Growing up in the 1980’s, a memorable commercial was for Memorex cassette tapes. A man was sitting in a chair while looking at his stereo. Only it appeared a huge wind was blowing back his hair, face, and clothes. The wind was supposedly the music from a high-quality tape in the stereo system. The tagline; “Is it live or is it Memorex?”
Those were terrific advertisements, portraying the high quality one could get from the Memorex cassette tapes. To this day, I still have a box of Memorex cassette tapes I’d used for making mix tapes. Rather funny listening to them now. I can’t believe I loved that song!
Fast-forward from the 1980’s to July 4th, 2012.
I was browsing the magazine aisles at the Barnes and Noble book store. Remember brick-and-mortar book stores? I was looking for Sound On Sound magazine. They were sold out. Looking, then, over the remaining audio magazines, all that remained was some form of home-recording / recording-studio magazine.
I’m not sure if I uttered these words aloud or merely thought them…“it’s nothing like live production.”
Please know I have the highest respect for studio engineers like Ryan Freeland. Respect. High regard. Yes, even a little envy. Could I ever see myself working in a recording studio? I don’t know. But there is one gigantic difference between live production and studio mixing…
Live production is about the experience. It’s about the moment. A moment that can never be re-created.
Hillsong and Mixing for the Moment
Six months ago, I picked up the Hillsong album “Yahweh.” I enjoyed it. Great songs. Great arrangements. A had a few favorites, such as “Come to My Rescue,” but no earth-shattering ground-breaking feelings associated with any of them. Then came the Gurus of Tech conference this past spring.
“Come to My Rescue” was one of the many songs performed by the Willow Creek Crystal Lake worship team. I still remember singing along with tears streaming down my cheeks. Listening to that song on CD now has new meaning. I don’t get quite as emotional but it has a more powerful feeling now.
The power of the song, of the music, came from my experience. It came from a moment.
No matter how many times I now listen to the Hillsong album, I still remember the experience…every time.
What My Last Day Mixing Can Teach You about Mixing for the Moment
Last Sunday was the last time I’d be mixing at my church. God has called me and my wife to another church where they can feed us in ways we need and we can help them in the areas God has gifted us. But back to my final day mixing.
Have you ever left a place you knew you’d likely never see again? Or knew you’ve never work again? And in those times, did you want that last day, that last moment to be special? Welcome to my last time mixing at my church.
On the last Sunday…
- The song selection was perfect.
- The worship team was spot on.
- The sermon was perfect.
- The Holy Spirit was present like never before.
Half-way through the first song, I knew there was something special going on. This service was like no other. I wasn’t mixing the band. I wasn’t adjusting the pastor’s vocal EQ. I was “being used by Him” to help maximize the moment. Oh, I mixed and I tweaked, but I didn’t feel like I was working. I felt like I was being used. As a form of worship. To Him. For the congregation to experience.
It was a moment that would never be repeated. It couldn’t be captured on Memorex cassette or CD or audio file. After the service, you could tell the congregation was impacted.
Why Live Production is So Important
In case I haven’t said it often enough, live production is about mixing for the moment. It’s about the experience.
To stave off the comments and emails I might get, let me make one thing very clear…you and I can only do so much and unless the Spirit of the Lord is present in the room, then anything we do will not be enough. But our work helps usher in the Spirit. For example, a worship music set filled with missed mic cues, an unbalanced mix, and buried lead vocals is not a music mix that promotes worship. It’s painful for the congregation. It’s not all that it should be.
The power of church worship is, in part, through the song choice and arrangement and sermon but above all, it’s about the moment. Your desire should be for each member of the congregation to be filled with the Holy Spirit and worshiping in the moment. Live church audio production is about doing everything you can to make way for the Holy Spirit to come in, for the congregation to worship, for all hands to be lifted high.
Let me take a moment to address those who are in churches where people don’t raise their hands, where people are less outwardly emotional. I’ve mixing for both reserved and openly emotional congregations. It’s the spirit of worship to which you want to promote. I know a woman, in an openly emotional church, who doesn’t stand during the worship songs. She doesn’t lift her hands. For her, worship is a close personal event. I know she is fully engaged in worship when I see her singing. Her “hands raised” is observed when she sings aloud. Learn what “hands raised” looks like for your congregation.
The Take Away
You will have Sunday mornings where you find yourself walking into the sound booth, with coffee or Mountain Dew in hand, and performing your tasks in the most routine of ways. Gain levels; Check. Keyboard fader level set; Check. Guitar EQ set; Check. But the Holy Spirit isn’t on channel 7. And you can’t help usher in the Holy Spirit if you yourself aren’t regarding your work in the right way.
Live production is about the experience. It’s about the moment. A moment that can never be re-created. You are in the position to maximize that moment. Do your job the right way with the right spirit so the congregation can take that moment to fully worship Him.
A studio engineer can throw out a mix they don’t like. They can start over. You have one chance. You have…
Don’t let your opportunity to maximize that moment slip through your hands.