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Sound Check Fundamentals: Preparing for the Sound Check.

By September 14, 2013March 20th, 2016Audio
In this two part blog, the Tahoe Production House sound team will cover what is involved in doing a Sound Check. Let’s finish with part #2: Preparing for a sound check.

Now that you have done the prep work as described in Blog # 10, Part #1, “What Really is a sound check”?, Now let’s do a sound check. Again this will be brief. 1st. is to have a talk back mic to the stage…This is for good communication to the stage….better then yelling across the room and when they are playing during sound check…This mic should be routed to the monitor speakers for now.  Try not to attempt to start a show without doing a sound check of some kind, because if you have not done a sound check first, when the curtain goes up, it’s show time. At times, and in certain situations, a sound check cannot be done…I hate that…but it does happen… What happens is ultimately your show becomes your sound check…not a good idea. Sound checks are where you can find problems and can resolve them. Give yourself plenty of time to resolve problems… When things go wrong, I call it the “Bozo Factor”.

Start with whatever instrument or source you want. I normally will start with drums if it’s Blues, Country, Rock, or that sort of music. I have also done this by starting with vocals. Doing it this way gives you communication from them to you…and since the vocals are usually on top of the mix, not a bad place to start.
But I usually start with the music, and then add the vocals.

In this scenario, I start with the Kick drum. This will establish the foundation for the music, again if it is rock, blues, so on. I have head phones to use and watch the meters and signal indicators to set levels and listen for buzz’s, and hum’s….That’s what the headphones are for… start there…..the listen to it in the system.
Starting with the kick drum, also sets the “Subs” level or lowest frequency level for the show…usually. Sometimes I will let the kick drum have the lowest frequency and sometimes the Bass guitar. It depends on the style of music, their instruments, amps, stage level, and other factors. Moving on, snare drum is next, then Hi Hat. Now go on to Percussion if the band has that element in the show.

At times I will have the drummer do a short grove playing just the Kick, snare, and Hi Hat. It depends on time allowed for the sound check. Now toms, start with small to big, then symbols, and other things they may have that fall into the drummer’s area.  Now have the drummer play everything within a grove or beat they will be playing. Make certain to tell him / her, to play ALL of the instruments in the kit or area…meaning what is going to be played during the show.
Play them at the level of the show….No soft hitting or for vocal,  NO light weight  saying “Check, Ckeck”… I call this “Sand Bagging”. You must have them sing at the level they will be performing at or at least as close as possible…I know they need to warm up but, they should do this before sound check to a point.

I move on to Bass guitar…. Then guitars, then Keyboards.  I will check any other instruments in the band. Weather they are Miced or direct box lines. These are at times samplers, backing tracks, drum pads, so on…. I then move on to vocals. Now that I have the gain set for each instrument and vocals, listening to each mic, instrument, D.I. so on,  I again do a “buzz” check with all inputs on. I ask the band to PLEASE BE VERY QUITE AND PLEASE NOT PLAY ANYTHING…..
Tell why you’re doing this….do this very quickly as it won’t last long before someone makes noise of some kind….even from the crew.

I quickly use the head phones, and go through each input channel ( Solo it in the head phones ),  at a louder level then usual to hear if there is any buzz, hums, or other anomalies you don’t want to go through your system…I now take the Master out puts of the board up above what I would use for the show… CAUTION….. This can be unsafe to people in front of your P.A. or even damage your P.A. is someone makes noise… Now with that said…I keep a watch full eye for people in front of the P.A. always during these times….I do not  go way up in level just higher then I will probably use for the show.

What’s the point of this last step? Now that you have the entire P.A. system on, and inputs on and up to approx. show level, turning up the Master outs will give you an idea of any other Hum’s, Buzz’s or anomalies you would  not hear with head phones. Plus you are also listening to rest of the signal path from beginning to speakers…Make sure you have your effects on, such as reverb, delay…so on that you are using as the sound engineer.
Again be very careful, and cautious when doing this…make it fast like taking a snap shot….
But I will say this method has proven to reveal the BOZO FACTOR !

Depending on the show, event and time allowed, there are many different ways to do a sound check and different levels you can get to with them.
Always do as much as you can during one, try not to get short changed on them….Try to get one done.

See ya next Blog

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