Do you spend time figuring out which equipment and gear your band should have to perform live effectively? Well, if you are one of those bandleaders who want to invest in live performance equipment from scratch, then you should read on. It will be good to remember that it is not always best to rely on the event organizers to provide the right equipment and gear to make your band sound great.
If you have been gigging for a long time, you will know why investing in live band equipment is essential. Of course, most clubs have the necessary pieces of equipment that are permanently installed in their venues, like a PA system, house mixers, and speakers. In such a case, setting up for your live performance will not be troublesome.
However, if you want to raise your performance level a notch higher, you should have your own mixer to give you better control over your band’s sound. Nevertheless, if you would play in venues where there are no PA system, mixer, and speakers, you will need to bring your own. Therefore, if you were able to complete your live band equipment list, you can readily perform live in venues that do not come with basic sound equipment.
Live Sound Equipment and Gear for Live Performance
Arranging original songs is not an easy thing to do, and more often, you need to spend time and effort to come up with the right arrangement for each song. So, when you perform live, you want the nitty-gritty of your agreement to come out. Yet, your enthusiasm will surely get dampened if there are inadequate and subpar pieces of equipment. Hence, if you want to perform live well, you need to have the following essential gear and equipment:
1) Public Address System
The Public Address (PA) System is the system that amplifies sound electronically, enabling the audience to hear the sounds of instruments, vocals, electronics clearly over ambient noise. The ideal PA system for live band performance should be able to amplify your band’s sounds and let your audience hear you play clearly.
So, before investing in a PA system, it will help to know the essential factors to consider when buying a PA system. You can also opt for a portable PA system in which the speakers, microphones, and amplifier are embedded into the system. Moreover, it should include multiple microphone ports, audio connection jacks, a mixer, and more than one speaker for covering a larger area.
A sound PA system should drive speakers, allow for mixing, and have an equalizer for controlling frequency output. Moreover, it must turn acoustic signals into electronic signals and have output control for sending various signals at varying levels to the main speakers or monitors.
2) Analog or Digital Mixers
Mixers, whether analog or digital, allows for connecting instruments and multiple inputs to a PA system. It also lets you control the input volume. It will help if you choose a mixer that allows for independently controlling the output level on your monitors and loudspeakers.
You should also go for a powered mixer that comes with a built-in power amplifier. You will discover that most mixers come with essential EQ capability for every input. However, some come with only the necessary EQ capabilities for the whole mix.
The mainstay of most audio systems is the analog mixer. It comes in a wide range of features and prices. Moreover, you will find most bands that stick to the analog mixer, thinking that analog is better than digital.
You will also find most analog mixers with a four-band (built-in) parametric EQ, enabling you to carve out space for every instrument in the mix and balance or equalize tonal sound.
However, you will seldom find analog consoles that come with built-in dynamics on every channel. Thus, you will need other gear and equipment to have additional signal processing. These gear and equipment include compression as well as gates for every channel.
On the other hand, digital mixers make use of digital signal processing instead of analog circuitry. Digital mixing technology has dramatically improved in recent years at a rapid clip. If you are a touring band, it would be best to opt for a digital mixer console, for it allows for greater portability. Moreover, digital mixers allow for many channel counts, with each channel having four-band EQ, gating, and compression. Plus, every output comes with a graphic EQ to ring out monitors. Most mixers come with internal effects of up to eight insert slots for internal sends.
The good thing about the digital platform is that it lessens the number of gear that you would bring with you substantially. Besides, the digital platform offers wireless control options. Moreover, they often provide Android and iOS control apps.
You will need monitors on stage when you perform to hear how you sound on the PA system. These stage monitors are smaller loudspeakers that face the performers and not the audience. These monitors let the band members listen to their sounds. With the availability of in-ear monitors (IEM), many bands are opting nowadays for IEMs.
The IEMs, of course, are more convenient and offer superior sound quality while you perform live. They also afford you optimal volume levels as compared to wedges. Moreover, IEMs can provide you with stereo monitoring as well as a clean audience mix. They are also more portable, enabling you to have better mobility while performing.
4) Power Amplifier
You will also need a power amplifier when you go on gigs. The power amps do the most challenging job in making your band sounds great. Many amps come with per-channel power ratings. You can operate these channels in different configurations, depending on what you need. For example, you can opt for the stereo mode, with right and left outputs. You can also go for parallel mode and bridge mode.
