The two biggest mistakes I see sound techs make are when they tweak the mix during the entire worship set and when they never touch the mixing board during the worship set.
There is a time for active mixing and there is a way you can use it to bring power to a song.
Volume balancing is one of the early steps in forming your mix during the sound check. You’re layering the different sounds using volume differences for placing the sounds in the mix.
For example, you push up the volume of the worship leader’s acoustic guitar and you pull back the volume of the backing vocals. Using the right pushing and pulling of volumes, the instruments and the vocals are in proper relationship with each other.
Once the volume balancing is completed, the next step is using EQ controls and adding effects. By the time you have mixed each song, you have a distinct mix that’s ready for the church service.
The mix is ready, but it’s not the end.
Organic, Moving, Changing
The worship set is like an organic, moving, changing entity. It’s a moment in which the congregation is engaged in worship. It’s a time when the worship leader might change up a song by repeating a verse or chorus.
It’s a time when the worship leader is changing the song, or even the song list, based on promptings by the Spirit or by prompting by the congregation.
Not only is the worship leader trying to present the right music for the worship experience but it’s also the time you can bring more power to the music.
Mixing For The Moment
There are many ways you can do active mixing, from changing effects for the vocals on a chorus, to making EQ changes to a guitar during the bridge of a song. This is where you can get creative with your mixes…as long as the result is still something that benefits the congregation.
The key is finding the mix changes that go with the changing, moving feeling that is the worship set. The level of active mixing to which you go, per song, is up to you and how comfortable you are with making these sorts of changes.
However, there is one area where anyone behind the mixer can make creative active mixing choices: volume.
Creative Volume Mixing Tips
There are a lot of ways you might alter volume during a worship set.
Here’s a short list you can use as a starting point:
Push the house volume on the last song. This is great when the last song is an up-tempo song with a strong powerful ending.
Pull down the house volume on the last song. This is great when the last song ends with a cappella singing and all, or most, of the instruments are absent from the arrangement. This allows the volume of the congregational singing to be the powerful sound.
Push up the backing vocals during the chorus of a song. Let their common-voice have power.
Pull down the lead singer during the chorus of a song so they sing along with the backing vocals.
Push a volume for an instrument that has a short solo in the song. Just don’t push it too much. Too much volume can appear to make the sound about the musician and not about the worship music.
Pull down a volume for an instrument like the drums during a slower tempo song. You might try pushing the volume for a totally different sound if the drum rhythm allows for it.
There are many ways you can use volume changes for active mixing. Take some time during the next rehearsal for testing out mix changes within a song. See what works and what doesn’t.
The Take Away
The worship band can produce a powerful worship set. You have the ability to take that one step higher. You can add power to a song by adding volume in the right way and taking away volume in the right way.
Please, whatever you do, don’t be afraid to fail. That is to say, you should take time during rehearsals for experimenting with those mid-song changes. Failing is the only way you’ll know what to avoid.
Besides, you’re doing this during the rehearsal and this is your only time to practice.
Ready to learn and laugh? Chris Huff writes about the world of church audio at Behind The Mixer. He covers everything from audio fundamentals to dealing with musicians. He can even tell you the signs the sound guy is having a mental breakdown.