MIXING EURO – POP MUSIC
PART 1: THIS IS NOT ROCK ‘N ROLL
I would like to show how mixing Euro-Pop music differs from
mixing regular rock n’ roll. In my experience the following methods
apply to European Pop-Rock & Caberet shows.
First of all the stage layout; This will be in three layers: drums
& backline at the back, rest of band mid-stage, main attraction
right up front. The band may be local, but the main attraction will
possibly be 2 or 3 overseas singers and probably their musical
director with accordion or keyboard.
As expected main vocal is most important; but for the whole band. I
usually use a pair of wedges, set at the front corners of the stage
facing in almost side ways. Nowhere near the singer (who will not
stay in the one place anyway) but this allows for a high level of
main vocal volume across the whole stage.
Next priority is the M. D.’s instrument, musically this will drive
the band. In a 2 send foldback situation I would use a pair of
sidefills set mid-stage and not bother with a drumfill.
Now to mic up the rest of the band. Chances are everyone in the
band sings and my first compromise with a 16-ch PA is to use less
mics on the drums.
My first trick is to use a Y-lead with the tom mics, enabling me to
be able to squeeze the drum kit into 3 channels. (Kick, Hats, Toms)
The sound of drums within the Euro-Pop genre is not as predominate
as in contemporary rock n’ roll. Listen to some early Beatles or
Rolling Stones for an example. Snare & Hi-hat crisp and thin, Kick
drum and toms should thud, not thump, reduce mids but don’t add
tops. Spill from the snare into the tom mics should provide enough
reverb on the snare.
Bass guitar should also remain relatively dull. If you try to
achieve definition with a bright, stringy sound it will only crowd
the mix. Tonally the bass and kick should sit underneath the rest
of the band.
The Mandolin and Accordion in East European music are the
equivalent of Lead Guitar. Mandolin is easy. Generally it will be
set up with a decent pick-up plugged into a guitar amp. Mic the amp
(or if using a D.I. take a line output from the amp) so that you
get any and all effects that the player may use. Boost the mandolin
channel at 4kHz and 10kHz so that it cuts through the mix without
needing excessive volume.
Accordion will require some patience on your part. Usually this
instrument will be entirely acoustic and, in addition, the band
will probably want a massive amount of it in foldback. Give the
accordion some presence with a slight boost around 2 to 4kHz on the
right-hand (melody) mic. If the accordion player is one of the band
members you probably won’t need a left hand mic as the bass line
will be taken care of by keyboard or bass guitar. However, if he or
she is one of the stars, then definitely consider a second mic for
the left-hand bass. The left-hand side is the end that moves in and
out. Tricky. Try putting the mic in front so it picks up the sound
from the bellows of the accordion. Add definition to the bass sound
with a slight mid-range boost at about 700Hz.
Electric guitar is mostly secondary compared to the mandolin or
accordion, so keep it low in the mix except for the occasional
solo. Tonally it should sit in the mix below the mandolin but above
the accordion and vocal. If there is one keyboard player I
generally try for a single line out of his/her set-up. It’s a
pretty safe bet that any lead or solo work will involve a louder
patch and this part of the mix will generally take care of itself.
If you have two keyboard players on stage, it is your lucky day.
The one closer to the front of stage has replaced the acoustic
problem of piano accordion. Use 2 D.I. boxes for a stereo sound as
this keyboard should dominate the band mix most of the time.
MIXING EURO – POP MUSIC, PART 2:
REVERBERANT DELAY, A SPACIOUS VOCAL
Above I discussed how I mix the caberet sound that is Euro-Pop.
And now finally, the all important vocal:
It has to be larger than life and very loud.
This is what I call Caberet; Volume-wise the band sits lower than the
Step one as described earlier is to tune the PA for
maximum vocal level.
Step two is eq to suit the voice, either 2kHz presence for male vocal
or 1kHz to boost the chest voice of a female vocal.
Thirdly, a huge spacious effect.
My favourite is what I call Reverberant Delay. This is not delayed
reverb but an audible delay that also feeds back into your reverb.
To achieve this, the delay must return in a channel rather than an
auxiliary input. This is so eq and reverb can be applied to it,
modifying it to a realistic but huge echo effect. Roll off the tops
of the delay with a 3dB cut to 4kHz and a 6dB cut to 10kHz, dial up
the reverb send on the delay channel to about 5, use a delay of
anything between 260 to 340 ms with about 30% feedback (2 or 3
audible repeats). On your reverb machine, choose a large hall type
reverb of about 2 seconds with no pre-delay. This is fine for a
contained drum and accordion reverb and perfect to transform the
delay into a cathedral type echo that seems to hang in the air well
behind the vocals.