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For a show I've been running, I have to make sure the band (keyboard, electric bass, and unamplified drum-set) is balanced in the house.

Unfortunately, I'm in a control booth with the band right next to me, and the windows (which I kept open for the last show so I could hear the actors) are closed to reduce the noise level. I have a monitor that feeds me audio from two mics hanging over the stage, but no good way to hear what the mix sounds like in the house.

Setting the mix has been a lengthy process of trial and error, starting during tech rehearsals three weeks ago and continuing through this week (we close on Sunday). Nearly all of the changes have come from other members of the production staff or from audience feedback. I get way more keys and bass than the audience, but I can't tell that the loud bass in my right ear is inaudible down in the seats.

How does one go about setting levels in a situation like this, where one can't hear the live mix at all? It's fortunate that we have a set show, with no room for impromptu changes, so I don't have to be constantly adjusting the mix; but it would be interesting to learn techniques for that situation as well.

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Get a cable splitter and split the final output, so you can feed it back into headphones or a monitor or something. –  Matthew Read Dec 17 '10 at 1:00
    
I had the idea of just bringing in headphones and connecting them to the dedicated jack on the mixing board, but that doesn't really tell me how the mix sounds in the space. –  dgw Dec 17 '10 at 1:04
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1 Answer

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You say you have a pair of mics suspended over the stage for monitoring purposes - would it be possible to move them further out into the house to get a better idea of what it sounds like there? Or if not, to get a second pair of mics out in the house? That might give you a better sense of what the mix sounds like.

If you have a big enough stretch between cues, would it be possible to poke your head out of the booth for a minute, or unobtrusively step out? This could give a bit of a sanity check as to how your levels really do sound.

Running a mix of a live band from a booth is pretty frustrating - I'm guessing there's no way to get the board out to a better FOH position?

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The hanging mics have been there for several months, hung by the sound designer, and are also piped back to the dressing rooms; so moving them might be a bad idea. I wish I could add more mics in the house, but I'm just a newbie volunteer with little influence. Unfortunately, there's no spare space in the house, unless the board were to block one of the side exits (probably against fire code). I have to run the Express 48/96 anyway, which is too big (and DMX-dependent ;-) to put anywhere but the booth. Fortunately each show gives me one opportunity in the first scene to do a sanity check. –  dgw Dec 17 '10 at 2:24
    
I would think the sound designer would be sympathetic to your dilemma - after all, you're essentially mixing a band here without being able to hear them. Would they ask the lighting people to run the lighting board in a windowless room where they couldn't see the stage? –  Rich Bruchal Dec 17 '10 at 2:39
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When I was first writing my answer, I included a mini-rant about what a poor design decision having an isolated sound booth in a theater was. I took it out before I posted, but it really is true. And every Broadway show I've seen in recent years has the board out in the house - you really do have to hear the mix from the audience perspective to do a decent job. It's usually possible to put the board out at FOH if you're willing to sacrifice a few seats in the back couple of rows, even as a temporary setup. Of course you're giving up some ticket money then (if you're selling out) –  Rich Bruchal Dec 17 '10 at 2:48
    
I'll suggest it for our next show in February. We pretty much never sell out, and losing a few seats out of 207 to gain better mixing should be worth it. (For what it's worth, I was technically the lighting guy, so I completely understand your first comment; sound was something I took over because they didn't have a board op for it.) –  dgw Dec 23 '10 at 22:28
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