Live audio can be a fickle thing.... So many knobs and adjustments, chances of feedback, cables everywhere.... it can sometime be a nightmare. Here are a few tips to help you sound better, and ease the stress of running your own sound
Step 1. Gain Staging
One of the most critical aspects of live sound is gain staging. It is the first step in building your sound, and if you happen to skip over it, your mix can fall apart.
Most digital and analog mixers have a "gain" knob. This controls the gain for the preamp. This one knob adjusts how much volume you have to work with for that particular instrument. (Vocal, guitar, keyboard, etc.) If this is set too low, you will need to turn it up later down the road, sometimes adding noise, or maxing out faders, and having no headroom. (Headroom is important, you can always turn down when too loud, but if you're maxed out, you can't turn up)
While most digital mixers have easy to find displays to see your level, analog mixers can require some knowledge of key terms.
PFL - Pre Fader Level
This button when engaged, shows you the audio level before "pre" the fader. On most analog mixers, you must "solo" the channel you wish to see the level of. Use this to set the gain of each individual channel before starting to build your mix.
This button "solos" the specific channel so you can see things like volume (gain), listen to eq (equalization), among other things. Usually, solo only sends the signal to the headphones, so it wont effect the main mix. (Check your specific mixer, as some have settings that will change this.)
0DB VU - 0 Decibel VU
Without getting too technical, this indicates the 0 point on a VU style meter. This usually equates to -18 DBfs (Decibel Full Scale). Just know 0 DBfs, or the 0 at the top of your meter = distortion (typically sounds bad). So don't gain stage that high. Shoot for an average (signal jumps around this level, it can be over and under) of -18DBfs or 0DB VU. This can sometimes be marked by a change in color in your meters. (Green to Yellow)
Hopefully your signals now have some headroom, but still have plenty of gain for FOH (Front Of House) and monitor mixes.
Remember the GAIN knob adjusts levels before Aux Sends (monitors) and faders (Front Of House), so if you turn that knob up or down, you are adjusting everything. This can put all mixes out of balance, so always set the GAIN FIRST!
Step 2. EQ (Equalization)
EQ can be a difficult to reign in, but here are some basic tips.
Cut "boom" and "boxy-ness". If you feel the instrument or voice is "muddy" or has no "clarity", cut before you boost. Taking low end out, or lower mid-range (250hz -800hz) can clean up the instrument and reveal clarity in it. Try not to go too heavy handed, but use your ears. If it sounds good, it is good.
We always suggest cutting frequencies before boosting. When you cut eq out, you can reveal what is already there instead of attempting to over accentuate those areas. Boosting can be useful in particular situations, but until you have a firm grasp on what frequencies can help and hurt each instrument, keep it simple and cut!
Step 3. Less Is More
Sometimes being a glutton with sound hurts instead of helps. What do I mean?
Just because the instrument is there, it might need extra amplification. Let's take drums for example...
If you are on a small stage where the vocalists are close to the drum kit, or you are in a smaller covered environment, you will most likely not need mics on the drumkit. Perhaps a kick mic to add punch (who doesn't like a good thumping kick?!) but skip the overheads and snare. The vocal mics will all be picking up the sound as well, so there is no need for extra amplification.
Also think about your electric guitar. Is it pointed out to the crowd? are the speakers aimed at your ears? if the speakers are pointed out at the crowd, they are hearing your guitar 2x louder than you are! Point your amp up at yourself, so you can hear how loud you really are. Or, if you really must have that "cranked" sound, point your amp backwards, (if the rear of the stage is open) and mic it for out front. Nothing worse than a guitar that is louder than everything else on stage.
Also consider where you place a bass cab. If you stand right in front of it, you are not getting the full waveform and sound. (Bass is a low instrument, you need to get away from it to allow the waveform and sound to develop)
And last but not least, gauge the crowd and venue. If it is more intimate, down rip their faces off with volume. Its ok to play quieter, but with intention!
I hope some of this helps you get better sound at your next gig. And as always, questions are welcome. Contact us anytime!
Creativity can be the most fickle of friends. Finding you at the most inopportune moments, and leaving when you need it most. It’s something that is best not to force, as it tends to lead you to poor results. But if it is your job to be creative on a daily basis, how do you get yourself into “The Mood”? When a deadline is approaching, or you’ve set time aside but now cannot find your groove, what can you do?
