Working a retreat camp a few weeks ago, I asked the worship leader a few questions that showed him I took my job seriously. Preparing for practice, he was making notes on his song schedule sheet when I approached him. "Hey Mark, I've got a couple questions for you concerning the songs you are playing…"
"Sure, what do you need?"
"Is the song order I have on my sheet correct?"
[checks it] "Yes."
"Can you write down who is leading singing on each song?"
"Sure" [scribble scribble]
"Can you also write down which instrument leads each song?"
"No problem" [scribble scribble]
Then he said "wow, you are really on top of this."
Setting up the stage, getting each monitor mix right…these are all part of our duties. But when you and I don't know how the band is going to perform a particular song, we are doing a disservice to the band and the congregation.
How many ways have you heard the same Christian worship song performed? The acoustic version, the piano version, the punk version, the Celtic version…oops, I almost forgot the ska version. Now I'm supposed to mix the song for the church worship team. Hmmmmm.
Let's be honest, most of this stuff is resolved during practice. The band plays and you take mix notes. [insert conviction if you don't.] But why not take a few moments before practice and show the worship leader you know each song arrangement has its own intricacies. Show them you care about the performance of each and every song. In time, you might not even have to ask these questions. The worship leader will be so excited that you care about each song that he or she will GIVE you a song outline before you can even ask.
What ARE mix notes?
I don't think I've ever seen a definitive guide to mix notes, so please add to this list what you can.
For each song, I note;
- EQ changes – "acoustic guitar / cut high eq for piano to lead"
- Volume boosts – "boost drum volume during second half of song"
- Lead singer – this tells who to push in the mix
- Lead instrument – this tells me where the instrument should sit in the mix.
- Anything else that might stand out like "singer #2 reads from scripture during instrumental" so I'd boost volume and perhaps cut vocal effects.
I'll hesitantly say one thing about mix notes; if you've been mixing the same band for a while and you know how they perform, you don't necessarily need to take EQ or volume notes. But do always ask for instrument and singer leads because those are the most likely change.
So remember, ask for the correct song order, each song's lead singer, and the instrument that moves/leads the song. This information is a great basis for your mix notes. And whatever you do, please check with the worship leader after practice in case anything changes. While the practice may have one person doing lead vocals, that can change post-practice.
Question: What Helps You Track The Intricacies of Each Song?