Live Sound Explained:
1. Shut Up and Set Up


Professionalism starts before the doors open.
I hate surprises. I especially hate being surprised in ways that make my job unexpectedly harder. I’m surprised that I need to write this section.

There are many requests that frequently pop up at the last minute that can turn a whole set into a living nightmare when you’re the poor sod standing behind the mixer.

Do you need/expect a sound-check before the doors open to the public? If so, be sure to explicitly inform the promoter/booking agent that this will be necessary. Bear in mind that this is not necessarily standard operating procedure at every live music venue. Unless you receive specific instructions to appear for an early check, make sure that you inquire about the policy for the particular event. If the existing plan does not meet your needs, discuss the issue with the appropriate person before you show up.

In the event that you’re scheduled for a sound check, budget enough time before the scheduled start time to load in your gear and set up. This includes plugging everything in and making sure that it is tuned and works properly. In the event that you are one of a few bands requiring a sound check, make sure that you know where you stand in the queue, and make sure that you and your bandmates are ready to load on stage quickly when it is your turn. In particular, make sure that all of the drum hardware is assembled and instruments are tuned. There are often tight time constraints on a sound check. Always remember: the sound guy takes the heat if you’re dragging your feet.

Sound check, unusual gear requirements, travelling with your own sound technician? Forward an up-to-date rider (including a concise stage plot) to the promoter/booking agent long before the event. The event’s coordinator will appreciate ample time:

  • - to get in touch with the technician who will be working that night to discuss your technical requirements
  • - to reserve and coordinate transportation of any rental equipment
  • - to ensure that the resident sound technician will be set up and ready for your sound check, especially if you are supplying your own technician

Unlike the World Series, this fix is legal (and encouraged). Nobody wants your set to flop. However, I’ve worked innumerable disasters resulting from poor communication before a gig. If your technician shows up to be faced with an impossible task, or has to wait in a dank basement for two hours for you to show up and set up an eighteen piece drum kit, don’t expect service with a smile.

On the other hand, you can put an entire organization to work planning to satisfy your technical requirements for weeks, or even months before the show. You can show up on time, have your needs met quickly with an efficient sound check, and earn the respect of everybody that will be working with you for the rest of the night. The choice is clear, but way too many bands just don’t get it.

Set yourself apart from the vast majority of bands. It’s actually really, really easy.

Return to the Table of Contents, or read on: Live Sound Explained: 2. The Sound Techni…

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