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Mixing Live Sound

Lesson 13 of 17

Mixing Front of House: Drums


Mixing Live Sound

Lesson 13 of 17

Mixing Front of House: Drums


Lesson Info

Mixing Front of House: Drums

We're going to do now is we're going to show how to get to that point we're actually going to set up the console for front of house mixing and they were actually going to build a front of house mix here in the studio and kind of show you how to set that up using everything from decibel and gain staging, setting up the patch, gain staging dynamics vcs mu groups on river been effects and then saving those of separate scenes so let's, just jump right in the console the very first thing we're going to, we're going to keep the same input strips that we used for the monitor section. We've already moved those over and slid those all into the first banks. They're all right there that's makes it super easy. Um, so we're going to do that or keep that that set up. Obviously, if I was mixing fir in a house, I would have to do that myself, just like I did at the monitor set up the very first thing we're gonna do put it in config mode, I'm going to go over the options and we're gonna turn off the qu...

eue on mains fader so now my main output is now set to this, um, I'm also going to turn off dogs, follow a f l because I'm not really going to use the eggs for a f l specifically, I'm not building monitor mix is, uh, the next thing I'm gonna do, too is turn off that stereo um, aug sense because we're not using those once we have that I am going to make sure my outputs or patch some to go to the patch bay on dh patch one into two left and right, and then I'm actually going to use three for matrix one because I'm going to set that up a sub, so we're gonna call this subs now, the first thing I'm gonna do is I want to set up the council to sort of behave how I want it to behave for front of house, the crowd mikes that we talked we were using for in years, the last time we don't really want to use those, so I'm going to go and pull those off the patch I don't ever want to circle sense where the crowd mike, they're going to feed back through the front of house speakers because that would be very, very bad, so we're gonna go ahead and pull those off the patch. I'm going to turn off flip two favors mode so that my failures air now set to the output channel strips on, and then this crowd, mike, I'm going to go ahead and split back to mono. Let's see, the other thing I want to make sure that I do is for front of house in between bands you often have tohave music playing so I have an ipod set up with a playlist. Just pick some songs and threw up assumes the band's playing it's always kind of a cool thing. As soon as they finished, they they walk off stage you fade in crowd music pretty quite pretty quickly so that there's not kind of that awkward silence and weird transition time. So there's a lot of ways you can do this I'm gonna go ahead and patch from my front of house bored here I have a two track input I'm actually going to use my effects returns I have eight stereo effects returns here on my input strips that I can use I'm going to use probably the first four for effects, so I'm gonna go ahead and set up effects eight for my ipod playback um and I'm just going to patch that in right here under to track um so now that's on my ipod playback and I'm gonna label that as ipod. So set that up. The next thing I'm gonna do is I have all these we're going to do groups in just a second and vcs, but right now what I'm gonna do is set upon my plug ins so the plug in racks on the s c forty eight counsel in any of the venue based, software based consoles that haven't makes you have four plug in racks and you can have up to, I believe, ten yeah, ten plug ins, perak I like to organize them so that I have, um, drums on one gets harz on one, vocals on one and effects on the last one. Um, so typically anything more than drums, guitars and vocals, I'm not going to use plug ins for going to move these plug ins over here. I'm going to set up river bs, so typically on my front of house set up, I want to have ah, hall reverb or some sort of a room or a hall. I want to have a plate that I'm going to use on, like snares and toms and I want to have an echo on, but I'm going to set up with tap tempo. S o the first thing I'm gonna pull up the reverb, the revive plug in, we're going to set dogs one up to feed a sort of natural hall sound so let's see, we'll go down, teo um, and and you can try and experiment with a lot of these are gonna do a medium dense hall. Make sure it's one hundred percent wet mix and then instead of setting this up like an insert I'm actually going to set this up to be fed from dogs one so I'm gonna use dogs one in my hall um and it's actually helpful sometimes you can even just name your dogs as to what you're using um then dogs too I'm going to use as kind of a plate so I'm going pick another plate there's basically two different ways toe bring up plug ins on the avid consoles you could bring them oppa's inserts or you can bring them up as buses that you khun bust something to the plug in and then return it back to another channel so things like compressors and accused I would want to use his inserts on a specific channel or group and things like river bs I want a bus anaugh ge sent to them so I can send multiple instruments to the bus and you could either send those as mono buses stereo buses or as one in two out buses which means it's a mano input and then it returns a stereo track which is perfect for re verbs eh so I'm going to set up under here one in two out reverb you can see her one into out for um reverb one which is a plug in and we're going to use the plate for this while it's being constructed we're gonna pick a pleat and I'm going to set the size to be a little bit smaller than that so it's faster, it's three seconds I'm gonna bring it down to like one and a half seconds onda little bit more pre delay the pre delays could depend on the track of the song really? But we'll start with there make sure that one hundred percent went mixes on and then I'm going to feed that from august to so at the top of the channel here I'm gonna choose dogs too, which I'm then going to go back and name plate and then my third plug in and you know you could have many of them depending on what you want to use I usually start with three is I'm going to do a delay um a one in two out delays eco farm on this yeah there we go um so eco farm