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Why practicing changeovers is crucial

You'll Discover:

  • How practicing changeover can benefit your band.
  • Tips for rehearsing your changeover.
  • Step by step guide for refining your band’s changeover.

It might not be the first thing you think of when you’ve locked in a gig, but incorporating changeover practice into your rehearsal time is crucial! Find out why and how in this handy guide.


Practice changeovers to benefit your band

Most events have short changeovers: the period between performances where acts set up equipment, soundcheck, and clear the stage of their equipment after performance for the next act to come on. Changeovers can be stressful, with performers full of nerves and engineers under time pressure!

Onto It Media director and former live sound engineer Chris Johnson says that change over and soundcheck etiquette can make or break an act’s chances at a venue.

“If an act is slow to setup their gear or to clear the stage after performing it can blow out event stage times, annoy other acts, lose the audience, and infuriate the sound engineer. Being polite, efficient, listening to instructions, offering to help other acts, and keeping to changeover times between acts is crucial. Doing a changeover without intruding on others greatly increases your chances of having a good show, and being asked back.”

The most important thing you can do is practice your changeover.

We know of an extremely successful Australian band who hired a rehearsal space prior to an international music showcase for the sole purpose of practice setting up and packing down their gear. It’s that important!

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Tips for rehearsing your changeovers

Here’s how to get your changeovers tight:

  • If you’re in an act practice this together and allocate who does what - eg maybe the singer helps drummer load the kit on stage, while guitarists help each other with amps.

  • Pack up your gear, unplug amps, and establish a standard place where each lead, pedal and other gear goes. Eg you may decide that in the back of your amp you’ll always store your extension cord, power pack, pedal, and power cable and a set of spare string. Establish where things always go so you’re not scrambling for lost things during stage setup!

  • Get backpacks for smaller gear, setup a decent pedal board for guitar effects, use cable ties to strap pedals into boards. Don’t carry loose items into a gig, everything needs to have a safe home to be loaded in and out.
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Guide for refining your band’s changeover

Now here’s the fun part:

  • Pack your gear up into a corner of the room, always assuming that you’ll have limited space at a venue to store it. Work out what gear can safely sit on others, ensure bandmates know what’s fragile. Assume you’ll collectively load in gear and you should all know how to best store it.
  • Now set your stopwatch and move the gear to other end of the room and setup according to your stage plot. Finesse who helps who with what, and when. Finesse the best order to take gear onstage - eg need the big parts of the kit and amp on stage before taking over delicate pedal boards (that people may trip on).
  • Once onstage focus on your own setup. Once you're done offer to help others. A BIG NO-NO is leaving bandmates who are struggling to sort out stuff by themselves.
  • Do a level check of equipment as efficiently as possible, check the stopwatch.

Assume you will have less than half of any changeover time to achieve the above. That’s because you may have another act before you, and they’ll use half the changeover time to clear the stage of their gear. So 15 minute changeovers in reality usually become a 5 minute setup time for an act, with a few minutes spare for soundcheck,

  • Now, play a song, restart your timer and then commence ‘clearing the stage’ immediately. Assume you have five minutes to clear the stage - that’s pretty standard for most small venues, and if you achieve that, the engineer and other acts will love and respect you!
  • Pack down in the most logical order to clear the stage. E.g. remove foot pedals to clear the floor so it’s safer to move large items.
  • Assume the engineer and others may be in your way, so protect your gear and clear it fast.
  • Move gear to other side of room and pack up against the wall again.
  • Check timer, and start the whole practice over again.
  • If in band, try to incorporate changeover practice into each of your rehearsals. That also allows you to adapt to suit new equipment and other band member needs for a changeover.

Tip: When you finish a real performance people may come up to talk to you. Be polite, maybe offer to chat in a moment, but focus on clearing the stage - that’s the priority!

If you’re just starting out read out guide on approaching venues for gigs.

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Check your gear

If you have any problems with your gear whatsoever (e.g. an annoying hum in an amplifier) remember that those sounds will be overemphasised through a venue speaker system.

When rehearsing, try turning your amp up really loud without playing to suss out any hums or hisses that may be overbearing when put through a venue PA.  With that in mind, opt to always use gear that is in it’s best condition. That way you are making sure that the sound engineer can provide the best possible mix on the night.

Borrowing gear that’s in good condition is better than playing equipment which needs to be repaired.

Also bring backups of everything which is easily breakable and essential to your set - guitar picks, drum sticks, snares and 9 volt batteries. Having to scramble to find spare gear right before a set is stressful and distracting, especially when dealing with pre-gig jitters!

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