How to Prepare a Sound System For a Gig

prepare a sound system for a gig

Hi! George Gleason, here. I am here to talk about what sound is, how you make good sound, and how you avoid bad sound. I will cover the basics as well as field questions that you, the readers, might have. So with that in mind, let’s start with a simple check list of things you should do when you prepare a sound system for a gig.

Consider Your Needs

All too often “bigger is better” creeps into our minds and we start bringing full Marshall Stacks and double 18 sub-woofers into a tiny venue. That alone will set the tone for the night as a failure. Nothing ruins your reputation with a club more than dragging 4 tons of gear in, taking 4 hours to set it up, and 3 hours to tear down at the end of the night to play for 30 people.

Great advances have been made in sound equipment. A pair of 15 powered sub and two 10-inch powered tops will fill most local venues. It sets up in 30 minutes and packs away in 20. Your club, audience, and back will thank you for not going for the rock star routine.

Make Sure It Works

Be sure your gear is working and you understand what each control does. There’s nothing worse than having a bad cable or a worn out jack on your mixer that only works if you DON’T TOUCH IT. Do you know the difference between gain and volume? If not, find out. Can you identify the frequencies you are hearing and relate them to the marking on your board? Do you know GAIN STRUCTURE? And I mean know it cold or do you look at your mixer halfway thru the show and the master is down to minus 30 and all your channels are at plus 10?

Become Familiar With the Terms

Understand things like PFL (pre-fade level) and use it to be sure your gain is in the sweet spot for your mixer.

Know Basic AC Theory

How many watts is the equivalent of an amp, how much current can your power cables safely carry, etc. Electrical safety is one place you don’t want to cut corners.

Learn to Properly Deploy Monitors

Understand if you have monitors how to deploy them to help reduce feedback. Right behind a child crying, acoustic feedback is the 2nd most annoying sound as rated by people. Some microphones like the monitor 180 degrees opposite the grill while others work best if your monitor is 135 degrees off axis.

Give Yourself Time

Try to get set up and sound-checked before the audience arrives.

Have a Hand Cart

Enough said.

Be Aware of Walkways and Customer Site-lines

Help people enjoy your show by not blocking seats or views, and no one wants to see a rats nest of cables. Run them neatly and straight; tape them down or cover them. Neatness counts.

Don’t Block Exits

Those exits are how people get out in case of a fire. NEVER BLOCK an exit with your cases and bags.

Be Kind and Respectful

I saved the most important for last. You will be known by how you act; the venue doesn’t OWE you stage time, it is a privilege and the workers want you to have a great night, Treat them right! You get free drinks, tip double what you would if you were paying. Say hello to folks; don’t hide in the dressing room. People come to see you because they like you, like them back.

So I guess this wraps up my first venture into helping bands get their show on. Detailed sound stuff will be covered in further articles.

Send your questions and comments to Chuck Schiele, Managing Editor, at and he will be sure I get them. Have fun and keep the smoke in the wires!

George Gleason

George Gleason is the owner of George's Pro Sound Company LLC in Syracuse, NY. For more than 30 years, they've provided professional sound services for events of all types and sizes—from local productions to international events.

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