Checklist before you play in a club
Hey there, it is Iftah’s time again, and in this piece I want to talk about a very important aspect of playing live electronic music and the routines that proceed the actual show. Being able to play great music in your studio is one thing, but taking your setup outside of your comfort zone and learning how to deal with the (ever changing) limitations and obstacles in a club scenario can be a very challenging. Luckily, there are some things you can do about it, so here it goes!
The tech rider
The most obvious thing to start with, is to create your own technical rider. Generally, it’s a good idea to be as detailed as possible. For example, if you require a table size of two metres by one metre, make sure to specify its full dimensions (W x H x D), otherwise you might find yourself breaking your back and playing on a table which is 50 cm high (true story!) Make sure to state that you also need sufficient space from the wall, so things won’t get too claustrophobic. Apart of the other usual needs like monitoring, mixer and electricity it’s probably noteworthy to mention that you would need some sort of static lights (spots from above or table lights) in order to actually see what you do on stage. Playing 90 minutes with flickering lights as your only light source is not fun, trust us.
It might sound like a joke but it is important to mention that the table should be empty and clean upon arrival, especially if you arrive to an already happening party, this will spare you cleaning up three meters of confetti before you even start to set up your stuff.
Once you have a technical rider you should send it as early as possible. While you are at it, there are some helpful questions that you can ask the club before arrival. It is good to know if there are any visuals planned to be projected on the stage. If so, you should make sure that the projection is not within your eye line. It’s also good to know the line-up and in case you are not the only live act, ask again if there is sufficient space. Planning three heavy equipped live-acts sequentially and having only a two meter table might be problematic; it sounds obvious but it happens all the time.
A soundcheck is something you should really not miss, even after XX years on the road. Once you arrive to the venue (hopefully early enough, before the doors open) there are two possible scenarios: the first and the rather utopian one is that the tech-person read your rider thoroughly and everything is ready to go. The second and the more common one is that he or she didn’t. It is time to improvise and find a solution together – finding the right balance between being flexible and maintaining your standards so you will be able to perform properly. If for example there is not enough space in the booth, ask if it’s possible to get an extra table and place it in front of the booth (assuming that there is an adequate monitoring situation). The same goes for the visibility. If you made all the effort and came with your 100 KG equipment and cables the crowd should also be able to see it, so it is a pity to be hidden in a booth.
Once you got to the actual part of checking your sound, you might be confronted with how your set sounds in the club. Some clubs sound great out of the box, but some don’t. One possible reason for that would be that the room is not acoustically treated. If the room is “suffering” from standing waves which translates into non-linearity in the bass-mid frequency range (in simpler words, some of the frequencies will vary in amplitude which will cause the bass to sound muddy and not clear) , you can attempt to do a dirty room correction EQ on your master signal. To do that, you would need a sine wave generator capable of 1 Hz steps (there are many free vst/au plugins online, just google it) and a multiband EQ. What you should do is sweep the frequency slowly from 20hz-200hz and listen to volume peaks or drops in the signal. Once you found a peak or a drop, use the EQ to attenuate that frequency to match the rest of the frequencies. Repeat that until you reach a more or less linear response. Please note that if you do that, it is a good idea to listen to the sound of the actual room and not only to the monitoring system. The fact that things might sound boomy on stage does not necessarily mean that they sound bad on the dance floor. If that’s the case, you could do the same procedure and send a separate room corrected signal to the monitors only. The better you hear yourself, the better you play. You should also make sure that you can control the monitoring yourself, because you will need it during your show.
Speaking of which, it is highly recommended to use professional earplugs, it is one of the best pieces of gear you could buy as an electronic musician. It might take you a while to get used to it (a great trick is to wear them 30 minutes before the show and get used to the sound) but you would be amazed how less “fatigued” your feel the day after. It is not only the party lifestyle that make you feel so hammered, it is also the amplitude and loudness.
To sum it up
The more you prepare in advance, the more relaxed you will be, and thus be able to concentrate on making music. Even if the things stated above might sound a bit picky, not taking care of them will eventually take a toll on you and will exhaust you on the long run.
As a conclusion to their blog series Skinnerbox give four final survival tips on how to improve your electronic music production.
Taking your music outside of your comfort zone and playing it live in a club can be a challenging thing. Here are some practical tips!
Hitting road blocks with your music? Olaf from Skinnerbox gives some tips on how to avoid routines to inspire something new.
Lack of inspiration is often something that affects studio time. Luckily, there are things we can do to counteract it!