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Mistakes Church Sound Engineers Make with Mixing Consoles – #1

Mistakes Church Sound Engineers Make with Mixing Consoles – #1

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  • 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.
Mixing Console Snapshots

This article is part of a series called The Top 10 Mistakes Church Sound People Make With Mixing Consoles. We’re on number 1. Go here for part 1.

#1 Mixing on “snapshots” alone

Before I start this rant, I mean article, I must qualify by saying I love the automation and recall features of digital consoles.  Some more than others. They are extremely handy 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 reference point for where to start. Sometimes (if I have time) I will build snapshots with different EQ and compression settings for my video playback channel because the video producer doesn’t know how to properly master his videos. I also use it for training volunteers and new staff.

Clear-Com CC-400 Double-ear Standard HeadsetDual-ear Std HS XLR-4F
Clear-Com CC-400 Double-ear Standard Headset Dual-ear Std HS XLR-4F – $435

Once I had the privilege of observing the front-of-house technical director of an A-list Christian band at American Airlines Center in Dallas. I will NOT mention the name of the band, so don’t ask. This guy had on a Dual Clear-Com headset and mixed the whole show on snapshots.


Instead of mixing, he was busy talking to the tech crew on the intercom. This was a 20,000-seat venue and he needed to mix. It was just awful. I was so disappointed. I really liked the band, and well… never mind. You get my point.

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. I have a friend who mixes hockey and basketball games with a single-ear clear-com headset on one ear. He has a video director and camera ops screaming at him the whole time. He is great at his job. I would not be.

Again, I love virtual soundcheck, but since the band is human, do you really think that they will play exactly the same way they played on the virtual soundcheck every time? I have seen self-promoted “famous” church tech guys on Facebook and Twitter who talk about mixing for days on virtual sound check.


Let’s just say everything is relative. If you are mixing a Grammy record, you might justify spending all day on a hi-hat microphone. But I digress.

I’m not trying 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 is that there is more to ministry than that. Use your ears and mix.

Your players onstage are not robots. They are not going to play it the same every time. If you think they are, you are mistaken. I know there are exceptions. Robert Scovill, the father of virtual sound check, mixed Tom Petty. They have been playing together for 30+ years.  Is your worship band/choir/orchestra that good? Have they been playing together at that high of a level for 30+ years? I don’t mean to be harsh, but I doubt it. Having said that, Robert still went 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 is a trusted audio engineer, and he can mix.

When I teach new sound techs how to use snapshots, it is only as a starting point. If the band starts really flowing from one song to the next, I will ignore the snapshot because my mix has dynamically changed and the snapshot starting point will be too different than the mix I have at present.

Beware of Talking Heads

Also, when you are using scenes/snapshots, be aware of talking heads like the pastor. Did you program the band to mute when the pastor goes to speak? You might have a bad transition if the band is supposed to play “underneath” the pastor’s welcome etc.

In the meantime, use your ears, don’t mix on scenes or snapshots alone. Happy Mixing! I hope this series has helped you create a better environment for worship at your church.


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