Lesson 2: Volume Territories.

Once a singer or musician understands his function at any point in time, he should play at the volume for that function.

The frontline should of course be the centre of attraction and therefore must be heard above the other functions. A shy or insecure soloist can, by not providing a definite frontline, destroy the sound as easily as an overconfident or incompetent soloist. Remember also to keep in mind that any member can be the frontline for as short or as long as his part requires, (ie.. every performer should be capable of moving into the frontline and playing strongly when he is called on to).

The harmony function should be like a coat of paint on a house. It should be thick enough to give the house the correct colour but not so thick that it becomes part of the structure. The structure of the music, as discussed in the previous section, is created by the bass and drums. This means, once the bass and drums are given the correct balance, the harmony instruments should then be separately balanced as a group, and progressively increased from zero to just loud enough to colour the rhythm section. Finally the frontline is increased until it can be heard above the harmony section.

If all instruments remained within the same function the work of the mix man would be easy, once the volumes are initially set, but life is not that easy... When instruments swap between different functions, amongst other things, there needs to be a volume change. This could be as simple as the person singing louder, the saxophonist blowing harder, or the drummer hitting harder. All are legitimate ways of changing from one function to another, (although each also effects a change in the tone which is discussed in the next section), or it could be left to the sound man, either way, it must be done. These techniques should be practised as much as scales and chord changes.

We are now ready to move on to the next lesson. Click here to go to the lesson about deciding Tones in a sound scape, or click here to return to the Sound Territories and Mixing index page.