Compression is Not the Answer

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...

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What's the Frequency Kenneth?

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 scares a lot of music people.

When I first started mixing, ( a long, long time ago ) one thing that scared me the most was 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.

For me, at the time the problem was I couldn't identify frequencies. That also made it very difficult for me to get things to sound the way I wanted them to.

I didn't know how to make muddy sounding vocals really shine and pop in the mix.  I didn't know how to mix so you could hear all of the instruments without them interfering with each other.  I knew EQ was the...

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What is the most important tool in your tool kit?

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...

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Tips for Mixing a Great Show.

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...

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