random thoughts...

You keep using that word...I don't think it means what you think it means... 

Awesome Blog Post 

Awesome, you are awesome, awesome sauce, some of the overused words we throw around in the church world. Our kid makes an “A” That’s awesome, honey! They accomplish something great, “that’s awesome!” You are awesome. 

Anyone who knows me or my brothers know we can talk all day to each other in context with movie quotes.  One of my big movie moments comes from the movie Red Dragon. 

Francis Dolarhyde:

I am the Dragon. And you call me insane. You are privy to a great becoming, but you recognize nothing. To me, you are a slug in the sun. You are an ant in the afterbirth. It is your nature to do one thing correctly. Before me, you rightly tremble. But, fear is not what you owe me. YOU OWE ME AWE. IT was an aha moment for me. You Owe me AWE...

The God we worship, the God who spoke the universe into existence, gets a calloused response to us in corporate worship. 

We waltz into the sanctuary late, looking for a seat, wondering who stole “our chair” because we always sit there, herding our kids in, adjusting them, threatening them to stand up straight, pay attention, holding our Starbucks coffee from earlier, because we have to stop on our way to get a “tall mocha frappe whatever” topped off in the foyer with the free fru fru coffee of the month. We might make in by the last chorus of the first song, beginning of the second to begin our weekly ritual. We have checked that box off our list. But we don't respond with Awe.

We owe Him Awe. 

We owe Him awe. 

This is the God who ordered into existence the solar system, created the sun moon and stars. The sun which has such awesome power that it sustains life and could destroy us if we were any closer or farther from it. He made it. We owe Him awe. 

We are raising up generations of people who respond to the creator with no awe because we do not respond to Him with awe.

#1 Mixing on "snap-shots" alone Top Ten Mixing Mistakes 

#1 Mixing on "snap-shots" alone 

Before I start this rant, I must qualify this by saying I love the automation/recall features of digital consoles. (some more than others) They are incredibly beneficial tools in today's busy church audio demands. As a rule, I use them for song starts. Each song gets a snapshot that is a starting reference point. Sometimes (if I have time) I will build snapshots with different EQ and compression setting for my video channel because the video producer doesn't know how to master his videos properly. I also use it for training volunteers and new staff. 

But with all this good stuff at our fingertips, it has made some lazy. I watched an A-list Secular band on tour at a House of Blues Venue wear a single ear Clear-Com headset the entire show and never touched the faders. He mixed his entire show on snapshots. Fail. His mix was terrible. 

I watched another A-list Christian band at the American Airline Center. The FOH guy had on Dual Clear-Com headset and mixed the whole show on snapshots. 


He was busy talking to the tech crew on the intercom. This concert was in a 20,000 seat venue, and he needed to mix. It was just awful. 

There are exceptions to my never mixing with Clear com on your head rule, but they are usually sports venues that have sound FX bumper music and announcers. Not your typical church audio gig. 

Again, I love virtual sound check, but since the band is human, do you think that they will play the same way they played on the virtual sound check? 

I have seen self-promoted "famous" church tech guys on Facebook and Twitter who talk about mixing for days on virtual sound check. I'm not talking about an Easter or Christmas special, and I am talking about a regular service. 


If that is what it takes to get a great mix on a Sunday morning, you need to move to the light board. 

Lighting consoles are made for scenes and snapshots! 

That is the biggest waste of church resources I have ever heard of. These guys have either created a job security situation, or they really can't mix on the fly. For those of you naysayers out there who defend this practice, I can point to different live board mixes posted online that have been virtually sound checked for days and mixes that are live two track off the board. The live mixes win. 

I have seen church sound techs tweet all day about mic placement on a hi-hat.  (While they were adjusting the mic and stand) 

How about we pick a good mic, (because I know that church can afford it) have a drummer play for about 5 min while you adjust the mic and listen.  If it takes you longer than that, do something different. 

Let's say everything is relative. If you are mixing a Grammy record, you might justify spending all day on a hi-hat mic. But I doubt it — what a waste of ministry resources. But I digress. 

