Every time I play a show, I always love watching the other bands and artists do their soundcheck.
It’s suspenseful hearing the little pre-views of carefully dialed-in bass tones and guitar effects. It’s fascinating and sometimes comical to hear how a vocalist decides to put their own spin on, “Check! One! Two! Czechoslovakia! Check!”
No matter who the band or artist is, listening to their soundcheck always gets me excited to hear them play later on, and I think part of that is because soundcheck is one of the most vulnerable aspects of any artist’s performance.
A warm-up before the show goes on — soundcheck is essentially a faster, shorter version of a regular band practice — the only difference: is it’s on a different stage every night.
Some artists have their soundcheck process down to a science, they set-up, plug-in, run through a portion of their set and radiate with this incredible confidence that makes it seem like they’re actually performing. Others come across awkward, insecure and unbalanced (hence the need for a soundcheck).
Regardless of the reasoning, soundcheck is an interesting and essential aspect of live music that most people don’t know much about. So in this article, we’re going to answer 10 frequently asked questions about soundcheck, including how to experience one!
1. What Is A Soundcheck At A Concert?
Concert soundcheck is the process that artists go through, previous to performing, where a sound engineer will quality check the band or artist’s volume levels on stage and in the venue.
In many ways, soundcheck is a pre-performance run-through that every artist does to make sure everything on stage (and in the venue) is working properly and sounds full.
In fact, soundcheck such an essential part of the preparation process that once everything has been hauled into the venue, loaded onto the stage and set-up, soundcheck is usually the first thing most artists will do.
Check out this article about everything that goes into setting up a stage for a concert.
The soundcheck process itself is usually fairly straightforward but can take some time depending on the size of the production.
The way it works is one at a time, members of the band will play the various instruments they’re responsible for, and the volume of each instrument will be mixed to match one another.
The sound engineer will create a back and forth dialogue with the band, and adjust volume levels so that everything is balanced — that way the drummer can hear the guitarist, the bassist can hear the keyboard player, the vocalist can hear him or herself on stage, and nobody else is getting drowned out by the noise.
Soundcheck also ensures that the volume in the venue, that everyone else hears, is also mixed well — so no matter where you’re standing (or sitting) you’ll be able to hear the concert the way that is intended.
2. Why Do Bands Do Soundcheck?
Bands do soundcheck because it’s an essential step in the process of putting together a quality performance. Without a soundcheck there would be no quality-assurance aspect to live-music and every night would be a coin-toss as to whether or not the show would go as planned.
Running a soundcheck not only improves the audio quality of a live performance but also ensures that each and every performance sounds as good as possible for both the performers and the audience.
Think of it like making sure your homework or laptop is in your backpack before you go to school or work — or like putting gas in your tank and air in your tires before a long road trip.
Soundcheck is that one last double-check every artist needs, just to make sure everything is working and sounding great.
But in addition to being an essential pre-show ritual, soundcheck also creates a unique opportunity for many artists to interact with their fans on a personal level.
I’ve seen global artists with crazed fans like BTS open up their soundchecks to VIP ticket holders, and I’ve seen alternative acts with cult-followings like Underoath do the same.
For a lot of bands, autograph lines and meet-and-greets can start to get a little overwhelming — the lines are always way too long, and there’s never enough time to really devote more than a few seconds to each fan.
That’s why opening up the soundcheck to a capped number of super-fans, and taking the time to interact with each of them is a much more valuable and intimate experience, for the fans, and the artists.
Also, having fans come to witness the soundcheck actually helps the band get a better mix of sound for the actual performance. We’ll talk more about this later, but the idea is that sound reverberates differently in an empty venue than a full one.
Having a few dozen fans to be human soundboards helps to mix the volume so it sounds a lot better for everyone when it’s showtime.
That’s why many bands have started giving exclusive behind-the-scenes access to fans (that are willing to pay a little extra) in order to experience the soundcheck process.
3. How Long Is A Soundcheck?
Soundchecking a single band or artist usually only takes 30-45 minutes but the length can vary depending on the artist, and the size of the performance.
Generally, soundcheck itself isn’t a very time-consuming process — you play a few chords, sing a few notes, bang a few drums and that’s essentially it. Most touring artists can get it done in 15 minutes if they know what they’re doing.
Any variation in length depends on the experience of the musicians, the size of the production and the personal interests of the artists involved.
