In a recent post on sound pressure levels, I alluded to some basic priorities that are important to understand and use when mixing for congregational singing. We'll now embark on an exploration of audio mixing for worship.
Here's a drawing that gives us a starting point for discussion on good sound in church.
This "mixing pyramid" gives you a sense of the relative importance of each section of an orchestra, band, or any worship team. As we'll see in the future, this really is an oversimplification. Hopefully, I can nuance some of those details as we go along.
What I want to note initially, is the "conflicting" priorities of musical excellence and spiritual excellence. For the song to sound good musically, the rhythm section must sound good first, then the other insruments, the background vocals, and the lead vocal. How many modern pop bands prove that great instrumentalists can cause people to overlook a mediocre singer!
However, words that lead people to worship the One True God are absolutely necessary for spiritual effectiveness. Without people being able to hear and understand the lyrics and sing along, the excellence of the musicians will be underutilized for God's glory.
So, what does this mean for the person operating the mix? It means no matter what else is great, the words must win. Practically, it helps him identify priorities for a limited soundcheck time. Here's my recommended order for mixing setup (it is a bit different than soundcheck for a rock concert):
- Begin by quickly making sure the worship leader can be heard. Let the level of the worship leader set the overall level of the band (aka don't start with the drums and then turn everything up to overcome the racket).
- Get the sounds of the rhythm section next, working quickly through the drums or percussion since they will frequently have many mics that can easily eat up precious soundcheck minutes.
- Add the rest of the instruments without too much work on the sounds of each one.
- Now add all the vocalists. Tune in the equalization and compression for all the singers, remember to layer them according to priority: worship leader on top, key parts singers just below that, and the rest just below that.
- Now go back and fine tune the sounds of the melody and solo instruments. Synths, pianos, strings, horns, etc are rarely way off sound-wise, if you have decent mics.
- And lastly, go back and really lock in the rhythm section.
And, most importantly, when soundcheck is done and before the service starts, make sure the words are still winning!
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Tags :|: Audio :|: Mixing :|: Words :|: Lyrics :|: Singing :|: