Five Tips For When You’re Setting Up Backstage


Nick Ramos

Let’s face it, we all like to compare and contrast. For me working backstage at a rock concert is the place to be! I love the fast-paced energy of putting up all of the equipment and making sure everything is running smoothly before the crowds arrive. If you’re like me, then you would like to get more than just one gig. Here are a few things that helped me when I was just starting out. For the record, I still have a lot to learn.

  1. Avoid feedback

  • The mic and the speaker that is amplifying that signal should never touch. Furthermore, they should not be pointed towards each other at all! An easy way to avoid this is to make sure that the mics always stay behind the speakers. If you are going to use a wireless mic, then this problem is a lot more likely to occur. Make sure you warn whoever is wielding that mic.  
  1. Check the line

  • Many times we are setting up for a show and all of the sudden equipment that has worked before seems to be broken. Before you go out and spend money on a new piece check all of the cables that are sending the signal. Connect them to equipment that you know works and see if the signal carries. If not, then you may only need to replace the cable.
  1. Drop your gains

  • If you are connecting multiple instruments to a single mixer it is important to keep the sliders or gain knobs down and bring up the levels slowly. This will help you avoid feedback and large booms. Also, if you have all of your instruments sounding good but there is one that sounds like it is clipping or warped, the trick there is to bring the rest of the levels down to match rather then taking one level up to match. 
  1. It doesn’t sound cool it sounds warped

  • This is more of a pet peeve. Sometimes when I hear a DJ playing pop hits, they decide to turn up the mids or blast the low end. I’m talking about those three knobs on the mixer, High, Mid, and Low. When working with music that doesn’t belong to you, you only want to turn these knobs a little bit or not at all! For example, Dr. Dre sounds good with a little low-end boost but not so far that it sounds like the speakers will break. Because you are controlling it, oftentimes one may think that they are a remix lord. But to everyone else, you’re really just making their favorite songs sound weird and bad.
  1. Get to know an expert

  • Now, I’m no expert. I would, however, be happy to do my part to ensure that we can all enjoy our entertainment to the fullest of our abilities. Many people share my passion and would be more than willing to give advice on how to make things run smoothly. Don’t be afraid to do some research or to find an opportunity to learn from those that are more experienced than you. Experience and knowledge are like a pie chart. Just because someone doesn’t know differential calculus they could still know why your five hundred thousand dollar set up seems to be virtually on fire, saving you all kinds of trouble in the future. So, I just try to respect everyone on this principle. Because, if you disrespect the wrong person then they will let you fail. You can learn a thing or two from these old folks. They survived. You could still die young.  

Nothing short of a contract can guarantee a job in this world. Above all else, I recommend finding something that you love to do and finding a way to do it every day. Because if you love your job you’ll never work a day in your life.