This is your time to get things right, probably the only time you’ll have to determine what the band are doing. So take control and use the time wisely.
Before the band arrives
Initial Set up
• Make all the connections before you turn on the system
• Set up the mic’s and the other cabling where you think the band will need them
• Use default standard connections if you have them
• Feed inputs into the desk in a logical order
• This can be a standard layout; bass drum left, rest of drums then other instruments, then vocals; or mirror the layout of the band
• Use inputs for vocalists that mirror where the vocalists stand
• If vocalists tend to hold their mic this is OK – label desk with singer’s name
• If vocalists tend to swap mic’s, colour code mics with tape so that the colour is visible from desk; label the channel with the appropriate colour
• Mute all input channels on desk
• Set all faders to zero
• Ensure that all power amplifier controls (to F.o.H. and fold-back) are set to minimum
• Turn on the system in the following order to avoid damaging equipment
• Instruments and other input devices first
• Mixing desk next
• Then finally power amplifiers to F.o.H., Fold-back and Loop Amplifier
• Select an appropriate Pre-Fade Aux out to feed fold-back amplifier(s)
• Set all Equalisation controls to mid position
• Set all pan-pots to mid position
Check connectivity and main units are working
• Play an MP3 track to ensure that F-o-H, the fold-back (if present), and the loop amplifier are all working effectively – don’t worry about levels at this time; just confirm a signal is present
• Check all mic’s are working – test one by one; two people are really helpful here
• Check instruments are working if they are available
Set Nominal F.o.H. Level (Volume)
• Play a CD (ensue that CD channel is correctly routed to F.o.H.)
• Adjust input sensitivity (if there is one) for nominal signal level from CD player into desk
• Set CD channel fader to “0”
• Set F.o.H. faders to “0”
• Adjust F.o.H. amplifier to a suitable setting to give maximum expected volume required
Set Nominal Fold-back Level (Volume)
• Play a CD
• Set CD channel fader to minimum
• Set appropriate CD channel Pre-Fade Aux Out (to Fold-back) gain control to “0”
• Set overall Pre-Fade Aux Out gain control (to fold-back) to “0”
• Adjust gain of Fold-back amplifier(s) to a suitable setting to give maximum expected volume required in the fold-back speakers
Set up Induction Loop
• Play a CD
• Set CD channel fader to minimum
• Set appropriate CD channel Post-Fade Aux Out (to Loop Amplifier) gain control to “0”
• Set overall Post Fade Aux Out (to Loop Amplifier) gain control to “0”
• Increase the CD channel fader to “0”
• Monitor the led indicators on the loop amplifier
• Adjust Loop amplifier input level and drive controls (usually this is done via a screwdriver adjustment on the loop amplifier) until the signal registers (typically green / amber) but is not regularly overloading (into the red)
• Monitor the level of the appropriate overall Aux Out level with PFL
• Check functioning of the loop across all reception areas within the loop with a loop tester if you have one
Set up Graphic Equaliser (if present)
The purpose of the graphic equaliser is to balance out unwanted effects of the room acoustics
• Set F.o.H. Faders to minimum
• Set all Graphic Equaliser gain controls to 0dB
• Open up all mic channels
• Set all mic channels input sensitivity controls to a medium level
• Set all mic channels EQ settings to mid range with Gains set to 0dB
• Set all mic channels pan controls to centre
• Set all mic channel faders to “0”
• Increase F.o.H. Faders until the system begins to exhibit feedback
• Try to identify the frequency at which the system is “ringing”
• Adjust Graphic Equaliser controls until the ringing stops (or is reduced)
• Increase F.o.H. Faders until the system begins to exhibit feedback again
• Repeat the process of adjusting Graphic Equaliser settings until the system is stable
• Once the graphic equaliser has been adjusted correctly you should not need to alter these settings again unless the room characteristics change significantly. Note that room characteristics will change depending upon how many people are in the room.
Set up Mixing Desk basics
• Set channels into appropriate groups, speech, instruments, vocals, drums etc
• Mark up the white strip with names or instruments that are using each channel and each group
• If you are able to leave your system set up then you may be able to leave it set in the default position – if you can this is really helpful
Once the band has arrived
Set mixing desk input sensitivity levels
• Get the band to play something where all band members play/sing at maximum volume.
