The space between the studio and the stage

This trimester gives us our first chance to dive into live mixing, as opposed to mixing recorded ProTools sessions that we can playback, analyse and edit until we’re ready to start mixing. While studio recording involves keeping an artists and band happy to inspire a great performance that we capture, live sound has a band and a paying crowd who don’t always understand the intricacies of mixing, and if they do, chances are they think they can do a better job. What interests (but also scares) me the most is how we’ll handle ‘space’ and ‘rooms’ in a live sense.

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Studio recording and mixing involves room mics, reverbs, delays and other techniques to artificially create ‘space’, while also placing the instruments in a 3D studio field. I’m just beginning to break the ice in creating space in a studio mix – but where is the line drawn in a live mix? A band or artist is playing their music in a literal space inside a venue, so does the third dimensional studio field happen organically? Obviously many instruments will be spot mic’d or DI’d, but the acoustic hits of a drum will add to the impression of the drum kit being (usually) behind the rest of the band. How much do we have to cater for the space – if at all? I definitely hear reverbs and delays on vocals and snares at live shows in particular, but that doesn’t mean there’s not other reverbs and artificial ‘space’ being created.

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Live shows also always feel larger than life, so are the compressors being slammed a little harder than in the studio? Is this created by the Haas effect in a way we couldn’t replicate in a studio mix without it getting messy? Do we compress ‘pre-tape’ (persay) in a live mix? I’m asking a lot of questions that I think I’ll have answers to in the next few weeks.

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