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Audio engineer puts it all down in book

August 11, 1997

By VANDANA SINHA

Staff Writer

For a man who could play the piano before he could talk, set up audio equipment for a musical performance in about 20 minutes and design dozens of portable and in-house electronic audio systems, writing a book seemed the next logical step, he said.

Mike Sokol, a Hagerstown audio engineer, delved into his 30-year music and computer background and wrote his first book published last week, targeting his technical information toward musicians and fellow audio engineers.

He has written more than 250 magazine columns worldwide in the past 10 years and designed and built several computerized sound systems, including the one permanently installed in Hagerstown Junior College's Kepler Theater.

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Sokol, 43, said he decided three years ago to write this book, titled "The Acoustic Musician's Guide to Sound Reinforcement & Live Recording," after hearing local musicians' horror stories about working with audio engineers - the people who design, build, set up and test technical equipment.

"Everything I'm doing seemed to be so simple, but apparently it's not universal," said Sokol, as he stooped over to connect a wire from an electronic mixer to a nearby amplifier 15 minutes before the Aug. 1 TGIF Lunch Special acoustic performance.

As a one-man team, he has transformed the Maryland Theatre courtyard each Friday since May into a stage with his own array of amplifiers, microphones, speakers and three plastic bins full of wires representing almost every color of the rainbow.

"A lot of musicians complimented me that their sound is the best sound they ever had. It really shocked me," Sokol said.

He added that his book stresses good working relationships between musicians and audio engineers - two roles he knows well after playing "really, really loud rock `n' roll" in his own band more than 20 years ago.

"Remember, if you sound good, it's because of the musicians and if you sound bad, it's because of the audio engineer, right? I know all about that," he joked to the two local musicians scheduled to play one Friday at the Maryland Theatre courtyard.

Sokol said everything he knows is self-learned. "I read voraciously and I experiment," he said. "Everything you could possibly want to know is in a book somewhere."

Another writer to make that statement a reality, Sokol said his book may be used as a college textbook for a technical theater class, telling how to set up monitors, select microphones and understand all acoustic equipment.

"That would be kind of cool. I'm going to have to give copies to my old teachers," he said with a laugh.

"I'm really happy for him. He's really worked hard for this," said Sokol's wife, Linda, 37, who calls her husband an innovator. He simply adds educator and problem solver to that list.

Sokol will answer readers' questions at a "Meet the Author" party Tuesday from 4 to 6 p.m. at The Guitar Room on Potomac Street. About 100 copies already sold, the book is now available for sale over the Internet and at select area music stores.

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