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Informed Choices: Monitor Mix Approaches At The Console Level
Input from several engineers working in various genres
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Michael Prowda, Baltimore
Current Gig: Radiohead
Other Artists: David Bowie, NIN, Soundgarden, John Legend

“There are two approaches to mixing monitors,” Prowda says, “the ‘taking it to a fine art’ approach, and the boxing gloves approach.” Although either method can result in satisfying shows, he prefers the former, particularly for Radiohead. With a dedicated monitor system for the band’s techs and a total of 90 inputs – a mix of in ears and wedges for vocals, bass, two drummers and two guitarists (two of whom play keyboards) – “It’s a wild gig,” he says.

To manage those inputs, Prowda created a bus structure to coincide with the input structure. “On the Avid VENUE Profile, eight of the 24 channels can be variable or fixed, groups or an aux send. Each drummer and guitar player is a bus. I also have a vocal bus, an electronics bus and so on. The inputs assigned to the buses can be post fader, so I’ll create a unity mix of the drums, or electronics, then, as I listen to the bus, I go to the faders to adjust levels rather than paging through four layers of input structure.”

He also applies processing to each group independently. “Instead of looking at my individual compression, I’ll do bus compression to keep it within a dynamic window, then, if I need to do extra work on the snare for example, I will.”

Michael Prowda at an Avid VENUE Profile. (click to enlarge)

Additionally, Prowda set up the Profile’s Personal Q system so the band’s six techs can control his console via individual mixers. “Essentially, they’re on their own, so I can focus on the band.” With 70-plus potential songs for the show, and only two weeks of rehearsal, speed was of the essence.

“They want the mixes up so they can rehearse, and I wanted to have a structure ASAP to create snapshots. I hadn’t done bus mixing since the analog days, but this was a perfect opportunity. I’m looking at the desk as a mixer within a mixer. I’ve used other consoles, but when you’re starting something new you want to be familiar with your work space, and on this one, everything I need access to is within line of sight to the performers.”

Dave Sinko, Nashville
Current Gig: Punch Brothers
Other Artists: Edgar Meyer, Sam Bush, Bela Fleck, Yo-Yo Ma

During Sinko’s five years with progressive bluegrass band Punch Brothers, he’s been mixing front of house, but uses an APB-DynaSonics ProRack rack-mount monitor board on stage so the band can mix their own in-ear monitors.

Originally, the band toured with only two Neumann U89s microphones for their five vocals, and clip on mics for their instruments – mandolin, guitar, fiddle, banjo and acoustic/electric bass. Since then, though, they’ve moved to individual vocal mics, added pickups to each instrument, and are still re-tooling their system to better reflect the sound of their February 2012 release, Who’s Feeling Young Now?

Dave Sinko at an APB-Dynasonics ProRack. (click to enlarge)

“Essentially, we took everything that sounds bad on the pickups, frequency range wise, and replaced it with what sounds good from the clip-on mics, minimizing anything that tends to cause feedback,” Sinko says, “particularly for outdoor gigs where the mains are too close to the stage.”

He and the band have also developed their own “tune in place” system. “Each instrument goes to dual channels on the APB console, through an A/B switch on their pedal boards, so when they switch to their B output it mutes their instrument everywhere but their own IEM.”

For mixing IEM, Sinko prefers an analog desk. With eight stereo mixes and a compact footprint, he believes the APB is the best choice, both sonically and for keeping the fly pack lean – in all, just six cases containing monitor rack/desk, house mixer/rack, instruments and IEMs.

Source: Live Sound International

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