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  • Looking for tips on reducing setup time

    Hi All, I am a musician and also run sound for my band. I have a couple of different mixing rigs that i use depending on the gig mostly small bars gigs to small/medium sized outdoor events. Most of the equipment is the same in terms of powered mains, unpowered monitors , vocal mics, and pedal based vocal effects. For small bars we rarely mic amps and we use a Yammy powered mixer to run mains and monitors. For outdoors we mic amps, drum overheads, drum kick, use a bigger board (non-powered), separate amp for monitors, snake.. I do almost all of the setup myself and I'm also a guitarist in the band. I am finding it very difficult to get setup so that we can start on time, switch hats, get my guitar rig ready to go and start playing. I am getting to the gigs earlier to try to factor in the setup time and leave a margin of error, but it seems I am always right up against the clock now matter how early I get there. One solution is to ask for help, and my guys do help to an extent, mostly with the loadin/loadout. I've probably done 60+ gigs and the setup should be getting easier not more difficult.

    Since there are so many experienced sound guys on this forum I am looking for tips to streamline the setup process. What do you do to make things easier for yourself?. How do you manage cabling? do you color code different length cables, etc?



  • #2
    Intelligently rack everything you can so that it takes minimal connections to get it up and going. For instance a mains rack could contain DSP, amps and a patch panel. One or two XLR ins and a few speakon outs. A monitor amp rack could have six channels of eq and amps. Six channel snake in, six speakons out. Same with the effects rack. If you're still using analog, there are multi pin snakes that will allow you to keep everything connected at the board and in the rack and make one or two quick connections when you set up. Going digital will alleviate much of this. I mic everything almost always, so drop snakes are a real time saver. I drop it to the stage location and make the players responsible for their own mic(s), cable(s) and stand(s) and have have them plug into the same input on their snake every time so I know where to find them on my end.

    Using the above suggestions, I can set up a full sound system including four 2x18 subs, four mains, six monitor mixes and a rack full of analog comps, gates and effects in under an hour with a little help putting speakers in place. I'm am usually faster than the guitar player and drummer. My bass gear takes less than three minutes to set up; rack on cab, plug in wall, rack to speaker, mic to snake, transmitter on me. Done! You know phrase. Work smarter not harder.
    I love to sing, and I love to drink scotch. Most people would rather hear me drink scotch.


    • #3
      First off, there is no reason your band mates can't help with this. In fact they should feel badly if they don't. If they don't understand how to connect things they can still move gear. I've seen this type of thing before and it's just not right.

      Otherwise...............consistency and repeatability are your friends. Put together a load plan for your equipment and stick to it, not having to search around for things is a plus. Leave as much gear pre-connected as is practical. There are some items in racks for example that you can leave harness's connected.

      I use a number of medium size cases for many different items. Each case is marked on top what it contains. Speakons are color coded by length and and inventory is marked inside the case.

      Establish a set up plan. You might not be able to stick with it for varying reasons but it's a good way to avoid looking at a pile of gear and saying "Where do I start now?" I like to start with FOH, then Mains/Subs, then amps followed by running snakes, wedges,mics, line check. That's a simplistic outline but the rest falls in place. Don't think it matters a great deal how you do it. The speed is in that your motions are deliberate and you're not standing around confused.

      And talk to your band.................or take more of the money from the gig than they do. You're a band member, not their servant.


      • #4
        If the situation supports it, simply deploying less gear has been the biggest time saver for me. For example at indoor venues that are long and narrow with a corner stage, a minimal number of monitors and a single FOH stack against the wall pointed out diagonally may be enough. It can actually sound better and improve sight lines as well. If you know ahead of time what you will need at a given venue then really think what is minimum you can get away with and still deliver the goods. Sure, bring a little extra but try to leave it in the truck. Every piece of gear requires multiple touch points from selection at home, load up in the truck/trailer, load in, set up, wire up, test out, tear down, dial in, load out, clean up, put away. So every piece adds more minutes that you would think.
        --Mike"If your not confused, you don't know what is going on!"Live Sound for the Mt. Shasta areaShastaLiveSound.com


        • #5
          What passive mixer do you use and how many spaces of rack space do your fx/eqs take up?

          We use Design CAD 3D to keep stage plots and mixer/snake connection schematics up to date on our band Dropbox so that if I'm hit by a truck right before a gig anyone can grab it and get our system setup with minimal hassle. Both ends of our two snakes are labeled and easy to read in low light. Had I been in the band when they bought the mixer case, I certainly would have advised them to get a combo rolling rack case with a large reel snake built in and the mixer/fx/snake permanently connected together... run a power cord to it and pull the box end of a reel snake to the stage and the mix position is done. (THAT is where I'd like to get to eventually.)

