Gigging equipment
July 10, 2007 2:29 AM   Subscribe

What PA equipment does a four-piece band need to gig?

Suppose a four piece band (bass, drums, rhythm guitar, lead guitar) are gigging in local pubs/venues/weddings. Beyond their instruments, what equipment will they need? Amps? Mics? Mic stands? Will they use a mixing desk or just use their own amps?
posted by long haired lover from liverpool to Media & Arts (12 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
If they sing they need mics, mic stands and a PA (mixer, amp, speakers). They won't want to sing through their guitar amps.
posted by timeistight at 3:07 AM on July 10, 2007

It depends on many, many factors. Does said band have any equipment currently?

Guitar / bass amps and a PA can cost a lot or a little, depending on how good you want it to sound.
posted by chuckdarwin at 3:36 AM on July 10, 2007

Response by poster: It depends on many, many factors. Does said band have any equipment currently?

No. They want a basic setup. Loud enough so people can hear them. Cheap enough not to break the bank. I assume there's a thriving second-hand market in this kind of stuff?
posted by long haired lover from liverpool at 3:39 AM on July 10, 2007

Some info (if you know any of this) that will help people answer you:

1) do they have a person (not playing in the band) to run sound while they play?
2) do they plan to play in places that have no available electricity (like some outdoor wedding situations)?
3) any idea of rough budget?
posted by allterrainbrain at 4:08 AM on July 10, 2007

Yeah, they can probably get some stuff second-hand, but I wouldn't trust it to be in working order. Have a look here. That doesn't address guitar amps... which the guitarists should really already own or know something about... how did they learn to play electric guitar without buying guitar amps?
posted by chuckdarwin at 4:09 AM on July 10, 2007

I'm sorry if this sounds so basic as to appear patronizing, but I'm not sure what your background is and so I'm making no assumptions about what you know. This is an outline of my opinions, there's not a lot of specifics but it tries to cover a lot of ground in the little time that I have to answer.

Typically the kinds of venues that will have bands play supply the PA and the things that one would expect to accompany it (the stuff needed to get the vocals heard and depending on the size of the venue or just its attention to the sound you can throw in whatever it takes to mic and mix in the drums, guitars, bass as well.) This doesn't mean that it doesn't hurt to come prepared with some of your own things, like your singer's preferred mic and extra cables/stands or whatever, but we never do. If a club doesn't have that kind of gear they should inform you (though if you're particularly suspicious or concerned about a particular venue just ask).

Also, to complicate matters some clubs have a backline of gear on hand, and some insist that you use it. This means some clubs will want you to use their drum kit (but you must bring your own snare, cymbals, etc), some clubs may offer you their guitar amp/cabinet or bass amp/cabinet while others may insist you use their cabinets but supply your own amp. The backline details should be communicated to you by the person who booked the show (or on occasion the sound person depending on how they run things). If this info isn't part of what's discussed regarding the gig, then ask.

So basically, you really only need to supply the PA and mixer side of things for playing weddings and other venues (like lodges or halls that you might rent out for a gig -- but renting a venue is so much leg work, I'd recommend sticking to pubs and such that want you and have the gear).

Now the other situation where you need a PA and mixer is rehearsals. So, you'll need to consider that as a factor. We don't have a multi-use PA in our room (i.e. it doesn't travel, we don't gig with it). But if you're looking to play things like weddings regularly then you should get a PA that serves both needs / can travel. The issue there is cost because now you pay for portability and the power to present yourselves to the public with that PA. In other words, often but not always, PAs of that kind are more expensive than what people will practice with (I think this happens usually because of cost so it's not my recommendation to start out that way i.e. upgrade the practice stuff as soon as you can it makes a world of difference).

The bottom line with this is that you want to have all your own gear to play under any circumstance but you load/pack selectively for each individual gig if they're spread out, or you load comprehensively if you are playing many gigs back to back. If you play many back to back, keep them of a kind i.e. don't throw in a wedding that you have to pack extra PA stuff for that one show when the rest of your tour or 'mini-tour' is clubs with PAs.

