So, you want to be a “sound guy.” It might look glamorous with all the knobs and switches, but it’s still hard work! And at its core, we’re basically roadies. If you think you might want to be a live sound engineer, here’s what you can look forward to.

I work in a six-person crew of road warriors who hop from town to town, building the show that people will remember all their lives because they got a t-shirt.

I work as a touring sound engineer. My desk isn’t stuck in a row of cubicles underneath fluorescent lights next to the water cooler. Business casual for me doesn’t include a pair of Dockers and an Oxford button-down from Brooks Brothers.

My office is tucked away, stage left just out of audience view. My coworkers are five other people: a lighting director/production manager, a lighting tech/rigger, a band gear tech, another sound engineer and a merch salesperson.

If everything goes as planned tonight, you will never know we were here. Show time is only a piece of the puzzle. My days start far earlier than when the doors open to the public and ends much later than when the venue lights come on.

Closeup shot of two gray music tour busses parked side by side carrying a live sound engineer.

The average day for a live sound engineer

7:00am – Wake up in my bunk on the bus. Dig my multi-tool and flashlight out from under the pillow and my shoes from the bottom of my bunk. Pull on my hoodie; it always comes in handy at every gig. Grab a radio, a bottle of water, and a blueberry breakfast bar and head out.

7am – 8am – Walk the venue with the crew. Trucks are onsite and the local stagehands are starting to arrive for the 8am call time. Crack the locks on the truck doors. Time to get to work.

Live sound musical equipment packed in the back of a truck with a lift gate getting ready to be unloaded by a live sound audio engineer.

8am – 9:30am – I’ve got 4 stagehands in the truck with me unloading. Two dropping cases and two rolling out to the hands on the deck. We pack smart at load out to make load in as easy as possible. “Work smarter, not harder” is the motto of the tour. Chain motors and lighting come off the truck first, followed by the stage set and band gear. Audio comes off the truck last.

9:30am – 11am – Lighting has control of the stage to get motors rigged and trussing ready to fly. Stagehands have been split between lighting, audio, and band gear. I’ve got my stagehands pushing cases to front of house and monitor world. We run the snake from the splitter to the front of house position.

A live sound lighting and speaker rig flying from the top of an outdoor venue stage.

11am – Motors are rigged for the sound system. It’s time to fly the PA. My audio counterpart has two stagehands stage right, and I have two stagehands stage left. We have 12 JBL Vertec in the air and 16 dual 18” subs on the ground in front of the stage. Standard procedure dictates whichever side has the PA rigged last buys the drinks that night, so the pressure is on!

12pm – The lighting director (LD) calls lunch on the radio, “Stop what you’re doing and go eat!” I join the crew at catering for lunch. Sandwiches again… We discuss what we want to do on our next day off in 3 days.

1pm – 3pm – Finish rigging the sound system. Looks like I’ll be buying drinks tonight due to some chain motor issues.

Closeup shot of a hand tuning a dial on a digital live sound mixer with LCD display and the stage illuminated by blue stage lights in the background.

3pm – 4pm – Finish building monitor world and front of house (FOH) and tie stage boxes into the splitter. Stage set and band gear have been built. Mics on stage have been placed and wired. We are on track for a 5:30pm sound check.

4pm – 5pm – I start to check inputs with a line check. Band gear tech moves from instrument to instrument and plays a bit to ensure the signal is hitting monitors and front of house. After troubleshooting a few bad cables and mispatched inputs, I turn my attention to wireless. I walk the stage with all in-ear monitors (IEMs) to check for dead spots and interference.

5pm – 5:30pm – Clean all vocal mics with mouthwash and put them on the stage. Walk stage to make sure any trip hazards have been taped down.

5:30pm – 6:30pm – Sound Check. Digital boards are great. Only small tweaks to account for venue are needed. No opening act tonight, thank goodness. No need to strike the stage and deal with any other gear. Change batteries for all wireless after sound check.

6:30pm –7pm – Hit catering again for dinner. Chicken with white sauce and pasta tonight. Fancy!

7pm – 7:30pm – Head back to the bus to chill and rest before the doors open to the public.

Sound engineer working on a large live sound mixer at an outdoor daytime event.

7:30pm – Doors open to public. Show isn’t scheduled to start until 8:00pm.

7:30pm – 8:00pm – Hang backstage and wait for the call on the radio that the band is on the way to the stage.

8:00pm – 9:30pm – Show time. The band looks happy. I take a peek at the crowd, and they are jamming.

10pm – 1am – Load out. Everything goes back in its case and back on the truck. Loadout always seems to go twice as fast as the show loads in. Put the lock back on the truck and tell the driver to keep the rubber side down.

1am – Walk back to the bus. I drop my radio back on the charger and pull off my hoodie. I tuck my multi-tool and flashlight back under my pillow. Head to the back lounge of the bus and grab some drinks for my fellow crew mates. After a while, I hear the LD get on the bus and give the driver the cue to hit the road. The air brakes release and we start to move. Tomorrow will be a repeat of today, only in another city a few hours from now.

Think you want to be a sound engineer?

Being a sound engineer definitely isn’t for the faint of heart. There are plenty of long days filled with hard work — but I wouldn’t trade it for the world! There’s something special about being a part of a great show that makes people so happy. And it’s always fun learning about and handling the latest live sound gear on the market. Plus, you meet all sorts of amazing people and musicians.

Is becoming a live sound engineer in your future? Maybe I’ll catch you down the road. Rock on!