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Author Topic: Introduction to Mixing-Through Part 10 - Latest Update 12-08  (Read 34751 times)

Phillip_Graham

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The Sleeping Giant Awakes!
« Reply #10 on: September 10, 2008, 12:42:05 am »

Tomorrow, Sept. 11, 2008, the "How to Mix" thread is officially revived!

Stay tuned!
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Phillip_Graham

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Re: Introduction to Mixing-A Tutorial 8 Redux
« Reply #11 on: September 23, 2008, 11:10:27 pm »

"Tuck in the Corners" of Your Mix--The Conclusion

Alrighty!

A return from retirement to freelancing tonight inspires me to continue with this thread!

it seems I left off in the middle of equalization. (rereading....)

Ahh, how ironic that something I wrote months ago applies perfectly to tonights festivities:

Quote:


9. Don't be afraid to roll off both the low end and high end of a source, if that is what is required. My personal example for this is electric guitars. I will use a low shelving filter on electrics in the 100-200hz octave (depending on genre) to make room for snare, kick, and bass. On the high end I will either high shelf, or low pass, the top end of electric guitars. I HATE going to a show where the electric guitars get washed out in a haze of high frequencies "hhhhhhzzzzzzz/hissssss" above about 5k. That hash ruins the top end of the mix for cymbals/vocals/piano/snare, and I find very fatiguing on the ears.


So tonight I had a guitar player with NO amp, and NO amp simulator.  His whole rig was a bunch of pedals strung together...

Since the answer to the question is always "yes" on freelance gigs, its time to make this work!

A string of efx pedals can sound pretty awful with no eq, with too much tinny buzzy high end, possibly too much low bass noise, and no midrange presence.  Most guitar players play through this very convenient bandpass filter called a guitar cab.

So, lets see if we can make these pedals sound somewhat like an amplifier:

1. High Shelf: in this case case -12dB with 7.5khz corner freq
2. Highpass: in this case at 70-aomething Hz on an LS9 (thank u adjustable HP!)
3. Parametric: it was centered around 170, Q might have been 2, boost 6dB or so.  Ok, now we have some balls...
4. Parametric: Boost around 800hz for some "bite"
5. Paramteric: boost around 2.5khz for some "cut"

The end result.... definitely not a guitar amp, but much closer to a cab than before.  My speaker design skills are helpful in this case, in thinking about how the original source performs.

A final thought on EQ:  I tend to be pretty "scientific" about getting close to the frequencies that matter on an instrument, but in terms of the boost or cut, or q of the filter, that is all by ear.

If understanding the instrument gets me the frequency, great! but obsessing over just how much to modify something will get you no where.  You just have to turn it to where it sounds right, punch it in and out as a gut check, and move on.

As an example, I love adjustable high pass filters!  I use them on almost all inputs in many situations.  It all goes back to the philosophy that tucking in the out of band noise and wash will really open up your mix.  I set them purely by ear.  Turn it on, adjust the corner frequency till things start sounding "thin" and then back it off.  I couldn't tell you the corner freq on any input tonight.
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Phillip_Graham

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Re: Introduction to Mixing-A Tutorial 9
« Reply #12 on: September 23, 2008, 11:21:37 pm »

Leave it in the Mix, or Take it Out?

Ideally this section would only be one statement:

"If the source is too loud off the stage, then it doesn't go in the mix"

Alas, our world is not that simple.  Real instruments, amplifiers, voices, etc. have directivity, and do not cover the audience as evenly as we would like, and this makes things ever so much more complicated.

The classic example is the much despised loud guitar amplfier.  It parts hair in a narrow portion of the room, but because it has a relatively large speaker, it has a lot of directivity at higher frequencies, and people on the other side of the room might not hear it clearly at all.

The same circumstance can apply to almost all sources, and calls for creativity in placement, and mix elements.

A common one I run into is excessively loud or boomy bass amps.  The solution I have used is to agressively eq the board input, and just use it to augment what is coming off the stage.  Sometimes a high pass on the bass around 150-200hz, and just add a little of the higher frequencies to the main pa to augment the bass low end bleed.  Since the bass amp is nearly omnidirectional at low frequencies, it can cover the audience well.

Other variations on this idea including panning a guitar to the opposite side of the stage than where the amplifier resides.  I have also been known to put snare through a reverb, and only include the reverb return in the mix, though some call me a heretic for this.

Usually, for the sorts of events I mix for, I am mixing in the mid to high 90s.  Depending on the band, room, etc. this can result in very few inputs in the PA.

