Let's Sound Check - The Sound Check

I can not believe how many bands are out there who have so many mis-taken ideas of what the "sound check" really is, for what reason they are done, and for who's benefit are they for.   So many times I have heard musicians complain about the sound they had at this club or that, or from this sound man or that.  An understanding of what a proper Sound Check is for can help clear up some of those issues.

Sometimes I'd go out to check out a friends band at one of the NYC clubs.  After the show I'm told by the band that the sound sucked tonight, but from where I was in the house, things sounded fine.   How did it come to turn out that way?

Then there is the common complaints from the guitar players about the sound man who insists on turning down the guitar amp to unrealistically low levels.

It is the intent of this page to help you understand the reasons for these complaints, what a real Sound Check is all about, and to give a little insight to my approach to FOH Engineering.

I want to start out by saying that there are TWO Sound checks, Not ONE!!

The first is the monitor mix so that the band can hear each other on stage.

The second is the House Mix, which is for the Engineer, Not The Band!!!!!

These are Two very Different Worlds that involve two very distantly separate systems.  Yet, they are CONNECTED in different ways, depending on the make up of the system used in the club.  It is not a good thing when they talk to each other.  With the *low budget*, and *throw together* systems some clubs have, you have no choice but to make the best of it.  That's where having a good engineer with the band is a nice thing.

He would already know the bands material and how it would be mixed and presented through the house system.  With that knowledge, and working closely with the club's engineer, he would know where to look for the strong and weak spots in the clubs house system to maximize the sound of the nights performance.  This is a place where a little team work and professionalism between engineers pays off.  There is no place for attitude or egos here.

Having a stage plot and a line list is a nice thing as it allows the club's house engineer time to prepare in advance for the band's needs.  This helps make things run smooth.  While the band or crew is setting up their stage gear, the house engineer can be running lines, locating monitors, setting up mics, and getting other things ready on the stage.

This allows your traveling engineer time to go over the house systems layout and configuration.  To check out and get familiar with the type of house console with its features, the type power amps, the speakers, the crossovers with their settings, the availability of compressors, gates, limiters, delays, the house EQ's, the type of monitor system with it's mix limitations, and how to handle any extra mix sends for recording, radio, TV, or cyber casting.  A good engineer checks, and later verifies these things during sound check  in order to prevent any suprises that may happen during the evenings show.

Let us assume that the stage is now setup with all the gear in the back line is in place.  The monitors are now located, all the mics and DI's are all in place, and the band walks in the house.  What happens next?  Start them playing, give them a great monitor mix, set all the PFL's, set all mix bus sends, get a pre show FOH mix, and the system is ready for show time.  If the system stays stable and solid throughout the show, it's a very beautiful thing for everyone.

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