By Kat Goldman
Checking ... One ... Two ... Three ...
Often during their sound check, many performers will say into the microphone:
“Checking One… Two… Three.”
Sometimes, the really experienced performers will say:
“Checking One… Two… Two… Twooooo… and they will let the “Ewwww” really ring out for a bit, as if they are trying to make sense of the sound they are hearing.
Sometimes, they will make a clucking sound, like when you pop your tongue off the roof of your mouth.
Or else they will say: “Check, check, check,” but they will say it so fast, that it just sounds like: “Chk- chk-chk.”
These are the kinds of things that can’t be taught, but that you learn by doing as a songwriter.
What I do, is a combination of saying:
“Checking One… Two… Two… Two-
Three, Two, Four… Tewwwwwww,” and then I will make a couple of the clucking sounds off the roof of my mouth.
Then I will go back to the beginning and I will say:
“One…Two…Three…Four- A-Five… A-Six… A-five, Six, Seven, Eight!”
And then I will kick my right leg up into the air, and then my left leg, and then I will start to shake out my arms making full circles around my body, all the while making the clucking sounds into the microphone.
By this time, the sound person looks very flustered from behind the soundboard, and he will sometimes begin to roll his eyes. However, do not let this deter you from the task at hand. This is your show, and you must do whatever makes you feel comfortable during your sound check.
Now, just because when you first arrive and meet your sound person, he’s wearing all kinds of tattoos on his arms and around his neck, is dressed in black, and has a heavy chain hanging out of his pocket- does not mean you should be intimidated by him.
Just because he will be the sole person responsible for making your sound good that night, does not mean you need to kowtow to him, or become all coy and stuff, batting your eyelashes and acting like you don’t know anything about music, saying things like: “Oh- was I supposed to plug my patch cord into the input? Tee hee- tee hee. “
By the same token, you don’t have to try to impress your sound person by acting like a real “pro” and saying something like: “Can I have some more bass on my guitar?” even though you have no idea what that means, but you think it sounds good. Also, try not to piss him off, acting all cocky and rock star-ish when you get on stage. Remember: he’s got his hands on the dials during your show.
Instead, try to approach your sound person as your equal- like you are in this together. Who knows- maybe you share things in common like collecting comic books, or enjoying Thai food. When you get to the gig, you might want to say “Hi!” and make a point of connecting.
There used to be a rumor going around NYC that if you tip your sound person, they will make your sound extra good. I am gullible, so one time I handed a twenty-dollar bill to the sound guy at The Bitter End. He seemed pretty happy about it, albeit a tad confused.
My advice is to take your time with your sound check. Don’t let anyone: a manager, sound person, or headliner- make you feel pressured to rush through it. Do what you need in order to feel grounded in your show. Do your yoga warm-ups; stretch your leg against a speaker. Don’t be afraid to ask for things like reverb, or for more volume in your vocal monitor. Don’t offer money to the sound person- you can’t afford it!
But perhaps you can offer one of your CD’s. You might even make a new fan out of it. And maybe you will make a new friend.