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Sound Advice

Mixing Live… by Bruce Swedien

Mixing Live… by Bruce Swedien

Have you ever mixed in a live setting? If yes, has this taught you anything helpful when recording artists in a studio?

I absolutely HATE live recordings! I think it’s because I hate surprises! I will do anything I can to avoid doing a “live” gig! I also think it may be because I am by nature, a control freak!

However, my old pal Quincy Jones and I did do a live album for Qwest/Warner Brothers with Lena Horne doing her Broadway Show, The Lady And Her Music, in 1981. We ended up going in the studio to fix most of it!

I do remember one interesting little thing about my work with Lena Horne. During all the recording sessions that I have done with her – (“Stormy Weather”, “From This Moment On”, etc.) she asked me to turn off the air conditioning in the studio, because she is ALLERGIC to the freon in air conditioning systems. If she came into an air-conditioned room her throat would close up and in a few minutes she wouldn’t be able to sing a note! (Of course that fact alone probably made Lena hate the air-conditioning.)

Of course, one look at Lena Horne, one minute of listening to her sing, and any man in the room would do anything she asked!

By the way, nothing that I ever did recording in a live setting ever taught me anything about recording music in the studio. At least, I don’t think so…

Bruce Swedien is a recording engineer whose credits include working with artists such as Dinah Washington, Michael Jackson, Mick Jagger, Muddy Waters, Duke Ellington, Oscar Peterson, Barbra Streisand, Donna Summer, Count Basie, B.B. King, John Lee Hooker, Paul McCartney, among many others. His first big break came when he engineered Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons’ million-selling single “Big Girls Don’t Cry”, which spent five weeks at number one in 1962. Swedien has conducted classes in music engineering at UCLA as well as lecturing and hosting recording seminars at various universities, colleges and industry organizations in both the US and overseas. He currently resides in Connecticut where he continues to explore aural possibilities and taking on top-level engineering assignments.

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