Mix Sound Like a Pro. Part Eight: Mix Pyramid - The Architect!
Veteran Technical Director and CCI Solutions Church Relations Director Duke DeJong shares the eighth in a series of articles dedicated to helping you learn how to mix sound like a Pro for live worship. Join Duke on Facebook at www.facebook.com/ccisolutions & www.twitter.com/ccisolutions.
Last Worship Tools newsletter, we introduced the idea of the Mix Pyramid, a piece of imagery to help us think about how we build our mix; those things that need to stand out, that really define our mix (and pyramid), and need to be at the most prominent place in our mix. But even the most spectacular pyramid needs a great foundation to build it up high enough to see. Every instrument has a role, whether it's a lead part of your mix or part of the base that gives it body. How do we know which is which? It would be really easy as a Front Of House (FOH) operator to make an educated guess, but I submit to you that to truly mix like a pro you need to consult the pyramid's architect.
In nearly every church, the Senior Pastor truly is the Principal Architect of what happens in your church. When it comes to every ministry aspect of your church, the Principal Architect is responsible for the whole picture. Regardless of whether they know music or mixing, the Principal Architect is still accountable to God for it. For this reason they have the final say, and as a FOH person we should be periodically checking in with our Pastor to make sure they feel good about the worship mix.
I mix at my church 2-3 times per month and I've made it a habit for years to check in with my Pastor between first and second service to make sure the sound felt good. If he has concerns, I listen. Generally that check-in tells me that I'm on the right track and can continue the course. But on the rare occasion that the sound does jump the track, it's much better to know that before another service than to wait until after a complaint is made during next week's staff meeting.
For most churches, the Senior Pastor has entrusted the Worship Leader to handle the details of your worship architecture. While we need to check in periodically with the Principal, the person that understands both the vision and the details to the pyramid we should be mixing is your worship leader. Whether paid or volunteer, your Project Architect is the person entrusted to lead the body into worshiping God. His task is to define the structure of what the musicians and singers do in worship. That arranging and sculpting is also what defines our mix pyramid.
The Project Manager
I learned many years ago that I am not a musical architect. I'm great at taking the vision of the Principal Architect, combined with the details from the Project Architect to build a beautiful mix pyramid.
Sure, I absolutely have great ideas to include for the design of the pyramid. But I have to realize that as the FOH operator (or guitarist, drummer, singer, etc.) I am not the architect. My role is that of a Project Manager who plays a crucial role in building this masterpiece. My job is to take the materials that the musicians are bringing and create the pyramid masterpiece the architects designed.
Frankly, that is a freeing place to be when you're behind the console. Complaints on the mix used to ruin my week. Having to mix to a volume cap used to drive me nuts. Complaints still bother me for a minute and I still prefer to mix with freedom, but I learned that there is freedom in mixing within the plans the architects created. When you're building according to the plans the architect drew, complaints and differences of opinion will no longer be personal to you. And when you get a comment, you can check in with the architect, fill them in and let the architect decide what should and shouldn't change. I have never mixed with greater freedom than I have since I had this revelation.
Project Architects (Worship Leaders)
If you've been entrusted to lead your congregation in worship, be sure to lead everyone. Most leaders understand they have to direct the band to play in a certain way and at certain times, but if you're not communicating what you've designed to the FOH operator, your Project Manager, don't be too surprised if the pyramid comes out a little differently than you intended. Great communication and collaboration between the designer and the builder is critical if the architect wants the building to come out right. Worship Leaders and FOH operators should be talking regularly about what the goals and desired outcomes are, and occasionally to course-correct as well.
Project Managers (FOH Operators)
Most Project Architects are wonderfully gifted at designing a worship environment, but not all are naturally inclined towards great communication. If your Worship Leader isn't communicating with you regularly about what they are trying to accomplish with the music arrangement, you're determining your mix pyramid on your own which means you've inserted yourself into the accountability chain. I don't know about you, but as the person behind the console, that's a responsibility I don't want.
Unless I'm directing the band and singers too, I have no business giving myself that responsibility. If you're determining your own mixing priorities without the worship leader's input, I highly recommend you share this article with them, along with your desire to submit to their direction, and enjoy the freedom that mixing under proper authority brings.
Putting the Final Stones in Place
Communication gets a bad rap for being difficult sometimes, but in this case it doesn't have to be complicated. Most Worship Leaders will reuse songs regularly as the congregation knows them and can follow along easily, so it's not like you have to relearn 4 to 6 new songs every week. If you already know how 4 of the songs have been arranged, a quick conversation to get the vision for the 2 new songs is all it takes to be mixing to the Architect's plans. If my Worship Leader doesn't clearly tell the band on his own what is leading, what is leading second and who is filling or supporting, I'll often walk up to the stage and ask during a break. While I'm experienced enough to usually get a good idea of what he intends pretty quickly, I ensure that I'm mixing to his vision when I ask. In addition, I build trust.
I get to mix free from stress, happy to serve and carry out the vision that the Principal Architect has worked with his Worship Architect to create. Through vision, detail, communication and submission, God is glorified, which is our mutual goal!
Click to Continue Reading Part 9: Listening!
Read the Complete 10 Part Series Here