Standing behind my FOH guy on Sunday morning, I watched every knob he turned. I watched every fader he moved. I watched the way he’d listen to the music and made a change on the board. Simple observations. Much of your time behind the mixer is doing the same thing. Now ask yourself, “Do all those little changes make a difference?”
YES! YES THEY DO!
The little changes can bring an instrument to the front of the mix. They can make a vocal pop (in a good kind of popping). They can clear up a messy mid-range area in the mix which gives each instrument a clear spot in the mix.
Little changes tend to be in;
- Gain Correction
- EQ Changes
- Effects Changes
- Volume Balancing
- Monitor Tweaking
Let’s look further into these areas and see where most tweaks occur.
You might consider this a “major” change because you are touching the gain/trim knob. I’m saying it’s a little change because it might be something you initially set correctly but after a change on stage or with the mix, you find you need to modify the gain structure.
Aim for having your fader at the “0” or “U” (Unity) position and then set your gain accordingly. This way, you will have the best volume coming in and the most granular control via your fader. Make sure anyone with in-ears has them taken out before you make any gain changes.
The types of tweaks you make depend somewhat on the type of control you have. For example, with a digital mixer with the ability to sculpt the channel EQ via computer software, you can make narrow cuts whereas with a mixer with a parametric EQ, you can only cut/boost a wide range of frequencies.
Some of the EQ tweaks I make are;
- High: Boost for vocal clarity. Boost for guitar brightness, especially if finger-picking style.
- Mids: Cut and boost for frequency clarity / separation in the mix. For example, separate out two different acoustic guitars or vocals.
- Low: Boost acoustic guitar if it’s the only instrument on stage. Cut/boost drum kit pieces as needed.
- HPF: Apply where my low-end sub-80 Hz freq’s aren’t needed.
You might be dealing with multiple digital plugins or just one or two. Let’s keep this simple. Once you have your EQ tweaks, ask yourself the question “does this sound meet the sound I want?“ If not, look to your effect. Try cutting the level of your effects. Cut one and boost another. Also look at the parameters available on your effects. Does a parameter change give you the desired sound?
We’re talking strictly faders at this point. With all the tweaks so far, you’re bound to need a little volume balancing to correct any volume increases or decreases caused by your tweaks.
This whole tweaking process is after my initial sound check, gain setting, first run at mixing, and setting of monitor levels. However, given possible gain changes, it’s a good time to check with the band on volume levels in their monitors.
Little changes can add up to a great mix. Using this tweaking process during the rehearsal, you’ll have a great starting point when the first live set starts. Yes, you might have to tweak a little from song to song given you now have a room full of people…welcome to live audio production.