• Channel by channel press the PFL button to feed that channel to the LED indicators.
• Ensure you know which input channel is fed from which band member / instrument.
• Adjust the input sensitivity level of each channel so that amber lights flash but not the red. (Occasionally flashing red is OK)
• From then on leave the sensitivity controls as they are unless there is obvious significant change in signal level on a specific channel. If this happens use the PFL to adjust the input sensitivity as above.
• Ensure singers use mic’s correctly; they are often reluctant to; with dynamic mic’s they need to be close up to the mic
Set the Equalisation
• In order to get the right sound from a particular channel it may be necessary to adjust the equalisation.
• Do this just by ear until each channel sounds right.
• If you are not able to discern this then I suggest you leave the EQ settings at mid range.
Set the PAN Controls
• If you want a stereo mix, adjust the appropriate PAN controls. But note that this will give quite different sounds in different parts of the room.
Set Actual Fold-back levels
• Always try to get the musicians to accept the lowest volume fold-back possible. The louder the fold-back the more likely it is to be heard by the congregation. If this happens it will “muddy” the sound from the F-o-H speakers which is really what you want the congregation to hear. In the worst case very high fold-back levels can dominate F.o.H.
• Use a PRE-FADE Aux out to feed the fold-back – this make the fold-back volume independent of F.o.H. volume
• Set each fold-back overall output gain control to a nominal “0” level
• Monitor each channel via the headphones and PFL switch (just so that you know which channel you are dealing with at any one time).
• Adjust the relevant Aux Out (Fold-back) gain control on each channel so that the musician/singer is happy with the volume of themselves in their fold-back monitor
• Having set the level for each fold-back channel adjust the overall output control to suite the musicians. At this point you may need to adjust the volume control on the main fold-back amplifier unit.
• Finally check that all band members are happy with their sound in the fold-back. You may need to repeat the above steps several times until all band members are happy with their fold-back.
Set / Check induction loop
• In general I don’t feed live music from the band into the loop as it tends to sound quite “muddy”. I only feed speech and music from a CD or Tape into the loop. However, you may choose to feed all signals into the loop if you wish.
• Set the appropriate Aux Out gain control for each voice (speech) channel to “0” . This (in conjunction with the channel fader) determines the amount of signal from each individual channel feeding into the loop.
• Ensure that the overall Post Fade Aux Out (to Loop Amplifier) gain control is set to “0”
• Monitor the led indicators on the loop amplifier
• Assuming you’ve adjusted the Loop amplifier nominal input level before the band & speakers arrived, you should not need to adjust the level into the loop amplifier again. However, if you do find you need to, do this by adjusting the overall Post Fade Aux Out (to Loop Amplifier) gain control until the signal registers (typically green / amber) but is not regularly overloading (into the red) on the loop amplifier.
• Once the loop amplifier has been adjusted correctly for the event you should not need to alter these settings again.
Finally Set Front of House
Having set up the band, the loop and the graphic equaliser you can now set the F-o-H levels.
• Un-mute each of the channels you want in the mix
• If you have set up groups, set all group faders to “0”
• Bring up the fader for each channel in the mix until what you hear from the F-o-H sounds a good balanced mix.
• Adjust the group faders until you get the overall sound to be what you want.
• Try to ensure that each singer/instrument can be heard clearly. During the sound check move around the auditorium so that you hear what F-o-H sounds like at different positions.
• You may need to adjust the balance between the channels as the programme varies from loud to quiet pieces of music and between speakers.
• You may find that certain instruments particularly drums, brass, woodwind and violins produce so much sound that they can be heard without the use of a PA system. This is a really difficult problem in a relatively small auditorium. The best that you can do is to work closely with the musicians, explaining the problem to them, and ask them to be sensitive to the level they play at so they don’t drown out the other musicians feeding through the PA system.
• I often monitor the sound without looking at the band. This way I just use my ears to hear what the overall sound is like with being confused by what I’m seeing.
• That completes the sound-check and you are now ready to start the performance.
Written by David Smith and Updated by Rowan Burton
Copyright © The Production Works 2015