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The Most Important Sound Mixing Technique

One sentence. One sentence should drive music mixing.

Close your eyes and listen.

What you SEE affects what you THINK you should HEAR.

  • “I can’t hear the keyboard.”
  • “I can’t hear the bass.”
  • “I can’t hear my wife.”

Ah, words spoken by the seeing.

“I can’t hear the keyboard,” the intern said to me. She trusted her eyes. She was subconsciously saying, “I can’t hear the keyboard as loud as the other instruments.”  

For some reason, the eyes convey the idea, “If I see it then I should clearly hear it.” But the ears have been listening to music for years. Whether it’s songs on the radio, iPhone or 8-track player (remember those?), the ears have been listening to PRODUCED MUSIC. This is music produced, in a studio, with mix nuances in EQ and volume. The ears hear the music. The eyes see the individual musicians.

I’m not saying, “Keep your eyes closed all the time.” I’m saying look at mixing in a new way.

The worship band isn’t presented to the congregation; the music is presented. The congregation listens to the totality of the mix, not the individual musicians.

The complaint of, “I couldn’t hear my wife,” is not because the mix was bad, it was because that person wasn’t listening to the song as a whole. They were listening for their wife, the backing vocalist, with the expectation she would be heard above everything else. It’s not because that’s what the mix required, but because it’s what they thought they should hear.

With eyes closed, ask questions like:

Let the ears do what they do best.

The Take Away

Listen. Close your eyes and listen. The congregation will thank you, even if it’s the band that gets the credit.  

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Chris Huff is the author of Audio Essentials for Church Sound. He also teaches all aspects of live audio production, from the technical fundamentals to creative music mixing to keeping your sanity. Find out more at www.behindthemixer.com