Examples of a basic band setup

Discussion in 'Band Management [BG]' started by MicRidley, Jan 15, 2016.

  1. Hey forum-lurkers,

    I'm curious as to what you guys might consider a 'basic' gig setup for a rookie band. Imagine one starting in local venues/bars and perhaps bigger down the road.

    Typical guitarist(s), drummer, bassist, vocalist and maybe even keyboardist setup.

    I'm oblivious to what kind of equipment other members of my band should have and it'd be interesting to see how you experienced musicians see things.

    For example: what all does a drummer need aside from his drums?

    What does a singer need to actually be heard over the music?

    Let's try a format, but post however you're comfortable.

    As in:

    Guitarists:-x watt amp capable of....
    Example(s):(example of combo or cabs+heads)





    Also, how would you rate monitors and a band PA in that.

    Anything else that I'm forgetting would be very helpful.

    I will probably use this thread to make a checklist for band gear upgrades and expansion.

    Thank you in advance,

  2. OOD


    Jul 29, 2009
    You should really leave most of this up to the other members. If you notice a specific thing is not up to par, maybe mention it in private. You walk a very dangerous line when you take it upon yourself to know what's good for everybody else.

    Also, all of this stuff depends on the size gigs you play.

    Are you the band leader?
  3. Timmah

    Timmah Supporting Member

    May 19, 2011
    Alright, I'll play. To be fair, this seems to be a futile exercise, as everyone has their own preferences and way of going about their business.

    For a pub band, a four piece for instance:

    Drummer: a four or five piece kit, plus 2-3 cymbals is probably enough. If you're playing Tom Petty covers but your drummer shows up with a kit he borrowed from Neil Peart, it's probably going to serve as more of a distraction than an asset to the band's sound. Always bring a drum key and some tape, both come in handy for tuning drums and taping napkins to overresonant drum heads. It helps to have brushes, rods, and two pair of sticks to play as volume needs dictate.

    Guitarist: I've seen guys get away with cranked up Super Reverbs and a cleverly constructed plexiglas shield, but as a starting point 5-25 tube watts and a 12" speaker will probably cut it for most bars without PA help. Amp and pedal choice are highly personal for most guitarists, so let them have their fun, but again, reasonability is key. If you're a guitar player looking to get a good covers rig together, I'd suggest something along the lines of a Deluxe Reverb or AC15 for an amp: you can always add gain with a few decent overdrive pedals, but you have to rely on the amp for a good clean tone. Gig bag essentials: headstock tuner, pocket tuner, slide, picks, extra strings and associated winders/cutters, extra cable and power supply for pedals if necessary. Carry an allen set, some de-oxit and a few screwdrivers in case of emergency as well.

    Bassist: Use the search function ;)

    Vocals: Any PA system will do, really, but try for 200+ watts, at least 2 12" mains and a monitor or two- at least one so the vocalist(s) can hear themselves onstage instead of guessing what they sound like out front. I'd personally feel most comfortable giving the drummer/bassist a monitor and letting the guitar have one too, but that's a perfect scenario. To complement your PA and keep it in working order, try to keep all the necessary mics and their associated stands and cables on hand, as well as a speaker stands for each main and two extra microphone cables. A power strip and an extension cord or two also come in handy.

    If I can inject a bit of my own opinion: the key to a good mix, no matter what kind or quantity of gear you have, is to match your volume levels to the drums. Don't let the guitars or bass swallow them up, because the drummer will have to hit harder and the vocals, with or without monitors, will inevitably go to pieces as well. When everyone can hear everyone else, the band plays better, so make that your focus and things will fall into place.

    TL;DR: Watch your volume, bring spares of the stuff you can't do without.
  4. OOD


    Jul 29, 2009
    Not bad. I'm going to give it a shot with a more minimalistic point of view.

    Drummer - bass drum, snare, floor tom, crash, crash/ride, hi-hat, sticks, drum key, stool, stands.

    Guitar - 10-15 watt tube amp, guitar, strings, picks, 3 instrument cables, pedalboard (tuner, boost, overdrive)

    Bassist - 200 solid state watts, bass, 2 instrument cables.

    PA - house PA of course.

    Vocalist - mic, 4 mic cables, cigarettes, megaphone (sometimes there's no house PA)

    keys - Keyboard, 3 instrument cables, bench, stand, 50 watt bass amp.