is the delay and you can see I can either set it tio delay time or to tempo we're gonna want to set it to the temples that weaken time tap tempo each of these and if I go over to options I believe under miscellaneous yeah tempo you want to turn the temple on so now I have tempo that's added to this the snapshot and I can program a button to be able to control that tap tempo so we're gonna do that right now you go to events events basically are anything on the council that I can program a button to do something else not just one thing you can program it to do a multitude of things and even time based like you could program a button to say when I push this button first mute all of the tracks, then wait ten seconds, then slowly fade in the guitar like you could program that kind of thing to happen. So um thiss button over here called the user button we're going program that to be the tap tempo so I'm going to say knew event this is going to be tap tempo and I'm going to add a trigger, which is that user button user switch and I'm going to add tap tempo for the for the action so when I pressed the user button, it taps the tempo and yeah should be good so let's, go and try this if I go to the options tab and look at the miscellaneous as I tapped this button now it's changing my tempo and the same thing happens in the plug in window although it looks like this isn't following tempo see if we can program this specifically to be that plug and it has its own tap temple button, so we're going to do it we'll switch off this plug in and put on just a standard delay um that follows thie temple of the track so now when I tap this tempo it changes with whatever tempo I have so that's gonna be useful as I bring that up on and I want to set that two hundred percent mix bring up the gain on I'll turn up the feedback toe like seven, six percent or so ok so I have some plug in some effects plug ins let's go and have some drum plug ins the venue pack plug ins that come with this air really nice sometimes why do they actually have the joe meek stuff they've got a lot of planes on here um so you can buy all kinds of plug ins from waves joe meek fairchild all this kind of stuff I'm gonna go ahead and pull up a um let's see let's use a wave's too, eh? They don't have the wave stuff so what is going to bring up a a uh smack which is kind of the standard pro tools plug in I mean avid console drum plugin we're going up a couple of those for kick and snare and um a couple fairchild's case those might sound better and again I'm not assigning these yet I'm just loading them into the rack so that when I start mixing front of house I have them available if I want to use them as inserts I'm not going to set the inserts yet then I'm gonna bring up some excuse let's try the filter bank e p six oh six that's not authorized either we'll bring up just the seven band I'll bring up a couple instances of that in case I want to use a little more of a detailed on some of the drum likes which really helps and again, this is all being prepped before the band gets on stage. I'm not doing this while the band's waiting for me. I'm doing this in advance to make sure everything is set up so I'm ready once they get there. Okay, so I've got some drum plug ins ready some smacks and fairchild's make use guitars I'm gonna go ahead and bring up a impact, which is a stereo bus compressor that really helps sometimes with guitar bus compression if I want, like, a clean compressed sound too I'm gonna go ahead and bring up a fairchild um and if I want, um, some more specific e q, I'm going to use uh a couple seven bands if I want to do some really more surgically q than what's available in just the channel strip. Okay, so for vocals typically with vocals, I want a really punchy vocal sounds, so I'm going to use the purple audio they have it here, not sure that they do let's bring up the slightly rude compressor which is another avid made compressor will bring up a couple of those and see if they have um let's first just check to see which ones of these air authorized we're going to the plug ins tab and see I'll read the focus right stuff okay so we've got a couple different plug ins here that we choose from I just want to have some options so then we start mixing vocals I have plenty of compressors that I can send to um I'm just seeing what they have authorized I will bring up some joe meet compressors those air pretty cool sometimes to use on vocals and then finally the last thing I'm gonna use for effects is I always bring up a stereo bus compression on the entire mix that just allows me to put a limiter sort of on my master bus keep things a little bit under control and is barely touch it just have like two d be if that gain reduction and I'm just gonna go ahead and write now bring that it is an insert on my main left and right mix um so this is just barely touching it just kind of a little bit of makeup game okay so we're pretty much ready with dogs that are with with our plug ins you've got the channel strips now the next thing we want to do to set up the console is I want to set up. Vcs, groups and mute groups it doesn't really matter with this big of a setup currently it's it's not that much. We're talking sixteen channels if I have more like, you know, twenty four channels for a band that's what or, you know, thirty two channels, or even more than that, like that's, when the vcs and new groups really start to help because you can really start to narrow down your focus once you dial in each, each group but for now, I'm just going to set them up just for demonstration. So first thing I'm gonna do is going to bring up the maitresse hee I'm sorry. Bring up the group's on dh I'm going to, you know, actually, before we do that really quick, we didn't finish patching in the sub, so we brought up the matrix way assigned the sub on matrix three, and now we want to go to the outputs and actually send the left and right channels right here. Two matrix one so when we go ahead and play something, um, it's feeding the left and right channel, not just the left and right, but also to the sub through matrix one, so that'll be our sub feed I'm getting that done right now because it's not actually a sub it's the listen when we used before but the way we had to set up at capitol block party we usually do is we'll run the subs on a separate matrix than the main failures we showed in that set up okay, so getting back to the groups we want to really quick groups the difference mean groups in v c a s s o