No, I have to digress more.  My point is not to beat up these church tech guys who find value in taking a whole day to map out an input list. I'm sure they believe they are performing excellence. What I am saying to new church techs that there is more to ministry than that. Use your ears and mix! (The people mentioned above make themselves targets by their self-promotion on social media sites) 

Your players onstage are not robots. They are not going to play it the same every time. If you think they are, you are wrong. 

I know there are exceptions. Robert Scoville, the father of virtual sound check, mixe. Tom Petty and his band and many other artists.  They have been playing together for 25+ years.  Is your worship band/choir/orchestra that good? Have they been playing together at that high of a level for 25 or more years? Doubt it. Robert still goes out on tour to mix. If he relied solely on snapshots, he could send a lackey on the road to hit the next key in between songs. He is on the road because he can mix. 

When I teach new sound techs to use snapshots, it is only for a starting point. If the band starts flowing from one song to the next, I will ignore the snapshot because my mix has dynamically changed since rehearsal and the snapshot starting point will be too different than the mix I have at present. 

As a worship pastor, I would never hire a FOH person that had to take days on Virtual Soundcheck for Sunday morning service. And my standards are pretty high. 

I would hire a FOH mix artist who could…well…mix!

#3 Mixing levels with the sound meter Top Ten Mixing Mistakes 

#3 Mixing levels with the sound meter 

One of the coolest apps to come out of the Apple App Store is RTA and SPL meter. This cool toy put affordable tools in everyone's hands.  It also puts these tools into the hands of people who have no clue what they are using. I know of a church that has ushers that walk around the room with the SPL app and monitor the sound person. If the sound level exceeds 90db, the sound person gets written up. But what does 90db mean?  A-weight, C-weight, average, peak, fast response, slow response? 

Are the iPhones calibrated? Are they aiming the mic at their chest or ear level? 

Neither time nor space permits me to give a white paper on the proper use of an SPL meter. They are not hard to find. But here is a word for all those trying to live with the constraints of a meter. The Spirit does not live in the meter.  Personally, I never use one.  I do not want to restrict the flow of the service with a meter. Before you accuse me of just liking to mix loud, most traditional services that have a pipe organ exceed SPL averages that a typical contemporary service. My point is, what is the reference? Keeping the pipe organ illustration in mind, is it too loud because there are electric guitars or drums? Or is it too loud because it is hurting people?

#4 Overuse of Plug-ins Top Ten Mixing Mistakes 

#4 Overuse of Plug-ins 

I was talking with a young guy last week about mixing. He was mixing on a digital console, (manufacturer's name withheld) and was using plug-ins. The subject came up about the analog days, and I mentioned insert cables. He had never seen one, didn't know what one looked like much less how to solder one. It goes without saying, (although I must) he had never used the analog version of these plugs. Now if this kid had impressed me with his mixing chops, I wouldn't have been so critical.  The massive amounts of plug-ins were not helping his mix. Now don't get me wrong, I use plug-ins.  I like them. But a good FOH person could mix a show with an analog channel mixer with no effects. 

Most people who abuse plugs have never used the analog pieces they were modeled after, nor do they know which plugs are faithful reproductions or not. Now before I get ugly emails from you plug nuts, ask yourself this question. If your digital console burst into flames could you mix a show with an analog desk, one verb, one delay, and two channels of compression? If not, time to move to the lighting team.

#5 Mis-use of Compression Top Ten Mixing Mistakes 


#5 Mis-use of Compression 

I cannot count the number of times I have walked into a gig as a guest mixer and found that Compressors are adjusted incorrectly. 

Very recently I was mixing at my friend's church, and the bass sounded like I was moving the fader up and down on every note the bass player played. I looked at the channel strip, and there was not one but two compressors inserted on the bass, When I disabled the comps, the change was so dramatic the rehearsal stopped, and the worship leader says "well you found the bass, thank goodness." 

