Study Hall

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Church Sound: The Path To Worship Mix Success

A great worship mix is the sum of a whole lot of critical components, in addition to pushing faders and twiddling knobs...

After mixing sound at worship services for more than three decades, and teaching dozens of others along the way, I’ve formulated these “10 steps to worship mix success” that have proven effective.

None of this is rocket surgery or brain science (or vice versa), but rather, a straightforward playbook that if followed will produce the results that you and other members of the tech team are seeking to deliver at every service.

And note that a lot of what I’ll be discussing is not about hands-on mixing. That’s because a great mix is the sum of a whole lot of components in addition to pushing faders and twiddling knobs.

Here we go…

1) Be prepared.

Being prepared means “being all there,” ready to engage and do our best. Sound checks and rehearsals can be tedious, but they present us with the opportunity to get off to the right start.

For example, it’s a great time to make sure all tools and “stuff” are available and accessible, right down to the board tape to label the console. And if you know you’re going to get thirsty, have a bottle of water handy ahead of time.

2) Make an input list and keep it handy.

Well before the first musician arrives, make sure that the console is labeled and that you know where every input is plugged into and patched to.

Along these lines, I’ve found that under pressure, my brain throws up the blue screen of death. Because of this I’ve learned to write things down. I also keep a pen in my pocket at all times, and if a piece of paper isn’t available, my original palm pilot (aka, my hand) becomes the notation point.

3) Stage layout.

The layout of the stage should be pre-determined with all equipment in place, including microphone stands, music stands (with stand lights if necessary), direct boxes, monitors, etc. Also make sure that all cables/chords are dressed and neat so that when the musicians arrive they will have plenty of open space to set up their equipment.

And note that if the drummer is bringing his own kit, have all of the mics for the kit ready and set about 5 feet in front of where the drummer will place the kit. If you’re using drum claws to hold the tom mics, set the mics in the claws on the floor (out of harms way from being stepped on!).

Make sure there’s electrical power at all necessary locations. And never assume that musicians will have extension cords, power strips or even the correct line cables to connect to a direct box. Also make sure that all cables needed are in place.

4) Line check.

Never skip a line check. Making sure that all mics and inputs are working, showing up in the correct channels on the board, and don’t have any hum, buzz, or other unwanted noise, is vital. I usually use my iPod with a 1/4-inch to 1/8-inch adapter to check direct inputs. Also, don’t forget to test all of the stage monitors to make sure they’re working and are also patched to the proper output on the board.

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