Set-up/Strike testing


Senior Member
Today my band and I (a trio) are undertaking a set-up and break-down testing activity...

As a band who's usual circuit is pubs, it means our fees charged are pretty limited, so we certainly can't afford a roadie or two. Even though we use quite a bit of kit, we have to set it up ourselves, and as I'm the only technical one (the others struggle to put a lead into a foot pedal the right way around), it's usually down to me... As you can imagine as a drummer, being knackered before we take to the stage to play a gig (which can be up to 90 minutes usually) is not a big plus!

This includes all our equipment; backline amps, PA, mics and stands, stage monitors, pedals and effect units, V-drum kit (inc SPD-SX and other 'ancillaries'), lighting and lighting desk, recording equipment etc.

I used to run a video production and AV company, and I believe that planning any config benefits from being run like a military campaign. Paying attention to the smallest details (such as having every lead labelled), and planning where everything goes avoids any ambiguity, therefore allowing for far less mistakes to be made and set-up time also being kept to a minimum and done efficiently.

We will start with all our equipment packed up in the regular rehearsal room (music room in my house). Then transporting to the van from there and packing it will be timed. Unpacking and setting up at another venue will be timed next. We will probably have a short rehearsal and take some photos. Then pack it all up, load the van and return to my home and once again unload there. All the activities will be timed for duration.

This all serves a number of purposes:
  • It (hopefully) will mean I'm not the only band member who knows how it all connects and fits together.
  • It will allow us to identify (fairly) accurate timings, so we don't under-estimate how long it will take us to set up/strike at a venue (something often my band members get wrong, or question when I tell them).
  • Reduce the duration a set-up/strike takes, therefore creating efficiency.

Do any of you in bands practice doing this too or am I alone in this?


Platinum Member
Frequent gigging is all the practice we need. We've hauled in, set up, torn down and packed the van so many times it has become almost a thoughtless, automated process. Each member has his role in addition to taking care of his own instrument, and things just get done with clockwork precision. If I recall correctly, it takes approximately thirty minutes to get our four instruments and PA up and running, and I believe our record for tearing down and packing things back in the van is twenty minutes.


Staff member
as I'm the only technical one (the others struggle to put a lead into a foot pedal the right way around), it's usually down to me... As you can imagine as a drummer, being knackered before we take to the stage to play a gig (which can be up to 90 minutes usually) is not a big plus!
Ah, so I'm not the only band "mug" :(

We don't practice setup & breakdown separately as such, but we do hone our procedures on a gig by gig basis. We haul a lot of gear. We're a 5 piece band, C/W a 4 board keys setup. We pack a comprehensive lighting rig C/W full trussing, & a high quality PA (about 6K+ FOH + foldback). We have two crew who double up as roadies + sound & lighting duties respectively, & the band members jump in on humping gear around. I haul both the PA & lighting, mainly because I own it.

To save time, we pre configure & wire up the lighting trusses according to each venue in advance. The fully assembled horizontals are transported in suspended cradles, so all we have to do is attach the uprights & link in primary DMX + mains. For new gigs, I get measurements sent to me so we don't arrive with the wrong stuff.

Depending on the venue, setup takes about 2 hours including sound check. Break down a little over 1 hour. & yes, I do way more than my fair share!!!!!!!!

A typical pub setup



"Uncle Larry"
Speaking only for myself and others I know, no we never practiced setting up/tearing down. I like to arrive at the gig 1 hour before. We travel light though, not like Andy. My trio doesn't even set up monitors. My 6 piece band takes a little longer, because we have monitors and just more stuff.

My personal sign of success is when I can have someone load in, set up, tear down, and load out while I bask in the glow of the gig. Yea that hasn't happened yet.


Platinum Member
It is important for everyone in the band to know how to transport quickly and efficiently.
Gigs go much smoother when everyone packs and transports properly.
It is a good idea to practice it and discuss transport issues to resolve them.
We have a system with all of the bands that I play with. We adhere to it and we are all happier for it.

Club owners and workers like a band that sets up quickly without disrupting the club.
They also like a band who gets out quickly at the end of the night.
They want to go home too.


Senior Member
I'm in the same boat. I own/run the PA and the lights. I have to get to the venue, set up my 6 piece/7 cymbal kit AND the PA (mixer, 3 monitors, 2 mains, no subs right now) AND lighting. We just started gigging where we have to provide our own PA and it's time consuming. Takes MUCH longer to set up and break down than I'd like. When showtime is at 9pm, we're there before 7 and take about 90 minutes to set up and soundcheck. A lot of that is due to inexperience with running a PA. Cables are labeled but I've got to mes with the EQ and all. Hard to do from behind a drumkit.

Breakdown is maybe 40 minutes but that's too long.....especially considering we get home at 3am and I have to be at work at 5:30am!

AND I pray it's not raining on gig day. I own a Ford Escape and can fit my drumkit and a few accessory totes in the passenger seat. 2 guys have small cars and they can't fit anything but their guitars and maybe amp heads. One guy has a pickup with no camper shell so if it rains, we have to drop my kit off and make 2 additional trips. Fortunately most gigs are within 30 minutes of our home base.


Glad to see I am not the only one with a technologicly incomitant band. The bassist is the only other one in the band with evena clue how this stuff works, but seeing as he lives and hour away almost, he is hardly ever there for setup. Thankfully the other two are just fine with moving things around where I tell them too and then I take care of wires. This is also the reason I play a 4 peice with HH, crash and ride when I have to do PA work...


Platinum Member
I haven't ever played with anyone who isn't competent with their own gear set up (if I read that right, people can't set their own gear up?).

I can basically set up/take down a PA myself, connecting speakers/mics/monitors etc...,but, none of the gigs we do require us to bring one. RUNNING one is a different story.

If players live farther away, it only seems logical that they leave their home/job and get to the venue in time to set their own gear up. That's what I have to do, so I don't see what the big problem is for others to do the same.

If you want to play in a band, it's a good idea to be as self contained as possible IMO.

I have a rug with everything marked, and memory locks on all my stands, ft legs.
My set up on stage takes 5 minutes at the most, the taking out of the cases, & putting it together to get it on stage takes 15 minutes taking my time. Taking it off the stage time depends on who is in my way :)

Trip McNealy

Gold Member
Taking it off the stage time depends on who is in my way :)
Haha, so very true. It always happens that getting to the gig and setting up you have no one in the way but when you're tired and just wanting to get the stuff back in the car, there's always SOMEONE in the path towards the door and never moves!