Tips For Setting Up Quickly On Stage

Tips For Setting Up Quickly On Stage

June 11, 2020 11 Comments

Nothing saps your energy on stage like running late and being in a rush. To boot, you can’t always get into a venue at 9AM like the big shows do and set up. So, getting your stage set up done quickly and efficiently is crucial to ongoing success as a gigging musician.

Here are some of our best tips for getting your setup done quickly and easily, so you might have a chance at a good sound check and a little break before rocking the crowd.

Get Organized Today

Spend some time on an off day to organize gear. Label cables, fix equipment, and pack gear so you know exactly where everything is. Make sure you have fresh batteries (and backups) in all your battery powered gear such as wireless receivers and pedals.

You can even go so far as to carry an inventory checklist, color code cables, or preassemble racks and pedal boards.

No matter what you do, use high quality cables and coil them properly.

Stay Organized Yesterday

An easy setup starts before the gig. In fact, it starts at the end of the previous gig. You’ll be tempted to just throw everything in a bag and get going after a long night and plenty of peer pressure to either get to the party (or bed). Fight that urge and pack up gear properly – especially cables.

Plan Ahead

If possible, visit the venue days ahead of time and get the lay of the land. Note the size and location of the stage, the parking situation, when and where you’ll be loading in, and any obstacles you may face on show day. Get to know the staff and management well enough that you can ask for their help with things like getting in the door and moving furniture.

Especially important: find out whether you’ll need to provide a P.A.

As an extra bonus, prepare a stage plot even if the venue doesn’t need one. This will help you lay things out consistently, which is faster than re-inventing the wheel every show.

Practice

Setting up gear is like any other musical skill. The more you practice, the more proficient you become. So, dedicate some rehearsal time to starting from ground zero, setting yourself up, setting up a P.A., and getting ready.

Arrive Early

Things almost never go as planned. Arrive at least a half an hour before planned load in time to get your bearings, introduce yourself (again) to the staff, and get the process started. In some cases, this will mean waiting half an hour for somebody to arrive and open the door, but that’s better than being late and looking unprofessional.

Manage Space

When you start loading in, don’t put gear directly on the stage. Find a designated area off stage for prep, and load only what you need onto the stage when you’re ready. This may be required if you’re closely following another band. In that case, you can use the between time to pre-assemble drum kits, tune guitars, and generally get as much done as possible before taking the stage.

Focus

As much as you love your entourage and those rabid fans that come three hours early, you should ignore them during setup. Be friendly, of course, but set up the expectation beforehand that when you’re setting up, you’re not available for chit-chat and beers.

While you’re at it, stay focused on your own task, rather than managing the work of your other band members. When you’re completely done with your part you should offer to help, but be sure to take direction and do what actually helps.

Load In Help

If you’ve got extra hands, use them! Minimize the number of trips you take from the car by getting multiple people to carry or using carts.

Keep Calm and Get Er Done

Finally, relax. Probably the number one reason for arriving early, not being in a rush may be your number one efficiency tool. If you’re well prepared, organized, and calm set up will run smoothly, you’ll iron out any problems quickly, and the night is very likely to go well.

Try these tips out at your next gig and let us know how it went. And for tips on keeping your stage clean and tidy, check out Streamlining Your Band’s Stage Setup. Do you have any set up tips? Let us know in the comments below.


11 Responses

Donny W
Donny W

June 19, 2020

Many years ago I went small. Got rid of the 1/2 stack and used a small 12” tube combo amp with spare tubes. I also have two guitars with me So a broken a string is an easy fix.

Guy Live
Guy Live

June 19, 2020

All good..except……..
I never let others touch gear..reason #1.
I get to next show an ..its broke…or worse..they stoped to talk an left gear..now Im at next gig .an my monitor is 1000 miles away.

