So you’re at the big gig; you have your instruments on stage, hooked up and ready to go. You’re expecting big things to happen as the soundman gets behind the board, then suddenly everything goes to hell. Three hours later you’re done with sound check and the sound man isn’t talking to you anymore. Why would he? You and your band just made his day a living hell by not knowing your “Sound Check Etiquette.”
A Few Guidelines
More Helpful Hints
- Get to your gig on time and sober, with all your gear.
- Have a representative for the band to coordinate with the sound guy; They will let him know what you need and find out where you should set up. This person can then come back and brief the band.
- Get your instrument out, tuned up and ready to go, which should take ten minutes tops. If soundcheck is at 3:00 pm, you need to be setting up no later than 2:45 pm.
- When it’s time for the soundcheck, be quiet! Wait for the soundman to tell you what he needs from you to set levels.
- Don’t play while he is talking to someone else.
- Be attentive and watch him.
- Ask for direction, such as, “What would you like me to do now?”
- Ask to play through a song or two. Don’t play the whole song, this isn’t practice! Keep in mind; a good sound check should take less than 30 minutes.
- When you’re finished, work out any signals you may need during the show to tell him if something needs to be changed, and remember to thank him for his time.
- If something isn’t right during the show,try to get through the first set and then politely ask him during the break if he can fix the problem or has any suggestions.
If you would like to be really professional, make a stage plot and get this to the soundman several days before the gig. A stage plot consists of a list with all of your instruments that require a mic, direct mic line or direct box, and all vocal mikes. It also includes the placement of monitors, amplifiers, keyboard rigs, drums and percussion. Don’t forget the horn section! Lay it out like an overhead view of the stage and label everything the best that you can. Try to make it look good, and be sure to include your band’s name and contact information. A list of all the instrument inputs is also good to include and can make setup easier for the soundman before you get to the venue.
Time to Review
Three to five days before the gig, call the soundman and find out the load-in schedule and anything else you might need to know about the gig – directions, load-in info, etc. On the day of the show, arrive slightly sooner than the arranged time to load-in. Be sure to talk to the sound guy about what needs to be done. Since everyone is early, talk for a few minutes, look over the load-in area, and then load-in. Allow yourself about an hour to carry in your gear for a normal band, and a halfhour to one hour to set up before sound check. Get your instruments out and tuned, and power everything up to allow the electronics to warm up before playing. Then tell the others you are going to check out your gain settings and play your instrument for a minute or two, checking out the loud and soft settings. Make sure you’re loud enough for your bandmates to hear, but not too loud. Have each player play separately for now, not all at once. When you’re done, put your instrument down and take a break or help someone else. Wait until sound check starts and the sound man tells you to play or check mic levels. When you and the soundman have agreed that the levels in the monitors are ok, then get the band to play a song or two, really half a song or less. Ideally, play part of both your loudest and softest songs. This will establish good levels in the monitor system so you can hear yourself during the performance, but not be so loud as to ruin the overall mix.
When you finish, if you did of the sound check professionally, were ready on time and the soundman had the monitors set up correctly, it should have taken a half-hour to 45 minutes in all. Take a well deserved break, thank your soundman for all of his help, and hang out until the show.
Have fun out there. Play hard and play nice!