with Nathan Lively
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You put your headphones on at the console and your mix sounds great, but when you take them off it seems like something is missing. Or it sounds great at the FOH mix position, then you walk ten feet to the right and the whole thing falls apart. The audience feels like something is off, no one is dancing, the promoter is giving you panicked glances from across the room, and the band knows something is off because you can’t get the vocal loud enough before it starts feeding back. There’s something going on between your mixing board and your ears, and you can’t quite put your finger on it, but if you could your day would be going a whole lot better.
The solution here is obvious: give everyone headphones. I’m pretty sure the Flaming Lips did that on a tour. Just add e-drums and in-ear monitors and you’re in business.
For the rest of us who are not working with the Flaming Lips, there are a handful of solutions we can look at to improve this situation. Maybe it’s the room. Maybe the acoustics of the space are ruining your masterpiece. Well, the show’s in three hours so we can’t do anything about that. Maybe these speakers are pieces of junk, but you’ll never get a new PA in here with this budget and this short notice. You’re only left with one option: sound system tuning.
With the right speaker placement, aim, EQ, and delay, you can quickly and effectively maximize the sound system tuning in any room.
Before I began training sound engineers to create more consistency in their work, my career was (and still is) in designing and operating shows. By luck, I ended up working in a lot of challenging spaces: think small, noisy rooms with strange PA systems and a lot of drunk Portuguese. As my mixing chops grew, my show quality stagnated. There was still a big disconnect between what I heard out of the console in my headphones and what the audience heard in their seats. I tried every tool and technique I could get ahold of, but it still seemed like magic.
When I was introduced to the idea that sound systems could be set up to produce consistent results from night to night and venue to venue, I knew I had discovered a key to success. Since that discovery I've made a commitment to focus just as much on setting up my sound system for equal coverage as on creating a great mix.
My story is not unique. If you've read my book, Master Your Craft, you know that this story is actually very common.
Everything was going well until Merlijn van Veen hit a sort of plateau. His mixing chops improved every day, but the results he heard in the room were inconsistent. If improving his mixing skills didn’t improve the end product, where else could he look?
Merlijn began investigating every aspect of the signal chain until he discovered the work of Bob McCarthy and the application of speaker aim, placement, and processing, otherwise known as sound system optimization. As Merlijn became increasingly clear about the way that transmission through this invisible medium affected his shows, his results magically improved. I say magically because to everyone he worked with it seemed like magic, though Merlijn knew exactly what was going on. He started to see where he could make improvements along the entire path that a waveform takes from source to microphone to mixing board to speaker to ear. Each improvement built upon the last until the concert in the seats sounded just like the concert he heard in his headphones.
As Mauricio Ramirez began mixing more bands, he became frustrated with how much his results would vary from venue to venue and sound system to sound system. A friend introduced him to a polarity tester and through some experimentation he realized what a huge difference it could make. From that point on, he would arrive early to sound check and match every driver’s polarity. It was at this time that he began to discover more ease in his mix and hear more consistent results.
When the same friend introduced Ramirez to an RTA (real time analyzer), it blew his mind. Everywhere he went he measured polarity and frequency response. After five years of work, Ramirez achieved such a high level of consistency that 99 out of 100 shows were successful and rental company owners would remark that their system had never sounded so good.
* * *
I wish I could say that I just discovered sound system tuning and then poof, I became an overnight success. The truth is that it was a long and arduous path with lots of starts and stops, mistakes and dead ends. With every event I worked, my understanding grew, until I was finally able to identify the right methods to get the best results.
There are some lucky people out there who just happen to be in the right place at the right time, who get the right combination of information and experience to fast-track their careers. The rest of us have to figure it out on our own. Part of the reason for my long, twisting path was that there just weren’t any opportunities for education. There were a handful of seminars available, but none of them were near me, and there certainly wasn’t a school teaching this stuff.
Every piece of the puzzle that I put into place took such a big effort that I knew it would be valuable to create a record. So, I started putting together a system that would help other people get the same results.
During most of the one-offs I do, there isn’t enough time to set up Smaart. To make it worse, I might not know what gear I have until I’m on site.
Sometimes it’s kind of ‘throw and go’ without a lot of time to really dig in and fine-tune each room. I would like to be able to pinpoint my speaker aim to get the best coverage.
I took a [manufacturer’s] training back in 2009 and the instructor just droned on the entire time. We got to the end and I felt like we had accomplished nothing. It really turned me off to the world of sound system tuning.
