Friday, April 6, 2012

Guest Post: Karl Maciag - Line check....1,2....1,2...

Karl Maciag is in the system design line of work these days but used to push faders out in venues.  Now you reap the benefit of his years of experience. Karl also writes his own blog over at Karl's Empty Space. Click on the Contributors link above to see his other posts on this blog. This week he regales us with his scientific method for sound checking a band.
Devilicus Handsomicus

I'm hardly a white paper author.  I thought it would be good to go through my mental line check process.  Not necessarily what I do, but more or less what I think while doing it.  The line check is a ritual of sorts.  It used to be that I would start by signaling to the drummer, or calling his name on the talkback mic,  and while he was getting situated behind the drums, I'd light a cigarette (I don't smoke anymore),  take a couple drags,  and then say those words that made everyone know we were  underway..."Let me hear the kick..."

That ritual is still what I stick to, and funny enough is the only time I actually still crave a cigarette after not smoking for years.  But enough of all that.  I now submit to you all in the form of an internal monologue, "Anatomy of a Line Check."

"Let me hear the kick..." Check input gain, set to zero. make sure EQ flat. Look at the gate. Is it shutting fast enough? is there a hold knob? bump up the hold a little. "Hey, kick it like you're going to play, stop sandbagging me!" Recheck input gain. Double check gate.  "Are the subs on?.....Oh they're aux fed?.....Which send?......Oh you didn't patch that yet?.....Could you do that now?....." Ok, make sure it sounds like a kick drum, move on.

(Inhale drag of smoke...)"SNARE!" check input gain.  roll up high pass filter. flip phase on bottom mic. check to be sure it's sending to correct reverb unit. listen to a couple hits with verb on...

(Another drag...)"HAT!" roll up high pass filter. kill fader. kill preamp. bring fader to zero. turn up gain until loud enough. OK put pad in, then turn up gain until loud enough...

"RACK!" check gain, a bit of a high pass filter, check gate, kill ugly freq's. check verb. 

Repeat "RACK" process for the remaining (3-14) toms on kit...

"OVERS" roll up high pass, kill faders, kill gain, bring faders to unity, turn up gain until loud enough...

Call for bass player. continue smoking until he plugs in and remembers how his tuner pedal works.  Be sure to wipe ashes off of console before house guy notices....

"BASS!" check input gain. be sure high pass is rolled off or out.  "I got nothing"..."check the mic cable please"..."yes phantom is on, I know it's an active DI"..."ok well swap it out anyway"..."ok I got it now." check input gain again. Check compressor. make sure it's nice and smooth. Oh shoot, aux fed sub, be sure to turn that up. take out muddy freq's.

"Guitar"...."where is he?"..."Tacos? why didn't he tell me?"...."that's fine, i'll just wipe an enchilada all over his guitar neck after soundcheck"...(most likely light second smoke...) ok, guitar is the channel already on? no? why does it sound like it's in the PA? oh...."TURN YOUR AMP DOWN!"...."yes, you are at 105dB, and the PA is off"..."that means you're too loud"..."this crowd doesn't care about your tone"..."turn your cabinet around then"..."no you never sound like Clapton"..."he sucks anyway, that's a terrible goal"..."just play"...check input gain, bring up fader, sounds too bright..."take the mic away from the center of the cone a little bit, more to the outside please"...sounds better, check second mic (if applicable) listen to individually, then the two combined.

"Keys"..."is your volume up all the way?"..."you're a liar, turn it up"..."yes, you use the 'MONO' output of the keyboard, same as yesterday"...check input gain, make sure EQ is flat, double check high pass.  set compressor..."switch to the organ patch"...reset compressor..."when are you going to make those presets the same volume?"..."that's fine, just don't touch your volume knob."

"Vocal"..."sing please"..."sing a song"..."i don't have a preference"..."whatever is in your heart, man"..."well sing like you mean it"...check input gain, bring up fader.  listen to tone, make sure there's not mud.  don't get freaked out over that high mid thing yet, the room is empty. adjust tone slightly. set compressor. pay attention to tone after compressor is in. send to verb. check it, adjust decay. check delay, check number of repeats. check compressor again after voice warms up a little bit.

"OK, let's do a song..."

Of course at this point the work on getting the mix together really starts, but make sure you have good starting tones, so you're not interrupting the band, unless it's a real big problem.  Make the line check quick.  fast action by you to make sure the band does not get bored is key.  If they get bored, they will not play or sing loud, which means they will sandbag you for show time.  Mix to taste, and relax until show time...

1 comment:

  1. Sounds like every sound check with every band in every venue ever. =D

    The best thing ever is when your players wander off nowhere to be found after you've checked their instrument... And it's a festival line check during a 20 minute changeover.


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