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The P.A. system is the largest and most expensive equipment you will need to buy if you intend to work as a 'self-contained' entertainer.  Whilst some genres of music are fortunate to work in venues that have in-house systems, the majority of working singers and musicians cannot rely on clubs, pubs and venues to have adequate equipment, so its worth taking the time to learn what is the best set up for your requirements and how to use it to its best effect.

For the complete newcomer we have an easy to follow guide to equipment required for public performances, basic set up instructions, advice on how to use a mixing desk and tips on getting the best sound for your performances.  If you already have a basic understanding of P.A. Equipment and require more advanced information and advice, there are plenty of excellent sites that offer technical explainations and diagrams.  Details and links to these can be found in our Equipment Links.  Visitors with relevent sites are welcome to send their details for inclusion.

If you are an experienced singer or musician you will not require the info, however, you may find the wavelength calculator, links to equipment retailers, online speaker design applet and technical advice helpful, and there are extensive links to musical instrument manufactures, musical, sound and pro-audio equipment manufacturers, dealers, support, advice and more at Electric Blues Club Equipment section and why not browse our Free Music Software Downloads Page which has tons of useful programs for singers and musicians

Newest additions to this section are 'Sound Advice' which provides some basic instructions on how to use a mixing desk, how to get the best sound at acoustic and electric gigs, plus the new Wavelength Calculator for the techies!!

P.A and Musical Equipment you will require and basic set up advice is only a small part of this section, which may take some time to construct so please pop back often!!

animusic imageanimusic image Equipment Requirements



The amount and type of equipment you will need, depends on where you intend to perform and the size of your act. Of course you can be completely acoustic and sing unaccompanied, but even the most powerful singer needs amplification for a band or orchestral performance. If, like many musicians, you are unable to afford a P.A. System, there are other options available:-

  • Hire a P.A. for the night.
  • Work in venues with In House Systems
  • Work in venues with In House Bands
  • Join an established band or musician who have their own equipment

When purchasing any type of musical equipment it is worth aiming for the most powerful and best quality you can afford. If possible try to make sure you have spares available for the inevitable unforseen breakdown - extra mic, speaker and power leads are a 'must have' and should be included when calculating your budget.

animusic imageanimusic image Types of Players



Most Solo's and Duo's work with backing tracks. The following list gives a few 'player' options to help you choose which is best for your act:

  • Midi Controlled Devices using floppy disks, i.e, computer with sound card, tone generator or sequencer.

    • PRO'S - Midifiles can be easily configured to your requirements. Changing the pitch, speed, volume, velocity and adding, muting or re-allocating instrument sounds are all options you can access with a good music software package. Top of the range and most widely used are Cubase & Cakewalk. Before you rush out to purchase a commercial package, try out their free demo versions and some of the many excellent freeware programs like Massiva. These are often included on Trade Magazines like Computer Music Interactive, PC Guide etc., from their websites or via your local computer shop, (Music Tools for Windows has some good programs worth a look).

    • CON'S - Data on floppy disks can become corrupted and you need some musical and technical knowledge to use them effectively.

  • CD Players, now available with record and rewrite facilities, uses......CD'S!

    • PRO'S - No technical knowledge required, easy to use, transport & set up, good sound quality. Many high street shops sell commercial karaoke backing cd's or they can be purchased with tracks specific to your requirements.

    • CON'S - Have a tendancy to jump, sensitive to temperature changes and transporting. Commercial packages often record the tracks in easy to sing keys which may not be the same as the artists original. Customised CD companies pre-mix the tracks so ensure you pick the right key!

    • Click Here to view a twin deck CD Player. (opens in new window)
    • Click Here to view our range of cd, minidisc and tape players at Christmas Crackers Musical Gift Ideas.

  • Minidisk Recordable Players are a more compact and manipulable version of the CD Player and use small minidiscs. You can record, move, combine or delete tracks as required.

    • PRO'S - Easy to use, temperature & transport tolerant, great if you want to change your set list regularly.

    • CON'S - Will sound distorted if over recorded & must be cleaned regularly. Currently no commercial instrumental backings available so must record from your own midifiles or cd's although some companies do provide backings on minidisc.

    • Click Here to read Minidisc Article with links to resources.
    • Click Here to view our range of cd, minidisc and tape players at Christmas Crackers Musical Gift Ideas.

  • Tape Machines are a well recognised piece of equipment which you probably already own!

    • PRO'S - Tons of commercial karaoke tapes available from high street stores. Cheap option if you are on a tight budget. Durable, transport & temperature tolerant.

    • CON'S - Tapes can stretch or break and playback quality is poorer than the other options. Songs must be recorded in the order you require, no flexibility in jumping to a track further in the set.

