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Church Sound: A Great Mix Comes From Humble Beginnings
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This article is provided by Jeremy Carter.


There are lots of theories on channel layout.

Some mixing console operators prefer vocals first, followed by the band. Some use the opposite scenario, with the band first and then vocals.

And some don’t give much thought to the process, just plugging things in order as they come from the stage (Stage Pocket 1, 2, then 3, etc.) regardless of what instrument is represented on that line.

Over the years, I have advised my clients and friends to generally adopt the “Pyramid Mix” channel order.

For those of you not familar with the Pyramid Mixing technique, a diagram can be found below which illustrates the concept.

So how do you build a pyramid? You start with the bottom layer and work your way up. I do modify it slightly, in the sense that I want to keep like instruments together (guitars, keys, drums, etc.).

Also, in most settings I’ve worked with in the last several years, guitars are dominant with keys being primarily ambience (organs, pads, etc.) – so the pyramid is slightly modified there.

It’s also helpful if you lay out the channel order with regard to your Groups. The typical large format board has 8 subgroups, so I take that into consideration as well.

How to build a mix. Source: Curt Taipale’s Church Sound Boot Camp.

Here is the general layout I recommend to most clients:

    01 – Bass Gtr 02 – Kick Drum 03 – Snare Drum 04 – Tom 1 05 – Tom 2 06 – Tom 3 07 – Hi Hat 08 – Crash (OHL) 09 – Ride (OHR) 10 – Percussion 1 11 – Percussion 2 12 - 13 – EG 1 14 – EG2 15 – AG 1 16 – AG 2 17 - 18 – Piano L 19 – Piano R 20 – Synth L 21 – Synth R 22 – Track 23 – Click 24 - 25 – Lead Vox (or Worship Leader) 26 – BGV 1 27 – BGV 2 28 – BGV 3 29 – BGV 4 30 - 31 – Anouncement Mic 32 – Pastor Mic

Notice there are some blank channels in between the groupings.

This is for that last-minute request that always seems to come along like: “Bob is going to be using 2 amps today”, or “I fogot to tell you, we’ll need 3 acoustic channels this week”, or “We’re using the Djembe today so we need 3 percussion mics.”

Of course, this order can be scaled up or down depending your exact situation, but now let’s look at the group situation. Here’s a look at the typical 8-group layout:

    Group 1 – Bass/Kick Group 2 – Drums (all drums/percussion except Kick) Group 3 – Electric Gtrs Group 4 – Acoustic Gtrs Group 5 – Keys Group 6 – Misc (could be brass, choir, lavs, whatever) Group 7 – Lead Vox Group 8 – BGVs

You may have to make some modifications if you are running true stereo. Group 1-2 may be Stereo Drums. Group 5-6 may be Stereo Keys, etc.

If you only have 4 groups, it might look something like this:

    Group 1 – Drums/Bass Group 2 – Gtrs Group 3 – Keys Group 4 – Vocals

I realize this specific layout may not work for everyone, but it has proven to work in many situations I’ve been involved with over the last several years. Whatever layout you choose – it should make sense and should allow you to mix properly without having to go hunt for something.

Jeremy Carter is a veteran of the pro audio industry with extensive experience designing and operating church audio, video, and lighting systems. More information about Jeremy and his tutorial series Sound Sessions can be found on his website.

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Comments (2) Most recent displayed first
Posted by Jeremy Carter  on  12/06/10  at  01:29 PM
Chris, When I teach this info in a classroom setting, I often begin by telling folks that my training makes at least 3 assumptions: 1) This is for a total reinforcement style of mixing where the audience depends on hearing each instrument out of the main House mix. It is the opposite of old-school "P.A. style" where huge guitar amps are required to cover the venue and the drum kit is just a kick and an overhead, for example. 2) This is for close mic'ing technique. 3) This is for contemporary rock/pop/electronic instrument genres. Orchestral, classic jazz, operatic, and other genres may require a different approach entirely.
Posted by chris  on  12/06/10  at  08:47 AM
Great article. I use the pyramid method myself. The only except I've found to this is when I'm at a venue with a singer who has a super soft voice (can only do so much with the gain). In that case, I start vocal volume first and then layer under that.
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