Monday, January 28, 2008

Listen to the mix

Musicianship requires a great many skills, and listening is no exception.

When playing in a band, duo, or ensemble, it's especially important. Not only are you listening
to yourself, but you should be listening to the band as a whole.

During my short time as a sound engineer, I enjoyed listening to the band I was mixing, and creating the best possible sound for them. (Well, sometimes the bands were terrible, and I used them to build up my sonic endurance!) I could change different aspects of the sound by altering the timbre of various instruments. My favorite area of concentration was the kick drum. This small piece of the entity was vital for building a killer mix. (If it rearranged the front row's internal organs, it was considered adequate.)

My mixing lead to a gig with a band that I engineered for. (Perhaps they just wanted me out from behind the console!) I stumbled upon the following:

Listening to how your part relates to the music/band as a whole is not only vital, it's fun.
Pretend stepping out in front of the stage, and listening with the critical ear of the sound man.
What does the mix need? While you can't control the kick drum if you're playing guitar, you actually have more control over the mix than the engineer. You can change volume, timbre, and what you're playing! If you think the mix is too busy - step back and let it breathe. (It takes a selfless musician to do this, but it's worth it. Plus, it gives you a break!) Perhaps the drums and vocals aren't lining up quite right. Find a way to bridge the groove and melody.

It's the change from being a robot, a human sampler, to a team player and viable, dynamic musician.

You'll like it. It's fun.

See ya in two,

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