Find Your Spark
This can be difficult to do if you are not in the right headspace. But usually there is something to get you back on track. If you are writing or composing, find the lyric, or melody you are working with and mess around. Try it another way, slow it down, speed it up, try funky rhythms. Little adjustments can spark your brain and inspire you.
Perhaps your working on mixing, but need some inspiration. Go find some fun and weird plugins. Try random settings, get creative with delays. Add some fun noises, modulation, or tonal effects. The little things you do can help open up your ears to things you weren’t hearing before.
Take A Break
Sometimes stepping away is the best thing to do. Even if you’ve set aside time to work. Take 5-10 min and go for a short walk. Go breathe some fresh air. Go meditate or stretch. Perhaps you can get in a few yoga poses? anything to take your mind away so you come back with new perspective. This helps a lot of mixing engineers when they get stuck on mixing. Taking a break can help you re-focus on things you might have missed previously.
Try Something Different
Do you also enjoy other forms and art and creativity? Try your hand at one of those for a bit. Sometimes what we work on in other mediums can spark our thoughts and lead us back to what we were working on perviously. Go play some word games, or go toss some angry birds! Read a book, doodle in a sketchbook. Whatever strikes your fancy, use that to help you get back to your work.
Journal or Document
When “The Mood” strikes at the worst times, it good to have a plan to document. Thats the thing about creativity, it can have a mind of its own. But use the tools around you to help you later when you have the time. Write down those lyrics, use your phone to record the melody in your head. Sometimes creativity can strike right before bed, early in the morning, or when you’re in the middle of other projects. We don’t always have time to sit down at a computer and start hashing out the idea. But you can at least get a quick document of what is on your mind to re-visit later. Technology can help you stay organized and prepared for when you can sit down and create.
Sometimes our ideas don’t work out how we thought. Perhaps you cannot find a way to continue that song you were working on. Maybe after trying everything, it still isn’t coming together. And that’s ok. Not every song written or recorded is “Amazing”. Not every painting done by Van Gogh was a masterpiece. Thats just how it is. Sometimes we have to sift through our creativity to find the gems. Just remember you are doing what you enjoy. If it becomes a hassle, step back and re-assess if it really needs to be finished. I have books of half written songs that will never see the light of day. But I look at them fondly as memories and lessons. Not as failures.
So go enjoy, create, experience, and play!
How often do you tell yourself, “I just don’t have the time…” Or perhaps it’s “I’m so busy, I just can’t find the time”
It’s something we all struggle with. It is a daily battle for most people trying to “fit” everything they want to in a day. And the struggle can get us caught up in a downward spiral of never “having enough time.” How many things have you put off because you can’t seem to find the time in your day? How many things are on that to-do list that keeps getting longer? Are you struggling with never having time to do the things you want to?
This is usually the part where some silly ad tells you how the “quick fix” to all your problems, but the fact is, there isn’t a quick fix. In fact, the “fix” you’re hoping for doesn’t really exist. At least not in the way you think it does. I struggle with finding the time for things every day, but I’m doing my best to change that…
One of the biggest double edged swords for us as human beings is our habits! We are habitual creatures, and we love it when we create habits. We don’t differentiate between good or bad habits, to our brains they just are. Habits wrap us up in a warm blanket and say “It’s ok, you’ve been doing this over and over, that’s nothing to be ashamed of…” But when you look back at your bad habits, the things you wish to change, it can seem daunting to adjust to something new. This is a challenge I am pushing at you. Perhaps don’t try to make too many adjustments at once, but do your best. Set reminders, write out what you want to do, then make an effort each day to stay true to yourself and that change.
I am spending time stepping out of my comfort zone, trying new things, making better habits, and learning new skills. And I started last week, making small adjustments so I can make time. The fact is, we like habits, good ones, bad ones, tall ones, short ones… etc. So its time to make new habits.
One of the biggest mistakes is planning to change later, you know that little thing called procrastination? You just need to sit down, make your plan, and implement it right then and there. Yes its difficult, whomever told you it was easy was lying, and probably never tried it themselves. But take it one day at time, hold yourself accountable, and you’ll find yourself changing the things you want. Like Making Time for the things you want to do! maybe that’s finishing old songs, or writing new ones? Maybe you want to get better at an instrument, or learn a new one? Whatever you’ve been trying to “find time” for, if you focus and push yourself, you will accomplish the goals you set forth.
