If you’re a small band and your using a PA System for on stage at the pub or practicing even, you have to take into account quite a few things to get your sound ok and keep more people into your gigs than walking out.
This can be a simple process and over the years (I can remember playing through some terrible PA’s), here I’ll list a few easy tips for you that might make a little difference to your sound and make you a bit more aware of what to listen and look for.
Using a Small PA System can mean a few constraints on your sound and also the volume you play at as you have to remember it’s the listener you have to think about not the neighbors 3 doors down being able to hear your searing guitar solo, also feedback is a big problem with little setups, especially if you don’t have monitor speakers.
Things to take into account when you have purchased a Small PA system maybe things like, am I going to amplify the whole band through these small speakers or just the vocals, Positioning of speakers, Do we need monitor speakers to hear ourselves, have I got good microphones and is the sound I’m amplifying quality enough to run through the PA.
Here is a few key points with a bit of an explanation on Small PA System setups, I’m sure there is more and I’ll add as I think of them and revisit.
• Positioning the PA Speakers ::
The main speakers to reduce feedback generally should sit in front of you (Not by much, but still in front) and to the side and also pointing in slightly as so to hit the apex of the mosh pit, I have played with them behind me and without monitors, you just have to be really aware of feedback, volume out front and that you can hear yourself.
This doesn’t just happen, you have to try out different ways to setup and the trick is that every room you’ll play in will sound different and be different sizes, so practice makes perfect.
A lot of feedback can be eliminated with the purchase of a monitor speaker or speakers, these can have an amplifier already in them or you may have to run a separate amplifier for them, also you can have different levels of sound in your monitors i.e. Guitar low and Vocals higher etc etc.
• Playing Soft ::
What??!! How can we play soft we are a rock band!
Believe me playing soft is an art and also takes practice, respect for your fellow musicians and confidence in what you are playing.
Onions have layers and so does your sound, you need to strip back your sound and listen to each other and what you sound like, put yourself into the crowd and listen to yourself.
We used to run the whole band through the small system we had, we started with the drums as the start point and then built on that, usually a drummer would play slightly louder live as the excitement of the crowd etc would cause the skins to be hit harder.
Next we would layer the base over the simple hi hat/snare/bass drum beat, then next would be guitar or guitars and lastly vocals would be layered over the top.
If you are just running vocals out of the PA System you need to get the levels right for the vocals and be very aware where they sit in relation to the other instruments too, you don’t want to drive you PA too hard to get the vocals heard over the top of the other instruments.
• Sound in = Sound out ::
To put it nicely, if you and your instruments sound like garbage, you are going to sound like garbage amplified, no if buts or maybe’s, this is the reality we live in so spend time working on your sounds and techniques and all will be happy.
A little farty guitar amplifier is going to sound like a little farty amplifier through the PA System and also, if you can, invest in a decent vocal microphone, it’s worth it.
• Trial and Error ::
The best way to learn is to try, implement and listen, there are many variables in what you are doing and so this means there is many things you can try to get a better sound or make it easier for you to play.
If you or your band all have a common goal of making the sound the best it can be it can be a very rewarding experience.
• Getting someone you trust to tell you what you sound like ::
This is potentially dangerous and I’m sure has wrecked a few friendships over the years but you need someone to tell you what to turn up and turn down etc especially if you are live, but also in the practice room things that you think sound amaze balls to others may sound like doo doo.
So reality check yourself and get a friend to critique or help every now and then.
Anyway, I hope this is a few points you can look at when you are setting up your small PA System or even if you are just looking at buying a small PA System these points above maybe a few things to take into consideration.
Keep practicing and enjoy yourself!