How To Practice Mixing

So you want to practice mixing? But...how? 

If you're anything like me, most of the time you spend behind the mixing board at your church is during rehearsal or service. It's great, and you can learn a lot during those times, but let's face it: the best time to experiment with some new bass EQ settings, chase down the perfect reverb for your drum mix, or try out that T-Pain AutoTune effect on your worship leader probably isn't while the band is trying to rehearse songs.

So when and how can work on becoming better at the craft of mixing?

It's a catch 22 for sure. You want to get better and experiment with new techniques, but the only time you've got the full band there to work with is when you've already got a TON on your plate just trying to get ready for service. 

What if I told you there was a better way?

Over the past few months, we've been working on building a library of "Practice Multitracks" that you can use to practice mixing!

What's a Practice Multitrack? Basically, we spent a ton of time at my home church creating a collection of multitrack recordings (meaning that all the different instruments/microphones were recorded individually) live during our Sunday morning services. They're modern worship songs that your church probably already plays like "This Is Amazing Grace" by Phil Wickham, and "Lion And The Lamb" by Leeland and more!

You'll have access to each individual microphone and input that we used live on the stage that day. Individual drum mics, guitars, keyboards, bass, lead and background vocals...everything is there, just like a live band.

So what do you do with all these? It's a simple process called a Virtual Soundcheck.

You may have heard of this before, but nearly every digital mixing console has a way to plug a computer in and play back tracks from the computer through the mixing board. 

That way, you can have all the individual channels show up on your mixer and then spend all the time you want experimenting with new settings. You wanted to try a new kick drum EQ? Sweet. You've got all the time you need to dial it in. Want to learn about how attack and release times on your compressor affect the sound of your vocal? Now you can learn about it with a real vocalist, singing a real song, for as long as you need him or her to. Want to practice mixing a song completely from scratch? You got it! We've included every track for you to mix these songs. There's no EQ or Compression or Effects recorded. Just great sounding raw tracks for you to learn from and experiment with.

So how do you get these tracks? 

Well, if you're already a member of our Sound Guy Essentials course (like thousands of you are) the tracks are already waiting for you in your account! So just log in and grab them and start learning! It's a completely free bonus to add to your learning experience. 

If you're not a member yet, well today is your lucky day! You can head over to www.soundguyessentials.com and get in to the course right now and have instant access to all the multitracks, PLUS the 5+ hours of video lessons, Ebook guide downloads, interactive quizzes, and more! There seriously hasn't been a better time than now to take control of your mixes and learn how to get the mix results you've always dreamed of. We want you to be the sound guy that your church deserves, and these are the tools to help you get there!

We recently did a "soft launch" of these tracks to one of our private Facebook groups, and the feedback was AMAZING! Check this out:

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That's the kind of stuff that completely blows us away! It's so inspiring to see people learning and following their passion and having a great time doing it!

Now, you might be saying "Hey wait...this sounds complicated". 

Well, it's not! ;) 

On the download page in your account, we've provided links to all the resources you'll need including FREE software to run the tracks on your computer. From there, it's basically as simple as plugging in a USB cord from your computer to the mixing console.

"Ok ok...but..I can just make/record multitracks myself right??"

Yeah, you absolutely can. And we hope that you do! It's a great way to get experience. Here's the difference with what you'll get in this pack: first, world-class musicians and performances. The players on these performances are the best of the best. The drum performances are played by a guy who just wrapped up playing at the 2018 Passion conference, and one of the vocalists was just featured on the new God's Not Dead soundtrack...how often do you get to mix with performances from players like that? Second, these are EXPERTLY recorded. We spent weeks tweaking our live setup and working with various engineers to capture the best possible tones. They're so enjoyable to listen to and mix with. It's rare to find tracks that were recorded in a live setting that sound like these ones do.

Our favorite part is that we've done all the work for you. All you have to do is fire up your computer, plug it in, and start learning! 

Here's an email we just got from Erik in Florida:

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If you want to start learning like Erik and Mitchell, you can head over to www.SoundGuyEssentials.com to get started on your journey to great sound today!

-Johnny & Matt @ Worship Sound Guy

Audio Consulting...What's That??

Audio Consulting...What's That??

Hey guys! So if you keep up with our social media you may have seen that we just launched a little something new this week, we call it Skype Sessions! Now, you may be wondering what it’s all about? We wanted to take a second today just to share our heart behind it and what we hope it will accomplish! It's available now on our products page for you to check out!

How Not To Be Stressed On Sundays: 5 Tips For A More Efficient Workflow

How Not To Be Stressed On Sundays: 5 Tips For A More Efficient Workflow

Do you ever feel like you're playing catch up on Sunday mornings? That from the time you walk in the door to the time the service ends you were doing nothing but tracing down one problem after another and didn’t even get a chance to make things sound good? What if I told you there was a way to change this?

