How We Set Up For A Gig

What We DoSuzy WimbourneComment

We've been lucky enough in the past to have wonderful technicians who set us up and create and maintain a great sound for us during performances and the only thing required of us is to turn up, plug in and perform our socks off. Most of the time however we're required to bring our own equipment and do our own sound. 

First things first, we need to know how large our audience is going to be as well as the size of the room we'll be performing in. This will determine how loud our PA system will need to be so we can plan in advance what to take and what to leave at home.

Here is my guide to setting up for a gig upon arrival. 

1. Start the timer - even if I’ve got an hour before setting up, I’m so anal about the setup that it has to be done by myself, and in record time. The process of setting up usually takes around 15 minutes even though we request a minimum of 30 minutes. This allows for troubleshooting.

2. Speaker selection and placement. We use two Bose L1 Compacts for our setup. They have crisp and wide projection and each one is supposedly suitable for up to 100 people. Depending on the layout of the room and the number of guests we decide together which direction we want the sound to go. Thanks to their design they work good enough for us as monitors too so the PA setup is really simple. Usually the speakers stand to the side of each of us and make the stage look enclosed and slick. 

3. Set up the mixer. I Position it next to Suzy for any in-gig adjustments. First I link the mixer up to the speakers and then neaten the cables as I go along. We use a Bose T1 Tonematch which is so compact it’s barely noticeable and the technology it packs is so intuitive and effective for how we use it. We love using the presets for our gear and being able to make little tweaks here and there even during a gig if needs be.

It would be lovely to have a dedicated sound technician, but that’s a luxury we can’t afford. It’s amazing when we perform at venues where we do have one but with the DIY approach, at least we know our system well enough to get a consistently good sound. 

4. Mic stands, microphones and cabling. In no time our setup has taken shape and everything has been plugged in to the mixer. We use 2 x Shure Beta 87a’s which perform brilliantly in our acoustic duo setup. 

5. Out comes the guitar which is typically for us: a Taylor GS Mini-e. It’s the perfect tool for the job and looks the part for our setup. I have a little ritual of how I set the guitar up to be gig ready, and again thats my geeky side coming out. It involves setting up the guitar stand, tuning a couple of times, then checking I have a pic, capo, checking the battery level and finally plugging in. 

6. We’re pretty much ready to go. The volume on the speaker is set to 0 and the master is set to 12 o’clock. The mic and guitar channels have been checked on the T1’s input and output levels to make sure they look right although the channels remain muted. We switch on the speakers, un-mute the guitar or one mic channel and bring the volume up to the desired level for the room. The soundcheck begins, although usually everything but the reverb is set as we like, and before you know it we are ready to go.