There was standing room only for Dave Swallow’s seminar at PLASA Focus. Presented by Audio Pro International, The Art of Mixing a Show was one of the most subscribed of the show and proved to be a thought-provoking discussion on the creative process involved in live mixing.
Swallow stated that after learning the fundamentals of mixing, it is the engineers’ job to realize the creative vision of the artist and provide the tools and methods to achieve this goal, while bringing their own creative influences to the board. He also stated that mixing is very personal endeavour and the engineer must be passionate about what they are doing during every gig.
After providing some fundamental tips and outlining the boundaries of a show (ie, the room, the PA, the equipment and the artist), Swallow looked at the things that inspire creativity and the idea that engineers need to use those influences to paint an audio picture. This lead to a discussion on phase, filters and dynamics before delving into suggestions on the proper way to use a compressor, understanding the focal point of a song and creating space in the mix.
The attendees were invited to stay after the seminar for a Q&A session with Swallow, which inspired many more interesting questions and ideas about creativity in mixing. The conversation spilled out into the halls of the show well after the seminar was over.
Swallow commented: “I feel honoured that PLASA and Audio Pro asked me to come and speak, it’s a real privilege to be in a room of people so passionate about audio, and so willing to learn. Looking out over the audience to see lots of little light bulbs flickering into life made all the time and effort worthwhile. I even had a lampie asking questions by the end of the talk, which shows that it’s not just the noise boys that appreciate what comes out of the speakers."
A renowned live sound engineer, Swallow has mixed for Amy Winehouse, La Roux, Seasick Steve, James Blake, Corinne Bailey Rae and many other big name acts during his career. His book, The Art of Mixing a Show, is now available from Focal Press.
Swallow will be holding a follow up seminar at the PLASA London show this September. The video of his Focus seminar will also be available to view on the PLASA website shortly.