Gain Managing A Full Mix
Gain Managing A Full Mix
Gain managing a mix is different than setting gain structure through a single channel path. With a single channel you have only one signal to deal with and you are concerned with its level relative to the channel's amplifiers ' maximum level. When you are doing a mix however, what really matters is the level of one channel relative to other channels. It is most important that the level of say the vocalist be correctly balanced with those of the background harmonies or the ryhthm guitar. When you are mixing you are paying close attention to the interaction of all the individual channels. The idea is to have your finished mix be well balanced and at the same time as loud as it can be without overload distortion. It's not that easy to accomplish.
Now, let's assume that not only is your mix a little too hot, the music track is just a little too loud for the vocal. The problem with this mix is that you set up each channel for best gain structure relative to the mixer electronics and not relative to each other. So let's try to fix it. We will first set up the music track for best level as before but set the vocal track relative to the music.
1) Leave the music (channel 2) alone, but lower the vocal track (channel 1).
To do this, lower the channel GAIN control to the off position (fully counter-clockwise).
2) Slowly raise the channel 1 level until it sounds balanced with the channel 2 signal.
3) Write down the maximum level on the meters.
A reminder, the top meters read peak level and the lower one reads VU level of whatever is patched into it. In your case the signals on the left and right mix busses are identical so you can read either pair of meters.
Peak Meter: (example) +3 dBfs
VU Meter: (example) -1 VU
Well this won't do either. True you have a good balance between the two channels, but the overall mix level is off the meters and way too loud. Why did this happen? You need to think about the power of the entire band relative to the power of one singer. Can you sing louder than a band? In order to allow the singer to be balanced with the music, the voice track must be way higher in level so its power can compete with the music track. You started with the music track way up, so when it came time to match the vocal power to it, the level would have to be so high that you would overload the mix buss. This is bad gain management.
The thing to do is to plan ahead. You know that the music track's power is greater than the vocal track and that the vocal track can only go so high before overload. Armed with this information, you should set the music track at some level lower than max (on the meters) and then, without looking at the meters, raise the vocal track until the blend is where you want it, and then look at the meters. You are attempting to have your mix be both musically well mixed and technically correct (close to max but not overloaded). This is not an easy thing to do, but with practice you will get it.
4) Mute channel 1 and lower the channel 2 GAIN until the VU meter averages between -6 and -9 VU.
5) Un-mute channel 1 and adjust it (up or down) so that it sits well in the mix with channel 2 now set at a lower level.
6) Write down the maximum level on the meters.
Peak Meter: (example) 0 dBfs
VU Meter: (example) -3 VU
That's a lot better. Maybe not perfect but you get the idea. Basically the approach is to build a mix at levels that anticipate the addition of more signals, until you have added that last element and you are at maximum level for your system.
7) Try doing a few more mixes.
Start your music minus mix at different levels to get a feel for the relationship between the band and the soloist.
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