          Right now, we use what we have and have roles for everyone during setup... and usually at least 4 of the 13 of us are there early to get things rolling.
          • I go in first and run power and the snakes while the others are moving in the mixer/gigrig/PA and their stuff to a staging area just offstage (so we're not tripping over each other).
          • Bass and guitar players place their rigs and the FOH speakers next (upstage right and left, respectively) to set the overall width and depth of "the stage" and then the drum rack, rug and shield (and sometimes the whole kit) awaiting the drummer's arrival (always late).
          • By this time i usually have the mix position set and FOH up and running "setup tunes" (if the venue isn't already playing something... need to test asap and much easier to troubleshoot then than when the stage is full of 12 musicians and their gear).
          • Set the keyboard/amp and the music stands and DIs/cables for the horns/mando/fiddle next and wire up the drum kit if he hasn't already.
          • Make sure the guitar and bass players have wired the stage monitors correctly and then set the lead vox mics/stands.
          • Test the monitor world... and we're ready for the show.
          • (Setup some lights last... complexity dictated by gig/venue and how much time I didn't have to spend troubleshooting.)
          Typically, all 13 help to strike the stage and load the band truck after the show... our record is 22min. Usually takes about 1.5 hr. average to setup. (Another hour for the gonzo version of my light show... 15 min. for a simple tree controlled from the mix position.
          Where the Mississippi River runs west...


          • #6
            13 people helping ? Man what I wouldn'y give for that.


            • #7
              Originally posted by Tomm Williams View Post
              13 people helping ? Man what I wouldn'y give for that.

              It's simple, really... NOBODY gets paid until we're loaded out.
              Where the Mississippi River runs west...


              • #8
                Originally posted by Tomm Williams View Post
                13 people helping ? Man what I wouldn'y give for that.
                ​13 helpers? That would kill me. Every time I get volunteers to "help" me I wind up with stuff in the wrong cases, cables that won't unroll because they have 13 pretzels in them, stuff I can't ever find again, broken wheels, etc. I almost got to the point of saying $X if I do it alone and $(1.5)X with help. 13 volunteers? Save me…..


                • #9
                  Hi RR.....I do the same thing, play guitar and run sound for the band. As already mentioned, have as many components racked and pre-connected as you can. But, nothing will ever replace just getting to the gig early enough to do all of this. I typically get to a gig 2 1/2 hours before we start, I can have the PA unloaded and strung up within 1 1/2 hours, maybe less. My guitar rig is fairly simple, combo amp, pedal board, and 2 guitars. I'm usually completely ready to go within 2 hours of arrival. And keep in mind that the 2 bands I play in have 7 and 8 members. The only help I get is usually unloading. The drummer owns the PA, so he and I are the ones that get to the gig early. Once everything is in, I hook everything up while the drummer sets up and mics his kit. He also puts up the lights and the banner, etc. Our PA consists of a large rack with mixer, amps, and outboard gear, pair of JBL tops, pair of EV subs, and 4 monitors. We mic everything except for the smallest of venues.
                  Bill Lawrence custom Strat
                  Ibanez Artcore AS-73 (Member Ibanez Art Corps)
                  1991 Peavey Classic 50 2x12 Tweed
                  Boss TU-2 tuner
                  Original Cry Baby circa 1978
                  EHX LPB-1
                  Boss BD-2
                  Keeley DS-1
                  Boss CE-5
                  Dunlop Uni-Vibe w/expression pedal
                  Deluxe Memory Man
                  Talk Box (really old one, mid 70's)


                  • #10
                    I have help unloading and setting up. I get the guys onto the light rig, once we hang the lights, I show a couple of them, 1 does the DMX and the other does the AC. Then I wire up the console. An 8ch snake covers drums, and the far side bass and guitar amp. Another 6 ch snake goes to the front and covers 4 mics, a DI for acoustic and a DI for keys. Small snake from the mixer to the power amps. Speakons are labelled. Power everything up and we are good to go for soundcheck. When tearing down I over under all the cables while others unplug all the DMX and power cables from the lights. They pull all the cables out in straight lines, and I do them all up and put them in their boxes. Once everything is ready to go, I go in the trailer and "call the pack" they bring me what I need and I strap it all down. ---------------------------------- First we have the monitors, mixer and then the mixer stand: Next the light boxes and more monitors, Top, sub and power amps Same on the Other side, and then the light stands and truss. Done.
                    NO SIGNATURE FOR YOU!!


                    • #11
                      Stratguru - that is a setup (or tear-down) of joy and beauty. I take my hat off to you.


                      • #12
                        First thought, don't play guitar in the band you do sound for... Of cours that shows a lack of sensitivity towards guitarists but you know the drill If it takes 1.5 hours to set up, then show up 2.5 hours or more. We usually start loadin at noon for an 8pm show, though today's loadin started at 8am
                        Former product development engineer: Genz Benz, a KMC Music/Fender Musical Instruments Company, continuing factory level product support and service for Genz Benz

                        Currently product development engineer: Mesa Boogie


                        • #13
                          Nice! We are pretty small potatoes. Everyone busts my balls about the cables. I over/under them in a loop size I know, so they fit into the specific cable boxes I have. They are around the size of 2 milk crates each. There are 4 cable crates: XLR-L/XLR-S, AC/Speakon, Snakes/misc, Misc/Misc. on a normal sound job where I'm not playing, I'll only need the 3 small cable trunks. The misc one has 2 - 25' and 2 - 50' Speakon, 4 - 25' black extension cords, and 2 - 50' and 2 - 25' XLR. Just a bundle of that little bit of extra stuff we might need for a band gig. I have my misc little suitcase with DI's adapters, zip ties, soldering iron, solder, all the little odds and ends as well. I'm a little aback with all my cables, but that's why they all work. Everything is organized and has a specific place. Lights: 20 wash lights (blizzard 3NX & Fab5's old clamps in pic) 4 Intimidator Spot Duos: and 4 Minimac Profiles: everything has its place. Found a good foam dealer with 3 different densities so I had a bunch of pieces cut up for what I need. Keeps everything safe and sound.
                          NO SIGNATURE FOR YOU!!


