FFMPEG “stack smashing detected”

I wanted to encode some new video I shot with h.265 and hadn’t included that in ffmpeg configuration previously. So I began removing ffmpeg sources from previous installs, and recompiling all the libraries and then the main program. After all was done, I tried encoding and got an error I hadn’t seen before (and apparently isn’t common or I would have found an answer by searching).  I saw:

*** stack smashing detected ***: terminated
Aborted (core dumped)

After much experimentation I found that it is somehow tied to ffmpeg trying to use any audio library. If I skip audio with -an or copy, then the file will be produced. Any attempt at using an audio library of any kind produces the stack smashing error.

I’m still plugging away at it trying to find a solution or find an error in compiling. No luck yet.

I wiped and reloaded ffmpeg x264 x265 and reloaded according to the Ubuntu guide for installing ffmpeg, but I found I had to add a couple of things to get the static x264 to work (otherwise during make, x265 would complain about needing to be recompiled with fPIC)

Once I did the git clone for x264 as described on the guide, I did these steps
cd x264
./configure --enable-static --enable-pic
sudo make install
sudo ldconfig

“ldconfig creates the necessary links and cache (for use by the run-time linker, ld.so) to the most recent shared libraries found in the directories specified on the command line…” See the man page for full description.

With the enable-pic option during configure, the static build worked. I then tried ffmpeg again and all was well.


New PC time – 4K video editing – But then… Intel SGX

I’m buying a new Panasonic HC-WXF1 4K video camera for recording local jazz singers (one of my hobbies). But my 10-year-old PC isn’t going to handle that kind of processing. It already takes its sweet time doing regular HD video.

So I’m busy putting together the specs on my new system, with a hot new processor and 32GB of fast RAM. I’ve been looking at the ASRock X299 Taichi XE and the new Intel i9-7960 processor. That is, I was until a minute ago when I read that the latest greatest processor and the X299 chipset from Intel doesn’t support their own Intel SGX! SGX is yet another Digital Rights Management hoop that was added to the pile, and it is required for doing playback of 4K/UHD movies from BluRay, and may affect online streaming of 4K.

Ho-ly-shit. What were they thinking leaving that out of the chipset?! Additionally, the motherboard has to have SGX support built into the BIOS even of your processor (like the i7-7700K) supports it. Some boards apparently don’t have the available memory to store the SGX firmware, so consumers that bought these boards are out of luck. X299 used to support full playback, but then the manufacturers decided to add more DRM requirements, and that broke the ability of these motherboards to playback or view streaming 4K.

ASRock support says “Unfortunately, the Intel X299 CPU (Skylake-X + Kabylake-X) don’t support Intel SGX function.” (see review by Jeremy S.)

Yes, I can still edit my own video, as far as I know. But still, for Intel to be that out of touch with their own stuff is insane. Will SGX be required for receiving streaming 4K? Industry, MAKE IT EASIER ON CONSUMERS WHO PAY BIG BUCKS TO WATCH YOUR STUFF!


I’m happy to update if this information is not correct. It was shocking to read tonight on the Newegg review, and then other sites that confirmed it. I’m hoping it isn’t as nasty as it sounds right now. The flip side is that I’ve never bought a BluRay since my earlier experiences with DRM prevented me from viewing rented movies on a player that was a year old. Honestly, DRM is such a pain for consumers, and pirates get around it nearly as soon as a new kind is released. I wish the industry would quit punishing consumers with these hoops.

From other forums I saw this from an owner of :
“What it WONT play is:
4k Netflix streams
4k Amazon Prime video streams
4k BluRay disks.

What it will play:
Any 4k content with DRM removed. This is very simple.”

Monitors have to be HDCP 2.2 compliant (not just 2.0)

Apparently only Intel graphics chipsets are allowed to pass the signal due to Digital Rights Management. There is no intention or ability for motherboard makers to update the boards already sold that do not have SGX incorporated into the BIOS (and which were not designed with space to incorporate SGX).

To get 4k/60hz, you have to use a DisplayPort cable and have a monitor that accepts it, and a graphics card with that port. HDMI cable limits the output to 24Hz, at least on certain monitors (check specs).

Wireless bridge failure (after years of working)

I posted a few years back about a wireless bridge I set up to send camera signals across an area that could not be wired. It has been working fine since then, but then suddenly dropped off and stopped sending the camera video. I’ve been using Linksys WRT1200ac routers with no issues up to this point, 2.4GHz wireless “n” due to the antenna style.

