Recently, I had an opportunity to work with a band that has been around for almost 40 years. In fact, theirs was one of the first concerts that I had ever seen as a teenager, and had greatly influenced both my guitar playing as well as my getting into this industry.
I was honored to actually get to mix this band, and was excited to get the opportunity to show off my chops to my childhood heroes. Well, that didn't work out so well. Sometimes we should be careful what we wish for.
Plugins are the tools that allow me to do my job. With the knowledge of Waves' 130 some-odd plugins, the tools are in place to handle any situation. The problem occurs when the band you are working for doesn’t have a clue as to HOW they want to sound. OR, there are two factions within the band that want the mix to sound like completely opposite ends of the spectrum.
This is a rough scenario, and pulls from every single ounce of your experience and training. Freud developed theories about the unconscious mind and the mechanism of repression, and established the field of verbal psychotherapy by creating psychoanalysis, a clinical method for treating psychopathology through dialogue between a patient (the band) and a psychoanalyst (FOH engineer). These techniques are used to try to determine just what the band requires of us as mixers. Most times, our job as sound engineer is superseded by our job as the therapist for the band and crew. This was definitely the case in this scenario, but I kept my head down and tried to provide the best level of care for the patient.
Some plugins are subtle; others are slash and burn. There is a right tool for the job. I was told by the singer of this particular band that my mix was not bright enough. What was the easiest fix? Waves OneKnob Brighter on the mix bus and turned the knob until the singer screamed for mercy. (The rest of us were under furniture in order to get away from the audio assault.) Of course, as soon as I did that, the singer asked for the mix to be "bigger." I took OneKnob Brighter off and put OneKnob Phatter on the mix bus; it seemed to appease for a little while.
Luckily, I have these tools. Prior to these, I would be able to (sort of) do what he was asking for with EQ, but not as fast and with such an immediate change.
The second faction of the band wanted something completely different and wanted to see EXACTLY what I was doing with the plugins. I knew this was coming, so I purposely made plugin choices based around older modeled plugins that I knew that this older act would be familiar with. I used the CLA-76, CLA-2A, CLA-3A, V-EQ3, V-EQ4, API 2500, API 550A, API 550B, API 560, SSL E-Channel, SSL G-Channel, SSL G-Equalizer, and the SSL G-Master Buss Compressor. The guitar player instantly felt at home. He had vast experience with the analog versions of these units, so the switch to a computer interface was an easy change.
On a side note, a good friend and fellow engineer suggested that I try Trans-X on the snare drum; what it did was amazing. It was something that I had not tried before, and made it pop and come out of the mix. (Thanks Brad!)
By the time I had gone around in circles with this band for two days, my head was swimming. I had made it right back to how I started, SEVERAL times during the ordeal, and they still weren't able to come to an agreement about just how they should sound. It was one of the most frustrating things that I have experienced in my career. Unfortunately, I got lost in some politics that really had nothing to do with me, and I did not end up doing the tour. Things happen for a reason, and in this case I think it was for the best. The point is that I had every single tool I needed to give them what they wanted. Waves are the plugins that I consistently turn to in difficult situations like this. The Waves Live bundle, Studio Classics Collection and the C6, are the Phillips, flat head AND hex nut attachments that get the job done.