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Church Sound: Four Vital Production Tips To Propel Your Audio To The Next Level

Relatively simple things that should be done, could be done, but many times aren’t being done...

By Chris Huff January 7, 2014

This article is provided by Behind The Mixer.

Vital…Propel…Next Level…Can four production tips actually make THAT MUCH of a difference? Yes, they can! 

The sad part is a good number of people aren’t using these tips and their sound is suffering. 

Answer this question; when does your mixing work begin? Before you answer, I’ll give you three choices:; once you enter the sound booth, once you enter the sanctuary, or once you get the song list? 

The problem is there are many who want to learn but there aren’t that many good teachers. That’s where this list of four vital tips comes into play. These are the simple things that should be done, could easily be done, but many times aren’t being done. 

Let’s change that.

1. Mic Instruments The Right Way. I’m occasionally pulled into a church to listen to their music mix and make recommendations. Before the event starts, I check out how the instruments are miked.  The wrong mic setup will have a hugely negative impact on their mix. In many cases, mixing tweaks can’t compensate for the poor mic setup.

Poor mic setups can be categorized in two forms; too far and too close. Mics that are located too far from the instrument will pick up a lot of stage noise and won’t pick up enough of the instrument. For example, a kick drum mic located too far away from the drum head would give you a dull kick drum sound and a bunch of stage noise.

Mics that are too close to the instrument can produce a distorted signal or a poor sound. For example, if an instrument microphone was set up with an acoustic piano and the microphone is placed too close to the piano strings. In this case, instead of capturing the full sound of the piano, the resulting sound is dominated by the frequencies produced by a handful of strings.

Instruments should be miked so you hear the best representative sound of the instrument and the least amount of stage noise. It’s the live environment so sound isolation isn’t possible but you do have the ability to get really close.

Oh, and make sure you’re using the right microphone.

2. Learn To Set The Channel Gain. Second to microphone location is gain setting. And gain setting is the second place where I see people make mistakes. The problem is it’s assumed the GAIN (a.k.a. TRIM) knob is a volume control and from there, it’s easy to mess things up. (Hey, I’m not judging…I used to think the same thing myself.)

How do you know if your gain settings are whacked? Do you hear a lot of hiss in a channel even when the musician is playing? Do you have feedback issues all the time? Are your fader controls normally down near the bottom of the fader slot?  If you answered yes to any of these, chances are you have gain issues.

The GAIN controls the level of audio signal coming into the mixing board. Along with the audio signal, there is the presence of electrical line noise that’s part of any audio system.  When the GAIN control is set too low, you hear this noise in the channel. When the GAIN level is set too high, you experience problems like audio feedback.

Each channel’s gain should be set so you have the best audio signal-to-noise ratio (S/N ratio). This means you hear a strong signal and little-to-no electrical noise.

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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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