Difference in Approach During Live and Studio Sound Engineering

Minal Singh
3 min readSep 26, 2020

The fundamentals of audio engineering is based on the vibe. And when it’s about music, the importance of vibe grows exponentially. The “vibe” factor comes into play especially during live performances and studio recordings. For a mixing engineer, the approach varies considerably when working on the studio, as opposed to live gigs.

Approaching sound engineering in live performances

The primary thing to consider during a live performance is the artist/band and crowd involvement over those couple of hours. For a sound engineer, the basic material remains the same, since they have to cater to the same artist throughout.

So, what changes?

Well, for starters, audio engineering for live performances depends on the venue. A closed end venue differs from an open end one — an auditorium differs from a theater just as much as an open arena differs from a pub. The changing environment becomes a crucial factor that challenges live audio engineering. The environments have their own frequencies — all of them different from each other — leading to the parameters like reflection and feedback being just as different, if not more.

Moreover, a live engineer works with a particular artist and the tone and genre of the music remains largely similar throughout the gig. The source audio remains the same, as well and the basic sound of it does so, too.

Approaching sound engineering in studio recordings

The basic difference between studio recording and live performances is the fact that a studio is a closed environment with soundproofed rooms. The mindset, also, differs massively when it comes to mixing studio recordings. For example, an audio engineer has to concentrate a lot more on getting the sound right. Unless they get a song to sound perfectly on any medium whatsoever, their job isn’t done.

You may cater to a lot of different artists while working in a studio, but the involvement remains the same. You have to be a lot more meticulous when you work on a particular song or a piece of music. There’s the tone that needs to be judged, and with respect to the environment, it’s all a matter of using the right tool at the right moment. You can and you have to spend some thoughts before you decide whether a kick is sounding the best it can, or if the bass or the guitar, or any instrument for that matter, has not been recorded properly. There’s always a demo that you can work with, before you come up with the final product.

Basic difference in approaching live and studio sound engineering

In spite of all the fundamental differences, there still lies one basic difference between the concept of mix engineering in a studio and live.

Before a live performance, you can rehearse a handful of times and then delve into the adrenaline rush of it. And during the performance, there’s no second chance. A live performance demands agility and presence of mind from the sound engineer. You have to be attentive and quick, since everything happens at one go in show business. You can’t reiterate a fault that’s made. But in a studio, there’s always the scope for a retake. You can change and tweak as per your liking, until you’re happy with the final product.

Also, the margin of error is much more in a live environment. The audience is mostly focused on dancing their hearts out, and not particularly bothered whether the guitar is going a half semitone down than usual. But, as renowned mixing and mastering engineer Kohinoor Mukherjee agrees, what comes out from the engineering in a studio, remains forever. You have to be extremely detailed and precise before checking out. Quality is what matters and the margin of error is a lot less.

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