There are so many things to distract us from our goals, funny cat videos, the best new TicTok dance, or that new binge-worthy show on Netflix… But guess what? Those distractions will be there later, when you “find time” for them. Focus on making time for the things you want to accomplish instead, and check those things off your to-do list. As my mother once asked me…
“How do you eat an elephant??? One bite at a time…”
One of the hardest things you can struggle with as an artist is value. The value of what you do can seem to be solely based on others opinions of worth. Whether that value is from a listener or patron of the establishment, or perhaps the venue booker. Fighting for your value can be exhausting, tedious, and sometimes downright difficult. But I implore you to do it. With the adjustments made in the music scene here in 2020, there is no better time to start putting value on the entertainment and experience you provide.
But how do you put a value on what you do? As a musician, how do you determine what you should charge? How do you request a specific payment amount? What deals are worth striking, and what should you shy away from? They say beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but what is that beauty worth? It can be difficult to put a price on an experience, but here are some things to consider when deciding a price.
1. How many hours have you put into honing your skills? There is something to be said about the time and experience you have as a performer. The amount of hours, days, weeks, and months spent performing. While performing is a passion for most, if not all artists, it is nice to know you are receiving a return on that investment of time.
2. How much of your own money have you invested into your gear? From stands, microphones, cables, pedals, amps, guitars, etc. that money adds up. Of course some of this gear is personal choice, maybe buying that tricked out Les Paul wasn’t necessary, but it looks so cool! Just remember, gear doesn’t make the performer, but it can help you perform more efficiently.
3. Do you provide other services beyond performing? Are you also promoting, making banners, helping to bring the venue more clients? Are you helping sling drinks or food by talking up the drinks or food from the establishment? Are you providing sound services, running a PA for yourself or other performers? Some venues provide a sound engineer and gear, but others expect you to have everything.
4. Finally, what kind of entertainment are you providing? Are you entertaining? Are you captivating the audience, drawing them in? Are you able to capture attention and hold it? this is a skill that takes time to hone, but is quite valuable. Sometimes putting on an “act” to be more entertaining and providing engagement with the crowd is so helpful. This is a great skill to have, providing a personal connection between you and the audience. But try not to be “fake”. Wearing your heart on your sleeve can leave you vulnerable, but that emotion is what draws us in. Just be genuine about it, most people can tell when you are not sincere.
When all said and done, putting value on your services is one of the hardest things to do. But is is essential as a performer. In the end, you are a providing professional services, just like an electrician, graphic designer, or woodworker. Your skills are learned over time, and as you hone them, you will get better and better. While you might not be able to get your asking price every time, fighting for your worth is… well worth it. Remember your worth, and know others will value you and Your worth too.
"If I only had "x" my track would sound so much better...."
Yes, we've all said it at one point or another. There is a perception that the gear used makes the biggest impact on the quality of the sound. A great mic makes a great vocal, a great amp makes a great guitar sound, a great drum kit makes me sound like so and so...
It's a misconception everyone has fallen to at one point. Even when I was starting out, I would search and make wish lists of incredibly expensive gear. Hoping one day I could get my hands on it, and I would sound so much better. As I started acquiring pieces of gear, a realization started to sink in... I sounded the same! The gear wasn't providing the "Magic" I thought it would. Somehow, the gear I purchased didn't make me sound "better", in fact I sounded worse! How could this be?!?!
Something I was lucky to learn early on is gear doesn't make the engineer. In fact, if you don't understand how to use the gear, you can end up making things worse!
"But Insert Name Here uses "X" piece of gear, and their mixes sound amazing!"
Yes, their mixes do sound amazing, but the gear didn't "magically" make that happen. The engineer made the mix sound amazing. The gear is there to be used. It's a tool, just like a wrench for a mechanic, or a paint brush for a painter. Some tools help you achieve your goal faster, but it doesn't do it for you. Having the understanding before you start using the tool is the key. If you do not understand what you are trying to accomplish and how to get there, then you won't be happy with the end result.
"So what is an engineer to do? How am I supposed to learn this gear without owning it?"
Well that's the kicker. You might already own it, or at least some version of it. No matter what DAW you work in, they all come with stock plugins. Most of these plugins are modeled after pieces of analog gear. Especially the classic and most used studio pieces.
