Live sound engineer
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Live sound engineers control the sound at events like theatre performances, music concerts and festivals.
1. Entry requirements
You’ll need a good knowledge of music and sound technology, and you may find it useful to have an understanding of physics and electronics.
You could do:
- a course in technical theatre, music technology or sound engineering
- a degree or diploma in technical theatre accredited by Drama UK
It might be useful if you have paid or unpaid work experience, like:
- helping backstage in a theatre
- being a roadie for a band
- rigging sound in amateur or student theatre, or for local bands
- recording or mixing music, for example as a DJ
- working for a sound equipment manufacturer or hire company
2. Skills required
- good hearing, for judging sound quality
- a good sense of pitch, timing and rhythm
- patience, stamina and good concentration
- the ability to cope with long hours and tight deadlines
3. What you'll do
You’ll mix the inputs from microphones and amplifiers, using a control desk to balance the sound levels.
You might also provide background music and sound effects.
Your duties might also include:
- discussing the production’s sound needs with the director or sound designer
- identifying places in the script where any sound effects, music and changes in sound level are needed
- pre-recording any sound effects and music
- positioning and rigging up microphones
- completing sound checks before a performance
- operating the sound desk during shows
- following a sound plan (known as a 'plot') and cues from the deputy stage manager
- looking after and repairing equipment
- unloading, setting up, dismantling and loading equipment at each venue when on tour
Highly Experienced: £40,000 (sound designer)
Freelance rates vary. You could negotiate fees based on the type of production and your own track record. The Broadcasting, Entertainment, Cinematograph and Theatre Union (BECTU) list suggested rates.
These figures are a guide.
5. Working hours, patterns and environmentHours can be long and irregular.
Evening and weekend work is common.
You may also work during the day for rehearsals, sound checks and maintenance.
You’ll work in theatres, concert halls, arenas, and outdoors at concerts and festivals.
You’ll spend a lot of time sitting at a control desk.
You’ll travel throughout the UK and possibly overseas.
6. Career path and progressionWith experience, you could progress to chief sound engineer in a theatre, become a sound designer, or set up your own sound services company.
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Last updated: 13 September 2018