I did the basic troubleshooting first at the remote end, testing the local POE switch that powers the cameras, pinging the cameras from the switch, pinging all of the above from the router, and all tested fine. Then I went to the receiving side and everything on that side all tested fine as well. The issue was the wireless portion was not talking. Neither router showed any sign of communication on the panel lights.

I checked the large dish antennas for physical damage (none), checked the cabling for rodent or lightning damage (none), checked the signal from the receiving end while standing at the remote building (strong signal). I set up the remote router temporarily as a standard router and tested the signal coming from it to the receiving building (strong). That told me that the antennas were fine, and each router was capable of sending a strong signal.

I set up the sending router as a wireless bridge again and took it to the same room as the receiving router, and tried them just a few feet apart. No communication, even though the sending router will not go into wireless bridge mode if it can’t find the receiving router. Very odd. That told me that one or both routers were having issues receiving.

Today I replaced the wireless bridge router in the remote building with a new one (same model, but v2). It showed a powerful signal from the receiving unit and went into wireless bridge mode. I was able to ping the receiving router and some cameras on that side. I thought all was resolved. But when I got back to my shop, the cameras were still not recording (meaning they were not visible from the receiving end). Crikey!

Tomorrow I’m going to try replacing the receiving router with a new one and see if that resolves this problem. I’m sure that some electronics can go wonky after a few years of use, but can’t yet confirm exactly what the issue is. I found that the old router from the remote building works fine on 5GHz, so am planning to use it for another camera route on that site based on the higher band. I’ll update as I figure things out.

UPDATE: It turned out that both of the version 1 routers had lost their ability to receive over the 2.4GHz bandwidth. They transmitted fine, but they weren’t receiving reliably. I replaced both with new version 2 routers and everything is working again. I found that the old v1 routers still worked fine on 5GHz ac, so I re-purposed them on a new wireless camera network using the standard antennas that come with the router, but on extender cables. Each antenna is in a small plastic box on the outside of their respective buildings, only about 40 feet from each other, line of sight. Works great so far.

UPDATE 2: We also bought the newer Linksys EA8300 (AC2200) as a backup. I found that it will not go into wireless bridge mode in the high range of 5GHz (5GH-2 on this router). It works fine in the lower range (5GH-1) and 2.4GHz. That seems odd to me, and not sure if one or both of them have an issue with broadcasting or receiving on the higher range. The high range works fine on the older router (WRT1200ac).

Playonlinux error on start

When I was trying to run Playonlinux from an icon, nothing ever appeared. I started a terminal and ran it, and got the python error:

ImportError: cannot import name _remove_dead_weakref

I didn’t find much on this, but after a lot of searching found this site and the final answer that fixed it for me:


Edit this file:


And change the following from:

next_python "python"
next_python "python2.7"
next_python "python2.6"
next_python "python2"
next_python "none"


next_python "/usr/bin/python" #This line was added
next_python "python"
next_python "python2.7"
next_python "python2.6"
next_python "python2"
next_python "none"

That fixed it for me!

Zillion connections to Google, Amazon, Twitter and others when Firefox opened after deleting cached files

I noticed that when I opened my Firefox browser (58.0.2 64-bit Linux), the connection light on my router kept blinking for a long time. I did a netstat -t command to find out to what I was connecting. To my surprise, it was a LOT more than Google.

It apparently has something to do with deleting cached files or folders, as I show later.

Here is an approximate listing of what I should see (all of the “sea15” servers are Google):
tcp 0 0 JW-PC:46562 server-13-32-178-:https ESTABLISHED
tcp 0 0 JW-PC:54168 sea15s12-in-f195.:https ESTABLISHED
tcp 0 0 JW-PC:49378 sea15s07-in-f68.1:https ESTABLISHED

