The Properties of a Good Mix

Studio engineer Dave Pensado considers the acoustic guitar’s role in his mixing and takes this idea further and says to consider how the rhythm instrument needs to sound. He asks himself the question: Do I want the sound of the rhythm or do I want the instrument to stand out, so the sound of the pick on the strings is more prevalent?

For every instrument, you have to decide how present it needs to be in the mix and this comes by knowing its role in the song.

Channel Relationships

When you can identify the role of an instrument, you can work on EQ and whatever effects and processors would help. And the channels must work with each other—you can’t boost a frequency range on one instrument that then covers up another instrument.

And this is where I notice mixes have problems. I’ve listened to church mixes and when the tech let me take over, most of the time, I only had to re-balance volumes and make some slight EQ changes.

How Does It Happen?

How do these bad mixes come about?

1. A tone-deaf audio tech. (Don’t ask.)

2. The tech doesn’t know how it’s supposed to sound.

3. Mixing in isolation.

4. Times change.

I’ve provided a link above to take care of number two so let’s look at number three.

What happens is the tech solos the channel in the house, or via headphones, and mixes it without consideration of the other channels. The idea is to create perfect sounding channels. But mixing doesn’t work that way. They have to be blended together.

Now to that final point. I run audio for three services every weekend—same songs and same band. But I still have to tweak the console from service to service and song to song, sometimes for EQ or effects but usually it’s for volume. (Not to mention the normal mix dynamics that go on during a song).

At the end of practice, you don’t have the perfect mix for the service. You have something close that gives you a great place to start.

So the next time you’re mixing, listen for those three areas:

1. Volume Balance

2. Instrument Roles

3. Channel Relationships  

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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