Maintenance: Weekly To-Do Lists

Welcome back to this final week of the Maintenance series. Hopefully the last few weeks have inspired you to get more active in preventative maintenance in and through your systems. All of this may seem excessive to some but I can promise that doing these things has kept the gear that I am charged with care functioning pretty well over the years. It hasn’t been an exhaustive list as those get pretty specific to you, your room, and especially your gear but I hope you’ve picked up the need to clean the dust off of fans, check the RF status of your room to keep wireless systems tuned, and just general care of what you are using.

This last week is all about the little things you should be doing every week to not only be ready for the next event but prevent small issues from happening. None of this is required but as with the rest, at least doing some of it will save you time (and hence money) if you can get through them on a weekly basis. The first is just hitting the reset button. I’m guilty of this more than anyone. That last event was likely a doozy of an event that may have gone late into the night and we’ve all been there when we’ve pulled out all the stops to get something working. What that also means is that there is a trail of gear all over the place that was ripped out and replaced without time to actually test it, fix it, and put it away. This is what you need to be doing. You were able to do that likely because someone, or you, has put all that stuff away. When you went looking for that mic, it was sitting on the shelf where it belongs. When you went looking for that gender changer, it was plugged into the patchbay, where it’s stored. Get your studio, venue, booth, whatever it is, back to square one so you are ready for the next big thing.

Along with that, hit the reset button on your console as well. If it’s digital, recall your template. If it’s an analog desk, take the time and zero it out. There is a reason that people pay interns to do just that in big companies. Having a zeroed out console makes getting the next mix, much much much easier. I’m sure you probably had a few good ideas for your template or layout as well. Get those programmed into your template and your booth setup so that your next event will have benefited from your idea. Too many times I’ve had a great idea, even made a note about it, and forgotten to implement it, and we get stuck in the old way. Take the time to get that stuff taken care of so you don’t get stuck in a loop without innovation. I’ve found if you deal with this every week, the list of things to change stays quite small and manageable, so check this off the list as often as you can.

While you’re resetting your gear, reset your space as well. Clean it up. Seriously, we all know what trash cans are right? There is nothing more frustrating than getting to a venue with trash all over the place and dirty countertops etc. As a professional, take the 5 minutes it takes to clean stuff up every now and again (preferably more often than not). Along with that, clean your cables and equipment of any dust buildup or sticky substances. I don’t like picking up sticky cables and no one else does either.

The last thing I like to do each week is just to sit down and think about the next event. Yep, take some time before the band arrives, before the help shows up, and plan it all out. Getting ahead of the game is the best way to win every time. Sometimes it isn’t that beneficial but taking the time to make sure you have all the patching figured out, wiring laid out and ready to go, hard drives cleared for recording, etc will sometimes give you a great idea as the event ruminates in your mind. On more than one occasion I got to a gig early, got stuff laid out before anyone was even there and had a great idea that drastically improved the flow of the setup, rehearsal, and event. Sometimes it’s just a change in setup to make life easier, other times its a last minute change at the system level that just helps everything. I’ve also found that the longer I think through an event the more effective I am at making quick decisions that prove to be the right ones.

To sum up, just hit the reset button. Reset your console and gear back to what you would call “square one” as if it was just installed. Reset your space by cleaning up the trash and putting cables and accessories back where they belong so they can be easily found when needed next. Lastly reset your mind by thinking through what the whole thing looks like and try to see if there are any areas that you can improve before anyone even shows up. Did I leave anything out? Let me know in the comments below, the comments on facebook, or by dropping me an email at I can promise that this next series, starting next week, will be extremely useful for you. I’ll be discussing some tips and tricks for setting up and using the waves ecosystem either live or in the studio. Sign up at this link to get an email when it’s up! See you all next week!

Maintenance: Monthly To-Do Lists

Last week we talked about the things I’d recommend that you do on a monthly basis (check it out at this link) and this week we are going to narrow that gap a bit and talk about what you should think about doing every month you are involved in a production environment. Don’t worry, the list didn’t get too much longer but each item is worth doing. Whether you are in a studio or working in a live environment, maintenance is key to keeping things working smoothly. While this isn’t an exhaustive list, these few things are things that I never do enough and they always catch up to me at the worst times.

