hands-free mixing

Discussion in 'Tracking / Mixing / Editing' started by flutemix, Apr 24, 2008.

  1. flutemix

    flutemix Guest

    Hi there,

    This is my first post to this forum.

    I'm playing the flute and usually use a simple setting: a Sennheiser mic right into an AER cube.

    However, I would like to experiment with putting several mics in different places on my instrument and mixing them live while I'm playing. I might also use a looper and a few effects.

    As my hands are on my flute, I'll have to find a way to control volumes without them. One obvious (?) solution seems to buy a simple mixing console with built-in preamps (something like the mackie DFX-6), buy one volume pedal per channel I have to control, and use the inserts.

    Is this the best solution? any other idea? anybody knows of something like a foot-controlled mixing console?

    Thanks for your help,

  2. Boswell

    Boswell Moderator Distinguished Member

    Very interesting topic.

    I would not recommend using a passive volume control pedal as an insert device. This is because most insert return paths assume an active drive, such as the output of most outboard gear. If you connect a passive volume control (potentiometer) to a mixer insert, its effective output resistance varies from zero at the ends to a quarter of the rated end-to-end resistance at the middle setting. Most insert returns are not buffered and will not give good results with a variable source resistance.

    An active volume control pedal is much more of a possibility, but you would have to find one that could deal with the typical signal levels at insert jacks (+18dBu) without sonic degradation. This might be a tall order.

    The other approach is to consider the possibilities of indirect control, that is, the pedal outputs a signal that is used to control the amplitude of the main signal in a different process. The thing that comes to mind here is the side chain on a compressor, but apart from being the wrong way up (more output would reduce the amplitude of the main signal), you may not get enough amplitude control range.

    I have used the built-in oscillator in a Yamaha 01V96 output via an omni out to a remote potentiometer in this sort of way, but in that particular application I needed only trims and not the full amplitude control range.

    Those are my first thoughts, but I'll think about this some more, as it's an interesting problem.
  3. niclaus

    niclaus Active Member

    don't you have a friend or someone who could take care of that mixing for you?? I think it'd be more efficient than using your feet...!!!
  4. flutemix

    flutemix Guest

    Boswell: thanks a lot for your answer. I don't know much about electronics, and not much more about sound engineering, so I would have missed the problems you mention.
    I like the idea of indirect control. I even considered the possibility of a mechanic pedal that would actually move the fader on the console, but surely there must be a better solution?

    Niclaus: what I have in mind is using the mixing as a kind of "sculpting" of my sound. It would be more like an extended way of playing my instrument than a traditional mixing question. So I don't think delegating to someone else would be a solution in my case.
  5. niclaus

    niclaus Active Member

    ok, sorry, my bad...
  6. Codemonkey

    Codemonkey Well-Known Member

    I'm waiting on bent coming to show us all how to mix with your feet.

    PS: multiple microphones -> potential of phase.
  7. Kapt.Krunch

    Kapt.Krunch Well-Known Member

    Which looper and which effects? Is each mic going to run through a different effect? Are any of them MIDI?

    Maybe list your desired signal chain...such as:

    Mic 1>Looper>board

    Mic 2>Digital delay>board

    Mic 3>Multieffects>board

    Some MIDI effects can be controlled with something like a Behringer FCB1010 MIDI footboard. It's also "possible" to take an effects box and detach an internal volume/mix pot and rig up an external pot in a treadle of some sort. ("Possible" highlighted because of possible negative consequences of doing such a thing, if not done properly). Or, you may just be able to do something like those MXR pedals with the rubber cap that fit over a knob that allowed one to move a knob with their foot.

  8. zemlin

    zemlin Well-Known Member

    We have a PS2 with camera - the games respond based on movements picked up by the camera. I could see something like that leading to an interesting dance while you control your effects with your body.
    Strap a gyro-mouse to your flute so you can wave it around to control things on a computer. Maybe your feet take care of the mouse buttons.
    Back on the video game theme - a dance mat ...
    hmmmm ....
  9. Codemonkey

    Codemonkey Well-Known Member

    While you're doing this all-playing, all-dancing flute solo (it better be for your sake), why not stick a USB cable in your ear and telepathically activate the recording on the computer.
  10. flutemix

    flutemix Guest

    Kapt.Krunch: I'm not sure yet about the exact routing; I'd have to experiment a bit. A first approximation would be:
    - every mic to mixing console, routed to main out and aux
    - aux to looper and return
    - add some reverb to the result
    ... and I'd like to control the levels of the mics and looper output with my feet.
    No midi; my looper is a simple Boss RC-20, although this could change in the future.

    Zemlin: I don't think the camera would be a option an stage. Too many light changes. Gyro-mouse, dance pad, ...? why not? I was hoping for a computer-free solution, but with a computer, some unconventional input devices and some tweaking, I guess I could make it work.

