Too many bands botch their live show because of bad sound, feedback, and failing equipment. Making sure you have the best sound possible for your live show and a good working rhetoric with the sound engineer is imperative if you want to leave your audience wanting more. To help you to optimize your soundcheck here are a few key points to keep in mind.
Don't Be Late!
Be sure to have sent the venue a Tech Rider in advance so that they have the right equipment at the venue and so that the sound engineer has an idea of what to expect. Get to the venue early for your soundcheck. Don't be late. A soundcheck under time pressure is stressful and you may not get the sound you really want if you and your sound engineer are in a rush. Remember setting up microphones, instruments and equipment takes up more time than you may think and you can always count on running into technical difficulties such as broken cables or mics, and strange buzzes or radio frequencies in the monitors.
Meet The Sound Engineer Personally
Formally meet and speak with the sound engineer about what kind of music you are playing, your instrumentation and set up and any specific requirements you may have. Don't be a stranger to the sound engineer and be sure they know that you are serious about getting an excellent sound on stage and in the room. During the soundcheck when the engineer is getting levels for each instrument individually DO NOT play an instrument other then what the sound engineer asks for. DO NOT break into a song until the sound engineer asks you to do so. Listen carefully and let the sound engineer find the levels for each individual instrument one at a time. If it's not your instrument or microphone being checked than just keep quiet until it's your turn.
Checking Vocal Microphones
Don't tap microphones with your hand to check if they are working because microphones are sensitive and you could damage them. I always bring my own vocal microphone to my concerts to be certain I have a good vocal sound if the venue doesn't have a decent vocal mic or if their vocal mic got broken the night before. In any case a venues vocal mics are used by many singers and I'm pretty sure they don't get sanitized after each show so it can even be more hygenic to bring your own vocal mic.
What You Want To Hear in Your Monitors and the Room
Perform a fully dynamic range of songs from your set list during soundcheck. Play the loudest and the quietest of the songs in your set. Try your best to perform at your full power and intensity even if it feels awkward with no audience. Do not JAM! Only play what is in your setlist to check the levels for those songs because the clock is ticking, the doors will be opening, and it is better not to be making a soundcheck when the audience already arriving. Ask for what you need to hear in your monitors. Don't expect bass frequencies to stand out in your monitors, mostly you will be hearing mid range and treble which you can use for hearing the articulation of your voice and/or instrument. Monitors begin to feedback if the bass is pushed to high, remember the sound in the room is different than it is on stage and the bass and overall fullness of sound will be more present in the room. When people fill the room the sound will be absorbed by their bodies so try to find your peak loudness level with out feeding back during soundcheck.
Effects and Volume
If you don't want to be thrown off balance during your show be sure to tell the sound engineer not to ride your volume during songs and not to play around with effects and reverbs while you are performing. Unless it is planned as a part of the performance it is really strange to hear shifting reverbs and effects such as flanger or chorus coming in and out of a song during a performance. Don't let the sound engineer play around just for fun with effects on your sound during a live show.
If you don't succeed in getting a good sound during your soundcheck don't freak out, sometimes a room just won't sound good until it is full of people. Every stage will have a totally different sound with a unique range of problems. Don't take the risk of sounding bad during your show. Take the time to troubleshoot and get it right during soundcheck and you won't regret it.
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