Performing Live: The Equipment You'll Need
You've finally decided it's time to take your passion for music to the next level, and you're ready to start playing music in some local venues. Maybe you're planning to perform as a solo act, or maybe you've got a band. But where do you begin? What equipment will you need to get going? How do you keep track of everything?
Sound System (PA System)
True for solo acts, duo acts and even full bands: not all venues provide sound systems. If you do plan to perform in a live setting, it may serve you well to invest in your own sound equipment, be it a passive or an active setup. If you're not sure of the difference and which will be best-suited for you, be sure to check out our video below:
It goes without saying that what you require for your show will depend entirely on what you do and the size of the venues you are performing at. If you're a singer-songwriter performing as a solo/duo act in a small restaurant/café, you're not likely to need the same sound equipment as a 5-piece rock band playing in a large club/bar. The fundamental equipment required, however, is much the same.
In your average "stage" setup, you will likely require some/all of the following equipment:
An audio mixer (# of channels dependant on your specific needs)
Speaker cables/audio cables
Speakers (active or passive, depending on your setup)
Speaker stands/microphone stands
Microphones (see our other videos about what you're likely to need!)
XLR (microphone) cables
Spare cables, batteries (9V for guitars, wireless mics, etc)
Power strips/power boards
Stage lights (even a few small LED par cans can go a long way to setting the mood!)
Equipment cases/tour cases
Trolley/hand cart for hauling equipment
Important to note is that everyone's stage setup is going to look a little different, depending on their personal requirements.
One thing I highly recommend, especially if you do plan to perform live regularly: build yourself a "stage" setup that consists of exactly what you'll need for your live shows. Keep this equipment separate from the other gear you regularly use at home, or for rehearsing. To some this might seem over the top, but there's nothing worse than arriving to a show to realise you've forgotten a necessary cable, or you forgot to bring a mic clip. There's a certain peace-of-mind that comes with having an entirely separate "stage" setup and knowing that you're always prepared for the gig. Keeping your equipment organised and stored in rugged tour cases is the best way to ensure you always have everything you need, and that your gear will be well protected.
You'll likely need at least one microphone (if not a few!) for your stage setup. In a live setting, you're most likely to require dynamic microphones. If you're unsure of the differences between the microphone types, be sure to check out the video below:
It's equally important to know the differences between polar pickup patterns, so be sure to download our FREE Polar Pickup Pattern Handbook for a full rundown on everything you need to know!
If you're planning to plug an instrument directly into a mixing console, you're going to want to have quality D.I. (Direct Injection) boxes, which will convert the unbalanced signal from high impedance (High Z) to a balanced low impedance (Low Z) signal. This means a significant improvement in not only audio quality, but also the length of cables you can run before you experience any audio degradation. D.I. boxes are mainly used for running acoustic guitars or digital pianos/keyboards directly into a mixing console, and should be
a part of your arsenal if your setup includes these instruments.
Radial is likely the most popular industry-standard brand when it comes to D.I. boxes. You
can expect to spend anywhere from $100-$250 on a quality D.I. Box, but it will contribute significantly to the quality of your acoustic guitar/digital keyboard signal arriving at the mixer.
You can purchase both Active and Passive D.I.'s. An active D.I. Box will often use 48V Phantom Power to boost your signal level, providing you with a hotter output signal. This can come in handy if your acoustic guitar pickup does not have a preamp built in, or if your finding your signal isn't coming through hot enough. For most applications however, a quality passive D.I. box will do the trick.
The last thing to remember is to stay organised. Cables are a wear item and will eventually fail (but if you take good care of them and don't step on them, they should last years!) Do you have spares in your "stage" setup? What about spare batteries for your acoustic guitar preamp? What about picks? Capos? It also doesn't hurt to keep a spare mic clip handy. The other must-have is a multi-tool, which can (and likely will!) save the day.
The key takeaway: failing to plan often means you're planning to fail. Take a look at our FREE Stage Equipment Checklist, which you can download and customise to suit your own personal stage setup. This way, you'll always be sure you have everything you need when you rock up to your gig.
Show up prepared, and you're bound to have a great show!