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Church Sound: How To Add A New Instrument Into The Mix

By Chris Huff June 21, 2012

Photo provided by bugdog - CCSA
This article is provided by Behind The Mixer.

Does your personal music preference match the style of music the congregation likes?

What are you going to do the day the worship band adds their first electric guitar or electric keyboard or whatever instrument you’ve never mixed?

Last Sunday, as I was driving to the church, my daughter reached over to change the radio station. 

I subscribe to the belief that “they who are driving control the radio” but that’s not the point I want to make. 

It was then I told her my reasoning for listening to certain music before running sound.

“Before I get to a place where I’ll be mixing music, I listen to music in the style I’ll be mixing,” I told her. “This way, my mind has that style of music already floating around inside.  It’s easier to get the right music mix when I have already been listening to that style of music.”

That’s a trick I learned a long time ago. 

But…I have one other advantage… I like a lot of different genres of music.

Introducing The Electric Guitar

The problem occurs when you have been mixing the same band for a long time and the band plays a similar style to what you like.  When the acoustic guitarist whips out an electric guitar and an effects pedal or two, do you know how to introduce this new sound into your mix?

Here are five steps you can use for creating a solid mix whenever a new instrument is added or even a new genre of music is performed.

The Five Steps To Take

1) Ask for a mid-week email of the band roster. Every time you get the roster, check for new musicians and new instruments. Not only will this help you plan your mix but it will also help you plan for stage requirements.

2) Listen to music beyond your normal preference. You can make it secular or Christian as, at this point, there is a lot of variety in the Christian realm. My friend Jamie listens to Christian heavy metal.

I’m not saying you have to listen to Christian heavy metal. I’m saying if you like country/western, then listen to modern country or rock or pop. 

Expand your knowledge of music mixing styles by listening to these different genres of music and listen, specifically, to how the instruments are used in the mix.

3) Listen to music the worship leader enjoys. The worship leader is usually the person who determines song arrangement. When you know their music preferences, you are seeing (hearing) more of their vision of how they want to sound.

4) Mix during mid-week practices. I’ve seen churches where the techs are at the mid-week practices. I’ve also seen churches where the techs only show up for the sound check. 

The band could be practicing with new instruments for weeks or months before they decide to use that instrument for the church service. When you can mix during a practice, you are maximizing your time practicing and creating a mix using those instruments.

5) Ask for help. You are likely on a TEAM of sound techs. Ask another for help. I can’t stress this one enough. Look to the techs who are really good at mixing. 

If you know anyone who mixes at other venues, ask them for help. They can stand with you during sound check and give you pointers.

The Take Away

Take a long look at the worship band and their changes over the years. What do you see coming down the road? What about the new church member who plays electric guitar in a band? Could they be playing on the worship team in six months?

Don’t let your bias drive your mixing. Any day, you could be mixing something slightly different or entirely different. Be prepared by following these five tips.

Ready to learn and laugh? Chris Huff writes about the world of church audio at Behind The Mixer. He covers everything from audio fundamentals to dealing with musicians. He can even tell you the signs the sound guy is having a mental breakdown.

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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