Overcoming The Mix Plateau: How To Get Better At Mixing When You Feel Stuck

Overcoming The Mix Plateau: How To Get Better At Mixing When You Feel Stuck

Alright sound guys (and girls), let's get really honest for a sec: do you ever feel like you're just not getting better at mixing anymore? Maybe you felt like you were progressing and getting better each week at some point in the past...but now, does it just feel like you've hit a road block in your journey to progress as a sound engineer?

Gluing Your Mix Together: Working With Mix Bus Compression

Gluing Your Mix Together: Working With Mix Bus Compression

You’ve probably heard about the idea of getting your mix to “glue” together. It’s usually talked about like it’s some mythical, magical process that only the top engineers know about, and maybe for a time that was true…but not anymore! Most modern digital consoles can achieve the kind of “glue” that we’ll be talking about today just by using their onboard dynamics processing. Additionally, companies like

Worship Sound Guy's Top 5 Electric Guitar Mics

Worship Sound Guy's Top 5 Electric Guitar Mics

So you want to get a killer electric guitar sound? Well, there’s a lot to it! A great player, a good guitar, a nice amp, and the right pedals that will compliment both the guitar, the amp, and the player’s style. But beyond all that, there’s one more

Is it Time for a Gear Upgrade? Part 2: How to Pitch New Gear.

How to Pitch New Gear

    As a follow up to last week’s article, I wanted to take a second and talk about how to ask for that gear upgrade AKA, how to pitch new gear. While it may seem pretty straight forward, “Hey pastor, we need X-ammount of dollars for this new gear, cool?” Sometimes…thats not cool. There is an art form to proposing upgrades. Learning to submit the requests correctly, with the right information and at the right time could be crucial to whether you actually get the gear or not. Here are a few tips that I have found work very well in my experience.

1. Make sure you are ready

If you’re not sure if you’re ready for new gear go ahead and take a look at last weeks post. But, if you’re ready and know it, clap your hands…just kidding, read on. In Luke 16:10 Jesus introduces the principle that “Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much”, I guarantee you that this idea is very present in your leader’s minds when considering who to give money too and who has shown to be faithful with it.  Make sure that you have taken good care of the gear you have, and that you have squeezed every bit of value out of it. I am sure the leadership will not hesitate to send money your way if they know this is the way you operate

2. Overestimate the cost

    It never fails, it doesn’t matter if you’re buying new gear, renting a car, checking out at waves.com, or just getting a few things from the store…stuff always costs more than you think it will. It looks really bad if you’re pitching your needs to your leadership, and later on, you have to go back and ask for more because you miscalculated. I see it far too often where the person in charge of the upgrades has to keep going back and getting costs approved because the number just keeps getting bigger. Even if the cost is going up because of completely legitimate reasons beyond your control, from the perspective of those forking out the money, it comes across as poor planning and lack of knowledge. Make sure that you think about the cabling needed to connect the gear to the system. How much is shipping? Are you going to want/need a warranty on it? (Hint: warranties can really be life saver and make you look like the hero when the fix is free!) Make sure you are always leaving a margin for things like this. After all its better to ask for more upfront and end up not needing it all then to be the guy/girl that has to keep going back asking for more and more money. Don't be that guy!

3. Submit it as a solution to a problem

    One mistake that us sound guys often make is thinking that the leaders above us who are not particularly technical, see the same value as we do when it comes to gear. We love to get new gear for fun and we know why one piece of gear is better than another. Afterall, thats why we have the role we do. However, most of the time the pastor isn't going to understand why you should spend $200 on that multi band compressor plug-in that just makes the vocals sound nice and creamy. Now, its not that you’re wrong…muti-band compressors are the best thing since single band compressors….however to the non technical people, as long as they can hear the vocals…it’s probably not on their mind at all, its plenty good enough. Why spend $200 to fix something thats not broken?

    What helps in situations like these is to propose the gear as a solution to a problem that even the non-technical people recognize. Something like, “ You know how we have a really hard time hearing the worship leader when the whole band is playing? This plug-in would completely fix that.” Or “This will make it easier to hear the vocals without having to turn them up so loud.” You are guaranteed to win some votes with that one! As long as you can provide the new gear as a solution to a problem (one that both you and leadership agree is a problem) you will be off to a very good start.

