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Mix Engineering: A lost art? May 14, 2008

Posted by Damon Sink in : Digital home recording studios, Live Sound, Mixing, Reviews , trackback

Just got finished watching a special guest return performance by Fantasia on American Idol. The most entertaining moment was watching Simon Cowell’s reaction: utter, unadulterated disbelief! I had to agree. It was pretty much a train wreck.

But the most amazingly amateurish performance on display was not behind a microphone, it was apparently behind a mixing board. The mix for live broadcast was stunningly bad. The (obviously pre-recorded) background singers were WAY out in front. The rapper (appearing Romeo-style from the set balcony) was barely audible as well.

One possible explanation could be that the producers insisted on a lousy mix to keep us from hearing more prominently an irretrievably unpleasant performance in too excruciating detail–but I doubt it. More likely that it was just an incompetent mix. In general, I would have to say that the level of musicianship in the live band (totally smokin’) on American Idol this season has definitely exceeded the evident expertise of the audio and video production. Apparently, this sort of thing has become a lost art.

If you are an aspiring audio or mix engineer, take heed: You need to develop your ears at the same time as you develop your “knob twirlers.” Engineering expertise without musicianship = bad mixes that 100 million people get to hear on live tv.

Dude. That’s what I’m sayin’




1. Russ - May 22, 2008

I’ll be honest, that’s a job I would NOT want.

What sounds good recorded doesn’t always sound good live and the inverse is also true. Mixing for broadcast is basically sandwiching the two together. Forget that noise, man!

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