Many people think that compression is the key to great results when mixing. Compression is a very useful tool but it will not fix a bad mix. The truth is you need to know how to build a good mix before you apply compression.
What is compression for anyway?
A compressor is used to control the dynamic range of a signal, closing the gap between the loudest and quietest sounds. This helps prevent clipping or distortion, controls transients, and keeps things from jumping out in the mix.
Compression can be corrective or creative.
An example of corrective compression would be using it to smooth out the spirited playing of the bass player or a wildly dynamic singer who goes from a whisper to a scream.
Examples of creative compression are using compression to create loudness or to add the particular characteristics of the compressor to color the track or mix. A little compression on the overall mix can increase headroom when mixing live sound, and compression can help to pull a...
If you're old enough to remember, that was the name of a song from the band R.E.M. in the mid 1990s. What's the frequency is also a question that a lot of sound engineers and musicians struggle with.
One of the things that can wreak havoc with a live performance is feedback. I'm sure many of you can relate... you are struggling to get the vocal over the insanely loud stage volume and dodging feedback bullets left and right. While you search frantically with the EQ to figure out which frequency it is, the audience and band is glaring at you. Not a pleasant situation to be in.
When you can’t identify frequencies it can be very difficult to get things to sound the way you want them to.
For example, how to make muddy sounding vocals really shine and pop in the mix. How to mix so you can hear all of the instruments without them interfering with each other. How to make the PA system to work with the room acoustics.
Are the best sound engineers and producers born with better hearing, a pair of ‘Golden Ears’ as they say?
Not necessarily, but what they do have is a pair of well trained ears.
EQ’ing is the manipulation of frequencies. In order to do that effectively, you need to be able to identify what you hear and what adjustments need to be made so you can achieve your desired result.
The first step in doing this is knowing how to listen.
Your ears are always on however, you’re not always listening. We use our ears all the time but exactly how much do we hear and how do we hear?
Hearing is different from listening. How much of your environment are you tuning out on a daily basis? If you live in the city, do you even notice the traffic noise anymore? Sirens blaring, horns honking, garbage trucks emptying dumpsters? If you’ve lived in a noisy city long enough, my guess is that has all become part of background noise that your brain...
Many live sound engineers and technicians have been trying to figure out ways to keep up their mixing skills during the pandemic with the lack of live shows and events.
While it may have been a long time since you’ve had your hands on the faders and it may still be some time before you get back to mixing, there is a simple way that you can improve your skills in the downtime- by focusing on listening.
It’s easy to forget just how important critical listening is. When we are in in the midst of a tour or constant work, we tend to operate on auto pilot. For anyone who has been mixing for an ample amount of time, listening becomes kind of like breathing… until we don’t need to do it for a while.
I’m not talking about every day listening, of course we’re always hearing sounds and noises around us, music or television in the background. What I am talking about is active listening in the form of critical listening.
Your ears are the most important tool you have as a sound engineer, producer, or musician. And the best thing about them is they are FREE! They don’t require any software, measuring microphones, or computers. They are with you wherever you go.
I’m not saying that computer based tools and other measurement devices are not worthwhile, but they are just tools and should only be used as such. The problem comes when you start relying on those tools to tell you how things sound. After a while you just stop using your ears or simply forget to ‘listen’.
When I was very young I learned how to play piano by ear. I was actually pretty good at it until I started taking piano lessons. Once I learned how to read music somehow my ability to pick things up by ear got lost. It seemed much easier to get the sheet music for whatever song I wanted to learn rather than spend the time plunking away at the keyboard to...
Whether you are going on tour with a new artist, running sound for a local venue, or working for a sound company there's a lot more to mixing a great sounding show than just turning knobs and pushing faders.
Step 1- Do your homework-what kind of music will you be mixing? Learn the artist's songs and get familiar with the style of music. If you are going tour with them as their sound engineer you'll want to deconstruct the songs and make lots of notes.
Step 2- Communicate with the artist, band, or client on what their needs are. What ideas do they have for their sound? How many inputs do they have? What are they? What do they need in the way of monitor mixes? What songs have solos or instrument changes, go through the set list so you know what to expect for each song- different vocalists? BGVs? Solos? Are there any specific cues?
Step 3- Show up prepared. Have an input list, stage plot, and audio spec. Advance the gig so...