Instead, here is a listing of what I saw. I’ve bolded some of the text:
tcp 0 0 JW-PC:56480 a23-32-46-41.deplo:http ESTABLISHED
tcp 0 0 JW-PC:33474 server-13-33-147-:https ESTABLISHED
tcp 0 0 JW-PC:45466 ec2-54-213-234-15:https TIME_WAIT
tcp 0 0 JW-PC:56334 ESTABLISHED
tcp 0 0 JW-PC:34470 TIME_WAIT
tcp 0 0 JW-PC:34040 a104-126-1-33.depl:http ESTABLISHED
tcp 0 0 JW-PC:53200 a23-45-230-178.de:https ESTABLISHED
tcp 0 0 JW-PC:58400 e2.ycpi.vip.swb.y:https ESTABLISHED
tcp 0 0 JW-PC:49226 sea15s01-in-f10.1e:http ESTABLISHED
tcp 0 0 JW-PC:51302 server-13-33-151-6:http ESTABLISHED
tcp 0 0 JW-PC:47918 sea15s11-in-f14.1e:http ESTABLISHED
tcp 0 0 JW-PC:60236 server-13-33-147-3:http ESTABLISHED
tcp 0 0 JW-PC:33614 a104-126-1-33.depl:http ESTABLISHED
tcp 0 0 JW-PC:53944 a23-32-46-131.depl:http ESTABLISHED
tcp 0 0 JW-PC:51256 ESTABLISHED
tcp 0 0 JW-PC:51990 ESTABLISHED
tcp 0 0 JW-PC:50912 server-13-33-146-6:http ESTABLISHED
tcp 0 0 JW-PC:51992 ESTABLISHED
tcp 0 0 JW-PC:34268 server-13-33-151-:https ESTABLISHED
tcp 0 0 JW-PC:37506 sea15s01-in-f130.:https ESTABLISHED
tcp 0 0 JW-PC:47854 server-13-33-147-1:http ESTABLISHED
tcp 0 0 JW-PC:55610 sea15s07-in-f68.1:https ESTABLISHED
tcp 0 0 JW-PC:34062 sea15s07-in-f14.1:https ESTABLISHED
tcp 0 0 JW-PC:53384 sea15s07-in-f14.1e:http ESTABLISHED
tcp 0 0 JW-PC:39098 a23-204-103-59.dep:http ESTABLISHED
tcp 0 0 JW-PC:58614 sea15s11-in-f162.1:http ESTABLISHED
tcp 0 0 JW-PC:47124 server-13-33-151-1:http ESTABLISHED
tcp 0 0 JW-PC:47538 a23-6-165-175.depl:http ESTABLISHED
tcp 0 0 JW-PC:32878 a23-45-230-178.dep:http ESTABLISHED
tcp 0 0 JW-PC:38836 a23-217-12-72.depl:http ESTABLISHED
tcp 0 0 JW-PC:37574 ESTABLISHED
tcp 0 0 JW-PC:37778 server-13-33-124-:https ESTABLISHED
tcp 0 0 JW-PC:48128 static.criteo.net:https ESTABLISHED
tcp 0 0 JW-PC:54364 a23-32-46-131.depl:http ESTABLISHED
tcp 0 0 JW-PC:53278 a.tribalfusion.com:http ESTABLISHED
tcp 0 0 JW-PC:40764 a23-14-172-134.de:https ESTABLISHED
tcp 0 0 JW-PC:42124 ESTABLISHED
tcp 0 0 JW-PC:59364 ec2-54-225-214-20:https ESTABLISHED
tcp 0 0 JW-PC:54374 a23-32-46-131.depl:http ESTABLISHED
tcp 0 0 JW-PC:59902 server-13-33-151-:https ESTABLISHED
tcp 0 0 JW-PC:54736 a1.ue.vip.gq1.yah:https ESTABLISHED
tcp 0 0 JW-PC:49646 sea15s01-in-f10.1e:http ESTABLISHED
tcp 0 0 JW-PC:38936 a104-109-200-201.d:http ESTABLISHED
tcp 0 0 JW-PC:51672 sea15s01-in-f142.:https ESTABLISHED
tcp 0 0 JW-PC:52276 bam-9.nr-data.net:https ESTABLISHED
tcp 0 0 JW-PC:44270 ESTABLISHED
tcp 0 0 JW-PC:42024 ec2-35-162-179-12:https ESTABLISHED
tcp 0 0 JW-PC:59886 ESTABLISHED
tcp 0 0 JW-PC:45134 ESTABLISHED
tcp 0 0 JW-PC:50914 server-13-33-146-6:http ESTABLISHED
tcp 0 0 JW-PC:35590 sea15s01-in-f10.1:https ESTABLISHED
tcp 0 0 JW-PC:51330 ec2-52-52-244-13.u:http ESTABLISHED
tcp 0 0 JW-PC:53916 a23-32-46-131.depl:http ESTABLISHED
