Saturday, May 23, 2015

HOW TO MIX A LIVE BAND (a guide for dummies) 2/4

Hello and welcome to this week's article!
Today we proceed with part 2 of our 5 parts article about how to mix a live band.
After we have set up everything on our stage properly, we should have a channel box with 12 numbered xrl jacks, that we should connect to our mixer respecting the numeric order.

Here is my channel list, but you can modify it according to your own taste:

1   kick drum
2   snare drum
3   tom 1
4   tom 2
5   floor tom
6   lead vocals
7   backing vocals
8   guitar 1
9   guitar 1
10 bass guitar 
11 keyboards / d.i. 1
12 keyboards / d.i. 2

If we want to make sure we will find immediately the channel we're looking for we can use also a strip of writable tape to put below all channels, so we can write under each channel what instrument is plugged.
Each channel of the mixer looks the same, and a typical single channel strip it's the one present in the classic Mackie mixers, and it is depicted on the top of this article.
Let's analyze it, starting from top:

- we got the Xlr and normal jack input

- then we have a high pass filter button which takes out everything below 75hz (which is useful, so
we can leave the lowest frequency area only to certain instruments, such as bass and kick drum).

- a Gain knob (that sometimes is called Trim)

- two Aux Controls (which control two stage monitors, and decide how much sound from this channel will be played on monitor 1, which is connected to the Aux 1 out, and to the monitor 2, connected to the Aux 2. On the stage plan of the first part of our article there were 3 monitors, so the mixer must have 3 Auxiliary outs and 3 Auxiliary knobs).

- an Eq section, to control high, mids and lows, which is good to correct some unbalancing in our tone or to make some instrument to pop out more. Often this section is used to tame the lows and make the sound more intelligible.

- an FX knob (that on the photo of the channel strip is absent but that is present on many mixers and that controls how much effect, like delay or reverb, will be sent to the channel)

- a Pan knob, which lets us decide the position of the instrument into the soundstage. Keep in mind that a live environment is different from a studio one, so apply less extreme settings than you would on a record!

- a Mute and a Solo control, to mute the track or to hear it alone.

- the Volume fader, to control the channel's overall volume.

Ok, now we have all jacks plugged in the right channels, and we know all channel controls.
What do we have to do?

We must decide the gain sensibility. With the gain control we decide how high is the level of the incoming signal, then we can apply all the variations we want on each channel (eq, pan etc..) and finally with the volume fader we will increase or decrease the overall channel level to fit that instrument better in the mix.

To set the gain sensibility we must use the Gain Setting Procedure for each channel.
This procedure will make us set the gain knob (the one located on the top of the channel strip) in order to let out mixer "hear" correctly the incoming signal. If we have a PFL BUTTON (pre fader listen) we should turn it on for the gain setting procedure, in order to hear only the gain control, bypassing the volume fader. When you press that button you will see the level of that channel's input on your mixer's meter (which are the green, yellow and red leds located on the right in the mixer).
What we want is to use the gain knob to find a position that lets us avoid the level to hit peak or to be too low: the level of the instrument should be halfway, with occasional peaks in the yellow area. Press only one PFL button at a time, otherwise the meter will show the combination of both channels and you won't know which one is too high or too low.

Once we have done this procedure for all channels, the Gain Setting Procedure is over and we should have each channel's gain set to the optimal level.
Now we can proceed adjusting the Eq, the Pan (and if we can, the Fx, because vocals usually could use some reverb) and the volume of each channel to fit them better in the mix, until we have a stable mix in which each instrument can be heard decently.




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