Sound checks

Aeolian

Platinum Member
As someone who used to have a live sound company, if I've never heard you before, I want to hear how loud each thing is going to get. So the first order of business is a basic line check and input trim setting. There are some idiots out there who put all the faders at zero and mix from the input trims, but nobody who understands gain staging does this. Once that is done and I know everything is ready to mix, I may try to tweak some channels, setting eq, compression or gating. While leaving enough time (except in festivals where it's hit it on the fly) to run though a couple minutes of playing together to get the basic mix, see what's colliding with what and separate it. Maybe that deep fat 14x8 snare you have is colliding with the chuaka-chucka of the guitarists 4-12 stack, and he doesn't have the best time in the world. So one of the two of you is going to lose some bottom end so it doesn't sound like a 200Hz flam all the time. Most of those things happen after the basic mix and often during the first song.

What kills me is when people tap things lightly, and then when the downbeat hits, are blowing every channel into clipping. I usually make some judgement call if I think this is going to happen and leave some headroom. But you never know when someone will just turn up, or the guitarist steps on what soundfolks call the "pedal of doom".
 

AZslim

Senior Member
As someone who used to have a live sound company, if I've never heard you before, I want to hear how loud each thing is going to get. So the first order of business is a basic line check and input trim setting. There are some idiots out there who put all the faders at zero and mix from the input trims, but nobody who understands gain staging does this. Once that is done and I know everything is ready to mix, I may try to tweak some channels, setting eq, compression or gating. While leaving enough time (except in festivals where it's hit it on the fly) to run though a couple minutes of playing together to get the basic mix, see what's colliding with what and separate it. Maybe that deep fat 14x8 snare you have is colliding with the chuaka-chucka of the guitarists 4-12 stack, and he doesn't have the best time in the world. So one of the two of you is going to lose some bottom end so it doesn't sound like a 200Hz flam all the time. Most of those things happen after the basic mix and often during the first song.

What kills me is when people tap things lightly, and then when the downbeat hits, are blowing every channel into clipping. I usually make some judgement call if I think this is going to happen and leave some headroom. But you never know when someone will just turn up, or the guitarist steps on what soundfolks call the "pedal of doom".
What do you like the band to do for the sound check? I'm guessing a little of the loudest song and a little of the softest song, letting you know this?
 

Aeolian

Platinum Member
What do you like the band to do for the sound check? I'm guessing a little of the loudest song and a little of the softest song, letting you know this?
I don't really care about a soft song. It's easy to ease things up if the crowd isn't listing and won't shut up. It's the frantic yanking things down that you want to avoid. The initial distorted blast, and subsequent bottom dropping out sounds really unprofessional. Most of all I want to get your messiest song, where everyone is playing at once. A good soundman can carve out sonic spaces for each instrument with some judicious eq if the band isn't well arranged with such sonic conflicts avoided. And it helps to get a sense of how much people change levels between soloing and not soloing. Good bands manage their levels within the songs, amateurs leave everything at the same level and expect the soundman to turn them up for solos (and to know where the solos are). The result often being that the soundman turns the rhythm parts down to a tolerable level where you can hear the vocals and any solos end up sounding weak if you can tell someone is soloing at all.

One thing that helps, and will get you the soundman's best effort, is to provide a set list with notes. e.g. Ballad, 2nd guitarist takes a solo after 3rd verse. Headbanger with loud intro on drums and 1st guitar. Give this to the soundguy along with a stage plot (shows where everyone stands and what their playing, names don't mean anything to someone who doesn't know you, just write down lead vox, backing vox, doubles on mandolin, or whatever) during load in. Be ready to answer questions. But don't pester him with details. He may have stage plots for 4 different bands and is trying to work out the quickest changeovers that keep mics set for their respective uses. But have someone who knows the tunes available if he does come up with any questions later.

These are things you do to support a pro soundman and get the best show possible. Of course there are bars where some loser has talked their way into "running the board" and has no clue. Best you can do in these cases is try to treat them like a pro and hope they can step up. If not, you get what everyone else gets. hint: this is where it really helps to have your arrangements and dynamics down.
 

AZslim

Senior Member
I don't really care about a soft song. It's easy to ease things up if the crowd isn't listing and won't shut up. It's the frantic yanking things down that you want to avoid. The initial distorted blast, and subsequent bottom dropping out sounds really unprofessional. Most of all I want to get your messiest song, where everyone is playing at once. A good soundman can carve out sonic spaces for each instrument with some judicious eq if the band isn't well arranged with such sonic conflicts avoided. And it helps to get a sense of how much people change levels between soloing and not soloing. Good bands manage their levels within the songs, amateurs leave everything at the same level and expect the soundman to turn them up for solos (and to know where the solos are). The result often being that the soundman turns the rhythm parts down to a tolerable level where you can hear the vocals and any solos end up sounding weak if you can tell someone is soloing at all.

One thing that helps, and will get you the soundman's best effort, is to provide a set list with notes. e.g. Ballad, 2nd guitarist takes a solo after 3rd verse. Headbanger with loud intro on drums and 1st guitar. Give this to the soundguy along with a stage plot (shows where everyone stands and what their playing, names don't mean anything to someone who doesn't know you, just write down lead vox, backing vox, doubles on mandolin, or whatever) during load in. Be ready to answer questions. But don't pester him with details. He may have stage plots for 4 different bands and is trying to work out the quickest changeovers that keep mics set for their respective uses. But have someone who knows the tunes available if he does come up with any questions later.

These are things you do to support a pro soundman and get the best show possible. Of course there are bars where some loser has talked their way into "running the board" and has no clue. Best you can do in these cases is try to treat them like a pro and hope they can step up. If not, you get what everyone else gets. hint: this is where it really helps to have your arrangements and dynamics down.
Thanks. Very helpful information.
 
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