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Church Sound: Risky Business—The Only Way To Truly Improve Your Mixing

Sometimes you get nowhere if you play it safe...

By Chris Huff October 31, 2012

Photo by mwolfe
This article is provided by Behind The Mixer.


Let’s talk about risky business. 

Felix Baumgartner recently jumped out of a capsule at 120,000 feet above the earth. I played “Lost in Love” by Air Supply on the jukebox at the local bowling alley. 

Which was riskier? I’m not sure.

There I was, standing in the pit at the bowling alley. I knew “Lost in Love” would come up next. My friend Dave began throwing his bowling ball down the lane when the song started.

In one fluid motion, he retained control of the ball and turned around, glaring at me. He asked, in a not so kind way, “who played the song?”

Why did I play such a sappy love song from the 80s? I played it because my bowling buddies and I grew up in the same generation and everyone loved Air Supply. 

But what I discovered that night at the bowling alley is that while everyone loved Air Supply in the 1980s, no one ever wanted to admit it.

Here’s the kicker, I’m still glad I played it. I have a solid track record with producing great song lists on the jukebox because I’m not afraid to take a risk. I’m not afraid to play songs that aren’t on the top-40 list. I enjoy picking deep cuts by popular artists. Sometimes they work, sometimes they don’t. 

And when I see other people dancing or grooving to the risky songs, I know my risk paid off.

Better Mixing Means Being Risky

You could mix the same way for years and for the same group of people. You might not even get any complaints.But does that mean you have the best mix?  It might mean you are only playing it safe.

You have to be risky in your mixing to find the line between “much better” and “whoops, that’s not good.” 

And while you *can* do this during the church service, I recommend starting your risky mixing during the sound check.

How To Mix Risky

1. Test the extremes.
I’ve used a ton of reverb on drums to get a better sound. Played alone, they sounded too big for the room, but played in context of the other instruments, they sounded great. 

The same goes for EQ. Try massive boosts and cuts with a sweepable EQ and listen to the difference. This can help you get out of the “standard” sound. You might find a way better setting (“way better?”—did I just write that?). Or, you might find you had it right all along.

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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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