The power amplifier utilizes electricity to enhance the low-power electronic signals’ level to make them strong enough for driving loudspeakers. Power amps come in different wattages, depending on the speaker’s resistance. You will know how much amplification a power amp can do as you look at the amp’s wattage output. The rule is simple—the lower the resistance, the higher the wattage. Thus, before buying a speaker, you need to know the speaker’s Ohm’s level.
The equalizer lets you precisely gain control of the level of volume of every frequency group. You may find the use of an equalizer a bit superfluous for your live performance, yet, if you want to do away with that high screeching sound from the PA system, you can utilize the equalizer.
Moreover, when you hop from one gig venue to another, you will find that each venue responds differently to various frequencies. Thus, if you have the equalizer, you are better positioned to lower the hot frequencies.
You should include microphones in your list of equipment for live performance because you would surely like your vocals to sound great. Moreover, you want to capture well the sound coming from your guitar amps and drums. The most commonly used type of microphones for live performance is the dynamic microphone. It is the mainstay of live performance. So, if you want good mics for vocalist and backup vocals, you should go for excellent dynamic microphones like the Shure SM57 for instruments and SM58 for vocals.
Experts have positive raves for these two microphones, and time and again, these two microphones have proven themselves for their fantastic sound and durability. They are designed for taking a constant beating. You can also go for wireless microphones if you want to give your band members greater flexibility and mobility.
7) Stage Boxes and Stage Snakes
If you want to reduce clutters on the stage, you should use stage boxes and stage snakes. If you are using an analog setup, you would be tinkering with around 16 to 24 channels. Moreover, you would also be dealing with tons of cables running around 100 feet or more.
The drum kit alone would need 8 to 12 microphones. So, you will need a dedicated sub-snake for reduced mic-cable runs. With the stage snakes and boxes, you can have a cleaner onstage setup.
Additional Gear and Equipment
Aside from the abovementioned essential gear and equipment that you should have in your live performance list, you can also add the following equipment:
8) Microphone Stands
You will surely need a microphone stands in your band’s live performance unless you are using wireless lav mics. If your band is a five-piece band and your lead guitarist and bassist also do backup vocals, then microphone stands will come in handy. Moreover, in miking the drums, you need to use the microphone stands as well, so you need to invest in such equipment.
9) Direct Input Boxes
A Direct Input Box (DI) lets you plug your instruments into your PA directly instead of using a mic to mike your amplifier. The basic models of DI boxes can perform two functions. First, they come with a transformer for converting the output of instruments to line level. Plus, they can transform unbalanced signals into balanced signals. Such a function lessens the noise created by electromagnetic interference that hits the cables.
10) Music Stand
Your band will need music stands to keep your setlist within reach and handy. Music stands can also serve as a platform for your sheet music as well as performance notes. Your choice of music stands should be easy to transport and set up, being foldable. It should also be durable and can keep the paper or your tablet in place.
11) Drum Riser
The drum risers are platforms that you can set up or pull down with ease. These drum risers are utilized for elevating the drum set kit for more visibility. Present-day drum risers have already been innovating at a rapid clip. At present, you can find drum risers that you can fit into your car trunk.
12) Instrument Tuners
It’s a mortal sin to play an instrument out of tune for professional instrumentalists. Hence, you will need an instrument tuner to ensure that your instrument is in the right tune. You can find affordable compact clip-on tuners. You can also use your smartphone that comes with a tuning app.
13) Portable Stages
If you perform in venues wherein there is no stage, you can get by if you have a portable stage. Using a portable stage set, you can transform any venue into a musical platform without spending much. It will be useful if you include a portable stage set in your list of equipment for your band’s live performance.
14) Clamp-on Mounts for Tablet and Smartphones
You will need clips for your tablets and smartphones to secure them when you are performing live. You will need to clip them sometimes on the stand, especially when you have a big production night. With these clips, you don’t need to worry about your tablets or microphone. You can also use the clips to lessen the paper clutters on your music stands.
Having your PA system when performing comes with many advantages. First, you get to perform well if you can control the sound of your performance, which you can’t do if you would rely only on a FOH engineer. If you control the sound metrics of your performance, you can surely deliver an excellent performance.
However, bringing your equipment can be tedious for your band members, and setting up and pulling them down will be even more burdensome. Nevertheless, the advantages of having your PA system far outweigh the disadvantages that come with having one.