November 03, 2021
It’d be great if every gig were like the big ones –load in at 9:00 AM done by someone other than you, leisurely 11 AM sound check, lunch and a nap, and time before the gig to get in the right headspace, then walk on stage, grab instruments, and rock socks.
Sadly, they are not all that way. In fact, most are not. In many situations, the gig starts an hour after load in and you find yourself waiting at the door for a late manager who leaves you barely enough time to wire up before yelling that you’re late starting.
That’s a recipe for bad sound, lame performances, and tripping over cables. So, it’s wise to have a few tricks up your sleeve for sound checks that are just too short.
Trick number one is to make friends with the staff and managers. If you’re on great terms, you may be able to finagle a more ideal situation like an early load in sound check. Then you won’t even have to worry about rushing. Even if you only have a chance to set up the PA early, that will save you time later.
Prepare your rigs ahead of time and learn how to set up the stage quickly. The less you can mill about doing the grunt work, the more time you’ll have to suss out sound. It can be a tremendous help to this process if you know how to take up less space.
If you set up differently every time, it’s going to be slow every time. If you practice your set up and know exactly what to do, you’ll be able to get in there and jam out set up with enough time to ring out the system. So, work it all out ahead of time and do it the same way every time.
If every band member has a specific assignment beforehand, they can all hop to without standing around deciding what to do. Do your job and no one else’s then stand by to help with problems once you’re done.
On time is awesome, and every member should do that at least. But if you’re early, you can take advantage of any extra time you may be lucky enough to grab.
Once you’re wired up, you’ll want to test everyone’s signal. Do this one at a time. As any front of house sound engineer can tell you, nothing makes ringing out the PA harder than everybody up there noodling. So, wait your turn to test signal and get a basic level. While you’re at it, everyone in the band should be on stage once signal testing starts (except the one doing the testing).
Once you’re rung out, play a special sound check song, and use the same one every time. This way you won’t have to discuss what to do, and you’ll know exactly what you’re looking for every time. Use a song that uses everyone in the band and represents your sound well. But remember in a short sound check, your audience may already be trickling in or standing there waiting for you. Don’t play a song that’s in your set. That just takes the oomph out of it later.
Super short sound checks can be stressful, but if your pre-show ritual is as tight as your band (or tighter!), you should be able to relax and get it done without too much fuss. Just remember that for every minute of preparation you put in, you’ll get out that much more ease on show day. And of course, remember to have fun and stay cool!
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"Make a joyful noise unto the Lord all of the earth; make a loud noise and rejoice and sing praises. Sing to the Lord with the harp and the voice of the psalm." - Psalm 98:4-5