You need to get out of your normal audio routines. The more you keep doing what you’ve always been doing… well…you aren’t going to improve your sound. Therefore, I’m starting out 2012 by giving you seven assignments. These assignments will make you really think about your mixing, your equipment, and your expectations. Best of all, these assignments are relatively easy!
1. [Mixing] Consider two vocalists singing the same lines. Try creating contrast between their voices. Now try removing much of that contrast and creating one voice. Which sounds better? Experiment with different songs and find out where they should be blended as one versus contrasted. What would you do if they were singing different lines?
2. [Mixing] Walk around the sanctuary and carefully listen to the music at different points in the room. Note any places in the room where the music sounds different. Perform this during a band practice. How can you alter the mix so you get a more uniform sound throughout the whole room?
3. [Mixing] Ask a fellow audio tech, a friend, and a musician about the mix. Compare their responses. How are they different? How are they the same? What did you learn about your mix? What did you learn about that person’s preferences?
4. [Mixing and Equipment] Take an inventory of all the microphones; note the make and model, the type (condenser or dynamic) and the polar pattern. Focusing on the type and the polar pattern, where do you think each would work best? Try different setups during practice until you find the one that gets the best sound. Take note of that and use that instrument/mic & vocal/mic setup from then on.
5. [Equipment] Use a sound meter during your church services. Note the average volume levels of the pastor and of the band. Track this in a spreadsheet. Whenever you get a volume complaint, look at that day’s average volume compared to other days. It might be it was louder or softer than normal. It might be that person just wasn’t in the mood for the music.
6. [Equipment] Follow the signal path of all cables coming out of the mixer. Create an easy-to-understand schematic of how the sound booth is wired. Track all wires going into other components and where they go. The next time you have a problem with equipment in the booth, use the schematic to determine where the problem likely originated and what other components might be involved.
7. [Expectations] If you attended a concert, what would you expect from the audio tech? If you were in a band, what would you expect from the audio tech? How do your answers to these questions reflect what you are currently doing as a sound tech?
BONUS: [Mental Anguish] Avoid the “constant tweak” mentality by asking yourself this question…will the congregation notice what I want to do? They are not going to notice a slight mid-range bump in the guitar EQ. They will notice if you add clarity to an instrument so it sits better in the mix.
Question: What other assignment would you give yourself? What assignment would you give to a fellow tech on your team?