Hello Mike,

I emailed you earlier this year when I was about to embark as the musical director for the U.K. pop group Westlife. You were very helpful then. I again need your help. I have attended a few arena tours in the U.K. and have sat in the main sound engineerís booth. A lot of what Iíve heard is cluttered and muddy. Iíve also gone through the Janet Jackson Hawaii DVD with headphones quite a few times to learn placements of instruments ó this was because I mixed the live DVD for the Westlife tour. What I noticed about Janetís DVD is the use of reverb on the sequenced parts. My natural assumption would be that adding reverb in an environment like an arena would result in a loss of clarity, but the Janet mixes are nice and clear.

Do you use effects when programming for a live show? If so, what type of reverb setting would be suitable? Is it best to run it as an auxiliary, insert, or let the front-of-house engineer deal with it? Does it actually help to reduce the clutter in a live mix?

Steve Sydelnik once told me Madonna insisted on soundchecking every day and she was always there to ensure the mix. Was this to make sure everything got heard correctly?

Next yearís tour with Westlife will be longer, taking in Asia and South Africa. As theyíve asked me back again I want to take their show to another level. Your help and advice is, as always, much appreciated.


I agree with you that adding a global reverb to everything in an arena makes things muddy to say the least. I use reverb very sparingly ó if I use it at all, itíll be on finger snaps, shakers, any light percussion that had íverb on the original recording. Iíll usually do a bounce to disk (or freeze) to free up CPU power, keeping the dry version just in case the FOH person prefers it dry. Dry tracks make it easier for the FOH guy to match the live elements with the computer tracks.

Madonna was at every sound check, but thatís not the norm. Mariah only came to one sound check the entire tour, and that was because we were adding new songs to the show. I prefer to have the pop star there whenever possible, so if you can convince the Westlife boys to come in often, theyíll have a much better performing experience.

We were in Asia in February. Hereís my advice on that: Bring vitamins, work out, and take good care of yourself over there. Have Nyquil on hand and if possible, have your doctor give you Zithromax (an antibiotic) just in case. Also, be extremely careful about the water. I got deathly sick once in Manila from just taking a shower. Seriously. If youíre in a good hotel youíre probably fine, but it wonít hurt to be cautious.

Mike McKnight Sounds Inc.

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