Have you just been to a concert and are really inspired to learn to mix sound? Do you love really exciting and powerful music that has a ton of impact? If you are holding an event that you want to have quality sound for or you are planning to hold a concert yourself, you need to know how to make live sound work perfectly for your needs. There are many ways that live sound can be improved, and learning sound production basics will help you to create the best sound experience possible for a live event.
Live sound is not engineered to be perfect like studio sound. You don’t get second chances with your live sound mixing. You need the sound that you are generating to hit the mark immediately and without missing a beat.
You don’t have to know every single thing about the mixing of sound to make an excellent live sound presentation. Understanding the basics will get you much farther than you might think. You should also consider upgrading to make sure that you have access to the best plugins for mixing.
If you are ready to create the most moving and impressive concert sound you could have dreamed about, you need to keep reading!
This is probably the most crucial factor for your live sound mixing. Without an understanding of signal flow, you will be clueless about what is going on in your sound system as a whole. This is not as exciting as actually mixing sound, but it is important to learn.
You will need to understand how the signal flow works to make sure that your sound balance is correct. Signal flows through your sound setup in specific directions, and you need to know where the signal is coming from and going to in order to balance your sound.
Signal flow is how all the pieces of a sound system connect and work together. Without an understanding of signal flow you won’t make a live sound that anyone wants to listen to.
The mixer is the home base that makes all of your sound inputs work together. This is where the inputs from mics, speakers, FX, and more come together. Your console will typically have 8-32 channels, and there are main and aux outputs and effects that you need to manage with these channels. When signals have been processed, they are sent through stereo main outputs and then out to the PA system.
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EQs are used to make the frequency response of a speaker correct. This is how you “tune” the room. You will need to make sure that your aux outputs are connected to a GEQ before you send the sound out to a stage. This is a big help if you don’t want to deal with any kind of painfully imbalanced sound that will make people cover their ears.
These are the devices that split the signal in two and make low frequencies go to subs while the rest go to the mains. You will need to plug the main outputs of your console into the GEQ, and then the inputs will crossover.
There are some crossovers that include 3-way splitting for low, mid, and high speakers. This is the typical arrangement at large venues but you can choose to use it in your own mixing arrangement too!
These parts of your system have only one job but it’s a big one! They are to supply power to passive speakers. These parts of your system only have one setting and that is for volume. You will need the proper power amp to control the balance of your sound.
This is important since the wrong power amp can actually blow up speakers or cause amps to catch fire, which is always bad.
Finally! The part of the system that everyone is familiar with! The speakers are at the end of the signal chain. They come in two varieties- passive and active. You need active speakers to be powered, and the power amps are part of this power structure. The active speakers are connected with an XLR or TRS cable to the main output.
Passive speakers are connected with an XLR to the main outputs of your console. You then connect them to the outputs of the power amps with TS or Speakon cables.
Subs are much more familiar to people than they used to be and with every kid on your block trying to make their sad old car rattle with “awesome” base, you know how NOT to manage your subwoofer sound.
There are almost always multiple subwoofers in your system, and you will need to know how they impact sound. You might only have two active subs in your system, and then you will just connect them with the “thru” outputs using XLRs.
Active subs can also have their own crossovers that split the signal. The rest will go into the mains. If you have more than two subs, you will probably need a speaker management system to control them correctly.
The last item that will be a part of your system is the stage monitors. These allow the band to hear themselves. Being able to hear yourself when you are singing matters a lot, especially in a live environment with lots of background noise and the band playing behind you. These are connected like the mains, and you will use the aux outputs rather than the main outputs. Each stage monitor needs its own graphic EQ and aux send.
Some Basics About Feedback
This is the most common issue that plagues newbies to sound mixing. You will need to be sure that your PA speakers are not behind your performers (a rookie mistake). Also, make sure that mics are not pointed at monitor wedges. Turn your volume up at the source so that the incoming volume is strong enough to prevent needing to amplify it.
You will also want to make sure that you use in-ear monitors to remove stage wedges as a feedback source. You should also use mics that have tight cardioid pickup patterns. Using these tips will help prevent noisy and painful feedback that can ruin live sound in an instant.
No one wants to sound bad when they are singing, and you might be able to avoid artist complaints about this simply by upgrading your mics to be of the right quality.
Mixing Sound Can Be Easy
If you have been worried that you will not be able to figure out how to properly mix sound, this guide will help you make sure that all of the pieces of your sound system are present and correctly connected to one another (and make sure that no singers or bands you are mixing for yell at you). You will also be able to avoid feedback and issues with volume control by using these tips and tricks. Making sure that your sound control works correctly is not that hard when you have your system set up properly.
There are many ways to balance the sound for your unique needs, but a basic understanding of how your sound system works will prevent major errors. Over time and with some practice, you can create a really impressive live sound using these basics as the background for your sound mixing efforts. There are many ways to tweak your live sound production to sound special or unique, but without the right basics in place, you will not be able to generate your own unique sound.