Let’s imagine… You and some friends are going to see a band tonight. They’re CD sounds so clean and clear at home and in your car. You’re probably assuming they’ll sound just like the CD or, you’d like to think that anyway.
You get to the show, sit close to the soundmix position because it will usually sounds best there. The band comes on and you instantly notice everything muddy and mushy. Even three songs later the sound guy hasn’t gotten a hold of the mix. In fact, everything is louder now, not any clearer, and certainly nothing like you heard off the CD.
As an experienced listener, I’ve witnessed this countless times. As a seasoned live engineer, I have learned to mix for clarity, avoid the mud and keep the sound pressure level as close as possible to OSHA standards.( I’ll explain OSHA later ).
This “how-to” article will be one in a series of applicable, user-friendly knowledge that will enable you to achieve studio quality mixes in the live, on-the-fly arena of sound engineering.
First, there are many sources to the resulting blurry sound. From my learned experience, it’s always an amplified instrument. Guitar amps are the usual culprit. I say this because guitar players always turn up their amps during or after the first song. They do this because they find it hard to hear themselves as they begin to play those first few chords. Even if you were to get a decent sound-check before the show, the players onstage are happy with their monitor mix and everything sounded good at the front-of-house, the guitar amps will always get louder than everything else.
My first tip/trick is this: always give the guitar player more of himself in his monitor mix. This will keep him from turning up onstage. Thus you will be able to get a clear, legible vocal sound over everything else. The reason this is guitar and vocal frequencies operate within similiar ranges,but the guitar is always louder. So, if you can get the guitar at a reasonable volume onstage, you will have plenty of gain-before-feedback with your vocal channel at the front-of-house.
I will discuss lo-mid and upper bass frequencies, their blurry properties and how to manage them with equalization in my next “how-to”.