groups or buses as they're called are actually a stereo mono or stereo groups that you khun route the audio through. So if I send a channel to that group, the audio is actually being fed into that group channel and that group channel has inserts that then I could then bus to the main fader that's really useful if I want to like bus compress a bunch of things together mater vc is on the other sand are not actually channels there just fade er's that are controlling the volume of specific instruments so I can use groups sometimes if I want a bus compress the drums or I can use vc is just to control each of the instruments just for the sake of demonstration, we're going to send all the drums too a stereo group just so that we can use it to mix are used to demonstrate how you would do this, so um let's go ahead and pull up the channels we're going to start with kick right now the bus assignments section appears shows you what every channel's being assigned to so we've got we can send it to left and right groups one through eight um right now the consul is set up toe have um uh sixteen dogs and eight model groups um we want to use stereo groups we're gonna go ahead and edit that and switch the consul to be eight stereo groups and eight dogs because we're not going to use more than eight ox is we're not doing monitor mixes we're just doing effects so going to apply that and it's going to reset the console so you want to make sure that the, uh, that the front of house speakers were turned off so that there's no clip clicking or popping while you're restarting and I was going to do is reload the console up and reload all the plug ins um that I was using so we're looking pretty close here next thing we want to do is as we're looking through to these channels um I want to go ahead and bust thes to most of these stereo group so the first one I'm gonna call this one drums and I'm not actually going to use this failures of the cia or to control it I just want to be able to bring up a stereo uh drum bus um so I'm gonna go ahead and a sign each of these two group one this is one way to do it um channel by channel on if I didn't want to do it that way the other way to do it is I could select multi a sign and then drum one is flashing and I could just go through and select the channels I want a bus there and turn off multi sign and now if you see in the output shame when I have the output page when I have the drums selected it shows all of my members that are assigned to that specific group s o now these are being sent there and I can actually bring up insert on this um on this uh group I'm gonna bring up a stereo impact limiter just speaking sort of bus compressed some of the drums so that's all set up um and again I'm doing all this in advance before I even start setting I want to set up everything is that when I start mixing everything's already in place um s o set up the drums the bass and the bass mike are going to be by itself the guitar's I'm not going to bust compress because there's only two so I don't really need to bust compress those the vocals I'm gonna actually put on a vcs so I'm not going to worry about bus compressing those just yet the one thing I'm gonna do too is reset all of my ogg sense? Because those were left over from the monitor section so I want to make sure that I'm not sending anything to river, but I don't know about yet and again, if I say this is a snapshot, I could just quickly recall it I'm back to front of house once I get all these done, sort of clearing out the console the manual way, way go um that's right? We only have one through eight dogs sense. Um okay, so I've got bass guitars thin, the drum vocals and the rest of the vocals I'm going to sign to have vcs, so I'm not gonna worry about bussing those two groups, so I've got one stereo group that I'm using um, okay, I'm gonna sign my my v c a s s o I want my v c s to be drums for the first one, uh, base for the second one, guitars, vocals and then I'm actually gonna make a v c a for effects. So now I have all of the major groups that I'm gonna use here is vcs and this is primarily once I get everything dialed in what I'm going to be using during the live show the last thing I set up his mute groups s o meu groups are up here at the top and those air really quickly really easily set up and can help you while you're mixing live to make sure that there's no mistakes that happened you can quickly jump back and forth when the band's done you commute everything except the talk back or mute everything except the ipod playback. So what I typically do is all set up new group one to be just mute every single track except for um uh the ipod playback um and so what I used me group one for is when I have a new group went on I know the band's not on stage. Nobody's playing everything else is muted, there's nothing that can come through except for the ipod play back. I can leave the console and know that nothing is gonna happen. Um, mu group too. I typically select to be all of my effects, so actually, I'm just going to put this on be effects here. Well, I'll just do it this way with all of my effects. So now if I hit mu group to all of my effects were muted, you might be thinking, well, why would you want to meet your effects? It's actually really helpful when the band is playing and they finished singing and you've got a ton of reverb in delay on their vocals and they walk up and try to talk to the crowd and say like hey, how's it going? Thanks for coming and there's just reverb in delay and you can't understand them, so I make it pretty much common practice that after as soon as every song ends, I hit mute group two and mute all the effects that if they try to talk to the audience it's not this crazy affected sound it's the dry signal on this very clear s o that's what I use my group to four you can keep going on depending on your workflow what you set up, I usually do one into sometimes all do new group three, which is just everything muted, that's just a really quick way to mute everything at the end of the night. Um, but definitely one into those air great to set up, ok, so now I've got my input by plugging set up, I've got my mu groups, I've got my vcs and I've got my one group that I'm using my one stereo group thie next thing that I want to do eyes now actually start to mix the song, so pretend we've already done the sound check that you saw. We've already got each signal coming in, we're going to walk through with gain, staging and start setting up this mix the