Learn How to Use Your Equipment

I have written before about the drawbacks from memorizing a song in the sense that if we only know a song by playing it from start to finish, in order, without knowing what we’re really doing – that it can cause problems if something does indeed stray from what we’re used to. In that article I was speaking about playing a song – now I would like to talk a bit about your equipment.

Whether it be simply your uke and an amp, your home stereo system, or any PA you’re using – wouldn’t it be nice to know how it works, in the event that it needs to be moved, unplugged, and re-wired? Now I’m not suggesting that you open up the amps and look inside at the electronics – I am speaking of the simple wiring: uke > cord > amp. That one’s pretty easy, and most of the time, you have to unplug your uke when putting it in its case. There’s a direct connection: uke to amp via the cord.

Most stereos nowadays seem to be all in one units, so there is little connecting to do, but basically, it goes something like: CD Player > Amp > Speakers. Sure there are a lot of wires coming in and out of the back of the amp – receivers, tape players, DVD’s, etc. But it’s all about what goes IN and what goes OUT. However, one doesn’t move their stereo system around much, so that may fall into the category of, “once it’s working – leave it alone.” (I don’t do that. I like to play around with the configurations all the time, much to the annoyance of roommates.)

However – one area that DOES matter would be the case of a PA system. This is the sound system used in shows, club meetings, etc., and can be anything from a simple “plug one mic here” unit, to a multi-mic, monitor, main speakers, lots of cords kinda set up. Often times there is one person who knows how it all works, and that is good – unless that one person can’t make it one night. Then everyone is lost. Completely lost.

Some groups have tried to work around that issue by leaving everything hooked up – wrapping the cords around the mixing board without unplugging anything, and transporting everything that way.

I have heard said, “Don’t touch any of the dials! Leave them as they are – it’s working and we don’t know how to fix it if it doesn’t work.”

I have also experienced bands who set up their system to work and sound good in a practice room, and expect the same sound when they have moved everything to a larger performance area.

Again, the drawback to this mindset, is that this only works if nothing goes wrong. But things go wrong. People get sick, or are late, and things have to be set up anyway. And cords can get damaged when wrapped around things like that – I don’t suggest it.

So I encourage you to take the time to begin to learn how a system works. They aren’t as difficult as they seem, once they are explained and you have some time to practice plugging and unplugging everything. It’s basically a simple “what makes sound gets plugged into the thing that makes it louder, which gets plugged into the speakers” thing.

Of course I have simplified everything here – in reality, one would need the actual experience of playing with this equipment – plugging in the mics, plugging in the mixing board, the amp, the speakers… but it is all very logical and worth learning – even just a little.

I am happy to explain and answer questions as they are presented in this blog the best I can, and if you are in my area, I can help to teach you in person. But if not – try to make a little time now and then to learn how to use your equipment. Knowledge is power, and believe it or not – it will help your performance as well because you will know how everything works and what you need to do onstage at your next open mic!


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