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A question for those folks who mix FOH and record...

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  • A question for those folks who mix FOH and record...

    A question to the folks here who not only record, but also mix for Front of House. Do you believe that recording has improved your FOH mixes, or has mixing FOH improved your recordings? Or do you find it is a case where each (FOH and recording) brings its own strengths and weaknesses and one really doesn't impact the other?

    The Mandolin Picker

    "Bless your hearts... and all your vital organs" - John Duffy

    "Got time to breath, got time for music!"- Briscoe Darling, Jr.

  • #2
    I don't do a bunch of live mixing anymore, but I used to do it quite regularly. Each has their own challenges and they're different in a lot of ways, but overall I greatly prefer mixing in the studio - more opportunity for creativity and a lot less pressure. It's not the pressure of doing a live mix so much as it is having the sword of Damocles hanging over my head in the form of something unexpected going wrong / dying in the middle of a live show. I hate it when that happens.

    I think mixing live shows helps in the sense that it lets you hear what things are supposed to sound like in their natural environment. Too many engineers never get up and walk out of the control room, and that's a good way to lose perspective. IMO, you have to know what the instruments sound like out in the room - it all starts from there.

    Mixing live also has the advantage of immediate audience reaction - you don't get that in the studio either, and it's good to know what an audience likes to hear.

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    • #3
      There is a certain amount of skillset overlap, but I've always viewed them as two very different processes with their own unique functions.
      Live mixing is a seat-of-your-pants, pray-nothing-breaks experience, as Phil mentioned. You get one shot to have it all be right, and if it isn't, you have one shot to fix it. With recording you have the luxury of experimentation, of multiple takes and the goal is to get that one magic take per track.

      I find my more recent recording experience in our new studio has pressed my tech skills in many ways, but nowhere near my live mixing. How can studio work prepare you for a live mix on the sand at Zuma Beach at 9AM? That was where I was setting up Saturday morning...wind, humidity, sand, salt spray, waves crashing, seagulls; certainly not part of the studio gestalt...if anything, I would say my live work has far more impact on my studio process than my studio process on my live work. Things like mic placement, efx levels, limiting, compression...all are more influenced from my live experience.
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      • #4
        Since nearly everything that I record in the studio is live, for me they're about the same. Mixing live shows keeps me in practice for recording in the studio, and vice versa.

        Mixing live is mostly about getting a good mix quickly and avoiding feedback. While feedback isn't a problem in the studio, getting a mix up quickly, whether it's for the musicians' headphones or the control room monitors, is a good thing as it gets the actual grunt work started sooner. I don't spend half a day getting a snare sound we all like. It's a matter of getting a band sound we like and go.
        "Today's production equipment is IT-based and cannot be operated without a passing knowledge of computing, although it seems that it can be operated without a passing knowledge of audio." - John Watkinson, Resolution Magazine, October 2006
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        • #5
          There is a large area of overlap in these 2 skillsets. There are big differences too. In recording you can put the mic where it sounds best, live you put it where it won't feed back. Live, you get the mix up immediately or as quickly as possible; in recording you can build it in and carefully balance levels, spectral content and panning, adding FX and compression as needed. These (except level) are luxuries when mixing live.