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Author Topic: What's your mix mindset?  (Read 5624 times)

Chris Hunt

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What's your mix mindset?
« on: January 20, 2011, 02:30:09 pm »

I have had a unique opportunity the last several weeks of having several guys out to "audition" for a FOH position with our company and to mix my rig.  Some I have let tackle the entire mix once I got the show started, some I just asked questions to and picked their brain on what they would change, etc. to get a feel for how they think.  I even tried to get a few of the better engineers into some challenging situations to see how they got out of them.  Here is an interesting question I pose to you guys from my observations.  Here is the situation: you're mixing on a PA you've never mixed, a room you've never mixed, a band you've never mixed, auditioning for a FOH position to come in and sub for the main guys.  How far do you take it?  Do you simply ride faders and make the best out of what you started with, or do you tell the engineer about how you would change everything and throw out a massive list of what you would do to change the show?  Also, would you mix more from your ear or go at the console setting up all your go-to comp and eq settings without hearing the PA or the band?

Just want to get some feedback from you guys before we make our decision.  If some of you on here came out to audition, please don't respond.  Thanks!!
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Chris Hunt
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Chris Hindle

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Re: What's your mix mindset?
« Reply #1 on: January 20, 2011, 02:39:53 pm »

Personally, if someone "hands me the keys" mid-show, I'll ask what instructions they have received, and go from there.
Will I change things? Probably.
Will it take more than 1 song to get it where I am "happy"? Not likely.
Will I comment on what I don't like? Nope.
Twist the knobs, get into a groove, and do the gig.
* I would really prefer to be there at sound check. Get a feel for the talent, and all that.
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Chris Hunt

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Re: What's your mix mindset?
« Reply #2 on: January 20, 2011, 02:46:57 pm »

Good stuff Chris, I agree with several of your opinions.  I will tell you that this band in particular sets up about an hour before the show, making sound check impossible.  We do use Virtual Soundcheck, or at least the best we can on the SC48.  But that's part of the gig, is working your mix up from the last show's settings and mixing on the fly.  Of course the engineer can come in and set the main processing and room EQ, other than that, a line check is all we get.  Good stuff though, thanks and keep 'em coming!!
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Chris Hunt
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ThomasA(lbenberger)

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Re: What's your mix mindset?
« Reply #3 on: January 20, 2011, 03:27:35 pm »

One hour of set-up and soundcheck is pretty much what I get most of the time. If I don't know the band in advance and have a relationship where they trust me and my decisions, I would first make sure that all the system is in working condition. This means safety goes first: is the power safe, is the stage safe,... Also, I will check if every speaker is playing roughly what I expect: frequency-wise, hum- and buzz-free at a decent volume and from the appropriate send of the console. Most of this can happen while the band is still setting up.

I would then kindly ask them to leave stage and go for a quick coffee while I patch up the stage, run through the main channels and set vocal monitor levels so that the band can talk to me and themselves when they come back from their little break.

This leaves us - when everything goes without hiccups - with 15-20 minutes to get their stage mixes right, while I create a rough audience mix.

If there were no broken channels/instruments/system components that's plenty of time for a good monitoring sound (with a standard rock/pop-band...) and just enough to get through the first song of the set with a rough audience mix.

And then I mix the show... Like I would with a band, I had more time to prepare for. Personally, I work a lot on Faders, FX, a little on EQs, Pans. But that is an entirely different discussion in my opinion - how one mixes a show in general.

When I only have little time, I don't do measurements and I rarely touch the system processor, it's just too time-consuming. But re-positioning side-stacked subwoofers to a center-cluster happens occasionally, as does turning off certain speakers if they can not contribute positively to the sound (i.e. overlapping horn patterns,...).

In conclusion: I mess with the system variables only if things are seriously wrong from my first listening perspective. Then, I'd rather go for physical changes than for the crossover.

Getting the band to a point where they are happy with their stage-sound is most important to me. They need to perform to their best abilities to give me the input to mixing a great show.

I then care for audience sound, and usually - if the band is happy and everything works - this is the easy part.

Hope this answers the question.

Cheers, Thomas
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Justice C. Bigler

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Re: What's your mix mindset?
« Reply #4 on: January 20, 2011, 04:14:22 pm »

I would ask for a copy of the script and the notes from the designer to the FOH operator. From there it's just know which VCAs are where and following the script.

Oh wait, I guess you were talking about bands and such....
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Tim Weaver

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Re: What's your mix mindset?
« Reply #5 on: January 20, 2011, 06:40:37 pm »

If you want me to mix, then I mix it my way. If you want me to ride faders, then I do it your way.

Either way, I get the vocals out there nice and loud, then work on all the other less important stuff after that. If it's just a one-off mix for a band I've never heard before then I just do the basics and make a nice, easy mix.

