Prepare for Mixing Surprises

Five Common Areas for Surprises

1. Last-minute requests

Conversations concerning last-minute requests can get into debating whether we “allow” these or not. For example, if a musician came up two minutes before the service and said, “instead of in-ears, I want to use a floor monitor.” Let’s push that conversation aside and talk about last-minute surprises that we have to accommodate.

A great example of a last-minute request with significant impact is that of adding a musician. Let’s say the worship leader comes up to you right before the service and says, “Chris is back from college and really wants to help lead worship today. Where can he plug in his guitar?” Let’s go with the assumption you have room on the stage and an available channel.

Plan on working through three areas; stage needs, monitoring needs, and mix changes

Start by evaluating the stage needs. You’ll need a stage drop for his guitar. Does he sing? Ask if he needs a vocal microphone. Next, where should he be on the stage? If he’s running through an amp then you don’t want that amp pointing at the keyboardist. You need to find the best setup given the existing stage arrangement.

Second, what about monitoring needs? If you have an in-ear system, do you have an available unit for him to use? Given the last-minute arrangement, he doesn’t have time to set a great monitor mix in the in-ears. He could go up and dial in a close approximation…which you’d want him to do. If you have floor wedges, consider an existing floor wedge monitor he can use with a mix close to his needs, such as that of another guitarist.

Finally, you’ll need to set his gain. If at all possible, do this before the service. If you don’t have the time, tell him you’ll do it during the first song. In that case, make sure other musicians don’t have his channel in their monitor as you don’t want to throw off their mix. If you do set the gain during the first song, let him know when you are done so he can set his in-ears if he’s using the in-ear system, or bring him up in his floor wedge if he has his own. There are a lot of variables in this situation. These are variables known only to you.

I will say this about those last-minute additions; don’t go for ideal, go for good. This would be true of his monitor mix and definitely your own mix. Now you are mixing in another instrument that wasn’t in the original mix during the practice. I’d go with fitting this additional guitar into the existing mix compared to re-mixing everything. Cut out a bit of frequency space and fit the guitar in there. But then, as you know, every band and every song is different so do what is best in your situation.

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