me when they feel better and we can work something out" I've occasionally walked away from agitated performers, but I've found silence and a deep breath gets a person farther than yelling. If worst come to worst, I put up with it as best I can and never take a gig involving that person again. It's all part of the professional service I give. Good attitude, spares for things that break, plans A, B, and C, and knowing what you can and can't do is all part of the game.

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