Many bands start out full of enthusiasm and will rehearse for many hours in a garage or a basement working on their songs but fail to ever sound truly professional. Although this comes down to something essential – musicianship – it is often the case that how a band sounds is due to a lack of knowledge of PA systems and other audio equipment. Being able to use the audio equipment you have to your best advantage is essential. Read on to discover what a garage band that is starting out should do in order to improve the quality of their audio without breaking the bank in terms of buying new gear.
Get Your Levels Right
One of the most important things to do when rehearsing your songs is to play at a comfortable level. On stage, with a professional sound engineer there to mix for you, you will want to crank it up a bit, but in a confined rehearsal area, don't get too loud. There's no need to mic drums except for the kick drum if your style of music – rock or dance, for example – requires a bit of a boost in this department. Now set the bass amp to come up to a level which matches the acoustic sound of the drums without overpowering them. Guitars, keyboards and other instruments should all find their correct level more easily once this is done, allowing room for vocals on top. Don't make your singer shout to get heard above the PA.
Add a Reverb Loop
Most PA systems will have an audio FX send and return function which will allow you to plug in an outboard reverb unit. Use quite a washy sound on the FX unit, but limit the amount of reverb that is accessing the effect using a gate control on each channel. This way, the band will come across as deeper and more dramatic without sounding like you are playing in a mediaeval church. A little extra reverb on backing vocals helps to even them out and is preferable to most reverb being applied to the lead singer's channel.
Arrange Your Backline Correctly
When rehearsing, band members can often stand in a circle so they are able to maintain eye contact with one another. This certainly helps with cues, especially when learning new material. However, if your backline - bass amp, guitar amps and keyboard monitors – are also arranged in a horseshoe, then the sound gets washy. Place them in a line either side of the drum kit. Not only will it sound better in rehearsals, but you practice the way in which you will perform when you do take to the stage at your local live music venue.