This week on Mainstage Monday I'm honored to have a guest blogger join the conversation- HillSong's own Peter James. Peter is an amazing keyboardist and patch designer, and had some great insights on how to manage patch levels in Mainstage.
Peter also creates amazing patches for Mainstage, which you can find here. So nice to know another great Mainstage programmer who has a passion for helping church musicians focus on music, not programming.
Leveling Patches In Mainstage
One of the biggest issues we have at Hillsong Church with keyboardist using Mainstage is level differences between patches. This can be a major issue for Front of House and Broadcast, etc, and usually results in them having to drastically compress or limit the keys channel, squeezing all the dynamic life out of the keys just to keep the level consistent.
There are two main areas to consider when setting up or tweaking your MainStage template patch by patch. Patch level and EQ (equalisation).
Careful on the Compression
I don't like to put major compressing or limiting into my Mainstage template because I want the patches to breath and have a decent amount of volume dynamics. I have a very subtle bus compressor (Waves SSL bus compressor) on my master out but this plugin is not compressing much at all.
Trust Your Ears
The best way to level match in my opinion is to do it by ear and not by a meter! Pick a sound you use on a regular basis that has a wide frequency range eg. a big bright pad sound, play it at its loudest volume with any filter eg. LPF opened right up so you can hear the 'full' sound and use your ear to match every other sound to that 'reference patch'. Also double check to make sure that you are not running into the red and clipping your instrument channel strip or your master bus out. Make sure you have a bit of volume headroom just in case.
The second thing to do is to EQ match. Now this doesn't need to be a fine tuned, painfully detailed process. We are not looking to exactly match each patch to sound the same, but looking at more of an EQ overview. For example making sure all your pad sounds have an equal level of bottom end energy in them, so that one pad doesn't have a tonne of low end while another one might sound thin and empty in comparison because of its lack of bottom end. Remembering this is just general overview EQ matching. Nothing too specific.
Adding these tips into your MainStage template will help you have a more consistent sound across patches and ultimately give you a better overall, uncompressed sound that will give your front of house engineer more confidence when adding you into their mix.
For anyone interested I also have a blog video that talks through these specific techniques in more detail. You can visit it by clicking here.
I also have a bunch of other free blog tutorial video's located in the blog section at: http://peterjamesproductions.com.