Just Plain Stevie
Just Plain Stevie

June 19, 2020

is SO important! Keep the Stage Clear. Nothing is as frustrating as moving the coat, pack, or purse for the third time. And for some reason, It’s really difficult to get everyone on board with this one.

Another good practice is to have every member haul and connect everything they need for the gig. ie if you need a monitor, you haul it, and all the cables needed to connect. Every member should have a basic understanding of the PA and know where they plug their mic, instrument, monitor, or IEM in. (unless the house is running sound of course)

Raymond Woyak
Raymond Woyak

June 19, 2020

I’ve worked with a Norteno (Cumbia/Salsa) Group for over 20+ years. At the begining it was rough, un-organized and down right time consuming. I organized all the mic cables (blue) with channel #s at one end and name or instrument at the source end. Drums cables were (red) also labelled source end and snake channel #, grouped as sub-snakes left and right. All Monitor cables were (orange) line level, speaker with orange tape ends. Power Monitor cables were made into a snake with Mon #s. Front PA Speaker cables were also made into Snakes 4 x25, 4 x50 & 4 × 75ft. Labelled High, Mids & Lows. All the Carrying cases had the corresponding color and description on each. All electrical cords , power strips and adapters were in one large case. This made a 4hr load-in at the begining down to 2hr and allow time for non-stresfull sound check. Also this full organization helps the Band members learn to help with Load-in , Setup and Load-out. Other Bands are amazed at our solution for mobility. My-# 1 addition USE wheels on everything and carry your own Handtruck. Ray in AZ

Anthony
Anthony

June 19, 2020

I have two contractor tool boxes with wheels and handles, one is loaded with extension cords, the other mic cables and a few tools. They’re easy to load in and after the stage is set, the boxes can be used to elevate wedge monitors to stage level. Also, take a decent extension cord (14 gage) and replace the outlet end with a quad electrical box and 2 double outlets. These are great for guitar and keyboard players and also for powered speaker setups (sub and mains) and they last longer than power strips.

Thomas Alber
Thomas Alber

June 19, 2020

Personally like to arrive 2 hours before. After all is ready, I like a sound check to occur well before the audience is expecting the real thing. Then go quiet, have a beer, and get mentally ready to play.

Joel
Joel

June 11, 2020

It may seem obvious but having a reliable vehicle that can hold all the gear, and at least one extra non-performing member who can watch out for THEFT are important. (When I met Robert Jr. Lockwood, the first thing he asked was whether my friend was out there trying to steal his equipment.) If the drums and PA cabs fit in one car, and everything else fits in the other, fine. You don’t have to have a van. Having been in many “broke” music groups, the biggest downers were winter gigs where the defroster didn’t work (i.e. the famous line in Great White’s Once Bitten Twice Shy – “the heater’s broke and it’s oh so cold”). But driving and looking for the venue with a guitar case across your lap can be distracting enough to mess things up. ALSO – no petulant girl friends – either they’re ok with what you’re doing, or leave ’em home!

Gerald Rothaus
Gerald Rothaus

June 11, 2020

Well done! Especially about getting your stuff done first, then helping others.

John Noxon
John Noxon

June 11, 2020

May I also suggest that you check A/C power in advance ! A/C power taps can be off; worse, they can be out-of-polarity, or ungrounded. I once spent over an hour on stage changing out all of multi-keyboard cables several times due to a nasty buzz before I finally determined the problem was an ungrounded A/C socket - this despite the sound guys insistence that the A/C was all up to s’nuff ! So carry surge/hum protectors. Check yer A/C sockets, and maybe invest in a constant voltage transformer rig. - John Noxon, Roseville, CA

TommyO
TommyO

June 11, 2020

We invested in some of those IT storage tape bins for our Irish Band, the O’SHENANIGANS. One each for XLR, 1/4” cables, merchandise, and power. They are stackable, labeled and are also good as monitor stands during the gig!

Mark Bassett
Mark Bassett

June 11, 2020

Sadly needed advice. Thank you.

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