                          • #14
                            I'm a big fan of color coding patch points and cables. I use colored rings on the XLR cables to denote length. I use colored plates or colored electrician's tape on patch point to match-up colors on snake fantails etc... when possible.

                            For example: my FOH snake, the channels are in groups of 4 channels per color on the fantail. I find it's much quicker to take one color group knowing that those four sends go in "these 4 color matched channels" on the board's patch panel, and only sort 4 channels at a time, rather than pooling through all 24 sends and 8 returns of the snake as a group. Also with the color coding on the snake fantails and patch panels, this really cuts down on mis-patches.

                            For example: I find it's much quicker for set-up and tear-down to actually use a 15ft. cable rather than a 50ft. cable where a 15ft. cable is all the longer it needs to be to do the job. Before I color coded the lengths of the XLR cables, my well meaning and trying to be helpful bandmates would grab whatever XLR cable to plug in mics and such... they'd grab whichever cable looked to be "plenty long enough"... so they'd grab the 50 footers out of the cable trunk first, till they ran out of those, then they'd go for the 40 footers, then the 30's... and they seeming plugged in the closest to the snake head mics first and work their way across the stage. Since I typically bring "just a few more cables than what it should take to do the job", by the time they'd get to the longest runs, they'd be coming to me asking if I brought anymore longer cable than what's in the cable box... so there I'd be swapping out 50ft. mic cables (in a slong pile of cable heaped up at the snake head) for the 15ft. cables that should have been used in the first place. The color coding has worked out great, and they caught on really quick via my posting the length chart on the cable trunks.

                            BTW: Here's my color code scheme for lengths:

                            Black: either 100ft. or under 10ft. in length
                            Brown: 10ft.
                            Blue: 15ft. Admittedly blue would better denote 6 or 60, but I don't have 60ft. cables.
                            Red: 20ft.
                            Grey: 25ft. Same logic on this length as the 15ft... and 25ft. tends to get used on visible applications, and the grey looks ok.
                            Orange: 30ft.
                            Yellow: 40ft. And I find 40ft. long XLR cables are a fairly handy length when 30ft. isn't quite long enough and 50ft. is stupidly too long.
                            Green: 50ft.

                            Oh... and another time saver: I like packing the cables with whatever they're used with if possible, so the case can be opened, pull the cable(s) out and plug in.... therefore minimizing the amount of time spent pawing through a cable trunk.
                            Last edited by Audiopile; 06-05-2014, 06:55 PM.
                            I need to catch up with those guys, for I am their leader.


                            • #15

                              Originally posted by agedhorse View Post
                              First thought, don't play guitar in the band you do sound for...
                              I believe Andy has a point here. For years (decades) I've been playing in bands where I'm commonly the odd man out socially. That's likely because I don't socialize much (almost none). And for years (decades), I've been frustrated with "not getting much help from the band" concerning load-in, load-out, set-up, and tear-down... mostly because they were all busy socializing. Well... last Friday I played a gig, and for one of the first times ever, somebody I personally knew took-in the show on my behalf... he was there to see the band I play in... period. He happens to be our local FedEx route driver... super nice guy who's also a working musician in a neighboring market. After the show, he clearly wanted to hang-out and BS... showed me his late model Indian scooter, wanted to check out the gear we had at the gig, talk musician stuff, and talk gigs... and turned me on to a bunch of gigs that would be right down our band's alley... good paying semi local gigs that he's begged off of cause his band is a bit of a square peg in those round hole gigs, and he's pretty sure our band would be the round peg suitable for those round hole gigs. I'm watching the clock tick while he's referring gigs to us... 20 minutes, then 30 minutes, then 45 minutes go by... and it's still "yakety sax"... and not a cord has be coiled yet... the rest of the band is all "yakety sax" too with their post performance social obligations. Then I realize these are golden minutes... don't get in a hurry, even though I'd just put in an 8 hour day doing the music thing after putting in a 12 hour day doing the day job thing, and I still have an hour of tear-down & load-out, and then an hour drive home ahead of me, and a 16 hour day ahead of me tomorrow, and I haven't even had breakfast yet "today", and the post performance adrenalin low is hitting me HARD... I realize *this yakety sax thing* is important... and if I could source a suitable helper, a hundred or even two hundred spent on a hired helper for tear-down and load-out, along with load-in and set-up would likely be well worth it in the long run.
                              Last edited by Audiopile; 06-05-2014, 08:26 PM.
                              I need to catch up with those guys, for I am their leader.