4. Connect it to the vision of the church

    This may seem like common sense to some but I can't talk about requesting new gear without mentioning this. Ultimately what you are doing is asking for an investment in your production team. Leaders want to know that they are going to get a good return on their investment if they choose to use the church’s funds for your team. In order for them to do this, they need to be able to see how it benefits not only your interests as a tech team, but also the overall vision of the church. For example, lets say your church has a huge reach locally in the community and does lots of community outreach and events. However it doesn’t carry a very large online presence. Getting a broadcast console approved for live streaming and a new computer to multitrack everything is going to be a much harder sell than say, a brand new portable PA and console packed into shiny new road cases that you can use for all the community events (With your logo on the cases for extra advertising!). Just an idea. The point here is to make sure to take some time and think through how the upgrade you are requesting fits into the overall vision of the church. Be ready to explain that when you request the money because that will definitely be on their minds.

Side note: This doesn't just apply to new gear purchases, even just for microphone upgrades it could be as simple as pointing out that “at least 40%-50% of the duration of the service is spent in worship. We want to make sure that we give our members the most pleasant listening experience when they choose to spend a Sunday morning with us. Upgrading our drum microphones would put us in a much better place as a production team to make Sunday mornings that much more pleasant for our congregation.” 

Okay…That one’s for free! ;-)

5. Show the research

Lastly, when you do present your proposal, I highly recommend that whether they ask for it or not, you are prepared to show a little bit of research. Give them the reasons that lead you to your specific solution. Maybe come prepared with two solutions to the problem (Hint: always show the more expensive option first, you have a much better chance of actually getting the cheaper option in that scenario!). Do your homework and if you find out that buying those specific microphones off amazon is cheaper then buying them from Guitar Center (true story), then let them know! Tell them that you were originally quoted $500 from Guitar Center but after a little homework you found out that you could get them from Amazon, delivered straight to the church for $450. Even if the savings aren't massive, they will certainly applaud the effort and take comfort in knowing that you did the research and are making an educated suggestion.

Good luck friends! As always If you have any questions (or would like some recommendations on new gear!) don't hesitate to shoot us an email at worshipsoundguy@worshipsoundguy.com 

- WSG

 

Is It Time For A Gear Upgrade?

How do you know when its time to upgrade?

Alright guys, who doesn’t love new gear? I know there's no way that I’m the only one who spends at least a little time each day, day-dreaming about what gear I wanna buy next! While it would be nice to get new gear all the time, we know that's not how it usually works. Part of our job is to be able to know when we actually need new gear. So how do you know when you do need that new console, microphone, compressor etc.?

Here are a few of the mile markers that I’ve learned can show you when it really is time to go and ask for that upgrade. 

1. When you have physically outgrown your gear

This landmark is probably the easiest to know when you’ve hit. There comes a point when you actually outgrow the number of channels a mixer offers you. Or you outgrow the space your speakers cover. Ideally, you can see in advance when you’re nearing the point of outgrowing your gear and you can have a conversation about it with your leadership. If not, you may get stuck running at full capacity for awhile and that means you have 0% flexibility which is a place no one likes to be in. Do your best to see this one coming and have the conversation before you actually do outgrow your gear. This doesn’t apply to just consoles, this could mean making sure that you don't exhaust your entire stock of XLR cables, so that when you have to add that extra vocalist last minute…you have cables for it!

2. You already know the gear like the back of your hand

One common mistake I see fairly often is churches upgrading to the next newest and best thing before they have fully understood and utilized their current setup. Many times when I am called in to help out a church, the team has already made up in their mind that a new console would solve all their problems. But after a look around it’s clear that their current console can do the job, they just haven’t learned how to use it. I am a firm believer that you shouldn't resort to buying new gear to fix a problem unless you have learned all there is to know about your current setup. There are SO many resources out there on the internet for you to learn everything about what you have. Between youtube, case studies, manufacturers website and yes even the manuals, there is no excuse to not become an expert on the gear you own. It's actually quite fun to hunt down as much information as you can! 

3. When there is a weak link in your signal chain

Sometimes there is one piece of gear in your signal chain that could be limiting the quality of all the other gear in the chain. For example, lets say you have top notch microphones, high quality XLR cables, a brand new digital console running 96khz, all coming out of some age-old speakers that look like Noah hung them after he got off the ark…Something tells me that you’re not really going to hear the full quality of your mics and console and killer musicians. Let's say you’ve got a great full range speaker system, a killer band and brand new console but only sm58’s to mic your entire drum set…you see my point. Sometimes it is easy to spot the weakest link in your signal chain, if it's hindering your ability to fully utilize the rest of your system…it might be time to upgrade it. 