The first thing has always been a bit controversial in the tech world….windows updates. Some prefer to just never update, some want to keep up to date, but no one wants to have their computer just restart in the middle of an event. Not only do you surrender control of your computer you have no idea how long it’s going to take or a way to safely disengage the process without risking significant issues. But, I think there is a middle ground. Go ahead and google “turn off windows update, registry fix” and you’ll find many pages that describe how to stop windows update via the group policy editor (which is excluded from being changed by windows in any update scenario). This is really the only guaranteed way I’ve found to prevent these random restarts. But, on the other side of this coin is the realization that these security updates are incredibly important to your computer but also to your organization’s internal network. Changing the registry doesn’t shut off windows update, it just makes it ask first. So once a month, I go into the windows update section of the settings page and run the updates (It’s worth noting that I don’t do this right before an event or even on the same day). When they are completed, it’s just as important to go through your stuff and make sure everything is still working and that there are no issues to be dealt with. Remember, just not updating isn’t a solution, the solution is doing the updates manually so you can run them when you’ll have time to troubleshoot or adjust.

Along with updating the computer, be sure to clean it out of all the junk you downloaded for just that one event and clean up your desktop and downloads folder. I used to be the guy that would keep installers but software gets updated so much these days this is rarely worth it. Just delete them. If you have a maintenance program you like to run, go ahead and give it a go. Think of this like checking fluids in your car every now and again, the key is to just give everything a once through and make sure there aren’t any glaring issues that need to be addressed. Cleaning off the clutter in your machine is also a good way to keep things running smoothly. Keep in mind, this also includes uninstalling programs you either don’t need anymore or were just one offs used in specific cases.

Something else I like to do is to clean the mics that I have that have been used in the last month. We have quite a few capsules that so many different people use every month. Some were sick, some slobber a bit more than others, and some don’t hold them right because they are afraid of the germs. It is easy to just get some antimicrobial wipes, put them right next to where you keep your mics and belt packs, then once a month, take a few minutes and just wipe them all down. Obviously you don’t want to scrub too vigorously as most microphones and headsets aren’t waterproof but you can safely wipe them down which is key. Doing this will help to keep your teams healthy and your mics clean from nasty buildups of spit and dirt all over that capsule. In the studio world, wiping down instruments, work surfaces, door handles, etc will also help to keep things nice and clean and dust free. I’m not crazy about doing this or anything but I think this is an easy task we can do as technicians to take care of our gear and make sure everyone gets the same experience as the day the mic was taken out of it’s box. Be sure not to do this right before you hand someone a microphone because you’ll want to let it dry and the chemicals to evaporate. Any antimicrobial wipe will do, just find something that fits your price point and stick to it.

The other thing I like to do monthly is grab the cables out of my broken cable bin (I have a box or a pile of cables that I think may be broken and need to be checked) and process them all. Grab a tester to check for continuity, inspect the ends, whatever the issue, get it fixed and return it to your cable wall (or case). There have been more than a few times that I’ve looked at my wall and asked where everything went. Well, a quick glance into the broken bin reveals just where all the cables are sitting. Just spending an hour or two a month going through this stuff is all it takes. Odds are that the cable is probably OK because the real issue had nothing to do with the cable so it may not even take that long. Stop buying more and more cables and fix the ones you have!

The last thing I’d recommend, especially in the light of the recent RF transition is to do a check on your wireless system. As more and more people move their gear out of the now illegal band, your airwaves may have cluttered up a bit. Just pick a day to do a quick scan and make sure your frequency selection is still the best for your area. I love using wireless workbench for this because you can prioritize specific channels to ensure that your pastor’s mic always gets the best frequency.

Well that’s it for this week. Be sure to leave me a note, either through the comment section below (or on facebook) or by email ( if there is something you think should be in this list but isn’t or just something that you like to do. I know this week has been a convicting post for me to get some scheduling done so that I am better at completing these tasks regularly. Hopefully you learned something as well. Next week I’ll be wrapping up the series talking about what I “try” do every week in order to keep on top of things. Be sure to sign up at this link to get an email when new content is posted every week. Have a great week!

Maintenance: Yearly To-Do Lists

Welcome to my inaugural series on maintenance. This is a new topic for me because in the last few years I’ve been the “systems” guy on staff. That is just a fancy way of saying that part of my job is making sure that everything is running smoothly. Most of the time that means equipment planning and design but in this time I’ve learned a lot about keeping production machines at their peak performance, managing high priority networks, and just the value in simply dusting. Let me be the first to say how incredibly easy it is to buy new gear, install it, and just sit back and be content. With so much going on, in the non-crazy times, it is very tempting to relax a bit but the reality is that it’s the work that we do when we aren’t slammed that makes the busy times not quite as crazy. We will see this category come up here and there to cover things we do (or should be doing) to prepare for the oncoming technical storm inevitably coming our way. In this short three part series I am going to cover the things that I do yearly, monthly, and weekly, to keep things running as smoothly as I can. This isn’t an exhaustive list but I combined what I actually do with a list of things I really should be doing so that we both can learn a bit through this series. The hardest part about this for me is that I know that this just means more work for me, but I’ve learned the hard way what allowing some of these things to be skipped usually has negative consequences.

