Do What Needs to Be Done

I shouldn’t have to do so much.

What do you mean? Do so much of what?

I shouldn’t have to EQ this so much?

I hear this kind of stuff from engineers sometimes, and it’s a myth. Who said there was a limit on what you should or shouldn’t need to do?

If it sounds good. It’s good.

That’s all that matters.

Nobody’s gonna come up and check your work afterwards. Nobody’s going to walk up and say, “Gee, I thought your drums sounded great BUT… really had too much EQ boosted on the top end.” The only people who do that sort of thing are other engineers.

I’ve done this myself, but I’ve also listened to things with my eyes that looked like utter insanity that sounded great to my ears. Seeing the madness and hearing amazing things helped me get over the right way of doing things.

When I stopped worrying about what I was doing and whether it looked like I was doing too much or too little and just focused on what was coming out of the speakers, mixing got easier for me and my mixes got better.

Now, that said, there are pro’s and con’s to doing a lot of processing to stuff. In my experience, some things may sound better or more natural with less processing. There is a price when we start turning knobs. I still believe that having a great source coming in is extremely important so having to do a lot of work to something at the console might be a sign that a source needs fixin’ first.

But that’s not always the case.

Consider vocals.

It is quite common for me to pull a lot of low-mids out of a live vocal mic. It doesn’t always happen, but when it does I don’t get worried because the vocal sounds great when I do it.

Would that vocal sound better if I didn’t have to EQ it at all?

I don’t know, and in some ways I don’t care.

Live sound and often mixing in general is often a series of compromises. You might be doing something that is a step back, but sometimes you take that one step back to go ten steps forward.

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For example, I like vocalists to be right on top of the mic when I’m mixing live sound to the point where female vocalists leave lipstick on the capsule. It increases the proximity effect of the mic and often makes the vocal muddy which is a step back. However, it gives me more vocal relative to everything else that’s happening on stage which let’s me do things that help the vocal like employing adequate amounts of compression and necessary EQ to get the clarity and emotion out of what is being sung. In the end, the vocal is better from me doing these things.

If you feel like you have to do a lot to something to make it work, it’s not a bad idea to go check the source, again. But if the source is good, just do what needs to be done. If it sounds good, it’s good.

David Stagl

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Do What Needs to Be Done