Sweet edit, man!

One of the misconceptions of being an audio engineer is that all of our work is making killer mixes. All day our fingers are glued to an SSL console, making subtle tweaks while closing our eyes in a deep concentration leading to the most epic and glorious mix EVER! Right?

No. There is a lot of work that comes before that epic stage. It’s called editing. And it’s boring.

When I first started recording bands in high school I used to think it was all about the mixing. Everyone does at first. But of course, the devil is in the details. Once you’ve recorded a performance you’re left with big blocks of audio regions. In many cases, depending on the track, you’ll only need snippets of the whole region.

Take for instance, a floor-tom. The drummer may only hit it a few times in the whole song. When you solo the track though, you’ll be able to hear the whole kit, as well as some ringing from the tom. Every track will have unnecessary noises like this. Once you clean-up all of the tracks there will be a noticeable difference.

Thoughts: Mixing and low-end management

Whether you’re working with recorded sounds or with sound reinforcement (live sound) there are no easy answers for success in your mixes, but low-end (bass) management is a great place to start when building a mix.

Low-end sounds are much more powerful than high-end sounds. Physically, there is more acoustical energy coming from a kick drum than say, a flute. You feel it in your gut. When mixing several different instruments, realize most of them are not low-end instruments.

For example, let’s say we’re mixing drums, guitar, bass, trumpet, and tenor saxophone. The drums and bass should be the only instruments with significant presence in the 20-150 Hz range.  It’s the range that usually defines a groove. The guitar and tenor saxophone can hit notes in that range, but you don’t want those instruments defining the groove or beat. It ends up just being distracting. By simply using a high-pass filter (shown below) on instruments that aren’t bass or drums you’ll have a cleaner, less muddy sound.

Your mix won’t be done by simply managing the low-end, but it will help all the other elements fall into place.

Observations: Making everybody happy

During rehearsal yesterday at Christ Church at Grove Farm I ran into an issue with on-stage monitoring. Depending on who you ask, it’s too loud, too soft, too muffled, too brittle, etc. These are all common, and very fixable issues, but who do I listen to? Whose ears should I trust?

I’m working on a PM5D sending different monitor feeds for the orchestra, the pastors, and the choir. Everybody else has in-ear monitors with personal headphone mixers (they don’t know how lucky they are).

During the sermon, the choir remains on the stage and the other musicians exit. Some pastors are very dynamic speakers, so there are times when the choir can’t hear every word. In order for them to everything, their monitors have to be loud, and sometimes to the point where it affects the FOH (front of house) sound.

So should I sacrifice the congregation’s sound for the choir? The logical answer would be, no. But sometimes, you have to.