    Codemonkey: I'm quite reluctant to stick a cable in my ear. Perhaps a blue tooth would be a better solution? I'll have to ask my dentist.
  11. zemlin

    zemlin Well-Known Member

    Being a little more serious ... does it need to be dynamic process, or would a bunch or presets work for you? Consider the A&H MixWizard 12M. 16 inputs - 12 individual mixes from those 16 inputs. Then make a pedal board with 12 SOLO buttons so you can pick your mix for the final output.
  12. flutemix

    flutemix Guest

    I was definitely thinking of a dynamic process, but I didn't think the problem was so complicated. If no convincing dynamic solution shows up, I will probably consider a preset-based one (although the MixWizard 12M seems quite big for what I need...)
  13. zemlin

    zemlin Well-Known Member

    I figured ... that was just the first monitor mixer that came to mind. There's a small headphone mixer around with 6 inputs and a few outs that might to the job for a lot less dough.
  14. flutemix

    flutemix Guest

    Just a silly question: if I wanted to control the volume of only one mic with a foot pedal, would it be easier?
    What would be the proper setting?
    mic -> pre-amp -> pedal -> amp?

    I'm getting confused... There must be a proper use for volume pedals, right?
  15. Boswell

    Boswell Moderator Distinguished Member

    I've been thinking a bit more about this problem, and have come to the conclusion that it is not going to be easy to do it for a low cost using commercially-available gear.

    I think you can choose one of two routes:

    (1) Buffered analog pedals connected to the mixer inserts. You would use conventional potentiometer pedals and then either (a) build the required number of channels of buffer amplifiers and feed the insert returns, or (b) take the potentiometer outputs and feed them to the line inputs of spare mixer channels. This latter option implies having twice as many channels on your mixer as microphones you need to control, with the first set being used only as pre-amps. These could, of course, be replaced by conventional external pre-amps.

    (2) Use MIDI expression pedals and a MIDI-controllable mixer. I have struggled to find a MIDI foot control with more than one expression pedal, but it may be possible to use the combination type of multiple switch plus one pedal to choose dynamically which channel you were going to change with the pedal. I tried patching this up with my 01V96 mixer, and it works a treat, although it's a bit weird to see the faders moving solely under foot control. However, I doubt whether there are low-cost mixers available that give you MIDI control of channel parameters such as fader positions.

    If cost is a major consideration, I think the first method is going to be the only viable option. You may want to consider a bank of external pre-amps from which you take an unbalanced output to feed your row of potentiometer pedals and then on into the line inputs of your mixer.
  16. Kapt.Krunch

    Kapt.Krunch Well-Known Member

    If you could rig yourself up like Doc Ock, you'd be set.

    Kapt.Krunch :wink:
  17. flutemix

    flutemix Guest

    Boswell: the midi solution is probably the closest to what I had in mind. I'll have to investigate in this direction. I never worked with MIDI before, so I'm not very much aware of what it would take to have a good setup.
    Your answers also show me that to take enlightened decisions in this area, I should have *much* more knowledge about sound engineering...
    This is probably not the place to ask for details, but does someone know about a book/web site/... that would provide a good introduction to all this? e.g., I'd need to understand what buffered amps are; why it is not the same to feed the output of the pedals to another channel instead of the return of the same channel; why the output of my preamps would have to be unbalanced; how to convert between dBu and V; why a potentiometer pedal would be better than a VCA one in my case; and many, many other things...

    Before I'm Doc Ock, no doubt I've got some homework to do...
  18. Boswell

    Boswell Moderator Distinguished Member

    Flutemix - don't get me wrong. The solution using simple low-impedance volume control pedals on the mixer insert jacks will work perfectly well. It's just that it's not the ultimate in terms of flexibility and sound quality. I guess that like most of the serious posters on this forum, I tend to strive for the ultimate solution where possible.

    I suggest you try to get hold of a volume control pedal with TRS jack connection if you can find one that is not more than about 10K Ohm impedance. If you have or can borrow an analog mixer that has inserts on its microphone channels, give it a go and see if it gives you the sort of effect that you are after. It may be that it does what you want adequately and you have to look no further. Alternatively, it may give you a flavour of the the sort of things that are possible and make you want to explore the range of controls further.
  19. flutemix

    flutemix Guest

    Boswell, I understand your position very well. I posted my question on this forum precisely because I was looking for the ultimate solution!
    Now I think that I need to know a little bit more precisely what I'm looking for before I can find the best solution.
    As you suggest, I will probably experiment a little bit with a simple setup to clarify my needs; then I'll come back to my initial question.

    Thanks to all for your help and ideas,


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