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Church Sound: Don’t Touch That Knob—Why Every Song Mix Needs a Vision

Mix the sounds with the song already playing in your head

By Chris Huff November 9, 2012

Vision and clarity make a world of difference. (Photo credit: teegardin)
This article is provided by Behind The Mixer.


I was going to be an architect. I attended every drafting class my high school offered. 

While my career choice changed, I learned the number one way for drafting the perfect home: having a vision.

Looking back on the homes I drew in my middle school drafting class, I can’t help but be embarrassed. Middle school tech class wasn’t about the best way to draft a home floor plan, it was more about how to draw floor plans. 

The first floor plan I did in high school, where I thought it was the best floor plan ever, was greeted with this phrase from my teacher: “how are you going to put a roof on that?”

I designed my floor plans by creating the rooms I wanted (office, indoor pool, bedroom, kitchen, etc.) and putting them where I thought they belonged. The problem was my process made the exterior of the house have about twenty corners. 

I didn’t have a vision for how the house would look like from the outside and I definitely didn’t have a vision for how the roof would look. Had I submitted such a floor plan to a builder, I think the roofer would have killed me.

Thus, my high school drafting teacher, and licensed architect, taught me how to have a vision for a home. Not only did having a vision include imagining the outside of the house and the roof line, it also included how to build a house that would meet the vision of the home owner.  And it’s this same type of vision that you have to have before you start your mixing.

Creating a song mix which produces the best sound for your particular church, for your particular congregation members, using your particular band, and the particular equipment you have available, requires you to have a vision. 

Using steps similar to how an architect creates a vision for a house, you can create a vision for your mix which meets all of those needs.

The Three Steps to Forming a Vision

1. Learn the vision of the worship leader. Much like designing a home for a homeowner, you must know their expectations. Will they be playing a ska-version of the song?  Will they be playing a more subdued version? Do they want the acoustic guitar to lead the song? 

Whenever I’m preparing to mix a new song during the sound check, I ask a few important questions—who is singing the song, and what instrument is leading the song?

You should find out the theme for the service/worship set. For example, if the sermon is on rejoicing and the worship set is filled with related songs, then you want a mix that reflects that positive emotion.

Every song has a specific arrangement the band has decided to use and such an arrangement calls for certain attributes to your mix. For example, if they want the drums to dominate during the chorus, then you can’t have the drums pushed to the back of the mix during the chorus.

In short, find out the song arrangement, the lead singer, the lead instrument, and the feel of the song. Additionally, when the band has decided to do a new song, they should contact you mid-week with this information and you can ask if they have a youtube/iTunes version that’s similar to the sound they are trying to copy.

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About Chris

Chris Huff
Chris Huff

Chris Huff is a long-time practitioner of church sound and writes at Behind The Mixer, covering topics ranging from audio fundamentals to dealing with musicians – and everything in between.


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