There are so many factors that affect the way a mix sounds live! The tech (ear, experience, skill), how good the band is, what equipment is used, the room. In this blog post, I’m going to focus on 3 simple tips for the up and coming audio tech to improve their mix.
Get rid of the bad! (with your mid-EQ)
When doing individual line checks, solo the channel you are working with in your headphones. Now, ‘get rid of the bad’. Do this by EQing out frequencies that sound bad. If you are not super familiar with all of your frequencies yet, here is a fast and simple way to do this. On the EQ for the channel you are working with, find your sweepable ‘mid volume knob’ and turn it up. Now slowly turn the sweepable ‘mid frequency knob’ all the way up and down. If you get to a point where it sounds awful, leave the ‘mid frequency knob’ where it is. Now turn the ‘mid volume knob’ down until it sounds pleasing to listen to. You may have to just turn it down a bit (like at 10 or 11 O’clock). Or if the original sound is extremely harsh, you may want to turn it down all the way. But, be careful not to over EQ if it doesn’t need it. If you take out too much you may lose the tone of the sound source and it may get lost in your overall mix. If you have multiple sweepable mid-EQs on your board, you may want to do this with both of your mids. EQ is usually best used taking out the bad as opposed to boosting. The couple channels that I do however regularly boost the bass on are the Kick Drum and the Floor Tom. Not everything you encounter will need to be EQ’d.
Get rid of the unnecessary! (with your low-cut)
Your mixer should have a low-cut button (same a high pass). This is a very valuable tool! What this does is it takes out all of the low frequencies under usually 100 Hz or 80 Hz. (depending on the mixer) If the sound source you are working with is not producing low bass, you should low cut it. If you don’t, it will just muddy up your mix and you will lose headroom. I usually push in the low-cut button on every channel except Kick Drum, Floor Tom, Bass Guitar, Synths & Samples.
One extra thing to note is that Electric Guitar is a mid-range instrument. Guitar Amps have woofers in them. (no sub-woofers & no horns) Electric Guitar channels should have the low cut button engaged. Furthermore, a lot of time I will turn the treble EQ knob down on electric guitar because the amp is not producing hi treble. It will make things sound less harsh and cleaner.
Make sure you can hear everything!
Ask yourself, “Can I hear all of the instruments and vocals?”. If you see something happening on stage but can’t hear it, you have a problem. This could be anything from a vocalist or a snare drum. This sounds elementary, but is many times overlooked. Make sure that you look up at the band often. Look at what is happening on stage and make sure that what you are seeing is lining up with what you are hearing. As well, when a sound guy has his eyes glued to his sound board it’s not good. It’s always good to keep as much eye contact with the band as possible. You never know when a performer may need a monitor mix adjustment (if you don’t have a separate monitor tech). As well, it’s good to keep a watchful eye for fallen microphones or other surprises.
Be pleasant!! (a bonus tip)
No one wants to deal with a grumpy sound guy! Keep a positive attitude. The band will perform better because of it and inadvertently, your mix will sound better!
There are many different tricks, techniques and things to keep in mind while doing sound. I will be touching on some of the following in future blogs:
- Using Professional Level Equipment
- Using the Proper Microphone
- Mixing with Gates
- Mixing with Reverb
- Mixing with Sub-Groups
- Mixing with Compression