3 Things To Improve Your Mix This Weekend

Image courtesy of Vancouver Film School

Image courtesy of Vancouver Film School

When I was the Technical Director of a good-sized church all technical aspects of the weekend services; sound, lighting, video, presentation and even some stage design and set up were my responsibility. My time was split between all those disciplines. But at the end of the day, my passion is sound. So with that in mind, I have a few suggestions on how you can improve your mixes. They may seem simplistic, but as I’ve been more intentional about doing them, I’ve noticed a marked improvement in the overall quality of my mixes and how fast they come together. It’s further proof you can teach an old dog new tricks...

Listen to the Music

I’m surprised at how few sound guys actually listen to the music they mix, or any music for that matter. I once was talking to an audio volunteer about a festival I was shooting. I started naming some of the artists we had filmed that week; Michael W. Smith, Newsboys, Jars of Clay, etc (this was a while back, obviously). To each, he shook his head to say, “Never heard of them.” I asked him what kind of music he listened to. “Mmm, I really don’t listen to music,” was the reply. I thought, “That explains a lot...” 

Most worship teams have a method of getting recordings of the songs they will be doing for a given weekend out to the team. The easiest is Planning Center Online, and MP3s can be posted there each week. That enables the team to listen to the songs during the week to learn their parts. Since our part as mixers is to know how the individual parts come together, it’s a good idea for us to listen as well. I often created a playlist on my iPhone and listened to them during the week several times during my driving. Even songs that I’ve mixed before go into the list, as I want to be sure I know when solos are, and to remind myself if it’s a piano- or guitar-led song. When you know how it’s supposed to sound, it’s a lot easier to pull a mix together.

Record and Listen to Your Board Mix

 I had long held to the notion that the board mix doesn’t accurately reflect the acoustic energy in the room, so I didn’t bother with this for a long time. While it may be true, there is still a lot we can learn from listening to the board mix. We may notice that we picked up a guitar solo late, or that the vocal harmonies weren’t balanced properly. The drums may be too loud or too soft in your mix recording, and you can mentally adjust for that, but you can still figure out how everything else sits in the mix.

I admit I didn’t do it every week, but I found when I listened to my Saturday night board mixes, my Sunday morning mixes sounded better. It doesn’t take that long, and is worth the effort if you want to get better at your craft.

Solicit Feedback

We all know feedback is something to be eliminated in the world of sound. However, feedback in the form of constructive criticism from a few people you trust can be a very good thing. These people don’t have to be musical experts or professional sound engineers. They should have a decent ear and know how to describe what they are hearing, however. It’s a pretty rare church where the sound coverage is so even that what you hear at FOH is the same everywhere in the room. It’s good to get some input from people who sit in other areas, and to hear what they liked and didn’t like. 

For example, I really love the sound of the B3 organ. I like to pull it up so I can hear it, which is sometimes too loud. I need people to tell me the organ was starting to over power the vocals. When our mix position was up in the balcony, in a completely different sound field than the rest of the congregation (a particularly egregious sin committed by far too many architects...), my boss would occasionally call up on the com and let me know something is translating too loud or soft on the floor. This is helpful input for me.

So there you go. A few things that are easy to implement and will surely give you results pretty quickly. We owe it to ourselves and our congregations to continually get better at our mixing.

Roland

Today's post is brought to you by CCI Solutions. With a reputation for excellence, technical expertise and competitive pricing, CCI Solutions has served churches across the US in their media, equipment, design and installation needs for over 35 years.

Church Tech Weekly Episode 220: The Banjo Museum

We pick up where we left off last week by talking about the building blocks for the modern worship sound, and with some excellent advice on how to structure rehearsals. Ultimately, it's all about relationships; in this case between tech and band.

More...

Hello, World!

Roland

Today's post is brought to you by Pivitec.Pivitec redefines the Personal Monitor Mixing System by offering components that are Flexible, Precise and Expandable. Ideal for any application from Touring and Live Production to fixed installation in theaters and Houses of Worship.

3D Printing Comes to the Pro Audio Industry

A few months back, I wrote a review of my new UE Reference Monitors. They sound fantastic and as far as I can tell, are very accurate. Besides the strides UE is making in terms of audio technology, they are also investing in a great new manufacturing process. Earlier this year, I took you on a photo essay tour of their shop. At that time, most everything was being made by hand, including the shells. Fast-forward to the present and things have changed. Rather than casting a mold of the impressions of an artist’s ear, then creating the shell in that mold, they have gone all 21st century. 

The process still begins with an impression of the inside of your ear, but from there, it’s all very high-tech. A 3D scanner creates a 3D model of the impressions in short order. The 3D model is fed into a proprietary software package and the same technicians who once sculpted physical molds are now doing the same thing, only virtually. After about 20-30 minutes of tweaking the model, it is ready to print. 

Again, using a proprietary process, a laser cures a very thin layer of resin at a time. They tell me each layer is about .1 mm thick. The shells are created on a platform full of holes that sits in a bath of the resin. The laser cures a layer of each shell (they can do up to 40 at a time), and a bar pushes a fresh layer of resin over the whole thing. The laser fires up for another pass and the whole process repeats, .1 mm at a time until the shells are ready to be pulled. 

After a little clean up, they are placed in a UV curing oven to fully cure the shells. After minimal buffing and polishing, the shells are ready for their electronic components. The whole process now takes just a few hours. 

UE is installing 3D scanners at various offices around the world, which means that an artist could get a set of impressions in say, Japan, and the scan can be sent almost instantly to the Irvine office and a set of monitors made in a few hours. 

Mike Dias, Sales Director at UE, told me that the goal is to cut the turn around time down to 1-2 days. The 3D process is a big step in making that happen. Because it’s repeatable and predictable, waste is reduced, as is re-work. They’re not quite to the 1-2 day goal, yet, but the process is quicker than ever. The fit of the monitors is also improved; something I can vouch for. My RMs fit even better than my UE7s that were made a few years ago the old way. 

It was cool to watch the shells being made. I’m a sucker for new technology and love to see advances making things better. You can see the whole line of UE monitors at pro.ultimateears.com.

“Gear

Today's post is brought to you by CCI Solutions. With a reputation for excellence, technical expertise and competitive pricing, CCI Solutions has served churches across the US in their media, equipment, design and installation needs for over 35 years.