#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!