Playing gigs is an all important part of most musician's music careers. If you've played more then 5 or 10 gigs however, chances are you've played at least one where your levels just weren't right. Either the microphone was too low and you couldn't hear yourself, or one of the instruments was overpowering all the others being played.
Doing a soundcheck before your show is one of the key things you should be doing when preparing. During this stage of things, you can fine tune your levels and identify any potential problems with the volumes before the crowds start arriving. From here you can ensure the perfect volumes are up and running by the time you perform.
There are a few things you need to think about when doing a soundcheck. Below are some of the most important, so take them on board and apply them before your next gig.
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Request A Soundcheck Before You Perform And Give Yourself Enough Time
First of all, you need to make sure you get the soundcheck. While some venues will require you to come and do one as standard, there are some venues which are happy with you turning up before your show and performing.
While this second option may seem like the easiest way to go about things (especially if you suffer from gig nerves), it's also the option that could put the quality of your performance at risk. So if you're not offered the chance to come in and do a sound check before hand, request permission with the event organizer to do this. On most occasions they will say yes. If it's not possible, well at least you tried.
When it comes to doing the soundcheck, be sure to give yourself enough time. If you're working with instruments, this check will take longer then it would testing your vocals against a CD with your backing track. So plan accordingly.
Test Instruments As A Whole, Then Fine Tune As Needed
If you're only sound checking your vocals and a CD backing track, this stage won't apply to you as much. If however you're part of a band and need to soundcheck all the equipment, take note.
While you could always test each instrument for sound separately and measure up their levels, this is a long way to go about doing things. To speed things up and make it as easy as possible, you might want to plug all your instruments in and just start playing. You should be able to hear if there are any sounds which are getting drowned out, or if any are louder then the rest. From here you can fine tune instrument volumes as needed.
If you're playing your own gig and have unlimited time to perfect everything, you may want to go the ‘instrument by instrument' approach. If not (as is the case with most gigs) then the above could work well for you.
Test The Sound From Various Points Of The Venue
As I mentioned in the last section, during the soundcheck it's often best to perform the song exactly how you'll be doing it on the night. This is so you'll get a realistic idea of how everything will sound when you're performing, as there's nothing worse then doing your vocals too relaxed during the soundcheck then bellowing them out during your live show. Keep things consistent.
During your test, you'll want there to be someone in the room who checks the sound from various points of the venue. So right up close where the first audience member is, right at the back of the room where the last audience member will be, and a few points in between. This is so you know everyone in the room can hear your performance fine, and that no one misses out.
You may want to bring one of your friends along to do this just in case, although hopefully the venue's sound engineer can help with this if needed. Don't rely on it though.
Make A Note Of Your Levels And Request The Sound Engineer Does The Same
Once the soundcheck is done and everything's sounding perfect, the last step is to make a note of the levels you've been using. This is especially true if you're playing a gig where there are a lot of other acts performing.
What could happen is you do your soundcheck, someone else does theirs after you, and the settings that they've used end up as the ones that the engineer leaves on when the show starts. In other words all your hard work goes to waste, and your levels don't sound right when you're performing.
So be sure to make a note of these levels, and give a copy to the sound engineer if they haven't made their own copy. Now no matter what happens during the show (someone else may take over sound half way thought for example, or the sound engineer may be a armature and not take note of each person's levels) they'll always be something to refer back to to get the perfect sound every time.
So there you have it, some tips on how to carry out a productive soundcheck that will ensure your gig sounds as good as possible on the night.
Do you have any other tips for carrying out a good soundcheck? If so, let me know in the comments. And as always, if you found it useful please give this guide a cheeky share. 😉