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What are the best ways in getting a good gain structure in a live concert mix?

Gain controls, channel faders, master output faders – how do you balance them all for best results?

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Question from an Audio Masterclass student; "What are the best ways of getting a good gain structure in a live concert mix?"

Here is a very quick 'get you started' guide for the sound check...

In a conventional mixing console, you can change the levels with the gain controls, channel faders and master faders.

The gain control settings must be optimized for the signals coming in. Starting with an important instrument, press the PFL button for that channel and observe the meters, which will be internally switched to that channel. You need to see a good healthy reading on the meters, with no red lights. Set whatever amount of gain you need to achieve this. It's not a bad idea to back off around 6 decibels or so - musicians often play louder during performance than during the sound check.

Release the PFL button and raise the channel fader to 0 dB (its 'neutral' position). Raise the master faders so that you hear something close to the level you require. Bring the channel fader back down to its fully off position and repeat for the other instruments. You may need to adjust the master faders a little as you progress.

When you have set the gains for all of the instruments, you can start to mix your sound. Individual instruments are controlled by the channel faders; the overall level is controlled by the master faders.

You may find that the faders for some less important instruments are inconveniently low in position and hard to adjust precisely. For these, you can lower the gain by 10 or 20 dB so the fader is in a higher and more easily manageable position.

That's the quick version, but it's enough to get you going.

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By David Mellor Thursday November 30, 2006
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