Tips for Church Sound Mixing
Mixing sound levels on a mixing board can be a complicated task, even more so in the live environment of a church. For this reason, some type of sound rehearsal should always be conducted prior to a service or performance, so the operator can calibrate the board, gauge settings, mark feedback thresholds and establish a reference of how to best mix the sound. These settings can be marked on the board or on a chart for
easy reference later.
Before performing a sound mix, first initialize the mixer controls
by setting them to off, flat, or zero. This establishes a frame of reference and
eliminates complications later. Make sure the master volume fader is all the way down or
set to zero.
After powering up your mixer console and other audio equipment, set
your power amp volume to about 50% and turn it on. You always want to power up amplifiers
last to avoid audio booms when you turn on the mixer. This can blow out
speakers or damage circuitry.
Gradually raise the master fader, and submaster faders, to the
mid-center positions, usually marked by shading or lines. This position provides the least
mixer noise or distortion.
Start adjusting the mix with the lead singer or key instrument.
Raise their volume fader to a pleasant level and use this as a reference for the rest (an
initial reference is best obtained before the service). Adjust the individual volume of
the other singers or musicians to blend together pleasantly. (You can do a quick rough
adjustment on each and then go back and fine-tune each fader. However, never make such a
fast change so it is noticeable to the congregation or invokes feedback.) Always remember
that the lead singer or worship leader should have an slight edge on volume.
Headphones are useful for blending a mix, but remember, the ambient
sound will be slightly different than what you hear in the headphones. Your fine-tuning of
the mix will need to be performed without headphones, listening to what the congregation
hears. Hopefully, where youre operating sound is in an open enclosure, somewhere in
the approximate center of the auditorium. This is the only way to gauge the ambient sound
Input faders must be adjusted so that the meter level reads
approximately zero during the loudest volume. Less than this will allow hiss to be heard
in the program sound more than this (in the red zone) will cause distortion (a
ragged, raspy edge to the sound).
When maintaining a volume level, its not advisable to
constantly raise and lower the volume with every dynamic change just keep the
volume at an acceptable average level, not too loud and not too quiet. If the
dynamic extremes of the preacher/singer become too broad (speaks in a whisper, then
screams, etc.) volume tracking obviously becomes necessary. This is best achieved by using
a compressor/limiter which electronically lifts the lower volumes and limits the higher
volumes from surpassing a defined level.
When mics on stage are not being used, it is best that they are
muted off on the mixer board this prevents unwanted feedback and eliminates ambient
echo and phase shifting. A sound gate will perform this function automatically
it will mute the mic when no one is speaking, and will open instantly when someone
speaks (sensitivity is adjustable).
There are times that although voices are mixed together perfectly,
they still will not sound good because of poor vocal quality. Unfortunately a sound
operator will sometimes be blamed for a bad mix when its just bad singing. However,
heres a trick. Identify the vocalists who sing best on key, and highlight their
volume slightly not a lot, just slightly! Reduce volume and high frequency gain
slightly on those who sing off key. (Less high gain tends to take the edge off
of sour notes.) People will think youre doing a better job mixing, but theyll
not know why.
Whenever a normally good singer is consistently off key, it usually
means they cannot hear themself, or cannot distinguish their voice from the music or other
singers. Slowly raise their individual mic gain in their monitor speaker and see if this
corrects their singing it usually will. (If it doesnt, slowly return fader to
original position lest you mess up the settings for everyone else.)
Most preachers or broadcasters get used to hearing their voice
through speakers and learn to gauge their vocal volume and tonal quality by what they
hear. They need to have a consistently good monitor volume to feel confident with their
voice. Too little volume through the monitor will cause a preacher (or singer) to
eat the microphone, unconsciencely jamming it up to their mouth to make it
louder. It will also cause them to strain their voice from trying to preach or sing
louder. Too much volume will cause them to draw the mic too far away and cause them to
speak meekly. Watch where they hold their mike if too far away, lower the monitor
volume. If too close, raise the volume.