How to get a good sound check in a festival setting?

Discussion in 'Live Sound [BG]' started by BurnOut, Jul 16, 2017.

  1. BurnOut

    BurnOut It's The Billy Baloney Show In Memoriam

    Feb 1, 2015
    The Natti
    My Band played a festival for an AA fund raiser.
    They had a nice setup and bands where on about every hour. The bass rig was backline, drums (bring your own cymbals) cabs were available for guitars. Quick pace but we did fine, though my BTB was blowing up the levels till we got it under control. The sound check I felt was weak. They had our monitors all mixed up, didn't think they really gave us a good sound check.
    So. my question is when you are gonna hit the stage with a big opening song. How do you get a good sound check without actually playing a song. I realize the sound man has to fix stuff as you go. I don't think we were getting anywhere close till about our 4th 5th song. For a less than an hour set that's a lot of lost time.
    I did notice the band after us played almost like a throw away song to get their stuff straight. We ain't that kinda noise band like they were.
    I'm pretty new to this playing in a band thing, and I'll do my best to make things work. I'm now taking a position that I'm not gonna be messed around again. Gonna study everything I can so I can take charge of sound reinforcement from here on in.
    Any help, criticism, recommendations, humor, or advise would be most appreciated.
    Oh and they had my bass running into a sub, even though I was playing an Ampeg Refrigerator and DI'd out too. That made me mental the whole set. It was right by me on stage.
  2. Best you can do is have all your own crap sorted, fx levelled, and then roll with it.
  3. SteveCS


    Nov 19, 2014
    Hampshire, UK
    IME you are lucky at those kind of fast changeover gigs, especially if you not the headliner, to get much more that a level check, ie 'is your signal reaching the desk?" and possibly a monitor level check. After that you get generic FOH settings to start with, beyond which you are at the mercy of the FOH guy. There simply isn't time to give everyone a full sound check.
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  4. delta7fred


    Jul 3, 2007
    We usually use our own PA and run sound ourselves, monitoring is IEMs. The last time we had a provided PA the monitors were all set up for the headline band and the sound guy was reluctant to alter them for us. For sound check we played half a song while he set the FOH sound.

    All I could hear through my monitor was ice pick guitar at ear splitting volume, I got the sound guy to turn it off completely. I still couldn't hear the vocals but at least it was no longer painful. Our drummer said his was the best monitoring he'd heard for ages (he is half deaf so loud is good to him), guitarist said his was ok but way too loud.

    It was probably the worst stage sound I've had in 4 years with this band. FOH it sounded fine according to an off duty sound guy and the drummer's wife (who would be the first to tell us if anything was wrong).

    It was a relief to get back to our own PA (and IEMs) for the next gig. It was in a pretty neutral room and the stage sound was one of the best I have had in 50 years gigging, I could hear everything perfectly at a sensible levels.
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  5. Reedt2000

    Reedt2000 Supporting Member

    Apr 26, 2017
    Central New Jersey
    ^ This is pretty much dead on. I would add that knowing what you need in your monitor can help. You can give the sound guy a quick run down during the previous band's last couple tunes. I'd also suggest not a throw away song but one that the band knows well and features all of the singers and instruments (like if a singer occasionally plays acoustic fir example) so the engineer (which I admit is a much less sexist term than sound guy) has an opportunity early on to mix all of the features of your band.

    Outside of that you may or may not get to request monitor adjustments during your set. I'll try and catch the engineer's eye and use hand signals if I can. I personally hate when a band stops and asks for adjustments over the front of house sound.
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  6. el murdoque

    el murdoque

    Mar 10, 2013
    We use IEM and always bring our own setup. Our Drummer is handicapped and needs to play an electric set.
    Our IEM Setup is a Behringer X-Air 18 mixer with an 8 channel splitter, all the EQ's set flat. We provide 7 channels
    of well balanced, unaltered signal for FOH and we require no assistance with monitoring. That makes it pretty easy for FOH.

    When I play someplace else, I usually bring my pedalboard which sends a clean, leveled and usable DI sound to make it as easy as possible for the FOH to get what I want.
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  7. Bunk McNulty

    Bunk McNulty It is not easy to do simple things correctly Supporting Member

    Dec 11, 2012
    Northampton, MA
    My best advice is to go the social engineering route: When we show up at the venue, our sound person (good point about sexism of "guy" even though they mostly are) and our BL seek out the sound crew and introduce themselves. They shake hands, they chat a little bit, they show interest in the board and how it works. You do that, you at least get their attention. Beyond that, you are really at their mercy. These days we open with a blues that has a bit of three-part harmony and short solos for guitars and harmonica. The loose structure gives everyone room to make adjustments, and we can shorten or lengthen it easily. We don't expect perfection, but we want it to be as easy as possible to get dialed in and then get on with the show.
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  8. Bunk McNulty

    Bunk McNulty It is not easy to do simple things correctly Supporting Member

    Dec 11, 2012
    Northampton, MA
    Good point about not asking for more monitor. Part of our BL's conversation with the sound folks is about hand signals. It takes a moment sometimes to indicate that you want more of someone else's vocals in your monitor. ;)
    BurnOut likes this.
  9. Gearhead17

    Gearhead17 Supporting Member

    May 4, 2006
    Mount Prospect, IL
    When standing near a subwoofer at a show, lower the bass content on your rig. 150hz and lower rolled off a bit allows you to hear the sub and your rig more clearly. Otherwise, you end up producing a lot of low end and not hearing much of the notes you are playing.

