Live sound - Setup of the equipment

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Unlike in a recording studio, at every live event the equipment is set up from scratch (and clearly, dismantled when the gig is over!). So, one by one the various components are positioned: the splitter, the mike-stands, the mikes themselves, the monitors in relation to the musicians' positions. Sometimes, as well as the other ones present, two larger monitors are set up at the sides of the stage to which a stereo mix is sent (sidefill). This way all the musicians receive a homogeneous stereo sound front. The following figure illustrates one possible set-up:

Live sound - Sidefill monitors

Sidefill monitors

Sometimes, for big shows, it's good choice to set up a line od wedges along the front of the stage pointing towards the band. This configuration is called front fill.

Generally the work is divided into three. One team (the stage assistants) takes care of the positioning onstage of all the necessary equipment. The stage engineer takes care of all the connections that regard him, for example, he connects the splitter to his mixer and all the monitor outputs following the usual chain: graphic equalizer-> limiter-> final amplifier-> monitor. Finally he connects the effects rack that he needs to create the mixes which will be sent to the musicians. The front-of-house engineer takes care of the connections that regard him, in other words, he connects the cable coming from the splitter containing the signals coming from the stage to his mixer. He also connects his effects rack and master output to the P.A.s which will be set up on the sides of the stage, as he indicates. In large scale events it isn't uncommon to have somebody who specifically takes care of the P.A. system, namely the P.A. engineer.

When all the connections have been completed, we move on to the line check phase which means to check that all the connections are working. A person will stand onstage and generates signals on the channels. Starting from channel 1, if it's a microphone he'd talk into it, if it's an instrument he'd make contact with the jack etc. In this phase the stage sound engineer and the front-of-house engineer are standing at their stations and checking that each channel's signal is received properly. Once both the engineers are satisfied on a channel, the next channel is tested, and so on. Then the stage sound engineer goes on to calibrating the monitors and the front-of-house engineer (or the abovementioned P.A. man) calibrates the system. This is where experience comes into play, together with a well-refined ear. The stage engineer is near the graphic equalizers, whence he sends a signal he knows very well to a monitor[18 ] and acts on the graph in such a way as to confer to the monitor a response that is, on the whole, flat. The test signal that is sent varies depending on the way each sound engineer works. Often a microphone is used to send the signal of ones own voice to the monitor, seeing that it is the sound one knows best. Or else a partcularly well known musical piece that also has a very broad frequency range can be used as a test signal. Particular attention should be given to what is called the "Larsen Effect" and which we will talk about in the next section [The Larsen effect ] . The front-of-house engineer tests the system by sending various kinds of test-signals. Here too, the help of music that is well known and tested in different situations by the engineer will help him to find the right sound for the hall the concert is taking place in (clearly if we were preparing a jazz concert we wouldn't test the system with an Iron Maiden song!). Once all these operations have been completed the stage is ready to receive the musicians onstage and we can pass on to the next phase: the soundcheck.

[18 ] In actual fact, one rarely has time to calibrate all the monitors independently. A more realistic approach is to calibrate a single monitor once, and to reproduce its setup for all the others, seeing that usually the monitors are all the same.


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