Running sound check before a concert is one of the most important pre-performance rituals for a band and concert promoter. For one, it allows the band to warm up and learn about the stage and venue before a show. In addition, it helps the sound crew learn about the band's audio needs and find the right equipment for the show. Sound check is even more important if you're running a concert with multiple bands, as each band has their own audio needs and equipment to set up. Stage hands will also need to learn the band lineup and how to change one band's equipment for another's in a seamless, efficient manner. Overall, the sound check serves as a rehearsal for the big event.
For the most part, as a concert promoter, you will likely not be behind the mixer controlling sound for the band: either a professional you hire will work for the band and with the venue, the venue will provide their own audio technicians, or both parties will work together. However, it's important to know what goes on during sound check, especially if you're called in to solve a problem and find a solution.
Preparing for a Sound Check
But before the band arrives, you should get in contact with the venue to get specifics on their sound system and equipment. Key questions to ask include:
- What is the basic set up of the sound booth and its capacity (how many input lines, mixing boards, amps and monitors can it safety use)?
- Does the venue provide a backline, and if so, what does it include (drums, a direct box, etc.)?
- Is the system capable of additional loads required for the performance (such as extra lighting you bring, recording equipment, stage props, etc.)?
Your own sound technician and the venue's sound crew might also ask for specific information, such as:
- an input list and stage plan
- a rough draft or final version of the set list
- an inventory of all equipment (musical instruments, XLR cables, microphones and mic stands, etc.)
- any special instructions/requests for the instruments
- whether or not you will be recording the performance, and if so, what equipment/crew you'll be bringing or need
All this information can help your own sound engineer and the venue's in-house sound engineer be prepared for your event, but it will vary with every band or performance.
How a Sound Check Works
A sound check is pretty simple from a logistical viewpoint: after arriving at the venue with their musical equipment and crew, the band will be asked to do a sound check. This typically happens a few hours before the concert time, and can take as much as an hour or more. The sound check will also happen once the stage is ready for the band.
When it comes to the actual sound check, the band sets up their instruments, amps, and mics. Your sound technician and the venue's engineer will usually work together during the sound check. Whoever is running the mixer will ask for vocalists to sing into the mics. The technician will then control the volume, frequency, bass, and other audio elements to make sure that the vocals are clear and don't receive any feedback. Once every mic is checked, the technician will check the sound from the instruments. He or she will ask the performers individually to play simple lines or beats, from high notes to low notes. Once every instrument is checked, the technician will ask for everyone to perform together.
During the entire sound check, everyone is receiving feedback from each other. Musicians will share how things sound on stage, and the engineer will make sure the sound is good from an audience standpoint. Other stage hands will make adjustments according to the technician's input, such as placing a microphone in a different location, or turning an amp in a better angle. Both the technician and stage crew will be making notes and pre-setting mixer controls to make sure everything sounds okay.
Once the band is done, the stage will reset or change for the next band.
Overall, a sound check involves a lot of detail and attention in order for the actual performance to run smoothly. As the concert performer, it's your job to make sure that your band and crew are prepared for the venue's sound system. You also need to make sure the band arrives on time for their sound check. You'll also need to be sure that everyone is prepared and in the right place during a sound check. By scheduling and planning a sound check in advance, you can avoid sound disasters the day of the event.
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