As a veteran of well over 500 gigs over the last twenty years from tiny pubs to Madison Square Garden, I can say there is one thing that I am undeniably an expert on – soundchecking and linechecking.

I’ve gigged with some of the worlds biggest bands on and watched them or their crew soundcheck. I’ve also seen many hundreds of small bands sabotage their own gig by not quite understanding what the sound check is for.

Wherever you are playing, the purpose of the soundcheck is exactly the same.

1. For each member of the band to hear what they need to hear via the monitors on stage, ensuring that that they play well.

2. For the sound engineer(s) to set the gain, sort out any eq, dynamics, effects etc. and give you a mix that will sound great out front.

It is definitely not the time to pose, show your new flashy licks or impress everyone with your songs, save that for the gig itself. There may be the awesome guitarist of the headline band standing at the bar watching you but don’t be tempted to start showing off. If you really want to impress him, do the soundcheck like a pro. They will be much more likely to watch the actual gig then.

I’ve seen bands that appear on the front of magazines soundchecking in their pyjamas and embarrassing specs. I’ve also seen them go from flakey difficult arty types off-stage to thoroughly professional, soundchecking automatons when called to do their soundcheck duty. I’m sure you’ve seen the roadies set up the stage for a band at a festival when it’s all performed like a highly planned SAS assault. It should be the same with you and your soundcheck. For my last band, even if we were arguing and hadn’t slept for three days, when it came to soundcheck, Andy Mcnab mode kicked in and we were all thoroughly on it.

Unless you are a touring band with your own crew and a whole day to kill in a venue, sound checks are definitely NOT the time for dicking around. That will only cut into your allotted time and annoy the sound engineer. Worst of all, if you dick around, the on-stage sound will effectively be random and irritating when you come to play. Wonder why there’s horrific feedback and you don’t know where you are in the song? That’s because you didn’t do the soundcheck properly dummy.

If you have your own sound engineer the whole thing is a well rehearsed routine. But for the sake of an example, lets imagine that you are supporting a mid/level band at a fairly decent venue that holds 300-400 people. You don’t have your own sound engineer, you are using all your own gear and this is your big chance to impress a load of new fans. Its the first gig of the headline band’s tour, so their soundcheck has overrun by an hour while they iron out technical issues and because the NME insists on photographing them on the stage. They have totally eaten up your soundcheck time and you now have a maximum of 15 minutes to get yourself and the sound people ready before the venue doors open.

The worst thing you can do is wait and watch the nightmare unfold, get a pint and hope the NME start asking you questions too. Then when the stage is free start unpacking your drums and guitars, set up on stage and start jamming. By the time you’ve set up the doors will be opening and you’ve fucked it. The sound person will have had to quickly try to check that the lines are working and you will leave the stage not knowing how it sounds and potentially with some instruments not being heard out front. It’s then a roll of the dice whether the gig will be decent or not. Most likely not.

Faced with that 15 minute nightmare scenario soundcheck, this is how it’s done.

As soon as you arrive at the venue, introduce yourself to the in-house sound engineer and if there is one, the monitor engineer. These people will be working really hard for you so find out their name and treat them really well. If you’re eating delicious chic chip cookies, offer them one. If you haven’t sent them a tech rider in advance, let them know the set up of your band and the rough sound you are after. Communicate it words that they will understand. Don’t say “we want to sound powerful and passionate”. Say “a foofighters sound” or “new folk with plenty of vocal reverb” or similar.

Also let them know where on the stage you need power and how many vocals there are. Find out how they would like to run the soundcheck and write down your monitor requirements. It might look something like this:


lots of kick. some snare and bass. a touch of guitars and both vocals.

BASSIST – Rachael (stage right)

lots of bass and lead vocal, some kick and snare, some guitars. No backing vocals.

GUITARIST – Quentin (stage left)

lots of guitar and own vocal, a small amount of bass and lead vocal

VOCALIST – Bunny (centre stage)

lots of lead vocal and a touch of guitar. Nothing else.

While the NME’s hottest new band are eating into your precious soundcheck time, after you’ve let the in-house engineers know the score, unpack your gear in a corner and quietly completely build your drum kit, amps, pedal boards etc. This means that when the stage is clear you can just lift or roll everything on stage and have everything miked up and plugged in in three or four minutes. Then once you know everything is working, be quiet and wait for the engineer’s instructions. if the amp is making the right sound then don’t start playing your best licks. If the sound person is clipping a mic to the underside of your snare don’t play the drums and deafen the guy. If it’s working and in position, leave it.

Usually you will start with the kick drum. While the rest of the band are quiet, hit it just as hard as you will for the gig. Four on the floor at about 100bpm will be perfect for the engineer. If you do lots of quick doubles in your set, throw a couple of them in there so that the engineer can check the gates. If there is a monitor engineer, let him know if you want the level of the kick drum up or down in your monitor using hand signals. remember to smile and thank him when it’s set. Keep going until the front of house guy is happy. If he’s doing your monitors then let him know if you want some in your monitor. This goes for the rest of the band too. If the bassist wants some kick drum, now’s the time to mention it.

Next up is snare, same deal. blap blap blap at 100 bmp until the front of house guy is happy and whoever wants to hear it, can.

By yanam49

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