Soundcheck: Credibility Killers 101

Anyone who has played a gig has dealt with a soundcheck in most cases. If you don’t get one, then your first tune is usually what the audio engineer uses to tweak your sound. But, let’s say you get a soundcheck. This time is crucial for you and your band to have a shot at sounding the best you can on stage. It is also a time where you can either build or destroy your credibility with the audio engineer. Now, what would destroy that credibility? Or build it for that matter? Funny you should ask . . .

Before we talk about credibility, there are some things you should know. Unless you are paying the audio engineer (and in the case of many clubs, you aren’t directly), they are not required to make you sound good. Is it their job? Yes. Do they have to do it to the best of their ability? Absolutely not and here’s why: the more you irritate them, the less they will want to make you sound good. Unfortunately, these folks have a thankless job and yet they are some of the most important people in the show. You owe them your respect. Think about these things as we go over some credibility killers:

  1. During soundcheck, the audio engineer owns the stage!

Regardless of how excited you might be to play a particular venue (and you should be), the stage isn’t yours, especially during soundcheck. Treat it like your grandmother’s living room. Only, the audio engineer is in charge. When they say jump, you say how high.

  1. Soundcheck is NOT personal practice/warmup time!

This rule is broken by nearly everyone at some point and is a surefire way to piss off the audio engineer when he or she is trying to get a level on another instrument. Just because your gear is setup and turned on, doesn’t mean you should be playing. Warmups should be done away from the stage unplugged or through a headphone amp (i.e. iRig). You should be playing only when the audio engineer asks you to (See #1). The only caveat here is when the band has clearance to check a song or section as a short rehearsal. This is not something decided by the band though. Always check with the audio engineer prior to making any unplanned noise on stage.

  1. The audio engineer doesn’t care about your amazing solo

Yes, it might be amazing but their job is to blend you with everything else. If the only thing you do during soundcheck is noodle, then he or she isn’t getting an accurate representation of your sound. Run through your main patch changes along with the varied styles of playing you will have during the set. Make sure your patch levels are balanced and ask the audio engineer if they are getting what they need from you. Furthermore, don’t play any longer than they ask you to.

  1. Once your volume is set at soundcheck, don’t turn it up

There is nothing worse than engaging in volume wars with not only the audio engineer but everyone else on stage. This is especially true if other individuals on stage are using in-ears. Furthermore, if you piss off the audio engineer bad enough, they may just hit mute on your channel. Seriously, it takes next to no effort on their part and you won’t know the difference until it’s too late. It’s generally better to just keep your volume at the same level unless you clear it with the audio engineer.

  1. Don’t get an attitude with the audio engineer.

These folks don’t deal well with entitlement or diva-like behavior. They don’t have time for it and it is never justified to behave this way. Yep, that amazing tone you crafted might sound great in the studio but it may not work live. Be prepared to make adjustments during soundcheck and understand that he or she isn’t doing it to cramp your style. They are doing it because the band has to blend in order to sound good.

This list is certainly not all-inclusive but it gives you a good idea of how you might want to behave at soundcheck. Your (or your band’s) credibility hinges on the respect you give to those that you work with.

Do you have other pointers for soundcheck? Please share in the comments below!

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139 responses to “Soundcheck: Credibility Killers 101

  1. Also, trying to explain instrument volume to bands can be frustrating. Telling them that I can’t mix any lower than the loudest instrument on stage is a problem they don’t really understand.

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  2. When checking the kick drum, QUARTER NOTES!!!! Quick way to piss off the F.O.H. guy is to be a “Rudy Random” and play all sorts of stuff you don’t even play during your set. SOLID QUARTER NOTES will always serve you well. A “hey, how’s it going” and a handshake goes a long way. If you’re getting a pizza offer them a slab or two. F.O.H. people make us sound waaaaaay better than we deserve and are never the unsung heros of any venue, same for a house light guy. And finally NEVER, NEVER NEVER EVER call out the engineer during your set NEVER EVER! Gig on!

    . .

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  3. I’ve. Always have got a good drummer mix along with the bass Guitar and mix ever thing else around it.Just make sure your vocals are out front and clean not distorted. Once you get that good mix back the main down just a smuggling and mix a song or two and go from there.

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  6. It cuts both ways. It’s also important for the audio engineer to listen to requests from musicians, particularly the monitor engineer. If a band member tells you he can’t hear something, don’t automatically assume he or she is deaf! Take the time to study the stage set up and any particular nuances that a particular band may be used to. Taking the time to make sure that the band feel good about their stage sound, usually makes for a much better gig. Walk around the stage, and hear what the band is hearing, assuming it’s not all in-ears……

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  7. Pingback: Symbiotic Relationships: A Follow-up to Soundcheck 101 | Music Business Etiquette: The Ground Rules·

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