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Church Sound: How To Power Your Mix With Musical Energy

The difference between a song with energy and one without is significant

By Chris Huff May 29, 2015

Power meter image provided by linder6580.
This article is provided by Behind The Mixer.

Kent Morris said, “live music is about the energy.“ 

That’s so true. Where does that energy come from? How do you control it?  And why can it sometimes be so hard to find? 

All questions that will soon be answered.

Phil Coulter, on his Highland Cathedral album, has a song that’s dedicated to the drums. It starts out with a few lines of verse that highlights the importance of the drums since before the first lyrics were ever written. Drums have been giving energy to music for a long time. But they aren’t the only source.

Not all musical energy comes through the drums. For some people, they don’t like the drums at all.

Therefore, a great way to find out what’s best for powering your mix with musical energy is by learning where it comes from, how people respond to it, and how to maximize it in your mix.

Learning how to mix using musical energy comes primarily through:

Listening to powerful music and analyzing it.
Listen to songs you think are powerful. These might be songs that inspire you, songs that you can’t help but sing or tap your foot. Listen to the songs and ask these questions:

—What instrument(s), if removed from the song, would drain the song of its power?

—What instruments could be taken out and the song still has energy?

—Is there anything in the vocal delivery that carries more energy than the instruments?

—Why does a vocal line create power when all the instruments stop playing (i.e., accapella on the 2nd chorus)?

Listening to live music
(as in “be there” not as in “listing to a recording of live music.“)  Ask yourself these questions;

—At what point could you not help but sing or sing louder?

—What instrument(s) gave the song power?

—What part of the mix arrangement gave power (ex. reducing instrument level and pushing vocals in a passage)?

—Don’t mistake your emotional feelings for energy in that if a song ends with an acappella chorus and everyone is singing and you are “feeling it,” then it’s not because of what’s happening but what happened prior to that point.

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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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