Bringing “Unity” To Your Team’s Sound
If there is one person who can keep your team in “unity” – it is the sound engineer. Seriously! Some of us have paid audio gurus on our church staff who know their stuff forwards and backwards. Other churches have volunteers with the greatest of hearts who have decided to serve in the audio ministry for a variety of reasons. I’ve served in churches with both. On one hand – I’ve had guys who have mixed the Grammy’s. On the other hand – I’ve had guys who told me “I don’t know what a ‘quarter inch jack’ is…I just turn things up as needed”. I’ve also served with every other caliber in between. In most every situation – the men and women I serve with almost always want to serve as best as they can…
…so let’s start with the basics.
Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brothers to dwell together in unity! – Psalm 133:1
How true it is! And how true it is for musicians as well! We’ve talked recently about a proper mix and volume overall in a worship setting…but, to get there, we have to adjust each element individually. To start, lets pull each and every item that makes noise through the board down. We aren’t just going to look at the “Main” fader (the slider that we typically raise and lower) but we are also going to take a look at the “gain” and/or “trim” of each channel as well as the EQ of each channel. For starters, pull down the fader for each channel and turn down the gain and/or trim for each channel on each channel. Put the EQ for each (low, mid, and high) to a flat position (all pointing to 12 o’clock). Make sure your monitor mixes are turned down as well. We will work on those later. Next, set your master fader to “unity” or “0”.
Now, lets start with one instrument. Are your drums mic-ed? (That’s a whole new conversation) If so – we will assume that the kick has it’s own drum as does the snare, toms, and so on. Have your drummer do a steady beat on the kick. Raise the fader on the kick to “unity” or “0”. Odd…no sound? Don’t do anything – leave it where it is. We have no sound because our gain and trim is all the way down right? First, start to slowly turn the gain/trim up until you get a sound that doesn’t overwhelm the 85-90 dB range we’ve talked about before and doesn’t distort. If it distorts…pull back.
Don’t start adding a lot to your EQ, either. I had you to start flat on the EQ for a reason. Most people think that if they need more low-end….they boost the low end. In my opinion – roll off some of the high and mid range to boost the low end as opposed to over-cranking the lows. You will save yourself some muddy sounds later.
Repeat this process for each instrument and line you have on the board until you have a good mix. Now, provided your instruments stay the same week-after-week, your board shouldn’t need a whole lot of tweaking. You can easily keep all voices and instruments at the “unity” level. Obviously, if you change instruments or musicians or vocalists, adjustments may need to be made…but now you know how to easily do it for the individual line.
About On-Stage Monitors
There is a reason we are discussing mixing without the on stage monitors. I want you to to stamp this statement down and tattoo it somewhere that you can always reference it:
On stage monitors are for your musicians and vocalists to monitor the mix – never intended to augment or (please never) your main source of sound for the congregation!
I would recommend churches of any size consider getting in-ears for a number of reasons we can discuss at a later date. One glaring reason is that it keeps the sound from getting muddied. Step into most churches where sound is muddy – and I can point you to a misused on stage monitor system in a heartbeat.
There are ways that you can keep your current monitors from getting muddy. For starters – roll off the bottom low end of the mix off of your monitor feed. There isn’t a need for it in most cases with exception of the bass guitar and the drums. The monitors have a tendency to “celebrate” those low ends a little too much and can really cause dramatic muddying. Your worship team really needs the mids to high end on the stage in the first place.
With all this said – remember the part about “Ive worked with guys of all caliber”? Me? I’m a worship pastor and a musician. I only speak what I’ve learned and put in practice. There are people who know MUCH more than I have. As a result…there are always people who say “I’ve always done it THIS way.” If you are one of those people who have some solid advice to pass on…even if it goes against the advice I’ve just given…I’d love to hear from you! We are all here to learn together and grow. Feel free to share your comments in the comments section below!