Tips for Customizing a Mix for Live Performance

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Tips for Customizing a Mix for Live Performance


Tips for Customizing a Mix for Live Performance

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A video on how you can customize your mix to be more effective for a live show.

Transcript excerpt:

Hey, folks. Matthew Weiss here —,

Today’s lesson is going to be about customizing a mix to be used for performance playback, as opposed to casual listening playback, and this is a record where the original mix, which was done by the producer, is fantastic for listening purposes. It’s unpredictable, it’s got a cool texture, it’s got a lot of vibe to it.

But, because of technical limitation in the performance playback arena, I needed to go in and do a variation on that mix to correct for a few technical things. The technical and the creative side are something that we always have to balance when we’re mixing, and sometimes they simply don’t come to pass, and you need to approach a record for performance purposes in a different way, and I’m going to show you how I did that.

So, let’s listen to this record a little bit.

[song plays]

So, the goals for the performance mix are to make sure that the audience is continually excited by not just the rapper’s performance, in this case, my friend and colleague and client, Random aka Mega Ran, not just excited by his performance, but engaged by the musicality of the production as well.

So, let’s talk about the first side of things. Dynamic.

If everything is at the same level, you don’t give the record any place to go. You don’t take the audience on a journey. So, it’s important to have variation in the dynamics of the song. Here is an example of that.

[song plays]

The opening intro sample, which plays throughout the record, is significantly lower in my mix here by about 4.5 dB, than it is when the actual drop hits.

What I want is for the audience to get used to hearing the sample playing back at a certain level, which is going to be fairly lower than where the actual beat is going to be once it kicks in.
Once that drop hits, then everything comes up, and it sounds like this big climactic moment. That’s where the chorus kicks off. It excites the audience. It’s going to give the audience somewhere to go. It’s going to wake them up and give them a little kick in the ass.

The way I’m doing that is two-fold. First off, the sample is just coming up in general by about 4.5 dB, but that specific downbeat is coming up by a lot. It’s coming up by 6 dB, and that’s being mirrored by the reinforcement from the orchestra percussion coming up, this 808 kick drum coming into play for the first time, and also the drop that goes on right in front of it. There’s also volume rides that I’m doing on the actual intro where certain parts of the musical phrases come up, and then they start to come back down, it finally drops out and then, boom, it kicks in, and it’s exciting to the listener’s ear.

Likewise, not only do we need that big dynamic, but we also need that inside dynamic. So, all of these 808s that are hitting, they’re all hitting at slightly different levels, and I’m doing manual rides on them, so that first hit is maybe 2-3 dB louder than some of these inside hits, and then little accent ones will come up a dB or two because the 808 is a very compressed signal, little differences in volume are pretty significant, and just as a side-note, with the 808, it was just – it’s really hard to get the exact pitch of an 808 right on, and this 808 was ever so slightly, slightly, sharp. I’m talking about, like, an eighth tone sharp, which is super subtle. So, I also pitch shifted the 808 to blend with the tonality of the record as well a little bit.

That’s an aside. So, on the subject of dynamic, one of the things that’s really exciting in a playback environment is speaker excursion.

Speaker excursion is the actual physical force of the speaker moving out. It’s not total amplitude, it’s total change in amplitude over a short duration of time. Now, in a casual listening environment, it’s fairly easy to fake a strong amount of dynamic in that regard. But, in a club playback system, you’re oftentimes being limited by a limiter in front of the amp. It’s put there because people don’t want DJs blowing out the speakers, which is totally understandable, but it means that when you’re creating a performance mix, you actually have to create a more dynamic mix than what you might necessarily do for casual playback.

So, my goal isn’t to have the loudest playback in the world. Rather, I want to have strong, defined transients, and the snare for example, I’m using a transient designer and doing a 7 dB dynamic push on the lower range of the snare.


About Pro Audio Files

Tutorials on mixing, mastering and producing music in Pro Tools with plugins from Waves, FabFilter, SoundToys, Softube, Sonnox, PSP, Slate Digital and more. Learn how to mix using EQ, compression and effects like reverb, delay, saturation and distortion on vocals, drums, guitar, bass and more.

Tips for Customizing a Mix for Live Performance

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