The Biggest Battle an Audio Tech Will Face: Self-Doubt

The stage was set.  The equipment checked and double-checked.  The band was plugged in and ready.  Everything was as expected until they played the first song.

it stealthily crept across the sanctuary

They sounded horrible.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying the musicians were horrible.  The house mix sounded atrocious.  There’s always that “singers need to warm up” and “musicians need to loosen up” sort of first-song-stuff but this was well beyond that.

it moved closer to the booth

I tried rebuilding the mix starting with the lead vocal and the rhythm guitar. It didn’t work.

it leaped upon him, claws out and teeth bared. [click to continue »]

Don’t Blame Your Singers. It’s Your Fault.

bing crosby 001

Have we been looking at it all wrong?  We see vocal microphones as the determining factor in sound quality. Truthfully, the factor is largely YOUR work but before we get to that, let’s turn to Bing Crosby.

During World War II, he was the #1 American movie actor, the #1 global recording artist, and the host of the top-rated American radio show. Oh, and let’s not forget his memorable recording of the song, White Christmas.

So what!?!

[click to continue »]

Mixing in a Different Room? Don’t Make This Assumption

Don't let the room fool you!

One day it happens.  You’re asked to mix someplace new.  Could you mix our band at another church?  Could you mix in the kids venue?  Or the big one, are you ready to mix in a new sanctuary…because we are building a new one!?!

A definition of sanctuary is a place of refuge and protection.  If you’ve always mixed in the same venue, you’ve been protected from a cold hard truth; what works in one venue will not work in other venues.  I’ll be honest, I used to think the same thing.  I recall standing behind the mixer thinking, “this sounds good at my church, why doesn’t it sound right here?  [click to continue »]

The 13 Things to Know Before You Start Mixing in 2015

Thinking about working in church audio in 2015? Perhaps you started this year and want to accelerate your skills. This post is for you!

Church audio production (all live audio production for that matter) has two paradoxical characteristics:

  1. The work and processes never change.
  2. The work and processes change.

For the people who believe only number one, the quality of their work eventually stagnates and they won’t be the star audio techs they used to be.

For the people who believe only number two, they’ll be so caught up trying to be cutting edge or learn every new piece of gear or DAW plug-in that they’ll forget – or never learn – the fundamentals of audio production. [click to continue »]

How We Screw Up Our Ears – Healthy Ears

“Can you hear out of this ear?” the nurse asked me.  “Yes,” I replied.  She proceeded to pull out the nastiest wax I’d ever seen.  “I THOUGHT I could hear,” came my next words.

Ear health isn’t a topic that will trend on Twitter any time soon but it’s important for sound engineers and musicians.

Usually, we are only told to avoid prolonged exposure to high sound pressure levels.  There’s much more we should be doing and it starts with knowing how our ears clean themselves.

What is earwax?

Cerumen, commonly called earwax, serves as a self-cleaning agent with protective, lubricating, and antibacterial properties.  [click to continue »]

Have You Fallen For This Audio Myth?

Audio production has long included choir miking and that’s where the problem started.  Miking a choir requires proper microphone placement and the 3-to-1 rule is often referenced. It’s also where the myth was birthed.

The myth is this:

The 3:1 microphone placement ratio extends to ALL microphones placed on the stage to ELIMINATE one sound from being detected in multiple microphones.

[click to continue »]

Church Techs Need to Stop Talking

LISTEN!  I’ve noticed a huge problem in online church tech forums (I’m a member of quite a few); many tech folks don’t know how to help solve problems.  Here’s the setup:

Questioner: “I have a problem with (insert problem here). I’ve tried (insert attempt here).  Here’s a list of my gear. Any ideas?”

Answer: “You need to upgrade (insert piece of equipment here) or use a (piece of equipment here). That’s what we use at (insert church here) and it takes care of the problem.”

OR

Answer: “Why do you have that (insert piece of gear that has nothing to do with the question)?”  At this point, other people chime in on that unrelated gear until someone eventually brings it back around to the original question. [click to continue »]

One Cajón Plus Two Microphones Equals Two Instruments

A cajón, pronouced ka-hone, is nothing more than a wooden box.  And while a percussionist is whacking away at the exterior, there is a whole lot going on both inside and out.  Through the right miking combination, you can create a cajón mix with great mid and high end sounds as well as substantial low end. In the right circumstances, you’ll get the sounds of two instruments.

Cajón Microphone selection

For the outside, I use a Shure PG81.  This cardioid condenser is placed about a foot away from the front of the cajón.  This enables the capture of the percussionist’s hands slapping the cajón as well as picking up any additional percussion pieces on the floor, such as a foot-tapped tambourine. [click to continue »]

How To Lead Worship From The Sound Board

photo of worship

[Guest post from Dave Helmuth]

The worship leader stands on the stage, right?

Well, not exactly. The worship leader may be standing behind the mixer (hat tip to Chris Huff). What you do from the mixer affects…everything.

I don’t mean that you just have all the mics on when they need to be. I don’t just mean that your mix is musical and beautiful and inspiring. I don’t mean that there’s no feedback piercing our ears. I don’t mean that you’ve given the band what they need in their monitors. I don’t mean that you’ve stayed between your dB limits for the house mix. [click to continue »]

Mix Tolerance – Musicians, Song Arrangement, and When to Keep Your Finger Off the Fader

arrangement

Let’s be honest, musicians only play the music but we’re the ones who form it into something great.  Their music pales in comparison to what we create.  We are mixing gods!

I so hope you were offended by that.  I didn’t mean it. The problem is some techs buy into that belief.  The result is they work against the musicians and not alongside them.  That needs to stop, today.

Musicians give us the most wonderful gift we can get – good song arrangements.  Song arrangements that carries the listener through the composition, with energy, with emotion.

Great arrangements make for easy mixing but if one doesn’t recognize the power of an arrangement, then mixing becomes about creating sound, not creating “music.”

What is an arrangement? [click to continue »]