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Church mixing philosophy/guidelines
I am starting to mix for our church services. I am a beginner level. I have some thoughts on mixing for our church services and figured I'd run them by you and see what you think.
In no particular order:
1. This is worship not a performance - so i will mix the lead singer just a little louder than the congregation (our people sing, and it is a very live space) The back up singers at about the same level as the congregation, unless they are doing parts then maybe a little above the congregation.
As we have acoustic piano and drums I do need to keep the lead singer, guitar and backup singers in line with them. Yes the drum can be to loud
2. If a back-up singer is off key, has a cold or just not doing well I will hide them in the mix.
3. I will have everything ready, cables neat, mics set-up when the team arrives to practice. And I will be at practice.
4. I will over time change/add pieces of the sound system to improve it (probably asking for advice on this later) This will be a process as a church of 60 I will end up paying for most of this myself on top of my tithes.
5. (Should probably be #1) I will follow the pastors direction, If I can not then I will discuss why with him.
That reminds me of one time I was back in the sound booth during worship (I'm usually on the platform singing.) I really couldn't hear the choir in the mix so I asked our sound guy to turn them up. He quickly soloed the choir submix and handed me headphones.
I gave it a quick listen then said, "Oh."
Mark Petereit - iOS Development Team Leader
Family Worship Center, Florence, South Carolina
That is one of my favorite past times. I love when people come up to me and ask why they can't hear such and such. Solo the singer and hand them the headphones and they completely understand. haha I do know this though. I used to only do that. Then I got convicted and said well... They're never going to know that about themselves until someone tells them. So now I tell the worship leader so that they can work with that singer.
My opinions to Cliff. Take the time to learn the sound system. Play with it. do little things to the EQ and channels during practice. Not during actual service. haha. Your ear takes time to learn the different sounds. Try to listen to many worship cd's to train your ear to what sounds good. Granted many cd's may sound different.
What I would say to your #3....
Dont do that. You will then end up being the only one ever doing the cleaning and organizing. Its a great idea but bad in the long run because it makes the team... Lazy? I dont want it to sound bad. Just a fair warning. I used to do that all the time at my church, but if I was ever late or I missed practice or services, just ONCE... WOW. Cablemania. Get the team involved into keeping the stage organized. They can spend 1-2 MINUTES to wrap the cable up and put it nice. Oh yeah. We have to break down and set up our church EVERY service. So if you guys are in a set location and don't need to do this I honestly believe there is absolutly no reason why any praise team member not being able to do clean up after themselves... Just my 2 cents.
To me - when it comes to mixing the band i usually have a goal "sound" that I'm looking for. Alot of this is based on talking to the worship leader and trying to figure out what sound they're trying to achieve. Usually this discussion is accompanied by various musical tracks. You also need to understand how they've arranged the music - mainly - which instrument is "leading" the song - and then which are your featured instruments, and where in the song are they featured. You need to know that if the violin has a solo at one point, they probably need to come up in the mix there... As the guy running the sound, you need to have a firm grasp on the type of music that you're mixing, so that you understand how it's "supposed" to sound. There's alot of knowledge and training to get to the point to be able to make it sound however you want, but to start off with, you need to know what you're aiming for.
Evanston Bible Fellowship
God Love Ya. Your attitude in that role is going to contribute to the growth of your church. Isn't that what Jesus told us to do? I started out much like you in a (small-town) church of about 50 people that grew to about 250 in 10 years before I had to relocate. I felt like I had contributed substantally to the growth of the church, the ability to buy property and build a proper facility, and the development of a dedicated and somewhat knowledgeable sound tech crew.
You've accepted responsibility for a thankless chore that exposes you to critisism from all sides. These are some things you may wish to consider as your church grows:
1) As you said, the Worship Service is not a performance. It's only about congregational singing to God. However, the congregation will tend to sing out more if they're following the Worship Team. Up to a point, it's a good idea to keep the level of the Worship Team up, so the congregation feels comfortable singing out. Otherwise, you could just give the congregation a starting pitch and let them sing on their own. The louder the Worship Team (up to a point), the louder the congregation.
2) The Worship Service is not a performance. However, many (most?) Worship Teams have real musicians that spend a lot of time working together to make sure that they're in sync with each other, or working alone to make sure that they have their own parts down so that the songs are as flawless as possible for a group of humans. As far as musicians are concerned, the Worship Service is as important a gig as a paying job. Obviously, God cares more that we're praising Him, and not that we're attempting perfection. But musicians work hard to do their best, and musicians are artists. Artists can be temperamental. If they try hard and you turn all of their efforts out of the mix, you can expect some sort of trouble. Also, they will tend to feed off of each other. Make sure that the musicians and vocalists can all hear the Worship Leader, and make sure that any lead instruments (flute, violin, lead guitar, etc.) can hear the rhythm section (drums, bass and rhythm guitar).
