A recent assignment placed me behind a monitor console once again. It had been a while since I stage-mixed on a regular basis, so I enjoyed the change of scenery.
But this end of the snake presents a very different challenge from a front of house mix or a system engineering position.
Here, the fruits of my labors were not intended for the masses, but rather, were tailored to specific individuals and each of his or her needs, wants, desires… and idiosyncrasies. And yes, IEM has fully come of age, but not everyone will go there.
Here are some of my rules for setting up successful stage mixes.
To me, the first and most important stage-mixing rule is to understand exactly what you are trying to accomplish. (As with most things in life!)
The objective is for the player or artist to hear what they need or want to hear, in a way that makes sense to them. Do not confuse this with the idea that you are there to make it sound good to you! The two do not necessarily coincide. Wedge mixes do not generally sound like front of house mixes.
Face it; on a one-off with an unfamiliar band all you can do is give it your best shot. If it’s a couple of folks with acoustic guitars, you’re probably “in there”. If it’s Godzilla meets Metalhead, well… set up accordingly.
If you’re going on tour with a band, try to find out as much as possible about them. Perhaps the guy who was sitting in the seat before you got there would be a good place to start.
Make a plan, but don’t try to reinvent the wheel on the first day. Many musicians get used to their mixes sounding a certain way, and right or wrong be prepared to leave it that way.
But if you’re lucky enough to tour with some receptive players, you’ll have plenty of time to try different things and fine-tune your “stage sound” as you go!