The previous Live Sound Tips have been very basic, and that’s an important place to start. However I’d like to share more of an “intermediate” tip today, inspired by this post on Izotope – 5 Songs That Are Brilliantly Mixed and Mastered. Today’s trick is – tuning the system (sometimes referred to as ‘tuning the room’).
Most systems other than very basic “speakers on poles” will have a Graphic EQ for Front-of-House. Once you’ve eliminated problem frequencies, you can use a Graphic EQ to make the system sound the way you’d like it to. But what are you aiming for? And how is that achieved? The best answer is to take songs that you know really, really well – and play them through the PA. Walk around the room, see if there’s anything jumping out that usually doesn’t sound that way, or anything missing in the track.
The song choice is up to – as long as it’s high quality, well produced and preferably low distortion.(The Beatles, for example, won’t work – the vocal only comes out of one speaker and the bass is covered in tape saturation!)
A very popular choice is anything by Steely Dan – or their singer Donald Fagen. So make yourself a playlist (not with mp3s!), listen to it on every set of headphones or speakers you own, and learn how it sounds on all of them. Your ears will thank you, and hopefully – so will the clients you’re mixing for!