Sound Check

I’ve just been reading this article from PSW this morning on the line check, and realised that I have not written anything on this blog on sound check…
Here is a document i’ve recently revised for a training evening i’ve got coming up next week. It is focussed on a GodFirst site that uses a Yamaha 01V digital mixing console but is about as generic as I can get it, here we go:
Setup & Sound Check
This is, in my opinion, the most important part of sound and the foundation of a good, smooth running event.
When you first start out, this may take quite a long time, but as you become familiar with the procedure it will be a lot quicker.
This is when you position, plug in and turn on all the relevant equipment you will be using. In general, you should be the first person to arrive and are usually the last person to leave to make sure that all the equipment is packed away neatly for its next use.

  1. Carry all equipment from storage to its posistion according to the stage layout/plan;
  2. Lay/run all cables on stage and plug them in:
    Start with all the power, then the signal cables to the Main PA, the Monitors, then all the Mic’s and instruments;
  3. Setup all equipment & cables at the mixing console and plug them in;
  4. Power up the mixer and any other equipment at the desk,
    Make sure the mix fader is all the way down, and all input channels are off;
  5. Power up all the instruments/combo’s,
    e.g. Keyboard, ensuring that the volume is all the way down;
  6. Power up the monitors (wedges):
    Turn the volume all the way down. Turn the wedge on. Then, when the light comes on, wait a few seconds and slowly turn up the gain to half way (12 o’clock);
  7. Power up the main PA:
    Turn the gain all the way down, turn the amp on, then when the light comes on, wait a few seconds, and slowly turn up the gain to half way (0dB);
  8. If everything seems ok you are now ready to begin the sound check!

Basic example of a stage layout/plan

Create your own stage layout/plan for your venue/bands to help people setup efficiently!

Sound Check:
The ‘Sound Check’ consists of three parts:
1. Line check:
This is where you check that all the channels and speakers are working and can be done before the band arrives.
The mix fader, all channel faders should be down, and all channels off;
1.1. Play a CD and setup its channel on the mixer using the following procedure:

  • Set The Gain.
    a) Starting with the fader and the gain all the way down, press the home button to view the meters (make sure it is set to view level, pre-EQ);
    b) Turn up the gain until the level meter is peaking around -20dB;
    c) Turn on the channel;

1.2.   Check the main PA

  • Turn on and slowly raise the mix fader to 0dB;
  • Turn on the CD player channel and slowly raise the fader to 0dB;
  • You should see signal indicated on the master meters. If not, check the patching of the CD player channel and/or the output channels;
  • You should also hear the CD through the PA. If you are seeing signal on the master meters, but not hearing the PA, check the wiring from the mixing console, through the snake and to the PA, check that the PA is actually on and the gain is at 0dB!
  • Walk around the room and listen to the level of each speaker;
    You may need to adjust the position of the speakers to ensure even coverage throught the venue;
  • If one of the speakers is not working, lower the mix fader all the way down, check the connections and repeat the previous 2 steps;
  • If everything is working, lower the CD Player fader all the way down, and proceed to the next step.

1.3.   Check the monitors

  • Press the Aux 1 button in the fader mode section
    (ensure that you are on the correct Layer i.e. 1-16);
  • Slowly raise the fader on the CD player channel to 0dB;
  • You should hear the CD coming through the correct monitor, if not, check the wiring, i.e. Channel A on the snake is plugged into ‘Omni out’ 1 at the mixing console, and the monitor is plugged into channel A on the other end of the snake on the stage;
  • Stand by the monitor and listen to the level;
    You may need to adjust the volume on the wedge to get the optimum output from it. (i.e. loud enough without clipping)
  • If the monitor is working properly, repeat this procedure for each auxiliary, i.e. lower the fader while looking at Aux 1, then press the Aux 2 button in the fader mode section, and repeat the above procedure.
  • When you are done, ensure that the CD player channel is down in all the auxiliary channels (Unless you need it coming through the monitors for the service) and stop the CD player.

1.4.   Check the channels
Go through each channel getting someone to speak into each mic or make a sound on the instrument while you perform these checks.
With the headphones on:

  • Check that the gain, auxiliaries and channel fader are all the way down;
  • Solo the relevant channel;
  • You may need to raise the gain slightly before you hear anything. Return the gain to zero and un-solo the channel when you are done;
  • If the mic/instrument is not working or coming through on the wrong channel, ensure that the channel is off, check the connections and repeat the steps to check the channel;
  • Once all the channels are checked and working, you can proceed.

