It’s Sunday morning. Your 7:10 a.m. worship-team rehearsal was supposed to start at 7:00, but the guitar isn’t coming through the system. Everything was fine during the midweek practice, but now there’s no signal, and it’s crunch time. Here are five troubleshooting tips for some of the most common last-minute guitar problems:
1. The mixing console’s phantom power is turned off
If the guitar’s pickup or the DI box is passive (requiring power), then it requires what is called “phantom power” from the board. Depending on the board, phantom power may be assigned for the whole board or for each individual channel. Look for the characters “48 V.”
2. The guitar batteries are dead
I’m so used to powering the guitar signal with phantom power that I often forget to consider a dead guitar battery as the cause of a signal problem. If you don’t already, keep a stash of nine-volt batteries on hand.
3. The 1/4-inch or XLR cable is bad
If your guitar player is going through a pedal board and/or a DI box, there are multiple cables that may either be bad or poorly connected. The signal from the guitar to the mixing console to the speakers is like water flowing down a river: every cable and connection must be working right for the signal to flow properly. One bad connection jams up the whole river.
4. The guitar or channel is muted
I can’t tell you how much time I’ve spent looking for complicated fixes to a signal issue only to realize it’s something simple like a mute button. Be sure to check for buttons on both the guitar and the corresponding board channel.
5. The guitar channel is not assigned to the main outputs
For larger mixing consoles, each channel will have multiple options for outputs: L/R, different groupings, etc. These buttons can easily get depressed, so make sure the channel in question is assigned to your main output feed.
Next time you find yourself asking, “Where’d the guitar go?”, be sure you run through this list before you’re forced to improvise. What are some of the biggest last-minute issues you’ve run into?
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