Sounds OK in the Cans

Summer is festival season and these fun events are separated by dull journeys by rail and plane. Most of these journeys for me provide a rare opportunity to sit, relatively undisturbed, and work on the various on-going mix projects I have. Now as you can imagine a train is not an ideal environment to mix music, unless of course you live in one of the countries that have a modern efficient rail network. I live on the crossroads of the East Coast mainline (tolerable noise) and Trans Pennine Rail (waste of time). So the two-hour journey to Heathrow is usually spent with my headphones on, with the laptop running Logic, assembling mixes.
A lot of this kind of sound engineering is actually repetitive grunt work. I laboriously go through the tracks cleaning up the bits in between. The coughs and splutters on the vocals, the spill on the tom channels etc. For most of this I just need to be able to hear something. I’m not looking for finesse or audiophile quality. I usually use my Sennheiser HD25’s, an excellent product I must say. I did try using some very nice Bose ‘in-ears’. The way they cancel out the ambient noise is brilliant, on flights a god send, but on a train? Well anyone who has tried it, well great, until you are passed by another train, or go through a tunnel. The sudden change of air pressure sounds like a gun going off in your head!
Anyway, I can get a surprising amount of mixing done like this, but I have to always remember the limitations. Working on whole mixes I can usually get the balance close but any EQ I do is always wildly exaggerated. When returned to the cold light of day they can sound harsh in the extreme. The combination of the headphones sound, the constant air pressure changes and ever-present noise will mess you up. Tomorrow I am off to the studio to check over this weekend’s mixes. They won’t be right yet, but I will have broken the back of the work, and kept myself entertained on another tedious journey.

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Getting a Foot in the Door

How to Make Your Way in the Live Sound Industry
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