3) When you have time, try to learn everything you can about the way a sound at the platform reaches the ears of the congregants (the signal chain). What are the different sound qualities of the various vocalists (higher pitch vs lower pitch; loud vs quiet)? Are they using dynamic microphones (mics) or condenser mics? Dynamic mics are rugged but not as "bright" and "clear;" Condenser mics make vocals beautiful but are less rugged, more expensive, and require "phantom power" from the mixer. How do the mics convert the oscillating air pressure of a voice into the oscillating electrical signal that is sent through a wire to the mixer? Are the mic cables being stepped on, wearing down the shielding that protects the signal from outside noise? Learn about gain staging (gain structure) as the signal moves through the mixer to keep internal (mixer) noise to a minimum (less HISS in the soud). How old are the speakers that are projecting the sound out to the congregation? If they're old and tired, they will be less responsive with higher pitches, and sound "boomy" or "muddy." This will also adversely affect speach intelligibility during the Pastor's message.
4) How does the sound get from the main speakers to the ears of the congregants? Is the sound energy directed where it needs to be, or is it bouncing off the walls/ceiling (echoing) and/or causing reverb that may reduce speech intelligibility during the Pastor's message?
5) You can't do this on your own. Don't expect to find helpers with your level of enthusiasm. But find people willing to help that are interested in technology (what knobs on the mixer elicit particular responses in what they hear) or science (how do sounds generated by the loudspeakers sound to the congregants, and what type of responseS might that elicit?)
Be patient and understanding. Some people will complain (even leave) no matter how hard the Worship Team tries, including you. There is no budget for making God's word better understood. The emphasis will usually be on not alienating long-term attendees. We're in the business of saving people, and our business model is to save as many people as we can within the constraints of our current financial resources without compromising our current financial backing. There's considerable financial comfort in the status quo, and considerable uncertainty in our ideas about saving more people.
Sam - God point, I need to train them to take care of cables/etc.
Porchlea - That is true the type of song does vary the mixing practice, I am such a newb that i just not sure whow to do that. I guess that isanother one of the things I need to learn.
Audiomatic - I guess there is a point where if you crank up the worship team it becomes a sort of 'show' with people watching. I am really wondering if acoustics of building come in here. I have noticed myself that places I have been that are good for congregational singing (live places) people tend to sing out more than places that are dead acoustically, or maybe you can just hear them better?
In no particular order.
1. Follow Worship Leader or Pastor's instructions. If they go against live sound common sense (usually it doesn't), then discuss with them.
2. For people that sing poorly - turn them down, but not too far down. Otherwise people will wonder why they couldn't hear that person.
3. This sort of covers everything. Transparency. Never be noticed. If someone turns around and looks at you, then clearly you've done something wrong.
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petereit (Monday, March 14th, 2011)
I follow a few guidelines:
1. The congregation must always be heard at least equal with the worship band. I prefer to be able to hear the congregation even with the band rocking out. After all, this is worship not a concert.
2. I mix in the following order: Lead vocals, electric/keys/bgv, acoustic/drums/bass, percussion. Now different songs have different needs, and even within the song the mix can and does change, but that is the basic guide.
3. I (as the engineer) always plug everything after the instrument in (or the pedal case for guitars). I have to know how things are setup in case I have to troubleshoot.
4. I do mix people down. I am sorry, I just do. If you sound bad be in the congregation singing, not as a leader.
5. The one thing the band has total control of is their mix (if they are using in ears). I will put whatever they want in their mix. Now if they are using wedges then they have to compromise with house sound.
Esoteric Visions Lighting and Video
A/V/L designers, installers, and integrators for churches. 15+ years of industry experience.
Bring up the lead vocal...... Bring in one additional voice at a time, adjusting the level for a proper blend on a typical harmony.
Now bring up one instrument at a time. Start with the one playing the secondary melody (the one that most complements the vocal melody). It should be sufficiently loud that the melodic relationship between it and the vocal is apparent and complementary............... Then bring up the instrument playing the tertiary melody, again so that the melodic relationships properly complement each other............... (Remember that we do not necessarily want to make the instruments equal in volume, we are interested in the way that the melodies complement and counter each other.)
Excerpted from http://www.padrick.net/LiveSound/Mixing.htm (see my Band Rants as well).
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