Small Essentials for Great Gigs
Nov 4, 2010 11:11 AM, By George Petersen
A check list for your on-the-go toolbox.
A million different factors can make the difference between a successful or failed live sound presentation. Everybody knows about the importance of carrying spare microphones, cables, amps, batteries, etc., because according to George’s Law, anything you don’t bring a backup for will be the item that fails at the most critical time. It happens every time.
A Few Basics
Whether I’m supplying the sound system or not, I always carry some CDs I can use to reference the system, or at least get a feeling of what the house sounds like. Forget what you personally like and focus on some music that will show off the system. For rock-solid bass and a near-perfect mix, Michael Jackson’s Thriller really spotlights any weak components or strange room reflections, particularly in the bottom end. For crisp top-end, try Donald Fagen’s The Nightfly. If I’m seriously evaluating a room by ear, I also have Denon’s long-out-of-print Anechoic Orchestral. It was recorded with close mic placements in a nonreflective space, without ambience or reverb, so you can route a full orchestra through your system while knowing that any reverb or decay time you hear is only the room and not from the recording itself.
Make backup copies on CD-Rs for traveling. There’s nothing quite like the feeling of opening a CD case the next day and realizing that your disk is still in that player you used the night before.
Another must-have is an 1/8in. TRS-to-RCA cable, because someone will invariably show up at the last minute with MP3 players, laptops, etc., to hook up. I pack a fairly long (5ft.) cable. This way the device doesn’t have to be in the center of my mixspace and I avoid a pile of heavy audio adapters that can strain the unit’s output jack.
I never go to any job without my $50 Rat Sniffer Pack from AudioControl. I’ve done a few rodent-infested venues, but this has nothing to do with rats. It’s a simple XLR cable tester, built into a metal body barely larger than a couple of XLRs, with a battery source at one end and three LEDs on the other half to indicate cable shorts/opens/phase reverse conditions. It can also indicate whether phantom power is active, and as a two-piece unit, it can test long cable feeds, such as snakes or wall panels.
Security is always on everyone’s mind, and a locking rack drawer is a great investment. Made by Middle Atlantic, Penn-Elcom, and others, these provide a great, secure place to stash your valuables—laptop, cell phone, tools, lunch, etc.—while you’re walking around the venue or away from the mix position. They’re not foolproof—a determined thief could undo all the rack screws and cart the entire unit off—but somehow that looks a lot more suspicious than simply snatching a couple items and disappearing into the crowd.
These are a few essentials I find useful. What you tote in your emergency bag may vary, but beyond the usual Leatherman, Sharpies, duct tape, mini MagLite, and Swiss Army knife, take my suggestions as a starting point. Create your own personalized must-have kit and you’ll eliminate a lot of worry from your next gig.
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