If it's the band I tour with then I go all out and do the special verbs and effects. I don't get crazy if it's a one-off....
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John O'Brien

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Re: What's your mix mindset?
« Reply #6 on: January 20, 2011, 07:43:24 pm »

The parameters you put on the test here change a few things mindset wise, but for me, my main goal stays the same. And that's the ability to make music given the tools at hand. I take the mix mindset of allowing everything to be heard and fit in a pocket of frequencies. No one comes to hear a band and only be able to hear vocals and drums. Everyone on stage is there for a reason and it's my job to translate that to the people listening. When I am able to connect myself with the guys on stage, I am able to connect the band to the audience. If I have no clue what's going on, there is a disconnect there and it shows. As Chris Hindle said, of course having a soundcheck is king, but it doesn't always happen. I'm not much a fan of telling the people who run the gig and rig what's wrong with it, unless they straight up ask me. I do try to get feedback as I go along, especially if people have just handed me the reigns without giving me much to go off of. After all, I want to make sure my client is happy with the services I've offered.
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Airton Pereira

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Re: What's your mix mindset?
« Reply #7 on: January 20, 2011, 09:11:37 pm »

I would listen to the music and go from there!
I mean, what could sound better? Maybe more low-end on the bass, turn up the vocals...
My goal is to allow everything to be heard at a decent volume, with vocals on top.
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Stuart Pendleton

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Re: What's your mix mindset?
« Reply #8 on: January 21, 2011, 03:28:46 pm »

With the parameters of the situation given, the show is about riding faders.  As a sub, I don't assume I am supposed to make radical changes to what the BE normally uses.  The regular guy has the job because the talent likes what he/she does for them already.  If the system settings are where they were from the last show, I expect to change what is needed to make that system sit well in the current room. A quick glance at the faders should tell me what the band expects the mix to sound like, and I am subbing, not taking over the job, so they will stay similar to what you handed me.
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George Dougherty

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Re: What's your mix mindset?
« Reply #9 on: January 22, 2011, 03:10:32 pm »

You seem to have several questions and scenarios there.

No matter what, you go off your ears.  Some go-to settings as far as comp timings, etc. may be appropriate, but only so you've got a workable starting point to tweak from.  My go-to settings on dynamics are usually timing only with thresholds dialed out so I don't start squashed.  IMO, dynamics only help tighten things up but are not required to get a good mix.  I don't touch EQ outside of sweepable HPF's before I hear things in the mix.  IME, that often leads to fixing things you broke without hearing it in the first place.

Stepping into a mix already preset, I'd be much more conservative with adjustments unless I was told to go for it and change whatever I felt needed to change.

Being handed the reigns up front, I'd do it all my way from the get-go.

Either way, the approach and mix balance itself depends on the genre of the performance.
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Paul Walters

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Re: What's your mix mindset?
« Reply #10 on: February 04, 2011, 12:17:54 pm »

My mix mindset generally goes in one of two directions: change everything, or do as the B.E. is doing with personal touches/ improvements if required.

I have the misfortune of mixing on underpowered Guitar Center rigs staffed by novices more often than not, so the first thing I do is fix whatever gain staging issues are present (for example I'm playing in a show tonight and I'm going to have to show up early to fix everything that was wrong at the same place last night, such as making sure they know the difference between line and pickup switch positions on an active DI) and ring out the wedges and room. Next I fix mic placement, patching and so on. Essentially I have to start from ground up and make the show work on the rig they have.

The second philosophy kicks in when I'm mixing on a properly configured rig (I know it's properly configured because either I set it up, or I know the system tech or house guy). This is quite a luxury, unfortunately, but it's very relieving to have a rig with good gbf, headroom, and sound quality. In this position I'll be able to do my own thing within the guidelines of the band's needs, ie: if they have to have it stereo, it will be stereo.

If mid-show I am handed the reigns of the first system, I'll refuse. If I'm handed the reigns of the second system, I'll take them gladly and avoid radical changes, unless something was really bugging me before I stepped in. In that case I'll fix it.
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Nick Aghababian

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Re: What's your mix mindset?
« Reply #11 on: February 04, 2011, 02:55:18 pm »

As long as get to place the mics, I really don't care about anything else if all I'm doing is mixing. Especially with digital consoles, I have all my control as a BE right there.

If its a true throw and go situation and I don't have time to even listen to the pa, what else can I really do?
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Jasen Jacobsen

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Re: What's your mix mindset?
« Reply #12 on: February 07, 2011, 12:48:30 pm »

Here is the situation: you're mixing on a PA you've never mixed, a room you've never mixed, a band you've never mixed, auditioning for a FOH position to come in and sub for the main guys.  How far do you take it?  Do you simply ride faders and make the best out of what you started with, or do you tell the engineer about how you would change everything and throw out a massive list of what you would do to change the show?  Also, would you mix more from your ear or go at the console setting up all your go-to comp and eq settings without hearing the PA or the band?
Assuming the show is already set up and tuned how the original engineer (OE) & band are used to, I'd just ride faders. That's making the big assumption that the OE has already set everything up, e.g. It's a band playing a multi-night gig, or a church band in their usual venue.

I'd take a quick look through all the board settings, though. How's EQ set? What's compression look like? Doing so might give me a feel for what to expect and maybe give a clue as to how competent the OE is. But I likely wouldn't change anything until I could sound check (maybe). That is, I'd study what's there and get ready to hold my nose/ears at what came out.

IF what came out was really offensive, I'd try to find someone (with a clue) who knows what the show usually sounds like and ask if it sounds "right". If they are happy with it, I'm not messing with it; it may be terrible, but it's their show and I'm just dropping in to keep the show on.

Now, if it's an audition and I'm expected to provide my opinion and show how great I am, that's a different story. Then, I look at the settings and take notes of anything I think looks off. During the show, I listen and take notes on what I think could be adjusted. During the show I ask to make a few adjustments that I think will improve the sound. AFTER the show, I discuss how the show went and offer my opinion on what could use improvement, e.g. "I think if you turn off the 200Hz HPF on the bass you'd get better bottom end." And if it's a sub job, i.e. I'm not going to be the main guy, but just sub now and then, I really bite my tongue; if the current set up is too offensive, I decline the job.

- Jasen.
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Re: What's your mix mindset?
« Reply #12 on: February 07, 2011, 12:48:30 pm »


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