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Strategies In Optimizing A Live Club System
Ways to can work around room and system shortcomings to deliver high-caliber sound reinforcement
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Starting Quiet
After getting the monitors set, I build the front of house mix. The best way to mix in this room is to listen to what’s coming off the stage and only add what’s needed. Trying to overpower the stage volume is a losing battle.

I always start my sound check with the house PA off and just listen to what’s happening on stage, and then work to fill in the missing bits that will help make the performance “pop.” I’ve noted several times that it seems like I’m cutting too much low-mid out of the house, but that’s usually O.K. because the monitors provide all of the low-mid energy one could ever want.

I get the vocals up to a good level, over the stage volume, and only after do I work in the other instruments. Generally the drums and amplified instruments are fine coming straight off the stage. On the recent gig with Max, I needed a touch of the electric guitar and steel, but none of the bass and kick drum.

Jeff plays a kit of Slingerland Radio Kings from the 1940s. These drums are big and loud. The kick is a huge 14 inches by 26 inches and uses a ported head. (Back in the “good old days” the drums had to fend for themselves, and this set gives you all the stage volume you need!)

But here, because were already plenty loud in the house, I used the overhead high-passed around 100 Hz and compressed at a 6 to 1 ratio with about 12 to 15 dB of reduction on the loud parts to add definition and to help keep the mix cohesive all the way to the back of the room. It was also used to feed the reverb.

The Allen & Heath GL2400 that does house and monitor duties, along with a rack of all house and monitor system processors.

Same Room
The house console is a 24-channel Allen & Heath GL2400, a step above what you find in many clubs the size of the Mucky Duck. Most bands will not fully mic the drums, so 24 channels gives me plenty of room to split channels as needed.

I maximize the two available channels of compression on the venue’s dbx 1066 by inserting each on a bus and assigning several like channels to that bus. I used one compressed bus for the drums and another for the lead acoustic and a gut string acoustic that are featured prominently in the band.

There are also two Lexicon effects units – MPX110 and MX400 – on hand to add ambiance. To create a sense of space in this dry, tightly packed room, I used a trick that I’ve implemented in most of my live mixes for the past couple of years. I select a very short and transparent “room” style reverb and send the entire band to it, typically applying about a half second of decay and zero pre delay.

Then, I bring it up in the house until it can be heard clearly, then back it down to just on the edge of being noticed. If the reverb is muted, a change can be heard, but it’s not something you can pinpoint. I find that this really takes a tight mix and glues it together even more – the band is all playing in the same “room” together because they all have the same decay time.

If you’re lucky enough to have a gig in the Mucky Duck, be prepared to bring your A game. It’s a bit challenging, but once the mix is dialed in you can be sure you’re mixing for a crowd that truly appreciates what you’re doing.

Tim Weaver is the owner of Weaver Imaging, an audio, lighting, and projection provider based in College Station, TX. He has been a professional sound engineer for 18 years, working across all genres.

Source: Live Sound International

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