Playing live gigs - how to get the levels right?

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phobosmoon
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Playing live gigs - how to get the levels right?

Post by phobosmoon » Sun Apr 29, 2012 8:24 am

Hi,

I'm in the process of putting a live setup together - the general concept being that i've got a track for each "instrument", i.e Kicks, Hi-Hats, Synths, Bass, etc.

What I want to know is, how do you ensure that when you play your collage of sounds to an audience, that it retains the same mix balance that you agonized over so much during the mixdown in the studio?

My concern is that, if you're playing alongside other DJs and they're playing perfetly produced pre-recorded songs, isn't your live set going to sound a bit iffy in comparison?

Is it perhaps more a case "letting go" of your finicky producer-brain a little and just going with the flow? Or are there some strategies you guys employ to ensure that your collage-style live sets retain a balanced mix? Also, do any of you use compressors and/or limiters on the master buss?

My apologies if this question has been asked before. I found it a very tricky question to google!

I welcome any kind of insight. Thanks :)

Andrew

oddstep
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Re: Playing live gigs - how to get the levels right?

Post by oddstep » Sun Apr 29, 2012 9:28 am

Get the levels of sounds within each instrument right relative to each other (ie make sure all the hat sounds are balanced). Do a sound check to figure out what the maximum level for each instrument should be. Consider how much of the mixing you want to do live and how much you want to automate within clip envelopes. Always give yourself the freedom to adjust the balance of instruments in response to odd PAs.

synnack
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Re: Playing live gigs - how to get the levels right?

Post by synnack » Sun Apr 29, 2012 11:07 am

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phobosmoon
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Re: Playing live gigs - how to get the levels right?

Post by phobosmoon » Sun Apr 29, 2012 11:22 am

Thanks for your responses guys. Really helps. So it seems that basically it's a combination of getting the mix right beforehand, whilst also still making sure enough headroom to make tweaks/improvise if need be :)

rbmonosylabik
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Re: Playing live gigs - how to get the levels right?

Post by rbmonosylabik » Sun Apr 29, 2012 1:21 pm

I think the most important thing to do is first get to know your material. Build your live set the way you want to perform with it, then practice a lot and figure out what you're doing to the mix live that you shouldn't be doing. The easiest example would be kicks mix. If you find yourself constantly tweaking the kick level because every time you change to a new one the balance goes off, consider spending some time pre-leveling your kicks.

I'd say the idea would be to get a good baseline mix where anything you drop sounds balanced without much tweaking, but still leaving you space to play around, but it really depends a lot on your material. If your live set involves a lot of improvisation and synthesizing sounds live you'd be better going for easy balance and headroom with lots of practice, while more structured tracks let you even go as far as adding mastering tools to your set so you can send the most consisten possible signal out.
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Tarekith
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Re: Playing live gigs - how to get the levels right?

Post by Tarekith » Sun Apr 29, 2012 2:46 pm

I would also say, why does your live set have to sound like the studio version? Here's your chance to give your audience and any fans something different, who them another side of your sound. Nothing worse than going to see a band you like play live, and sounds like they are just playing back the cd versions verbatim.

ikeaboy
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Re: Playing live gigs - how to get the levels right?

Post by ikeaboy » Sun Apr 29, 2012 3:39 pm

The most satisfying solution into mix it totally on the night but a lot can happen to make this a practical nightmare. Monitoring might be horrible so have headphones you can trust. I find aswell if anything happens that wrecks my head, like an unsolvable technical issue or a head cold whatever, the head-space nessecary to mix live can be very hard to find as an element of panic creeps in. For this situation it's good to have a safety net. An easy solution is to mix your channels at home and note how far each fader is away from unity (0) gain. Now alter the clip volumes and instrument /effect outputs so when the faders are at zero the track has an effective fall-back mix.

This works for me when I have to do a set but would actually rather be somewhere else because of blah blah blah... Good luck

timday
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Re: Playing live gigs - how to get the levels right?

Post by timday » Sun Apr 29, 2012 8:09 pm

I always reckon it's worth hiring a practice room with a decent PA for at least one session when I'm going to play out new material.

It's also worth considering, in the longer term, a soundcard with multi outputs (I use a M-Audio FW 410 which has 8 analogue outs), then you can route drums, bass and lead separately which lets the in house engineer balance levels. He'll know the PA at his venue better than I do and he can hear the front of house sound whereas onstage I can only hear the monitors which may well not give a true picture. It makes a huge difference to our sound.

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