Study Hall

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Steps You Can Take To Improve Your Mix Right Now

New ideas as well as new techniques in seeking to upgrade the experience for listeners and artists alike

For me, good sound and its opposite, Dr. Evil Sound, are very personal issues. Good sound really enhances the listeners’ experience, while bad sound, being unfortunately far too common, really takes away from the performance.

I’ve heard from several engineers, guitar techs and monitor guys that they know their artists to be sensitive to sound to the degree that if things aren’t going right, the performers have trouble continuing on. I can understand this – bad sound has a nearly physical impact on me.

So what are some of these additional issues and factors?

EQ Or Not To EQ

Equalizing or tone shaping is clearly a very important tool in our audio arsenal. By the way, wouldn’t “Audio Arsenal” be a good name for a band? Of nerds?

Anyway… I believe that there are two reasons for using EQ. The first, and perhaps most important in the overall scheme, is to properly tune the system for the type of response that is wanted or needed.

Some frequencies that might excite the room too much can be reduced, and tailor the low-frequency response to match the volume of the room, etc. Of course, don’t forget that there are acoustical problems that cannot be solved with electronics. I know, call me a heretic.

But the other kind of EQ I’m thinking of more is the “color” applied to individual channels. A lot of this is already determined by microphones and where they’re placed. Certainly a snare sounds different when miked with a dynamic versus a condenser. And really, it does start at the microphone.

Working Together

But let’s say you’ve chosen the best mic for the source and put it in the right place, and now you need to do a bit of final tweaking on the channel EQ for the sound to be “perfect.”

Each instrument may sound great on its own, but may not sit properly in the mix.

I forget who said it, but “people don’t go to the concert to hear the kick drum.” Whoever it was has never been to a Metallica concert. I was at one back in the mid-1990s (the Black Album tour). All three of the opening bands had already played, and we were in the middle of the break before the headliner came out. Anticipation was growing… And growing.

Then at one point, the drum tech came out, sat down, and stomped on the kick pedal, sending a thunderous sound through the audience. Everyone went wild! Who would have thought that a single-note kick drum solo would have brought the crowd to its feet!

But I digress. My point is that each instrument may sound great on its own, but may not sit properly in the mix.

Object Of The Exercise

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The Sound Of Sound: Analyzing Acoustic Versus Amplification

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