If we start from the stage things actually be come easier. If the mixing or sound board is the hub of processing sounds, the stage is the hub for generating sounds! Most Live Sound Reinforcement events would benefit if the engineer spent more time here. It is not uncommon for the sound guy to spend fifteen minutes making sure the kick drum has every frequency needed pumped up loud enough to message your spine (and ear drums) but they take two minutes to set up the stage monitors. And most do that right after the band sets up - – – – – when there is no music playing!
So let’s take a minute and walk up on stage and see what it physically looks like. If you are familiar with the band you have a good idea of acceptable arrangements: Overall dimensions. Where are the riser(s). How tall are the ceilings. Where are the AC outlets. You may not be able to direct where the performers set up in a number of cases but you can influence some. Where should the drums/keyboards/horn section go. Where is a good central place for the snake (multi-connector cable connected to the mixing board). Where do the monitors go (unless using in-ear monitor systems). For me, this is also a good place to determine where the house speaker cabinets and amplifiers are placed. BTW, if you are not familiar with the band or act make it a practice to find out. Go to their website or media page. Get an idea of what they do live, if you can. Ten minutes on-line will save you a bunch of headaches if they turn out to have specific requests for their instruments or performers. I can also tell you from personal experience if you go up to Player C and say, “Hey, I got that adapter you need for your axe”, the player is going to notice the effort. They will relax and you can let them know they are in good hands. Getting the band’s cooperation is not necessary. It is not in the books. In some situations it might even be a waste of time. I will still try every time. Getting their cooperation…… sets up a great performance. Then I focus on stage sound….. and most band members will go out of their way to help during sound check and throughout the performance before 20 minutes of equalizing the kick drum.
Now that you have a good idea of the dimensions and set up requirements, place each performer in the best location and set up their respective microphones and monitors as needed. Set up House gear and test. From the mixing board, use a ‘talk-back’ microphone sent to the stage monitors to test and communicate with the performers. Band members might feel like they are inside a cage at the zoo, looking out at the visitors! Sometimes all you can see are the stage lights in your eyes. The venue may be quite dark. So the more comfortable they feel; the more like rehearsal you make it feel, the better the blend among performers. The better the blend, the better the whole event will unfold.
Going forward I will go over a few details and outline this process to make it easier as well fun!