Have Good Gear And A Good Plan – Getting The Best Live Sound Part II

Posted on August 31, 2010


As I discussed in part one of the “Getting The Best Live Sound” Series, the sound guy is your best friend, but the guy isn’t a magician. He can only do so much. Ever heard the term – We did the best we could with what we had to work with? This is no truer than the night you perform. You need good gear!

It doesn’t matter what position you play on the team, having good gear is mucho importante; so is knowing how to use it.  Your best bet, before your performance, is to dial in your effects and standards at the practice before the gig. Leave yourself with as little to adjust during sound check as necessary. The volumes and tones you get in your lockout aren’t going to cut the mustard in a club. Ceiling height, gear arrangement, wall textures and 80 people in front of the stage are just a few of the factors that are going to change the element in which you thrive. Arrive tuned up and ready to play. Even drums need to be tuned and knowing your set is going to make that easier than not. If there’s a backline, bring your own snare and cymbals. Regardless of how you sounded to your girlfriend and her friends at practice, it’s like a hamburger factory. Lousy meat going into the grinder means lousy burgers coming off the grill. You are a good as your weakest component.

Now that you’ve prepared the best you can for the gig, lets go back to the sound guy. If you’ve got two guitarists, but your singer is going to break out the acoustic for a couple of songs – let the sound guy know that before you set up on stage. If you’ve got a harmonica or a Jewish Harp Player – he’s going to want to know that before he assigns mics and volumes to everything. Remember, you do this twice weekly – he does it on the fly.

This doesn’t simply apply to having a full band on stage. If you perform as a solo act, you might have a bit of reverb on your guitar. Let the sound guy know that. If your sound involves fuzzy bass or sizzling guitar effects – keep the sound guy from wondering if it’s the speakers or the player. Prepare him for the onslaught that you’re sending. The heads up will only serve to help the output.

Every room has a different sound. If you take the time with your band to set aside a few low key performances at private functions or rental halls, this will help you to grow and develop as a performer. You will learn the ins and outs of adjusting your equipment for different sized rooms. Test the waters before you dive in and swim, and remember – that sound guy is your lifeguard. He hears the music from the front of the house where you only hear it from behind the monitors. If he tells you that you are swimming too far into the deep end, don’t disregard it. After all, as you go under, he’s the guy who is being paid to pull you back out.

Communication is key, and we will discuss that in the next installment of “Getting The Best Live Sound.”

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