A common approach to sound mixing is the three step approach;
1. Set fader’s at 0 point (that’s about 3/4 up the fader).
2. Set the gain.
3. Turn on the channels
4. Wait until the end of the service.
Looking at the fader’s, they are all in a flat line. A flat line is a great place for your faders to sit because in the position of unity, they provided the most granular control. They also allow you to bring your faders back inline to a base level if somone plays with your faders. [note: read more from Dave in the comments regarding this]
Where I see issue is in step 4. "Wait until the end of the service." At this point, I have seen board ops ignoring the EQ process and ignore the mixing process.
This four step approach ignores several areas including EQ’ing and sound mixing. I’ve mentioned EQ’ing a lot on this site such as the EQ 101 and the EQ 13 step approach. Today, I want to turn to sound mixing.
For now, let’s define EQ’ing as adjustments made to an individual sound or channel. Then let’s define sound mixing as the interactions between and across channels.
For this example, let’s set up a team wtih a singer, an acoustic guitar, a piano, and a violin.
How will these four sounds interact? Much of this depends on the song. Some songs might have the guitar playing the melody while the piano plays rhythm some songs might be chords/rhythm on the guitar and melody on piano, which I think is the more common style.
Where does the violin come into play? Does it echo the melody? Does it play a counter melody? Does it just play an instrumental halfway through the song?
For the sake of practical application, let’s say it’s rhythm guitar, piano melody, lead singer, and violin to play the melody (or something related) between versus. The tempo of the song is slow. Now we have to mix those sounds together.
The easiest method is flatline; all sounds at the same volume. But that option doesn’t provide the sound that represents the song. So we start with the vocal level and place that out front. Then we give it support with the piano right underneath. Then bring in the guitar to move the song along. Now we have this violin. We want the violin to give the song a little more emotion so we highlight it. How?
Imagine standing in a forest. You hear the wind blowing the leaves around. You hear the creeking of branches. You are hearing a song. Then, out of nowhere, you hear a songbird sing its tune. That bird’s song stands out against everything else, not because it’s louder, but because it’s different.
Try taking the EQ of the violin and pushing up the high frequencies. But bring it’s volume down round that of the supporting guitar. You might even turn down the high frequencies of the guitar.
You goal is that when the violin plays, it crys out like the songbird. Free. Unchained. Yet part of the story. That’s sound mixing.