"But plugins don't capture the 'Analog' sound of the real thing!'
Have you used the real thing? How many different versions of the same piece of gear have you tried? The best thing about plugins, they are each modeled on different pieces of the same style of gear. In the hardware world, no 2 pieces of gear are perfectly matched. Even the two 1176 compressors we have in the studio sound different at the same exact settings. This is something you have to learn about hardware, all the components inside have tolerances. Each little piece can be slightly off than the next one. These non-linearities is what makes that 'Analog' sound. With the digital world today, most companies have modeled analog gear quite well.
The best thing you can do before going a spending a bunch of money on new gear, is to learn what you already have. Sure, there might be a cooler or different sounding version out there, but don't get caught up in the hype. As you learn the how to use what you already have, you will get better at your craft. Eventually you will have acquired knowledge to make an educated decision on your next gear purchase, instead of a lustful one. Having knowledge of the sound and style you're going for, and understanding how to get there will lead you in the right direction.
Remember, it's just a tool to be used. If you don't understand how to use it properly, then it might not be what you need at that moment.
Now go make great music!
Wow! It’s almost the end of February, and this is the first time since last year that I have started writing again. Of course, every excuse I can think of has run through my head... Oh I haven’t had time... It’s been so long since I’ve written anything... No one reads these anyway... and the list goes on and on. But the simple fact of the matter is, I just didn’t do it. No matter what excuse I can think up, it doesn’t negate the fact, I just wasn’t sitting down to write. This could be true for a lot of stuff in life. Pick anything you’d like in your life, writing, drawing, practicing, going out, exercise, etc... It’s easy to make the excuse of why you aren’t doing something for yourself. So we fall into this habit of not doing it. Well, I’m telling you NO. STOP. STOP YOUR EXCUSES. There is no reason you should be holing yourself back from doing something. As that famous brand says... “Just Do It”
But seriously, take the time to do things that make you happy. Take time to do things that make you better. Do things that scare you, that push your limits, that excite you. Trying new things is a great way to expand your horizons. You can learn so much, not only about what you are spending time on, but about yourself. Last year, I had started trying my hand at video and content creation. It something that has always fascinated me. The video shooting, the production, the telling of a story or passing on of knowledge. So I went out and spent what little money I had saved up to buy some neat tools for recording. I spent time researching, studying, and examining how to create videos. Not just any videos, but really well done videos. They all had common themes of gear, lighting, sound, etc. that I couldn’t afford. And while they all stated, “We didn’t start with this gear, we worked up to it.” I couldn’t help but feel that my videos should look just as good. But after experimenting and trying to get the quality I was searching for, I always came up short. This was a hard blow for me. I always strive to do the best I can in everything I do. I spend a meticulous amount of time learning everything I can before jumping in. (Its one of my best/worst traits) With video production, I had found something that was giving me trouble, and it was frustrating. So frustrating in fact, I decided to not release any videos I had shot. I hated the way I looked, the way I addressed the camera, the way I talked, everything about it was terrible. So none of the videos have ever seen the light of day. I even ended up shooting videos for others, who were stoked about their products. But for me, I was so disappointed in myself and my performances....
But I came to a realization, that I had struggled with something like this before. Music. Playing it, recording it, mixing it, The whole process. I found myself in a similar situation when I had started my mixing journey. When I decided to start recording and mixing, I was terrible. I hated that anything I did never sounded like what I was hearing in my head. It took years of trial and error to start to get decent results that I was happy with. But it was so satisfying when I did! I absolutely loved whatever I could create well. When things started to sound like I wanted them to, I was hooked for life. But I had to struggle, to learn, to make mistakes. Its part of growing and becoming better. So many people give up on things before they never get to that turnaround. Its like running up a hill, you focus on moving one foot in front of the other, until eventually you crest the top, and the accomplishment feels amazing.
So why have I droned on and on? Its for you as much as it is for me. Keep striving to do better. Keeping trying to do new things. Or pickup old things, and keep working on them. You’ll get better the more time you spend on them. We all will reach that tipping point when all our hard work and effort finally pays off. I’ll be getting in front of a camera real soon, don’t you worry. So take the time to do the same with something you have been putting off. Again, it doesn’t matter what it is. Just don’t let you hold you back....
