Live Sound: Mixing and Recording

Author: Bill Gibson   •   Course Code: OMPRD-287

Every seasoned performer knows the importance of an excellent sound engineer. No matter what the genre of the music, if the sound engineer doesn't build a mix that sounds good, the creativity, passion, and brilliance of the performance will be tarnished. A sound engineer who knows how to create a mix that sounds great and can build and deploy a high-quality sound system is highly coveted throughout the music industry.

This course explores the acoustical, musical, and technical aspects of the live performance, in order to learn how to present the best possible sound to the audience. You will study, evaluate, and compare several different live and studio recordings in order to establish a point of reference for your own mix choices. The course emphasizes instrument sounds, microphones, equalization, and dynamics processing. These tools are presented in a manner that places a high value on the creative and technical influences they impose on the individual sounds, as well as the control they can offer for multiple sounds, channels, and tracks.

The goal of the course is to enable you to build your own mixes and use what you've learned to conform to a high standard for sonic quality, blend, and authenticity. When properly equipped with the tools, techniques, and insights needed to build an excellent mix, you will be the musicians' closest and most trusted ally.

By the end of the course, you will be able to:

  • Identify important considerations regarding music, including the identification of the types of sounds that work well in a professional mix
  • Apply logistical and managerial techniques to help manage equipment, setup teams, and road crews
  • Achieve excellent vocal sounds for various styles, genres, and acoustical environments
  • Use microphone technique, equalization, effects, and dynamics processing to build excellent piano, acoustic guitar, electric guitar, keyboard, bass guitar, drums, and percussion sounds so they function well together
  • Build a high-quality mix that is appropriate for a wide variety of age groups, stylistic preferences, and acoustical environments
  • Identify special considerations for recording the live show

Lesson 1: The Sound Operator and Musical Considerations

  • Qualifications of a Sound Operator
  • Duties of the Sound Operator
  • Preventing Catastrophe
  • The Musical Function of the Band Members
  • Song Form and the Contemporary Pop Song
  • Arrangement Format
  • Song Structure
  • Common Song Form Sections
  • Common ABC Song Forms

Lesson 2: Sound Theory and Acoustic Considerations

  • Your Sound System
  • Sound Theory
  • Waves
  • Amplitude
  • Phase
  • Frequency and Wavelength
  • Velocity
  • Harmonic Content
  • Envelope
  • Acoustics
  • Hearing
  • Documenting Your Sound System
  • Analyzing the Acoustic Space
  • Acoustic Treatment Options

Lesson 3: Interconnect and Mixer Basics

  • Interconnect Basics
  • Introduction to The Mixer
  • Mixer Basics
  • Gain Structure
  • Operating Level
  • Connecting a Recorder to Your Mixer

Lesson 4: Microphones

  • Microphone Design
  • Directional Characteristics
  • Additional Mic Characteristics and Applications
  • Wireless Systems
  • Lavaliere and Headset Microphones
  • Keep it Real

Lesson 5: Equalization and Dynamics

  • Equalizers: Building Puzzle Pieces
  • EQ Types
  • Filters
  • Dynamics
  • Using Effects
  • Delay Effects
  • Parameters

Lesson 6: Speakers, Amplifiers, and System Processors

  • Loud Speakers
  • Speaker Cable
  • Amplifiers
  • System Processors
  • Basic Analysis: Setting the System Up
  • White and Pink Noise
  • Real-Time Analyzer (RTA)
  • Ringing Out the System
  • Voicing the System
  • Leakage
  • Wedge Monitors
  • In-Ear Monitors

Lesson 7: How to Get Great Drum and Percussion Sounds

  • Getting the Acoustic Drums to Sound Good
  • Miking the Drums
  • Processors for Drums
  • Blending the Drums
  • Isolation
  • Electronic Drums

Lesson 8: Getting Great Acoustic, Electric, and Bass Guitar Sounds

  • Acoustic Guitar
  • Running Direct
  • Equalization
  • Miking the Acoustic Guitar
  • Building the Electric Guitar Sound
  • Running Direct vs. Miking the Speaker Cabinet
  • The Bass Guitar
  • Acquiring the Bass Sound

