Study Hall

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Church Sound: Back To The Basics

If we don't understand two primary issues, the only thing that will be consistent about our mixes is that they will be hit or miss on a consistent basis

I was at an event recently where the mix was, shall we say, less than spectacular. But it also wasn’t horrible. Let’s just say it was a little above bad and a little less than O.K.

In reality it was mainly one thing that was really grating on my nerves: every time the lead singer would really get into his mic, some level distortion would occur.

I wanted to get up and go back to the mix position and turn the gain down on the preamp!

What I have found in situations like this is that the person mixing;

1) Has an ego problem and is not open to suggestions;
2) About 70 percent of the time achieves a reasonably good mix, but when something changes or goes awry has no ability to correct or fix the problem;
4) Knows little about the basics of sound;
5) Turns out to be a musician who wasn’t good enough to be on stage. (Sorry!)

Now before all of my musician friends jump all over me, let me say that some of the best mixes I’ve heard were put together by accomplished musicians that turned sound operators because they loved mixing.

The big issue is a lack of understanding of the basics.  I mean, come on, and gain structure 101!  If the gain structure issue was fixed in the situation I mentioned above, I would say the mix would have been much better than acceptable.

I know that it’s sexier to play with effects, work the EQ, and add dynamics… But really, if we don’t have the basics down, the only thing that will be consistent about our mixes is that they will be hit or miss on a consistent basis.

Here are two very basic things to always keep in mind:

1) Understand the essentials of gain structure There are many articles written on this available right here on ProSoundWeb.

2) Use the right mic, and put it in the right position. This requires an understanding of pickup patterns, the differences between condenser and dynamic mics, and also where to place them on instruments.

My current pet peeve is the sound operator who mics the clarinet with the mic up riding the bell! There is something about that nasally tin whistle sound that happens when close mic’ing that bell that makes my hair stand on end!

Anyway, simply doing these two things help us deliver solid mix on a consistent basis. It’s a matter of the basics!

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