6

What is a Soundcheck? – Don’t Miss It!

Ever wondered what musicians have to go through before a live performance? Every time you attend concerts of your favourite bands, they almost always sound fantastic don’t they? Well, if you are a true live music enthusiast, or seriously aspire to be a live sound engineer someday, then ask yourself this – What is a Soundcheck?

Since today’s subject of discussion is a pretty simple concept to understand, I promise to keep the content short and sweet. But don’t worry, as you will not be missing out on important information that will help you learn the ropes of sound-checking. So, without wasting any more precious time, let us begin learning!

Soundcheck – A Must Have!

The preparation stage that happens before a live performance, is called soundcheck. This is where the performers will go through some parts of their performance, together with the sound crew, and using the venue’s sound reinforcement system. This helps the sound engineer to ensure optimum sound quality for the front-of-house (FOH) and monitor system.

The Fire

A band during soundcheck / Photo by The Fire / CC BY-SA 3.0

Soundchecks are even more important for performances of popular music, or other musical genres that requires heavily amplified sound systems (such as rock or metal). Having the best sound possible is vital to the success of such live events. Soundcheck is a difficult discipline to master, as the acoustics of venues will change when they are filled with audiences.

The topics that we’ll be discussing are:

  • The process
  • Other aspects

The Process

In most cases, soundchecks are conducted before the audience enters the venue. The sound-checking process usually starts with the rhythm section, and then it moves on to the melody section and vocalists. After all the technical adjustments and troubleshooting have been completed by the stage crew and sound engineer, the performers will then leave the stage.

Live Sound

Audio engineer during soundcheck / Photo by Cometmoth Sight & Sound / Adam Fleishman / CC BY-SA 3.0

There are also instances where soundchecks take place right in front of the audience, and then followed by the actual performance itself. This usually happens at live shows that are of a smaller scale and where there is more than one artist performing. Soundchecks often become more complex in these types of situations, due to time constraints.

Other Aspects

Some artists will have one or more of their songs that they play during soundcheck to be recorded. These recordings can be reused as sound sources for future soundchecks. This helps to reduce or entirely nullify the need for performers to be present. These “virtual soundchecks” can also be used to tune the PA system, in relation to the new venue’s acoustics.

Avery Fisher

Different venues will have different acoustics / Photo by Mikhail Klassen at en.wikipedia / CC BY 3.0

Touring artists sometimes make changes to their set list during the course of a tour. They often use soundchecks as an opportunity to rehearse new material or bring back old material, to see if they should introduce them into certain shows at different venues. At times, fans may sneak into venues to observe soundchecks, to gain a foreshadowing of show surprises to come.

That’s it folks, a basic introduction on soundchecks. Hopefully you’ll now have a good grasp of how this vital process generally works!

Don’t forget to leave comments or questions below, and share this article with your friends!

button

Farhan

When I'm not rocking out to great music, I'd prefer to be sleeping on a field on a windy day =)

6 Comments

  1. Great page, I’m into music and love the engineering parts that deal with music’s creation. I didn’t know what a sound check was before reading from your site, and again, the best part when reading your site I found, was that it’s contains accurate information. A lot of these sites about music just rate it, you know about it from personal experience and revive music when you write about the topics covered like home recording. Rock on, the site is informative, ideally it uses a language we all can understand, and it’s about “us” the rockers. Good site and information.

    • Hi Michael!

      Thanks for your compliments and encouraging words. It really means a lot to me when I know that music lovers like yourself, benefit greatly from my articles. I try my best to present technical subjects in a way that a “layman” can understand.

      Keep in touch!

  2. Very interesting article. I am great fan of all things audio and visual, so really enjoyed reading your stuff. I have a few questions as I had a similar question from a customer of mine. Is there a huge difference between the soundcheck for a indoor venue and a open area venue, like a stadium? What brand of equipment would you use? And finallly, will you use the same brand, both inside and outside?

    • Hi Leo!

      The fundamental principles of soundcheck will remain the same, regardless of whether it is an indoor or outdoor venue. Of course, the overall sound for the band will be different, due to changing acoustics and sound system equipment etc. You can use the same brand for any live event, but you need to take note of the specifications of the system, and see if they are suitable for the size of your audience.

      I recommend you read this article on live sound systems.

      Thanks for your thoughts!

  3. Hi, thank you for this informative and enlightening article about an aspect of the concert going experience that I think the average person probably does not put much thought into.

    It is interesting to hear what it takes for the professionals to make performers sound so good because you are right, attending a big event always has much more stunning sound than smaller local events and I think this explains why.

    I have a nephew looking to get involved in sound engineering and I wonder if you have any thoughts on where to best get started with that?

    • Hello Robert!

      It brings me great pleasure to know that music enthusiasts like yourself, are benefiting from my articles. It does take a great deal of effort on the engineering side, to make sure the performers sound fantastic during live shows. Soundcheck is essentially an art form in itself.

      If your nephew is seriously looking forward to a professional career in audio engineering, I suggest you enrol him into a local music technology course. From there, he could go on to a university and attain degree level certifications.

      Thanks for dropping by!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*