Live Audio Mixing Tips and Tricks is very different from mastering in the studio. Because events occur in real time, you must get things right the first time. Although it can be a stressful experience, when you succeed, the rewards are plentiful.
There will be times when things are beyond your control. Circumstances may force you to make the best of a bad situation. When you approach live audio mixing in a proactive manner, the risk of unexpected events decreases dramatically.
These pointers and tricks will assist you in putting on a live show that everyone will enjoy.
Live Audio Mixing Tips and Tricks
Mixing live sound is one of the most fun yet challenging aspects of music, and the ability to mix both in the studio and live makes a good audio engineer in high demand. Let’s take a look at the basics of mixing live sound and how you can be quickly on your way to learning to mix.
In most cases, especially for smaller bands, you’ll be in a club with a subpar sound system. That’s not to say you won’t come across a club that surprises you. In this article, we’ll look at mixing live sound from the perspective of an aspiring engineer, rather than a band bringing their own PA system.
When it comes to sound mixing, the first thing to consider is the room itself. It’s easy to go overboard; only reinforce what isn’t easily heard in the room. Amplifiers and drums are very easily heard in a small room, especially in a very small space. Putting them through the PA will only make the room sound cluttered. Keep it simple is one of the best pieces of advice I can give you.
1. Build Your Mix from Templates.
It is easier to get your base settings correct when you understand what your musicians intend to perform. Configure a high-pass filter (HPF) for the channels that benefit from it. Begin by unifying all of the faders. It is beneficial to plan for the audio spectrum space required by your vocalists. If you have a more potent mix in one area, reduce it slightly while increasing the rest.
2. Stop Riding Your Faders.
After you’ve completed the soundcheck, your goal should be to leave your faders alone. Have faith in how you set up the audio! You’ll have more time to work on delays, reverbs, and other creative elements in the show if you spend less time on the faders. Your contribution has a significant impact on how the group sounds during the performance.
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3. Compression Provides More Equality.
Volume dynamics in groups vary widely across multiple channels. Frequency spikes can occur at any time, sometimes unexpectedly, if mistakes are made or someone begins to play with passion. Those are the ideal times for some compression.
4. Understand Your Microphone Pickups.
Today’s microphones are extremely sensitive. They pick up audio from places you might not think to look. Listen to each one separately, paying attention to the background dynamics.
This information allows you to understand the proximity rules for your stage, reducing clutter that can cause muddiness during the performance. It’s also important to keep in mind that interference issues from the back can drown out your mix.
5. Reduce the Muddiness in the Tenors and Baritones.
Most men have some muddiness in their vocals between 300 and 400 Hz. It frequently occurs in the 325-350 Hz range, though some guys require assistance in the upper or lower regions.
You’ll be able to reduce the sludge that makes them sound less than professional if you can cut them in that region. The improved clarity also allows the instruments to provide pure audio at the same time.
6. Boost Where It Makes Sense.
Live audio technicians like to boost the lead singer’s mic to give those vocals more prominence. Instead of concentrating on mid-range frequencies, consider what other pickups are possible. Would an increase in the high-end spectrum bring in some extra cymbals? When you have a plan in place, you can amplify many live audio sources by focusing on the group rather than the individual.
7. Don’t Go Crazy When Compressing Vocals.
The majority of vocals benefit from light compression. The average person does not sing perfectly with every note, and this live audio trick produces a well-rounded sound for listeners to enjoy. When you use this technique too frequently, the natural quality of the audio begins to fade. It becomes processed noise to the audience, making the show less enjoyable.
8. Use Reverb for Your Vocal Separation.
Reverb is more effective in live audio for making someone stand out or blend into the background. When you use a lot of it in your mix, someone who is over-performing or off-key can be pushed to the background, where their performance will not affect the final result. Use a little to make someone stand out if they’re killing it.
9. Let Your Drums Have Some Extra Punch.
When the percussion sounds in your live mix are off, the rest of the performance suffers. It must be punchy, tight, and bright. When the equipment is struck, each audience member should appear to be standing right next to it.
When you can achieve this result, the band will be pleased because the audience will have more opportunities to jam out to the tunes.
10. Produce Better Low-End Sounds with the Bass and Kick Drum.
Although the bass and kick drum can be used independently to support the low-end in your mix, the results are better when they work together.
With the punch it provides to the spectrum, the percussion must win the attack. At the same time, the dynamic fluidity of the bass fills the remaining audio waves.
11. Be Kind to Your Equipment.
We’ve all experienced equipment failure. It may be possible to restart it with a quick smack.
As a proper way to correct a restart problem, Apple included a slap to the back of their iPad 2!
- The fundamental rule of audio mixing is as follows:
- You’re performing a maintenance function if you hit it once.
- You’re frustrated if you tap it twice.
- Anything beyond that indicates that you are abusing your assets, and it is time to step back for a moment to calm down.
12. Have a Plan for Feedback
You should always be on the lookout for feedback. You don’t want that screeching to get through to the system! It reminds people of the days when teachers used to run their nails across the chalkboard.
