Church Mix: Overcome Inconsistent Sound Quality in Worship
A recent copy of Mix Magazine contained the ad of a company showcasing their large venue professional PA, lighting, and concert stage designs. One of the five examples was a church.
A house of worship spends big bucks on a sound system. Church sound systems are becoming more sophisticated and complex as ever. If you already have a contemporary service or you plan to begin one and have not considered the inclusion of a trained audio tech, you’ve underestimated the importance and will regret it.
We don’t want our church services to become concert halls. However, if you underestimate the technical sophistication, you will not build the congregation desired. The simplistic days of a choir and organ player are long gone once you migrate into contemporary worship.
The best music director, a cultivated the group of musicians and singers, and awesome PA is worthless without trained sound techs and on-going sound board training. Finding a trustworthy expert is difficult and placing an ill-equipped volunteer behind the sound board is a common recipe for disaster. Living with ups and downs in sound quality from week to week is common with many churches. Many churches simply wing it with no clear strategy or goals to achieve a certain type of sound.
I recently discovered Churchmix. Churchmix offers a web based curriculum for lay people to mix sound — people who are not behind a sound console on a daily basis.
I recommend their services. Running sound is more than pushing volume sliders on the board. Audio is an art to be understood and more importantly, followed! What’s a compressor? A noise gate? Are all microphones the same? These are simple questions with endless answers.
Here is an excerpt from Part One of the Churchmix article that provides a perfect example of this common problem:
Churchmix Founder, GRAMMY® & Dove Award nominee, Paul Dexter stated, “About ten years ago I had a well-known industry guy bidding against me to put a new system in a 2,500 seat church in Orange County, California. I decided to look at systems he installed in other churches. His systems were amazing with all the right equipment, and when the worship band began to play, the most dominant instrument of a twenty piece contemporary worship band was the tambourine. I was baffled. What could the board tech be thinking?”
Churchmix Simplifies Audio Training
Churchmix is a church-focused, comprehensive audio training website. All lessons range from three to ten minutes in length, offer unlimited usage, and follow video lessons with evaluation testing. The testing results are for those responsible for the team to gauge progress and advancement. Churchmix is built for house of worship audio tech teams and everyone responsible for the audio team. Churchmix boasts they will take the novice to an expert.
I asked Paul Dexter to explain the need and importance of Churchmix:
Churchmix offers two different training course styles. What’s the difference?
We offer a Leadership & Vision Course, and the Mixing Course. The Leadership & Vision course is designed for pastors and church leaders so they can better understand how to shape the musical vision. Very few churches have a vision for their sound (See Part One of this Article – Does Your Church Have A Sound Plan?).
Volunteer mixers can bypass the leadership and vision course and go directly to the Mixing Course.
We suggest that churches offer no more than a single lesson area each week. Take the time as a team to digest and understand each lesson, share those ideas with the rest of the tech team and leaders, then integrate the new found knowledge.
How do churches lack vision?
To use a Steve Jobs analogy: Steve Jobs made a huge impact in our lives with innovative Apple products due to his obsession for details. Steve didn’t just tell his people to create a great iPod and let him know when it hits the store shelves. He was in the trenches working on the daily details. Pastors in churches just don’t do that. They often hire a worship leader, tell them to make great worship, and cut them loose.
Church leaders should understand the sonic landscape. They should have the ability to instruct the tech team when the sound is too loud, too soft, too electric, and too acoustic. Pastors will often argue they’re above that. However, could you argue that Steve Jobs, leader of the biggest company in the world, was above the details? But he wasn’t because he understood the importance of them.
Only when there’s a clear vision can the staff and volunteers become empowered, and only then can a church be successful. A mixing volunteer should not be reactive. If they are mixing the board in reaction to everyone who complains that someone is too loud or too low, they lack a unified vision. The entire band should not be operating at equal levels. It’s a mixture of tones and volumes. Some instruments and vocals should be more dominate than others when mixing for a specific sound. Therefore a mixing volunteer changing the volume every time someone complains their wife’s voice is too low or the guitar player wanting to be the loudest in the mix is not benefiting the church.
Paul, can you help a church that lacks direction, and where should someone begin when using Churchmix?
Start at the Mixing Course. It will allow you to better understand the world of audio. Churchmix can offer a clear vision because we discuss audio philosophy, how to listen, volume & loudness. It allows the person behind the board and staff to discover their place. That’s a big deal. Up to now volunteers sit before a console staring at all the sliders and knobs, they’re freaked out by the complexity. Our videos are designed to train and inspire. They’ll teach you to understand and implement professional audio technology. So instead of getting freaked out, they begin to see the big picture. The big picture is the sonic landscape of a band’s sound. That understanding allows the mixer to shake out the cobwebs and begin to discover a starting point.
Our lessons explain how to choose the best mic for each singer, drums, and instrument. We don’t just instruct them, we explain the Why!
Professionals should never stop learning and honing their skills. It’s no different with the weekly or monthly volunteers. Most sound volunteers do not mix sound on a regular basis, and therefore need to revisit courses regularly and often.
Churchmix is designed to educate your audio staff and allow them to remain current over the long term. We’re not just short term tips and tricks. Some people will begin to make great changes over the short term; however, over the months the sound often begins to get sloppy and seems to revert back to an amateuristic sound mix. Because the volunteers do not mix daily, they need to revisit sections of the lessons to refresh and maintain their new skill set.
We encourage church leaders to use the push feature via planning center. The leaders can invite their entire team on Planning Center. As a Planning Center Admin, you can set the pace and push as much, or as little of the courses to all, or some of your team. You can assign lessons according to the strengths and weaknesses of the audio tech volunteers and staff. If you feel an individual is weak in an area which they’ve already trained, pushing an agenda of videos back to them will erase their previous progress on that particular course, allowing you and them to track their new pace and progress.
Church mix will soon have the ability to allow the administrator to evaluate each sound tech. Following each Sunday or weekend an email can be sent to the admin for them to evaluate their performance at the board and therefore allow you to assign new or repeated lessons accordingly.
Nothing to Lose
People want to attend church. No matter how good the pastor or message, a poor sounding praise team will cause visitors to seek another church. Churchmix offers a FREE — 14 Day Trial. This is a Free trail which won’t even require your credit card. You have nothing to lose and a growing congregation to gain!