tcp 0 0 JW-PC:57792 ESTABLISHED
tcp 0 0 JW-PC:32934 ec2-54-164-46-184:https TIME_WAIT
tcp 0 0 JW-PC:54372 a23-32-46-131.depl:http ESTABLISHED
tcp 0 0 JW-PC:45136 ESTABLISHED
tcp 0 0 JW-PC:59458 xx-fbcdn-shv-01-s:https ESTABLISHED
tcp 0 0 JW-PC:38240 ESTABLISHED
tcp 0 0 JW-PC:37996 ESTABLISHED
tcp 0 0 JW-PC:42556 ESTABLISHED
tcp 0 0 JW-PC:58066 r-199-59-148-23.t:https ESTABLISHED
tcp 0 0 JW-PC:52060 ec2-54-213-128-13:https TIME_WAIT
tcp 0 0 JW-PC:53248 ec2-52-52-174-199:https TIME_WAIT
tcp 0 0 JW-PC:45300 sea15s07-in-f2.1e1:http ESTABLISHED
tcp 0 0 JW-PC:46038 ESTABLISHED
tcp 0 0 JW-PC:48748 ESTABLISHED
tcp 0 0 JW-PC:60442 server-13-33-151-:https ESTABLISHED
tcp 0 0 JW-PC:49114 server-13-33-147-8:http ESTABLISHED
tcp 0 0 JW-PC:43940 s3-1.amazonaws.co:https TIME_WAIT
tcp 0 0 JW-PC:55376 sea15s07-in-f67.1:https ESTABLISHED
tcp 0 0 JW-PC:54368 a23-32-46-131.depl:http ESTABLISHED
tcp 0 0 JW-PC:46308 ESTABLISHED
tcp 0 0 JW-PC:40772 a23-14-172-134.de:https ESTABLISHED
tcp 0 0 JW-PC:38888 a23-217-12-72.depl:http ESTABLISHED
tcp 0 0 JW-PC:43338 server-13-33-110-2:http ESTABLISHED
tcp 0 0 JW-PC:41848 server-13-33-151-1:http ESTABLISHED
tcp 0 0 JW-PC:60904 sea15s01-in-f3.1e:https ESTABLISHED
tcp 0 0 JW-PC:54116 ads16-fw-us-west.:https TIME_WAIT
tcp 0 0 JW-PC:38854 ESTABLISHED
tcp 0 0 JW-PC:50086 ec2-50-17-199-221.:http ESTABLISHED
tcp 0 0 JW-PC:51902 ESTABLISHED
tcp 0 0 JW-PC:32794 server-13-33-151-:https ESTABLISHED
tcp 0 0 JW-PC:41126 ec2-54-76-91-81.e:https TIME_WAIT
tcp 0 0 JW-PC:42880 ESTABLISHED
tcp 0 0 JW-PC:48318 sea15s11-in-f162.:https ESTABLISHED
tcp 0 1 JW-PC:37396 FIN_WAIT1
tcp 0 0 JW-PC:53922 a23-32-46-131.depl:http ESTABLISHED
tcp 0 0 JW-PC:46346 ESTABLISHED
tcp 0 0 JW-PC:59598 ESTABLISHED
tcp 0 0 JW-PC:60802 ESTABLISHED
tcp 0 0 JW-PC:33258 server-13-33-151-1:http ESTABLISHED
tcp 0 0 JW-PC:58754 sea15s11-in-f162.1:http ESTABLISHED
tcp 0 0 JW-PC:59376 ESTABLISHED
tcp 0 0 JW-PC:53920 a23-32-46-131.depl:http ESTABLISHED
tcp 0 0 JW-PC:42534 ESTABLISHED
tcp 0 0 JW-PC:39818 ESTABLISHED
tcp 0 0 JW-PC:53292 a.tribalfusion.com:http ESTABLISHED
tcp 0 0 JW-PC:51304 server-13-33-151-6:http ESTABLISHED
tcp 0 0 JW-PC:46356 ESTABLISHED
tcp 0 0 JW-PC:54370 a23-32-46-131.depl:http ESTABLISHED
tcp 0 0 JW-PC:38886 a23-217-12-72.depl:http ESTABLISHED
tcp 0 0 JW-PC:51448 ocsp.comodoca.com:http TIME_WAIT
tcp 0 0 JW-PC:56056 xx-fbcdn-shv-01-s:https ESTABLISHED
tcp 0 0 JW-PC:59350 tags.expo9.exponen:http ESTABLISHED
tcp 0 0 JW-PC:40414 edge-star-mini-sh:https ESTABLISHED
tcp 0 0 JW-PC:45406 www2.twitter.jp:https ESTABLISHED
tcp 0 0 JW-PC:52934 ESTABLISHED
tcp 0 0 JW-PC:55496 ec2-54-191-241-24:https ESTABLISHED
tcp 0 0 JW-PC:33036 a23-32-46-98.deplo:http ESTABLISHED
tcp 0 0 JW-PC:53028 ec2-52-72-47-138.c:http ESTABLISHED
tcp 0 0 JW-PC:39806 TIME_WAIT

