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Church Sound: Four Signs Of A Mediocre Mix, And How To Fix It

The biggest problem in recognizing these signs is getting over your own bias for your mix

By Chris Huff October 4, 2012

Photo credit:coloniera2
This article is provided by Behind The Mixer.


Does your mix suffer from these four common mix maladies? If it does, that’s OK because there is a remedy for each one. The next worship service could be your best sounding mix.

There are different mixes a sound tech must create depending on the congregational preferences and pastoral requirements.

Using an example with a very wide mix difference, a mix for a “hip” youth group will be much different than a mix for a church with an older congregation and traditional music. This is simply part of the job. It doesn’t mean one mix is better or worse as they each meet the existing needs.

Regardless of the mix requirements, there are four signs your mix is suffering. The biggest problem in recognizing these signs is getting over your own bias for your mix. It’s your mix, so it’s perfect, right?  I thought I used to get a great snare drum sound until another sound tech showed me what I was missing. 

Before you ignore these signs, try the fixes during your next sound check and listen to the difference.

The Four Signs Of A Mediocre Audio Mix

1. Mix lacks low end emphasis and energy

The bass, the lower-end drum toms and the kick drum play a huge role in filling in the low-end sound while also giving the music the right amount of energy. A mix that doesn’t have these properly pulled in will get you an overall sound that lacks energy and feeling. Or, as I like to call it, vibe.

Start by adding “too much” of the kick drum into the mix. Once you find it overpowering the overall mix, start cutting back the volume. If you have an electric drum kit all on one channel, use the low-end EQ to control the kick’s presence in the mix. Listen for a spot where the kick drum gets you the right vibe. I was at a church where I could set the kick volume by my ability to feel it in the floor of the sound booth.

Use the above for all the low-end instruments. Traditionally, you bring up the volume until it’s where you want. However, you’ll find you can often find a better volume spot by pushing the channel much hotter and then pulling back.

2. All channels have the same volume level in the mix

A mediocre mix is easy to spot when all the instruments and the vocals sound like they are at the same volume level. The mix lacks depth. There is no subtly to any part of the mix. There is no leading instrument or vocal.

Honestly, I’m not sure why this problem is so prevalent but I have an idea. During the process of setting the gain structure, most of us get the volumes in the same range on the mixer meter. At this point, you should then set all the volumes in the right relationships to each other. It seems, the problem occurs when that last part isn’t done.

Start your next sound check by bringing in the drums to the level that fits the room, then bring in each instrument that’s higher in frequency. Then bring in the vocals until you end with the lead vocalist which should be on top of the mix. You can check out these articles for more information on volume balancing:

Mixing Tricks: Easier Band Volume Balancing

Add Power To Songs With These Volume Tips

Guide to Creating a Distinct Music Mix

Read the rest of this post


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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