In the world of mixing for churches, much of mixing is sound reinforcement, that is, you are adding volume to what is already coming from the stage. In situations like this, miking the guitar amps, the bass, or the drums becomes rather moot. A lot of times you are fighting those instruments because of stage volume issues. So, you mixing around them bringing up the vocals and maybe the keys. In the church I work at, we mix front of house as a sound mix as opposed to sound reinforcement; our goal is to get the volume up over the stage bleed to create an experience for the people sitting in the seats. Even though our room is 12,000 square feet, I still have to fight the volume level of the bass. And I don't use overhead microphones because the cymbals wash and fill the entire room with the sound of cymbals. I have a ride mic that I use for detail on softer songs. Did I mention that we use a drum shield? I try and not play Darth Soundguy by continuously asking our musicians to turn down. If I were truly CDO (that's OCD in alphabetical order) about stage volume and not compromising clarity for the house mix, I would sell our wedges, and force everyone to go with In Ear Monitors, move the amps off the stage and buy tons of acoustic material to put above and behind the drummer to control the bleed.
Sadly, though I can't. These are volunteer musicians. I don't have the budget. And unless I exchange all his drumsticks for Slim Jim salamis, it's very difficult to ask a drummer to simply play softer. But the bigger questions is, is that a good idea? Changing the intensity drummers play at will make it quieter but also affect the dynamic of the song, and hitting the drums lighter will change the tone of the drums, which means the EQ on the drums might need to change, as well as my drum compressor settings. Electric guitars are an issue too. Typically, guitar players have their amps behind on the floor facing the back of their knees. And given the stage is raised, the people sitting in the first few rows will be getting quite a lot of guitar. Instead, encourage your guitar players to aim the amp up towards their ears. I have seen some guitar players lay their amps on their back facing straight up right in front of them, with a little block under the back to help the tubes breathe. Another solution is to buy a Clearsonic AmpPac. We have two and it’s helped immensely that we have used them that I don’t have to worry about guitar levels coming off the stage now.
Ideally, the best solution is In-Ear monitors. It’s very difficult, however to force musicians who aren’t comfortable or haven’t used in-ears to make that transition. Some can’t. For some there is the disconnect from learning and playing through a wedge to playing with little ear buds in their head. How have you dealt with stage volume in the church world, please comment below. Happy mixing,
Jeremy Blasongame is currently a part-time A3 for a concert production company and a Tech Arts Director at Sunridge Church. Over the past seven years, he has also worked in two major recording studios and is the author of Church Audio Blog. Feel free to email him at: firstname.lastname@example.org or find him on twitter at @JBsoundguy, or leave a comment below.