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How to Reduce Setup Time for Band Gigs

Bob Craypoe (also known as R. L. Crepeau) is a musician, writer, webmaster, 3D artist, and creator of the Punksters comic strip series.

Is setup time dragging you down at gigs? Get advice on how to do it as efficiently as possible!

Is setup time dragging you down at gigs? Get advice on how to do it as efficiently as possible!

Tips for Faster Setup at Music Gigs

One of the biggest nuisances of playing out is setting up your equipment. When you first start playing out, you may have a tendency to take a long time. After a while, you get better at it and a bit quicker at it as well. There are some things that you can do, though, that could help speed up the process.

Sometimes you may not actually have a lot of time to set up your equipment. Perhaps you have a tight schedule and you may not be able to arrive at the venue early enough in advance. When a venue owner expects you to be set up and ready to go by a certain time, you need to be able to do that. So I have a few tips that may be of some use to you for the purpose of reducing your setup time.

4 Ways to Reduce Setup Time for Your Band Equipment

  1. Make a Place for Everything
  2. Develop a Routine
  3. Always Be Sure You Have Everything You Need Beforehand
  4. Work Together

1. Make a Place for Everything

I like to keep certain items in a certain place. For example, I keep all of my cables except the guitar cables in a single tote bag. I even have them in a certain order. I will have my speaker cables on top because I like to hook them up first. Then I have my microphone cables right under them. Underneath the microphone cables, I have my microphones and vocal compressor pedal. I keep the guitar cables in the guitar case, where I also keep the spare guitar strings, spare guitar picks and the guitar capo. I even keep a spare set list in the guitar case as well.

Since I know where everything is, I know where to look for them and where to find them. It spares me the likelihood of having to rummage through things trying to find what I am looking for. Nothing wastes as much time as that. So I basically make sure that I put everything back in the same place when I am packing everything up at the end of the gig. I try to have everything put back in the same order.

2. Develop a Routine

I have learned that developing a set routine for setting up your equipment makes the process go much quicker. The first thing I do is just bring everything in all at once. I bring in all of the sound equipment, cables, instruments and stands. Then when I go to hook everything up, it’s all already there.

It is much more efficient to do it that way than it is to go out and grab a couple of things and hook them up and then go out and grab a couple more things and hook them up. Just bring it all in at once and you are ready to start hooking it all up in one shot.

Hook Things Up in a Specific Order

I also have an order that I hook everything up in. I like to set my stands up first. I set the speaker stands, microphone stands and the guitar stands up. Then I put the speakers on their stands first to get them out of the way. Having the bulkier items like the speakers out of the way makes it easier to set everything else up because you won’t have to maneuver around them trying to set everything else up.

Then I like to get the power taken care of. I find the nearest outlet and hook up my power strip. I like to do that as part of the first few steps of the setup process because power is important. Without electricity, you aren’t going to be getting very loud. Then I can plug the powered mixer in to see if it gets power. After that I take the speaker cable and hook the speakers up to the powered mixer.

Then I put the guitar and microphones on their stands and put the pedal board on the floor and hook up the power to it. After that, I hook up the microphones, the guitar and the pedal boards all to the mixer. I finish up by taking the empty guitar case and bag I use for the cables and put them to the side and then the stage is basically set.

Follow the Same Order Every Time

I try to do it all in the same order every time because using the same routine allows me to execute it all so much quicker than just setting things up in a random order each time. I have noticed that by using the same routine, it has significantly reduced my setup time. What used to take me a half hour now is done in 15 minutes or so. When I first started out, it even took me longer than a half hour. Developing a system really helps.

3. Always Be Sure You Have Everything You Need Beforehand

Before I leave my house, I always go through the checklist in my head. I make sure I have everything I need. I have a specific process that I use for that. The first thing I do is look at the speakers. Then I think of what they get connected to. That would be the mixer, so I look at the mixer. The next thing that comes to mind is what hooks them all together. That would be the cables, so I look for the bag of cables to make sure that is there. I know that the microphones and a few other things are in the same bag.

Then I check for the stands. I know I need the speaker stands, the guitar stands and the microphone stands. So I check for them all at the same time. Then I check for my instruments. I also know that in my guitar case, there will be the instrument cables, the guitar tuner, a capo and spare guitar picks and guitar strings. Once I know they are all there, it’s time to head out to the venue.

Making sure you have everything before you leave the house prevents you from having to turn around on your way to the venue to go and get something that you may have forgotten. Or worse yet, discovering that you are missing something after you arrive at the venue. Then you have to waste time to drive home real quick or to stop off somewhere to get something you need. I had to find a convenience store one time because I forgot to make sure I had a 9 volt battery for my acoustic-electric guitar’s built-in electronics. Luckily there was one right around the corner. I was also lucky due to the fact that I arrived fairly early to the venue. I was able to start performing at the scheduled time, so all ended well.

Make sure you work together to set everything up!

Make sure you work together to set everything up!

4. Work Together

There is nothing worse than having a whole group of people tripping over each other while they are all trying to set up their equipment. That could seriously slow down the process of setting up. Try to do things as a group that prevents that from happening.

Use a little teamwork as well. One guy could be at the door holding it open while another guy is passing equipment through the door to someone else who will take it to the playing area. It’s amazing how fast you can get everything in place when you do that. And, besides, you won’t be tripping over each other in the process of bringing everything in.

When it comes to setting things up, it’s the drummer who usually has the hardest job to do. Maybe everyone can help the drummer get his equipment to the playing area first so that he could start setting up right away. After the drums, it’s probably the sound equipment that takes the most time. Keyboard players also have it worse than most guitar players as well. Get their stuff into place first so that they can begin setting up their gear right away.

You can develop a setup routine as a group. Go over the process with each other to see where you, as a group, may find ways to reduce your setup time. You might be amazed at some of the creative ideas some of your fellow bandmates will come up with. In any case, work with each other, not against each other.

Adapt These Tips as Needed, Whether You're a Solo Performer or a Group

These are just a few tips for reducing setup time. I am sure that there may be many more out there. I am fortunate in the sense that I work mostly as a solo performer. So developing a routine just for myself was fairly easy. But at least give it a thought for your situation whether you are a solo performer or part of a group.

© 2017 Bob Craypoe


Bob Craypoe (author) from New Jersey on June 13, 2018:

I always try to arrive early. You never know what might happen.

Pat from Centerville Georgia on June 12, 2018:

Arrive plenty early. I'm the guy with the p.a. & set it all up & lights too.