One Two, One Two, One Two, One Two,

Sound Check

“My Monitors were far too loud” I said to the Sound Engineer. “They almost blew my ears off!”

“Sorry mate” he said, “But my mind reading skills are really crap today – maybe they will be better the next time you use my gear”.

I remember playing at a festival in Luton and the P.A. system was massive. The speakers had COLDPLAY stencilled on the side in large white lettering and there were 2 huge screens either side of the stage displayed video images of our band. It was the nearest I would ever get to playing at a major gig in front of thousands of people and I was loving it.

We didn’t have time to have a proper sound check so as soon as the Sound Engineer knew each instrument was working properly he said he would mix us on the go.

We started playing and although we assumed that the sound coming out the main speakers would be fine, my monitor was so damn loud it almost burst my ear drums. I wasn’t happy! The audience had a great time but I didn’t enjoy one minute of the set. I approached the Sound Engineers after performing.

“How the heck am I supposed to perform if the monitors were blasting my ears off?”

The Sound Man explained in a very patient manner that I “should have said something shortly after starting and if he knew he would have turned the monitor down” – but unless I said something he wouldn’t be aware of the problem. He then told me to “go away” because he was busy getting the next band on. He didn’t actually use the words “Go away” but the meaning was the same.

Lesson Number 1:  If there is a problem with the sound, wait until the end of the song and signal to the Sound Engineer and tell them, in a calm manner, to make them aware of the problem. Even passing on a message via someone I trust would work. Don’t moan about it at the end of the gig. It’s too late.

Lesson Number 2: Be nice to Sound Engineers. Their job is to make me sound good – but if I upset them they will make sure you sound crap. Sound Engineers have very, very long memories. Some bare a grudge!

Lesson Number 3: Even if I haven’t got time to do a sound check make sure everything works before starting to play. When I get on stage make sure my instrument is coming out of the main speakers and make sure the sound is OK coming out of the monitors – it takes seconds.

If Sound Checks are available – rules are very simple.

If I am the headline act I will have time to get my sound right. This only happens to me in my dreams but one day it might happen.

I am further down the pecking order and so get time allocated to to a sound check.

If I am playing at a festival I might get chance to sound check before the gig but I am not surprised if I have to play without one. Even if I do get a sound check before the gig I don’t expect the sound to be same once I start playing.

This is what I have learnt about sound checks….

If you are given the opportunity to do a sound check decide on what songs you are going to play before you get on stage. Don’t spend 5 minutes talking about it. The sound check should reflect the bands sound – so don’t go sound checking a song that includes finger picking guitar and then start your first song off with a high tempo number. (I’ve seen it happen).

A sound check is not the time for rehearsal! You don’t need to play through your whole set – in fact you don’t even have to play through a whole song. Sound check instruments in the order the Sound Engineer wants. Make sure that each instrument is checked though – its no good pulling out a banjo from its case half way through the gig and expecting the Sound Engineer to be happy about it.

Sound Check


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