Sound Check Before The Gig – What You Need To Know.
Sound checks can be a real thorn in a keyboard players side. Unless you are the main band, you’ll probably won’t even get one. At Festivals, supporting bands will only generally get a line check. A line check is where the sound engineer quickly goes through each input with the artist to verify that the line is working properly and that the monitor is at the correct level. This process typically takes place in the presence of the audience and is worked through separately with each individual band member.
While making every band member 100% happy with the way they sound in time for the show might be impossible, here are a few tips to make your check go a lot smoother.
1. Early bird gets the worm. Get to the venue early so that you don’t have to rush your setup and sound/line check. It will stress everyone out if you don’t have enough time to problem solve and get everything right. If there are multiple bands playing that day/night, make sure to stay close to the stage. If the band before you finishes early, your band can step up and keep the ball rolling.
2. Befriend the sound guy. Rule number one, don’t call him “the sound guy.” Get his name and use it; he’s not your servant and he can make your life easier or a lot more difficult. Making some small talk before you start setting up can help you get some valuable background information about the stage setup and PA system. He is a resource that you don’t want to abuse.
3. Double check that you have all your gear. If you are missing an instrument or piece of equipment during your soundcheck that you will be using when playing live, then you risk messing up the entire mix. Make sure you have everything before you get to the venue.
4. Play like it’s the real deal. A line check is NOT the time to tune your instrument; that should have been done already. Play your instrument at full volume (imagine an audience there cheering you on). When checking electronic instruments like keyboards, samplers, tracks, etc., always send your loudest patch to the sound engineer. You do not want to line check with a soft patch and then start playing a much louder patch during your show. This will wreak havoc on your mix and could potentially damage the sound system.
5. Play together. If you do have time for a proper soundcheck, have the whole band play together after each individual band member has had their time in the “soundcheck spotlight.” What sounded good on its own might not sound as good mixed in with everyone else’s noise.
6. Don’t freak out. An empty room sounds completely different than a room packed with bodies. There’s a reason that you might sound flat or echoey when you are performing for just the sound engineer. The audience covers the large reflective surface of the floor and will absorb a lot of this sound. The sound engineer knows this and will be adjusting to compensate for the empty room during soundcheck.
7. It’s about the audience. It will always sound different to you onstage then it will to the audience. Sound from the monitors will contribute to onstage spill (meaning sound that is picked up by a microphone from an unintended source). High levels of sound on stage will make it very hard for the sound engineer to control the sound that the audience hears. Making everything very loud on stage will not improve the quality of the show for the audience. It will make it worse.
When all else fails, trust the sound engineer’s judgement. He has the experience and knows both the venue and the sound system better than you.