Last time we discussed WHY we need to care about soundcheck and how important it is. Today I want to start describing what I do and how I do it during soundcheck and why I do it that way. Before that, I want to reiterate that this is how I do soundcheck. Some do it different than I do, and they have good reasons for that. The main thing is to understand what you need to do and why.
So my first thing that I want to mention is that I like to differentiate between soundcheck and line check. I consider my line check to be when I check all the inputs, make sure they are coming through the system properly, and that everyone can hear all the inputs in their IEMs or personal mixers. After I confirm my line check, I proceed with the soundcheck, which is where I get gain structure and EQing sorted out. Some people do these at the same time, I do not, I’ll explain why a bit later.
To start the line check, I pick an instrument, I always start with the Kick drum. I ask our drummers to play it hard, consistent, and not too slow and not too quick. I make sure I get a good input from it and I make sure everyone has the kick in their ears. Then I move to the snare, and continue going through all the inputs for the band that week until everything has been checked. I don’t spend much time on gain at this point and I don’t even touch the EQs or anything else. I only even touch the gain if the channel is clipping a lot, or if there is barely any signal.
The reason I don’t like to start touching the gains at this stage is because I prefer to set the gains while the band is playing a song. I find that if I set my gain levels while line checking, then that part takes me at least twice as long and I still have to make adjustments once they start playing since most musicians play their instruments at a different level while actually playing a song than they do while line checking. Or at least that is my experience.
So after I’ve line checked the whole band, I’ll get them to play through a song. Our worship teams all know that at this point their IEMs wont sound great yet, but they know just to play through this first song even if they can’t hear everything great because I need to get the gains set before I start touching anything else. As we all know, gain affects everything else in the channel strip, so why start EQing or setting Aux sends when the gain has not been set yet.
There are 2 or 3 instruments that I change this rule for. Toms. Tom toms. I love toms. I love when a drummer does a great drum fill and the toms sound great and add that extra presence in that section of a song. The problem is that toms only get played at those moments. The snare, the kick, the guitar, the vocals, they keys, the bass, they are all playing for most of most songs, so I can get a good gain level on them during a run through of a song. But the toms are often just played with a fill, and not repeated much (except for some songs). So I will get the drummer to do some Tom fills for me during the line check and I will set my gain, set my EQ and any gates/comps that I want on them as well. Once I see where they are playing them in a song, I will watch for that section of the song and pay close attention to them when they hit them on a fill so I can make sure my settings are working properly and make adjustments as necessary.
So that’s the line check part. Next up I’ll explain how I go through my actual soundcheck.
P.S. It’s Christmas on Friday, I hope everyone is ready for Christmas Eve services and that they run smoothly. Get some rest and enjoy the holidays!