I’ve mixed in a TON of small rooms. For many years, that’s how I was building my skills. And for anyone who is my age or older, we can remember a time when speaker systems in most small clubs were bulkier, more cumbersome, and didn’t necessarily sound all that great.
Of course, many speaker systems in use right now can sound fairly bad, too. BUT, the technology has come along to get some pretty decent sounding gear in a compact and affordable package. And that’s great for live music!
Because, let’s face it - there usually isn’t a budget for high-end audio systems in small venues. And that’s just the nature of the business. So, the availability of good quality, less expensive speakers goes a long way in helping those venues achieve a good result without breaking the bank.
However, even with a good speaker system, there are still some concerns with mixing in small spaces. An important one is how stage volume affects what we put in the mix. After all, if an amplifier is really loud on stage, the most natural reaction in to just pull the fader all the way down.
So, if you listen to a recording of the stereo mix that is feeding the main speakers, you’ll probably hear this. It might be really heavy with the kick drum, vocals, and direct instruments, but not have things like electric guitar. The actual guitar amp could be plenty loud already.
That’s not necessarily a big issue, but there are a couple points I’d like to bring up. First of all, if you need to make a recording of the show in a small venue, it can be really effective to use an Aux Send. Just use Aux Pre, make sure your Gains are well balanced from the start, and you can easily build a record mix on an Aux.
And second, I feel like it’s helpful to still mix everything into the Mains, no matter what size room you’re in. A guitar amp is ultimately going to be somewhat directional, and the Mains will almost always cover some part of the room that the amp doesn’t. So, I’ll still sneak it into the Left-Right Mix for coverage, just probably with a darker EQ than usual.