As I mentioned, this week, we are going to be talking about things we, as audio technicians, really need to be doing once a year (at least). The first and probably the most important is the task of dusting. Unless your church sets up in a clean room with some crazy filtration, the reality is that things will get dusty. This may need to be more frequent if when you do this you find some pretty thick deposits. Probably the most affected by dust is electronics and particularly electronics that get really warm like speaker amplifiers and power supplies. Many air intakes should be just wiped off (will powered down of course to make sure the dust clumps don’t get sucked in) your hand or a towel. The build-up is usually worse if there isn’t a filter or a fan immediately on the other side of the vent. Just make sure that at least once a year you look at air intakes of all of your gear and make sure there aren’t blockages or a build-up of dust, if so, clean it off. If there is a lot, perhaps check more often. Proper cooling not only promotes efficient operation but also keeps things running smoothly for a longer period of time. If you haven’t really kept up with this, you may need to open up cases and clean things a bit deeper. You can used canned air or an air compressor with an air filter on it but we purchased a small electronics blower (similar to this one) awhile ago and it does a great job cleaning without contact (so it’s great for cleaning amps and computer parts out). Speaking of computers, this is something you shouldn’t skip. At least once a year, open the case up, grab your blower or canned air, and clean everything. Focus on CPU coolers and GPU components. These are usually the hottest things in the case and because of the fans will build up dust the most. Computers these days will actively thermally throttle themselves so if you don’t clean them out….it will slow itself down to prevent overheating. Don’t overthink this, just get rid of any dust deposits, blow out fans, make sure radiators are clean, etc. If you’re computer feels like it’s gotten louder, odds are, it just needs to be cleaned out.

Next, and this creates a bit of work, wipe any and all computers once a year. Mac and Windows hardware alike will benefit from a clean slate. This means backup your data, delete the hard drive, and start over. Don’t do this the day of an event, give yourself time to complete the task. Both MacOS and Windows both have a feature built-in to reinstall the machine. Don’t be tempted to keep user files, just delete it all. As you use your machine, you update software, adjust settings, install and uninstall programs, etc and over time, things build up on the machine. Neither OS does a great job cleaning up after an install/uninstall and both can get bogged down after a year or so of weekly demanding use. That combined with the fact that the applications we are all using for production are resource heavy, they need a computer running at it’s best, all the time. There is no doubt that a computers best day is the day it’s first turned on, but there is a way to bring it back to that first day. Wipe it out, and start over. This does create a bit of work but if you are ready, you can be back up and running in just a few hours. There are many tutorials online that detail how to migrate program settings, reinstall waves, etc that will prepare you for this process but going into it ready for anything. If its a mac, I usually grab an extra hard drive and run time machine so if something weird happens, I can just restore the mac from time machine. Either way, if you are using google drive or dropbox to backup your files (like you should be because hardware failure can happen at any time) restoring your mac could be as simple as just downloading them again.

Lastly, clean your equipment cages and racks. This means finally picking up that cable everyone trips on, sweeping up the mounds of dust and zip ties, and generally picking things up and putting them away. This doesn’t usually help gear work better but it will make people work better. Things will be put away so they can be found when they are needed which is a big deal in a crunch during a show. I’ve also found that cleaning up storage areas and cages has a tendency to “find” all the things you haven’t seen in quite awhile. The cable wall mysteriously fills up, adapters are found, and extension cords magically appear out of nowhere. I also use this opportunity to empty my broken cable bin. Hopefully more than once a year you are fixing cables (that are worth it) but this is a great time to empty it out, fix what you can, and toss the rest. I love doing this right before the budget year rolls over so that I know what I can spend those last dollars on replenishing.

In the end, it’s all about stewardship. Whether working in the church world, in a studio, on the road, cleaning up and cleaning out is the best way to take care of the gear that you have and make sure it’s in perfect working order for the next show. The best way to keep on top of this is to start a maintenance calendar. That way, when it’s time to clean out the projector or console, you’ll get an alert. Don’t feel the need to go out and do it all at once. The best way to get started is just doing a couple of things this week, a couple the next, etc. That way those notifications don’t all pop up at the same time. By keeping up with regular maintenance you will save yourself time later, I can almost guarantee it. If you have any questions about some of the other things that I do yearly to keep the systems where I work up and running feel free to leave a comment below, on facebook, or shoot me an email at If you want to get notifications when new posts are up on the site, follow this link, fill out the form and you’ll get an email whenever something new is posted. See you all next week!