On another note (ha!), there is definitely a second-hand market for this sort of thing: we use craigslist here, ebay, and music stores. If you know very little about the topic, I would recommend much more online research on the specific things you uncover or that are suggested here before you purchase, but even more than that I would also recommend that you go to a smaller music store (i.e. not a Sam Ash / Guitar Center kind of place) at a day and time that they are likely to not be at their busiest and discuss the intricacies of your particular situation with the staff. A smaller music store is more likely to have some second hand gear than the big warehouse type places. If you do buy second hand, definitely test it out and inquire about returns (don't expect it) or repairs or whatever because second-hand gear can be dicey. The people that staff music stores often also have a wealth of personal experience playing shows / being in bands....mine that. You might get a bit of attitude (it's practically a right over here) especially if your questions seem noobish. But they can and should help set you on the proper course. Good Luck!
posted by safetyfork at 4:38 AM on July 10, 2007

PS. If the wedding gig is merely an occasional thing (or maybe if you have a sub-par practice PA situation): rent a PA and include it as an operating cost in what you charge for your performance. A line item like that is easy for folks to understand.
posted by safetyfork at 4:56 AM on July 10, 2007

the flashy big amps and guitar machinary are nice and all, but make sure you have a good tuner for each guitar player and always have extra cables and whatnot.
posted by yeahyeahyeahwhoo at 7:00 AM on July 10, 2007

What you need:

A Pair of "mains" speakers - 15" woofers with 2" compression driver tweeters (these are nice) - but there are dozens of brands to choose from - try to get something with similar specs

A pair of or three "monitor" speakers - 12"s are fine here (three gives you two up front and one for the drummer, which is nice)

A mixer with 8-16 channels (8 will do fine, more offers more flexibility in the future)

Power amps to drive all of your speakers
- anything on that page would work well enough

A Shure SM-58 microphone for each singer. (and a stand and a long cable for each microphone)

Cables to hook up each speaker

Cables to hook mixer to power amps

Eventually you may want to add more mics in order to mic the instrument amps, probably won't be necessary at first.

Your main priority for these gigs is getting the vocals audible over the rest of the instruments (particularly the drums - depends greatly on your drummers ability to moderate the volume of his playing)

I'd advise against renting, as the markup is extreme - the sooner you buy the stuff yourself the sooner you can start making it pay for itself through gigging.
posted by davey_darling at 7:11 AM on July 10, 2007

If you don't have the experience to know what you need for gear, you will also likely run into trouble using it properly or knowing how to make it sound good in different rooms.

I'd suggest a first step of hiring/renting a soundperson or two and watching, learning, asking, and offering your help for at least several gigs (load gear for them and buy them a beer before you bug them too much). That experience can be invaluable, so it's worth paying for. Avoid spending money (if possible) on big gear until you are sure about what you want/need. In the meantime, load up on Sure mics and stands and cables, you will always need those.

Rock on!
posted by quarterframer at 7:12 AM on July 10, 2007

Seconding quarterframer's advice. *Most* PA rental places will set you up nicely. Granted you will have to pay for the service but you will get a good feel for what you need when you choose to dump some cash on a system for yourself. Part of the problem with buying stuff is that it is a pretty large expenditure. Knowing the way bands work the way I do, someone ends up getting stuck with a PA system after the band implodes (not saying this is your situation but something to consider before dumping some money into a PA). If you choose to buy one, get Shure 58s (vocals) and Shure 57s (for miking amps). Smaller venues will not require miking of amps (it's overkill) but larger places will. Behringer is making some really decent stuff nowadays if you purchase their newer mixing boards. Even the older ones, you can pick up on CraigsList for pretty cheap. I'd suggest at a minimum, 16 channels.
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 8:39 AM on July 10, 2007

Typically the kinds of venues that will have bands play supply the PA and the things that one would expect to accompany it

I have no idea what kind of gigs the OP is playing, but plenty of places that put on shows don't have PAs. However, you can often get one of the other bands playing to come up with one.

Also, if you get a DI box you can plug the bass into the PA without an amp.

A small mixer for a four piece band is really easy to use. And you don't need three monitor wedges. You can most likely make do with one.
posted by ludwig_van at 1:33 PM on July 10, 2007

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