SOUNDCHECK | Warehouse Guitar Speakers



Today’s blog is for the benefit of all the “entertainers” out there, specifically singer/songwriter types, but if you ever take to the stage in any capacity, this is for you too!  There’s an old saying that goes like this: “A bad sound-check means a good show, and a good sound check means a bad show”.  As a veteran of thousands of shows, I think I might amend that to read “Little to no sound-check at all often means a great show, and a long painful sound-check usually means a sucky show.  Do I sound plum loco to you?  Maybe I have some explaining to do!

I’ve had the opportunity to work with artists at all levels of their craft; one thing I’ve learned is that the veterans who really have the chops are so confident in their abilities as a player/singer/entertainer that they often see no need for a drawn-out sound check.  A couple of great examples are Brad Paisley and Keith Urban, both of whom have been on the Live at the Bluebird Café television show, where I served as the audio director.   Brad Paisley - Keith Urban

The Shows were shot live in front of an audience, singer/songwriter in-the-round format; no band, just folks sitting around with acoustic guitars.  Neither Brad nor Keith requested a sound-check.  They simply showed up, said a few words through the mic, joked and made friends with me and my staff and went to make-up. Come show time, they sat down in front of their mics, plugged-in, and proceeded to give mind-boggling, incredible performances.  No muss, no fuss, no BS - just incredible talent.

I contrast that experience to what I’ve seen time and time again with artists who are insecure and unsure of their abilities.  They run a sound-check like Hitler ran an SS meeting.  All the insecurities flow in a rapid torrent - “I need more reverb … no, that’s too much … no, now I need more … I want to hear less of everybody else and more of ME!” And so it goes for hours on end.  Come show time these poor people are a total wreck - and they’ve made the audio staff a wreck too!  That’s some bad mojo-gumbo.  Good performances seldom come out of that type of environment.

Is there a moral to this story?  Sure, why else would I bring it up?  What I’m trying to say is this, come sound-check time, put on your big girl panties and act like a man … wait, that didn’t come out quite right.  Some adages just don’t go well together.  But you do get what I’m saying, right?  The same confidence that you bring to the show needs to also be brought to the sound-check.  If you have a highly skilled and experienced sound crew, the last thing you want to do is freak out at sound-check time swimming in a sea of insecurity and worrying about all the “what iffs”. 

Ya wanta make a sound man your instant friend and ally (that is what you want after all, right)?  Walk up to the microphone at sound-check time, say a few words through it, and then say something like “man, that sounds awesome, you really know what you’re doing, that’s all the sound-check I need”.  That’s basically what Keith Urban did the first time I worked with him.  It accomplishes two things: one, it shows you to be a confident professional; and two, you acknowledge the professionalism of the sound crew.  The sound man (or woman in some cases) is now on your side – he really likes you and is personally interested in making you sound your best.  That’s some good mojo-gumbo … very good indeed.

Now, of course there will also be times when you get an awful sound crew and/or awful equipment; but no amount of belittling and riding a bad sound man will ever make him magically get better … only worse.  Trust me.

Next week we get into some real nitty-gritty stuff about audio and acoustics.  If you really want to know how to make good decisions when choosing a speaker, or an amp; you won’t want to miss it!  See ya then.

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09/06/2011 11:33am

i took alot of interest in this blog and thought it to be a very good and informational read. Telling how veteran entertainers have confidence in there ability and feel no need for a sound check is a good point. i mean how do you think they became who they are? I can assure you and so does mr. skow that it wasn't from giving there sound guy a hard time. Rather they would acknowledge how good of a job they have done. I felt like this was a good blog that anyone in the music industry should read!!!

12/12/2011 1:03am

I found this article very interesting because I thought most entertainers went through a pretty thorough soundcheck to make sure everything sounded alright.  As an aspiring country musician I really look up to entertainers like Keith Urban and Brad Paisley and I have found that their performances are almost flawless.  I think it's awesome that if you're confident in your talents and abilities, the soundcheck shouldn't require alot of worry and stress.  And I'm sure this also makes it easier on the sound guys.

12/12/2011 10:54am

When I read this I remembered a story my dad told me. He's been a songwriter in Nashville for 20 years and has some funny stories, one of which reminded of this "Soundcheck" blog. He said that once he and three other writers were doing an "In The Round" at the Ryman during Tin Pan South before the "headliner" act was to perform a few of his hits. I won't mention any names, (he was big in the 90's), but my dad said he arrived early and then took over an hour and a half trying to get his "sound" just right in the microphone. He not only frustrated the sound engineer but made his opening act so late that there was't time for them to do more than one song each. My dad said he couldn't believe it was this really big star who acted so nice to everyone in the audience but acted like such a pain to everyone backstage. He said that if you really want to know what someone is really like just ask the musicians or band or the sound engineers. And by the dad said that in the end the "star" sounded awful, because he had so much reverb on his voice, and looked like "Howdy Doody" because the makeup people didn't like him either.

As for me personally, it seems that this is a good philosophy in respect those who are using their expertise to try and make you sound and look as good as possible. 

12/12/2011 12:55pm

i think that the lil saying is so true. ive work for an entertainment group and one of the biggest show are the Stellar award post and pre parties and when we do sound check its more of a hit it and quit it type thing. Majority of the time the artist are not the ones doing the sound check, its the musicians. but the saing is true because i am a witness to being in soundchecks and the ones that do all the complaining about how they sound are the ones that dont have the best preformace when its show time.