The Invaluable Checklist for your Live Sound Setup


When preparing for a live sound gig, there are some things you need to be aware of. Some gigs are obviously smaller or larger than others so you need to be sure you have the live sound setup you need to make the gig run smoothly.

When you have the rider and are more or less sure of the lineup, you can gauge what type of equipment you will need.

At every live gig, there are different requirements, you may need more of some things and less of others but here below I point out the things that are necessary at every concert.

What’s in a live sound setup?

1. Mixer.

Obvious right? Still, you should be aware of how many tracks the band will need and the size of the mixer required for the gig.

The size of the mixer varies if you’re mixing a 16 track rock group or a 24 track special show with different line-ups. Also be aware of extra tracks for FX returns or playbacks for example.

2. Enough Monitors

The band needs to be able hear themselves onstage. Bring enough monitors. It will be a pain both for you and the band if there are monitoring problems.Having a great stage sound will let the gig run smoothly and the band will appear more confident, resulting in a better live sound.

3. Decent P.A.

You won’t need a huge JBL Vertec line-array for a small club so plan accordingly. When talking to the equipment rental make sure you specify the size of the venue and type of the concert.

The professionals who work there will usually be able to gauge how big your system will have to be. Sure, they might make it a little bit bigger than they really have to in order to charge more, but it’s safe to say that they’re(usually) trustworthy.

4. Outboard Equipment.

In addition to the mixer, the FOH engineer must have a decent selection of outboard equipment to help him mix. When working with analog mixers, this means having a huge effects rack with compressors, gates and multi-effects.

But when working with digital mixers, all the compressors and effects are built-in, making the process of inserting them a breeze.

For example, working with a rock group and an analog mixer you will need at least:

  • Compressor/Gate for the kick drum.
  • Compressor/Gate for the snare. You can often get dual gate/compressors that you can use and save space in your effect rack.
  • Gates for the toms.
  • Compressor for the bass.
  • Compressors for the vocal, if more than one then use the compressor on the lead vocal.
  • 3-4 different types of effects. Drum reverb, plate reverb for vocals and tap-tempo delay are my favorites and the ones I use the most.

5. Extra Cables

Lastly, because with Murphy’s law watching closely everything that goes on in the live sound field, make sure you have backups of everything. And more often than not, that means cables. Bring more cables than you think you will ever need, because you will need them.

What Else is in your Live Sound Setup?

So when you’re packing for your next live sound gig, prepare yourself and make notes of what you will need. Do you have a big enough mixer? Enough monitors? Will your P.A. be enough? Keep all these questions in mind and follow these guidelines and you’ll do great.

What do you guys think? Am I forgetting something? Something I’m not mentioning? Let me know!

Image by: Micah Taylor

  • Tania

    This is a great checklist and guide for indie promoters. The only disagreement I have with it is the endorsement of digital consoles. It is true that the high-end ones are fabulous (for those who know intimately how to operate them, that is), but the entry-level consoles, especially the Yamaha models are a NIGHTMARE. Usually they are accompanied by a beginner sound “engineer”, and the combination can take a simple two person act HOURS to get even close. The built in EQ just KILLS tone, and isn’t even worth using for monitors. I can’t even begin to express how much I hate them! lol

    Other than that, this is awesome. Thanks!

    • Björgvin Benediktsson

      I’m sorry to hear that 🙂 I think the beginner sound engineer doesn’t really have anything to do with the quality of the console. If an engineer knows what he’s doing he’ll be able to make the most of any console, even a shitty one.

      thanks for the comment. glad you liked the post.

    • Desi Lyric

      Oh how so much has changed in just five years! I used to always want outboard gear for my EQ and dynamics processors, but now I’m sold on the digi-consoles (good ones have become more affordable, as well as serious advancements in tech). I’m sure POWERED DIGITAL MIXERS will be right around the corner, since you no longer need to insert signal processing between the mixer and the amps any longer, as it’s all built in. I’ll stay away from them though, because I hate powered anything. Powered speakers can eat a D as far as I’m concerned. With Class-D amplification being so much less heavy, it’s just right around the corner.

  • Great read. I am somewhere in the middle of this article. I am running sound at a venue (think small club with 12 inputs max), and sound man for two acts. One act has a digital mixer. The other uses what I bring. It is tough purchasing gear and keeping it working when you don’t make that much using it. It seems as if I am always buying rack gear, cases, cables, amps, something. I am now thinking about renting, thanks to you sir. Again, great read.

  • DrAudio

    Two very important items were left out of this article.
    First being microphones and DI boxes. Always bring a few more mics than you think you need, both vocal and instrument. You never know when there is going to be a guest vocalist or extra guitar etc. As for DI boxes count on one for bass, one or two for keys(maybe more), and acoustic guitars/mandolins and the like.
    The second is a good variety of mic stands, clips etc. The drum kit may be larger than you expect or a percussionist has a large compliment of instruments. Also like above, guest vocals, guitars etc. Having extra stands will come in real handy.

    I do believe these items are more important than outboard gear because without mics the rest of your PA gear is essentially useless. You can still do a show without comps and effects but try doing one without mics!

    Oh and don’t forget power cords(this may fall under cables but worth mentioning). The heavier the gauge the better.

    • Impromptu

      I often have to do simul live and recording for jazz gigs up to about seven/eight piece.

      My mic bag contains:
      4 x SM-type dynamic workhorses with clips
      2 x large diaphragm condensers with clips
      Matched pair of pencil condensers with clips and a stereo bar (of course they can be used for purposes other than stereo)
      PZM (often a lifesaver on acoustic pianos, but very versatile)
      Kick mic with clip
      Lavalier (small capsule and omni is of limited use in a live setup, but there are still possibilities)
      A couple of spring clips for mounting on pianos, cabinets, etc…
      Plus a torch, gaffa tape, hazard tape, multi-screwdriver, a bag of fuses and (bizarrely enough) a little pot of coverup makeup (you’d be amazed how often that comes in handy).

      Some instrumentalists bring their own dedicated gear, but the above kit bag has never let me down.

      The most important thing to take to a gig though is a plan on a piece of paper. It always gets changed, but you still need one. Get in touch with band and venue beforehand and discuss lineup and stage positioning. You should get things at least basically in place before they get there and start clogging up the stage. There’s often some crawling around later while they’re checking/rehearsing/practising/chatting/arguing but you should keep it to a minimum.