Small venue shows – coffee houses, pubs and outdoor performances – are the heart of live music. To make your show a performance to be remembered, it’s important to have the right audio setup. There are many quality, cheap cable and sound equipment options you can use, so long as you get the setup right.
The truth is that many working musicians often don’t have the luxury of having a sound guy to help them set up for a small venue performance. Making all the proper connections and getting the audio just right often falls to the performer. No matter how well you play, a poor audio setup can kill your performance, so taking the time to learn a little about setting up audio can help your career as a musician.
One of the most important parts of setting up audio for a small performance is setting up the soundboard. To set up your soundboard:
Begin by picking the right spot for the device. You’ll need to set up somewhere far enough away, where the soundboard operator won’t be blasted with sound all night, but close enough where he or she can monitor the sound and get a good feel for how loud it needs to be. Length of mic cables and proximity of electrical outlets will also be a concern.
Next, you’ll need to place your speakers and amps where you feel they will be most effective. Once that’s done, you’ll need to connect some cables from the output jacks on your power amp to the input jacks. Check your devices to find the recommended cable types for these connections. Many cheap cables that perform well are available.
You’ll then need to connect your mixer to your power amp, connecting cables from the mixer’s “main out” jacks to the power amp’s input jacks.
After this is done, you’ll need to link your monitors. Connect your monitors from auxiliary output jacks on the sound board to your monitors’ power amp. Be sure to keep track of which outputs you’re using for each speaker.
Your next step will be to set up your microphones, stands, and DI boxes, as needed. Following this, create a numbered list of each mic or DI box you’re using, to keep track of this information. When this is done, label your soundboard to keep track of your inputs.
When this is accomplished, you’ll need to cable your mics, using the input list you created as your guide. After doing this, zero the sound board, power-on the board, turn on the outputs, and check the sound and your monitors.
When setting up your audio, be sure to use the right type of cables for your devices. Using improper cables can significantly impair your sound quality. Make your cables as short as possible to avoid drops in voltage. Also be sure to use quality TRS and XLR cables for interconnections. For power runs, extra hard service cables are the ideal solution. There are cheap cable alternatives that provide good quality at a great value.
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