A while back, I had an opportunity to mix at a church I had not mixed before. As per my custom, I asked a ton of questions and was prepared to do a lot of work to make sure everything was set up and ready. What I found when I got there however, was that they were planning on just picking up from last week’s settings. What I found odd about this was that they had a digital console. In my opinion, there is a better way. But first, here’s what I don’t like about starting from last week:
Some might argue that once the mixer is set up and sounding good that we should leave it alone. This case gets made a lot in churches with less experienced sound guys. While I appreciate this concept, I think there is a better way to do it. First, training needs to happen so that those running the board actually know what they’re doing. Second, and we’ll get to this next time, I would suggest a baseline show file is better than simply “leaving it alone.”
I’ve seen pictures of mixers with big “DON’T TOUCH KNOBS” signs all over them. Again, I understand the premise, I just think it’s wrong. If you don’t have people who know what they are dong behind the board, train them so they do. The reality is, there is no one perfect EQ that will work all the time. You can get close, but most of the time, in order to really get things sounding good, you’re going to need to tweak.
One of the things I see over and over as I go into churches to help out is settings start to creep. And by that I mean that at one point an extra 2 dB of 4kHz was needed, but after starting with last week for a few months, it ends up as 10 dB. Monitor mixes that were once dialed in very well end up with all channels sending +12, with nowhere to go.
One church hired me to help with their system and when I got there every single EQ knob was turned fully counter-clockwise. There’s not much you can do with that—except flatten it all and start over again. When you start with last week, you’re starting with whatever worked then and making changes for this week. Over time, those changes become cumulative and it’s rarely good.
Of course, one of the natural consequences of setting creep is inconsistent sound. As the settings start to creep over time, the sound will change. The problem is, no one knows what the starting settings should be anymore, so it’s hard to get back. All those little changes become big changes over time and things start sounding bad.
And if anyone decides to take it back, there is going to be a big swing the week it all goes back to where it should go. I’m convinced that one of the things that triggers those awkward conversations about the sound is inconsistency. Why did it sound so different this week? It seemed louder. It seemed softer. I couldn’t hear the vocals.
If that sounds familiar, maybe you need to consider how you’re running your console. Again, some might argue for the “set it and don’t touch it” approach. I think there is a better way. And next time, we’ll talk about baseline show files