How musicians can work with the sound engineer to have a great show.

live sound soundcheck Dec 31, 2019

A well-run soundcheck can make a world of difference in your show. 

A great-sounding show is the goal of every live musician and sound engineer. 

Wouldn’t it be nice if from the first downbeat your stage sound was dialed in and you could just enjoy playing instead of trying to dial in your tone, monitor levels, and fighting to be heard over stage volume?

Lots of things need to happen before the performance and depending on the circumstances, there is often not as much time as would be desired. 

What can you do as a musician to help make the most of the time available?

Whether your band just plays for fun on weekends or you are a ful-time touring musician, here are some tips to help you work constructively with the audio crew and get the most out of your soundcheck time so you can have a successful show.

Where’s the sound guy/gal?

Your sound engineer is here to help you. We (band and crew) are all working towards the same goal- a great show.

Good communication is critical.

When your band does not have a sound engineer and you have to rely on the local sound company or venue sound crew to mix your show, upon arriving at the gig introduce yourself.  Find out the name of the FOH and Monitor engineers and where the mix positions are located so you know who and where to direct any questions or issues that arise during soundcheck and the show.

Remember you are all on the same team.  The audio crew wants the same thing you do- to have a great-sounding show.  Be mindful of their suggestions.

How many channels do you need?

Bring an input list and stage plot and give it to the sound techs as soon as you arrive so they can begin getting things ready.  If you don’t know how to create an input list and stage plot check out this video.

If at all possible send it to them via email in advance.

Who needs what in their monitor mix?

Providing the sound engineer with a list of who needs what in their monitor mix will allow them to roughly dial in monitor mixes before soundcheck.

Learn how to communicate your needs.  If you don’t like the way your monitors sound, using descriptive words to explain what is wrong or what you are looking for will get better results than saying it just doesn’t sound good.

Some good examples:

When your vocal lacks definition-does it sound muddy or cloudy?

If the tone of the monitors makes your ears hurt- is it too ‘harsh and/or bright’? 

Is it hard to hear clarity between the instruments?

While on the subject of communication, go over the set list with the sound engineer.  Let them know if there are any instrument solos, any special cues, or other things they should be aware of. 

Come prepared.

Test your rig and make sure it’s fully functioning before you show up at the venue. Your equipment should be in good working order and ready to play.  Make sure to bring everything you need- cables, tuners, guitar stands, keyboard stands, strings, drum heads, etc.  

Soundcheck is not the time to put together the new pedal board you just bought or spend hours building keyboard patches or dialing in guitar tones, all of that should be done prior to show day.

It’s also a good idea to make sure all of your parts and pieces are in good condition.  Don’t use shoddy cables that are noisy or intermittent. Drum heads should be in good condition.  If you’ve got a rack full of gear it should all be wired and have been tested before you arrive at soundcheck.

Soundcheck time is valuable and you don’t want to waste it chasing down problems with bad gear.

Let the audio crew complete a proper line check.

Before soundcheck begins, it’s a good idea for the audio crew to do a line check.  This way they can make sure all inputs are patched correctly and working.  If there is a problem, they can fix it much more quickly if they don’t have to work around you playing. 

Also during line check when time allows, the sound engineer will dial in the input gain, EQ, etc.  This will happen much faster if things proceed in an orderly fashion with the sound engineer calling the order of inputs. 

Please keep the noodling to a minimum.

Soundcheck is the time to fine-tune the mix for the house and monitors.  This is best accomplished by each band member getting their monitors dialed in one at a time.  If your singer is trying to work on their mix with the monitor engineer and you’re working out your next greatest guitar riff, it’s going to take a lot longer. Be mindful of each other and what is happening on stage.

Soundcheck time is precious and when not managed properly it can end up being wasted, which in turn leads to the first few songs of your set being the actual soundcheck.  Everyone is vying for the attention of the monitor engineer to sort out their monitor mixes and the house engineer is scrambling to dial in drum sounds, get the lead vocal cleaned up, and pull a mix together. Half the set has gone by before it all comes together and everyone can just settle down.

During soundcheck, everyone should be playing and singing at show volume.  A special note for singers- though you may not feel up to belting it out, give your sound engineer at least half a song at show volume so they can correctly dial in your levels.

Soundcheck is not a rehearsal. It is not the time to work on your songs. Come to the venue rehearsed and use the valuable soundcheck time to work on  your “sound”, not your playing or your songs. Come to the stage musically prepared.

Use soundcheck for getting your stage sound dialed in and make sure the sound engineer is in a good starting place for the top of the show.

If you keep all of that in mind- showing up prepared and working with your sound engineer, it should allow for everyone to get what they need to be comfortable and have a great show.  




 By: Michelle Sabolchick