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Title: How are you training today's volunteers to mix?
Post by: Jim Layton on March 06, 2020, 08:44:23 am
Hey everyone,
Background on the question. I formerly had a good crew of sound engineers who ran our church sound. We were/are experienced outside of church, working with all kinds of bands and music styles. Everyone knew how to listen to the performers, hear the individual components and mix accordingly. Today I am the last person standing and starting to sift through volunteers.

My main focus to start them off is not how a digital board works. Not gain structure, eq, or anything like that. I want explain the concept of critical listening, hearing each instrument and vocal in the mix. How can someone mix what they aren't hearing? Whenever I hear a poor mix I can be certain that when I look over at the volunteer, they will standing at the board, singing away, waving a hand, etc. They are not focused on mixing. My thought is mentally/emotionally they know the song and subconsciously correct for errors in the mix...in their head, not the house. The other thought is they see the performers and think they must be performing properly because they are on stage, they are nice people, they are my friends...so no adjustments needed. I even have a vocalist who won't ask for IEM adjustments from the stage because she fears it will hurt the other singers feelings. She walks back to FOH and whispers it to me.

Ideally I would have them listen to high-quality recording and try to analyze the mix and see what instruments are where. But listening to music through ear buds from Walmart my not work so well.

What approach have you taken that works?



Title: Re: How are you training today's volunteers to mix?
Post by: Steve-White on March 06, 2020, 03:55:24 pm
Hey everyone,
Background on the question. I formerly had a good crew of sound engineers who ran our church sound. We were/are experienced outside of church, working with all kinds of bands and music styles. Everyone knew how to listen to the performers, hear the individual components and mix accordingly. Today I am the last person standing and starting to sift through volunteers.

My main focus to start them off is not how a digital board works. Not gain structure, eq, or anything like that. I want explain the concept of critical listening, hearing each instrument and vocal in the mix. How can someone mix what they aren't hearing? Whenever I hear a poor mix I can be certain that when I look over at the volunteer, they will standing at the board, singing away, waving a hand, etc. They are not focused on mixing. My thought is mentally/emotionally they know the song and subconsciously correct for errors in the mix...in their head, not the house. The other thought is they see the performers and think they must be performing properly because they are on stage, they are nice people, they are my friends...so no adjustments needed. I even have a vocalist who won't ask for IEM adjustments from the stage because she fears it will hurt the other singers feelings. She walks back to FOH and whispers it to me.

Ideally I would have them listen to high-quality recording and try to analyze the mix and see what instruments are where. But listening to music through ear buds from Walmart my not work so well.

What approach have you taken that works?

This is going to be interesting to follow.  No sarcasm there - genuine interest.

Have a look at this thread - lots of psychology at play as you alluded to already: https://forums.prosoundweb.com/index.php/topic,173282.0.html

Getting the overview of what's happening real-time and what an engineer should be doing......maybe a monkey see, monkey do approach.  I don't know.  I basically trained 3 in sound and lights - each were different and unique.
Title: Re: How are you training today's volunteers to mix?
Post by: Tim Hite on March 06, 2020, 04:40:11 pm
Assuming you have a digital console, I'd start with having them mix various multi-track recordings then talk with them about the decisions they made in the mix. There are many archives of multi-track recordings available on the web.

I would think that at the least, basic EQ function for carving out space in the mix would be required knowledge.

Then listen to the parts and assemble them into a whole. . .

I think it would be very difficult to analyze a mix without knowing something about the pieces that created it.
Title: Re: How are you training today's volunteers to mix?
Post by: Erik Jerde on March 06, 2020, 05:42:01 pm
Iím actually developing a training program right now.

1:  Make sure they actually want to be doing the job, no warm bodies.
2:  Get a good multitrack recording.
3:  Do a mixdown of the tracks on the console as a reference.  Iím using IEMs for this because Iím targeting a more produced feel.  The purpose of this to give people a well mixed reference of the material they will be working with.  That way they come to training knowing the material.
4:  Find out what they are listening to.  This is so you know where they are at and what their influences are.  Big red flag if they arenít listening to music.
5:  Find out what their favorite song is.  Get it and learn it.  You can then use material they already know real well to train things like EQ etc.  Since you now know the song you can assess their ability to pick out parts and see if they are hearing everything in the song.
6:  Get together 1 on 1 and train using the multitrack from earlier.
Title: Re: How are you training today's volunteers to mix?
Post by: Jean-Pierre Coetzee on March 07, 2020, 10:38:29 pm
I'm still of the opinion that the best way to teach a volunteer is to start with the absolute basics. Have then start on stage with patching and faultfinding and such and have them purely shadow you at FOH while asking questions about what you are doing.

The other suggestions are good for critical listening and you can use that while they are shadowing you but there is no way that they will be able to setup a good mix in week 1 or 2, it might be a matter of months before they can run a decent mix. Let them see how you actually mix, paying attention to stage, not worshiping and having your concentration somewhere else.

Also discuss worship with them, honestly by doing the work and making it possible for the band to lead worship they are worshiping God as much as the person deep in worship in the congregation. Worship is the act of giving honour to God, if you are doing His work then you are not ignoring Him you are worshiping Him.