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Church Sound: Four Signs Of A Mediocre Mix, And How To Fix It
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3. Instruments and vocals lack clarity and distinction

Each instrument and each vocal needs to fit in the mix so the best qualities of each are present in the mix. 

It’s like my grandmother’s cooking. She had all the right ingredients but she couldn’t season a dish to save her life.

The EQ process is the seasoning. I’ll be honest, I used to sneak in a bottle of hot sauce on the days that she made her chili.

Let’s say you have two singers, an acoustic guitar, an electric guitar, a bass, and a drum kit. The default “noon” position on the channel EQs isn’t going to help your mix. Decide what you want your mix to sound like and then start making EQ changes. 

For instance, if you want the acoustic guitar to have a bright feel, then cut a bit of the low’s, boost a bit of the highs, and then work out the mid-range frequencies to give you the right amount of presence and body from the guitar.

Creating clarity in any one instrument is more than this article could cover so consider these articles;

Do You REALLY Know Your Channel EQ Controls?

EQ Vocals Like You’re Cleaning Out The Garage

Top Eight Common Acoustic Guitar Mixing Mistakes

The Art of Bass EQ; Using Eight Key Frequency Ranges

How to Add a New Instrument Into The Mix

4. Music doesn’t fill the frequency range

I hear this when a mix is lacking in the higher and lower frequencies. The first sign mentioned was surrounding the low frequencies. Let’s look at how a mix might not have enough high frequencies.

High frequencies can come through high vocals, bright sounds like high strings on a guitar, and cymbals, just to name a few. This isn’t to say you have to push high frequencies just for the sake of filling in frequencies in the high end. 

Consider it like this; mute the cymbals in your mix. How does that sound? Turn them up to the right volume. How does that sound? If you have a lively, energetic song, you’ll likely want a nice bright sounding mix. Push up the highs a little on the cymbals. Now, how does the whole mix sound?

Listen to your whole mix and listen for frequency holes where you can fill in the frequency It’s like an example I’ve used before—you’re painting a picture with music. You need to fill the whole canvas with color. You can use pastels, earth-tones, whatever color selections you like. 

But you can’t paint a picture with all red tones or all blue tones. A picture painted with many similar colors gets you a picture that’s hard to interpret. It’s a cow, no, it’s a house, no, it’s a VW microbus. 

By using a wide range of colors (frequencies), you can create a variety of beautiful musical paintings with depth and feel and emotion.

The Take Away

The best way for quickly improving your mix is listening to it objectively and comparing it to the above four signs. Mixing is a wonderful creative process, but it’s also a process that takes time and skill and patience and evaluation.

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.

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