    I don't think I've missed anything. This is actually a better setup than what my band has and we get by just fine sometimes.
    MicRidley likes this.
  5. hrodbert696

    hrodbert696 Moderator Staff Member

    Yeah, I think you've had pretty decent responses so far. I think mine will just be similar. Like @OOD said, it's really up to each person what they have to bring and you just need to see if it all works in practice. I'm assuming we're talking about your basic rock and roll cover band playing bars and parties.

    Guitarists: Well, a guitar - of his choice. I would figure about a 20 watt tube amp, 1x12 or maybe 2x12 speakers, should do it. Combo or stack doesn't matter. He should be able to switch from clean to dirty without too much fuss. A tuner of some sort, and pedals depending on the music and his style. He should have at least a spare set of strings and preferably a backup guitar - their wimpy little strings break more than ours do.

    If there are two guitarists, they should be careful to establish two distinct tones. One easy way to do this is for a rhythm guitarist to play an instrument with humbuckers and the lead guitarist to use single-coils, but there's no hard and fast rule.

    Drummer: As has been said, a pretty modest kit (kick, snare, a tom or maybe two, hi hat, ride and crash cymbals) is really all a good drummer needs. Spare sticks, often a rug to set up on to prevent everything sliding around, and a tuning key. If you're going to run drums through the PA, often the drummer will have his own set of drum mics because there's no real reason for anyone else to buy a set. Sometimes a drummer even has his own small mixer; mics his drums and mixes them himself, then sends a line to the band PA so that he only takes up one line on the band PA rather than half a dozen.

    Singer: you know, you would THINK that a singer would buy the PA or at least their own microphone, but they almost NEVER do. Everyone else is spending money on gear left and right and the singer just walks in with nothing. You accept it because someone with a really good voice - let alone front man/front woman charisma - is not easy to come by and can make or break the band.

    Bassist: yeah, use the search function.... no OK, I would say 200 watts through a 1x15 or 2x10 speaker is good for most gigs unless the band is stupid loud, in which case you should talk about not being stupid loud. A lot of people on TB say more is needed, but I've always been fine with that. Bring spare stuff for just-in-case disaster scenarios. Pedals to taste.

    Keyboardist: in my experience keys just run through the PA (I've also never been in a gigging band with a sole keyboardist, though I've played with some in bands that never gigged). The really serious guys will have a Nord or one of the nice Korg or Yamaha keyboards. But I've been in groups where the singer or someone else just played a little auxiliary keys for filler on a cheaper Casio or something.

    PA: Well, you get what you pay for. Basically you need mixer-power-speakers, but there are different ways to set that up: unpowered mixer - power amps - passive speakers, or unpowered mixer - active speakers, or powered mixer - passive speakers. A lot depends on what all it needs to do, and thus how many lines are running into it. As a hypothetical bare minimum, you might have only one person in the band singing and no one else in the PA at all. A lot of powered speakers these days have a little mini-mixer/preamp built in (I have a pair of Carvin PM12As that do this) so you could just plug the singer's mic straight into that. That's pretty ghetto, though. Start adding mics for background vocals, maybe mic the drum kit or at least the kick drum, run a keyboard into it, maybe take DI lines or mic the cabs from the guitarist and bassist, and pretty soon you're up to 10 or 12 channels. For a lot of small-time cover bands, you might have a six-channel powered mixer running to a couple of passive 12" main speakers and a couple of 10" wedge monitors. Monitors don't need to be amazing, though that's nice, just loud enough that you can hear yourself from them. Obviously, the more you can add from that, the better you'll sound.

    Other stuff: Lights! Sometimes venues have them, sometimes they don't. Bring your own, at least two or three LED panels to shine on band members. Also, REALLY important, a little outlet tester. A guy in another band we're friends with got kicked back into the wall by stepping up to a mic plugged into an ungrounded PA. Check all your outlets: A power conditioner or good surge protector is also good to have. Like I've alluded to a couple of times, extra everything. Strings, straps, instruments, cables... even if you don't play with a pick, bring some, because sooner or later you'll have a gig where your guitarist will forget his. I've also had a guitarist's cable fail mid gig and I had to lend him one. Gaffer's tape is really useful for things like taping down all the cables coiling around the stage so no one trips over it, and can have other uses too. Little flashlights for when something goes wrong and you need to check a connection on the back panel of your amp or something. Spare batteries for everything that uses batteries (I use a wireless for my bass and always put fresh batteries in for every gig). It's a really good idea to have a banner for the band, including your facebook or website url along the bottom, so that people can "like" you or bookmark you online and aren't trying to remember what the band name was when they wake up with a hangover the next day. Business cards for the guy you talk to during the break who thinks you rock and wants to book you for his party this summer.
    MicRidley and OOD like this.
  6. JackANSI


    Sep 12, 2006
    I would suggest a few recon trips out to places where you: A. Want to play & B. Generally has the same type of music you want play.

