How Band Equipment Works

School Gymnasiums

Chances are that the amps you have cannot fill a school gym with sound, especially if you are playing to 500 or more people dancing and screaming on the gym floor. For a situation like this, you need a real PA system and a mixer to gather all the signals that need to be amplified. If you find yourself financially challenged, a great option is to rent the equipment -- at least until booked gigs begin to make a more frequent appearance on your day-planner. And, if you are ready to make a purchase, you should consider places like pawnshops, used music stores and eBay to find used equipment -- used equipment can save you a ton of money.

To set up for the gym, you will need to mike everything or run signals directly from the instruments. For example:

  • You can mike the lead guitarist's amp, or run the guitar's signal through an amp emulator and then into the mixer.
  • You can mike the bassist's amp, or run the bass through a direct input box or an amp emulator.
  • You can run the keyboard's signal straight into the mixer.
  • You can mike a drum kit, or run electronic drums straight into the mixer.
  • You can mike the lead and background vocalists.

If you have four instruments and three vocalists, you need an 8-channel mixer to handle all the inputs.

The mixer sends its signal to an amplifier. For a venue the size of a school gym, you will need at least 100 watts -- but 200 watts would be better. Now you need PA speakers that can handle the power that the amp delivers. Depending on the speakers you select, you may need stands for them, too.

In addition, you may want monitor speakers on stage. Your mixer will have a monitor-out signal, so you will need a monitor amp and several monitor speakers.

All together, the equipment list for a gig at a school gym might look something like this:

  • One 8-channel or 12-channel mixer
  • Main amplifier
  • Monitor amp
  • Main speakers
  • Speaker stands if appropriate
  • Monitor speakers
  • Speaker cables for main and monitor speakers
  • Three to seven mikes
  • Mike stands
  • Mike cords
  • Power cords and extension cords
  • A van for hauling all this stuff