I’ve made a lot of chili in my lifetime. I’ve made spicy chili, sweet chili, and everything in between. My friends love my different types of chili. And every time I make chili, I ask my wife, “how does this taste?” The reason is because without her help, my success rate in creating wonderful chili wouldn’t be as high.
Live audio is much the same as making chili. There are the different ingredients from high frequency EQ boosts to a dash of reverb. You can work up what you believe is a great mix but you need to occasionally give it to someone else to taste.
This is when a second set of ears is helpful. Your ears are your most powerful tool, however, they have their faults and you have your natural audio biases. Reaching out to those around you can benefit your mixing both in overcoming mix problems as well as learning what the congregation likes to hear.
The three reasons for a second set of ears
Reason #1: You do not perceive sounds the same as other people.
My wife and I like different types of chili. We also have different definitions of spicy. For her, jalapeno peppers are spicy…for me, jalapeno peppers are like candy. Therefore, if I’m making a pot of chili for a party with people who aren’t into the whole breathing-fire style of chili, I cook for her taste and I check with her as I add in the peppers. Your ears and your taste buds are different in much the same way.
Just like how my taste buds experience hot peppers differently than when I was younger, your ears may no longer hear frequencies the same way. Welcome to getting older and welcome to hearing damage.
Reason #2: You have a natural bias for what you like but it might not be what’s best for the congregation.My wife likes cinnamon in her chili. No kidding. Personally, I can’t bring myself to add cinnamon to my chili. I’ve got to draw a line somewhere! Also, she likes my sweet chili but she doesn’t like it too sweet. [Hint: for sweetness, add brown sugar]. In the cases where I’m making a pot of chili for home, I want to make a pot that’s to her liking. Therefore, I’ll add a little of the brown sugar and then have her taste it. Her definition of sweet is different than mine.
A second set of ears helps you sculpt your mix for what the congregation likes to hear.
Reason #3: The voice of experience can teach you how to create a better sound with what you have available.
My wife is a much better cook than myself. She knows the herbs and spices that go best for each meal she makes. I’m more of a start-with-a-recipe-and-then-get-creative type of cook. I often have to ask her “what does this need” when I’m getting really creative with a recipe and find myself stuck with a bland flavor.
A second set of ears help you improve your mix by getting the opinions of people with more experience.