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Church Sound: Mixing Console Management
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The relative levels between the faders would remain the same, but the levels to any post-fader aux buses would now change by how far down in level you moved the VCA master.

VCAs, generally speaking, do not allow you to solo the group unless it is a destructive style “solo in place” because of the lack of audio passing through the group.

Likewise, it does not offer you the ability to insert external processing on the group as a whole.

So, with these concepts now in mind-I’m recommending the following to those of you who have both audio sub groups and VCA groups on your console. Use them both. But use them for different tasks.

Start by using your audio sub groups to assemble the components of your event mix into groups. For example, 1-drums-loops & percussion, 2-bass, 3-keys, 4-guitars, 5-backing vocals, 6-lead vocals, 7-pastor, 8-media.

Once done, then assign these groups to the left/right master output. Try to stay disciplined and keep like inputs in their respective groups.

Say you have a reverb unit dedicated to the drums - assign the reverb return faders to the drums group. This allows you to listen to the actual blend of the drum inputs against the reverb return while soloing the drums audio group.

Likewise, if you mute the drums audio group, you’ll no longer hear the reverb return, even though the drum inputs are still feeding it.

Now all of your VCAs are available for doing what I like to think of as “focused” mixing. Now you can assign VCAs to inputs that you need access to for any given segment of your event. They’re located in one position and available for immediate level manipulation.

Maybe you have a VCA that is simply assigned to only the kick and snare or just the cymbals, maybe even just the toms. Any of these allows you to accentuate a given fill or breakdown in a song with the movement of one single fader.

Or maybe you have the percussion assigned to its own VCA, with those inputs living as a part of the drums audio sub group. It all just depends on what you need to get to at any given time.

This is a wonderful workflow for digital consoles and even some analog consoles, in that you can program the VCA assignments dependent upon what you need to get to at any given time.

It’s all up to your imagination and, if done properly, there is rarely an excuse for missing cues because you were late finding the fader.

One of the bonus benefits of VCA grouping is that it can be used to control either input or output faders. I like to assign a “band” VCA and a “vocals” VCA - but assign them from the group path, not the input path.

This means you would assigning all of the audio groups that carry music components to one VCA fader and assign all audio groups that carry vocal components to a different VCA fader.

Now, with the adjustment of two VCA faders, you can balance the band mix relative to the vocal mix. This is wonderful for quickly placing vocals at any level in relation to the band mix.

Try using these techniques and you’ll soon be presenting very reliable, controlled mixes to your listeners.

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