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Sound - Taking out the Guesswork, Sounding Strong.

A few weeks ago, I was asked to set take the guesswork out of live sound. He had some nice equipment but wasn’t sure how to get the best, strong sounds, from it. I showed him some basic principles and how to start any live sound setup.

The Mixer.

Mixers are really good for giving you a working mix when you are practicing. So here are some tips to get the best out of your mixer.

  1. Always start with every volume set to zero. Always have every E.Q. knob set to 12 o’clock (straight up). By doing this there are no chances of stray sounds ending up in your mix that are not of your doing.

  2. Use the stereo out for you speakers and if you are recording choose an auxiliary out for it. The role of live sound and recording are different and need to be treated differently. Live sound is about getting a good blend of the music for the listener. Recording is about getting the best record level to give the clearest and most accurate recording.

  3. Try to bring up the volumes evenly. There is a volume in, the channel fader and the stereo fader. If you have a lot of volume on the volume in it will distort as soon as you bring the other volumes up. I always set all the volumes to 50% and then adjust them evenly.

  4. A lot of mixers come with basic effects that you can add to the mix. Be careful adding reverb if you are in a small space. The space already has a natural reverb and you adding a different one can cause the whole mix to sound unnatural. Try the mix without any effects and then only add if needed. You probably won’t.

  5. E. Q’s are badly used by most people. Try to get the best sound out of your outboard gear and then you won’t need the E.Q. knobs at all. Remember that E. Q’s are mini volume knobs that turn up the selected frequencies. I have found that it is more beneficial to turn down the offending frequencies than turning up the ones I like. Turning up any volume adds more noise but turning down ones makes the mix clearer.

Outboard Equipment.

  1. Get the best and clearest sound from your outboard gear before you get to the mixer. We had a problem with noise whenever he turned the guitar up and found that one of the leads to the guitar amp was noisy. Changing it for another removed the noise.

  2. Microphones and speakers can create a loop if they are not set up correctly. If the microphones are pointing at the speakers, then the sound coming out of the speakers is picked up by the microphones. It then builds and builds until you get the, painful, squealing sound.

  3. The best solution in a small space is to have the amps on the floor facing upwards. The microphones at head height facing slightly downwards and away from the amps. Lastly the speakers set above head height and again away from the microphones.


Always play the room when you practice. Only have everything as loud as it needs to be to hear everything. If something is too loud then turn it down. Do not turn everything up as this will become a spiral that will result in no-one hearing anything and practice becomes a waste of time.

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