From a purist standpoint this is lousy, because it reduces FOHs control of band output, but in the end it is about doing what you can to make things enjoyable for the audience.
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Phillip_Graham

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Re: Introduction to Mixing-A Tutorial 10
« Reply #13 on: October 19, 2008, 11:01:50 pm »

Stage Sources-Micing and Control

I have mixed feelings writing this particular section.  Controlling the sources on the stage is multifaceted, involving rapport with personnel and social interactions with the performers, the size of the venue, the nature of the source(s).  To assume that this section will dramatically improve the nature of stage control for readers is probably highly unrealistic.

That said, there are still some practical principles, especially with microphone techniques,that can be extremely valuable if implementation allows them.

-Finish in am
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Phillip_Graham

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Re: Introduction to Mixing-A Tutorial 10 (take two)
« Reply #14 on: December 17, 2008, 06:23:26 pm »

Somehow I find it fitting that I stopped composing in the middle of the section on managing stage sources, as this topic has no easy answers.

A few points basic points need to be made before talking about managing the stage.  First, some sources are inherently loud: rock drumming, even with a drummer with touch, is loud; guitar amplifiers without master volume controls, or that rely on power tube saturation and/or cone breakup are loud; brass instruments are loud; a grand piano is loud.

Second, much of the appeal of loud sounds to the musicians is tactile as much as it is acoustic.  If the musicians are used to tactile feedback from their instruments and/or monitors, missing this element can be a very strong barrier to quieting the stage.  Some additional subwoofer support on stage for musicians on in ears can be very helpful in this regard.

Third, as human hearing is non-linear (discussed above) sources often tend to "come alive" at a certain volume.  It can be very difficult to explain to the musician that simply because an amplifier is quiet on stage, it can still "come alive" when played back through the reinforcement system with sufficient volume.

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When it comes to volume on stage, the most basic principle is that the loudest source at the microphone wins, period.  Since human voice is generally much less potent than a loud guitar amplifier, we have to make up the necessary gain by fighting the inverse square law.  In other words, by placing the microphone very close to the source the local acoustic volume picked up is high, ideally higher than the other stage sources, which may have more ultimate volume, but are father away.

The classic layout of a rock band on stage makes very little sense from an acoustic standpoint, though the aesthetic appeal is undeniable.  Placing drums directly behind the lead vocal source places one of the loudest stage sources in the direct path of one of the quietest.

On admittedly limited occasions I have been able to change the stage layout for rooms (churches in this case) I was working in.  In these cases I always endeavored to get the drummer and/or amplifiers as from the human vocalists as possible.  Practically that means placing the drummer stage left or right, then the bass player, then other other instruments, and on the opposite side of the stage the singers.  Not only does this clean up the sources nicely, it also tend to lower monitor volumes, because the vocalists can hear themeselves more clearly when they no long have to face the full assault of the drume.

Realistically, 90% of the time, most people will have no flexibility in the placement of the musicians on stage, so my example is, sadly, largely academic.  It is very effective should you have that luxury.

The next level of flexibility is in the choice and/or placement amplifiers, stage monitors, and the like.  If you are fortunate enough to influencing a musical act that is still getting their gear together, try to stress to them advantages of smaller combo amplifiers.  Smaller amplifiers not only help out acoustically, they are much more practical to setup and transport for the working band.  For bass players a Sansamp or an Avalon makes an excellent alternative to an amplifier.  For guitar players the Line6 X3 POD is the first model they have released that is close enough to the real thing to make me seriously consider suggesting it to musicians.  While I used to be of the school of using two microphones on guitar amplifiers, these days I would much rather have a single microphone on two separate amplifiers to give the most flexibility and density in tone.

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Now assuming that the above section on gear selection is also academic, what is one left with to deal with stage volume?  First and foremost, amplifier placement.  If the amplifiers can be isolated and placed off-stage, with musicians hearing them through IEMs, this is a very effective solution.  Variants of this include turning the amplifiers around backwards, placing them behind a cyc/banner, behind the drum riser, draping case lids or packing blankets over them, etc.  General isolation and absorption.

If the amplifiers need to remain on stage, their placement is still critical.  Guitar amplifiers are highly directional, so the main axis of the cabinet should be as close to on axis with the guitarists' ears as possible.  Also the inverse square law is still your friend, so having the amplifiers as close to the player as possible is also advantageous.  Many times having a guitar player hear how bright their amplifier is when listened to on-axis will cause them to modify the tone, giving you something more usuable at FOH.

