The Best Church Audio Advice Received

The Best Church Audio Advice

Let's pause to thank our mentors and fellow sound techs for their help in our work.
Photo provided by marczini - CCSA

What is the best church audio advice you ever received?  I asked that question to my newsletter subscribers as part of a recent giveaway.  The responses were all over; some were technical in nature, others were about working with other people, and others were about dealing with their own mental state.

I’ve pulled together 25 of the responses.

What is the best advice you ever received as it relates to church audio or live audio production?

My response:

  • Leave the room for five minutes if you can’t seem to get the mix right.  I make a habit of this so my ears/brain can clear from all the incoming sounds.  When I walk back in, I immediately can tell if the mix is right or, if it’s wrong, then I can tell what needs to be fixed.

From my newsletter subscribers:

  1. Don’t be afraid to play with the sound board.  You’ll never know what the knobs do unless you touch them.
  2. The best advice I’ve ever heard is that mixing audio is like cooking lasagna. When you cook it and eat it, you don’t think “hmm, now there’s a layer of cheese, then a layer of mince, then a layer of.. etc etc“, you eat it as a lasagna. When you mix audio, you don’t think, “hmm, there’s a synth track with a bit of electric guitar, then some piano, then etc etc” you think, “man, this is a tasty mix“. There are a bunch of different ways different people cook it which can add different tastes or flavours, but ultimately, you want a good tasting lasagna at the end of it.
  3. The best advice I’ve ever received is that sound production is an art which entails creativity and the ear is the most important tool which needs to be protected from too loud sound and tuned by listening to good recorded sound.
  4. Understand people and understand signal path.
  5. I started out thinking that I needed to have a full mix of every voice & instrument pumping through the stage monitors just like the mains, but then someone told me (or maybe I read it somewhere)–the only instrument that isn’t already loud, or has its own amplifier is usually the vocals. Therefore, your stage monitor mix should be reserved primarily for the vocals, with the other instruments only being added in as needed, and in very limited amounts.
  6. Listen! Not only to what is coming off the platform but to also to your Pastor, Band Members, as well as the congregation
  7. It’s all about relationships between tech & band.  That mere fact has helped me sooooooo much as I grow in this craft.
  8. Mix for the moment, the now.
  9. Pay attention to the flow of the team and understand music. With better understanding of music or the particular songs, we would know when and where to fade the lead instrumentalist up and tone down the other, or add in certain effects to the vocal to make it “majestic“, or “the presence” atmosphere.
  10. I have been running sound for almost 2 yrs. now and the best advice I have received is from your web site. Mostly the article about eq settings. Thanks for the great advice. (CHRIS: aw, shucks, I gotta love that)
  11.  Audio is 10% technical and 90% interpersonal.  But you better have that 10% down cold!
  12. The most important tool any engineer has, better than anything they can buy or use, is their ears. Use them. Listen long, and listen hard. Don’t get so caught up in changing things that you forget to listen.
  13. Less is more. Pertains to mixing, playing talking, et. al. Praying is another story altogether.
  14. Cover the service, pastor, musicians, and the equipment in prayer prior to the service.
  15. The quality of audio starts with the performers and communicators; before the mics, cables, amps, effects, EQ, etc., the source must be giving the best it can.
  16. The best advice I ever received came early on and I am glad it did. I had just started to learn about how to properly eq and was (still am) developing my ear. Well I had done some training with my mentor months before and he had come back to check on how I was doing. After patiently watching me during the rehearsal before service he said, “in regards to eq, it’s usually better to cut rather than add“. It took me a few months to really get what he was saying. He was kindly telling me that the musicians are the ones making the music not me. Cut the bad sounds and leave the rest for a pure sound. Sure you can add some to it but try to cut frequencies before adding.
  17.  What I just read (from the most recent newsletter) – It’s not what you can add but what you can take away – that just about covers it all.
  18. Acoustic problems require acoustic solutions, not electronic.
  19. The best advice I have ever received is from my mentor [who] told me that “Being in the booth and having control of the sound is not a toy, you do not get to make decisions based on what you want (Like cranking up the Bass) but make your decisions based upon what the congregation wants and what needs to be heard (Less Bass, More Vocals, and very crisp Vocals) throughout the service.”
  20. Constantly be scanning the stage both visually and aurally. If you see it on stage, do you hear it? Should you be hearing it at that point in the song/production? If you hear it, is there too much or too little of it?
  21. I read an article in Reader’s Digest once by a surgeon who had been an Air Force pilot. He said that no matter what your rank, if you noticed something important, like the gear is still up when coming in for a landing, then you are to alert the pilot or co-pilot, no matter their rank. He brought this into his operating room, eliminating the intimidation because of his position and experience, and it has saved critical mistakes. I adopted that in our booth. If it’s your first week, and you notice the pastor’s channel is muted, say something. And for the senior members, even if you knew it, acknowledge the information positively, not, “yeah, I know.”
  22. If you mess up don’t worry, move on with the service and solve the problem as quickly as possible. If it wasn’t too big most people will have forgotten about it by the end of the service.
  23. Perform a system check prior to the band/praise team arrival, also do a solid band/VOX check before the practice begins.  This helps the band/vocals to focus on their job and let you focus on yours.
  24. Some of the best advice I’ve ever received regarding mixing is “If you don’t dig it, don’t do it.” Meaning, just because one tech mixes one way doesn’t mean we should all mix that way.
  25. Remember Who you serve; and why you serve.

