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Mix Sound Like a Pro. Part Two: Channel Layout

Veteran Technical Director and CCI Solutions Church Relations Director, Duke DeJong shares the second in a series of articles dedicated to helping you learn how to mix for live worship Join Duke on Facebook at &

Sound tech at a PreSonus 24.4.2 Mixing boardIn our last Worship Tools Newsletter, we kicked off the "Mix Like A Pro" series with practical tips to get a great mix at your church. We started at the beginning with input gain, the first thing that we should always be looking at when we're setting up our mix. For this week's tip, we're actually going to take a step backward to before you ever turn the console on and talk about organizing our input channel layout.

Listen With Your Ears and Eyes!

Experienced audio guys have the ability to mix while keeping their eyes on the stage and the crowd. They know that they need to continually watch their musicians for visual cues in order to catch any trouble early and to verify that the people on stage are able to connect with each other. Just as important, you should be regularly watching the audience to make sure they are engaging with the music and message. The surest way to verify that the mix is full and engaging is to watch your audience and see if they are into it. I regularly teach new audio people that if they don't see at least a few heads bobbing or toes tapping in the audience, they need to listen critically to their mix for changes that need to be made.

Know Right Where To Find It!

Church sound tech at a Yamaha digital mixer
So if you're going to mix like a pro and keep your eyes scanning the stage and the audience, having your eyes locked on your mixer is not an option. You need to be comfortable enough on your mixer that you know where everything is so you can move quickly to any given input without searching for it. I can't tell you how often I see churches make the mistake of having a poor input channel layout, which frankly contributes to audio guys struggling with their mix. Inputs should be arranged in a way that makes sense to anyone who walks up to the console, and should be clearly labeled so there's no guessing or hunting for inputs. It seems like such a simple concept, yet so many churches don't practice it.

Create a Standard Channel Layout

Two worship leaders singing on stageThere are two common ways to layout the inputs of your console. The first one is what is very typical on concert tour riders and is the old school way of laying out your console. It's the method that I tend to prefer, and it's the layout I'm very comfortable mixing with - meaning that regardless of what console I'm on, I can find channels pretty fast without having to search for them. Starting with channel 1 and working your way across, this method looks like:

Rhythm (Electric and Acoustic Guitars, pianos and keyboards)
Other instruments
Lead Vocal
Background vocals
Playbacks (like CD, DVD, computer, etc)

Drum Mic Channel Layout
If you are miking your drums, chances are that you are taking up several channels on your mixer to control the sound of the kit. Having an order for the drum mic channels is also necessary for you to make quick, accurate adjustments without having to think too much about which fader controls which mic. Here is a common order for average drum set ups based roughly on mic priority:

Kick | Snare | Tom1 | Tom2 | Tom3 | Overhead L | Overhead R

Alternate Channel Layout

Another accepted method for stages that stay set up the same week after week is to lay the console out in the order that you see things on stage. The idea behind this layout is that the inputs are left to right as your stage appears from left to right, so as the physical matches the visual. I think this method can make a lot of sense for churches that leave their setup the same all of the time, though for most of us that just isn't reality. As an example of this setup, if your stage from left to right included a singing bass guitarist, lead singer/acoustic, drums, singer and an electric, your inputs would look like:

Bass Vocal
Lead Vocal
Background vocal

Everything In Its Place!

Regardless of what method you choose, the key is to choose some kind of organization that will group your channels in a way that you can find them quickly and easily, without searching. A console that has mic assignments spread out all over the place is tough to operate without focusing on the console. With your channel layout consistent and logical, you will be able to mix quickly while keeping your ears and eyes up and active.

Click to Continue Reading Part 3: Understanding EQ

Read the Complete 10 Part Series Here

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Duke DeJong

Church Relations Director
CCI Solutions


Duke has over 12 years of experience as a technical artist, trainer and collaborator for ministries. Duke travels around the country for CCI Solutions and is available to help your ministry. Join Duke on Facebook at