4. If you spend most of your time finding gear hacks

We’ve all been there at some point, at the present time there is no budget so we just have to find ways to make things work. While this is a skill that many church sound guys need to possess…it is also a sign that an upgrade really is needed! I have not only been to many churches where this was the case, but I have been caught in this myself…we have so many complex work-arounds going to make a console do something or to get signal from point A to point B…it really is worth to just spend the money and get the right piece of gear for the job. If you are down to using the dry output on your analog FX unit as another direct output for your monitor system…it just might be time to upgrade (true story)! 

I hope this finds you well and that it was helpful in distinguishing the things that really need upgrading, and the things that are going to have to stay in our daydreams for now. Happy mixing guys and gals and as always, if you have any questions don’t hesitate to shoot us an email! 

-WSG

How Loud Is Too Loud?

How Loud Is Too Loud?

The other night I was at a show at a local bar…I mean church…I mean…no it was definitely a bar, seeing a friend’s band play, and the mix was LOUD. Like, uncomfortably loud. I pulled out the dB meter app on my iPhone (not super accurate, but close enough) and it was reading 112 dB on average during loud choruses. Luckily I had earplugs, but it got me thinking: how loud is too loud? And what do we as church engineers say when people tell us that the mix is too loud?

On a technical level, it’s pretty easy to say what’s “too loud”. The National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has done research to determine exposure times at various decibel levels that can lead to hearing damage. Their data tells us that around 106 dB (A-weighted) for 3.75 minutes will lead to possible hearing damage. That’s pretty loud, but I’ve definitely heard some church environments (especially camps/retreats) hit that level regularly. Above that, you get to a mere 2 minutes of exposure at 109 dB and less than a minute of exposure is acceptable at 112 dB. So…I’m really glad I brought those ear plugs. 

In purely the technical sense, going over 106 starts to get into the territory of “too loud” for the average ear to handle for the length of a typical song, but there’s a lot more to it than that. For on thing, it’s rare that a song is going to be that loud for the whole duration of the song. Contemporary worship music usually has a lot of dynamics, with lots of different parts that are soft and loud. So it’s unlikely that you’re going to hurt anyone if you peak at 106 for a few seconds at the loudest part of the chorus, because after that loud chorus there’s going to be a softer verse or instrumental that drops the dB level back down again. There’s a lot of give and take when it comes to loudness.

But let’s talk about what really matters: your congregation’s PERCEPTION of loudness. You could be running at 91 dB, which on a technical level is perfectly safe to listen to for 2 hours straight…but if you try to pull that level with a congregation full of older people, you’ll be kicked out of that church faster than you can make a joke about turning down their hearing aids. 

My personal “safe level” for the churches that I mix at (which are contemporary, medium-to-mega churches playing modern worship music) is from 92 to 98 dB depending on what it feels/sound like in the room, and what the congregation is used to. Lower than 92 dB, and the mix usually starts to feel flat and lifeless, but higher than 98 dB, and you usually start getting complaints from the people near the speakers. 

So what do we do when we get a complaint about it being “too loud”? 

The answer is: it depends. If the complaint comes from the pastor, or from the tech director, I immediately turn the mix down. There’s is ZERO room for argument when the request comes from them. You might be perfectly within the safety levels defined by NIOSH, but if the pastor says it’s too loud, then it’s too loud. 

But what about the other times, like when a random congregation member comes back to the board and says I’m running too loud? This is when we as sound engineers have to be very objective. There’s definitely a chance that I may have become caught up in the moment and have pushed things louder than they should be. So the very first thing I do is to check my dB meter. If I find that I actually am loud, I’ll pull down the mix a little and thank the congregation member for telling me. That’s just the right thing to do. But, if I REALLY, objectively don’t think it’s too loud, I’ll politely tell the congregation member “Thank you, I appreciate your input, if you’ll come stop by the sound booth after service, I’ll be more than happy to talk with you”. That’s my line, every single time. Feel free to use it. 

If they actually do come back after service (which is exceptionally rare) I’ll explain to them that I’ve been hired by the church to provide a certain level of sound reinforcement that is compatible to what thousands of churches across the country do on a Sunday morning, and that what they were hearing was absolutely not damaging anyone’s ears. Usually, that’s enough to satisfy them, but if not, I’ll refer them to the tech director or a pastor on staff for follow-up, but I’ve almost never had that happen. 

Hopefully, this has provided you with some insight on what volume is “too loud”. It’s a complicated subject, but it’s an important one that needs to be addressed. Above all, trust your ears. If it feels like a good volume, it probably is. 

-Worship Sound Guy

As always, we want to help you become a better live sound engineer! So if you have any questions or comments, please feel free to reach out to us at worshipsoundguy@worshipsoundguy.com

 

*All figures quoted above are based on the “A weighting” system of sound measurement, and all information is based on my experience – none of the information contained within this blog should be taken as scientific, and I take no responsibility for its use.