Front of House (FOH) Engineer

  • Front of House Engineer

More than any other person, the FOH engineer controls what the audience hears during a live performance. His or her primary concern is to ensure superior sound quality within the venue. To do that, the engineer must blend together instruments and vocals to achieve a perfectly balanced sound. In essence, the engineer behind the audio console is like a member of the band—and just as important to the audience’s perception. Without the proper mix from the soundboard, the work of the musicians on stage is wasted. 


In a touring environment, the FOH engineer is ultimately in charge of all audio equipment and supervises a crew of technicians through load-in, sound check, performance, and load-out. He or she is considered the head audio tech, overseeing the monitor engineer, microphone techs, instrument techs, and assistants. He or she is responsible to the band and tour manager for the proper operation, maintenance, and repair of all audio gear. In the absence of an audio designer it will be the job of the FOH engineer to design the placement of speakers, amps, and microphones and to specify the brands and models of equipment.

During the performance, the FOH engineer is located in front of the stage, usually in the middle of the audience. With the use of a mixing console like a Yamaha PM5D or Midas PRO6, the engineer will adjust the gain, timbre, and dynamics of incoming audio signals. Each is manipulated independently through the console, controlling the output of each vocalist and instrument to the audience speaker arrays. This is an active process throughout the entire performance. As long as the band is playing, the FOH engineer is mixing. 

Skills & Education

Audio engineering is as much an art as it is a science. You must have an amazing ear for music as well as a firm grasp of the technology used to control and manipulate sound. To train your ear, study music history, theory, and appreciation. A formal degree is not a requirement to pursue this career path, but a hands-on education in the use and maintenance of analog and digital consoles, speakers, amplifiers, effects hardware and software, microphones, and audio measurement systems is imperative. A familiarity with musical instruments is helpful. Training as an assistant under an engineer is a great way to understand the basics and start developing your skills. Education in the principles of electricity, the physics of sound, and mathematics are also beneficial to a career as an FOH engineer. 

What to Expect

As an FOH engineer, you will collaborate closely with the artists to determine the sound the band wants for their performance. Constant communication and feedback must be maintained to continue to perfect the show. Since you will lead the audio crew through the tour, you must be an effective and confident leader who knows every inch of your gear and can delegate responsibility. Expect to spend long hours maintaining and fixing gear, as conditions on the road are rough on delicate electronics. Constantly honing your skills and staying current with new technology are a must.

The road is also rough on people. You must have a thick skin, be able to function professionally on your worst day, and live in close quarters with the rest of the crew. Privacy and “me time” is nonexistent on tour. Most importantly, you have to be flexible, resourceful, and able to manage a crisis when your gear gets fried in a freak lightning strike. A calm and soothing presence is a highly desirable asset in an FOH engineer. 


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