Directors' Toolbox

Mixing Live Sound

June 29, 2010

Mixing Live SoundHere are a few handy tips and some basic information on what goes into setting up and mixing live sound:

  1. A “mix” is created by combining the separate audio signals from individual voices or instruments into one.
  2. Usually two mixes, sometimes more, are created for any given performance – one for the performer(s) and front rows and one for the rest of the audience.  What you hear may differ from what they hear.
  3. In larger venues with multiple speakers, the sound must be mixed and synchronized in such a way that prevents the performer’s monitors from overpowering the overall sound and vice-versa.  Ever notice that the sound booth at a concert hall is often located in the middle of the floor of the venue?  That’s because they’re in charge of what the audience hears.  A second engineer will often take care of what the performers hear.
  4. Sound levels during the performance will likely need adjustment throughout the performance.  Communicate with your engineer on any ideas or concerns you may have regarding sound levels.  Perhaps you have far more trumpeters than flautists and want to make sure the flutes aren’t drowned out.  Or, maybe you have a diva in your midst who attempts to turn her favorite song into a personal showcase by drowning out the rest of the group.  Most of the time there are adjustments that can be made by simply moving equipment or adjusting levels.

Keep in mind that some venues are going to be much easier to work with sonically than others.  Mixing is only one aspect of what goes into achieving quality sound.  Microphone choices and placement also play a huge role in what you, the performers and audience hear.

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