I rarely use compression. I love the dynamic range. Today's sound system can handle lots of dynamic range. Before digital mixers, it was rare that you would see a compressor inserted on every channel. #1 it was too expensive, #2 it is not needed. But give an inexperienced sound person a digital console, and they will put a comp on every input squeezing the life out of everything. 

I use parallel compression on Drums, (explained in another post), I use comp on a vocalist with a huge dynamic range to tame transients. 

Many people say your live mix need to sound like a record (CD). I would agree the mix needs to sound that way, but not the Dynamic range. 

When I mix bands, and they get soft, I pull the levels back. On big crescendos, I push levels up. I accentuate what the group is doing. Dynamics are more exciting than just loud music. If your show starts loud and stays at the same volume throughout the entire program and ends at the same level, you have mixed a boring show. But if your show has dynamics, your audience WILL enjoy it more. 

Use compression sparingly. You will get better results than squashing the life out of everything.

#6 Carving up the house EQ to correct an input Top Ten Mixing Mistakes  

#6 Carving up the house EQ to correct an input 

Carving up the house EQ to fix a LAV/Headset Mic 

I cannot count the number of times when I have tuned a room, and later get complaints about the system sounding "thin" later. I return and find that the operator has hacked up the graphic eq to fix a LAV mic.  You are not fixing the problem by doing this. 

A couple of things to try: 

1. Work on the input strip. 

2. We are talking about digital consoles here so put 5 ms delay on the LAV/Headset. In "time" it makes the LAV move back on the stage about 5 feet.   

3. Insert an eq on the Lav mic or Lav Group out.

#7 Abusing the EQ on the channel strip Ton Ten Mixing Mistakes 

#7 Abusing the EQ on the channel strip 

In every Sound seminar that I have taught, I use this example to prove a point. When showing people how to eq a mic, I will set the mic up in a wrong way, play the channel for them, then ask what needs to happen? Every time I have done this someone always says change the eq at such and such. Then I will take the mic and adjust it properly. You can see the light bulbs going off their heads. I am surprised at how many people will reach for the EQ knob before checking where the mic is placed or aimed. 

You may or not remember that "way back in the day" there was no EQ on consoles. In the recording Studio days when you needed to change EQ, you moved the mic.  When I start a rehearsal (or a new mixing gig)l in a new setting, I will listen to every drum, and amp. I want to know what that instrument sounds like before it gets to my console. As a rule, I will try to "amplify" the instrument without coloring the sound. I believe your mix will be cleaner the less EQ you use. 

On vocals I use a high pass filter, to clean up breath noise and plosives. (Ps and B's) 

I will use EQ on Pianos due to the resonant nature of the instrument, and to keep it from getting muddy. I rarely boost. The biggest mistake of using EQ is boosting something that is not there. I have heard people say to put more bass in a female's voice. There is no bass in her voice, to begin with. So if you boost the bass filter, it will sound unnatural. The second biggest mistake with abusing EQ is sound checking on a single instrument and only EQing during this check. For example, I will EQ the kick by itself, but then re-visit the input when the whole band is playing. I don't dial in the attack of the kick drum until all the instruments are in the mix. 

If you have to use a ton of EQ on instruments to avoid feedback, then examine speaker placement and system tuning. Remember, natural most likely is better!

#8 Improper gain staging  Top Ten Mixing Mistakes 

#8 Improper gain staging 

So much is misunderstood about gain staging in the audio world, especially in the church sound. 

Years ago Mackie gave instructions in their analog owners manuals about setting ‘unity-gain'  "Select solo on the channel you are working with, set the fader at ‘unity,' turn gain knob up until you have the level on meter averaging ‘0'. " 

If you set the gain too low you will introduce noise into the channel strip. In a digital mixer, you will be digitizing this noise. If you set the gain too high and the pre-amp overloads, you will be distorting the pre-amp, and from that point on in the signal chain, you will have a distorted signal. 

Here are a couple of "fail" scenarios I have run across in regards to gain. 

Improper gain staging at the mic-pre-amp 

I was hired by a consultant to mix at his church, and after I set gain structure in my console on all inputs, we had a sound check. I started building my mix. The consultant wanted to see all my faders at "unity gain" and constantly adjust the gain levels so my faders would always be at "0." 


