Sound reinforcement can be broken up into simple segments and based on need of reinforcement project, we can narrow down the staggering options that can distract us.  Let’s dig in.

If you will only use pre-recorded music or audio tracks, this is relatively easy and you will get there quickly.  I will concentrate on the live performance for this series.  We will look at the needs of the band members, the requirements of the audio gear, understanding the environmental effects and the basic strategy to make it all work together.

Once you know the number of performers and the location of the event, you can begin planning on getting the gear you need and an idea of the requirements for great sounding – crowd pleasing live events.  The first step is to get an idea of the show/act/performance.  Live drums?  Keyboards or brass section?  Speech or information, you get the idea. 

Get an accurate count of the number of inputs you will need.  The total is important.  This can determine the size and capability of the mixer and the requirements of cabling, ‘monitors’, stands and microphones needed to cover the performance.  Then break them down into basic groups. 

Keep in mind that for making a live performance work, you need to have two totally independent sound systems available and in control so if we think about it, there is a sound system on the stage with the performers so they can hear themselves – and other performers – and any media they need to be aware of or perform with.  The audience requires the second system and this makes the party get started when the ‘house sound‘ gets cranked up and sounds great.

Most band /performer gear and audio cables will be connected to a long cable with a box at the end called a ‘snake‘.  Most inputs will be ‘mic‘ cables with three connectors for low ‘impedance‘ sources.  The microphone of your choice connects to a mic cable then gets plugged into this box on stage.  The snake connects that input to a very long cable leading up to the ‘mixing or sound board‘.  The sound board can listen separately to each input from the snake and can send that signal to a variety of ‘audio outs‘.  We will focus on the basic ones needed the vast majority of the time now and add more later on in this series.

The mixer – sound engineer will be able to send some of each performer’s input signal back through the snake to the amplifiers and their related on-stage speakers or in-ear monitors, etc.  (in this process it is really handy for the sound engineer to bring his/her own microphone….!!!!  That way once you turn on the stage monitors (on-stage speakers for performers) you can talk directly to anyone on stage and the main speakers going to the audience can be turned off so the audience will not hear you).  This allows you to quickly communicate to band members to help you sound check quickly.

The mixer – sound engineer will also send measured amounts of all performers’ inputs – all blended into a clear representation of the performance – to the main or house amplifiers and their related speakers/cabinets.  Effects like reverb and delay can be added to enhance the overall sound and ‘feel’ of the music/performance. 

That is the first goal.  Create two sound systems with the mixing board as the hub.  Operate them independently and you will be miles ahead of the rest of the ‘sound gurus’ I have heard out there.

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