An engineer can have more influence on our music than anyone else in the band, and I'm hoping this blog will bring in ideas from both sides that can help us better understand each other and make great sound and vibes the norm rather than the exception.
I've been lucky to work with world class engineers live and in the studio, and the first thing I notice is a great attitude and an eagerness to give you what you need to get to the music. Secondly, they've probably already checked you out live, or on CD, youtube, etc and have an understanding of what you're about. Third is that those who sit at these massive boards with hundreds of knobs and infinite possibilities leave things pretty much alone until they discover a problem. In the studio particularly, I see them first relying on mic placement and ways to capture the sound of the instrument (or person) as transparently as possible. In a live setting I'm aware they don't have a "One size fits all" approach with acoustic bass appearing in the sub woofers like it might be treated in an electric band. And the last thing, and one of the biggest, is they don't put themselves in a "producers" role. Meaning they don't impose their vision of your music by altering your sound by fooling with reverbs, delays, EQ's, volumes etc, etc without having discussed things with you first. Good engineers know that good musicians usually mix themselves as they go because they listen to each other.
There are so many moving parts and responsibilities for an engineer who might be running both stage and house. I think what we both need to do is first bring a positive attitude to the table, then be a little patient while we express ourselves as clearly as possible about exactly what it is we need. If you have the opportunity, sit down together beforehand and go over the set list and discuss a few things you'd like to work toward. And most of all, respect each other. When it all comes together, I don't know anything more satisfying than the experience of sounding your best and knowing your engineer's got your back, front, and everything else covered! It's really a team effort that's needed to bring it all home.
The right sound can inspire you, the music, and ultimately the listener, and that's really what it's all about. So when you're introducing the players around you, be sure to acknowledge your engineer(s) from the stage too! If they did it right, they just made the perfect frame to present your painting.