Making It Work For You
At its best, live sound should reproduce the sound in your head.
There are any number of reasons that this might not happen. Some of the easiest to remedy are the ones that are caused by the space in which you are performing.
For example, trying to force your rig to do too much in an outdoor setting. I attended an outdoor live event a couple of years ago, at which the sound was nothing short of diabolical for the simple reason that the rig was just too small. The event organisers kept pushing the sound to the point where the bass simply broke up and the vocals distorted. This was especially galling as the acts I saw were brilliant!
My basic rule of thumb is this: ‘you can always cut a bit off but you can’t cut a bit on’. Having more power than you need is simple to remedy: turn it down. The PA I described earlier would have been excellent for an indoor show but was inadequate for an outdoor event.
So what’s my point here? Well, over the past couple of years I have spoken with a number of people who have been looking to upgrade their live rigs but who have not been clear in their own minds how this is going to be used. For example, it is highly unlikely that an acoustic duo is going to need a 24 channel desk, separate power amp and 10,000W per channel cabs in order to play coffee house gigs or small pubs. By the same token, if that duo needs to play a larger venue, a pair of acoustic amps might not cut it either!
Building your live sound should be done with a clear idea in mind of how it is going to be used, in what sort of venue and with what level of flexibility necessary. Try to future-proof your rig by considering what you might need to do in order to adapt it should your requirements change. For example, have you got channels on the mixer to mic up the drums, if necessary?
Having a clear idea of how and where you are going to use this kit will allow you to ‘buy once, buy right’ with regard to the core of your PA, letting you scale it up or down as needed, and save you money. I’m always happy to chat things through, if you’re stuck!