Today I also saw a connection to “download.apowersoft.net”

Not sure what is happening to cause this, or why I’m seeing so many connections to things that have no bearing to google (the home page), but it is concerning. I have not tried a different OS, but will do so at work. It doesn’t happen all the time with my own system, but is consistent if I remove the cached files from Firefox and then start the browser.

If I do not removed the cached files and folders, then it looks fairly normal:
tcp 0 0 JW-PC:41324 ESTABLISHED
tcp 0 0 JW-PC:59650 sea15s01-in-f3.1e:https ESTABLISHED
tcp 0 0 JW-PC:42008 ec2-54-191-46-28.:https ESTABLISHED
tcp 0 0 JW-PC:56694 sea15s01-in-f14.1e:http ESTABLISHED
tcp 0 0 JW-PC:46844 a23-204-103-74.dep:http ESTABLISHED
tcp 0 0 JW-PC:52824 server-13-32-178-:https ESTABLISHED
tcp 0 0 JW-PC:57186 ec2-54-148-143-13:https ESTABLISHED
tcp 0 0 JW-PC:54158 sea15s11-in-f164.:https ESTABLISHED
tcp 0 0 JW-PC:41318 ESTABLISHED

For some reason, Firefox generates a ton of connections to seemingly random (but probably not random) servers if the cache files are missing. It should simply create the folders without needing to connect to anything other than the home page, in this case Google.com

I don’t have any news feeds, and the “random” servers are different each time.

I will try asking in a forum about this.

I found someone had asked a similar question on Mozilla’s forum:

He links the issue to the webappstore.sqlite file, but even so, it is a mystery yet not answered by Mozilla as to WHY this file has all of these connections to odd servers, even if the file is delete and auto-recreated. The poster says:

“Why does Firefox connect to every single address while starting up, what is written to this sql db? I could say this is the solution at least solving the original question “where does this software get it’s 100-400 connection addresses”.

So this seems to be the source of some of the issue, but where does Firefox get the server names in the first place?

 I found that I could turn off my permissions to the file webappstore.sqlite, and that stopped the connections to odd servers, but then I was unable to do things like edit my WordPress website. So clearly it is needed for some things, and I need to be able to write to it.
I think Mozilla should offer an explanation of what is happening and why the browser needs to connect to these hundred or so servers.

Mushroom logs

I’ve been experimenting with growing various kinds of mushrooms on hardwood logs. I started in September of 2016 when I inoculated a handful of logs with “plug spawn”, that is, short dowels that have specific mushroom mycelium growing on them. Mycelium is the part of the mushroom that is hidden inside the wood (or ground if it is the kind that grows in the ground). I chose the following kinds:

1. Turkey Tail on oak log
2. Lion’s Mane on oak log
3. Chicken of the Woods on oak log
4. Reishi on oak log
5. Shiitake on maple log
6. Nameko (or so I thought. More on that later…) on maple log. This plug spawn looked oddly blank, or just like plain damp wood.


I purchased spawn from 100thmonkeymushrooms.com, MushroomMountain.com, and Fungi.com. I also purchased beeswax to seal the holes and help retain moisture and keep out competing fungi.

The downside of using logs is that you often have to wait at least a year, maybe two or three before you see any visible mushrooms.


2016 gave us a particularly early, cold, and long frozen winter in the Vancouver, Washington area. I wasn’t sure if my mushrooms had survived or not. When June 2017 rolled around, I decided to double up and inoculate the same logs a 2nd time, just in case. I also had a couple of Douglas Fir stumps in which I put Phoenix Oyster plug spawn.

Through the hot summer, I kept watering the logs, and even gave them a soak in a small kiddie pool. Soaking all of them together turned out to be a mistake, which I’ll go into later.

