Turn it up to 11!

Last week while doing my sound check, I had the sound guy ask me to turn up the volume on my handheld mic.

This is a scenario where knowing your gear comes in handy. This was a Shure SM58, which is a very standard microphone and 99% of handheld mics don’t have volume knobs.

I asked the sound guy for clarity, that he was referring to the corded handheld I was holding. He said yes, and repeated that I should turn up the volume on it. I told him I was unaware corded handheld mics had a volume knob and didn’t know how to adjust it, and he’d have to show me. At that point, somehow he magically made the sound go up using only his soundboard.

The whole week ended up being a struggle with this sound company. From them wanting to sound check a band 10 minutes before my show after I had already starting to my “talk up” for crowd building, to them telling me my gear was bad when it ultimately was their snake that had bad inputs.

The moral of the story is to not let anyone push you around, and know your gear, so that you know how it works, why it works and that will usually give you a clue as to why it’s not working when it doesn’t.


Early Bird Gets the Sound Check

One of the biggest tips that I’ve learned about performing is being early to the gig. This is even more important when you are working with other acts in a stage show. Your “tech rehearsal” is soo much easier when you’re not the last person.

When you’re the first one to do their tech, you get the crew’s full attention and your full time slot. As more performers show up, the tech rehearsal always ends up running long and if you’re the last person to do tech, you will probably get an incomplete or rushed tech run through.

The tech needs for my show is pretty simple and when I’m on variety shows the producers like to have me tech last because my needs are simple. I suggest to have me first, to get me out of the way, and since I probably won’t use my full time slot, they’ll get ahead early on, instead of being behind schedule right out of the gate.

Even in situations where I have a later scheduled tech time, I try to show up first and try to be ready to do the tech rehearsal first. That allows me to slip in if an act isn’t ready to go at the start of their time.

Here’s a good example, recently I was in a show and the other act I was sharing the stage with was a band. The event had both of our tech times at the same time. I was there an hour before the shared tech time. I loaded in, got my show set up ran my tech and was done before the shared tech time. The band showed up at the beginning of the tech time. Oh, I should mention the tech time was an hour before showtime, so with doors 15 mins before showtime, the shared tech time was really only 45 mins. By the time the band had loaded in and set up their gear, it was 10 mins to showtime, meaning they were already 5 mins behind schedule. They ended up getting no sound check, and their show suffered.

I realize it’s not always possible to show up early, or get your tech done earlier than your scheduled time and that’s just how life is. For me, getting there early ensures that my show gets what it needs or at least it gives me a good reason for them to hold the doors while I finish my tech!


Virtual Rehearsals…

Most of us are in a world now where we’re booking virtual shows, instead of converting in person shows to virtual shows. What that means is that instead of trying to save a gig from cancelling, we’re creating a completely new contract.

This has created another new trend, the virtual rehearsal. This is where whoever is hosting your show wants you to video and sound check about a week before your show. I think these now exist for a couple of reasons, the first is whoever is running the show (in house IT, or outside company) for the booker wants to make it look like they’re giving more value. The next is that they’ve been burned by a performer previously. It could have been that the performer had bad internet connection, horrible camera, or a bad mic.

Here’s the big thing, what does this rehearsal fix? Most of us are building our virtual theater’s for shows, and don’t have a dedicated space that stays set up 100% of the time. If someone asks me to move a light, it probably won’t be in the exact same spot on the show day. Also it may get moved for another show.

I’m just unclear what the point of a rehearsal is. They aren’t running any production for me, so why is there a walk through?

Also, doing a full rehearsal (which is what people are starting to ask me for) doubles the time commitment to the show. I’m literally doing two shows. When I mention that, I have yet to have someone be willing to pay for the second show.