April 25, 2020

Abstract Soundcheck Photo

Before the majority of all performances at Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts, the artists, the artists technicians, and the local staff participate in a sound check. Most people have a basic idea of a sound check but what is it really for? Truly, it is for the benefit of everyone involved, including the audience. Over the course of about an hour the performers work closely with the audio engineer and the monitor engineer to craft the best sound possible.

There is so much detail in this job that it requires two staff members and two completely different audio consoles. The audio engineer is responsible for the overall sound of the show and what the audience hears. The monitor engineer is responsible for what the band hears on stage. The audio engineer and monitor engineer are usually from our local Scottsdale Arts staff but sometimes the artists will travel with their own engineers.

Sound check is time for the artist to make adjustments to what they hear on stage.

For a successful performance, it is essential that all the musicians on stage can hear what their fellow musicians are doing. It makes sense when you think about it but is not something that crosses most peoples’ minds. For the vocalist, they usually want to hear a little bit of everything, so they know what they can play off of. For the drummer, it may be more important for them to hear mostly the bass and rhythm guitar, so they can keep tempo and vice versa. Throughout the course of the sound check, all of the musicians will pause to give notes to the monitor engineer to make minute adjustments to the onstage mix.

JJ Grey Backstage
JJ Grey & Mofro performing at Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts, 2018–19 season

Sound check is time for the artist to get used to the room.

Every venue that an artist plays is slightly different, some are more reverberant, some are very dry. A band can adjust their energy and approach to songs to adapt to fit the energy of the venue and the audience. Additionally, these differences from venue to venue can change the sound in their onstage monitors. 

JJ Grey Backstage
JJ Grey & Mofro performing at Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts, 2018–19 season

Sound check is time for the band to rehearse some new tunes.

When a band is on tour, their time on stage is usually the only time they get to work on new music, new arrangements of live songs, or just to jam. Often, the technicalities of a sound check are tidied up in the first 30 minutes. After that, most bands will continue to play until dinner break before a show. Sometimes the bands can get really into their jam session and our stage manager will have to interrupt them, so we can open the doors to the venue on time to our patrons.

Monitor Engineer
Monitor Engineer, Garrett Seaton overseas sound check for Phoenix Afrobeat Orchestra

Sound check is time for our staff to establish trust with our artists.

As a traveling musician, every night the sound of your band is in the hands of two engineers that you may or not have an existing relationship with. It is of utmost importance that our Scottsdale Arts staff uses the short time they have during soundcheck to establish a sense of trust with the artists. We do this by being proactive, prepared and accommodating to anything that we can. If the artist feels comfortable on our stage then the audience is in for an excellent show.

The Center has offered public sound checks in the past, we would love to hear about an experience you may have had at one of our sound checks. If you would like to share, let us know at [email protected]

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