    Watch the bands, watch what they use and how they use it.
    Jhengsman, MicRidley, fdeck and 2 others like this.
  7. Why do the vocalists need so many cables?

    Just cheap backups?

    Does that mean the guitarist needs extra XLR cables for the mic going to the cab?(sm57 on a mini stand for example )
  8. FunkySpoo

    FunkySpoo Supporting Member

    Feb 6, 2002
    Basic band set up:
    Band leader in charge of everything and 3 to 5 others who say they really want to be in a band but who ultimately won't do anything to help the project along.

    Oh, you meant equipment, I got nothin'
    MicRidley and hrodbert696 like this.
  9. Korladis

    Korladis Inactive

    It reeeeeally depends on what kind of band you are, and what the kinds of places you're usually playing are.

    Guitarist: Depends on the kinds of music being played and the venue. In most folk-rock situations, a 1x12 or 2x10/2x12 combo amp should do it. Tube preferred but not entirely necessary. In doom metal, as two of my bands are? At least a 25-30 watt head into 3-4 12" speakers. Also, a tuner is vital, no matter the gig. Guitar should be in good repair and stay in tune. A backup guitar is a good idea but not entirely necessary. A case is absolutely necessary. Transportation is also a necessity.

    Drummer: should own their own kit, plus tools for maintaining said kit, as well as transportation for kit. Should also own cases for the drums and cymbals so they don't get wrecked, and also for ease of transport. A hardware case or bag is really a plus, too.

    Singer: If they're really serious about being a singer in the band, they should own their own microphone (with case), and preferably, their own PA and speakers, too. How big depends on the kind of band and how loud it is. Should be able to transport said PA.

    Bassist: Depends on the kind of band and the venues being played. For regular rock, or really anything with drums, I would consider a 2x10 or 1x15 size cab an absolute minimum. Sure, you might say that the PA is picking up the heavy lifting, but you can't always count on the singer's PA to be bass capable, and you shouldn't count on being in the PA at every gig. Or on the monitors being worth a damn if they're even there. Head should be at least 200 watts if solid state, at least 25-30 watts if tube, for a quieter band. For doom metal, if you show up with less than a 4x10 you're kidding yourself if you think you'll be heard. A loud 2x15 or a 6x10 or 4x12 or 8x10 is better. For heads, at least 100 watts tube, 300 watts solid state. You should own a case for your bass, which should be in good repair and stay in tune, and you should have a tuner. Also for shag's sake, be able to transport your rig.

    Keys: Own your own keyboard and sustain pedal and keyboard stand. Have a case for the keyboard so it doesn't get damaged. While it is redundant for both singer and keyboard player to have a PA, there should be a plan for amplification of the keys if the venue PA doesn't work for it. Be able to transport your rig.
    MicRidley likes this.
  10. knumbskull


    Jul 28, 2007

    carpet for drums
    duct tape
    sharpie and scrap paper for setlists
    a few basic tools (screwdrivers, wire cutters, hex wrenches)
    spare 9v battery
    bottled water
    MicRidley and Sartori like this.
  11. Korladis

    Korladis Inactive

    Also power strips and extension cords.
    MicRidley and knumbskull like this.
  12. knumbskull


    Jul 28, 2007
    very true! i like this post 'cause i usually forget my power strip :D
    hrodbert696 and Sartori like this.
  13. How long should XLR cables be for a small-medium sized venue stage?

    For vocals and a guitar amp.

    I think we've always had 20' or so by default.