For example: If you’re a seasoned expert like Elton John, you know what you’re doing, but you’re also playing a massive sports arena. Because of the size of Elton John’s shows, that soundcheck process might take a little longer to complete, especially when considering all the production that goes into a stadium concert.
Of course, the alternative would be on a much smaller scale. A solo performer playing an acoustic set at a local coffee house probably only has one vocal, one instrument, and doesn’t need more than a one-minute soundcheck.
If there are multiple instruments, multiple musicians, multiple backing-tracks, and various moving parts, all of those audio sources need to run through both the house and the stage monitors.
Taking the time to mix each individual instrument’s volume can easily turn into a lengthy process.
Even for performers that have a lot of experience, unless they’re willing to sacrifice a little bit of sound quality, setting up, checking sound, and making sure everything is working properly can sometimes take an hour or more.
That being said, for fans that are witnessing a soundcheck, either because they’ve purchased VIP access or a Soundcheck Experience package, that a different conversation.
The length of a Soundcheck Experience will more than likely be kept to a 30-45 minute timeframe.
And that’s because the band knows what the people want — time.
When fans have paid extra to experience the soundcheck process and are expecting the opportunity to interact with the performers, those fans have essentially purchased the time of the band or artists that are about to perform.
In order to deliver on that purchase agreement, the artists need to make sure that someone in Dallas gets the same Soundcheck Experience that someone in Miami would get.
It would be like if the band played all their hits in every city except for yours — it would be unfair (and deceptive) if the length of time for a Soundcheck Experience varied from night-to-night.
So if you’ve purchased VIP tickets or a Soundcheck Experience package, you can generally expect about 15 minutes of actual soundcheck and 30 minutes of meet-and-greet.
4. How Long Before A Concert Is A Soundcheck?
Soundcheck is typically completed 2-3 hours before the concert. The band will arrive at a time pre-determined by the venue or promoter and they’ll have about an hour to load their gear and check the sound.
If a band or artist needs longer to run through their setlist or quality check other aspects of their show, the soundcheck will be moved up, sometimes even to the day before.
Sometimes, in instances where there might not be a lot of time, like at the local fair when the city sets up a stage and has bands performing back-to-back all day long, soundchecks might be done right as each band takes the stage, or adjusted throughout the performance.
If you’ve ever heard a performer say something like, “Can I get more vocals in this monitor?” and point to a speaker on stage, they’re actually asking to have the soundcheck volume adjusted during the performance.
Sometimes that’s because the performers are experiencing technical difficulties with in-ears or other stage monitors, but usually it’s because the atmosphere in the venue has changed.
Usually, when a band does their soundcheck, the venue is relatively empty. In an empty room, the sound reverberates off the walls and back to the stage differently than it does when there are 500 people blocking those soundwaves.
5. Do All Bands Get A Chance To Soundcheck?
Not all bands always get the chance to do a soundcheck. In fact, despite the risks it presents, a lot of shows still don’t have a soundcheck at all. I personally have played multiple shows that, either from ignorance or poor planning, didn’t provide any opportunity to do a soundcheck.
However, I wouldn’t say skipping soundcheck is by any means normal — and it’s certainly not something you want to make a habit of avoiding.
If a band consciously chooses to forgo doing anything that even resembles a soundcheck, the chances of that performance going very poorly are considerably higher.
6. What Are Soundcheck Tickets?
Soundcheck tickets are special VIP passes that authorize fans to be present at the concert venue during the soundcheck process.
Just like how a regular concert ticket provides access to the concert, a soundcheck pass provides access to what’s called a Soundcheck Experience (or VIP Soundcheck).
A Soundcheck Experience is a unique opportunity that some bands will offer their fans, allowing them to go behind-the-scenes and witness a band or artist’s soundcheck process.
Generally, soundcheck tickets do not take the place of regular tickets and simply provide additional access to an experience that is otherwise off-limits to the general public.
However, some bands have introduced bundles to incentivize purchasing a soundcheck experience package.
These bundles will usually include early access to the venue, some sort of exclusive merch item, a behind-the-scenes look at the pre-performance, and sometimes an opportunity to meet and interact with the band or artist.
If you’ve ever wanted to get a selfie with Lewis Capaldi, or dreamed of getting your very own Sleeping With Sirens vinyl signed by Kellin Quinn, buying a Soundcheck Experience package is one of the best ways to do just that.
