Whether you are in a band, are a DJ or KJ, are a sound engineer, or you rent PAs; the soundcheck is a vital moment that determines how the actual show will go. If you have an effective soundcheck, the show should be a breeze and you’ll have the time to fix any unexpected problems. If you squander your soundcheck, the show will likely be a struggle throughout. Unexpected problems at this point can bring everything to a crashing halt. So, we’ve gathered some tips and best practices from around the industry to help you make the most of your time and put you in the best position for success.
There is no substitute for being prepared. If you’re a sound engineer, research the band that you will be mixing. Find out their stage plot and what instruments they are likely to use. This will help you identify which microphones and stands to use and how many you will need before ever arriving at the venue. For everyone, take any chance to visit the venue beforehand. Arrive early, at the very least. Meet the staff you will be dealing with. Particularly, make friends with the in-house engineer if there is one. Definitely find out who knows the most about the system in the room if you’re not working on your own PA. Make sure you have a phone number for them. Get ahold of the artist, if possible. You need to know if there are any surprises. Will the entire band switch to tubas for the second set? It is better to know beforehand than be surprised at the show.
Get the PA system fired up as soon as possible. Play a song that you know very well. Tune the PA while listening to the song you know well. Some problems, like an out-of-phase midrange, can be almost impossible to identify without this step. At this point, you are looking for any problems with the signal chain. Send your music to the monitors to make sure everything is wired appropriately. Send it to the mains to check the sound in the Front of House. Send a signal through all the outboard gear you are planning to use to make sure it is all functioning properly. Get microphones wired up and placed on their stands. Knowing the stage plot of the artist helps make sure you aren’t wasting any time on this step.
Consider starting with the vocals. To the usual person coming to the show, the vocals are the show. Start with them as way to keep your entire mix focused and melded to the vocal sound. When the vocals are how you want them, leave those mics on for the rest of the soundcheck. When the performance is happening, they will be live so leaving them on now will give you a more accurate representation of what will happen during the show. Drums are a great place to go next. Have the drummer play a beat with just kick, snare and hi-hat. It is less boring for him and you than hitting each over and over one at a time. Also, the attack he uses while playing a beat will likely be much more representative of how he will be playing during the show. Next, bring in the toms and overheads and get the whole sound of the drums together. From there, it is simply a matter of going through the rest of the instruments and getting them all to slot into the mix. Have the band play a song or two to make sure your mix is full and clear.
- Label everything! Cables, monitors, channels on the mixer … in the heat of the moment there is no time to trace a cable to its source.
- It’s not a rehearsal. The soundcheck is to get the PA system ready for the show, allowing it to turn into a practice session for the artist detracts from that.
- Setup a talkback mic. Sometimes you’ll need to communicate with the artist and there is no better way than being able to direct your voice into their monitors.
- Always check the loudest volume sound each instrument will be using. These are usually lead tones, but not always.
- Aim onstage amps away from the vocal microphones. Try to position vocals mics so that they don’t point at the drums either.
Do you have any more tips that have helped you out? Let us know in the comments. Visit our website or give us a call at 877-347-6423 if you need help assembling the equipment you need to get to the next level.