Brad Rouda photo by Nico Sophiea
Letter to the Editor
Re: A Royal Room of Sound, Earshot Jazz January 2018
I was thrilled to see the article about the Royal Room sound staff, which incidentally I only found out about by reading it! Sound people are a critical and often under-appreciated link in live performance, and deserve the same respect that studio engineers often garner. It can be a thankless job; no one notices when the sound is good, but they all complain when it’s bad.
However, I do not agree with the idea that sound engineers should have, or even desire, 100% control. The best sound engineers are collaborators, not know-it-alls. I can promise you that in 40 years of touring there is no greater red flag than, “Trust me, I know the room.” They may know the room, but they don’t know the music.
If space permitted I could give multiple concrete examples of excellent engineers, technically, ruining gigs because they conceived the music differently than the artist. (I can also give you an equal number of examples where musicians didn’t understand the room, and did the same.)
My favorite engineer in the world is Joe Ferla, now retired. Studio or live, his first questions were always, “What we got here?” “How do you think we should approach it?” “This is how I hear it, does that work for you?” “I’m not happy with the sound I’m getting, have any ideas?” and so on.
Here’s to open minds, opens ears, and working as a team to make the best sound, and the best music, possible.
Musician, composer, educator, and Royal Room co-owner