Make any room, convention center, theatre, or arena sound good, despite time restrictions.
This course will teach you to understand system tuning intuitively so you can run on auto-pilot.
Audio engineers, sound designers, and AV technicians who care about having great shows and want more confidence and consistency in their work.
To be recognized in this industry, the one thing you must do is to have consistency from night to night and show to show. -Buford Jones
Fast paced lessons
Design examples and recordings
Templates, worksheets, FAQ
24/7 support over Slack*
Tips, tricks, hacks, and more…
*6 months with Standard package, 12 months with Accelerated package.
Generic or DIY speakers
Where is the crossover?
How do I maximize what I have?
Basic subwoofer arrays
Aim for best gain before feedback
What are crossover points?
Critical distance – vertical/horizontal
Combining without comb filtering
Align main to sub
Properly set up subs on an aux
Time alignment for monitors
Delays and front fills
Tuning vs. toning
How to stop using a graphic EQ
How to stop over EQing
Step-by-step proven method
The #1 reason that sound engineers attempt to learn sound system tuning and fail is lack of support.
They are unable to connect the information they’ve gathered from books and seminars with their real work in the field. They confuse information with understanding, which requires experience. That’s why Seeing Sound offers a level of support unparalleled in pro audio education.
You are not alone. Every course student will receive personalized support through one-on-one calls with me, group video trainings, and our private community on Slack. Wherever you are, you can get help.
Nothing taught by force stays in the soul. –Plato
I believe that sound system tuning should be the first thing people learn when they start studying audio, not something that gets misunderstood down the road.
There are lots of audio forums out there where people argue for days about the best microphone for this or that, but few talk seriously about the physics of audio and how to build a system you can rely on.
My vision is that Seeing Sound will be a place for people like you and me to come and learn about sound engineering and system tuning, share ideas about what is and isn’t working for us, and give each other feedback when we need it.
I have improved my approach to and quality of service tenfold!
-Simon F., FOH for theRGPshow, France
I have achieved really good results, to the point that, due to this course, my current show is probably the best sounding show I have done.
-Wills W., Sound Designer at Clwyd Theatr Cymru, UK
Did the show last night with the set up you suggested, and with much headroom left we received nothing but praise for the phenomenal sound as well as the clarity.
-John A., live sound
Having a community of pros to talk with is invaluable! I’ve never before been able to text a teacher about direct action of course concepts. This class has paid for itself already.
-Michael M., live sound, California
I’ve considered other courses, but this is the first one that I’ve felt deserved the time and money. Compared with, say, a typical video course (watch a few videos & that’s it), Seeing Sound offers exceptional value – the personalized support and student interaction make this something special.
-Andrew S., audibility expert for conference sound, UK
I looked at classes at Meyer Sound, Rational Acoustics, and SynAudCon, but none of them fit the bill in terms of schedule.
-Andy L., corporate events, California
Already, after the very first lesson, I can tell you that the course is worth every penny. I love all the input from other members, both in the forum and on the live lessons.
-Martin D., AV tech, Bulgaria
I have gained 200% more confidence during setups. By planning ahead, thinking through the shows, and implementing knowledge gained by completing Seeing Sound, surprises during shows have almost vanished.
-John W., punk rock, Austria
I knew I needed to take my skills to the next level so I thought about going back to school. Then I realized, I have a full-time job and a family! I can’t take a year off work and go $20,000 into debt. Then I discovered Pro Audio Workshop: Seeing Sound.
-Bret R., HOW, New Jersey
Chris was preparing for an important show at the end of the month with one of his most important clients. This 30 act musical production took place at the local convention center, a highly reverberant multi-use space.
What Chris had done in the past worked out OK, but he knew it could be better. The previous year he had used left and right stacks of EV ELX118p subs and Mackie SA1231z mains pointing straight out at the audience.
Over several conversations among Seeing Sound students, Chris decided to try some changes:
The result? After the soundcheck a musician involved with the annual event said that he had never heard it sound so good.
I know this page looks very business-y, but I promise that I’m neither a Nigerian prince nor a robot; I’m a regular guy. I put my pants on one leg at a time, just like you.
It’s just that after my are pants on, I have:
14 years of experience in pro audio, in 8 major cities across 3 countries
Interviewed 44+ sound engineers (including Ken “Pooch” Van Druten with Linkin Park, Bob McCarthy from Meyer Sound, and Dave Swallow with La Roux)
277,916 plays of my podcast, Sound Design Live
155+ articles in Pro Sound News Europe, The Pro Audio Files, Soulsound, SoundGirls, and Sound Design Live
Basically, I’ve spent my entire career as a guinea pig for this program. I bring years of experience to the training environment, to create specific advice and guidance for the next steps in your career. Also, I make a mean cup of hot chocolate.
