A sound check may be obvious, just check volume of various instruments and vocals and play. Yes it is indeed as simple as that but still a lot can go wrong if you do not have a good sound balance. Most mistakes often come from being rushed on stage, not having enough time to go through all the various check with the result that your playing is a less enjoyable experience. Most of these issues can easily be fixed. For this article a few practical tips about what to do to save your skin during those awkward moments.
Sound checks do take time, the more people are in the band the longer it will take, then there is the equipment and the size of the venue. Most professional bands, when it comes to sound checks, have their own crew who deal with the setting up and checking the sound. For arena gigs the setting up of equipment will start during the morning and the sound checks will start sometime in the afternoon, long time before the venue will open its doors. There is plenty of time to get things right and the try all kind of things with the sound.
For most DIW gigs you will not have that luxury, you need to know quickly what to go for and do it on the spot before you play. If you are the only act which is playing on the gig things are a little easier as you will have more time. If you have your own sound system make sure you are familiar with all the ins and outs of the technical possibilities. The simpler your system is the better, but certain technical features are quite useful: Things like effect loops and hook-ups for extra monitors. To familiarise yourself with your sound system do use it often, do not wait until you have a gig and then start using it. Try to use it as much as you can in other situations just to get used to its sound and how it all works. If you can set up- and operate your system with your eyes closed you will have a lovely playing experience each time you play a gig.
Lets us have a quick look at what to check for during your sound check: Check for balance of vocals between instruments (and other vocals if you are using any backing vocals as well) Think about the playing, are there any solos being played during songs?—single strings will need to be loud enough to be heard. Experienced guitar players will know how to counter act for these situations as you can balance your sound on your amp and guitar, but what about if guitar goes straight through P. A? In cases like that it is important to get a good balance between the various levels of the guitars. When you check sound levels play parts of songs, play parts which are the loudest and then play songs which have a lot of quiet parts. Try to get a good balance between all these various sounds. If you have a sound engineer issues like what I mentioned above will not be an issue as they can be adjusted during playing. Often DIW gigs will not have a sound engineer and you have to do it all yourself on the spot, adjusting during playing is not possible since you are involved in the playing part of the gig, so you need to get the sound right before you start the gig.
Okay so far so good, most of what I mentioned above may be obvious for most of you. What about duos? Not many instruments and vocals involved so sound check should be easy? Yes it is, but still think about various things I mentioned above and try to do a quick sound check as I mentioned above.
When do you need to check sound? Each time you play together as a band, duo or trio. If you do not do it you may need to play song twice and adjust your sound each time, you can avoid this and save time by checking the sound before you play.
What do you do about less perfect set-up? Things like: There is only a main P. A and the microphone and players will be behind the main P. A speakers. This set-up means you will not hear yourself very well. It can be easily solved by moving one of the main speakers. Try placing one of those main P. A speaker behind you so you will hear the speaker. If you do it right you will not get feedback from the microphone, just check it and be careful with overall volume level and placement of speaker.
The main thing is being relaxed before you play, think before you play and just go and enjoy while you play. Good luck and hope to catch you soon again, Eddie