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Cheap Advice On Live Sound
48 Tips To Make Your Band Sound Better
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Check Your Mixes In Headphones

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When we mix a song, there are basically two ways to hear what we are doing as we tweak our faders and spin our knobs: monitor speakers, or headphones. Although each has its advantages and disadvantages, there is general agreement that your mixes will come out better if your listening is done through a pair of high-quality monitor speakers in a sonically appropriate room.

Monitor speakers are designed to give a fair, “colorless” reproduction of your mixes. Over time, and with the use of techniques like listening to CDs you know well through your monitor speakers for reference and EQing the signal the speakers receive from the recorder or DAW to match your room, you will develop a sense of exactly how your mix needs to sound in the mixing studio in order to sound great in a car or a living room, or through an iPod with earbuds.

Having said this, there are reasons to mix using headphones, such as not being able to afford proper monitor speakers or needing to mix late at night when others are asleep. And naturally, you will check each candidate mix by playing it in your car and living room (and through your iPod) to see what final tweaks may be needed anyway. The final evaluation is made through “real world” sound systems, not studio monitors or studio headphones.

These days, with the popularity of portable mp3 players soaring, an awful lot of listening goes on in headphones (or lo-fi earbuds). Given this, you can make the case that it could be more appropriate to use headphones if you are mixing a song that you know will be heard mostly in headphones.

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Cover up your studio stuff!

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One of the biggest threats to your studio equipment, and your instruments, comes from a humble source: good old-fashioned dust. This invisible menace can make your faders fickle and your knobs noisy with the passage of time. It’s a miracle substance that can work its way into the tiniest imaginable crevices, borne on unseen currents of air, attacking your gear day by day!

Do you see those spaces between the keys of your keyboard? And the spaces around the fader shafts of your mixer? To a piece of dust, these are huge portals to the inner workings of your equipment. The consequences of an infiltration can be major. How are you going to turn that guitar up for a lead part during a mixdown if the fader for that channel makes a loud SCRZCHCH noise as you move it?

A related problem that you may or may not have at your place is animal hair, blobs of fur that fairly leap off of Fluffy or Fido and make a beeline for your mixer controls. And please don’t tell me you let your pet sleep on your gear just because it’s warm! Pets and electronics make a bad combination. I once saw the inside of a VCR I owned whose ventilation fan had sucked in enough cat hair to make a whole ‘nother kitten. It wasn’t pretty. (And the VCR never worked again.)

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