In my 25-plus years as a professional mixer I’ve mixed thousands of events ranging from live concerts for thousands of people, to television broadcasts reaching millions, all the way down to intimate club shows for artists in front of high-level music executives where the artist’s career may hang in the balance.
But I must confide that I’m the most anxious while mixing events for houses of worship.
Perhaps it’s because, as a believer, I realize just how much is at stake for the listeners during a worship or praise event, but honestly, there have been times that the butterflies have felt more like dive bombers in my gut when sitting down at the console for one of these events.
But if mixing all of the varied styles of live events in my life has taught me anything, it’s simply this: the only way to truly neutralize the butterflies, or the dive bombers in this case, is with preparation.
Over the past decade or so, I‘ve lead a number of seminars and workshops on the topic of “mixing” and, without fail, I’m constantly amazed by the attendees’ reactions at the conclusion, when they arrive at the stark realization that successful mixing is based on much more than learning to operate a complex console, or some highly touted routing or EQ manipulation.
Now granted, knowing how to actually operate the mixer is important, but as I have been known to say from time to time—“a great pipe wrench does not make a great plumber.”
So, what I’m getting at is this: mixing— especially music and event mixing—is an approach and a mindset, not simply a task.
And it requires a method. That method has to include a way to anticipate moves before they need to happen.
The Problem & Solution
I’m sure you all have heard the event where it feels like the guy mixing has set his watch about two minutes slower than everyone else’s.
The pastor’s mic comes on after he starts speaking, the audio for the video comes up well after the video actually begins, you hear the backing vocals well after they start singing their parts, you hear the guitar solo about a bar after the guitarist starts playing it, the worship leader prays at the end of the song with all the effects glaring on his or her vocal—for the first half of the prayer.
All of these kinds of happenings are signs of a mixer who is not anticipating but simply reacting to what is happening. The ol’ tail is officially wagging the dog.