What’s a Sound Check?
We use a Sound Check to make sure everything is working. This means making sure all the cables are working, and plugged in, the microphones are plugged in and working, the direct connections from the instruments and plugged in and working, the monitor speakers are plugged in and working, and the mixer and power amplifiers for the main speakers are working. After the initial check, running through a couple of songs lets the Sound Crew make level and tone (equalization) adjustments, and lets the Band talk to the Sound Crew about the various monitor mixes.
What a Sound Check Does for the Sound Crew
The Sound Crew is checking to make sure all the inputs are on the channels the Sound Crew expects them to be on. After verifying the channels are carrying the right signals, the Sound Crew adjusts the signal to get a level that is loud enough at the mixing board without being so loud it distorts in the mix. When the levels look good, the Sound Crew will adjust the tone (equalization) and additional signal processing on the channels and on the main speakers.
What a Sound Check Does for the Band
When the Sound Crew has good signals from the Band, the Band stands a better chance of sounding good. This is the time when the Sound Crew can adjust the monitor channels to mix what each person needs to hear, set the volumes, and adjust the tone (equalization). It is also when the Band can tell the Sound Crew what they’re looking for, and hope to get throughout the gig.
How to have a Successful Sound Check:
Know Your Gear
While the Sound Crew may have had more experience with more and/or different kinds of Gear, you use your Gear more than anyone else and probably know it’s ins and outs pretty well. Make sure your power adapters and power plugs work. They shouldn’t be loose or worn. An intermittent connection usually causes loud pops at the worst and reboots can cause fairly long periods without sound (dropouts).
Make sure ALL of your interconnecting cables and jacks work. The Sound Crew may have extra cables to loan you, but unless you make prior arrangements, it’s not good form to depend on them. Just like power adapters and cables, loose or worn signal cables and plugs should be avoided.
Know which settings you want to use ahead of time (having a “go to” setting in case what you planned isn’t working is usually a good idea). Be prepared for failure. Strings break, things come unplugged, equipment fails. It’s always good to know how to route around a piece of failed gear and cabling.
Bringing new equipment to a sound gig without going through it, knowing how to set it up, and how it can connect to other sound gear is usually not a good idea. Avoiding this will make your sound check more successful, and far less stressful for everyone.
Don’t Play Loudly When You’re Setting Up
The Sound Crew knows you need to get your sound right “at volume” when the band is playing. However, playing at volume when other members of your Band or the Sound Crew is setting up makes their job more difficult, makes it hard for other people to talk to each other, and can even be painful if they are near your instrument when you turn it up or start playing loudly. You can set your volume as the Sound Crew gets to your particular setup.
Use All Your Gear
Different components and instruments may behave differently with the Sound Crew’s equipment than you are used to and differently than the same gear other people have used with the Sound Crew. It is important to go through a good representation of the setup you’ll use during the show.
If you’re a drummer, chances are that the Sound Crew will have you go “all around” your set to make sure the mics and direct cabling pick up the whole set and all of the percussion.
Vocalists who use compression and other “vocal enhancers” may need to adjust levels to get into the “right place” for the Sound Company to mix correctly.
Play and Sing Loudly
When you do a sound check, the Sound Crew is looking to see how much volume/level than can get into the soundboard without “maxing out.” You need to play and sing at the loudest level you expect to play and sing during the show. This will help the Sound Crew ensure your channels don’t distort and sound their best.
Play and Sing Softly
The Sound Crew is looking for a minimum level to see what the range of sound will be on each channel. Giving them a soft level will help them tell the difference between losing a signal due to some kind of failure and just playing or singing softly.
Play like a Band
The Sound Crew’s job is to provide “sound re-production,” not “sound production.” “Sound production” is the Band’s job, and they should be able to do that without the Sound Crew (yes, you’d probably need monitors, but the rest of the Sound Crew’s equipment shouldn’t come into play).
Author: Greg Kluthe