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Checking in on Soundcheck with the FOH Engineer

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As musicians, we’ve got far better things to do than rushing to be on time for soundcheck. Choosing an outfit, hairstyle, a few bevs whilst watching the cricket pre-gig are just a few of the distracting “priorities” that can plague a musician. Without the employ of a Tour Manager, time can rather quickly get away from us before a gig, with soundcheck falling by the wayside. Without sounding like a broken record or to trivialise matters, here’s a couple of reasons why soundcheck time is a sacred time.

It’s all about the Punter

Ever been to a gig and from the first chord, everything just sounded perfectly tweaked to perfection? Chances are musicians and engineer were at the venue hours before getting everything finely tuned so when doors are called and punters rush the room, everything is good to go, leaving everyone with that feeling of ecstasy at the end of a great show.

As a band, working with the front of house (FOH) engineer and giving yourselves the time to get it right in the room before punters arrive, is key. Once that room is packed full, with communication compromised and stress levels maximized, your hand gestures better be on point. Although sometimes assuming to watch, seeing a band waving out signals to the FOH engineer throughout a set can take away from your performance as musicians and leave a crowd a little disappointed that the show was a little haphazard.

Engineers, not Mind Readers

Whether in-house, a hired gun or touring engineer, nine times out of ten they’re the first to arrive and the last to leave a venue. It’s an engineers job to get sound from the stage and through the FOH speakers with as much clarity, vibe and energy as possible. If they are also responsible for performing monitor duties, then that’s some additional pressure to keep the musicians happy on stage.

Giving the engineer enough time with you is pretty vital in setting up clear lines of communication so they know both what’s important for you from a FOH perspective (such as how you like your vocal reverb), and being happy with monitor levels on stage. Trying to condense all this information into a 15-minute change over can be a smidge stressful, to say the least. At times this tress can make for unnecessary tension between band and engineer– rather awkward indeed. At the end of the day, when the engineer shows up to tune the room, ring out wedges and setup mics ready for musicians to arrive and soundcheck, a little common courtesy never hurt anyone. Run with the worksheet and everyone wins.

A Little Professionalism Please

There is a line that separates the hobbyist from the professionals, soundcheck might be that line. Yes, it can be a little tiresome and maybe a tad tedious but it’s the only time you have to get it all right before the show. Sorry, no one cares about your bung lead or busted pedal, these are easier to fix before the show. But when you are on stage and you strum that first chord, your sound should present as best as it can, because your overall sound is harder to fix at the moment! Sure, shit happens all the time during a set, we’ve all had gig fails, but a lot of these mini-crises can be alleviated when taking the time beforehand. Sloth band or gig lords, which would you prefer to be remembered as? It’s very rare to hear big profile acts to complain about their sounds. Remember it’s: effort in = effort out, so make the effort to do a soundcheck in order to present your very best!

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