Studio Mixing vs. Live Mixing – What Makes Them Different?
For sure, you have heard a lot of things about music mixing in a recording studio setting. However, have you ever wondered about music mixing in a live setting?
While there are audio engineers who love to cozy up inside a studio, there are those who prefer to go out from time to time. All good music venues, small or big alike, requires someone responsive, passionate, and knowledgeable behind a mixing board. Most skills learned when mixing in a studio can be transferred to live mixing. But still, living mixing comes with several unique challenges which cannot be encountered within a studio setting. What differences do studio mixing and live mixing have then?
Pressure and Time
The first and probably the most evident difference between studio mixing and live mixing is time. Studios might charge per hour but lots of prep work could be finished before time begins. There is no actual pressure inside a studio to hook up gear, check tables, check levels, warm up amplifiers, and others. These things can all be resolved and tested with no looming show time. Check out this home recording studio equipment list fo all the items you may need.
Workstation and Equipment
Time might not be in the live sound engineer’s favor but it doesn’t need to be the case with gear. Compared to large studio setups, it is typical for live mixing boards to be more simplified. You primarily want the artist or band to sound amazing live. You are not bothered by the recording. It means lesser processing power and fewer faders for every channel. Live audio engineers can choose between analog and digital mixing boards as well.
Room and Acoustics
Concert venues require lots of space to pack in numerous sweaty bodies if possible. Even the small venues clear space for the fans to stand. This kind of open space lends itself to unique acoustic possibilities and challenges. The vibrations bounce off the ceiling and walls, which open up the sound in ways that cannot be captured in the studio with good soundproofing. In addition to that, a room would sound one way before the place is filled with people and once it is packed. Basically, living mixing requires accounting for this, tamping down the bad, amplifying the good, and making some adjustments based on the variables.
It means that EQ levels and gain require serious adjusting. Kick drum should be both felt and heard. Bass cannot be overshadowed through the ringing electric guitars. Vocals require clarity, yet must not pierce the ear. The cymbals will loudly ring, so everything else has to match and blend perfectly. Depending on where you are standing, some things could sound different. Sending proper ix through the monitors will let you resolve this, yet cannot always account for all things.
You should also take note that each room varies in material, shape, size, and capacity. If you work in a venue, you may learn the room’s idiosyncrasies. However, live mixers who travel have to adapt to every venue they are put in.
The Bottom Line
In terms of studio mixing vs live mixing, the primary principle remains constant. It is to make the music always sound good. The huge differences have something to do with the context. The time constraints, environment, human error, and equipment are all in play during live performances. Some cannot handle the pressure, others actually love it. Regardless, there is anything better than seeing a live band and hearing a good mix.