Study Hall

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Winning Together: “The One Thing I Wish Live Mix Engineers Would Do Is…”

Suggestions from the other end of the snake for better events and interactions with performing musicians.

“The biggest issue I have with live sound mixers, especially when they are part of the package when bands come in to a venue, is that they don’t actually mix the band. Instead they rely on compressors, limiters and gates on sound check so they can set it and forget it. It’s difficult for me to watch mixers do this, especially when a fiddle player or another acoustic player takes a solo and they are buried underneath the electric guitar, bass and keyboards, not to mention the drummer.” – Rusty Amodeo, bass player and film/TV sound mixer

“It would be stellar if sound engineers would listen to one (or more) favorite songs from the artist performing to get a sense of how the artist hears her/his voice/instrument EQ and tone. It’s always extremely helpful and appreciated when the sound engineer comes with open ears to mix the way the artists hears their sound. I think of it very similarly to a working sideman musician… you are there to serve the leaders music and their vision first!” – Grace Kelly, jazz saxophonist

“The issue I have with sound people is that usually they don’t pay attention to the artist during the performance. If there is a sound check then all of the main tweaking should be done then. During the show, they should concentrate on watching the artists for what they need.” – Marco Nunez, drummer

“A professional sax player once told me he’s been working for decades crafting his tone but someone like me with the wrong choice of mic, or mic placement, or twiddling a few knobs, can completely destroy his sound. And even though I was the recording engineer, he’d probably spent a lot more time in the studio than I had and was more qualified to decide when the sound of his horn was right.” – Anthony Beardslee, audio engineer and audio recording instructor at Northeast Community College

“If we do our jobs as audio engineers correctly, no one will even acknowledge our presence. To me that’s the best compliment. Let the music connect with the audience, not the technology.” – Ken Toal, audio engineer and system designer

“Troubleshooting is the most common thing I feel sound techs could do differently. Everyone is an amazing mixer when things are going well. But the true colors come to light when things fall apart – and that happens at every sound check. Sound techs are mainly needed to fix problems. If you don’t know how to fix feedback, change a cable, understand distro, eliminate hum, or do anything else besides throw your hands up and stare at the board, then why are you here?” – Delmone Taylor, saxophonist

As you can see, there’s plenty here to contemplate. Why I got so many responses from sax players is a mystery, although I’m sure we can fit a sax and violins joke in here somewhere…

Next up: what sound techs think musicians could do differently to improve the final product.

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In The Studio: Audio Editing—Why We Do It And When It Works

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