How to Set Up Band Equipment

Written by john zaremba
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You have your band line-up complete and you've booked a rehearsal room. Or better yet, you've booked your first show. Now the big question: Where do you put everything? Setting up band equipment in an efficient and logical way will help you get the most from your rehearsals, and it lends consistency to your performance. Though there are no rules in music, following some basic guidelines is nearly certain to help.

Skill level:
Moderately Easy

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Things you need

  • Public address system with speaker poles
  • Microphones
  • Microphone stands
  • Cables
  • Other instruments (as needed)

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    In a Rehearsal Space

  1. 1

    Set up the drums in a corner, facing toward the centre of the room. This generally conserves the most space.

  2. 2

    Position the PA speakers on the poles. If you have more than one, place one behind or facing toward the drummer. Place the other behind or facing the singer, for use as a monitor.

  3. 3

    Position the rest of the instruments and amplifiers. Place the bassist closest to the drummer, as they are the foundation of the band's rhythm section. Place lead instruments (guitars in some bands, keyboards in others) nearest the singer.

  4. 4

    Place all vocal microphones as well as microphones for the horn section.

  5. 5

    Connect all microphones to the mixer.

  6. 6

    Connect the mixer to the vocal amplifier.

  7. 7

    Connect the amplifier to the speakers.

    In a Live Setting

  1. 1

    Review the set-up with the sound engineer. Most sound engineers at clubs and hall-style venues are accustomed to working with drums, guitars, bass, vocals and keyboards in various configurations. If you have a horn section or string section, or if you use electronic sampling or any other specialised instrumentation, discuss this with the sound engineer in advance.

  2. 2

    Bring the drums onstage, then allow the drummer to begin setting them up.

  3. 3

    Bring up and power the bass amplifier. Allow the bass player time to plug in and tune.

  4. 4

    Bring up and power any guitar amplifiers. Allow the guitarist or guitarists to plug in, connect their instruments to their effects pedals and tune.

Tips and warnings

  • Aside from the drums, your rehearsal set-up will largely depend on the available power outlets, and how many surge protectors you have. Do not plug amplifiers into ungrounded outlets, as it will create a distracting hum. As for surge protectors, have as many as possible.
  • Use the same configuration for every live performance. This allows you at least some consistency; quality of sound varies greatly depending on the venue and sound engineer.
  • Keep cables untangled. Use the shortest cables possible, and tie excess cable with Velcro ties when possible.
  • Avoid feedback by never pointing vocal microphones directly at amplifiers. Set them at a slight angle.
  • Get everybody working. Most shows that requires bands to set up their own equipment feature several acts, and that requires the show running on time. Minimising set-up time is crucial to a well-run show, and getting the entire band to help set up equipment is crucial to minimising set-up time.

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