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Live Recording, No Soundcheck, and Inconsistent Levels

Q: A friend recorded my band’s live gig for a video that will be broadcast on TV. Unfortunately, we didn’t have time for him to do a level check before we started, so during the first song, the levels start out too low then are all over the place. He had things dialed in fine by the second song.

The problem is that now when we are mixing, we have all the songs but the first one sounding great. The first one is messed up. Should we normalize the files for the first song, should we use a limiter or compressor to raise levels, or do you have other suggestions?

A: You can try normalizing, but you may not be happy with the results. Likewise, using a limiter or compressor will probably make the tracks sound different than the rest of the tracks.

Tedious as the task may be, we would probably try to use volume automation on each track to smooth out the gain fluctuations and to establish a decent level, using the remainder of the tracks as a reference for each one as you go.

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