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Understanding Live Mixing: Front of the House & Monitors

By June 14, 2013March 13th, 2016Audio

This blog is about Live Mixing both front of house (F.O.H.) and monitors. These are 2 different worlds. Josh and I did the Eric Burdon show this week end. I did F.O.H. and Josh did monitors. The band was a large set up with a good size drum kit, large percussion set up, 2 key board players with one key player having a “B-3” organ, Bass guitar, 2 guitar players with electric and acoustic guitars each, and Eric Burdon. Everybody sang in the band except the drummer. This made for a lot of mics and some direct boxes too. The show was great and the room was packed… it was a huge success on all accounts. Ultimately your sound will only be as good as the engineer, mics, placement of the mic’s, sound system, type of sound system, room, size of audience and of course the band and their gear, and AC power. There is much more to this, however these are some of the main points of this blog.

Talking a bit about micing, doing live sound whether it’s one input or 35 inputs each has to be given the same attention to detail. The selection and placement is critical. The mic only knows to pic up sound waves and will pick up anything else around it thus making your mix un-detailed. Let’s take the pair of mic’s on the “B-3” Hi’s. These 2 mic’s, stereo left & right, we’re micing the Leslie cabinet horns which spin when the player wants a different sound, thus he hits a switch and the horns in the cabinet begin to spin fast. As they spin, they create a wind, thus you hear that in the sound mix…. the solution in this case was to move the mics off axsis, and re-positon them to minimize the affect yet still picking up the stereo hi’s. You must be very aware of this as it will
create a distracting sound.

Position and selection of the mics is critical. This is true for F.O.H. and monitors. This example, is just ONE artifact with respect to part of an instrument that can be picked up by a microphone. Now times that to 33 other inputs…..every input may not have these same type problems or artifacts, but you must pay close attention to detail. I have seen too many engineers just run by the inputs just looking for signal and not what else is happening in the signal path which had noise. This all takes time and that is not always on our side for sound for one reason or another.

Being that I was running F.O.H., the system configuration that I have is a Left, Right, Subs, Center,  and stage lip speakers. In this scenario, I am delivering the overall experience of the show to the audience. The Center and Stage lip speakers, only have vocal and acoustic instruments sent to them. This helps to keeps definition in the vocals and acoustic instruments and make them stand out. If you have the chance to try this, do it…I have had much success with this method. In an indoor show, I have to take into account the sound off of stage from the live amps, drums, and other instruments, plus the monitors…That can be a mess if not very careful. Ask the band to help you by turning the amps down….facing them a different way, plexi glass, so on. This can be very touchy..use caution in your words and approach to this subject. Always edify them… After all you’re trying to bring out their sound, not change it ! There is a difference between Sound reinforcement and Sound reproduction…. Come to our sound class and find out the difference.

Now when it comes to monitors, that is a different world. Each member has a monitor, or 2 monitors as Eric did. Each monitor is a mix on it’s own. Monitors are used mainly for Pitch,Timing, and “Q’s”, and to blend your part with the band. 10 mix’s where used this week end. That is a lot to take care of and get it just right for each members needs and tastes. Josh had his hands full but did extremely well. The monitor engineer must make each musician, feel very comfortable with what they are hearing, other wise they will be concentrating on the technical aspect rather then the creative aspect. He must also know the limits of his system…that goes for F.O.H. as well. The monitor engineer is the audio guy on stage. He ends up doing a number of things to assist guitar and drum techs as well as do his job….his job is very busy…There is so much more to this position…Come to a R.A.W. class and learn about it.

Summary: Both of these worlds, monitors and F.O.H. work together along with the stage level from the instruments them selves, i.e. drums, and amps, and band over all as I mentioned. It is all like “Dancing with the Stars”. Please always take care of your ears and be VERY mindful of the over all Level…Our ears are the only 2 each one of us have. Protect your hearing.

Take care


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