How to have successful sound tests and ways to behave
Soundchecks are the difference between being happy or not with your sound during a performance. These tests are the best time to decide on your levels, correct any microphone technique, hearing yourself through the monitors and mentally warm-up.
What happens during soundcheck?
Know why it’s important
As the performer, you’ll need to provide the music for the sound engineer to work from. Typically the person controlling the sound will ask you to play different sections of your songs at the volumes that you’ll perform them.
It’s important to get this right because you’ll sound extremely amateur if you don’t soundcheck and something goes wrong during the gig. It can affect your show which is the last thing you want on your first gig.
Don’t forget also, anyone could be watching in the audience – it’s important to give people a good first impression. Someone from a local venue might want to book you for your next show – they’ll be much more likely to book you if you sound well-rehearsed and well sound checked.
How long does soundcheck take?
If you’re wondering how long a soundcheck takes, then it’s important to note that it varies from show to show.
Generally, if it’s a situation where there are a headliner and supports, the headliner will have more time to soundcheck (up to an hour) whilst the support bands will get less time (usually around 15-30 minutes).
If there are lots of bands, you’ll have to be extremely efficient with your soundcheck otherwise you may annoy the other people wanting to soundcheck.
Here are some tips to maximise your efficiency:
Arrive on time for your sound tests
First things first; a sound engineer and or stage manager is not going to be impressed if someone uses up there precious little time by running in late, scrambling around their instrument cases and tuning up on stage. Make sure you turn up on time for your sound tests! Be early and introduce yourself to the stage manager/sound engineer as they’ll need to be aware of your presence whilst running the sound tests.
You never get a second chance to make a first impression. Be early and introduce yourself politely to the sound engineer and/or stage manager during the sound testing check when appropriate.
Sometimes the sound engineer might have a working relationship with the promoter or booking agents. If they put in a good word to them about how great and polite you were, you’re much more likely to get booked again.
Don’t waste time
This takes practice, but it’s important not to waste time when you’re on stage sound checking.
For your first gig, try to know what to expect – it’s likely that you’ll need to say what you want to hear more of – avoid saying “can I have more of everything” when you’re deciding a mix with the engineer, especially in a band setting. It’s generally more acceptable to say “it’s too quiet in my monitor” in terms of volume rather than mix balance.
Also, don’t spend your time tuning your guitar or using your phone – try to maximise your efficiency on stage.
As well as being on time for your sound tests, make sure you are tuned up if you have an instrument or have completed a vocal warm up at least. Ahead of the day make sure all your equipment is reliable and works and you have spare batteries and leads if applicable. Be ready for a quick switchover between acts and you’ll look good if you’re prepared.
Sound tests for singers
The whole point of a sound tests are to correctly set up the levels in the venue and that includes the (fold back) monitors that you will be hearing during the performance. Be honest with the engineers if you’d like your vocals louder or your guitar with an EQ boost. Always make requests in a polite manner.
It’s the sound engineer’s job to make you sound great, so don’t be afraid to say that something sounds bad if it sounds bad, as long as you know for sure that it’s not something you’re in control of.
Don’t hold back
As mentioned before, the idea of sound tests is to set up levels so if you’re holding back and not playing or singing as loud as you would do in the actual performance, otherwise it becomes pointless to a degree. A lot of venues have digital desks so they can automatically store your settings. It doesn’t make sense to store it all and then have the sound engineer re-adjust when you come out hitting notes twice as loud as the first time.
Be nice and helpful with other acts. Showing politeness is number one on the rules of musician’s etiquette. After all, everyone is in the same boat.