Creation - The act or process of bringing something into existence...
It is something we strive to do as artists everyday. Whether we are drawing, writing, playing, sculpting, painting, etc. Creating can be a tricky process. Especially when you are trying to stay “original”. In music, this is becoming very difficult. It’s the nature of the beast. There is only so many chords, notes, and combinations that sound present to our ears. As well as rhythms and melodies. So I beg to question, should striving to be original be a main focus when creating new material? In the end, if you are expressing what you are feeling, isn’t it original? I mean, it came from your head, heart and soul. Even if it is reminiscent of another artists work, you have taken the time and effort to make it your own.
Music copyright is a fickle thing. So many people feel they “own” the rhythm, or chord structure they designed. While we can all respect the time and effort one puts into their work, why must there be so much fighting and finger pointing among the community? Yes, money is great, and we all want a piece for ourselves. But isn’t music about the expression? But who really are the greedy ones? Is it the artists themselves? Or maybe the producers? What kind of pull are the labels having? Music is an art form of storytelling and entertainment. But at some point, wealth and greed got involved. While we all would love to be rock stars, most musicians would be happy making a comfortable living off of the art they love so much. Let’s face it, we didn’t get into the music business for the money. Well, most of us didn’t anyway. Somehow though, that is where the industry has taken the art.
However, a change is coming. It has been happening slowly, and continues to grow. As with anything, there is always pros and cons. While we could sit here debating the rise of streaming services, let’s take a moment and see what great things have come out of the connected world. Never before has it been easier to release music for the masses to hear. Not just in your area, but the entire connected world. Back in the days before the internet, getting your music into the heads and ears of people was a feat all in of itself. Now days, we can upload our new content on hundreds of different streaming sites, allowing people we have never met or seen, experience the art that was created. It has connected artists to millions of ears that there would have possibly never had access to. And while the big stars have the financial backing to push had and get streams a young budding artist could only dream of, it has leveled the playing field more. Is it completely even, no of course not, but its getting closer. I am exposed to new artists on the daily by friend recommendations, curated playlists, and downright browsing.
The downside is of course, getting lost in the fray. With so much available, how do you stick out? There could potentially be 20+ bands with the same name as yours, so how do you break out? Trail and error really. Yes, there are tons of tips and tricks, marketing schemes, and optimizations you could try. But none of them are guaranteed. Which makes it difficult to know where to focus your efforts. No matter what you choose to do, end up building, or trying, stay true to yourself as a person and artist. With so much “fake” in the world, people are finding enjoyment in the “real”. No I don’t mean like “real housewives of [Blank]”. I mean the real you. Warts and all. We are human, and we all make mistakes, have bad days, get sick, and just down right want it to be Friday sometimes. But that’s the great thing. We are all like that. Showing that isn’t a bad thing. It gives the audience, the listener, the aspiring artist a view into you. It breaks down the barrier of the “Hollywood Perfection” and shows everyone we are the same. That’s what we all connect to. Each other, and the daily struggles we all face.
Its not an easy thing to show the world your vulnerability, in facts its down right scary. With opening yourself up to this, you also open up to criticism, hatred, and abuse. It’s the unfortunate reality of the world. Some people find their enjoyment in making others feel bad, and no amount of your time will change that. Building a thick skin is a hard journey, but there will be more people on your side, than against you. Just stay original to you. Show the world your creations, and the joy it brings you. Relaxing your emotion into art truly does translate across. People will feel and understand you, as if you made that song just for them. That connection is something that cannot be faked. So go create, be original, and show the world what you’re made of. In the end, we all support each other, lifting up to heights we may not have thought possible...
Man, how do the pros make it look so easy? I can't seem to do what they do...
It really hit me the other day. Running through the mixing process in class, bringing up the faders and building a mix from scratch. As I started explaining what I was doing and why, I realized how quickly I can build a mix. It was second nature for me. But looking at the students, it made me think back to when I started. I started thinking about what it was like watching someone build a mix and it sounding so great. Every time I would try, it would never sound them same. I could never seem to get a mix settled in as quickly. As I explained the why and what I was doing, it made me question, "Are they going to understand, or is this going over their heads?"
