So, you've landed a gig. Congratulations! You helped design the flier, you've been communicating with the fellow artists on the bill, you've been promoting the show on your band's social media pages, and you've been practicing for the big night. Most likely, the week of the show you'll get some information from the venue about the gig, including a "load-in" time, and often, a soundcheck. You won't always be given the privilege of a soundcheck, but if you do, here are some tips to make sure it goes smoothly and help you present yourselves as professional musicians.
Tip one: Arrive on time and find your sound engineer.
Be on time, and make sure you give yourself enough time to park and load in. Once your gear in loaded in, finding the sound engineer should be the very next thing you do. If they're already at the venue, chances are that they will find you. If not, look for someone to arrive at the mixing board or to start setting up microphones. Introduce yourself, and do your best to remember their name! They are going to be your best friend and can make or break your sound on stage; be friendly! Pro-tip, if you have trouble remembering names (many of us do), write their name at the top of your set list!
Tip two: Be plugged in, tuned, and ready.
Give yourself plenty of time to set up and have a sense of urgency and organization. Decide beforehand how you and your bandmates are going to set up onstage including: amp placement, who will be stage left or stage right, who needs a microphone, etc. Even better, map out your on-stage layout - called a stage plot - and send it in advance so the venue can be ready for you.
Tip three: Wait your turn.
Once the sound engineer begins the line check (typically this will start by going through the drum kit piece by piece) keep your own instrument quiet. Do you need to practice a riff or warm up? Save it for after the sound check. Mute your guitar, don't mess with the mic, and stay focused and attentive for when they call your name (or, more likely, something like "stage right guitar").
Tip four: Stage volume matters!
Whether you're checking an instrument or your vocals, make sure your sound check performance matches the volume you intend to play/sing during your set. A lot of folks will sound check more quietly than they intend to play, which will throw the whole mix off once you get going. It's great to showcase the full dynamic range of how you'll play during your set, so the engineer can adjust accordingly. This tip also works for vocals. If you are the singer, have a song in mind that showcases how powerful your vocals will be. It's a great way to avoid feedback during your set.
Tip five: Ask for what you need!
The engineer can't read your mind, so the more communication you do, the better. Don't be afraid to ask for what you need, either at the end of your turn or after playing as a full band at the end of the soundcheck. If you can't hear your voice or an instrument you usually follow, ask to turn it up in the monitors. Be aware of your bandmates' needs, too: if your drummer doesn't have a microphone and needs more bass in their monitor, ask on their behalf through your mic.
Tip 6: Pick the right song for the full band check:
Pick a song that showcases as much of your instrumentation as possible. If someone only sings on one song, but plays keyboard on other songs, pick one that has the keyboard and the extra singer. Two singers? Make sure they both get to shine on the song you pick. Also, there's no need to go through the whole darn thing, your sound engineer will probably give you a wave or an "ok" on the mic to let you know they've heard enough and it's time to stop.
Tip 7: Be Polite and Direct.
Don't be afraid to communicate with the sound engineer if you need more adjustments during your set; it helps them as much as it helps you. Remember their name and keep it short and simple. "Julie, can I have more vocals in my monitor? Thank you!" If technical difficulties are happening, feedback or that sort of thing, the worst thing you can do is try to call out your sound engineer publicly or blame them for the problem on-mic. I have seen this happen and it is unprofessional and frankly, it makes you look like a jerk. Don't be a jerk.
There's always a lot going on leading up to and during a show, and it can be easy to lose track of details or forget something along the way. Don't panic if your first gig doesn't sail smoothly though all the points above. Do the best you can, stay calm, positive, and professional, and most importantly of all, don't forget to have fun.
Emily Gude is a guitarist, singer, and songwriter living in the Bay Area. Prior to joining Rocksmith+, she studied art history at the University of California, Berkeley. Her band, Radiokeys, plays and tours regularly. With her brother Stewart, she also writes and co-hosts a podcast, the Radiokeys Rock n' Roll Review, sharing the mic with her two beloved cats, Django and Oscar.
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