Tips For Small Scale P.A Setup [Part 1]

I've just set up a P.A system and am now bored out my skull. I figured it would be a good occasion to provide my tips which help me set up a P.A. I am not going to say these tips apply to all situations, so use your own discretion if your speakers are liable to 'splode in a great fireball. 

Shouldn't have trusted me!

So the P.A that I've just set up consists of two active speakers, a mixer and a XLR multicore for tidiness. This is typical of most of the acoustic gigs I help put on for Radio Caley, of which I am an audio tech. These gigs don't require anything massively complex so the setup is usually enough.

Bad phone quality photo of the setup as I see it now. 
There is a stage and my table is to the side of the audience
 in the middle of the room. It looks simple but off camera to my right is a 
big wireless mic receiver, I have my Mixtrack Pro 2 for music with an Akai LPD 8
providing extra pads for additional control. I plugged in a second computer 
monitor to my laptop so I could see the order of events.

So, my tips for setting up a good P.A.

1. Make it easy for yourself

There are many ways to do this. I would say the main thing is that you have the right gear with you. There is nothing worse than running home to grab the microphone you forgot or finding that you have a male to female extension for the wrong wire. Know you have the right kit before, during and, after the event, that way you know you have the right kit for it as well as taking the right things home.

2. Bring food, lots of food.

Active speakers are heavy, so are boxes of wires and stands. It is a good chance you will be carrying it all around and will get very tired and hungry.
If you are responsible for a P.A chances are you will be the person working the longest, arriving hours before to set up and leaving hours after the shows over due to taking it all down. I recommend a tub of pasta and sandwiches and, high sugar energy drinks to keep you going.

3. Be in contact with the act and management.

It is really hard to set up a stage and system if you don't know what you are accommodating. For example do you need instrument mics for a drummer that may or may not turn up? A recent successful drama production required me to play samples and trigger effects, something I found out about on the day, if I didn't live across the road, I wouldn't have been able to get the appropriate gear. If people don't tell you things, it's on you to ask them, they may not know the extent of things you are doing in the background, which leads onto...

4. Understand people have no idea what you do and what they need.

Assuming you do your job neatly, people will never see the complex tangle of wires you have hidden out of site, where the only complex part of your job is the mixer. We just plug and play, power on, microphone on, guitar on, job done. With this in mind, people are likely to show up minutes before they are due on stage. Make the performers know that you need time to sound check. If it is a small theatre performance, you need  to see a run through if you are to know who's mics should be on and when to trigger sounds.

5. You don't know everything, deal with it.

I have arrived at events and looked at kit I've never heard of before. I either have to learn very fast or ruin the night. Ideally, before gigs, ask what equipment you will turn up to and grab the .pdf manuals of anything you don't know. That way if there is an issue, you don't rely on the (perhaps lack of) internet to help you out.


Part 2 coming soon!!!
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