The key to dealing with this problem is to be proactive in terms of how your microphones and audio system handle high levels. Turning up the gain immediately means you won’t have any room to make adjustments later in the performance./
13. Check Your Positioning, and Then Do It Again.
The quality of the show suffers when people can’t hear themselves perform. Monitor the positioning of the stage equipment during the soundcheck. You must ensure that the band is able to hear what they are doing. If they get too close, the audio will remain at their feet. Because it is too far away, this asset is buried by the rest of the sounds on the stage.
14. Positioning Is More Important than Volume for Amps.
Unless you’re working on a live audio mix in a stadium, your venue is small to medium-sized. Turning up the musicians’ amps will degrade the quality of the audio you produce. Concentrate on amplifier placement to ensure a well-rounded mix for the audience. If someone likes to play loudly, move the equipment to the side and away from the crowd.
15. Maintain an Appropriate Headphone Volume.
Beginners frequently turn up the volume on their headphones, believing that this is the only way to drown out the live music in their feed. You can avoid lag by setting a delay of one millisecond for every foot you are away from a speaker cluster.
If you’re using analog, connect your headphones to a delay unit. To improve your listening experience, route it to an amp and then back to your equipment.
16. Incorporate Your HPF and LPF.
Most live audio mixing templates require you to set the HPF. The low-pass filter (LPF) is the one that gets less attention. When you don’t need high Hertz from a specific channel, use the LPF to improve the sound’s authenticity.
Sweep until you notice changes in the mix if you have controllable crossover points, then back off a bit to create something pleasing to hear.
17. Take Control of the House EQ.
You can adjust the Q-value of your boosts and cuts. Unless your cut falls below three decibels, this reading is the same if you’re using a standard 32-channel setup. To change the house EQ, try using a digital mixer with your onboard mastering tools for the live mix.
Having more say in this area ensures that the end result meets your expectations.
18. Use Duckers If It’s a One-Person Show.
Duckers on a digital console provide automatic channel cuts when audio from another channel is detected. When you’re the only one at the board, it’s useful for live audio mixing. Churches frequently employ this technique when playing background music while praying or making announcements. This trick works well if your band wants to say something while the instruments are still playing.
19. Understand the Frequency Bands of Each Instrument.
During a live performance, many audio mixes focus on the core frequencies of each instrument or vocal range. The reason for this action is a lack of variation. You are aware that consistent sounds occur in narrow ranges. When everyone understands what everything is capable of, you can add more depth to what the listeners hear.
20. Use Distortion When It Makes Sense.
Distortion is not always a bad thing in an audio mix. Its intentional use can add grit, depth, and personality to an instrument or vocal. Although it works better for bass sounds than mid-range or high-end sounds, setting specific parameters for each area can help your live music experience be fantastic. Don’t use it just because you can! It should improve overall performance.
21. Don’t Forget about Gating.
When gating, it is beneficial to center your attention on a specific frequency range. Not only does the correct volume of the input benefit your sound broadcast, but it also notifies you when the desired Hertz is available. If you’ve never used this trick in live audio mixing before, focus on the toms or kick drum to experiment with it.
22. Use APC Units to Keep the Show Going.
Have you ever had a live audio mix that was ruined due to a power outage? You will not lose performance energy if you have APC units available for your equipment.
There are several reasons why you might lose power. This tip can keep your system and services operational while you investigate the root cause of the problem. Most of the time, someone unplugged something somewhere, and now you have time to look for it.
23. Understand That Something Always Goes Wrong.
Even if you plan for everything to go perfectly, something will go wrong. With every performance, you should expect to deal with at least one issue. Limiting these issues can be accomplished by asking yourself what could go wrong and performing a last-minute inspection before the show. It is beneficial to have a plan in place to ensure that the audience is never aware of what is going on at the board.
24. A Backup Microphone Is Your Best Friend.
The most common mistake with a live audio mix is relying on a wireless microphone. Batteries degrade, systems fail, and even your box can decide to stop working. Install a wired microphone on a stand with a long cable just off the stage. If the audio fails for any reason, you can fall back on this emergency backup.
Even in the worst-case scenario, the show can go on with just one microphone and one channel. The best live audio mixing tips and tricks may not be applicable in every situation. A school auditorium is not the same as a concert hall.
When you use this guide to create a plan for the mix you need to make, your chances of success increase significantly.
FAQs About Best Live Audio Mixing Tips and Tricks
Why does my mix sound thin?
If our mixes sound thin, it usually means that there is a lack of frequency content in this area of the spectrum. So perhaps we thinned things out a little too much with EQ on the individual tracks, or perhaps there’s something missing in the arrangement to fill in that space.
Who is the best live sound engineer?
Wheeler, Paul “Pablo.” Pablo has worked as a live audio engineer for over 40 years. In 1978, he got his start working with the legendary Johnny Cash.
What makes a good live sound engineer?
There are numerous skills that complement the qualities of a sound engineer. Communication, active listening, problem solving, flexibility, teamwork, organization, and continuous learning are among them. A sound engineer can prepare for a successful career by learning these skills.
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