    I think the speaker cable for my amp to my 410 is a thick 3-5' cable too. Not very long.
  14. btmpancake

    btmpancake Gold Supporting Member

    Aug 5, 2015
    Apollo beach, Florida
    You should/must have a speaker cable or (2) longer than 3-5'. Better to have and not need than to need and not have.
    MicRidley likes this.
  15. I'm going to write what my cover band has done for the small bars/venues we played at:

    • Bassist: Fender Rumble 150 watt. I recently got a more powerful amp (500 watt), I'm certain it's unnecessary for my band, I just really wanted that amp. I don't go through the PA.
    • Two Guitarists: 50 watt whatever amps. Loud enough, and I doubt either of the amps were ever pushed. Lead guitarist just knows his stuff and recognizes volume. He goes through many iterations of pedal boards, but usually only for delays, reverbs, and other effects. He relies on his amps for overdrive. Other guitarist doesn't really know/care about getting a good tone, but knows enough not to be overly loud and ruin the overall band sound.
    • Drums: Drummer has a 5-piece kit. He mics his bass drum, but I feel it's worthless due to the fact the PA speakers (no sub) isn't suited for it.
    • Vocals/PA: 4-piece vocals go through mixer, some random effects rack for Reverb, and two overpowered 2500 watt Power Amps to underpowered Speakers and Monitors. It's almost a miracle we haven't blown them, but the reality is we are not a loud band so there has never been a need to push them.
    I've noticed a lot of you writing the guitarist should have a 20-30 watt head in some weird hopes that an actual guitarist would get one. I'd be more than amazed if I ever saw one. Let's be honest, most guitarist will rock at least 50 watts, tube (just to gloat about it), and through 12" speaker, but most likely 212. A half-stack if they're in a rock band. Full stack if they all want to be deaf in two years or just have very high aspirations.

    I do believe a PA should have a Subwoofer. We don't have one. Oh well.

    I could care less what a drummer has just as long as he/she can play it.

    Whatever gear you have, and it doesn't matter if your hard on cash and you have to play through your 10 year old home stereo system, just know how to use it best to get the overall band tone/sound with the appropriate volume. Tonight at practice, I felt my tone was garbage until I realized halfway through I left the Contour Knob (controls EQ) on my amp at the wrong setting. That was user-error.

    I'm certain our vocals are garbage because no one in the band really has taken the time to learn how to make us sound better.

    In the end, it really just matters on the venue, the style of music, and how professional (as in desirable enough to get gigs) you really want to be. If you play jazz at the local coffee-house: you won't need anything overpowered. If you're playing in a large venue with 300+ sweaty audience members: you may want to invest more.

    Also, if your basic band is rehearsing in a small room: invest in earplugs just in case one band member does not care about volume.
    btmpancake and MicRidley like this.
  16. Nev375


    Nov 2, 2010
    Im a minimalist.

    Drums: kick, hat, snare, sticks, brushes, throne. ( Toms and other cymbals optional depending on genre)

    Singer: 8 channel (min)PA with Reverb, 200+ watts 2 mains and 2 powered monitors with 12s preferably 15s in the mains. A good mic and cables for everything.

    Guitars and bass: an instrument, pedals or multifx which contain a good DI and amp simulation. Plus cables, picks etc...

    Keyboard: needs a keyboard and instrument cable and power cable.

    With this minimum setup containing no instrument amps it should be easy as pie to get a great sound out front with everyone hearing everything on stage clearly. Just match levels to drums and be done.

    It will never happen though. 99% of musicians are convinced they need much more than that and that is why soundmen exist.
    MicRidley likes this.
  17. Gravedigger Dav

    Gravedigger Dav Gold Supporting Member

    Mar 13, 2014
    Springtown, Texas
    In this and other threads, I see posts about house PAs. @hrodbert696 suggested a megaphone for the singer as a backup. I puzzle over this because I have played all over the U.S., parts of Canada, Iceland, and Lebanon and have had a house PA available maybe 2 or 3 times. In my world, a band supplied PA is a must. My main band is currently a 3 piece and we play mostly small to medium clubs. We are very old school. The PA is for vocals only. We bring monitors when there is room for them. This is really no different than what I have experienced in my 52 years of gigging. How common is this?
    btmpancake and MicRidley like this.
  18. picko

    picko Inactive

    Feb 23, 2016
    That would work great for a New Vaudeville Band/Stone Temple Pilots medley.
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  19. Gravedigger Dav

    Gravedigger Dav Gold Supporting Member

    Mar 13, 2014
    Springtown, Texas
    o_O That concept will require some processing. At the moment, it is making me nauseous and disoriented.
    MicRidley likes this.
  20. knumbskull


    Jul 28, 2007
    speaking my much more limited 15 years of gigging in the UK, I can think of two venues I've played that didn't have a PA system... that is mostly in and around London. also a few gigs in Wales, Ireland (both bits of it, so partly not in the UK!) and a few other towns. so a bit different I guess.

    not counting weddings gigs obviously, where you always bring one.

    ps Lebanon and Iceland gigs - sounds amazing!
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