Question: What is the best advice you ever received as it relates to church audio or live audio production?

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  1. Ben says

    To me the best is the 25th. In all honesty, as mixing affects what the congregation is hearing of course you need to be technical and know what you’re doing, also to have good ears and listen carefully and know what youre listening to, however…why do we worship? what is worshiping? Worship is for God, from God, so we should remember who we are worshiping and why do we do it. As part of the Worship team, we should be listening closely to the Holy Spirit that is inside of us as well, the Bible said we should work togather as if we where one.

  2. says

    I’m not sure about #24 though. I don’t want to stifle creativity…the sound board is an instrument as well, and the sound tech is a musician on it. But at the same time, when you have a team of sound techs, there should be some uniformity in the way they all mix. We have to remember, it’s all about the congregation we are serving, not our own personal tastes.

    I do resonate with your comment the best, Chris. Leaving the room and getting into a quiet envirionment for a bit has a way of ‘resetting’ your ears! Especially true at higher volumes…

    • says

      Brian, #24 could be taken many ways. You are right in that we should strive for overall uniformity. Somewhere along the line, there has to be a way of ever-improving the sound. I’d add that there comes a time when we have to share with other tech’s how we are getting a new sound and possibly find a way to build uniformity from that. I will add that I don’t like the idea of flat out uniformity. One day the congregation is celebrating an event and another day they might all be in mourning over the passing of a congregation member. That calls for different styles of mixing to match the mood. I also think people can mix differently but similarly in a way that it allows for creativity while also giving the congregation a standard, yet different mix.

      • says

        Yeah. I guess how I understood that one may be different from how you meant it. My thoughts are more along the lines of making sure the mix stays within certain “congregational preferences”, like you’ve mentioned in other posts.

        So yeah, there’s freedom to try new things. But at the same time, we may have to curtain some of our likes/dislikes for the sake of the team and congregation.

        • Tiffany says

          I’ll weigh in on this one, since I’m the one who submitted it. That piece of advice came from a fellow church tech who is also in the audio business and so I respect his opinion immensely. It was in the middle of worship at one of our church’s bi-annual all-church events, I was incredibly stressed and he just came over to make a very minute change to the mix, which really came down to personal preference. I agree there should be a sense of uniformity among the tech team, but I think the tech who is behind the mixer should also have the freedom to make their own artistic choices within that uniformity and to learn from the mistakes they might make in those choices.

  3. Dan says

    I didn’t get in on this the first time but MY best advice I can GIVE is that when you are trying to figure out what is wrong with the mix, place your hands in your lap and close your eyes. You will be amazed at how vivid the mix becomes.

    • says

      Great advice! Any time I’m at a concert, I’ll close my eyes for a minute or so and listen to the intricacies of the mix. Likewise, when I think I have my mix set, I’ll close my eyes and listen.

    • Paul Adamson says

      another point to add there is to face the speakers: Our sound desk is a bit low when standing so there’s a tendency to hunch over it – simply lifting your head makes a huge difference.