Shout out to Chris Huff over at Behind the Mixer for writing an excellent post, “Taking Control of Your Music: Musician’s Guide to Sound Checking.”
Below are 4 easy steps to get the most out of your sound check.
Sound tech verifies that all of the equipment on the stage is sending a signal to the mixer. They will verify each instrument/vocal one at a time. This process requires all members on the stage to be quiet when it’s not your turn.
Setting your volume.
Technically speaking, the sound tech sets what is called the gain structure of each instrument/voice. The sound tech can do this either one by one or while your band is playing. Ask your sound tech which method he wants you to use. Once this process is complete, they will have a rough volume setting for you but it’s not totally indicative of the final mix so don’t think too much as to how it sounds in the house mix.
Setting monitor volumes.
In the case of spot monitors / floor monitors, the sound tech will work with each person one at a time. Point to the musician you need in your monitor and then give the sound guy the up/down/ok signal.
The last step is simple – just play.
At this point, you should at least play one or two songs that are to be played during the event. During this time, the sound tech will tweak your sounds as necessary through the use of EQ and other effects. This is a crucial time for them to get your sound right.
You might see your sound tech walking randomly around the room at some point. Don’t think they have finally cracked. They are checking how the mix sounds in different parts of the room. The dynamics of the room play a part in how they mix the music. They might also have to turn down your overall monitor volume if it’s negatively affecting the sound in the house. If they do this and you can’t hear a particular sound any more, talk with them about the issue and see what can be done to rectify the situation.
One final note on the sound check process, when you play songs for the sound tech to set a good mix, play songs you know well and don’t stop and start. It’s not the time to start discussing arrangement changes with the band. Save that for later during practice if you have to do it at all.
Step 1: Line check to verify signals being sent to mixer
Step 2: Play so your volume can be set
Step 3: Set those monitors
Step 4: Play so the sound tech can mix.
Ask for a written outline.
Finally, your sound guy might have a slightly different process for your sound check. Follow his direction and also have him/her give you a written outline of their sound check process so you can share it with the rest of the band.
Original article written by Chris Huff of Behind the Mixer