    • Click Here to view a twin deck Cassette Player. (opens in new window)
    • Click Here to view our range of cd, minidisc and tape players at Christmas Crackers Musical Gift Ideas.

animusic imageanimusic image P.A. Essentials



A full P.A. set up is not as daunting as it sounds.  Most people have a music centre and a P.A. is a larger version. You will need a minimum 100 watt system if you intend to work in public, however, a larger system (150 - 300 watts for solo performers, duo's, trio's and small bands) is preferable and will suit most indoor or outdoor events. You should always try to purchase the highest wattage of the best quality that your budget can afford but unless you intend to play at Wembley Stadium, this set up will last without having to upgrade for many years.  The following is a list of all the necessary components you will need:-

  • Power Pod Amplifier or Mixing Desk with integral power unit - These are all in one units, usually comes with 4 to 6 jack or cannon plug inputs and an effect, (usually reverb). Compact and easy to use, these are ideal for solo to 5 piece bands. Although it's advisable to use them mainly for vocals, most new amps can handle a semi acoustic or electric guitar and keyboards, however, you should check the specifications with the dealer or manufacturer.

  • Mixing Desk and seperate Power Unit - Similar to the power pod but the desk usually has more features. Having a seperate power unit prevents total disaster, if you have a spare you can still continue the gig!

  • Pair of Speakers - ensure these are compatible with the amplifier you will be using!!

  • Microphones - High or Low, Dynamic, Hand Held, Radio & Head Set Mic's - So how do you pick which one will suit you? Try them all out to see which suits your voice and style of act, as a general rule if you move about a lot on stage then a radio mic gives freedom of movement with no irritating wires to trip over. Everyone has their favourite, but personally I feel it's hard to beat the Shure SM58, thousands of hours of gigging and a few dents later, it's a good durable professional vocal mic.

  • LEADS!! Treat these with care and they should last for years - but always take the precaution of carrying spares, therefore, you will need:-
    • 4 Long Speaker Leads
    • Microphone lead (cannon to cannon or cannon to jack connections), carry a spare!
    • Phono to Phono or Phono to Jack Lead
    • 2 x Power Leads (some amps & players don't have built in leads).

  • Extension Plug Boards - One at least should have a cut out facility in case of power surges.

  • STANDS!! Two speaker stands and a microphone stand for each mic used

  • You may also like to consider getting a monitor to help you hear your backing track and voice better. There are two types - a slave is unpowered and requires a speaker lead. Powered gives you a better flexibilty and the option to use it as an amp in itself if your main amp breaks down (yep, been there - dun that!!).

  • Got the Gear? - Now your ready to put it all together & get those gigs!!

Self Accompanied Artists, Duo's & Trio's, i.e., guitar or keyboard players, will also have to take into consideration wether to have instrument specific amplification or Direct Input into the P.A. (DI boxes are relatively inexpensive) but do check that the amplifier is suited for Instruments and not just a Vocal P.A. before plugging in or you could overload it & repairs are expensive!!

P.A. & Equiment Hire Companies
These vary in size from the one man band to tour equipment hire, some supply an engineer with the equipment, others do not so ask before making arrangements. Hire costs vary considerably from 30 to 5000 per night depending on the amount of equipment and personnel needed, most companies require a deposit in advance.



Musicguard Insurance

small mic imagesmallmic image Technical Books
In Association with Amazon.co.uk & Amazon.com

This is just a small selection of books and audio books available in our Books For Singers which include technical equipment, singing exercises, music theory, vocalises, sheet music, audition repertoire, and tuition books for singers of all standards and styles.

Live Sound - P.A. for the Performing Musicians Live Sound - P.A. for the Performing Musicians

Reviews
Future Music - 'Essential reading for any gigging musician'
The Band - 'Covers just about every live playing subject'
Home & Studio Recording - 'Clear and concise'

Whether you are an engineer working with a large sound system, or just a gigging band using a few amps and a mixer, you'll get more out of your sound system with this book. Its hands-on approach covers choice and use of microphones, direct injection, mixing, monitoring and foldback, automation and MIDI, and use of effects - EQ, compressors, reverb and delay. There are sections on multimedia, troubleshooting, minimising mains interference, hum and feedback, and some welcome advice on safety aspects of a live gig. It includes case studies of a rock concert, a classical concert, a cabaret show, and a musical production in a theatre. With a chapter on connectors and the principles of sound, the whole thing is nicely rounded off with a glossary of terms and a useful list of industry contacts. Explains how to build an efficient sound system, and gives advice on monitor mixing, avoiding feedback, and using effects while recording.
Live Sound at Amazon UK
Live Sound at Amazon USA

The Home Studio Guide to Microphones The Home Studio Guide to Microphones

Reviews - The author, Loren Alldrin , 13 April, 1998
Here's a hint: it's not in your latest 24-bit effects processor or whiz-bang digital recorder. Instead, great recordings start with the right microphone positioned well. Sound simple? It is.

In The Home Studio Guide to Microphones, you'll learn how mics work, how they differ and which mic to use when. Plus, you'll learn how to best record dozens of popular instruments. Finally, an extensive buyer's guide gives you specs and application info on over 70 popular mics.
Home Studio Guide to Microphones at Amazon UK
Home Studio Guide to Microphones at Amazon USA

See our full range of Equipment & Other Technical Books in the Electric Blues Club Studios section.

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Shure SM58 microphone
Shure SM58 (SM58-LC)

Cardioid dynamic vocal microphone. 50 to 15,000 Hz.
Consistently the first choice of professional performers around...