Of course my hope is that they "get it". That everything I was doing at that moment was being soaked up, and they could go home and reproduce this mix quickly and easily. But sometimes it isn't as simple as that. I have spent years studying, watching, learning, and doing. Years of continually working on my skills, getting a little better each time. To the point now, I can quickly and easily build a mix. I am just talking about panning and setting levels, no eq, or compression. No reverbs delays, etc. Just the basics, using my ears to set the mix to sound balanced.
Of course I explained my methods. The "why" is very important, more important than the "what" I am doing. (At least in my opinion) In the end that's the theory behind what I am doing right? I'm teaching my thought process, the reasoning behind my fader and panning moves. However, my theory is derived from years of "doing". Yep, years of making stupid mistakes, what I now look back on as "bad" mixes, and eq and compression mistakes. At the time though, I really didn't know any better. I was mixing to the best of my abilities, using every tip and trick I knew. And while I want to spare students from these mistakes, I feel like they have made me a better mixer.
For me, I learn best by making the mistakes. I'm sure others would agree, we learn from our mistakes. The idea of me showing students, "Don't do this" is a conundrum at best. While I can teach and show the "do this" "don't do that" concepts, until they experience it themselves, will they learn the lesson? I never did, I had to make the mistakes in order to teach myself what was incorrect. Granted, not everyone learns that way. Some are able to watch and replicate. But If they are replicating what I ma doing, will they figure out their own methods?
It really boils down to the practice. As with most skills in life, you have to do it, learn your limits. Aim to grow where you are weak in order to become better. I know I fell a lot when learning to walk or ride a bike. So the same can be said about learning to mix. I can give someone all the tools to make a master piece, but unless they have put in the hours, it might not come to fruition. Am I going to stop teaching the little tips and tricks? Definitely not, I would have loved someone to give me pointers on honing my craft faster. Whether or not my skills would be where they are now faster is a matter of debate. The fact remains, help is help. Knowing how to do something and actually doing it is very different.
Make the best you can with the knowledge you have. Teachers and tutors can help you achieve your goals, but know you will still make mistakes. Perhaps even the same mistakes they teach us to avoid. But what a way to learn, to have experienced the silly, stupid mistakes that made you strive to be better. Don't forget to accept the failures with the triumphs. In the end, mistakes strive us to do better, and push our limits. Use your acquired knowledge to make the mistakes, and experience the joy of growth.
He's going for distance, he's going for speed...
What is it that makes you appreciate someone's business? We're talking from a consumer standpoint here. When you consistently go back to a place of business, what drives you there? (No I don't mean your car) It might not be something you think about, but something keeps you coming back. Is it the product? A business that puts effort into their product usually sees that effort reflected in sales, right? Is it the customer experience? There is nothing like being treated like royalty. You feel as if you are the most important person at that moment in time. It can be a great feeling. Is it the fact they are a friend? We all love supporting our friends. It can be a great feeling to help out friends.
Perhaps its all of the above? maybe all of these things come together, creating an immersive experience. Then again, maybe it's none of them. We each place value on things differently. So, for a business, how do they guarantee everyone will feel valued? We all do the best we can. Let's face it, everyone is human, we all make mistakes. Sometimes mistakes cost us business, but all we can do is learn from it and move on. It's a hard road to travel having everything you do reflect upon your business. In the end, if you own a business, the in turn makes you and the business one entity. At least in the eyes of your customers.
The best thing you can do is to go above and beyond. Every time, make it an awesome experience. To the best of your abilities of course. I'm not saying throw away money, or put other customers on the back burner. It's a balancing act. Like a man on a trapeze. swing one way too far, and possibly lose everything. Something that seems to excel in the investment world is the idea of going above and beyond. You promise a 20% return, but give them 30% instead. This shows the investor you went above and beyond to give them more. Your time was spent giving them more than promised. This usually makes people want to invest again.
As a business, we try to do the same. Providing excellent customer service, an exceptional product, and showing you genuinely care, are ways a business earns your trust. Whether it is a product or a service, all of these things can be accomplished. It takes a lot of effort to do this everyday, for every customer, but building a brand is not an easy task. Reputation is everything. It can lift you up to the highest highs, or stick to you like the stench of dirty gym socks. We all try to provide the best we can, and sometime we fall short on our marks. A business learns and grows, but only with time and diligence.