most important thing with, in my opinion, the most important thing about mixing front of house is understanding gate staging and basically we gain staging means is that at every point along the line a signal passes from the input all the way to the output you're adding gain to that signal and if it any point one of those gain game changes is drastically more than any one of the others it can cause a lot of problems down the line so if you're driving the pre up really, really hard and sometimes there's nothing wrong with that, but if you're driving it really hard and as a result your master fader is really, really low because all of your channels are redline that means you're probably driving too much on the front end of the system and not relying too much on the end and you're gonna end up stifling your mix it's going to sound really weak and like it's being pulled back because you're putting so much of the gain staging upfront on the flip side if your gayness set really really low on every channel and your mains air cranked like it plus eight because you're not getting enough signal, then your mix is going to start to sound distorted or like really to open and not cohesive it kind of depends on the console you want your gain staging to be very clear at each stage along the way and so if you think about following through the game staging, you start with the pre amp the prion pads gain, then there's the inserts, which are plug ins or compressors, and then there's the, which is gained, staging certain parts of the frequencies, and then it's being sent to the output fader, and that fader should be around unity. You shouldn't have your output favors for any instruments being it, plus twelve for anyone specific reason. If there's like a point in the song, you want to really bring something up and then bring it back, that makes sense. But if you're having to ride your vocal fader up two plus twelve, that means you've not done a good job of gain staging because you're trying to push too much out of one fader, it should be around unity, and you should use immunity up two plus twelve, as on ly musical decisions that air time based on the you back off from later, not because the mix is not hot enough to get you that to push the vocals that hard after the main fader, you've got your groups and your group compressions, so all the drums are being fed into another fainter, and another compressor that adding more layers of gain. And then finally, venture vcs, which are adding overall gain to the entire system, and then their final one is your master game, so you've got all these points along the way that you can add gain to anyone signal you have to keep it sort of in order and it takes practice to sort of get to that point, so we're going to start building this right here we'll start with drums and I just sort of walk through how will set up setting up gain staging so start with kick I'll bring the master up here I got the game set there um begins pretty good with a little bit hot we're kind of getting towards the top so it's okay to drive the pre amps taught sometimes especially some of these avid consoles and a lot of the mightiest stuff. If you drive the pre actually hard, you get kind of a rich natural saturation from those those pre amps. These are super clear as much as like the minus consuls, but you still get some of that. So if you look, I've got the gate here too, and the gate is gonna be affected by the game. So let's, listen to that a little bit and I, typically with gating with kicks tried to keep the attack really low, so I'm not really fast, so I'm not losing any of the transients and then keep the release long enough to let the note open, but not long enough to hear bleed from the rest the kit and currently I have this compressor up I'm not going to use that compressor for this I'm actually in a patch in smack compressor and then I can access that just right here and you see already the game's looking pretty good the fader zehr unity for this piece and I'm already getting three devi of gain reduction so that's a really good sign maybe want to go up to four five but not much more than that reduce the attack here just a little bit of output gain now keep in mind my meters over here are actually going to show the preempt and the insert because thie insert comes after the preempt this is not the input it's the input plus the print of the inserts so it's not peaking right now but it shows that it did peek recently so I will just want to keep be careful keep that where it's at on and not get too much louder um finally I'm gonna look at my um bus compressor here for drums I want this just to be touching with kick not much and you can see I'm already getting pretty hot from right around zero d b with my output meter on that game on that group so that's looking pretty good lets go back um maybe want to back off the plug in just a little bit yeah that's good um let's go to snare um actually before we go to sarah way pulled up a little bit of cuba will keep going with this I'm gonna get a little definition out of a peak of like five k here um you really have to understand the cue in your console to know what you're comfortable with I have noticed that with the venue basic you khun really crank the in one direction and still not get a lot of return out of it so I'm not afraid that I'm looking at like negative ten dbs gain reduction here on at one hundred fifty hurts that's like on some councils that would be shocking but it's not really that shocking for me with this council because I know I can crank the cues um and get that kind of gain out of it again might just back off a little bit on the game here okay let's move to snare again starting with gain turn off the compressor go and bring up the other smack loathe groups you can hear the gate is slipping a little bit so it needs to be a little higher I'll put kicking stare together um snare bottom I usually don't do much with maybe a high pass it hi hat gonna pan that left a limit the overheads wages and the same thing with my tom mike's I'm using probably just going to use on board gates I'm from toms um let's move on the bass guitar so, for base, I'm gonna turn off the compressor and use a different compressor used fairchild. Wait a little bit of bass, mike, wait, I think you're ready for guitars. Turn up the gain a little bit, so it gets more level. Just barely touched. Guitarist is already pretty compressed way things are right is a little muddy. Somebody cut out some of the low meds.

