Tuesday, September 29, 2015

My Monitors - Worst. Mix. Ever.

Stage monitors, whether wedges or in-ear type, are meant to help you hear instruments and vocalists on the stage.

Some musicians love to dial in their monitors like they are mixing the master recordings for the Beatles White album. I have seen friends onstage meticulously tweaking and dialing in every instrument on stage. They'll ask the sound engineer to adjust EQ and compression on the bass guitar and request that the noise gate release time on the kick get turned down 14 milliseconds. God bless them. Trying to get that perfect mix that will inspire them to perform better. (Sorry, did I say "perform"?)

This is pretty much the opposite of how I dial my monitors in. Join me on a little tour...

My vocal is going to be the loudest channel by far. Why? Because I'm just that good and I love to hear my voice. Or because I need to hear myself to stay somewhat in tune. I forget which. Anyway, on a scale of one to 10 for loudness, my vocal is going to be at 8. Why not 10? Because I like to have a little room in case I want that last little push over the cliff, and I have not seen an Aviom that goes to 11.

My guitar is next at about 6.5.

Drums are at 4.

Click track is underneath that. I like it to almost disappear when the drums are playing. If I'm starting a song and nothing else is playing, it's very easy to hear that click even at low volume.

All other singers and instruments are at 1 or 2. I might make an exception if there's a keyboard  or guitar part I really need to hear, but it's pretty rare I'll go above 3.

If the average person plugged in my in-ears to take a listen they might be appalled. It can be a truly awful sounding mix if you are trying to enjoy the music. But that's the thing... the purpose of my mix isn't to enjoy the music, it's to be able to sing and play my parts right.

I'm not saying this method is going to work for everyone. It takes some getting used to, but once you do, your tolerance for a less-than-perfect mix will build and you will save yourself, and the band, a ton of time and aggravation.

There is one practical drawback to this method. If you are in a position where you need to be listening to everything and making sure everyone's parts are working and being played how you want them to sound, it's going to be tough if you can't hear everything. However, in my opinion, leading the band, especially while singing and playing an instrument, is enough of a responsibility without having to also pay attention to the big picture. Something's got to give.

I'd be interested in hearing how other's approach their mixes. Chime in!

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