"He Wears Black and Has a Beard"

Soundchecking: The All-in-one Soundcheck

Toby Roworth

Jul 14, 2014

Borrowed from Femi, more here
Soundcheck time at my church is very short. We have two hours to rig everything and get it soundchecked, and in this time the band want to practice about forty minutes of songs, preferably twice.
The traditionalist would go through each channel, one at a time, to set the gain, church they have the right signal plugged in, and then let the band try their first song, during which they set the monitor levels. This method had it's flaws. A musician playing on their own is likely to play very differently to how they play during an actual song, and are usually a lot quieter. This is doubly true for vocalists. They also won't perform properly if they can't hear themselves in their foldback. Furthermore, it takes ages to get a level for every member of the band, and even longer to get their foldbacks set.
My method, with practice, is better for both the engineer and the band, and can be much quicker too. It's most suited to venues and bands you gig regularly, as you need to be able to guess the levels fairly accurately

Short Version

First guess all the levels, especially gain and monitor mixes. Then get the band to play all at once to perfect the levels.

Long Version

  1. The first step, once everything is plugged in, is to ignore the band. This can be tricky if (because?) the drummer is playing loudly, but persevere.
  2. Guess the gains for each channel - with practice this becomes easier, but on most Soundcrafts I'll go something like this:
  3. Put in a low pass on vocals and drum overheads. Take it out on everything else
  4. Leave the EQ flat, unless you know otherwise
  5. Guess the monitor levels, like with the gains
  6. Set the mixing section
  7. Tell the band to practice their first song. They'll be amazed at how they can practice with working foldbacks
  8. Listen the each channel, check it's the right signal
  9. Adjust gains, so their peaks just pass 0dB when PFLed
  10. Once happy, check if the band want their foldbacks adjusted. If you guessed well, they won't. I usually omit this step, as musicalists are quite vocal when their monitor mix is wrong
  11. Set EQs etc during the rest of practice

With practice, this method of sound check takes about a minute or two before the musicians start playing, and the desk's pretty accurate after the first song.
The key is in the guessed values for gain and foldback. Once you have these learned, you've saved all the effort of getting that initial level into the desk, and just need a subtle trim. I'm probably hitting 95% accuracy now, which means the band just start playing and are instantly happy. This then gives me all of their practice time to play with EQ and fix all the problems that have crowd up elsewhere, instead of adjusting foldback levels.