If you want to ask Soupy from The Wonder Years how he got his nickname, or tell Hayley Williams from Paramore how much she’s inspired you, getting access to a Soundcheck Experience package is one of the best ways to not only get that opportunity but also support your favorite artists.
Although Soundcheck Experience packages can sometimes seem a little expensive, it’s usually pretty reasonable if you put it in perspective. Most people are willing to pay a lot more to spend a day standing in lines at a local amusement park or to watch their team lose from the “good seats” at a live sports event.
Soundcheck is something most bands don’t do publicly — it’s a unique experience that few people get to witness.
If you’ve got a bucket list, I would add “Experience a Soundcheck” right to the top.
7. How Can I Get Soundcheck Tickets?
Unless you’re a friend of the band or a member of the media, soundcheck tickets are usually only available for purchase online. Most touring artists use distribution services like Ticketmaster or Stubhub to handle the digital sale of tickets.
However, soundcheck tickets are usually limited, and may only be available for a brief period of time on the band or artist’s website. In these cases, you’ll want to do your research ahead of time.
When a band or artist announces a tour, tickets generally go on sale that same day. This means that VIP or soundcheck tickets can sell out very quickly if you’re not ready to buy the moment a tour is announced.
Of course, nobody has time to sit by the computer every day just waiting for your favorite band or artist to announce their next tour.
Most of us follow our favorite artists on Facebook, Instagram, Spotify, etc. but even with notification settings turned on, it’s still easy to miss even big announcements like tour dates.
If there’s a band or artist that you’d really like to see live, and you want to make sure you’re notified soon enough to get soundcheck tickets, just sign up for their email list.
It might seem like an over-simplistic solution but it works. The next time that band or artist announces a tour, you’ll get a notification directly to your email, and you’ll have a much better chance of getting tickets before they sell out.
The only other legitimate way to get soundcheck tickets is if you know the band personally and can just ask. At hometown shows, friends and family are almost always backstage, enjoying the same privileges as other VIP ticket holders.
If you’re a member of the media and need soundcheck access in order to do your job, reach out to the band or venue’s management and they’ll point you in the right direction.
Generally, these soundcheck tickets are a little different though, because photographers, writers, and reporters are interested in interviewing the band and need a different kind of access to the performers.
If you’re looking to get tickets like these, check out this article we wrote about how to get press and photo passes.
8. How Do Soundcheck Tickets Work?
Soundcheck tickets work almost exactly like normal tickets, only they provide additional behind-the-scenes access to the soundcheck ticket holder.
Similar to backstage, press and photo passes, soundcheck tickets provide access to the venue during the band or artist’s soundcheck.
Typically, a soundcheck experience is part of a VIP or backstage package, also called VIP Soundcheck, and costs a little more than the average ticket.
9. Can I Take Photos At A Soundcheck?
Generally, yes, you’ll be allowed to take pictures at the soundcheck.
If you’ve paid for a Soundcheck Experience you’ll have similar photography clearance as a normal fan — you can take pictures and video your phone, or a compact polaroid style camera, but not a professional, removable-lens, DSLR camera.
Unless you’ve been invited by the band or venue to photograph the event, or it’s a small enough show that they don’t have a camera policy, you won’t be able to bring a DSLR-style camera into the venue.
Check out our article all about camera bans at venues, and how to get permission to photograph a concert.
10. Is Soundcheck Worth It?
Soundcheck is one of the most valuable aspects of any band’s live performance and being there to witness one can be incredibly rewarding to die-hard fans.
For the bands, soundcheck it’s the last opportunity to make sure everything is ready for the performance. If anything isn’t working properly or sounds unbalanced, soundcheck is the time to correct those technical difficulties.
Without a soundcheck, performing artists would be risking the quality of their show night after night, and nobody really wants to see their favorite artists fail.
For the fans, soundcheck is a unique and intimate opportunity to connect with touring musicians on a personal level. When meet-and-greets and autograph lines can be crowded and repetitive, soundcheck offers artists the chance to devote more of their time and attention to the fans.
Music is a job for touring musicians, so spending a little extra time to connect with their fans and double-check their sound is essential to their success.
And for the fans, an opportunity to directly support performing artists and help keep food on their table is unarguably worth the cash.
So is soundcheck worth it? We’ll let you decide, but our answer is yes.