House Engineer Vs. Monitor Engineer


When I was nineteen, I started working for a regional sound company in Philadelphia. At the time, CTS Audio was a turbo sound company with a warehouse full of TSM 3. I thought I was in heaven. I was in a warehouse full of audio gear and had absolutely no experience. Truth be told, they needed a licensed driver and I needed work. It was, in theory, a perfect marriage.

House Sound Engineer Vs. Monitor Engineer.

Over the years to follow, I learned to do more than drive a truck. In most cases, CTS audio would send out two men to handle a gig—one to take care of front of house and one to handle microphones, stands, cables, and, of course, monitors. I was one of those guys. I worked regularly with an engineer name Sully (Yes, the guy who writes the articles and is famous for tuning PA and his house mixes.). We learned to work well together. It was an equal and fair gig relationship, meaning we understood each other’s responsibilities, our strengths and weaknesses, and how to divide and conquer. We understood that in order to provide the best service to our clients, we had to work together.

Being a team was essential. Together, we unloaded the truck, set up the system, and decked the consoles. The job of patching the stage—you know, microphones, stands and cables—generally falls on the monitor engineer. However, Sully would jump on stage and give me a hand. Where we, in my opinion, differed in standard practice for any two-man crew is how we handled line check. Sully would start by tuning the PA system. During this process, I would often find myself grabbing the local crew to help re-stack the TMS3 or the subs. We would re-stack several times until Sully was happy. The end result of the attention to detail was always worth the effort.

After the restacking and tuning the system, we would do a quick line check and then jump right into tuning the monitors. Nothing new there. Where we differed from other crews was that after the tuning of the monitors was complete, Sully and I would listen to the stage inputs with the house on and the monitors off. Then we listened to the stage inputs with the house off and monitors on, or any combination thereof. This monitor check is where the house and the monitors truly came together. I learned how the house sound would affect the stage, and Sully understood how all the stage monitors would ruin his house mix. This system of working together enabled us to give our client a better live experience.

My point is this—front of house and monitors are one and the same, and they need to work together. They are not separate entities. I knew that if Sully did his part, my life on stage would be that much better. And if I could make the stage hum along and mesh with Sully’s house mix, I would not sweat the show. House and monitors are not adversaries. They have the same goal—to get the gear in the truck as fast as possible and get home…okay not really. The true goal is to provide the best audio experience for the band and the band engineer. I believe Sully and I did this quite well.