Good soundchecks are few and far between. Ever had a good soundcheck and then you get on stage and you feel like you never had a soundcheck at all?? lol! Those are the worst!! Having a bad soundcheck naturally makes you nervous about whether to do the gig or not. Not doing a gig because of a terrible soundcheck is a luxury you may not be able to afford. Here are 9 ways to get around this and still rock the stage.
1). Talk To The Sound Engineer
Make friends with the sound engineer and tell him/her about your band setup. Talk about lead vocals, background vocals, discuss levels etc.. It would be great if you know what you usually like to hear more of in your monitor. This depends on the size of the room and the acoustics in general. If, for example, you prefer to hear more guitar and less drums in your monitors, communicate this to the engineer. He can make a note of it just before you come on stage. If anything needs to be corrected, at least you’ve started the process.
2). See The Stage And Stand In Your Position
Walk onto the stage and get a feel for the room, your proximity to the audience and especially the space between you and the rest of your band members. You don’t want to be cramped on stage or trip over unknown wires. Be prepared to adjust positions if the stage size is not what you expected.
3). Ask For A Line Check
Sometimes all you have time for is to setup up your instruments and then get off stage. When this happens, you may still be able to ask for a line check – a sound test to ensure sound is coming out of all instrument amps and microphones. Usually, you would be allowed to do this when you can’t have a full soundcheck so you do have a right to ask.
4). Conduct An Equipment Check
I’ve had instances where my sustain pedal wasn’t set up and I had to stop the intro song and get one from the 2nd keyboardist. (True Story!) Ok! Ok… so I made it look cool ;)… but trust me, you don’t want to have to do that if you can avoid it. Always make sure that all equipment have their own necessary accessories on stage. The drummer might need a laptop stand to program the back tracks, the singers may need cordless mics instead of wired mics etc. Don’t hesitate to demand for equipment that you’ve been promised and specifically stated in your rider.
5). Have A ‘Dry Run’ With The Band Backstage
By a ‘dry run’ I mean that no electrically generated instruments are involved because the PA system is turned off. This sort of run-through can be led by an acoustic guitar, a percussive instrument and/or vocals. The entire band must be present so you can point out cues, announce entrances and remind everyone of breakdowns, downbeats, modulations etc. for each song. You would be amazed at how verbally reminding a bass player of his entrance on ‘x’ song by one single wave of a finger is the one thing that he remembers for the rest of the night. Use this time wisely.
6). Rehearse Background Vocals
This is a good time to go through harmonies with the background vocalists; when they’re coming in or when they’re not singing at all. Remind the singers verbally. Having confidence in the material will ease the lack of confidence about a poor soundcheck.
7). Watch The Acts That Go On Before You
This is very useful but only if you’re performing at a multi-performer event! Watching/speaking to the acts that go on before you is a good way to get a sense of their experience. What didn’t they like? What went wrong with their sound? How can this help you prepare? Choose musicians who have a similar band setup to you. If there are glaring similarities across the board, this into consideration once you get on stage. (In the event that you’re the only performer, listen to the MC – observe feedback positions, observe projection difficulties and microphone issues. It could help a little).
Prayer will always help. With or without a soundcheck, this always calms my nerves and puts the reason for the performance in perspective. Go out there and do the best that you can remembering that you are in the business of ‘sharing’ and ‘giving’ of your talent. Leave the rest to God.
9). Correct Your Sound While On Stage
Some performers frown upon this but hey, you gotta do what you gotta do, right?! Don’t be afraid to speak to the sound engineer in-between songs – it’s not unprofessional. Actually, it can look quite professional if you do it well and you ask for the right things to be changed. It will give you more confidence as well. Always make sure your sound is right before you continue.
Sometimes not having a soundcheck is completely out of your control and it is very easy to get discouraged. The tips above will help to reduce the amount of anxiety you and your band members may feel. Try not to look nervous even if you are, communicate with the sound engineer and remember to have fun!
What are your thoughts?
Let me know what you think; if I’ve left anything out, if you’ve had worser experiences and how you solved them.
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