Along the lines of directionality, its important to realize that all instruments are directional to some extent, and just like speakers that directionality generally get stronger with increasing frequency.

Practically speaking, if mid/high and high energy can be confined to the stage, the low and low/mid energy has potential to be successfully integrated into the FOH mix.  As an example, a SVT 8x10 bass cabinet is largely omnidirectional up to several hundred Hz.  If this bass cabinet is reasonably near the center of the stage, the majority of the room will receive sound from this amplifier in an acceptably uniform manner.  Now above several hundred Hz the amplifier will begin to be directional, so the mid/upper mid energy of the cabinet on the stage can be supplemented successfully in the room via the PA.  So, if the bass amp is there, and the player is adverse to reducing the volume, this sort of high-passed supplemental FOH signal is useful to balance out the bass' total tonality throughout the venue.

In general this sort of supplement mixing works best for balancing low/low mid energy in the venue only, as these are the frequencies with little directionality from most instruments.

Beyond the above concepts, I have no magic bullets for everyone out there.  Discussions with your players about the logistics of large amplifiers, and the realities of transporting them, as well as their detrimental effects on the house mix is the best hope for the primary solution of reducing stage volumes.  If your players can understand that large amplifiers stacks on stage are often merely for show/endorsement deals, and are potentially unloaded and/or not plugged in.

As a final thought to traditional rock bands out there, practicing in a small space:  I strongly suspect you cannot hear yourselves well, and that is likely because of your drummer.  Rather than get a volume war started, while killing your hearing, how about addressing the source.  Have your drummer practice with soft sticks and/or brushes, or even with an electronic kit.  This will help everyone's ears, and ultimately protect the sense most vital to the musician.
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Phillip_Graham

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Re: Introduction to Mixing-A Tutorial 11
« Reply #15 on: December 18, 2008, 04:42:13 pm »

If you have made it this far in my writings, you may wonder why this topic comes towards the end of my tutorial sections.  At one level the idea of mix level is fairly simple-more, or less, sound is produced from the PA system.

In practice, though, neither mixing quietly, nor loudly is as straightforward as it should be.

When one considers mixing quietly, the stage levels (discussed in 10 above) play an intimate role in the matter.  If the rapport with the stage, and the resulting understanding of stage volume is not well established, then often-times there is very little that can be done.  There have been many times where I have mixed where the only things in the PA are vocals and kick drum, simply because everything else was completely overpowering, and adding additional volume helps nothing.  These shows pretty much universally suck.  Without some stage cooperation the world's greatest mixer will have a lousy night.

If you do have a manageable stage volume situation, mixing quietly remains a challenge.  Usually, except in all but the most ideal situations, you will still have to mix around some stage bleed, and that requires having a good ear for what is already present in the space before the PA is turned up.  That recognition of frequencies and stage interplay simply takes practice.  Nothing written here will make you be able to characterize the bleed faster than simply thinking about it, and then doing it.  It's important to realize that the bleed will often be different in different spaces in the venue, and some compromises will probably have to be made.  Its accepting those compromises and moving forward quickly that will come with practice.

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On the other end of the spectrum, mixing loud (>95 dBA Slow)is somewhat more straightforward.  As volume increases, the human ear becomes more sensitive to certain frequencies.  By appropriately shaping the tonal balance of the inputs, the relative tonal balance at high volume levels, as perceived at the ears of the audience, can be kept reasonably consistent.

If the out of band energy of the sources being mixed is already well managed (See tutorial Cool, then mixing louder becomes either a function of shaping the overall system equalization and/or indvidual sources to take the "edge" off the mix.

In practice this means not being afraid of applying equalization above 1-2kHz, as needed, to smooth out instruments, even if it isn't "right" from a clean, low volume perspective.  Board tapes made of mixes that sound right at higher volumes will sound quite dull when listened to in headphones later.  If your loud mix is as bright and crisp as the CD when listened to later at low volumes, it was probably painfully bright for the audience.

When it comes to mixing at higher volumes, I believe there is definitely a point of diminishing returns.  There comes a volume where additional sound pressure does not add much increase in tactile impact to the mix, at least over the long term of an event.  It may be impressive for a few minutes, but then one's senses adjust, and it loses some of the effect.

In a similar way, mixing at high volumes also has the potential to threshold shift the great majority of the audience.  Most peoples' perception of mix "clarity" will be ruined when they experience a threshold shift, and more importantly the shift is a warning sign from your ears that they are going into "protect" mode.


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