One thing I do to prepare for every show is to create a sound system tuning checklist and map. That way I know what to do and where to do it.
Make a plan. Work the plan.Pat Brown
First, it allows you to think through your actions. What system tuning procedures must you complete and in what order? How can you arrange those actions for maximum efficiency? (aka minimum number of microphone moves)
Second, it allows you to be more creative and flexile in the field. We all know once we arrive on site tomorrow, many things will change. Speakers will get moved and timelines will adjust. But, since you thought through your process the day before, you’ll be able to respond to challenges and adapt to changes more quickly.
There are hundreds of potential sound system tuning procedures you could choose from, but you have a limited amount of time. You need to choose the ones that will create the most significant results.
Here’s an overview. (download the roadmap here)
First, I label all of the speakers. For a very small system I like to use easy to identify letters:
- L = Left Main
- R = Right Main
- S = Sub
- FF = Front-fill
- D = Delay
- R = Relay
For larger systems I’ll use Bob McCarthy’s lettering system:
- A, B, C, D for asymmetrical elements like Main, Sub, and Front-fill.
- A1, A2, A3 for symmetrical elements like Main Left and Main Right.
Second, I write out every action I might want to take. Then I edit and rearrange the list so that the most important steps (like verification) come first.
- What order will make me feel confident that the client could walk in the room at any moment and I would be ready for soundcheck?
- What order will allow for the minimum number of microphone moves?
Lastly, I draw in my microphone positions with labels to identify their location in relationship to the audience shape I am attempting to cover. Since the audience is the thing I can’t change, I want to work backwards and adjust my speaker placement and aim to match.
Here’s a small show I worked on recently in a hotel ballroom. As you can see, I’m expecting left and right mains with subs underneath. I investigated a center position for the subs, but found it unlikely.
Now that I have the outputs labeled, I’ll write out a big list of everything I want to do during system tuning, starting with verification steps and usually ending with a measurement of combined systems at FOH so that I can continue measuring during the soundcheck and show. Then I edit and rearrange the list based on the priorities listed above. The more detailed the better. You can see that mine is very sparse, but I still include some reminders like copying the EQ from Left Main to Right Main.
Pro tip: Print out your list and map so you can access it quickly and take notes.
If you want to be a badass, you’ll open up MAPP XT, and go through every step on your list. This is not in an effort to predict the data, but to practice the moves so that they will feel more natural in the field tomorrow.
The only step you can’t practice in MAPP XT’s Measurement Viewer is averaging, but you can export your traces and do the averaging in Smaart. Here’s how.
I got into the room the next day and guess what happened…
Everything changed. 🙃
The audience shape changed, which meant that I not only had to reposition the mains, but also had to add front-fills and work that into my system tuning checklist. But, I didn’t stress about it at all because I had planned it out the day before and I knew I could be flexible.
Are there any of these procedures that you’d like me to go over in more detail? Let me know in the comments below.