BE PREPARED! You should keep equipment backups (as well
as other essential items) on hand, ready to go should
you have a problem. You should also carry a toolbox that
has screw and nut drivers, pliers, cutters, jumper wires,
plenty of audio adapters, fuses and light bulbs.
For the average
system you should have at least one backup cable for every
type of cable in your system. The most common system failures
can be traced to bad cables. You plug them in and out,
you step on them and run over them with your hand truck.
Do yourself a big favor and carry backup cables. If you
use a wireless mic, keep a wired mic handy as a spare.
I find that a Sony Discman can be your best friend when
a CD player fails. Toss one in your toolbox (carefully)
along with a selection of premixed or compilation CDs
just in case your mixer should go down. As a backup, I
suggest having a small mixer available.
Now here is where
things get a little bit more involvedx your amplifier.
Next to cables, the amplifier is the most common item
to fail. Never skimp on a spare amp either; get a professional
model. It doesn't have to be big, bad, and brawny, but
it should be as reliable as your main amp. Whatever you
do, don't try to use a home stereo system. They are not
built for the heavy demands of pro sound. A used, professional
amplifier, even if it has half the power of your main
amp, will be good enough to get you out of a bind. After
all, a little music is better than no music.
Speakers are another
matter when it comes to backups. Unless you have a large
van with room for a spare set of speakers, carrying a
second set around is probably not feasible. The best thing
to do is to protect your speakers from burning out in
the first place by using a compressor/limiter or speaker
If you have extra
room in your car or van, you might want to carry a spare
tweeter or midrange, as these are the most common parts
of the speaker to burn out and are small enough to put
under a car seat. If you work alone and have a problemx
BE COOL! Don't look at the guests; look immediately at
your system. Begin tracing where the problem may be; it
might be as simple as you hitting the wrong button! Work
as fast as you can to solve the problem. Then when everything
is running again, return to the festivities. Quickness
is of the utmost importance. Practice this at home with
a friend. Have him "cause" a problem on your
system and you try to figure it out. Pretty soon you will
become familiar with potential problems and, should it
occur during a real live performance, you will recognize
it and solve the problem quickly.
If you've checked
and determined it wasn't user error, you should next check
your cables. A typical sign of a bad cable is having a
channel suddenly drop out without the amp going into protect.
You may also get a hum or buzz in the system suddenly.
Do a physical inspection of the cables first. Make sure
you have no frayed ends. Then start tracing your way backwards.
Start with the speakers; if you have one channel dead
or humming, swap the cables. If the problem moves from
one speaker to the other, the speaker is good and the
problem is further up, or in the speaker wire itself.
Next, swap the
cables at the amplifier's output. If the problem shifts
between the speakers, then the problem lies further up
the chain and is not the wire. Move on to the amp. Make
sure it is getting a signal from the mixer. Are the meters
moving like they normally should? If so, then you have
either a bad channel on the amp, or a bad cable. Follow
the same procedure for determining if you have a bad cable
to check your speakers. You should shut off your amp every
time you change wires to avoid any pops or clicks from
surging through your system. If you determine that you
have sound coming out of the mixer, and the wires are
OK, the problem is in the amp. It is time to break out
your spare amp.
If your mixer's
outputs are fine, check to see if the problem is isolated
to one source (CD player, turntable, etc.). If you have
sound coming out on both channels on everything but one
unit, then the problem could be in its connecting cable
or the unit itself. If so, break out the Sony Discman.
If not, then there is a problem with the mixer!
If you are using
turntables, sometimes you may get a loose connection in
the tonearm or needle. Make sure the headshell is firmly
seated into the tonearm and that the contacts are clean.
Also, if you are getting a nasty hum out of the system,
check the turntable's ground wires.
Should your microphone
go bad, and you don't have a spare, you can effectively
use your headphone as a mic. It will work fine, although
the sound will not be very good. Always keep a spare headphone
in your tool kit. Keep an assortment of Adapta-Plugs on
hand as well.
This is a pretty
straightforward approach should you have a problem with
one channel. If both channels are dead or humming, the
first place to look is the amp. Is it getting an output
from the mixer? You can determine this if the meters are
moving and the amp is on, but you get no sound. If so,
then the problem could lie in the amplifier. See if the
amp is in its "protect" mode.
have this built-in; it is designed to protect the amplifiers
from bad loads or short circuits. You could have a wire
that is shorting at the terminals or is frayed. If the
two bare wires touch together, that most likely will shut
down the amp. The best way to deal with problems on the
job is to avoid them in the first place. Don't try to
use the same system you use for a 50-person backyard party
as you would use for a 300-person high school prom. These
are totally different gigs which need totally different
systems. If you push your system beyond its limits, you
will damage it. Don't shout in your mic, and watch those
clip lamps! (Most amplifiers have an overload indicator
called "clip." If it lights, lower the volume!)
And REMEMBER! Be prepared, and don't panic!....