Some Simple Sound Check Pointers – for the First time Sound Engineer
We created this for a recent sound training course we ran at a church in Cheltenham. We thought that other people may benefit from some of the tips here, please read and implement into your own practice.
- Get as much as possible ready in advance of the band arriving.
Time with the band will be at a premium; so get as much kit as possible set up and working before the band arrives.
- Set up the desk where you get a good idea of the general Front-of-House sound
If you are setting up a mobile system position the desk somewhere that gives a good overall impression of what the congregation is going to hear.
- Keep the set up tidy.
Make sure that you don’t set up a “rat’s nest” of cables. Not only will that make it difficult to diagnose problems but it will also cause a health & safety risk on stage.
- Make it easy to identify the various channels
Set up your channels in a logical fashion and colour code cables wherever possible; ideally so that the colours can be seen from the sound desk
- It’s a Sound Check not a Rehearsal
A sound check is the time to get the technical things right not a time for musicians to rehearse; this should be done at a different time.
- The Sound Engineer is in charge
Impose discipline into the event.. It’s up to the engineer to get the sound right; so all musicians should respect that it’s the engineer who calls the shots during sound check. This is the one opportunity for the engineer to get it right so make the most of it! Agree this up front.
- Start Time = Ready-to-play time
Agree a “start time” with the band & insist that this means “be ready to start playing at the agreed time” not arrive at that time. That means instruments set up, ready and tuned. The engineer should also be set up and ready to start setting levels at the same time.
- Musicians’ discipline – remain quiet unless you ask them to play
Ensure that musicians don’t fiddle with their instruments & they remain silent unless you ask them to play. Then you can get on with your tasks without distraction
It’s purpose is to balance the monitors for the Musicians and set Front-of-House mix
The first task should be to set the monitor volumes so that the musicians can hear themselves adequately. Then the Front-of-House (F-o-H) mix should be set up.
- Confirm channels – Get musicians & singers to “play” a short solo
Early on confirm which mixer channel is being used by each individual musician. To do this get each musician to play a short solo
- Set input levels – Use a “loud” piece of music with all musicians involved
The first issue for the engineer is to make sure that the signal levels don’t go into distortion on loud pieces. So, to set input levels, get the band to play a piece that is loud, that all musicians know well and where all musicians take part.
- Set up Foldback levels
Set up initial foldback levels for each musician so that they can hear themselves adequately without drowning out everyone else.
- Keep monitor levels as low as possible
F-o-H signals should be the dominant sound heard by the congregation but they may also be able to hear the monitor signals. So, keep monitor levels as low as possible so that they don’t “muddy” the F-o-H quality.
- Set up F-o-H mix
Once you’ve set up the initial foldback levels set up the F-o-H mix. I find it helpful to do this without looking at the band. Just concentrate on the sound they are making.
- Recheck that all band members are happy with their foldback
Having introduced the F-o-H sound what the musicians hear will be different to the initial foldback levels so may need some adjustment. This may involve some degree of compromise as the number of foldback channels is not unlimited.
- Encourage musicians to listen to more than just themselves
Musicians tend to just listen for themselves in the monitor. However, try to get them to develop the technique of listening to each member of the band as well. That way they’ll help each other by getting a feel for what others are playing and hearing.
- Get musicians to tell the engineer the problem not the solution
Musicians tend to say “can I have more of …” But get them to explain what their problem is so that you can adopt the best technical solution, which may be to turn others down!
It may sound strange to the musicians
- Get band members to understand that they don’t hear what F-o-H hears. So they should not worry if they feel the overall sound isn’t right. The F-o-H sound will sound very different. The engineer is in the best position to assess F-o-H and it’s the engineer’s job to get that right.
- Once set up it should take less than ¼ hour
Assuming there are no technical hitches (which of course sometimes there are) a sound check for a small band should take no more than ¼ hour.
- Thank band members for their cooperation and close it down.
Make it very clear to the musicians when you have completed the sound check. That way they will know that they can then move on to the next stage of their preparation for the event.
We are more than happy for you to use this information and can provide a printer friendly version if you require. However whenever you use this The Production Works should always be credited.
Written by David Smith and Updated by Rowan Burton
Copyright © The Production Works 2015