Chris Huff

The 13 Things to Know Before You Start Mixing in 2015

Thinking about working in church audio in 2015? Perhaps you started this year and want to accelerate your skills. This post is for you!

Church audio production (all live audio production for that matter) has two paradoxical characteristics:

  1. The work and processes never change.
  2. The work and processes change.

For the people who believe only number one, the quality of their work eventually stagnates and they won’t be the star audio techs they used to be.

For the people who believe only number two, they’ll be so caught up trying to be cutting edge or learn every new piece of gear or DAW plug-in that they’ll forget – or never learn – the fundamentals of audio production. Their mixes will suffer. The last two years produced a huge number of technological advances that would drive a person to focus on number two. And that’s important as you’ll soon read.

It’s both and a whole lot more.

That being said, there are important things you must know about working in church audio production in 2015.

What’s different about audio production in 2015?

May 3, 2011, I wrote on the future of church audio. It wasn’t pretty. Based on what I saw at churches and heard from audio techs across the globe, the future of church audio looked bad. I predicted that unless there was a massive improvement in how seriously volunteer techs took their jobs that there was going to be a decline in the quality of audio production in the church.

I took it a step further and provided steps we all needed to take to prevent the decline and turn church audio into a respected ministry.

The article was shared, re-tweeted, re-posted, syndicated, and mostly without my prompting. It was a call to action and people heard it. I’m not saying the article changed the landscape of church audio today but I do believe it had an impact, like touching the first domino so it causes hundreds of others to fall.

What is different about working in church audio in 2015 is that excuses are no longer allowed!

  • I can’t find an online tech community.
  • I can’t find a church audio guide.
  • I don’t know where to go for help.
  • I don’t know who to ask for help.
  • I don’t know what gear to buy.
  • I don’t know how to fix a problem.
  • It’s only church audio – that’s never an excuse for sub-par work.

Several years ago, things were different. Today, the only thing that limits your talents and skills is your desire to be better.

Things to know for 2015

1. Continual learning is still your best bet.

I placed this at number one because people don’t do it. I have shaken my head more times at the words spoken by know-it-alls who stopped learning about audio in the 1980’s.

This isn’t limited to technical topics. Yes, you could spend all of your time trying to become the best at mixing contemporary Christian music or Gospel or whatever your church has. You could, but if you don’t know squat about working with people, leading a team, or fixing equipment problems then I’d rather not have you on my team.

If you’re new to audio, then don’t think you need to buy books like The Design of Active Crossovers. While I do have a copy, it’s a very niche book and not one most church techs need.

Look to magazines to start, with easy-to-digest articles, available online or via print. They also include articles on new gear and that’s another topic I’ll cover later in this post.

2. The fundamentals of audio production are still the most important thing.

Talking with other experienced techs, we found digital mixers were not the best for training new audio techs. The reason is the student would get so focused on what they could do with a specific software plug-in or advanced setting that foundational mixing techniques were ignored or viewed as “the old way.” It’s like they could throw up three-pointers into a basketball hoop but didn’t know how to dribble the ball.

Audio production is the worst job if the person doesn’t know the fundamentals of stage setup, microphone usage, cabling, and building a mix. And like I mentioned in number 1, it’s way more than just technical.

Pardon the promotion but this is exactly why I wrote a guide on this very subject. It’s been purchased in over 50 countries and often recommended by other techs for a reason – it outlines everything you need to know surrounding those fundamentals and a good bit more:

3. It’s time to re-consider your stage setup.

In 1994, I took a drastic step. I pushed the stacks of paper on my desk to the ground. After four weeks of pulling out papers only when I needed them, I tossed the remaining papers in the garbage reasoning if I didn’t need it after four weeks, I didn’t need it at all.

Do the same thing with your stage. Clear everything off. Just because equipment has been in the same place for years, it doesn’t mean that was the best place for it, or that it is still needed. Make a stage plot so whatever is on the stage is there for a reason and it’s set up the best way possible. Seriously, when was the last time you checked the drum mikes?

And for all that is good in the world, dust off the equipment. I see the dust on your amps and organs. Dust be gone!

Ok, so being the new person, you aren’t likely able to say “clear the stage” but you can clean it up and talk with others about good placement of instruments and other things.  See the link below to see what I mean.

Continue reading.


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