Option 1: University
The first option is going to school. Many people get some kind of associates degree from a recording school or a degree from a music school. I can tell you that my BFA cost me $40,000 and 4 years of my life. It was a great time, but honestly, it didn’t teach me anything about how speakers behave in rooms. It was worth it for other reasons, but not for someone who wants to tour with the top shows in the world.
Total cost: $40,000
Time frame: 4 years
Real world live sound experience: No
Results guaranteed: No
Option 2: Internship
The second path is on the job training. You might start out as an intern or an assistant and hopefully, over the course of a few years, get enough experience that you can set out on your own. There are some really great entry level positions out there. There are also a lot of terrible entry level positions out there. The cost to you is 2-4 years of your life, paying for everything along the way, sometimes with a second job. Sometimes someone has to die for you to move up.
Total cost: $2,000 – $20,000
Time frame: 2-4 years
Real world live sound experience: Yes
Results guaranteed: No
Option 3: DIY
The third option is doing it yourself. This is the option that a lot of people default to because they feel like it doesn’t cost anything and there aren’t any options available in their city. What they don’t realize is that it takes a lot of time. Imagine if every physician had to figure everything out on their own, from first aid to invasive surgery.
Total cost: $5,000 – $75,000
Time frame: 5-10 years
Real world live sound experience: Yes
Results guaranteed: No
Option 4: Do Nothing
This is also always an option, and it’s the option that a lot of us take every day. You can very easily continue doing as you’ve been doing and keep achieving the same results you’ve been enjoying for the past few years.
Time will continue to pass, you’ll still pick up on the odd tactic and strategy here and there. You’ll still piece the puzzle together, slowly. But your dream of confidence and consistency in a job that you love will stay where it is today: out of reach with no clear, systematic path to achieving it.
Total cost: Opportunity lost
Time frame: Forever (until you die)
Real world live sound experience: No
Results guaranteed: No
System techs are really well paid, and never out of work. –Darryn de la Soul
A sound system technician can make $500+/day, which immediately returns your investment. Less tangible, but more important, is the improved consistency that will make your clients happy and keep you booked solid.
I created Seeing Sound because I want to help you improve your confidence and consistency as a sound engineer, make more money, and have more fun! The course is set up to produce results immediately, within the first two weeks, and that’s why I let you try it risk-free for 30 days. By then you will know beyond a shadow of a doubt whether the training is right for you. If it is and you are delighted, simply continue gaining all of the benefits of the course. If you find that you are unsatisfied for any reason, just send me a message before the start of the 16th day, and I’ll process a fast, friendly, no questions asked refund of your purchase price.
You have lifetime access to the course materials. Go at your own pace and take as long as you need.
The standard package includes six months of 24/7 support from me and a dedicated group of your peers through our private Slack channel. The accelerated package includes a full year of support.
No way! In fact, most of it focuses on simple stereo systems. Large-scale systems function under the same laws of physics as small scale systems, so anything we learn about tuning small systems can be scaled up to bigger ones.
The 58 video lessons are pre-recorded. The private Slack community, one-on-one meetings, and bi-weekly office hours are live.
Don't worry! We will start with some really basic concepts like “How to read frequency and phase response measurements” before we jump into all of the hardware.
Me! Just click the chat box on the bottom right of the screen.
If you don't see it listed on the curriculum above, ask me in the chat box on the bottom right of the page.
I care deeply about your growth as an audio engineer and your satisfaction with your work.
This is the only program of its kind and I work every day to drive the strongest results possible.
I urge you to make a commitment today to go after what you want.
58 content-packed lessons
Real world design examples and templates
6 months of 24/7 support from me and a dedicated group of your peers through our private Slack channel
Bi-weekly live group trainings
Lifetime access to all course content, including future versions
A personal accountability partner
32 seats left
Everything in the Standard package, plus…
4 one-on-one private training sessions with me, to be used during the first 6 months of the course
An extra 6 months of 24/7 support through our private Slack channel (a year in total)
Annual membership to Pro Audio Mastermind (my private, unadvertised networking and educational community)
Personal feedback on your homework assignments
3-month membership to Soulsound
7 seats left
@ 2017, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED, NATHAN LIVELY