Ah, I do love a challenge!

Okay Steve, you’ve thrown down the gauntlet, let the challenge begin LOL!

Under Backing Track Articles you say MP3 is the best format for live. So how do you get round venues,loads of people,carpet. Large hall,no people no carpet and so on.Once you’ve mixed down that’s it you have no control,you can’t change anything.I would love to go out with just an MP3 player.If you can prove that MP3 is better than MIDI with total control over bass,drums,keyboards I’ll change now.

Hi Steve

Different size venues with different acoustics and varying numbers of audience members only cause global changes to your sound – individual instruments on a backing track are not affected by any of these factors in any way.

If you are in a small venue with only a small number of people, then the master volume should be turned down. Conversely if you are in a larger venue with lots of people you would turn your master volume up .

If you are in a venue where the acoustics in that venue make your sound very boomy, then you would EQ your master output to decrease the amount of bass. If the room is boomy then every single instrument (even your microphone too) will all suffer from the same boomy acoustics of the venue so everything needs the bass cut, not just one instrument.

I spoke to one of the sound engineers who worked on one of the Kylie Minogue tours and guess where the sound was balanced and set for the tour? The sound for the tour was set in a recording studio in Los Angeles! After that, the sound settings for each band members instruments did not get touched for the whole of that world tour.

All they did at each venue on the tour was change the master graphic equalizer connected to the output of the desk to suit the acoustics of each venue.

The settings for the individual band members instruments, drums, bass, guitar, keyboards etc were NEVER touched.

If one night they were in a concert hall that was a bit boomy they took some bottom end off the master EQ.

If, the next night, they were in a venue with lots of obstacles that were deadening the sound they boosted the top end on the master EQ.

Nothing else was touched.

Even though artistes like you and I may be a little further down the ladder than Kylie, Michael Buble, U2 or Madonna etc, we can still be as professional as they are and still achieve the same quality of sound at our gigs as they do. All we need to do is exactly the same as they do – have our sound perfectly set, perfectly balanced, and then don’t touch it ever again.

The only thing that we should ever be changing at each gig is the master EQ and master volume.

If at different gigs you feel you have to change particular instruments on a backing track which are not cutting through during a performance, then it’s because your backing track was badly balanced in the first place.

That’s why good quality well mixed backing tracks are a must if you have a proper professional approach to your act.

Unfortunately the acts who won’t be able to achieve this quality of sound are the ones who don’t use proper professional backing tracks.

Sadly there are many acts out there who, because they only ‘sing a bit’ at the weekend in the pubs and clubs to make a bit of extra money, don’t bother to use properly produced and professionally balanced backing tracks. Instead they usually use a mixture of different backing tracks from different places they’ve collected over the years.

I even saw one girl singer who just used a bunch of sunfly karaoke songs as her “backing tracks” – one punter put it perfectly when he remarked that the she was “just karaoke without the telly” (she definitely didn’t do herself or her act any favours)!

There’s an old saying which says “Rubbish in, rubbish out” so acts that use a mixture of tired old backing tracks which are all different quality, different levels, and different instrument balances within each track will never be able to achieve a proper professional sound so there’s really no point in them even trying.

The only way to achieve a perfect sound every time is to use good quality tracks and do what the professionals do. Set up all your gear in an acoustically treated room (a recording studio is ideal for this) and mix your sound till you’ve got it perfect. Then, don’t touch your settings on your mixing desk ever again (except to change your master volume and your master EQ at each venue).

But if your backing tracks are just use a mixture of tracks you’ve bought from different companies, karaoke tracks, stuff you’ve downloaded from the internet, derived from midifiles, swapped and shared with friends etc, then you can pretty much forget about everything I’ve said above! Unfortunately you’ll always be tweaking your bass and treble and fiddling with your volume every 5 minutes!

There’s not much you can do to get a good sound when the original material you’re using is poor in the first place. Sadly this is why so many excellent singers who really do have the talent and ability to do better than just the pubs and clubs never achieve anything better than playing pubs and clubs.

But if you do things right and professional you’ll sound fantastic, every time, in every venue.