Sounds Good To Me

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One of the churches that I’m involved with, uses a large audio mixing board to control the sound of several musical instruments, microphones, and audio-visual productions at each church event.

Two of the outputs of all of that sound go to the main PA speakers. Three others go to three different monitor speakers, up on the stage. And one other goes to a computer that feeds it — along with the output of a video camera — to an online streaming service.

That may not sound complicated, but it can be, because the sound person has to know how to do a lot of different configurations and settings:

Each instrument, mic and other sound source must first be set to its proper input level, to ensure that it’s not going to be either “noisy” or distorted.

Then each must be set to its proper level in each of the onstage monitor speakers — for example, in her stage monitor, the lead singer, needs to hear different levels of herself, the other two singers, and the keyboard, but she doesn’t need to hear the other instruments. The instrument players need to hear different levels of themselves, each other, and the lead singer. The bass player needs to hear himself and the drummer’s kick drum.

After all of that is set correctly for the monitor speakers, each sound source must be mixed again, to create the sound that the audience hears coming out of the “mains” (main house speakers). And each sound source must be “EQ’d,” to adjust the volume of its various frequencies so that it will sound as pleasing as possible.

Then each sound source must be mixed a third time, to create the sound that gets sent to the online streaming service.

Unfortunately, the man who has run the mixing board for the past several years hasn’t had the time to do it lately, or to teach anyone else how to do it.

So, this morning, I met the pastor’s husband at the church and spent 5 hours, teaching him how to set up and run their mixer.

Luckily, I spent some time looking for good teaching aids last night, and I found 5 really good instructional videos on YouTube. In our time together today, the pastor’s husband and I watched 2 of those videos together, — with me pausing each video at several different places, to make sure that he understood what it was saying, and to set up the church’s mixer the same way that the mixer on the video was set up.

I was happy that he turned out to be a fast learner — after I showed him how to do each procedure a couple of times, he was able to do them well enough that I could go up on the stage and test different mics and instruments, while he set them up correctly on the mixer, with me gently reminding him of any details that he forgot. When we finished, he was happily surprised, and said that everything sounded much cleaner than it ever has.

Despite today’s marathon session, it’s probably going to take at least one more 5-hour session to teach him all of the basics that he needs to know. Plus there’s a woman in the church who’s going to need that same training, but she couldn’t be there with us today. But that’s OK — I love to do that kind of hands-on training.

YouTube has a lot of how-to videos for running an audio mixing board, but many of them are incomplete, confusing, too technical, or even contain wrong information. If you’d like to learn the basics of setting up an audio mixing board correctly, I highly recommend that you watch the following videos, in the same order that they appear below:

How To Set Gain On the Mixing Console

How To Set Up Your Mixer (A Beginner’s Guide)

Correct Pro Sound Gain Structure

How To Set Up Monitor Mixes For Live Sound

How To Use the Mixer’s EQ Section

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