preparing for a show: the technical guide for musicians

by Albert Ng of
by Albert Ng of

1:35am and my brain decides to argue with a lot of things, particularly with reality. anyways, these little points are just off the top of my head (and feelings) in no particular order. if you know me well enough you’ll know that i would take a lot of detour just to make a point. i’ll try to simplify this.

1. technical rider
if you’re performing for a show particularly under an organizing committee, please do us crew a favour and take a minute to write the list of things that your band needs. the number of mics, DIs, backlines needed….all of these are important information to help you with your own show. obviously, if it was your own show, you would want everybody to take note of everything from wardrobe to song list to lights etc. if you are going to play alongside other acts/bands, doesn’t matter if your setup is small or meh, preparing a technical rider goes a long way.

here’s what happen when you don’t give me a tech rider: i stalk your facebook profile and/or fan page. it’s worse if you’re a band and you don’t even bother including your band members on your fan page. what gives?! now i have to search the entire internet for a picture of your performance somewhere -oh never mind you don’t even have a decent picture of you performing on your own fan page. it’s okay. now i have to message you.

if you don’t reply me then well, i’m sorry if we are not able to provide what you need and if that’s the case i sure hope you bring your own stuff with zero assumptions that we have “them”, whatever they are.

DO mention specifically if you are playing electric guitar or acoustic guitar. Just mentioning guitar requires an extra skill on my side that i do not have – being psychic.

DON’T tell me that you only need four mics when your band consists of 5 vocalists and you are using your own mic. list them as 5 vocals anyway; i don’t really care if you are using your own mic or not – it’s the least of my worries.

tip: i don’t mind your setlist! i would usually try to watch or listen to your past performances when i have the time.

2. soundcheck
now i know that the world isn’t all that fair and not everyone can afford to be a full time musician. soundchecks are usually done during office hour or rush hour. it’s probably unfortunate enough that you have to spend most of your weeknights practicing, right? right.

now, soundcheck isn’t all that bad (at least for me) if you’ve given me your tech rider. i can almost not forgive you if you were to make last minute changes (like “oh we’ve decided to add a djembe and a tambourine i’m sorry i forgot to tell you”) but all is well once i brainstorm within a second as to which mic ends up miking which instrument. i mean, change is inevitable right? right.

bear in mind that when you do come for soundcheck – you are able to complete two important things:

  1. achieve optimum stage level for your monitoring
  2. give the engineer to work with your balance and your tone, possibly improving them as well

so if you are not given the chance to do soundcheck:

  1. DO cooperate with the crew and sound engineer during your setup so we wouldn’t spend 10-15 minutes just figuring out who stands where.
  2. DO a 30-second soundcheck with your loudest song to crosscheck your stage level with the engineer. the engineer can only do as much as guessing.
  3. DON’T yell “i need more *whatever* in this monitor!!” in the middle of your song. at least wait until your song is over.
  4. Vocalist: DON’T point your mic down towards the monitors as it may cause feedback. if you’re more of a holding kind of person, please be watchful of the direction that you’re pointing it to.
  5. DO practice, practice, practice. i cannot stress this point enough but front-of-house engineers are not there to fix your mistakes. if you don’t know how to trust FOH engineer in charge, at least trust your own bandmates; learn listen to each other.

tip: guitarists are more than welcome to bring their own trusty ol’ amp (better with presets from practices)! the band could do the same with their own sound/tech person!

3. “spokesperson”
if all the above fails, get the person that the whole band trusts (or yourself) and walk through the details with the crew before the show. i am opened to any changes up to 5 minutes before the show. if you don’t even have a spokesperson then well, suffer the consequencesssss!!!! muahahaha


random bits of thoughts:
when i started college, i realized that the only way to survive this industry is to know how to talk and build my network. i’m, no doubt, in a “people industry”. one cannot survive without another to support and vice versa. a band may be the best of their generation but without a good sound engineer, manager or even producer the band maybe can go as far as only being the resident band of a local bar.

these days, a lot of artists are going independent. a band is sometimes their own manager, producer and even techie. i have nothing against that but how far can you go if only you and your band believe in your own product? i don’t mean to sell to make money but rather to have people to buy into your music, without having to actually buy them first.

just remember that without your listeners, you have zero support in terms of income. i wouldn’t make income my main goal, but if you understand the importance of “serving” your listeners with good (these days that means sellable) music without having to sell yourself out (AKA MUSIC IS YO LIFE YOU WOULD DO ANYTHING TO DO MUSIC YOUR WHOLE LIFE), you will do fine.

  1. point 1: if you want to be your everything, at least learn how to manage your facebook/twitter page. don’t post once every few months unless if you need to, provide the audience with a legit explanation and a timeline of when to expect your new music/show/to simply hear from you next. talk to your audience like how you would talk to a friend. anyone would appreciate that kind of “special artist-fan” connection.
  2. point 2: be humble. don’t expect a respect that you have not earned. make friends, share your music (free demos/ep/mixtapes etc), find shows to support other acts… you won’t go anywhere without other people doing the same for you.

2:32am and i’m not making sense anymore. time for me to hit the sack.

kind soul + high level of work ethic + responsibility = a good package.


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