Sound Techs are Your Friend: 5 Ways to Sound Better Live

by Jeff Sullivan

Bad sound at live shows can be a vibe killer no matter how talented your band is. If people are staying away in droves, don’t blame the sound technician. Overly loud guitar or vocals is enough to ruin a whole live experience for someone in the crowd, especially when they’ve never heard of the band. Here’s a few tips on how to make your band’s live shows into great experiences for the audience, sound tech, and make playing in your band way more fun.

1. Know your songs in and out

This sounds really obvious but not having everyone on the same page can be really detrimental to your music. Play a song in a different style. Play it acoustically. Make sure the right parts are emphasized.

2. Know the room

The smaller the room, the sound is going to bounce around a lot. If your practice space is bigger than where you play you should account for it and turn down. All venues are different so try and figure out what a room’s sound bias is and try to counteract it when you set up. Maybe the bass is really boomy and it’s drowning out the guitar and vocals. Don’t over-power the room.

3. Set up the same way every time

This is pretty self explanatory, but if you set up in the same configuration every time you play (at your practice space and venue) you’ll recognize how things should sound onstage and be able to react when it doesn’t sound “normal”.

4. Make friends with the sound tech

Sound techs don’t get much credit on a nightly basis at a small venue and sometimes they take the blame for bad sound when a band could have communicated better. Simply introducing yourself and explaining your setup and sound to a sound tech puts him on your side so you can sound your best at the venue.

5. Phrasing goes a loooooong way

What is the loudest and heaviest part of your song? What’s the quietest part? How are you transitioning between these two? Knowing your dynamics and feeling swells in the music and reacting to your bandmates is huge in giving a great performance. Being always loud or always soft is predictable, and can leave the audience bored. Not only does having better dynamic range keep your crowd interested, but also it makes you more in tune with your band and gives you your unique sound.

The general message of these tips is to always be listening and evaluating how you sound. Be your own worst critic when it comes to sound. Also think about how your songs will translate live. Following these tips could even lead to better songwriting! If you’re reading this and thinking, “Why should I worry about all this junk?, I just wanna rawk,” that’s cool too, but if you want to win over a new crowd and gain fans, sounding your best goes a very long way.

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