I've got a Duran Duran tribute and the band is, obviously, big synth sound heavy. Trying to fit the guitar in to the live mix has been a constant struggle. I've put notch filters on the synth channels with the Q set medium wide and centered around 1kHz but it's still getting buried. Most songs aren't mixing a variety of guitar sounds, they stick to one of clean funk, dirty clean or well overdriven.

I'm looking for mixing tips to make the guitar poke through all those pads and square wave synths that are the backbone of this type of 80's pop-rock sound.

Edit: except for the dummer we all run direct. My guitars are AxeFx, direct to FoH. Keys, obviously direct. Bass: direct. The drums are mic'ed.

4 Answers 4


Given the new information you provided, my new suggestion is to thin out the synths. You can keep one as stereo (presumably you have some sort of pad sound that needs to stay stereo), but the rest of them should be mono, and you can scatter them throughout the sound field with pans. That should leave enough room for the guitar.

I didn't mention stereo manipulation before because many venues don't have it. Those that do seem to get bent out of shape when you try to use it.

  • 1
    I can't say for sure every patch on every song is stereo. I just know that our keyboardist runs four boards (well, 3 boards and a backing track unit) in stereo. I'll have to have a conversation with him about it I suppose. For certain the backing tracks have stereo elements in them. Keyboard patches may, for all I know, be mono. What is it about stereo synths that would make this any more or less of a challenge?
    – Ian C.
    Jan 2, 2011 at 0:49
  • @Ian: If you're mixing stereo, panning the stereo signals from the synth left and right leaves a bigger footprint on the mix, and there's only so much space available in the sound field. Jan 2, 2011 at 4:14
  • Some follow-up. This is looking to be the promising approach: reducing the number of stereo synths in use. I talked to the keyboard player and the majority of what he plays live is mono (despite stereo connections) but the bulk of the backing track stuff off the Korg is stereo. So we need to address that. I'm going to accept this answer. Thanks @Robert Harvey!
    – Ian C.
    Jan 5, 2011 at 15:04

If you find getting a good mix difficult under live conditions, the problem might be stage volume. If the instruments are too loud on stage, it can become difficult to control the overall sound through the mains, because you are also fighting the sound that is coming off the stage.

I would try having the musicians dial back their stage amps a bit. I think you will find that it is easier to get a better mix this way. You will also be doing your band members a favor by saving their hearing.

  • We all run direct. Edited question to include that succulent little nugget of information.
    – Ian C.
    Jan 1, 2011 at 2:57
  • How do your musicians monitor? Do they just listen to the mains? Jan 1, 2011 at 21:07
  • In-ears. So no problem hearing whatever you want in your mix. The problem is at the FoH.
    – Ian C.
    Jan 1, 2011 at 21:08

I used to get great results with the right type of side-chain compression. If the entrance of the guitar sound dims the synth sound just a bit (really, just a few dBs can make a huge difference) it will most likely solve your problem. Keep the attack time short, especially when the room you perform in is reverberant - so you deal appropriately with the acoustics of the hall.

  • This is an interesting idea and one I hadn't considered. I'm going to have to try it out. I don't, at present, have enough compressors with side-chain inputs to handle the 4 stereo channels of synths we're running. I guess I might buss them to an aux. Have to see if we have the aux'es to handle that. I'm going to try this at the show next weekend. Let you know if it works out for me. Thanks!
    – Ian C.
    Jan 1, 2011 at 21:10
  • 2
    Hmm...You're running four stereo channels of synth. No wonder you can't hear the guitar. Jan 1, 2011 at 23:29

Have you tried a Transient Modulator? - It can bring the instrument out of the mix without raising the fader!

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