Soundchecking & The Sound Engineer - Pt. 2
That brings us onto the reasons why you might not get a soundcheck. There may not be time, for instance. If one of the bands has over run because they weren’t playing ball with the sound engineer (see above…and please don’t be one of those bands..!), then there’s every chance that there simply isn’t enough time before the doors open. In this situation, don’t get all huffy with the sound engineer; it’s not their fault. They’ve been doing their best.
If it’s your fault that you’re unable to soundcheck, if you’re late arriving, or half your band members haven’t turned up, then be apologetic. Sometimes the traffic’s awful or there’s been some completely unavoidable catastrophe that’s made your day hell, these things happen. Maybe try and get hold of the venue to let them know you’ll be late. It’s just another courtesy that can contribute to damage limitation. Most of all, don’t play your set and then complain about the onstage sound. Again, that’s not the sound engineer’s fault.
So you’re there, on the stage, and the sound engineer is going through the mics, getting levels etc etc. You’re a guitarist and it’s your turn - you play a bit using your main sound and everyone’s happy. But wait…you’ve got a brilliant Ibanez Tube screamer that you use for solo boosts. The sound engineer’s moving on to the kazoo player, but let them know that you’ve got another sound you want to check - they’ll will be grateful that you haven’t surprised them, mid-set, with a sudden burst of rock fury that they aren’t expecting. The same goes for keyboard players - let them hear every board you’re playing. Yeah, that’s going to be deathly for everyone if you’re in a Yes tribute band, but it’s either that or find out a couple of hours later, during your big Moog solo, that it’s not working.
Now, you’ve played through half a song to get some overall front of house levels, and the sound engineer’s happy (they might not look it, but they probably are). If you’ve got the luxury of individual monitor mixes, they’ll ask if everyone on stage is happy with their mix. This is the perfect moment for everyone to start talking to him, all at the same time, about how they’d like a bit more kick drum and a bit less flugelhorn in their monitor.
Not really. Just kidding.
A good idea at this point is to have a member of the band (preferably one with a vocal mic) to act as a middleman who can ask each band member what they’d like. That way, there’s only one voice coming at the sound engineer at a time. Either that, or they can go round each band member themselves and ask. At this point, if they’re not talking directly at you, then they don’t care what you have to say. And if they come towards you brandishing an iPad, or some such device, claiming that they can adjust your mix while standing next to you, or some such wizardry, don’t be alarmed. That’s the way things are going these days. Hooray for technology!
No Sound Engineer?
A standard covers band that plays the pubs, weddings and other celebratory occasions will quite often be running their own PA. Unless you’re quite savvy and bring your own sound engineer (like my band did for many years!), don’t panic - you can still run your own soundcheck, but all the points about how to treat the sound engineer mentioned earlier now apply to all of you.
It’s probably going to be a little bit more stressful so all those points about keeping quiet while someone else does their thing are perhaps even more important than before. Someone will need to stand in front of the stage, as close to where you’d usually find the sound engineer as possible to hear the overall balance and EQs etc. Many bands do this week in, week out, so it’s not impossible to achieve. It’s totally possible to have good front of house and on stage sound if you know what you’re doing - just take care to spend time getting it right. And it’s one less person to buy a drink for, right?
To Sum Up
Be friendly to your sound engineer (including the purchase of beverages)
If possible, send a tech-spec before the day of the gig
Do what they say when they say it
Don’t noodle while someone else is sound checking
Let them know of any other sounds, other than your main one, that you want to check
Most of all, don’t be a diva. You’re not one (unless you’re actually Mariah Carey).