Not correct gain staging. When I see a Sound person with all faders at "0" it usually a dead give away they do not understand proper gain structure. Setting the gain level gets the best Signal to noise ratio for that channel input. The fader position is for the appropriate setting in relation to the mix. 

Improper gain staging in a mix. 

I had a complaint about an Aviom system from a vocalist. The singer could not hear or herself. So the Aviom must not be working correctly. 

The Monitor system was working because I checked it before the singers arrived. So I go on stage, put in a set of ear-buds and listened to her mix. 

Her IEM pack was at about 10' clock, the master out on the Aviom mixer was at about 10' clock, her vocal mic was maxed out as well as nearly all band channels. 


I turned the Aviom Main out up to 3' clock, turn her IEM pack up to 3'clock, turned all inputs on the Aviom mixer off. I then turned her mic up to about 2' clock  (I wanted to  make sure she had a little headroom left.) I turn all the other vocal mics up until they were just under her mic level. I panned the vocals in relation to where they were standing on stage to her. I turned up the piano on her mixer so she could have a pitch reference. She thought I had invented the wheel. All I did was adjust the gain stage of her mixer and IEM pack and rebuild the mix. 

Improper sensitivity setting on wireless mics 

A lead vocalist is distorting in the video mix. The video director wants to cut the aux worship leaders aux send feeding the recorder -3 dB. FOH person cuts the mic-pre by -3 dB. Distortion is still there. 


Looking at the wireless mic receiver, the audio meter is in constant red. Gain on the mic transmitter (called sensitivity on some brands) was reduced 6 dB on the handheld, increased by 6 dB on the pre-amp and distortion was gone. 

These are simple common sense solutions that don't involve any math. 

Make sure your gain adjustments are made during sound check. If you have to go back and adjust gain levels make sure you warn everyone on monitors because it will affect them.

#9 Not knowing signal flow in the mixer Top Ten Mixing mistakes  

#9 Not knowing signal flow in the mixer 

Not knowing the signal flow in a mixer will be a source of frustration for the Sound person. "Back in the day," a sound person in training had a difficult enough time navigating the rows of knobs on analog consoles. Now that digital desks have taken over, you have to navigate sometimes many layers of menus. Some consoles are more intuitive than others. Some are just plain hard to get around in. There was always "more than one way to skin a cat" in the analog realm. It seems with digital there are hundreds of more ways. The best way for me to learn digital mixer shortcuts, layers and tricks are manufacturer provided classes. Another great resource is YouTube, and then other FOH engineers have great ideas. There are a lot of resources available. Know your console and your particular console setup. You can't mix if you can't get around your console!

#10 Not knowing signal flow at the front end of the mixer Top Ten Mixing mistakes  

#10 Not knowing signal flow at the front end of the mixer 

I see this quite often in churches, where mic inputs need to be moved, and no one knows what the signal path is. It is essential that you know the signal path of everything in the system, not just for troubleshooting problems, but to prevent issues in the mix. Do you know if all of your mic lines are good without hum, buzz, or noise? If you are called upon to add an instrument at the last minute, can you get it in the system, and to the monitor system without major wiring surgery? 

Typically in the audio world the "A2" or "systems tech" knows the "ins and out" of the system. The church world rarely has that luxury. Most church techs have to be "A1 (FOH engineer, "A2", "systems tech," Monitor Engineer, audio janitor, all rolled up in one. 

Do your mic lines pass through a patch bay? Has the patch bay been serviced since it was installed? Dust and gunk will find its way into the bay. 

If you have Phantom power passing through the patch bay make sure you have all patching done before musicians have IEM's in their ears. Make sure you have the Main House fader down, so you don't send a transient, (pop) through the system, potentially blowing components in the process.  (or musicians ears!) 

Sooner or later a mic line, mic cable, input jack will fail in the system. The more you know about the input signal path before the mixer the better prepared you are to fix it and then mix it!.