Archives For Taking It Apart

Part 1 of 8 in the series Taking It Apart

Louise listens

Mixing starts with listening! Good listening technique can improve the way we perceive a mix. Any audio sources can be broken down into the smaller sounds it’s comprised of. When we describe these “building block sounds” we create a language for critical listening, which is a foundational exercise for anybody who mixes audio.

You can think of critical listening as two phases:  Continue Reading…

Part 2 of 8 in the series Taking It Apart

Kick this one

We’re kicking off our “Taking It Apart” series with the kick drum! Poetic, I know. And since it’s often channel #1 on the board, it’s makes for an easy starting point.

Three parts to the sound of a kick drum, as I hear it, are the “thud”, the “ring”, and the “attack”. In fact, these three sounds are found in the sonic palette of every drum! Let’s take a look at them one-by-one.

Continue Reading…

Part 3 of 8 in the series Taking It Apart

snare on Meeting House Oakville stage

The first time a snare drum really stood out to me was “Under the Table and Dreaming“, the album that put Dave Matthews Band on the map. It’s a 1990s classic full of rich instrumentation, funky acoustic guitar parts … and drums! Drummers were drooling over everything Carter Beauford hit, and even a total beginner guitarist like me got caught up in that ominous “crack” on two and four that defined the intro to “Ants Marching”.

When it comes to drums I believe many sound techs fall for the kick first, but grow to love the snare the most. Continue Reading…

Part 4 of 8 in the series Taking It Apart

Bass

The bass guitar is glue that holds the band together.

I have no idea what this analogy means. I’ve heard it said about bass – and almost everything else on stage – and I cringe every time I hear it! But, I shouldn’t complain without an alternative, so I’ll offer my own view of how the bass functions in pop/rock music: Continue Reading…

Part 5 of 8 in the series Taking It Apart

Les Paul blur

Since the middle of the 20th century, the guitar has been one of the most popular instruments in the world, and it’s not hard to see why! It’s relatively easy to learn, it’s not too expensive, and it can find a home in just about any musical genre. One important reason behind the guitar’s popularity is that it excels not only at playing chords but also at single-note expression.

What’s so special about that? Continue Reading…

Part 6 of 8 in the series Taking It Apart

Acoustic-closeup

Sonically speaking, acoustic guitars have a bit of a split personality – a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. There’s the way it sounds, and then there’s the way it sounds plugged in.

The rich, full bodied tone emanating from a quality guitar often bears no resemblance to the thin, choked sound that flows out of its electronic connection. It’s impractical to mic an acoustic guitar with a drummer ten feet away, so we plug it in! With mixed results. And sometimes, working with an acoustic guitar ends up being more of a salvage operation than a musical experience! Continue Reading…

Taking it Apart: Piano

Jared Taylor —  January 14, 2013 — 2 Comments
Part 7 of 8 in the series Taking It Apart

Piano-Kid

The piano is a big instrument! In terms of frequency range, its 88 keys start lower than a 5-string bass and top out nearly two octaves higher than the highest note on an electric guitar! It truly is an instrument built to fill a room!

A pianist often plays more than one part and is responsible for balancing them so, in some ways, a pianist has to mix their own instrument. This approach works splendidly when the piano is unaccompanied, but doesn’t always hit the mark in a rock band. There, the piano’s wide range can get in the way of other instruments. A pianist skilled at playing in a group navigates this by playing in specific frequency ranges, finding the right spot for the piano to shine amidst the other instruments. Continue Reading…

Taking it Apart: the Voice

Jared Taylor —  January 22, 2013 — 4 Comments
Part 8 of 8 in the series Taking It Apart

Nathan_Scott

If our job is to lead people in singing, then the voice is the most important source in the mix. We’ll suffer through mediocre floor tom tuning or a few missed beats in a clarinet solo, but if the vocals don’t sound right it’s game over.

Our ears and our brains are engineered for understanding spoken words, particularly consonants which are spoken at half the volume of vowels. In the consonant range we’re able to detect sounds 100 times quieter than other sounds and our sensitivity to pitch is 10 times more precise. This is why we have a strong negative reaction to a flat vocal but can barely tell if a bass guitar has been tuned in the last year.

We also know how voices should sound because we listen to them for 12 hours a day! Most of your friends can’t tell if the acoustic guitar was a little too bright but they absolutely know if they can’t understand the words. And they’re right! In this instance, as a sound person, you really are mixing in a room full of experts! And, because you need to be a chief expert among experts, I’m going to share with you some of what I’ve learned about the voice. Continue Reading…