There’s a lot of ways to blow up a sound check, but here are a few of the quickest and most common ways I’ve seen things go south before a show:
1. Not checking your gear before soundcheck.
Make sure your gear is plugged in, powered up, and ready to go before the sound engineer asks for you to “play something”. Check the outputs on your equipment with a pair of headphones to double check that signal is going out from your gear, and then do a “dummy” check. It’s amazing how many times I’ve seen people think their gear was broken when all that was wrong was a missing audio cable.
2. Adjusting your instrument’s volume after levels are set.
Once you find a good level for your instrument, don’t move it. I mean it: don’t touch that dial. You want to keep your levels as even as possible so that your in ear mix stays accurate for you and the musicians around you.
3. Playing the entire time.
Sound checks aren’t jam sessions (usually) and it’s always best to follow the old rule about children: only speak when spoken to. Okay, I hate that rule, but you get the point- don’t play unless you’re asked to play, and then stop when the engineer says stop.
4. Not communicating to the sound engineer what you want.
Be really specific with what you want onstage. Don’t say things like “I need it louder”, or “Can I get more bass?” A sound engineer could interpret that as he needs more bass guitar, he needs the bass frequencies bumped in his mix overall, or he needs to stop using Apple earbuds for monitors.
Also, when you ask to have a specific instrument volume raised, use your index finger to point up to raise the volume t, then make the “okay” sign when it’s right. Don’t use a thumbs up, since the engineer might think you’re trying to say you need more gain.
5. Not being kind to the sound engineer.
Treat the sound engineer the way you treat your dentist: they can make your life great, or inflict huge amounts of pain on you. I recommend always saying please, thank you, and buying them the occasional box of chocolates and flowers.
6. Starting with your mix volume too loud.
Start by bringing up your instrument to an acceptable level, then bring everyone else up around it. If you push your levels to high too soon, you’ll not have any control over what you hear.
7. Fiddling too much.
Once you get your mix right, don’t touch it. Fiddling all night with your in ear mix is time consuming, distracts the other band members on stage, and takes you out of the moment. It’s okay if your mix isn’t perfect.