How to Run Sound


Although every PA (personal address) system is entirely different, learning the basic rules of running sound will allow you to work with almost any system. This article will show you how to set up a PA for a typical band (singer, guitar, bass and drums) and then run sound for the band. Be sure to get familiar with your PA system's manual so you know how to adjust the settings on your particular mixer. After that, just follow these basic steps and you'll be running sound on your PA system in no time.

  • Have the band set up their instruments completely. Typically, the drum kit will be at center stage rear, the vocalist will be at center stage front and the bass and guitars will occupy either side of the front stage.

  • Set up microphones around the drum kit. If desired, place microphones on each part of the kit. At the very least, the kick drum, snare, hi-hat and cymbals should have microphones.

  • Place microphones in front of the bass and guitar amps, 3 to 6 inches away from their speaker cones.

  • Set up the microphone for the vocalist. If the vocalist will also be playing an instrument, use a boom microphone stand.

  • Connect XLR cables to every microphone that you have set up. Connect the other ends of the XLR cables to the mixer. The XLR inputs on the mixer will be clearly marked according to the input channel they correspond to.

  • Lower all master volume faders on the PA system's mixer. Failure to do so can damage the system's speakers.

  • Turn on any effects or equalizer units, followed by the crossovers (units used to route signals to separate speakers) and then the amplifiers. Following this order will minimize the number of "pops" that the speakers will have to amplify.

  • Turn on any microphones that are battery powered, and turn on any guitar or keyboard amplifiers. Allow the musicians to select their own stage volume if they will not be using the PA system's monitors.

  • Turn on the mixer. Make sure the "Gain" knob is turned down on all input channels. Then slowly raise the main faders to about 3/4. If the manual indicates an optimal position for faders, move the fader to that position.

  • Raise the faders on each input channel to about 3/4. Start with the drum channels. Slowly raise the gain knob while the drummer plays. After that, do the same for the remaining players in the following order: bass, rhythm guitars, keyboards, lead guitar and vocals.

  • Ask the band to play a full song. During that time, adjust the pan positions and equalizer settings if necessary. After they have finished, adjust the monitors according to the band's needs.

  • After the show, lower the main faders and stage monitors completely. Turn off the mixer. Finally, turn off all units in reverse order of Step 2.

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  • Photo Credit Micah Taylor, Billaday,
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