Strive to do your best in what you do. As a business owner, this is a goal every time we get a new or returning client. Seeing clients faces light up with joy is the greatest feeling around. But the same can be said from any aspect. Musicians that put their heart and soul into every performance gain followers. Adorations pour in as the listeners show their appreciation. Even when presenting food, going above and beyond makes the customer feel that time was spent in the creation just for them.
Go above and beyond, take it to the next level.
Effect? Affect? The Affects of Effects? Oh the joys of the English language... But I digress.
Space is a wonderful thing. It is how we measure an area. Is it big? Perhaps its small? It could be lively, or dull. Maybe for lack of a better word, it’s bombastic! Everywhere we go, and everything we hear is affected by space. Which means everything we have ever heard is influenced by space. That last concert you went to, whether it sounded good or bad, was being altered by the space it was in. Yes, even if it was outside. Any and every surface available, sound will bounce off or be absorbed by. Even the temperature can play its part on how sound is perceived. “Ok we get it. The space has an affect on everything. Why should I care?”
The average listener might not care. But for every gigging musician and audio engineer, space is everything. Even DJ’s should be concerned about space. If a DJ makes a bomb track that sounds lit, (did I use that slang right?) but it sounds terrible in the club, was it a bad track? Not necessarily. A guitar player in a gigging band gets their tone so sweet before a gig, shows up and starts playing. Once they are in the club, the tone doesn’t even come close. The live engineer sets up a PA and plays music through it, but the track just doesn’t sound like it should. It’s the fault of the space! Well, kind of the fault of the space. Part of the job of the live engineer is to adjust the PA for the room. This can be difficult if the venue is empty. Bodies make a huge difference, soaking up sound that may be problematic. But, the same goes for setting your tone on an amplifier. It may sound good in the rehearsal space, but that doesn’t mean it will sound good that room you’re playing in now.
Space can take away clarity, make drums boomy or mushy, muffle vocals, add unwanted reverb, or cause feedback issues to a rung out PA. “So, I should adjust my amp for each venue?” YES!!! Absolutely! Some of the best players tweak amps and pedals for each new venue. Sometimes it doesn’t take much, a small dial move here or there can bring your tone back to where it was at rehearsal. Small cuts or boosts in a PA system can tune it to a room, allowing vocals to be present and forward, making it easier for the crowd to understand what you are saying. Drums can be a harder to wrangle in. Tuning up for each venue can be time consuming and frustrating. But if you have the time, use it. Take pride in your craft and spend some time getting your instrument to sound its best. You may gain some new fans just because you made a few adjustments before the show!
”So, I sound good during my live shows, but I just cant seem to get the same sound recording. Help!” Oh recording... How fun you can be.... There is nothing like harnessing in your tone, working tirelessly, tweaking, adjusting, fine tuning. Only to have microphones put in front and it sound dull or lifeless. Yes the tone is good, even the performance. But something is missing... For whatever reason, it doesn’t sound like that killer night and the club. You know, the one where you melted faces with your 3 minute long solo? But why? Why doesn’t it sound the same? The settings are right, the amp tone is there, your even feeling inspired to shred it up.... Well, its the space! You were in a specific space, that worked well for your sound. “But I have reverb and delay on my amp, doesn’t that count?” Well, yes and no. You probably had those on anyway right? But that reverb, delay, and air throwing speaker tone still needs a space to be in. If you put the microphones directly on the grill cloth, you are capturing the essence of the guitar signal. But, we don’t listen to guitar cabinets with our ears to the grill. We hear a guitar cabinet in the room. With your reverb and delay working harmoniously in the space.
In other words, re-space your amp. If the microphones are on the grill cloth, they are picking up the raw tone of the amp. Without coloration of a room of space. You get to decide what kind of space it will be in. Big rooms, small rooms, rooms that are made of rocks. Remember everything we hear in a space of some kind. Even if it is small and tight, or large and boisterous. When in a recording environment, we tend to capture a more sterile and accurate picture of tones. That allows an engineer to place the instruments in any space they so choose. In so doing, creating a feel or vibe, adding character to the track. Space is a wonderful thing. Too much space however, can muddy and remove definition. It’s a fine line of adding just enough to create realism or vibe, or too much and drowning things out unrealistically. Use your ears when adding space to instruments, you’ve done it at every show you’ve ever been to. You listen and make a judgment on whether its good or bad, muddy or clear, dead or lively. You ears are king, so let them rule.