By August I started seeing visible growth of mycelium happening on the Turkey Tail log, and a bit on a couple of others. By late September, the Turkey Tails mushrooms were about the width of a quarter-dollar. By mid-October I realized that all of the oak logs were growing Turkey Tail mushrooms. I knew I had purchased a variety, so chalked it up to soaking them all together, and Turkey Tail being a particularly aggressive mushroom.

Turkey Tail mycelium 8-9-2017 B
(First obvious mycelium growth on the Turkey Tail log)

(Turkey Tail mushrooms on an oak log. Snap them off and collect them, dice them up or use heavy scissors. Too tough to eat, these are used to make a broth and extract.)

I never did see any of the other kinds of mushrooms produce at all. The maple logs aren’t even growing Turkey Tails. I read that Nameko can take years to show up. I bought some more plug spawn from the same company, and was again wondering about it being so entirely free of obvious mycelium growth. This is the stuff that is supposed to carry the mushroom spawn into the log, and it if has no mushroom spawn, I am wasting time and money buying it. I took a picture of the package of damp dowels alongside a bag of another company’s bag of plug spawn and sent it to the vendor Mushroom Mountain asking what was up with the blank plugs.

no mycelium

No response at all from Mushroom Mountain. It has been months and still no response. I am certain they twice sold me blank wood with no mycelium. I gave them a bad review on Google and discontinued business with them. I hope the other spawn I ordered from them that had mycelium is actually the varieties I ordered. I even kept the little bag of dowels until this week, and no mycelium ever showed.

In October 2017 I was able to take several plum wood logs. This wood is very dense! The logs are 2 to 3 times as heavy as other logs I’ve used. I inoculated them with Blue oyster, Maitake, Shiitake, Reishi, and Lion’s Mane. Around Halloween, I ordered a bag of Nameko sawdust spawn (spawn grown on sawdust instead of dowels) from Field and Forest Products, along with the tools needed to do the inoculating. I inoculated 4 logs with Nameko and sealed the holes with wax. I also chose to put some into one of the Douglas Fir stumps I had. I also put some in the old log from 2016 in which I thought I had put Nameko previously. Sawdust spawn carries more mycelium into the log than plug spawn. The holes are larger, and the mycelium amount is greater.

few logs
(This out of focus shot shows the plum logs inoculated and waxed)

sawdust in holes
(This shows a plum log drilled and inoculated with Nameko sawdust spawn)

tool and bag
(This shows the bag of Nameko sawdust spawn white with mycelium, and the tool used to insert a measured amount of the sawdust into drilled holes in logs)

NOTE: I switched to using cheese wax instead of bee’s wax because I found that hornets and maybe bees have been stealing the wax and leaving my plug spawn exposed. I had never read that they do that, but I witnessed it, so made the change. So far, the cheese wax has been ignored.

The weather has become freezing as it is almost Christmas, but the logs have had two months of mild temperatures for the mycelium to become established, so if the mycelium likes plum wood, I should start seeing some obvious mycelium growth around Fall of 2018. I figure that Japanese varieties should do well in plum.

The Turkey Tails are still growing on the oak logs I have from before. I harvested some of them and made a tasty broth (hot water extraction) by chopping them up finely and boiling in a pot of water for about 4 hours. I also did an alcohol extraction of them by placing them in a mason jar and filling it with vodka and sealing it for 2 months, shaking it daily. The broth and the extract are said to contain substances helpful for fighting diseases and boosting the immune system. I figure they can’t hurt, so I’ll try them. At least the broth is tasty! I also bought a large Maitake mushroom from an organic store and am doing the same broth and alcohol process with it.


Sounding Good Despite Incompetent Sound Techs And Well-Meaning Band Members

I sing as a hobby, and usually get to tweak the sound board to make my voice sound good for whatever venue I play. However, occasionally there are actual sound techs for the house and that person will set up the board and adjust it during the concert (if I’m lucky). However, I’ve had a couple that simply did a simple sound check at the beginning with a fancy iPad out in the audience seats, and then sat there the rest of the show listening to tunes on an iPhone. SMITE!!

If you are going to do the job, do the damn job. Know what the knobs are for and what effect they have when changed. Then pay attention to the band during the performance. When the crowd shows up, the audio dynamic changes due to sound absorption. I’m not sure why, but I almost invariably am given way too much bass and my voice sounds muddy compared with my band mates who have higher registers. A good sound tech is such a wonderful asset!

