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An information site such as this one cannot substitute for professional training that includes practical hands-on experience of working with live performers.

Below you will find a structured list of topics, intended as a guide to the kind of material that would be covered in a comprehensive live sound engineering course; this may be of assistance in evaluating courses on offer. Remember, however, that a course may cover incidentally many topics that are not explictly advertised.

You can also use this page as a list of topics to assist in evaluating or refreshing your present knowledge. Many of the topics have links into the Glossary, which you can follow for a reminder of what they are about. If you can think of anything missing from this list, please let me know.

Contents


Basics
  • The need for sound reinforcement
    • A brief history of sound reinforcement
      • Unamplified vocals & acoustic instruments − greater sound level required more performers − large orchestras & large choirs
      • Amphitheatre solution for speech and acoustic instruments
      • Pipe-organ solution for music in large venues (not just churches)
      • Capital & maintenance expense drove electronic organ development (dance halls, cinema)
      • Position maintained until 50's/60's music revolution − amplified instruments & vocals
      • Advancements in materials technology allowed increasingly powerful speakers of high quality at moderate size & weight
      • Advancements in electronics (particularly the advent of integrated circuits) allowed increasing equipment functionality, features & complexity along with decreasing size & weight
    • Operated versus non-operated systems
      • The system came first, then the operator
      • Who is capable of the task?
      • Mixer location − stage versus audience
    • Sound engineering − or art?
      • Taste, preference & opinion − 'painting a sound'
      • Technical aspects of system design & assembly
      • Technical aspects of operation & problem-solving
    • The role of the sound engineer
      • Importance
      • Relied upon & trusted by the performers
      • Meeting expectations of the audience, as far as possible
      • Responsibility
      • Considering the overall sound
      • Reacting to changes in the schedule & to problems occurring
      • Contributions to the programmee.g. play CDs/videos

  • The primary system components
    • Microphones
      • Purpose
      • Very many types − suited to application (target sound + environment) & to budget
    • Mixers
      • Purpose (simplest arrangement)
      • Channels
      • Master section
    • Power amplifiers
      • Purpose
      • May be integrated within mixer or within speakers
    • Speakers
      • Purpose
      • Very many types − application, power handling & environment
    • Equipment interconnections

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The Nature of Sound

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Electrical Fundamentals

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Electrical Signals

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Microphones

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Speakers

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Amplifiers

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Signal Interconnections

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Effects

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Mixers

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Power Distribution

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Safety
  • Principles
  • Legislation awareness − relevant to country/region
    • UK: Health and Safety at Work Act
    • UK: Electricity at Work Act
    • UK: Public liability
    • UK: BS 7909 & BS 7671

  • Electrical
    • Overview of plugs, fuses/MCBs and distribution
    • Overload
    • Overview of electric shock
    • Direct contact shock hazards
      • Damage to insulation or enclosures
      • Connectors
      • One contact − incidental path to earth
      • Two contacts − e.g. guitar/microphone scenario
      • 3-phase supplies
    • Indirect contact shock hazards
    • Cause of hazards
      • Class I − disconnection of earths (earth loops)
      • Class II − internal equipment damage
    • Condition of equipment
      • User safety checks
      • Formal safety checks & records
      • PAT testing
    • Reliance on integrity of fixed installation
      • Earthing
      • Periodic inspection & testing
    • RCDs
    • Precautions in damp/wet situations
      • Outdoors
      • Special effects etc

  • Fire
    • Combustible materials
    • Sources of heat
    • Selection & use of appropriate fire extinguisher types
    • Evacuation procedures
    • Fire exits & signage

  • Optical
    • Intensity, beam-width & distance
    • Safe testing
    • Connector covers
      • Safety
      • Dust protection

  • Acoustic
    • Exposure limits − SPL vs duration
    • Safe use of headphones
    • Earplugs

  • Trip hazards
  • Drop hazards
  • Carry hazards
    • Weight awareness
    • Lifting technique
    • Carrying height

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Care of Equipment
  • General
    • Protection from shock and impact
    • Protection from ingress of solids & liquids
    • Protection from weather
    • Extremes of temperature and humidity
    • Flight cases

  • Microphones
    • Likely modes of abuse
      • Drops & knocks
      • Saliva & breath
      • Inappropriate testing
    • Resilience − dynamic vs condenser
    • Care during use
    • Storage

  • Speakers
  • Cables
    • Cabling damage modes
      • Strain
      • Abrasion, impact & compression
      • Twisting
      • Flexibility factors
    • Connector damage modes
    • Transport & storage

  • Mixers etc
    • Protection from ingress of solids & liquids
    • Protection from dust
    • Care in cleaning

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System Design & Assembly
  • Working relationships
    • Professionalism
    • Managing expectations of systems
    • Event/Production Managers
    • Venue staff
    • Musical Director
    • Stage Manager, DSM, ASM
    • Other technical staff − sound, lighting, video
    • The performers
    • The audience
    • Unskilled personnel

  • Situations
    • Installed systems
    • Halls
    • Theatres
    • Commercial − conferences etc.
    • Places of worship
      • Architectural constraints
      • Operator skill levels
    • Outdoors
      • Weather resilience − rain, wind/snow loading
    • Mobile
      • Limitations on space / weight / power

  • Technical riders
    • Contractual basis
    • Typical content
    • Desired vs achievable/affordable − negotiation

  • System sizing
  • Mono versus stereo
    • Speakers

  • Assembly sequences
    • Early decisions about locations
    • Staffing factors

  • Rack systems
  • Speaker location and orientation
    • Audience orientation
    • Horizontal plane
    • Vertical plane
    • Visual analysis

  • Delayed feeds

  • Mixer location

  • Miking vocals
  • Miking instruments
    • Guitar
    • Piano
    • Woodwind & brass
    • Drums
      • Max SPL
    • Backline

  • Monitor positioning
    • Target listeners
    • Avoiding feedback
    • Minimising spill to audience

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System Operation

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Problem-Solving

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Buying to a Budget

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Introduction to Recording

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© 2006-2016 Mark Phillips

This page last updated 07-Jul-2016.