Balancing Voices (sound sources) When Playing and Recording
Before a Songsmiths audition video is posted, the audio from the video camera is replaced with the audio I recorded using a studio mic. This is done for sound-quality, but also for balance purposes. In other words, when I place that mic, I make sure that the voice/guitar balance is right so that the vocal stands out. If I used the audio from the video camera, in most cases the voice would be overpowered by the guitar which means that the voice/instrument balance in the room is off.
It’s pretty easy to get by without worrying about balancing yourself. Vocal and instrument sources are kept separate and balanced in the mix both when recording and performing live. But what if Izak wanted to play for some friends at a party without mics or a PA? Wouldn’t it sound better if he found a balance between his voice and guitar? Yes, but will the song still sound like Rock if he’s not strumming hard? Should the feel change when a rock song is played on acoustic guitar? Not real pressing questions given that it usually doesn’t matter, but it’s worth thinking about.
I do think that balance matters when it come to drums though. A drum kit is actually a collection of several different instruments and it’s a good idea to think about the balance between, for example, the snare drum, hi-hat and bass drum when you’re playing a groove. Why? Well, when I’m creating a drum sound, I often rely heavily on the overhead mics. Those mics capture the sound of the full kit in a room which is how drums are normally experienced. So, if the drummer has a good touch, those overheads might be about all I need to create a natural,live drum sound.
In my experience, drummers can strike a better balance by lightening up on the cymbals a bit. That helps the snare drum power through and reduces cymbal bleed in the other mics. Cymbals can also sound better when they’re not being crushed. Especially crashes. When hit too hard, crashes lose their tone and sound noisy to my ear.
Another example I just thought of: piano. Pianists/keyboardists should pay attention to the balance between their right and left hands. Do you want to emphasize a bass line? When using both hands to play a chord, are the notes balanced?
So think about it, musicians. Think about balance and dynamics on macro and micro scales. Are the vocals and guitars balanced? Are the drums and cymbals balanced? On the micro scale, are the loud and soft notes you’re playing loud or soft enough? How about the tone of your instrument at those volumes? Practice balance because you sure don’t want to be thinking about all of this when you’re performing or recording.