    In addition, I would focus on plucking hand position for tone changes instead of EQ changes on the bass. That will help the sound engineer with getting your levels evened out.
    Last edited: Jul 17, 2017
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  10. Bunk McNulty

    Bunk McNulty It is not easy to do simple things correctly Supporting Member

    Dec 11, 2012
    Northampton, MA
    So that's it! Thanks! An occasional problem that nobody I've dealt with seemed to know how to solve.
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  11. BurnOut

    BurnOut It's The Billy Baloney Show In Memoriam

    Feb 1, 2015
    The Natti
    We knew the Sound Engineer, he had run sound for a pretty large venue in town. The drummer's vocals were blasting through everyone's monitors. Fixed that before we played. I don't think he knew which monitor was which. I'm new to this live performance thing, not all sure what I need in my monitor.
    I'm doing a ton more singing since we started this adventure.
    In the end the sound engineer was volunteering his time too. We were his first full band of the night.
    The festival ran all weekend, so bringing our own stuff wasn't possible.
    I do wanna get on the IEM wagon, but I a little frightened of how they could go wrong. Screeching Guitars when not expected.
  12. Krakmann


    Jan 6, 2009
    Madrid (Spain)
    Sorry to hear about your problems, but really, get used to that. Many, many times you'll get subpar stage sound. Many times that will happen even if the sound check went fine. Focus on your part of the work, smile, hope for FOH to sound fine (it usually does) and roll with it.
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  13. Krakmann


    Jan 6, 2009
    Madrid (Spain)
    In your monitor you need... whatever you think you need. For me, I want the whole band, but I just really need the drums and main voice (for song structure). If you sing, you'll need a harmony reference (guitar, keys...).
    veebass and BurnOut like this.

    MYLOWFREQ Supporting Member

    May 13, 2011
    I do sound at a place where we have 6 - 8 bands a night. There's 15 min in between the bands and no time for a sound check. The owners don't want bands to do a sound check either since there's people at the bar. The only band that gets a sound check is the first band if they arrive early enough.

    I tell the bands politely to set up and break down asap in order to respect other bands, and listen to me carefully as we have limited time. When I'm checking a mic or an instrument, I ask them if it is loud enough or not in the monitors, and during the first song they cue me according to what they want more or less and that works fine. You're going to get used to it. If you are using effects, make sure you get the levels of your individual effects right. I've seen many bass players disappear when they hit a certain pedal.

    The fact that the sound guy didn't know which monitor is which is a shame. It might be because the musician's switched the monitors on stage without letting the engineer know? I don't know but either way you just got unlucky that time I guess.
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  15. Slough Feg Bass

    Slough Feg Bass Supporting Member

    Sep 28, 2007
    San Francisco
    Most of the festivals I do these days have lots of advance prep in line.
    like a couple months before the date, I send an input list, stage plot, monitor list.
    Then, about a week before the date, I will usually send the same documents to the stage manager.
    On the day of show, I will have several printouts of these documents, with the band name & stage time written in GIANT letters & numbers with a sharpie. I will give a copy to the driver, to the stage manager, FOH folks, and the monitor mixer.
    They are all usually glad to have the paper.
    And as long as they are a good crew, it usually gets sorted out by the 2nd or 3rd song, but we blast off with as much gusto as we can to get make up for any balancing that may occur in the beginning of the set.
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  16. Callused Finger

    Callused Finger

    Feb 22, 2007
    New York
    I always expect them to do it on the fly. If it's anymore than that I'm delighted.
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  17. BurnOut

    BurnOut It's The Billy Baloney Show In Memoriam

    Feb 1, 2015
    The Natti
    We are doing a Battle of the Bands Thursday (yes I know, wasn't my idea). We get a half hour of our best material. We're on first I think this will be ran a little better as they do it every week. Still makes me nervous about the sound right out of the gate. I hold no high hopes, just wanna do a good job.
  19. BurnOut

    BurnOut It's The Billy Baloney Show In Memoriam

    Feb 1, 2015
    The Natti
    This was a bunch of people donating their time. They had an enormous quality PA. My guitar player is involved in NA/AA thing, they asked and since it didn't involve us dragging out all our stuff, we accepted. We were supposed to get a board recording of the performance, that fell by the wayside.
    If this was a big public event I guess it would have been more professional. In the end it was a private get together/fund raiser for an AA chapter. We were one small part of a bigger event that some people dedicated to the cause donated their time to.
  20. you can try what I've always heard referred to as "British sound check" for the times when you've got no soundcheck - start off with a song that has a drum intro, then bring in the bass, then add other instruments until you've got the full mix sorted out.

    The other thing I've done is to always start sets with the same short easy song. A little repetitive, but it will be so familiar that it will highlight any issues right away.
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