Last week I put forward some of my thoughts on principles of live mixing the worship band. While there was only one public comment, I did have a few chat based and in-person conversations about the post. My idea about the band leader walking the room during sound check seemed to be the most popular point of discussion. One of the in-person chats went deeper on the whole topic, so I want to share that with you now as a bit of a continuation.
Live Mixing Part Deux
In that last post I said that someone should own the sound. I still hold to that. If you have a good band, then they’ve defined their sound. They have practiced and arranged the music to have pre-determined instruments or vocals out in front of the rest of the band. It is a foul for anyone, including the soundboard operator, to change that. So then, if the band leader owns the sound and the band has defined the arrangements as well as control that from the stage, what is the purpose of the of the house sound?
I’ve spend considerable time and money to craft my guitar sound. I know of acoustic players who spend thousands on only their guitar because it has that tone they’re looking for. Once a band starts to really find their groove they sometimes make small tonal changes in order to create sonic harmony. The job of the house sound is not to further enhance or modify what the band has made, but to simply make it louder. Fill the room with the sounds crafted by the band.
This is where my conversation with a friend took an interesting twist. The question came up, how does the sound tech do that? How to they ensure that they’re setting the board EQ on the acoustic channel in such a way that the natural tone is coming through and not some modified version?
So an idea came to mind that may be just as radical as having the band leader walk the room.
I think the sound tech should spend time listening to the band play without the system. There are obvious challenges to this if any of your instruments only play through the system, like the keys or electric guitars without amps. But the point is for the sound tech to become familiar with the individual tonal qualities of each instrument and voice as well as how the band sounds together when playing a song in the desired arrangement. The task at hand then is to configure the soundboard in such a way that is transparently increases the volume of each band member while preserving the arrangement of the song.
That’s the art of live mixing in my humble opinion. Taking the intentionally crafted and arranged sonic landscape of the band and filling your room with it in such a way it’s as if the house sound system doesn’t even exist.
So this week is a short one but still very near to my heart. I’d like to hear your opinions on the subject. Feel free to comment here or hit me on my social feeds.