Even on gigs where I set up my own sound board, I’ve had to argue with one person who had a one-size-fits-all EQ form for the sliders, the classic “smile” shape. No, it really doesn’t fit all, and you have no business changing the settings if you don’t know what you are doing. I don’t care if “you’ve done it that way for years because it’s the right way and everyone knows that”. You’re wrong, and get away from my mixer. At one gig, an expert set us up, and within minutes a band member was over there changing things. There is only so much you can do if you want to stay together as a band. Choose your battles.

At my last gig, I set up my mic did a few singing tests to make sure I sounded good for the venue, and walked away for a few minutes while the instrumentalists set up. I came back and did another test just to have confidence, and I sounded MUDDY AS HELL. I looked at the board and someone had turned the mid range down to 0, the treble to negative 10, and the bass up! @#$%@#$!!! I set it back to how I had it and tested my mic again, and sounded good again. I had to assume that one of them thought he or she was adjusting their own levels and changed mine. Glad I caught it before the show.

Start the EQ flat with everything at middle. If you can move out to where the audience will be for your vocal test, do it. Or if the sound tech is adjusting things, he/she/other should be experienced enough to set your vocals to be crisp and clear with good warmth. My mic has a larger diaphragm than most, so it picks up sound (and bass) more easily than other mics. That typically means I need to boost my treble and slightly lower the bass. I sometimes use a high-pass filter to cut mic handling noise, and use the much hated “clown nose” foam cover to mitigate sibilance. Some singers have a cow over that setup because it isn’t the mic they prefer, the EQ is different, and the foam cover they assume always makes the sound muddy. It does not. All of that can be tweaked at the EQ.

I did an article months ago on Mic Shaming that describes how to try out and select a microphone at a store, assuming they will let you. If they won’t, go somewhere else. Sometimes musicians will have a selection and will let you try some if you know them. Some will try to sell you on the kind they use, but you really should try out a few without a preconceived notion hanging over you. But remember, when using someone else’s microphones, PLEASE BE CAREFUL! Don’t drop it ever. Don’t swing it by the cord. Don’t pull it off the cord while the mic is live, unless you push in the release button gently and remove gently. If it is a mic that uses Phantom Power, turn the speakers down before removing the mic from the cord or you will cause a loud POP which is bad for the speakers and the ears of those around you. Treat the speakers with great care also, they tend to cost a lot of money.

I currently use a Heil PR35 handheld mic, a Mackie ProFX8v2 mixer board, and a QSC KW122 powered speaker. I also have a Heil Fin stand mic, but rarely use it. I’m fine using other equipment as well. I chose my setup by comparing what other singers in my area use, and then balancing those choices with my own voice and budget. I am the one most responsible for how I sound at a show, so as much as possible, I want the components to be under my control. Unless there is a known competent sound tech at the board, adjust the settings to where you sound good, NOT just where you think they should be. Test it, if at all possible, or you are setting yourself up for problems.

The first two gigs I did with a band, my voice was muddy (way too much bass). The sound equipment in some venues is genuinely lousy, has been there for 40 years, and should have been retired a long time ago. But venues don’t make money by paying for new equipment and they are in it for the money. If possible, bring your own stuff and use it instead of the venue equipment. Do a real mic test after you set up and SING a song so You Know That You Know That You Know you sound good in that venue. A venue with lots of cloth on the walls, carpet, and people in the audience wearing clothing, will absorb sound. Try singing in a closet full of clothing and your voice almost disappears. Conversely, a venue with little cloth and a lot of hard surfaces will bounce the sound a LOT, perhaps too much to be viable. Tweak the volume and EQ to make your voice sound good in that particular venue.

Read about other people’s experiences online and then try it over and over again. You can learn a lot from other’s mistakes and tips, but in the end you have to actually go do it repeatedly to learn your equipment (and learn to recognize when it is failing). I had a sound board start losing a channel right before a gig, so had to switch. Happily I had an open channel left of the mixer. One gig I tried three mixers before one actually worked normally. That was a nervous set-up.

All in all, get yourself gear that you have tested and like, and get used to how it works. Learn what all the knobs and sliders do. Talk with other singers and instrumentalists. Then go do your best. Some days it just won’t go your way and you have to make the best of it. Some days, you don’t get to change the mixer because a control freak is in charge. Some days an incompetent tech will ignore your band through the show. Some days you have to use 3rd hand ancient crap equipment and end up sounding awful. Which is why, as much as you can, be in charge of how you sound and know how to sound good.