Be the Best Sound Guy Ever! – Sound Check Simplified

We’ve had enough of instructing the band what to do; it’s time for us sound engineers to a check on if we’re doing our job. The tips below are as elaborate as my other posts you’d know what I’m talking about.

1. Make a check list of things you need at a gig. You can keep adding items at every gig until you have an exhaustive list! Some of the things I carry to my gigs are:
a) Test CD – A CD compilation of songs you are very familiar with, so that you can test the PA before the gig and figure out what has to be tweaked and changed.
b) Headphones – This little piece of gear is very helpful if you are doing a mix that is also being recorded.
c) Write-On/ Marking Tape – Label the board during the sound check so that you can identify channels. This is very helpful when you are working with a totally new board.
d) Marker – To write on the tape
e) Assorted Converters and Adapter Cables  Some examples are Dual RCA to Dual TS jack, TRS toMale XLR, TRS to Female XLR, EP to XLR, EP to Dual RCA, Male XLR to TS, and RCA to TS converters. These are life savers and totally worth carrying around the heavy bulk.
f) Screwdriver Set
g) Wire Stripper
h) Nose Pliers or Regular Pliers
i) Distance Meter or Measuring Tape – In situations where you have to set delay speakers.
j) Torch – Inevitable, specially when you have a board without a desk light.
k) Assorted Music CD’s or Ipod – This helps at delayed shows where the audience is getting restless.
l) Ear Plugs – Trust me on this one! It comes handy when you have to do a gig out of no choice.

2. Try and meet the band before a gig. Or get in touch with them a day before the gig and get a CD of their songs to give you an idea of how you are expected to make the band sound like, just a reference. Try to understand the band, and each instrument’s importance and impact.

3. Avoid going exhausted for a gig. This can take you a long way in terms of quality. Avoid sleepless nights before the gig. 

4. Be polite to the band. It is the same behavior you expect from them. Put in an extra effort to be polite to the members in their rockstar attires and airs. Once they see you calm, they will drop the attitude by miles.

5. Create a pattern for your sound check. Make your own rules for sound check and follow them at all your gigs, so that you don’t miss out on anything. I usually follow this order:

  • Check the system first with your own music, tweak if required
  • Drums – Kick, snare, hi-hats, toms, cymbals and then complete kit
  • Basses
  • Guitars
  • Keyboards
  • Other instruments
  • Only Instruments
  • Vocals
  • The whole band.

At the end, I know I haven’t missed out anything.

6. Do quick set ups. Be prepared before the band arrives. Give yourself at least a relaxed 30 to 45 minutes, for which you have to arrive before the band and do your system check in peace without anyone hurrying you into sound check. After the band arrives, they will insist on a sound check, or the venue/event manager will not give you time to run a system check in peace.

7. System Check. This is not always possible as not all rental guys will allow you to tweak the PA. Depending on the time available and your rapport with the rental owners and technicians, try to get a chance to check the PA. Run your CD and see of the sound is as it is meant to be – this is the quickest check you can do. If you have an RTA or Smaart Live, of course with all its flaws, nothing like it!

8. Tweak your Monitors. Don’t forget to ring the Monitors out. This is a crucial step. The volume of all stage monitors will contribute to undesired feedback. However, make sure you do not tweak the stage monitors to sound smooth unlike the PA, you’re asking for trouble. EQ it for feed back, but don’t make it smooth. This could make the band ask you for more volume on the monitors (who doesn’t want their volume up when they sound good! Keep it harsh to an extent so that they ask for only as much as they need.

9. Avoid too much Compression. Reduce the gain if required. It will sound cleaner with less gain and less compression than with a lot of gain with lot of compression. Too much compression will make the artist play louder than required because they wont hear themselves right on the monitors and they won’t hear the essential dynamic changes, this tends to spoiling the mix on and off the stage.

These are just a few things I could recall while writing this post. If you have more suggestions, please do post them in the comments section. It will help other readers, and me as well. And if you want anything elaborated, please get in touch, mail me or post in comments and leave your email address.

2 thoughts on “Be the Best Sound Guy Ever! – Sound Check Simplified

  1. official site says:

    I swim regularly so use ear plugs all the time. My longest lasting pair were custom molded from a kit, they are far better than standard earplugs and don’t seem to wear out. It’s much cheaper than having your ear plugs molded by an audiologist; I’d suggest them to anybody who uses them often.

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