Tips & Techniques
Working with PA Systems in Live Sound Production
This section contains some ideas - few, if any, are original, and some are repeated elsewhere on our website - that can make live production a bit easier. If you are already an experienced technician, sound-engineer or musician you probably won't find many earth‑shattering revelations or challenging surprises. If you know something yourself that you think would make a difference and don't mind sharing it, let us know about it.
The main subsections are:
Creating something useful and easy-to-use. Touring PA systems need to be robust enough for the rigours of life on the road, and simple and straightforward to set up and pack away.
Working with a mobile system.
Getting a workable sound quickly and effectively.
There a few points common to the whole business of live music production, which are summarised below:
- Remember what your business is. You are in the ENTERTAINMENT business. It doesn't matter how much else you know or how good you are at anything if the outcome doesn't entertain anyone. Presenting entertainment is the only important outcome. What you are doing only serves that end. If you have ANY problems that can wait until after the show, learn to let them wait.
- Time is of the essence in your business. The show is tonight, not tomorrow; at 8:00 p.m., not 11:30. Being on time is not simply desirable or polite, it is part of the programme. Even shows that are incredibly well-prepared and organised can run late, so YOU CANNOT AFFORD TO ADD TO THE DELAY.
- Quality and speed are conflicting aims. Having more of one usually means compromising on the other. If you have to have both (and a lot of performers and promoters do), then...
- Preparation is vital. If you are performing, you must be
- Adequately rehearsed;
- In time to sound-check and do anything else you need to do before the show (including eat, rest, and limber‑up).
If you are building the set ( ...the PA system, the lighting truss...) you need to have everything you need with you WHERE YOU CAN FIND IT, which takes preparation. You also need to get access to working areas in plenty of time (or with plenty of crew if there are time constraints). This means advance planning: it is no use turning up two hours early if the building is locked and the key-holder doesn't arrive until two hours later.
- Learn about what everybody around you is doing. It will keep you from having unrealistic expectations about their contribution to the production, help you to explain what you want in terms they can understand, and if they really are incompetent and there is no other way to get it done it will enable you to do it yourself. If someone important to the production is being obstructive and you really can't agree...
- Don't lose your temper. If you're right, you don't need to. If you're wrong, you can't afford to.