Class Description

Mixing Live Sound can be one of the most daunting tasks for any engineer. In this class, Zach Varnell will walk you through the entire live sound production workflow, from loading in a PA and rigging and flying speakers to soundcheck and mixing on the fly.

In this class, you will get to see an entire day of load-in from Seattle's Capitol Hill Block Party along with a complete breakdown of a live sound production workflow and interviews with some of the country's top touring live sound engineers. 

You will learn:

  • Scaleable components of a live sound PA
  • Power distribution and management
  • Tuning speakers with a SMART system and FFT analysis
  • Mic Placement and tips for an effective soundcheck
  • Mixing front of house
  • Mixing for stage monitors and in-ears

We'll also walk through a live mix setup and interview with two touring engineers from their FOH mix position: Adam Jackson and Andy Frost (FOH and Monitor engineers for Christina Perri) and Shane Bardiau (Twenty One Pilots).

Whether you are a working live sound engineer and just want to brush up on some core concepts or you are a new engineer looking to get into live sound production, this is the place to learn all about live sound in one location.


user ee67bf

A very good overview of live sound presented by a professional sound technician. Good supporting video of a real event that Zach worked. He explained everything very well and I enjoyed the split screen views of his console work. Good job.

Navinder Gill

Zach has been Amazing ! He made it so simple to glide through the entire course ... Learnt Quite a bit .. Specially when I have an Avid Sc48 Board to work with.. Cheers !


Was fortunate to watch this live. Zach clearly is a master of his craft. I am a home studio drummer but learned allot about mixing and sound. Thank you Creative Live and Zach Varnell.