Lesson 9: Getting Great Vocal Sounds

  • Choosing a Vocal Mic
  • Mic Technique
  • Song Leaders at Church
  • Vocal Miking
  • Lead Vocalist
  • Backing Vocals
  • Choir
  • Covering the Group
  • Using Processing in Your Vocal Mix
  • Blending Vocals in the Mix

Lesson 10: Keyboard Sounds, Sound Check, and Setting Up the Mix

  • Keyboard Sounds
  • Electric Pianos and Synths
  • Running an Efficient Setup and Sound Check
  • Sound Check Checklist
  • Setup Routine
  • Floor Monitor Level
  • In-Ear Monitors
  • Stage Map and Channel List
  • Front of House System Functionality
  • Considerations when using a Digital Mixer
  • Creating a Mix Plan
  • Putting the Pieces Together
  • Volume Issues

Lesson 11: Putting it All Together

  • Fundamentals of Building Great Sounds for the Core Instruments
  • Establishing the Foundation
  • Using Dynamics and Effects Appropriately
  • Establishing a Baseline Volume and Keeping It There

Lesson 12: Recording the Gig and More Mixing Techniques

  • Creating a Mix
  • Blending
  • Dynamics
  • Highlighting Certain Ingredients
  • Keeping the Focal Point
  • The Board Recording
  • Setting Up a Multitrack Recorder to Record the Music Team

Bill Gibson

Author & Instructor

Bill Gibson is president of Northwest Music and Recording and has spent the last 25 years writing, recording, producing, and teaching music. As an audio professional and active sound engineer, Bill has developed unique insight into the techniques and procedures that produce extremely high quality audio, both in the recording studio and in live performances. He is the author of 30 books and videos, and his writings are acclaimed for their straightforward and understandable explanations of audio concepts and applications. He is an instructor at Green River College in Auburn, WA, and holds degrees in composition, arranging, and recording.

As a music pastor and technical director for 15 years at a large contemporary-music oriented church in the Seattle area, Bill gained a unique insight into the integration of ministry, technical and musical considerations, and a quest for excellence. He approaches technical considerations from a musical vantage point, which explains his straightforward and easy-to-understand teaching style.


Completion of one of the following courses Pro Tools 101, Pro Tools 110, Producing Music with Logic, Producing Music with Reason, Producing Music with Cubase, Producing Music with Ableton Live, or equivalent knowledge and experience is required. 

You should be actively involved with a performance group of some type, whether a club band, church music team, or other performance entity. You must be proficient with basic DAW functions and must be able to download, upload, receive, and send audio files. You must also have an audio connection from the main FOH mixer in a performance venue to a CD recorder, DAW, or some other audio recording device, and the ability to save the audio data in a format suitable for email or uploading.

Required Textbooks

The Ultimate Live Sound Operator's Handbook, 2nd Edition by Bill Gibson, Hal Leonard

Live Sound Reinforcement by Scott Hunter Stark, Artistpro

Required Audio

Audio Practice Tracks by Bill Gibson

Required Software

  • A DAW, such as Pro Tools, Digital Performer, Cubase, Nuendo, GarageBand, Logic Studio, Logic Express, Sound Forge, or similar program, with the ability to save to MP3 format
  • An iTunes (or equivalent) account to download the music examples or the CDs from which the examples are taken

Mac Users

  • OS X 10.9 Mavericks or higher (click here for system requirements)
  • Latest version of Google Chrome

Windows Users

  • Windows 7 or higher (click here for system requirements)
  • Latest version of Google Chrome

Hardware Requirements

  • A simple decibel meter
  • MIDI or USB interface for your MIDI controller
  • DVD-ROM drive for book-DVD playback
  • OPTIONAL: Cable tester such as the Behringer CT 100
  • 2 GB RAM (4 GB recommended)
  • 500 MB hard drive space
  • Speakers or headphones
  • Webcam
  • Internet connection with at least 4 Mbps download speed ( to verify or download the Speedtest by Ookla app from your mobile app store)

*Make sure your computer meets the minimum system requirements for your DAW software.


Got a question? Contact our Academic Advisors by phone at 1-866-BERKLEE (U.S.), 1-617-747-2146 (INT'L), or by email at We can also answer basic questions in the comments below. Please note that all comments are public.

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