Question: Do you have any tips for festival miking? (Part 1, Bands)
Answer: The summer festival season is upon us, which means many sound companies could be looking for some help from audio engineers to run sound. This seems straightforward enough, so it should be no problem. Right? After all, you are an engineer in a recording studio and a Front of House engineer for a local band, so you know how to mike a drum set or an amp. Before you raise your hand to volunteer to run sound at this year’s “Taste of Whatever City,” you need to give this some careful thought. There are many important differences between miking a single band at a gig verses miking a host of different bands at a festival. Here are just a few:
- At a festival, you will have new bands at certain intervals throughout the day or weekend.
- Time will be limited to clear one band, set up the next and sound check that band.
- Each band on stage (probably) will have different instrumentation.
- There may be another band on a stage in close proximity to your stage, so you have to manage your levels.
- You know your band, their style, their equipment and what they like. At a festival, it’s like Forest Gump’s mom says, “Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.”
Along with the concerns listed above, there are many other questions to consider when creating a setup plan for the mics on the stage. Yes, I said a plan. You must have a plan.
- Will you have just one stage or more than one stage? With two stages, one band is setting up while another is playing. However, the most typical scenario consists of one stage where you have to clear the first band and then reset the mics for the next.
- How much time do you have between bands? Time is critical, there can be as little as fifteen minutes between the different performances.
- Will you have help or are you on your own? If you are in a time crunch between bands, having someone there to help out can alleviate some of your setup stress.
- Will there be a “house” drum set or will each band provide their own? Having a house drum set is great. You can set up the mics once and leave them in place for all the bands. Otherwise, you will have to reset the mics for each new drummer.
- Will you have a list beforehand of the instrumentation and number of vocalists for each band? A list prior to the start of the festival can help you prepare. You can have a mic ready to go for each specific instrument and vocalist that hits the stage.
- Can you be assertive? You will need to keep the bands moving on and off the stage. Also, you will be in charge of assuring the bands keep their amps at a sane level!
- Are you prepared to work hard? Working a festival can be both physically and emotionally draining.
In the next several Question of the Week entries, we will get into more specific solutions for festival miking including drums, amplifiers, and vocals. We will also touch on miking bluegrass bands. If you have further questions, feel free to contact the Audio Solutions Department for assistance.