2. Sound Check:
This is where you will check and adjust the quality of the sound for each channel, as well as perform a basic monitor mix for the musicians to be able to hear themselves. You will need the band present to sing/play for you while you do this.
Remember that this is ‘your’ time, you must ‘run the show’ at this point! Be polite, but assertive and firm with the band. Start off by saying something like “Can everyone keep quiet now, I would like to do a sound check. Okay can I have the acoustic guitar playing and no other noise please”
If it is not already, slowly raise the mix fader to 0dB.
Ask the relative musician to sing/play their instrument and follow the steps below to set up their channel:
2.1. Check that the gain is all the way down, the EQ is flat and that the routing is correct for the channel;
2.2. Turn on the channel and slowly raise the fader to 0db;
2.3. While the musician performs, turn up the gain until the level meter  is peaking at -20dB;
2.4. ONLY IF NECESSARY, Using your ears, adjust the EQ to get a good tone for the instrument;
Remember to use the EQ as little as possible, cut rather than boost and keep the context/mix in mind.
2.5. If they need it, turn up the fader on the auxiliary for the monitor facing them;
2.6. If necessary, turn up the fader on the other auxiliaries so that the rest of the band can hear them;
2.7. Ask them if they are happy with the level of their monitor and adjust accordingly;
2.8. Once they are happy, you can move on to the next channel, repeating the above procedure for each one that will be used, including the anchor microphone.
2.9. Not 100% necessary, but after all the channels are done I will generally push all the vocal faders up to the max for a moment to check for any potential feedback problems. If feedback occurs while doing this, you may need to reduce the level of the PA slightly to avoid feedback.
Once all the channels are checked individually and you have tested for feedback potential, you can now proceed to the last part of the ‘Setup & Sound Check’ procedure:
3. Fine Tune the Mix:
This is where you will check and adjust the FOH and monitor mix’s, as well as double check for more possible feedback problems.
With the mix fader down by around 10dB from where you will have it during the service, ask the band to run through a song, preferably the first one on their line-up and remind them to pay attention to the sound of their monitor.
While the band play the song, you must listen to the FOH mix and adjust the channel faders and if necessary, tweak the EQ to get a good mix. Keep these points in mind:

  • The Worship leaders vocal and the main instrument need to come across strong, make them a little louder than you think they need to be. They have to ‘lead’ the congregation, so must be heard well;
  • Clarity, can you hear each voice/instrument in the mix, this may be where tweaking the EQ is necessary;
  • Overall volume level, it must be loud enough for people to hear, but not so loud that they go deaf. This can be the most challenging part of mixing, especially in small venues/settings where you do not have control over the level of every instrument, e.g. drums and bass;
  • Stage ‘spill’ the noise coming from the stage, not from the main PA can often interfere with the mix, usually making it ‘muddy.’ The louder the stage volume, the louder the PA will need to be to bring through a clear mix so try to keep the monitor volume as low as possible, ask the drummer and musicians with their own amp’s to do the same;
  • When the congregation come in, this will change the acoustics of the room and will affect the overall mix. Keep this in mind as you will have to make slight adjustments when people come in. Also, the band will hear less of the FOH sound bouncing off the empty room, this is why I recommend keeping the level of the PA quite a bit lower at this point than during the actual service, to prevent the band hearing it;
  • Feedback, keep listening for this brewing!

Once the band have finished the song, they must give you comments on their monitor mix. At this point, please remember that you are serving the band, so be polite, and keep a smile on your face. Give the musicians what they want in their monitors where possible, keeping in mind the points above.
Once you have made these adjustments, you may now relinquish control over to the worship leader to run through the line-up with the band.
The sound check is now complete, and all that’s left is to run the service. Please make sure than any other setup that may have been left out because of time is completed, so that you can pray with the band before the service starts.
Here is a likely time-frame included for the setup & sound check, and a glossary of some terms that you may have missed!
Time Frame
Setup – 45mins with no problems, give 60mins to this in general.
Sound Check:
Line Check – 5-10mins unless problems arise, give 15mins to this.
Sound Check – 10-20mins depending on the band, give it 30mins.
Fine Tune the Mix – 5-10mins on most days, give it 15mins.
Practice – the band usually like about 30-45mins to run through all the songs quickly and then pray for 10-15mins.
If you account for an additional 15mins of ‘mingling’ time before the service, then this means that you need to arrive around 2 – 2.5 hours before the service. Once you become familiar with the setup and sound check procedure, you should be able to half this time, and only need to arrive around 90mins before the service!
Glossary and additional notes
FOH:           Front Of House, this is the area where the congregation, and hopefully you, sit. The main PA system faces this area and supplies them with sound. Also called the House;
Anchor:      The person responsible for directing the service, testing prophetic words and giving announcements.
Bus:            A fader on the mixer that a channel can be routed to, e.g. the mix bus, which is labelled S on the routing pages.
Monitor:    A loudspeaker on the stage facing the musicians to allow them to hear themselves it usually has a separate mix running through it;
Feedback: Sound coming from a loudspeaker is picked up by a microphone connected to that loudspeaker forming a continuous loop, usually characterized by loud shrieking noises!
PA:              Stands for Public Address. A term describing the system used to supply sound to the congregation.
?? o’clock:   A term commonly used to describe the position of a knob, e.g. a knob at 12o’clock would look like this: .
Mix (verb):   To combine several channels of sound into one.
Mix (noun): The main output, of the system or the mixing console in general, ‘the mix’ is what you hear from the speakers.
Fader:         The knob that moves up and down on each channel, and bus.
Almost every time you are told to turn something up in this document, you are told to do so ‘slowly’ this is in-case there is a problem, or there is simply a very loud signal coming through the device/channel you are turning up. If you turn it up quickly, you could damage the equipment, go deaf, or in the very least give yourself a fright!
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